Is your fitness program getting a little stale and repetitive? Looking for a new challenge? You can add intensity to your program without changing your exercises by adding a little extra challenge with added moves that test balance, agility, coordination, and rhythm. Let’s look at a few standard exercises in your current regime and see how we can pump them up:

Super Size Your Strength Routine:

Push Ups: Instead of regular straight leg or modified push ups, try:

  • Putting your feet on a Fitball.
  • Make it a 6-count movement (3 counts down, 3 counts up)
  • Move your hands under shoulders and elbows into your sides for more triceps activation.
  • Extend one leg off the ground for a few reps, then switch and repeat

Triceps Dips: To challenge the body further try:

  • Dip off a bench with fully extended legs
  • Dip off a bench lifting one leg up to parallel and maintaining it straight and strong while you do a few dips, switch legs and repeat.
  • Use a Fitball
    a) Hands on the ball with the ball against a wall
    b) For more intensity keep the ball away from the wall
    c) Hands on a bench, feet on a ball.
    d) For the most intensity and challenge, hands on a ball, feet on another ball.

Lunges: Change up a stationary lunge by:

  • Slow it down to six counts (3 counts down-3 counts up)
  • Reverse lunge off a Bosu or step bench
  • Lunge with back leg resting on a Fitball.
  • Lunge and then kick the back leg forward for balance and coordination, do all reps on one side then reverse and repeat>
  • For even more balance and coordination have a partner lunge and kick across from you, and toss a medicine ball between you matching your rhythm.

Plank/Hover: Like it’s not hard enough to hold your body parallel for a whole minute try:

  • Hold a plank in full push up position
  • Hold with legs and/or hands on a ball Hold with one foot lifted off the ground with a straight leg, hold 3 seconds then switch

Free Weights:

  • Instead of using a bench for your chest press, rows, flys and triceps presses, try lying or sitting on a ball for better balance and core stability.
  • For standing exercises like biceps curls and lateral raises, practicing standing on one leg for a few reps and switch. Challenges mind and body balance and core stability.
  • Slow it down. Take a super-slow approach and try to take each movement into a 6 count (3 counts up, 3 counts down) for more intensity.
  • If you’ve been doing the same number of reps for a while, try increasing the weight and decreasing the reps (sets of 5-8) for more strength and bulk. Or, for muscular endurance and a long, lean definition, increase the reps and decrease the weight (sets of 15-25).
  • Switch to a Flexband for a few weeks for a new challenge.

Change Up Your Cardio:

If you’ve been doing the same cardio, at the same intensity, and for the same duration…change something. The body is smart (genius actually) and it adapts to exercise pretty quickly. If you’ve been following the same cardio routine for a while, try the following to give the body and mind a new challenge:

  • interval train; alternate walking and running, or play with your speed, intensity and grade in 3-5 minute intervals of high intensity, followed by 3-5 minutes of medium intensity, keep repeating the intervals for the duration of your workout, followed by a cardio cool-down.
  • take it outdoors: walk, bike, run, climb, hike, dance, roller-blade, row or swim in the great outdoors. The body will be challenged by variations in surfaces and grades, and your lungs will appreciate the fresh air. Plus, your mind and imagination will be activated by nature.

Flow With Your Flexibility

Of all the elements of fitness, flexibility is the first to improve. So, if you are wanting quick results, a boost in energy, and an improvement to your posture, try the following tips to get deeper into your stretches…and get into the F L O W:

  • Hold your stretches for 5-10 long breaths. As stretching is the last part of our fitness program, we tent to rush through to get back to life. Try to give your body a bit more time in each stretch to maximize the benefits.
  • Use a strap, belt, towel or flexband for those stretches that make you tense or tighten your body. It’s important that your body is relaxed while you stretch, so use whatever props are necessary to provide your body with a relaxing environment in which to stretch.
  • Stretch with a partner. Often we share a run with a friend, or hit the weights will co-workers, but who do we stretch with? There are great books and DVDS on partner stretches that you can practice at home with the kids, your spouse, or a friend, that will make your flexibility program a bit more fun and enjoyable.

If you are currently not involved in a fitness program, these suggestions may be great for you. However, it is beneficial to have a program professionally designed just for you, your needs, your goals, your body type.

First Published in the Mind Body Messenger newsletter 2005

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