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The 15-Minute Strength-Training Workout

Following the NSPA guidelines, here are the responsibilities of the lifter:

  • Tension must be kept on the muscle.
  • Must pause in contracted position.
  • Must perform slow, smooth contractions.
  • Must use full range of motion.
In the triceps extension, the spotter presses against the lifter's wrist. Here's the spotter's job:
  • Must control smooth contractions and provide appropriate amount of resistance.
  • Must control resistance so fatigue is reached within 10 to 15 repetitions.
  • Must push in both the positive and the negative phase of the exercise.
When working as a spotter for the first time, err on the side of caution. Don't create too much resistance until you see what your partner can do. As the lifter, you have to give an honest effort on each rep; otherwise you won't get the results you're looking for.

Done properly, manual resistance exercises are a great, equipment-free way to get a challenging workout in a modest amount of time.

Remember Calisthenics?
If all else fails, there's always good old-fashioned calisthenics (cals). No bands, no manual resistance, and certainly no machines or weights. Just you and your body weight. Cals are as pure a strength training as we know. They are tough and efficient and effective; maybe the best way you can use your valuable 15 minutes of exercise time.

Advantages of calisthenics:

  • They can be done anywhere.
  • They require virtually no equipment.
  • They provide a very efficient workout.
Disadvantages of calisthenics:
  • Resistance can't be varied.
  • Limited number of exercises.
  • Exercises may be too hard for some and too easy for others.
Let's talk about several of our favorite body weight exercises that you can do: push-ups (great for developing your chest, shoulders, and triceps), pull-ups and chin-ups (great exercises for your lats), and lunges (for your quads, hamstrings, and glutes).

Proper Push-Ups
Push-ups can be done with a variety of hand positions. Each hand position isolates a different part of your pecs. The standard, military variety uses a shoulder-width hand placement and works your pecs, shoulders, and triceps. Elevating your feet onto a chair, bed, or couch will shift the emphasis to the upper pecs and provide a little variety and far more difficulty. To place extra emphasis on your triceps, bring your hands together in a narrow position. To try the most difficult version of this push-up, form a triangle with your thumbs and index finger touching.

Once you've done your push-ups, it's time to work the opposing muscles.

Chin-Ups and Pull-Ups
These exercises against gravity remind us a bit of eating vegetables when you were a kid: You knew they were good for you, but you just couldn't bear to eat them. Similarly, these simple exercises are the toughest and most "cost effective" of any calisthenic exercise. For that reason, they are also two of the most neglected strength-training exercises. We know a handful of athletes who after adding pull-ups and/or chin-ups to their workout regimen made dramatic improvements in strength. In the beginning you will struggle to do even three or four good repetitions. Don't despair. If you stick with it and don't get discouraged, you will improve quickly and notice dramatic results.

Just as with push-ups, variations in hand positions provide some variety and shift the emphasis to different muscles. Regardless of hand position, you're using the muscles of your back on biceps exercises.

  • The standard, military pull-up is performed with an overhand grip, with the hands slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • The wide-grip pull-up – in case you can't figure it out – is a variation done with a wider grip. It's especially tough on your lats and the other muscles of your mid- and lower back.
  • The chin-up is performed with a shoulder-width, underhand grip. It places extra emphasis on your biceps.

Next: Summing up >>

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Short Workouts © 2001 by Deidre Johnson-Cane, Jonathan Cane, and Joe Glickman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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