After doing extensive internet research for the most effective muscle building exercises, I've comprised a few lists to help kick start my new get-off-the-couch-and-get-britney-spears-abs lifestyle.
Winners for best ab exercises:
1. the bicycle
2. the captains chair (shown at left)
3. crunch on exercise ball
4. vertical leg crunches
Fortunately, three of these can be done at home! To perform vertical leg crunches, simply lie on your back with your legs up in an L shape and perform crunches as usual.
Winners for best butt and thigh exercises:
3. hip extensions (shown at left)
4. hiking or biking
All of these can be done at home, or at a fitness center on machines that simulate these moves. If you perform them at home, use weights for a challenge!
winners for the best arm exercises:
1. standing dumbbell curl
2. bench press
3. seated shoulder press (shown at left)
4. lateral dumbbell raises
For those of us who don't feel super comfortable benching 40 pounds in a weight room full of ripped men, try diamond push ups at home to replace number 2 for your triceps workout. This exercise is performed like typical push ups but the hands are placed under the breast bone, thumbs and index fingers touching to form a diamond.
Five Tips for weight training and building muscle:
1. train at a low number of sets and reps with high intensity weights, rather than lifting lighter weights at a high number of reps. For example, try 3 sets at 5 reps each, using a weight that pushes you to "near failure" (just heavy enough that by the end of the third set you are too fatigued to continue. If this point is reach before the last set, your weight is too heavy!)
2. diet regulations - increase protein intake, reduce saturated fat, and monitor carbs and essential fatty acids (1.5 tablespoons of EFA's are recommended daily). The rule of thumb for daily carb and protein intake when strength training is 1.5 grams carb per pound of body weight, and 1 gram protein per pound of body weight. It is important to break down food intake into 6 meals daily, 3 hours apart. Also, consume slow digesting carbs like pasta and potatoes on training days, and fast digesting carbs such as fruit on resting/cardio days.
3. rest! muscle building occurs the days after training a particular group, when the muscles are relaxing. Surprisingly, many sources I've come across suggest to weight train each muscle group only once a week! Another surprise, strength training and cardio on the same day is BAD! So, here is an example of a supposedly productive workout schedule:
Monday- weight train upper body, 30-40 minutes
Tuesday- cardio, medium intensity 30 min. or high intensity 15 min.
Wednesday- weight train lower body, 30-40 minutes
Thursday- cardio, medium intensity 30 min. or high intensity 15 min.
Friday- weight train abdominals, 30-40 minutes
Saturday- cardio, medium intensity 30 min. or high intensity 15 min.
4. take multivitamins
5. drink water! water! water!