Become your own personal trainer

Jamal Shaikh        Print Edition: November 30 2008

Jamal Shaikh
Jamal Shaikh
Fitness novices are often intimidated by the thought of being trapped inside a gym full of men and women with great physiques and perfect-form exercises, and are embarrassed about how they may look like the weaklings, who know little or nothing about how to keep fit. Yashwin Srinivas, a Men’s Health reader who dropped 25 kgs to become a cover guy in September 2008, admits that for the first few weeks at the gym, he’d head straight to the one machine he knew how to operate—the treadmill! “I was intimidated by the testosteronecharged weights section, so I went to the machines with soft mouldings— I think they were meant for women,” he confesses.

The good news—first-time gymmers needn’t worry any more! Besides magazines like Men’s Health, every other newspaper and periodical (including Business Today) is acknowledging the interest readers have in fitness by introducing columns such as these. Your challenge is now to pick the information from the most reliable source possible.

Today’s column is divided into two parts. We’ll first list out three exercises called the ‘Power Trio’ that could turn you into a perfect physique without having to do any other exercise. Next, we’ll look at foolproofing your workout with easy checks to ensure perfect form.

Three easy ways to see if you’re doing an exercise the right way.
Are you feeling it in the right place?
Does the exercise in question result in fatigue to the targeted muscle groups, or is the effort coming from somewhere else? Experiencing, say, neck pain during a set of crunches is a good indication your form is off.

Can you control the weight?
Relying on momentum to complete repetitions increases your risk of injury. Bouncing the barbell off your chest during a bench press is a prime example. You should be able to pause for a second or two in the most difficult position. For a bench press, pause when the bar is a few inches above your chest before pushing it back up.

Are you using the full range of motion?
Never sacrifice proper form for the sake of moving more weight. Doing an exercise properly means controlling the weight through the entire range of motion. Doing half reps on squats, for example, doesn’t impress anyone; it simply means the weight is too heavy. Instead, lighten the load, and lower your body until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Then, return to the standing position.

The power trio

Barbell Squat
Barbell Squat
Barbell Squat
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and hold the barbell across the back of your shoulders with an overhand grip. With your back naturally arched, bend at the hips and knees until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Then return to a standing position.

Bench Press
Bench Press
Bench Press
Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Grab the bar with your hands more than shoulder-width apart, and hold it over your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and together. As you lower the weight to your chest, pull your elbows toward your sides. Pause, then push the weight back up.

Deadlift
Deadlift
Deadlift
Stand with a bar on the floor in front of you so it just touches your shins. Push your hips back and grasp the bar with your hands just outside your calves with an overhand grip. Keeping your back straight and chest up, drive your heels into the floor and stand up. Then lower the bar back to the floor.

How to do this
Start with two light sets of weight-free squats; rest for 90 secs in between. Next, load the bar with a weight you can lift only six times with your best effort. Perform five flawless reps, then rest for two mins. Do the same for each of three exercises.

Jamal Shaikh is Editor, Men’s Health. You may write to him at jamal.shaikh@intoday.com
Caveat: The physical exercises described in Treadmill are not recommendations. Readers should exercise caution and consult a physician before attempting to follow any of these.

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