Guys, make a plan to stay fit.
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, many men had their normal exercise routines disrupted. Full-service gyms, yoga studios and indoor basketball courts closed down at the outset of the crisis in early 2020. Many of these facilities have reopened, and many men are reestablishing their exercise regimen or establishing new ones.
“Many people have been extremely sedentary since COVID-19 and have done more than the normal amount of sitting throughout the day,” says Fairfax Hackley, a personal trainer based in Fairfax, Virginia. While seemingly more people than ever are working out, obesity in the U.S. is at an all-time high. “We are more sedentary, with more aches and pains and diseases than any other country.”
Sticking to just one boring, same-old routine in your dark and gloomy gym won’t do it. Here are nine exercises men should consider adding to their daily routines:
1. Pulling exercises
Pulling exercises are an effective way to get in strength and resistance training, which should be part of everyone’s exercise regimen, says Jonathan Jordan, a certified personal trainer based in San Francisco. “Whether you want to be lean, toned, ripped or strong, resistance training is key for maintaining a healthy body composition, mobility and vitality,” Jordan says. At the gym, he suggests you can use machines that allow you to do pulling movements, like the seated row machine or lat pull down cables.
Building muscle isn’t just for bodybuilders. When you’re doing resistance exercises, you’re building and maintaining the amount of thickness in your bones, otherwise referred to as bone mass and density.
Resistance training is easy to squeeze into your daily routine, too, even if you’re on the road and don’t have access to weightlifting equipment, says Nick Balestriere, a health coach at the age management medical office of Cenegenics Boca Raton, Florida. Balestriere suggests purchasing inexpensive suspension straps, which you can carry in your bag. “You have the ability to do single arm chest presses, leg curls and core work, and you don’t even need to leave your hotel room,” he says. “Resistance training is extremely important for both genders in preventing osteoporosis.”
2. Pickup basketball and sprinting
Getting a good cardio workout is important for men in all age groups. Sweating it out for 20 to 40 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical at a slow to moderate pace might be the only kind of cardio you’re familiar with, but it won’t necessarily optimize your metabolic rate — or how well your body burns calories, Balestriere says.
Consider adding an anaerobic exercise — like sprinting or jumping — when you’re done with an aerobic activity, which brings your exercise to a more intense level and boosts your metabolism in the process. A vigorous hour or so of full-court pickup basketball or soccer can also do the trick. “Think of your heart and your circulatory system as an engine,” he says. “By doing both the aerobic and anaerobic exercises, you’re conditioning your body for the event of life. Sometimes if you’re missing the bus and need to sprint to catch it, you need the ability to do that without becoming short of breath or having a heart attack. And you also want to be able to take long walks like when you have to walk 12 blocks because the subway’s closed. Sometimes you have to move fast, and sometimes you move more slowly.”
Frequent and focused maintenance is important to maintain a good level of cardio fitness. Even highly conditioned athletes can lose their optimum performance capacity if they don’t maintain a good daily cardio exercise regimen.
Squats are versatile, and you can do them with no equipment. “The most important thing with the squat is proper form,” says Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia.
Stand tall with your feet at hip-width distance apart, shoulders relaxed. Look ahead to keep your neck aligned with your spine, and hold your arms straight in front of you or on your hips. Slowly squat as if you’re about to take a seat in the coveted office chair behind you, keeping your heels planted on the ground and torso upright. Aim for eight to 12 reps.
Lunges are another exercise that will keep your core and legs toned, White says. Make sure your upper body is straight, shoulders are back and relaxed and your chin is up. Step forward with one leg, and lower your hips until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. The front knee should be directly above the ankle; your other knee shouldn’t touch the floor. Maintain weight on your heels when you push back up to your standing position.
Want a challenge? White suggests adding a bicep curl with dumbbells or walking forward during lunges to keep things interesting. Eight to 12 reps will do the trick.
Take a deep breath: namaste. “A lack of deep breathing really begins to exacerbate other problems in the human body,” Hackley says. To improve your breathing and flexibility, consider taking a yoga class. During intense yoga workouts, breathing slows down, as opposed to speeding up like it would during a brisk cardio routine. In addition to training your body to breathe, you’ll also stretch tight or unused muscles, White says. That’s important because inflexible muscles can lead to lower back problems, tightness and muscle tears, he adds.
Planks — you may love them or hate them, but this grunt-worthy exercise will strengthen your core. “They’re great for increasing spinal stability, which can be helpful with mitigating back pain,” Balestriere says. Get low to the ground as if you’re going to do a push-up, with your elbows bent 90 degrees and both forearms resting on the floor. Keep your body in a straight line from the top of your head to the tips of your heels. Cup your wrists together if they hurt from the pressure. “Start off trying to do it as long as you can, then try to beat that every day,” White says.
7. Lifting, jumping and bending
Activities like jumping, lifting, bending and twisting — functional exercises — can help train muscles that are used for everyday activities like mowing the lawn.
These muscles include:
— Chest muscles.
“Functional training can make you stronger for your (task),” Balestriere says. “By sprinting, jumping, lifting, twisting and bending, you prepare your body for common daily tasks by simulating movements they require.” While some of these exercises are similar to what you’d do in cardio training, the focus is different. Functional training helps you develop strength and stability, which helps make your daily tasks safer because you’re increasing joint stability. You’re also improving your body’s efficiency in carrying out the daily rigors of life. You might, for example, incorporate kettle bells and weights into your lunges to be able to carry all of your groceries into the house in one trip, or do dead lifts to work the muscles you’ll need for yard work.
8. Walking, bicycling and swimming
Low-impact exercises can be an important part of a man’s daily exercise regimen, says Jamie Costello, vice president of sales and fitness for the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami. One of the good things about these exercises is that they can be performed with a low level of intensity or effort and still be effective for building endurance while keeping your joints safe and healthy. These exercises can also help keep your heart healthy.
Such activities include:
“The most important element is that you’re moving throughout the day and every day,” Costello says. Using smart watches and pedometers can help you track your progress and provide motivation.
“Burpees are an incredible body-weight exercise with a variety of benefits,” White says. “They engage the entire body’s muscles, burn a lot of calories and you don’t need any equipment.”
A burpee is one movement, but you can break it down into its parts:
— From a standing position, get into a plank.
— Do a push-up.
— Do a jump-squat.
To recap, here are nine exercises men should do every day:
— Pulling exercises, like single arm chest presses and leg curls.
— Full-court basketball, soccer and sprinting.
— Jumping, lifting and bending.
— Walking, bicycling and swimming.
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Update 08/24/21: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.