An old adage tells us that we won’t see fitness gains without some pain. Yet the recent trend seems to favor making exercise as painless as possible.
There are modernized and modified versions of all the old moves. Innovators claim the new exercises are as good as – or better than – the originals.
But it turns out that the older generation had the right idea. Sure, their exercises left them red-faced and groaning, but they worked!
If you want to make the most of your physique, you might want to try sweating like the oldies. Here are five of the most effective and least loved exercises of all time:
Pull-ups often remind us of dreaded fitness tests in gym class, when we embarrassed ourselves by dangling pitifully from the chin-up bar.
If you don’t have that particular traumatic memory, consider yourself lucky! For the rest of us, pull-ups are a harsh reminder of how weak we are.
Pull-ups are also one of the most effective ways to strengthen and tone your arms, shoulders, and back.
If you can overcome your distaste and just do them, pull-ups will greatly increase your upper body strength.
If you can’t do a regular pull-up, work up to it by anchoring a chin-up bar to your wall and just hanging there for a while.
Next, move on to chair-assisted pull-ups, and finally to the regular old kind we love to hate.
Push-ups are used as punishment in schools and military camps the world over. It’s too bad they have such a negative association for so many people, because they are an excellent exercise for strengthening the arms and chest.
If you’re not able to do a regular pushup, don’t get discouraged. Just start pushing yourself up from the wall, then from a kitchen counter.
Next, do a pushup from your knees. Keep this up, and it won’t be long until you’re strong enough to push your body from the floor using only your arms.
You can even get fancy with wide-armed and one-armed push-ups, but you’d better leave those until you’ve mastered the others.
Rounding out the trio of dreaded exercises with “ups” in their name, sit-ups are widely regarded as repetitive torture for the spine and tailbone.
But if they’re done right (and on a slightly cushioned surface) sit-ups will provide you with a strong core and ripped abs.
If you can’t do a proper sit-up, strengthen your core with abdominal crunches. After a few weeks, sit down on an exercise mat and try to do a full sit-up.
If you find yourself losing your balance at first, get a friend to hold your feet and anchor you.
Be sure to use your abdominals, not your legs or arms, to pull you into a sitting position.
There are a wide variety of leg lift exercises to choose from, and none of them are very fun.
They do all have one thing in common though: they will give you the toned thighs and firm lower abs you’ve been wanting.
To start doing leg lifts, lie on your back and extend your legs at a 45 degree angle from your body. Slowly lower them until they are just 6 inches off the ground.
You will feel the burn in your thighs and abs, and this is a good thing.
Flutter kicks are another variation on the basic leg lift. While lying down, bend your knees to your chest. Then extend your legs at a 45 degree angle.
Bring your right leg close to the ground, followed by your left leg. Repeat without letting your feet touch the ground.
The looming threat of wall sits kept a lot of us obedient during gym class.
Another punitive exercise with an unfortunate reputation, the wall sit is a highly effective way to tone your legs, thighs, glutes, and core.
To do a wall sit, start by leaning your upper back against a wall. Then slowly slide down into a sitting position.
Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle from your body, just as if you were sitting in a chair.
Contract your abs and hold the position for 20 to 60 seconds. If it hurts, it’s working!
Our ancestors knew a few things about effective exercises. If you can toughen up and add these moves to your workout routine, you’ll be rewarded with stronger, leaner, better-looking muscles. Isn’t that worth a little pain?