Complete Beginners Exercises.
Complete beginners exercises, or exercises anyone can do are phrases that are hugely misused (in my opinion). Exercises that the authors claim are simple exercises that ANYONE can do, are often in fact exercises that already require either a certain amount of strength or a working knowledge of exercise mechanics.
Total Beginners Exercises.
Total beginners exercises should be exercises that someone with NO prior medium/advanced level of fitness can perform right away. Some fitness professionals will try and argue that you need to PUSH yourself right from that first session. I don’t really agree. I would rather you finish that first session thinking how EASY the exercises were, how SIMPLE the exercises were, and how FUN the exercises were.
Learn Basic Exercises.
In the early days of this website I wrote about how learning an exercise routine was a SKILL, just like learning anything else. This is exactly what it is. I also wrote HERE about how the best fitness book is one you make yourself. Again, true. Thirdly I listed HERE all of the body part specific exercises you need for a FULL body exercise routine you can do anywhere. Put those together and you can see how fitness and exercise is something that you don’t just need to DO, but that you also need to THINK about.
If you DO think about those things however, in a short space of time you will have your own fitness book, full of exercises you enjoy doing and details of how they made you feel. You can be your OWN exercise professional!
Some Beginners Exercises:
Standing up straight is an exercise – yes it is! It is one of the easiest and quickest ways to make your chest look bigger and your stomach look smaller. It can help with back, neck and shoulder pain, and yet how many exercise books start with standing up straight as a complete beginners exercise??
From the Daily Dozen:
Each exercise in the Daily Dozen starts from the classic position of attention.
With your heels together, turn your feet out at an angle of around 30 degrees (the original book called for an angle of 60 degrees, but I find this to be uncomfortable and wouldn’t recommend anything over 45 degrees).
Your legs should be straight and your knees ‘pulled back’ slightly. What this means is that you straighten your legs almost to where your knees lock at their furthest point. If you have problems with your knees, it almost goes without saying to be careful with this exercise, but even this basic movement is meant to be a stretch, so persevere where you can. Many activity leaders will tell you if you extend your knees to their furthest point for too long, it can affect your blood flow, so be aware!
Now, pull your shoulders back and push them down as far as you comfortably can, keeping your hands by your sides, palms against your thighs and your fingers pointing to the ground. It is more than likely that after doing this simplest of exercises your shoulders will ache slightly. This is due to the fact that most of us walk around so tense, that to actually relax the shoulder muscles and return them to their natural position counts as quite an intensive stretch.
Without raising your chin, push your neck back as though you were pushing your neck against your collar (or if you ARE wearing a collar – simply push against it!).
Look straight ahead of you.
Done that? OK, now unclench your buttocks and you are standing to attention!
“The shoulders should be drawn down a little and back, for that is the sensation which comes when one speaks of the shoulders being square. The chest should be arched and the abdomen drawn in somewhat. The effect is that of a man [sic] standing erect and feeling himself a little taller than usual.” ~ Walter Camp.
BONUS* You’ve just done the first exercise! Hands is simply arms by your side and stand to attention. As to time, I would suggest either around twelve seconds or try saying a little mantra like this one (it saves you counting and is a good mental exercise):
Whenever I walk, I stand up, with my chin in, my hips back and my chest out, and think how TALL I am!
(I’ve timed this at eight-ten seconds, you can say what you like for however long you like.)
Try this before a big interview, or a meeting, or just when you feel a bit stressed out and beaten down.
Standing up straight is one of the easiest ways to make your chest look BIGGER and your stomach look smaller, and it is SUCH an easy habit to get into.
Breathe normally throughout ALL of the exercises – just nice normal breaths.
When you feel comfortable in the attention position, just before coming out of it, try and ‘tense’ your entire upper body. Really squeeze every muscle! Breathe normally throughout, and hold for 7 seconds only, then release.
Whenever you do ANY exercise you want to engage muscles, wake them up, make them WORK. This 7 second squeeze is a great little extra exercise – but don’t try it until you’re ready, and even when you are ready, don’t try and burst any blood vessels!
Standing to attention is a little exercise you can do while waiting for a microwave meal, a kettle to boil or any other little thing. Give it a go and see how you feel.
Hands on Hips
Another of the most basic complete beginners exercises – and a very powerful piece of body language – is hands on hips.
From the first position of attention we are going to go straight into what Walter Camp called ‘Hips’.
Place your hands on your hips, and then push your shoulders and elbows back until you feel a stretch across your chest (and maybe a little nip in the back). The basic position is the same as attention, but the hands are placed on the hips with the fingers pointing forward and the thumbs back.
As with attention, keep your shoulders well back and keep your neck ‘pushed back’ as if you were pushing against a collar.
“The chest should be arched and the abdomen drawn in somewhat. The effect is that of a man standing erect and feeling himself a little taller than usual.” ~ Walter Camp.
(I know I’ve used this quote before, but it’s a good one!)
This is me during a class a little while ago, and let me tell you – my stomach is NOT usually that far back!!
When performing hips (and indeed all of the exercises) try looking in a full-length mirror, if possible, to see how you look. With ‘hips’ you may notice you can push one elbow back further than the other, this is just one of the many effects of not stretching every day – we literally get all twisted out of shape.
Putting your hands on your hips is a very powerful piece of body language. Keep your chin in but let yourself feel BIG and POWERFUL.
Again, a count of twelve is sufficient, or chant something along the lines of:
“I don’t need a reason to feel good – I can feel good for no reason at all.”
There are days when I feel quite happy doing this for over a minute!
Walter Camp’s Daily Dozen
The rest of the Daily Dozen does get a little more complicated than that – but not by a lot, and if you can perform those two exercises you aren’t going to have a problem with the other ten!
Standing to attention is also the first move in the Everyday Exercise Routine workout, but then it goes into one of the other simplest complete beginners exercise:
Walking in place as an Exercise
Let’s get one thing cleared up straight away: walking on the spot IS exercise. OK, now we can continue…
The first exercise in the Everyday Exercise Routine is literally a warm up exercise: Walking on the spot (I know some people call it walking in place, but it is all the same thing!) – a NATURAL exercise.
When we are waiting in the cold, our natural reaction is to warm ourselves up by stamping our feet and waving our arms around. Sometimes we even say we are ‘getting the blood moving’ as we are doing it. In a way, that is exactly what you are doing. After a prolonged period in a standing or a sitting position it is a good idea to move your arms and legs and get the blood flowing to your extremities.
Walking on the spot is an exercise to wake you up, get the blood flowing and get fresh oxygen to your brain and upper body!
The variation to be performed here is a very brief version. If you have longer to spend on your daily exercise, you could work up to performing this for 3 minutes, increasing the speed and the height you raise your knees as your endurance increases.
Benefits of walking on the spot:
Walking on the spot is a good, simple cardiovascular exercise – good for keeping the heart and lungs healthy and active. It is going to work your calves and legs, open up the chest, tone the arms and strengthen the abdominals. It is a whole-body exercise, in that it activates all of the major body parts. Regularly walking on the spot, even for the few steps in this first movement, will realign your body, and by activating the abdominals, will help to prevent lower back pain caused by sitting at a desk all day.
As with all of the exercises I discuss, I recommend LOOKING at yourself when you are doing them. Not for the sake of vanity, but to SEE what is moving. When you are moving your arms you will see for yourself that it is not just the arms that are moving, it is the chest too. When your arms and legs are moving in different directions, you will feel a slight pull around your stomach muscles. It is ALL good exercise!
Instructions for walking on the spot properly:
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent (soft). Arms are down by your sides with the fists lightly clenched. Starting with the left leg, lift your knee, then your ankle, then your heel, then your toes. Lifting the toes 2-3 inches from the floor is sufficient – do not raise the knee more than waist height.
At the same time, swing the right arm forward, and the left arm backward. The arm does not go straight forward, it goes forward and inward slightly, so it lines up with the center of the body. Keep the upper body straight and keep control of the arms. The easiest way to keep the upper body straight is to engage the abdominal muscles, and keep the spine stretched out to its fullest: no slouching! Furthermore, don’t twist your body to get your arms to go higher, and don’t let them swing above neck height. 45 degrees from the body front and back is sufficient – but the overall aim is simply to have the arms swing an equal distance from the body in both directions.
Now reverse the process by bringing the toe, ankle, and knee back to the ground and the arms back to the sides, fists still lightly clenched. Without pausing, repeat the moves by lifting the right leg and swinging the left arm forward so you are marching on the spot.
Raise both legs 8 times each.
*Tip: Count 1 every time you swing your right arm forward – when you reach 8, you’re done!
(I wasn’t really paying attention when this shot was taken – by left arm should be a little further back!)
This is a brisk march aimed at waking you up and activating your arms and your legs for what is coming next. Be careful not to just loosely swing your arms like you are a bored child – keep the arms straight, feel the energy flowing down them, and swing them with controlled force!
Another way of performing this exercise would be to come up on the balls of the feet rather than lifting the feet. The arm movements are exactly the same, but when you swing your arms you are simply coming up on to the ball of the other foot. This is more difficult than it sounds and it is especially important make sure you don’t start to lean forward.
So there you have it – lots of writing about a couple of VERY simple exercises. HOWEVER, now you’ve read about them, maybe you have a new take on what exercise is all about. In your notebook this entire page can be condensed down to:
- Stand to attention
- Hands on hips chest stretch
- Walk on the spot
So how about it?