Most people don’t want to spend 4-5 days per week in the gym going through a wide variety of different exercises. This means I’ve to design plans that prioritise the most important movements I think a person should have. These are my top 5 for an adult looking for general fitness that will translate into their everyday lives, keeping them physically independent for as long as possible.
- The squat. Why? Because it mirrors the movement we need to get up and down from a chair, to bend down to pick a child or bag up and to maintain leg strength to be able to keep up activities like hill walks. You can start with an assisted squat by using a TRX/ropes to help take some of the pressure off your joints and then move onto bodyweight and some extra weight in the form of kettlebells or dumbbells.
Many people do better with a wedge under the heels if necessary too.
2. The Deadlift. The next big bang for your buck for the lower body. This pattern is particularly useful for strengthening up the backs of our legs, being able to pick up heavier items and reducing the chances of a low back injury. It keeps your glutes and hamstrings alive while sitting does the opposite. Starting with no weight to learn the hinge pattern, you can then progress to a kettlebell lift and if comfortable move on to a barbell or trap bar. With weight, this lift also challenges stability of the upper trunk and arms.
3. KB Swings – get some power in that butt!
Power is what we lose as adults more rapidly than even basic strength. This is why falls are such a big concern with the elderly – they lose the subconscious ability to be able to rapidly change body position to regain their balance. The KB swing is in this list to help avoid this deterioration. (Ladders would be my next choice!) It involves moving a light weight quickly and also utilises the hinge pattern described above.
Use it, don’t lose it!
4. The 1/4 Get-up. Relating this again to real life tasks, being able to get up and down off the floor, roll out of bed with ease and sit upright when needed are pretty basic tasks I think we’d all like to hold onto for life? That’s what this exercise is for. The full get-up can be used but it takes more time and practice so the 1/4 or 1/2 get-up is my exercise of choice for adults simply looking for functional strength.
5. Lastly, the loaded carry is a solid choice. Carrying those heavy Christmas bags stuffed with presents this holiday would be made easier with this lift! It trains a strong grip, the ability to stabilise your posture (working on balance) and actually is a great calorie burner for those needing exercise as a means to keep off weight. It’s quite straightforward: pick up something heavy and carry it as far as you can (recommend at least 20 metres). You can hold a weight in both hands or one at your side.
The sneaky #6: This is one we can all do outside the gym, no coaching required. Going for a walk! It has been shown that walking regularly can help alleviate all sorts of musculoskeletal pains, including low back pain. Make this something you do often and see what benefits you notice. 🙂
Getting coached in the lifts above will make sure you don’t get hurt and that you get the most out of them. They are but a tiny slice of the variety of exercises available – and don’t quite get enough pushing and pulling – but for an everyday adult with limited time they’d do well by these!
If you’ve any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch or leave a comment below.