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Why is it difficult to bend the waist while keeping the knees straight?

Why is it difficult to bend the waist while keeping the knees straight?


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It's easy to keep your legs straight when you're standing up or laying flat on your back, but as soon as you try to sit up or bend down, you need to bend your knees as well as your waist. (Try it. Lay down flat on the floor, then try to sit up straight while keeping the backs of your knees pressed against the ground. You'll have trouble long before you reach 90 degrees.)

Why is this?


First off, I would be careful generalizing people's experiences with this exercise (… "Try it… You'll have trouble long before you reach 90 degrees"… ):


Source: Yoga Tune Up

The muscles you are feeling at 90o, and the lady pictured above perhaps not even at 180o are the hamstrings. They run along the back of your thigh, attaching at both the hip and the knee. They flex the knee and extend (straighten) the hips.


Source: Precision Nutrition

When you do the exercise you are describing, the pelvis starts pulling on the hamstrings from the top because your knees are staying in place. Bending the knees releases the stretch.


Proper Lifting Technique to Avoid Back Problems

Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.

Stuart Hershman, MD, is board-certified in orthopaedic surgery. He is the director of adult spinal deformity & complex spinal reconstruction at Massachusetts General Hospital and is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School.

Improper lifting technique can lead to back, leg, and arm pain. Poor technique can cause both acute injury and serious long-term effects. Learning the right way to lift will help you avoid these problems. Most people know this, but actually taking the time to perform lifting activities properly is often forgotten.


How to strengthen your knee

The knee is the largest joint in the body. People use it heavily every day as they walk, run, climb, or jump. As a result, it is also very prone to injury and pain. When these occur, a doctor may recommend exercises to help a person strengthen the muscles around the knee.

People of all ages may experience knee pain. According to one article , a type of knee pain called patellofemoral pain syndrome, or runner’s knee, is the most common orthopedic condition in sports medicine. In addition to being common in athletic people, knee pain can also be a problem for people who have arthritis.

While it may be tempting to avoid exercise when knee pain occurs, this is not always the appropriate solution. Certain types of exercise can help alleviate existing knee pain and prevent future pain or injury by providing the knee with extra support.

The Arthritis Foundation state that exercise may be the most effective way to treat osteoarthritis without surgery, while the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons note that strong and flexible muscles can keep knees healthy and prevent injury.

Knee strengthening exercises do not affect the knee joint directly, but they strengthen the muscles surrounding it. Strong muscles in the legs can help provide support for the knees. This support may alleviate pressure and strain on these joints, which can relieve pain and help a person be more active.

The following exercises can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee. If a person experiences pain during these exercises, they should stop doing them and speak to a doctor. Anyone with severe knee pain should consult a doctor before trying to exercise.

It is best to warm up with light exercise before starting any knee strengthening exercises. Examples of gentle exercise include walking, cycling, and using an elliptical machine, all of which put minimal stress on the knees. This activity will help increase blood flow to the muscles and allow them to be more flexible.

Muscles involved: Quadriceps (front of the thigh) and abdominal (stomach) muscles.


How to Exercise Your Back

This article was co-authored by Francisco Gomez. Francisco Gomez is the Head Coach at the FIT Potato Gym, a training gym established in 2001 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Francisco is a former competitive runner who helps endurance athletes train for major marathons like the Boston Marathon. Francisco specializes in Injury Rehab, Flexibility, Marathon Training, and Senior Fitness. He has a B.S. in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology & Running.

There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 80% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 302,483 times.

You use your back muscles in almost everything you do, whether you're more active or sedentary. It is important to exercise both your upper back and lower back regions to help you stay strong and injury-free.


Back Health and Posture

Posture is the position in which you hold your body while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie so as to place the least strain on muscles and ligaments while you are moving or performing weight-bearing activities.

Good posture helps you in the following ways:

  • Keeps bones and joints in the correct position (alignment) so that muscles are being used properly.
  • Helps cut down on the wear and tear of joint surfaces (such as the knee) to help prevent the onset of arthritis.
  • Decreases the strain on the ligaments in the spine.
  • Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
  • Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, which allows the body to use less energy.
  • Prevents backache and muscular pain.

Correct sitting position

  • Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.
  • All 3 normal back curves should be present while sitting. You can use a small, rolled-up towel or a lumbar roll to help maintain the normal curves in your back.
  • Sit at the end of your chair and slouch completely.
  • Draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds.
  • Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
  • Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips.
  • Bend your knees at a right angle. Keep your knees even with or slightly higher than your hips. (Use a foot rest or stool if necessary.) Do not cross your legs.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes.
  • At work, adjust your chair height and work station so that you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up toward you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  • When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don't twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
  • When standing up from the sitting position, move to the front of the chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.

Here's how to find a good sitting position when you're not using a back support or lumbar roll:

  • Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips.
  • Bend your knees at a right angle. Keep your knees even with or slightly higher than your hips. (Use a foot rest or stool if necessary.) Do not cross your legs.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes.
  • At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up at you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  • When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don't twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
  • When standing up from the sitting position, move to the front of the chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.

Correct driving position

  • Use a back support (lumbar roll) at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
  • Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals.

Correct lifting position

  • If you must lift objects, do not try to lift objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30 pounds.
  • Before you lift a heavy object, make sure you have firm footing.
  • To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight
  • Stand with a wide stance close to the object you are trying to pick up and keep your feet firm on the ground. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles. Straighten your knees in a steady motion. Don't jerk the object up to your body.
  • Stand completely upright without twisting. Always move your feet forward when lifting an object.
  • If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge to the table so that you can hold it close to your body. Bend your knees so that you are close to the object. Use your legs to lift the object and come to a standing position.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
  • Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent. Keep your stomach muscles tight. Take small steps and go slowly.
  • To lower the object, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten stomach muscles and bend your hips and knees.

What is the best position for sleeping and lying down?

No matter what position you lie in, the pillow should be under your head, but not your shoulders, and should be a thickness that allows your head to be in a normal position.

  • Try to sleep in a position that helps you maintain the curve in your back (such as on your back with a pillow under your knees or a lumbar roll under your lower back, or on your side with your knees slightly bent). Do not sleep on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest. You may want to avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially on a saggy mattress, since this can cause back strain and can be uncomfortable for your neck.
  • Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your mattress. You can also place the mattress on the floor temporarily if necessary. If you've always slept on a soft surface, it may be more painful to change to a hard surface. Take the time to find the right mattress and box spring for your needs.
  • Try using a back support (lumbar support) at night to make you more comfortable. A rolled sheet or towel tied around your waist may be helpful.
  • When standing up from the lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.

These recommendations will benefit most people who have back pain. If any of these guidelines causes an increase of pain or the spreading of pain to the legs, stop the activity and seek the advice of a physician, chiropractor or physical therapist.


Low Back Pain: Coping

The following advice will benefit a majority of people with back pain. If any of the following guidelines causes an increase of pain or spreading of pain to the legs, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist.

The key to recovering from acute low back pain (abrupt, intense pain that subsides after a relatively short period) is maintaining the normal curve of the spine (hollow or lordosis). Supporting the hollow of your back will help decrease your recovery time.

Follow these guidelines for 10 to 20 days after you experience acute low back pain:

  • Sit as little as possible, and only for short periods of time (10 to 15 minutes).
  • Sit with a back support (such as a rolled-up towel) at the curve of your back.
  • Keep your hips and knees at a right angle. (Use a foot rest or stool if necessary.) Your legs should not be crossed and your feet should be flat on the floor.

Here's how to find a good sitting position when you're not using a back support or lumbar roll:

Correct sitting position without lumbar support.

Correct sitting position with lumbar support.

  • Sit at the end of your chair and slouch completely.
  • Draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds.
  • Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
  • Sit in a high-back, firm chair with arm rests. Sitting in a soft couch or chair will tend to make you round your back and won't support the curve of your back.
  • At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up at you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  • When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don't twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
  • When standing up from a sitting position, move to the front of the seat of your chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.
  • Use a back support (lumbar roll) at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
  • Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals.
  • Stand with your head up, shoulders straight, chest forward, weight balanced evenly on both feet, and your hips tucked in.
  • Avoid standing in the same position for a long time.
  • If possible, adjust the height of the work table to a comfortable level.
  • When standing, try to elevate one foot by resting it on a stool or box. After several minutes, switch your foot position.
  • While working in the kitchen, open the cabinet under the sink and rest one foot on the inside of the cabinet. Change feet every five to 15 minutes.

Stooping, squatting, and kneeling

Decide which position to use. Kneel when you have to go down as far as a squat but need to stay that way for awhile. For each of these positions, face the object, keep your feet apart, tighten your stomach muscles, and lower yourself using your legs.

Lifting objects

  • Try to avoid lifting objects if at all possible.
  • If you must lift objects, do not try to lift objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30 pounds.
  • Before you lift a heavy object, make sure you have firm footing.
  • To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
  • Stand with a wide stance close to the object you are trying to pick up and keep your feet firmly on the ground. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles. Straighten your knees in a steady motion. Don't jerk the object up to your body.
  • Stand completely upright without twisting. Always move your feet forward when lifting an object.
  • If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge to the table so that you can hold it close to your body. Bend your knees so that you are close to the object. Use your legs to lift the object and come to a standing position.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
  • Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent. Keep your stomach muscles tight. Take small steps and go slowly.
  • To lower the object, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten stomach muscles, and bend your hips and knees.

Reaching overhead

  • Use a foot stool or chair to bring yourself up to the level of what you are reaching.
  • Get your body as close as possible to the object you need.
  • Make sure you have a good idea of how heavy the object is you are going to lift.
  • Use two hands to lift.

Sleeping and lying down

  • Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your mattress. You can also place the mattress on the floor temporarily if necessary.
  • If you've always slept on a soft surface, it might be more painful to change to a hard surface. Try to do what's most comfortable for you.
  • Use a back support (lumbar support) at night to make you more comfortable. A rolled sheet or towel tied around your waist might be helpful.
  • Try to sleep in a position that helps you maintain the curve in your back (such as on your back with a lumbar roll or on your side with your knees slightly bent). Do not sleep on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest.
  • When standing up from a lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees, and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.

Other helpful tips

  • Avoid activities that require bending forward at the waist or stooping.
  • When coughing or sneezing, try to stand up and bend slightly backward to increase the curve in your spine.
  • Sleep on your side with your knees bent. You can also put a pillow between your knees.
  • Try not to sleep on your stomach.

If you sleep on your back, put pillows under your knees and a small pillow under the small of your back.


Full Body Tabata Strength and Sculpt

The coaches and I all love tabatas because you get to go hard for a short interval (just 0:20) with an even shorter rest (0:10) and repeat this nonstop for four minutes. This is a great way to really fatigue the muscles in a short amount of time, and get a great workout.

Nikki has created a series of these 4-minute tabatas for you today, and I know you’re going to have a great time.

Coach Nikki is a yoga instructor ERYT200, an AFAA Certified Personal Trainer, a Mat Pilates Instructor and a Team Betty Rocker Coach who teaches barre, yoga, pilates and strength training in ROCK YOUR LIFE – our online home workout studio and women’s fitness community!

Keep reading to find out more about the workout she has in store for you and why she loves it!

Hey Rockstar, Coach Nikki here! I really love body sculpting, strength training and tabatas. So today, I’m bringing you all three! I designed this workout to give you an opportunity to focus on full body strength using the short intervals and brief rest periods that tabatas are known for.

For today’s workout you can use a set of weighted objects like dumbbells or water bottles – or stick with your own bodyweight. If you choose to add extra resistance, I suggest challenging yourself with some heavier weights today since the moves are short and focused – but be sure to check out the moves in advance and choose the right amount of weight for yourself prior to beginning.

Choosing the right weight for yourself means that you can perform the move with good form, complete all the reps in the set while feeling fatigue at the end, and feel an increase in your heart rate. You should still be able to talk, but not sing – that’s a good way to tell if you’re in the “zone” that’s pushing you.

I hope you enjoy it!

Great job Rockstar! Now let’s get you a plan! Check out the 30-Day Abs and Booty Challenge for a home workout program that will sculpt and define your abs, legs and glutes (plus give you a great full body shred), uses minimal equipment and will get you on track to feeling and looking your best!

Full Body Tabata Strength and Sculpt

Equipment: Optional Weighted Objects (water bottles, dumbbells, etc) & Optional Elevated Surface

Format: Perform move 1 for 0:20 seconds, rest for 0:10 seconds and then repeat for move 2. Repeat moves 1 and 2 back to back for 4 rounds total. Rest as needed between each set of Tabatas.

Tabata One

Move 1: Alternating Reverse Lunge

  • Begin standing with your core engaged and chest upright.
  • Step your right foot back behind you and begin bending your back knee until it nearly touches the ground in a 90 degree angle.
  • As you stand up, power through your front heel and bring your back foot to meet your front foot as you come to standing.
  • Repeat with your left leg and alternate back and forth (ensure your knee is not shooting out over your toe and maintain an upright chest).
  • MOD: Hold on to a chair or wall to help stabilize.

Move 2: Static 1/2 Lunge Pulse

  • Begin in a lunge position with your right foot forward, left foot back about 3 feet with your chest up tall, core engaged and weight in your front heel.
  • Bend both knees as you lower yourself towards the floor while keeping the front knee behind the toes and be sure to lower straight down rather than forward.
  • Lower down until your back knee nearly touches the ground in a 90 degree angle and the power through the front heel to come back to standing and repeat.
  • MOD: Hold on to a chair or wall to help stabilize.

Tabata Two

  • Begin in a low plank position with your elbows on the ground, shoulders stacked over your hands and your core engaged.
  • Press your lower back slightly up toward the ceiling and hold for the allotted time.
  • MOD: Perform this move from your elbows and knees or on an elevated surface.

Move 2: Reclining Ab Crunch with Side Reach

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the ground and lower back pressed gently into the mat.
  • Use your abdominals to sit yourself up slightly and reach both arms over to the right of your legs.
  • Lower yourself back down with control until you are back in your starting position and repeat on the same side. Switch sides every other round.

Tabata Three

Move 1: Kneeling Squat to Overhead Press

  • Stand with your feet wider than hip distance, toes turned out slightly (sumo stance) and core engaged.
  • Shoot your hips back behind you for a squat, keeping your chest up tall weight back in your heels, and knees tracking your toes.
  • In the bottom of the squat, brace your core and step one foot back like you’re coming down into a lunge.
  • Bring your knee to touch the ground and then return your back leg to your squat position and stand.
  • As you stand, bring your arms overhead while maintaining an engaged core (ensure you’re not arching in your low back).
  • MOD: Perform full body extensions by squatting down (or to a chair) and bringing your arms overhead as you stand.

Move 2: Bodyweight 1/2 Squat Pulse

  • Stand with your feet wider than hip distance, toes turned out slightly (sumo stance) and core engaged.
  • Shoot your hips back behind you for a squat, keeping your chest up tall weight back in your heels, and knees tracking your toes.
  • In the bottom of the squat, drive through your heels to lift your body up 2-3 inches for a pulse and back down.

Tabata Four

Move 1: Hinged Supine Row

  • Hinge forward at the waist to be at 45 degrees with your core engaged, chest up, shoulders rolled back and down, and your weights in your hands and hanging beneath your chest with your palms facing in front of you.
  • Pull the weights to your sides while keeping your elbows close to the body, and squeezing your back muscles like you’re pinching the base of your shoulder blades together.
  • Slowly lower the weights back down to your starting position and repeat.

Move 2: Triceps Push Up to Alternating Side Plank

  • Begin in a tall plank position with your core engaged, wrist slightly inside shoulder width and chest right over top of your hands.
  • Lower yourself toward the mat keeping your shoulders away from your ears and your elbows in tight to your body and pointing back behind you. Keep your gaze about 6 inches in front of you rather than looking up or down, to maintain a neutral spine.
  • Keeping your core tight and elbows in the same position, powerfully press back up and away from the floor to return to your starting position.
  • Rotate to one side, bringing one arm up to the sky and your legs extended out.
  • Rotate back to a tall plank to perform and push up and then rotate to the other side as you did previously.
  • MOD: Perform this move from an elevated surface or from a kneeling position.

FINISHER:

1:00 Squat Thrust with Knee Tuck

  • Begin standing with your core engaged and chest up tall.
  • Bend your knees and place your hands on the floor in front of you.
  • Step or jump your feet back to a tall plank, keeping your core tight and back flat, gaze about 6 inches in front of you for a neutral spine.
  • Jump or step your feet back to your hands for a knee tuck, back out to a tall plank and then back in to come to standing, loading your weight in your heels and using your momentum to power you up into a jump.
  • MOD: Perform this movement with your hands on an inclined surface, like a chair, couch or ottoman. You can also take the impact out entirely by stepping back and forth rather than jumping, and coming up to a body squat rather than a jump.

Way to show up for yourself today Rockstar! Comment below if you have any questions or to check in with Coach Nikki and me when you finish today’s workout.

Did you enjoy this workout? Then you will love the 30-day Booty and Abs Challenge! It will give you a complete program to work your entire body (so you won’t need more workouts than what’s in the program) with a SPECIAL EMPHASIS on sculpting your butt, legs and abs.


Lifting and Carrying Heavy Loads

Women everywhere suffer from back and neck problems, usually from heavy lifting during their daily work. Carrying water, wood, and older children for long distances can cause serious strain.

Young girls who carry many heavy loads—especially water—have problems with the back and spine (backbone). Their pelvic bones also develop poorly, which can lead to dangerous pregnancies later on.

Carrying heavy loads can cause young women to suffer more miscarriages, and can make older women and those who have recently given birth more likely to have fallen womb (prolapse).

Prevention:

It is easier to prevent back problems than to cure them. Whenever possible, let your legs do the work—not your back.

  • Use leg muscles—not back muscles—when lifting. When you lift objects or children from the ground, kneel or squat to pick them up rather than bending over.
  • Keep your back, shoulders, and neck as straight as possible.
  • Do not lift or carry heavy objects during pregnancy or right after childbirth.
  • Get someone to help you lift heavy objects. It may seem quicker to lift something by yourself. But later on you may lose time because of a back injury.
  • Carry objects close to your body.
  • If possible, carry objects on your back rather than on the side of your body. This way the muscles on one side of your back do not need to do all the work. Carrying loads on your side also makes your spine twist too much. This can cause back strain.
  • If you must carry objects on one side, try to switch sides often. This way the muscles on both sides of your back are working the same amount, and your spine twists both ways. Or split the load and carry it on both sides.
  • Try to avoid using head straps. They can strain your neck muscles.
If you already have back problems:
  • Sleep on your back with a rolled cloth or pillow under your knees. Or sleep on your side with some rolled cloth behind your back and another between your knees to keep your body straight and support the spine.
  • Do the exercises below every day to strengthen the muscles in your back and lower belly. Stop if any of these exercises cause pain.
  • Try to keep your back as straight as possible during the day. Do not slump forward.

Bending

Bending forward for long periods of time—which women often do when washing, farming, or with other chores—can cause back strain. If you must work this way, try to stretch often. If you start to feel pain in your back, it can help to try some different positions, like squatting or kneeling. Change positions often.


Dr. Oz's 20-Minute Workout

The routine here is designed by New York City celebrity trainer Joel Harper to create long, lean muscles, with the goal of giving you a strong, well-balanced and flexible body. Do it three times a week, moving from one exercise right to the next to keep your heart rate up. Remember to keep your stomach tight and your face relaxed, and to breathe normally (if you catch yourself holding your breath, count your repetitions aloud to normalize your breathing). Whenever you stretch, imagine breathing into the body part you're targeting as if inflating a balloon. You want to think of directing the oxygen into that area, giving you an open, tension-free feeling. We also recommend that you make walking 30 minutes a day a part of your life.

(Opens and balances hips)

Stand with your feet together and your hands on your waist. Relax your shoulders and circle your hips clockwise five times and counterclockwise five times, making the biggest circles you can.

(Strengthens shoulders and arms)

Keep your feet together and lift your arms into a T position at shoulder height. With your palms facing down, circle your arms 20 times, making circles the size of a basketball. Then do 20 with thumbs down and palms facing in back of you, 20 with palms up, and 20 with palms forward. For a more advanced variation, do the first 40 standing on one foot, the next 40 on the other.

(Stretches hips and hamstrings)

From a standing position, bend forward at your waist, touching hands to the floor. Alternate bending one knee and keeping the other leg straight (but still keeping both feet flat), and let your relaxed head dangle down. Pretend your head weighs 500 pounds and is elongating your spine, releasing all your tension. Stretch each side for 15 seconds.

(Strengthens upper, middle, and lower back)

With your feet together and knees slightly bent, lean forward, bending at the waist until your back is flat and as parallel to the floor as possible. (If you've got a bad back, stay up higher.) Keeping your arms straight and your elbows unlocked, bring your arms out to the side, parallel to the ground pause, then lower them, bringing your hands together. Do 40 times.

(Stretches back and obliques)

Standing with your feet together, reach your hands up above your head. Hold your left wrist with your right hand, pulling your wrist as you lean to the right. Elongate by getting the greatest possible distance between your left pinky and your left heel. Hold for 15 seconds and switch sides.

(Strengthens calves)

Standing with your feet together and your hands on your waist, open your toes out diagonally, keeping your heels together (known as first position in ballet). Lift your heels up as high as you can, squeeze your calves and tap your heels to the floor. Do 40 raises.

(Strengthens quadriceps and lower abs)

Keeping your feet in first position and your hands on your waist, lift your right leg as high as you can directly in front of you, keeping it straight. Hold at the highest point for two beats and then lower. Do 25 times and switch sides.

(Strengthens obliques and quadriceps)

With your feet in first position, bring your hands above your head with your palms facing each other. Lower your right arm and lift your right leg, bending both touch your elbow to your knee. Do 25 times and switch sides.

(Stretches hips)

Sitting on floor with your hands behind you—palms down, fingers pointing backward, and elbows slightly bent—bring your feet up two feet from your tailbone. Keep the sole of your right foot flat on the ground, cross your left leg on top of your right leg, and sit up straight. Focus on pressing your lower back toward your left calf. If you want to go deeper, slightly press your left knee away from you. Hold for 15 seconds and switch sides.

(Stretches groin and strengthens abs)

Lying on your back, bring your legs into a butterfly position—knees out with the soles of your feet touching. Relax your legs. Bring your hands, fingers laced, behind your head, leaving your thumbs on your neck as sensors to keep your neck relaxed. Using your abs only, lift your upper body up two inches and back down 25 times. Then hold your upper body up and lift your legs two inches from the ground, tapping the sides of your feet back on the ground 25 times. For an advanced variation, raise and lower upper body and legs simultaneously.

(Stretches hamstrings)

Lying on your back, pull your right knee toward your right shoulder using your hands, fingers laced, around the shin. Press your tailbone and lower back toward the ground. Hold for 15 seconds and switch sides.

(Strengthens chest)

Get into a push-up position either with your toes flexed or knees on the floor. Lower yourself until your chest nearly touches the ground then push back up. As you straighten your elbows, feel your spine press toward the ceiling (to help engage your back muscles as well). Do as many push-ups as you can (this is called exercising to failure, and it's what helps build strength in your muscles). If these are too hard, just hold your chest off the ground without moving.

(Stretches chest and arms)

Sit up straight with your shins and feet tucked under your thighs, and lace your fingers behind your butt, while keeping your arms straight. Lift your hands up, knuckles facing back, while opening your chest wide. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to open up your chest more. You can also interweave your fingers behind your head and pull your hands away from your head. Keep face forward and chin up.

(Strengthens abs and shoulders)

Get into a push-up position, with your elbows and toes on the floor. Keep your stomach pulled in and buttocks tight and your eyes looking at the floor (ignore the fact that you have to vacuum). Hold the position for as long as you can. If you can last more than a minute, make it more difficult by lowering your chin 20 times out in front of your laced hands or by trying to balance on one foot.

(Stretches abdominals and obliques)

From a push-up position, with your hands below your shoulders, lift your chest and torso up into the air so your upper body is nearly perpendicular to the floor as you come onto the tops of your feet. Arch backward to stretch your abdominals, but keep your butt relaxed. Hold 10 seconds. Then look over your right shoulder for 10, your left shoulder for 10, and back to center.

(Strengthens lower back)

Lie flat on your stomach, reaching your arms overhead with your palms down. Extend your extremities straight out, away from your torso, and lift your arms and legs simultaneously for enough repetitions to cause some muscle fatigue. Look down, and don't overextend your neck. This is about how long you can stretch your body, not how high. Squeeze your butt as you lift. Try to make it to a minute.

(Strengthens butt and hamstrings)

Stand with your feet together and your left hand on your waist. Lift your right foot behind you and reach your right hand out in front of you. Try to pendulum forward and touch your right hand to the ground while your right leg lifts up behind you. Concentrate on really squeezing your butt. If this is too hard, come down only partially. Do 20 times and then switch legs.

(Strengthens legs)

With your arms stretched to your sides, palms up, and your feet turned out, hip-width apart, squat so your hamstrings are parallel to the ground (or close to it) while your knees remain in line with your heels. Now straighten your legs and rise back up, squeezing your butt and curling your tailbone under you. Do 25 times. To make it more difficult, hold in the down position and pulse 25 times.

(Stretches quadriceps)

While standing on one leg, bend the knee of the opposite leg and grab the foot behind your back with both hands (or use one arm to hold something to stay balanced). Pull the foot toward your butt while lifting your chest forward and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep your knees together and abs pulled in to support your lower back. Hold 20 seconds and switch legs


36. Swiss-Ball Pike

  1. Start in a high plank, but with your shins on a Swiss ball. Your body should form a straight line from ankles to head.
  2. Without bending your knees, roll the Swiss ball toward your body by raising your hips as high as you can.
  3. Pause, then roll the ball back out to return the ball to the starting position.

For best results, concentrate on controlling the ball with your core, not your arms or legs.



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