Whether it's because your traveling or life is just too busy, sometimes it's difficult or impossible to make it to the gym. That's why it's great to have a backup routine of exercises you can do no matter where you are. Crunches, sit-ups, push-ups and glute bridges would certainly seem to accomplish that goal. But do these four exercises comprise the best workout?
While that certainly depends to some extent on what your goals are, keep in mind that workouts work best when they're varied from time to time. Crunches, push-ups and butt lifts are excellent additions to a comprehensive workout routine. You might want to reconsider sit-ups because they are prone to causing injury.
There's no downside to crunches, which have all but replaced sit-ups as the most popular abdominal exercise. The basic crunch works the rectus abdominus, which is the long flat sheath of muscle that girds the front of the abdomen. That's the muscle that gives rise to the holy six-pack of abs, at least to the very lean and very diligent.
The basic crunch works the upper end of the rectus abdominus more than the lower end. But one of the great things about the crunch is that it's supremely tweakable. So with your feet off the floor for a supine bicycle crunch, for example, you'll be giving those obliques the business.And, you will enhance the power of the crunch by performing them on a stability ball; this exercise ranks No. 3 in the American Council on Exercises list of best abdominal exercises.
Once the go-to exercise for strengthening the abs, sit-ups don't get much love these days. In fact, the U.S. Military is phasing them out of fitness regimens, reported the International Sports Science Association in 2016. Why? Because they can really mess up your back if you don't do them almost perfectly.
Sit-ups involve the hip flexors, which connect to the lower spine and can cause the lower back to arch. This stresses the lower back and causes pain, especially in people with weak abdominal muscles. Plus, doing a full sit-up tends to transfer muscle activation from the rectus abdominus to the hip flexors. So you might want to scratch sit-ups from your "Best Of" list.
Push-ups win the triple crown: they work the chest, shoulders and arm muscles -- and as a bonus, even to some extent the abdominal muscles. Push-ups build the shoulders, broaden and flatten the pectoral muscles and accent the triceps -- the muscle at the back of the upper arm -- to add a nice bit of self-assurance to your profile.
Like crunches, they're highly adaptable and you can vary your workout to include many push-up variations. For example, performing the push-up on a decline activates the shoulders more, while narrowing the width wakes up the triceps.
Male or female, everybody wants a nice, rounded booty and nobody wants back pain. Developing your glutes -- which are among the largest muscles in the body -- can cover both of these bases. They're key in determining how your body moves from your torso on down.
A great exercise for developing them is the glute bridge, which strengthens the gluteus muscles, as well as the hamstrings and other muscles that stabilize your core, pelvis and spine.
Perform the glute bridge by lying on your back with your knees up, or with your feet resting on a stability ball. In either case, squeeze your glutes together and gradually raise your pelvis upward so that your torso is in a straight line from head to knees. To complete, slowly and deliberately lower your buttocks to the floor. Relax and repeat.
You might also want to add some of these effective exercises to target the glutes that are highlighted as among the best by the American Council on Exercise.