You should strength train your muscles with all contraction types (eccentric, isometric, concentric). All muscles function eccentrically (reduces force or deceleration), isometrically (stabilizes force) and concentrically (produces force).
And, you should train your body in all three planes of motion to give your body its 3-D shape and prevent injuries.
Short, interval cardio sessions, like sprint intervals, will also burn max fat and help lean out your body. Do interval training 2-3 days a week (you can also use bodyweight strength exercises to do intervals). Either way, you won't get bored with this type of cardio!
Having said that, here are 10 top exercises that will help you burn fat and sculpt your lean body:
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1. Squats - Research shows that the abdominal muscles are engaged more when doing squats than they are doing many of the more popular ab exercises.
Squats require stablization in the body's core muscles in general, not just the abs. The other benefits of squats (strengthens quads, gluteals, hamstrings,etc.) are well known. So, the next time you do squats, brace your torso (like getting ready to take a punch) and work on those abs!
Squat variations: bodyweight, Bulgarian (pictured below), overhead barbell, dumbbell, front, lateral and split---do them all. Bonus: do squat jumps regularly!
Lunges and deadlift are also top exercises you should do regularly.
2. Standing Shoulder Press - This is one of the best exercises to work the entire core area (just brace during execution).
3. Bentover Dumbbell Rows - If you're trying to build up back muscles and burn back fat, bentover dumbbells rows should be in your routine. Rows allow you to work your lats using heavier weights. Your lower back will be worked more if you row with both arms at the same time. Your obliques will also get quite a workout.
If you experience back pain doing two-armed rows, then try doing one-armed rows so you can support your body with the other arm.
Do two-armed bentover dumbbell rows this way:
--With your feet about shoulder width apart, bend over and grab the dumbbells. Keep your back straight (don't bow or arch back) and keep your head in line with your torso. Look straight down during the exercise.
--Pull dumbbells up to your side until they make contact with your ribs. Keep your elbows close to your side during the exercise. As you pull the dumbbells up, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
--Don't curl the dumbbells as you lift. Curling will allow too much use of your biceps. This is primarily a back exercise. Return the dumbbells until your arms are fully extended. That is one repetition.
4. Pullups with Knee Raises - The pullup is not just a back muscle exercise. Pullups work your lats (and other back muscles), core, shoulders, arms, chest, biceps and improve grip strength. That's why you should be doing pullups. Brace your torso during execution of the exercise.
--Grab the pullup bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you), arms straight and a little wider than shoulder width.
--After doing the pullup, lift both knees together until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold 2 seconds.
--Slowly return to start position.
5. Hanging Leg Raises - There is a reason you see more people doing ab crunches instead of hanging leg raises! The hanging leg raise and its variations is very tough to execute. Gymnasts have been doing hanging leg raises for decades. You will need core strength, arm strength and grip strength to perform the exercise correctly. If you can't do one hanging leg raise, you need to strengthen your core, back, arms and grip.
--Hang from a bar using an overhand grip with arms straight and shoulder-width apart. Let your legs hang straight down.
--Contract your abs and make sure that your back remains neutral with natural arch. Keep your head still and looking straight ahead. Raise your legs to the midpoint of your body using your abdominal muscles. Don't swing your legs up and use momentum to do the exercise. This is a controlled strength exercise.
--Hold for 2 seconds and slowly lower your legs. That is one repetition.
Beginning exercisers can start by trying to bend the knees up to the chest. Intermediate exercisers are able to do a straight leg raise up to the midpoint of the body. Advanced exercisers can usually raise straight legs up to the head or "windshield wiper" bent knees to the left and right.
6. Ball Plank - You need to do isometric core exercises. This is a surprise to many people. Isometric core exercises build up the deep stabilizing muscles and give tone to your entire core area. Isometric exercises help you build strength and burn fat without moving much.
Isometric contractions can be described as a type of muscle contraction where your muscles develop tension without changing length. For example, pushing against a wall and holding for 30 seconds causes an isometric contraction.
Isometric exercises cause most if not all of your muscles to work during an exercise. To do the ball plank (pictured above), you get into position and hold for a period of time (like 20 seconds). So, many core exercises are great isometric exercises.
7. Cross-Body Mountain Climbers - This exercise will build strength and help tone your "six pack" and obliques. Cross body mountain climbers also work the calves, quadriceps, glutes, back, chest, triceps and shoulders. You will need high levels of core strength to do this exercise the right way for each set.
--Start by getting in the push up position with your arms fully extended. Keep your hips and torso in a straight line. Don't let your hips sag and don't point your butt in the air during this exercise.
--Do the exercise by moving your left knee straight up and across your body to the right armpit area (keep your abs braced). Also, don't let your foot touch the ground as you do the movement. Move your left leg back to the starting position and repeat with your right leg. Alternate your leg movements until you have completed all repetitions.
8. Ab Ball Jackknife superset with Ab Ball Rollout
This challenging superset will improve your strength, balance and coordination.
Do the ab ball jackknife this way:
--Place both shins on the stability ball with both hands on the ground (arms straight). Keep hands a little wider than shoulder width. Keep your body in a straight line from head to feet.
--Roll the ball toward your chest with your legs together. Bend your knees to your chest as far as you can. The movement should be controlled and steady throughout.
--Roll the ball back to the starting position. That's 1 repetition.
Do the ab ball rollout this way:
--Start with the ball in front with your elbows on the ball.
--Roll the ball out slowly and keep your abs braced (as if taking a punch to the gut). As you straighten your torso you will feel your abs stretch and extend. Return to the starting position.
Don't be afraid to try this superset! You will see results fast.
9. Medicine Ball Throws - These exercises are great full body movement exercises that can be done at full speed. This helps you burn fat and activates your shapely fast twitch muscle fibers. Some good exercises are:
--2-Handed Chest Pass
--Squat and Scoop Throw
10. Farmers Walk with Dumbbells - Do the farmer's walk with a pair of heavy dumbbells (not like the light ones I'm carrying in the picture below!).
It is one of the best full body exercises going. Be sure to keep a strong, upright posture throughout the walk. Hold the dumbbells by your side, walk 20 yards, rest 10 seconds and walk back 20 yards. That is 1 repetition.
Get busy working with the program below:
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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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