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6 Foundation Exercises to Build up your Baseline Fitness Abilities

There are a lot of reasons people sign up for exercise: to lose weight, lose fat, gain muscle, gain strength, improve flexibility, reduce pain, have more energy, be healthy, etc.

Let’s say there are two main categories: look better and feel better.

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But if you’re not particularly inspired by the vagueness of those options, here’s a list that might light your fire. These are the baseline things I encourage my clients to work towards regardless of their other goals… I want them to be able to DO BETTER!

6 Foundation Exercises to Build up your Baseline Fitness Abilities

Instead of getting to (or giving up short of) a specific look or a feel (which are hard to quantify; how do you know when you’ve arrived??)–– these are measureable baseline fitness abilities that transfer benefits to all fitness goals and a generally fit and healthy lifestyle.

1. Hold a plank for 2 minutes

Forget the non-functional spinal flexion of crunches (you do that in your chair at work all day long anyway), the plank is the building block of a strong core.

6 Foundation Exercises to Build up your Baseline Fitness Abilities

2. Squat your body weight

Once you have the mobility and stability to do a good squat, work your way up to having your body weight on the bar.

This is actually the strength I recommend my running clients maintain so that they avoid injuries doing the repetitive plyometric/explosive running stride.

6 Foundation Exercises to Build up your Baseline Fitness Abilities

3. Complete a 500m row in 90 seconds 

The rower gives you a full-body workout and completing this test requires all-out effort and good technique!

We threw down a "Survival of the Fastest" challenge at the North Shore location last year. The best personal trainer times were: 1st place: Jacob from Abbotsford with a stellar 1:25, 2nd place: Iain from North Shore with 1:30, and best female time was 1:38 (I still haven’t been able to shave off those last 8 seconds!).

4. 15 unbroken pull-ups

This is the ultimate upper body movement. It used to be a cornerstone in school and athletic physical fitness tests. This goal can vary a bit depending on your weight: men weighing 170-190lbs = the goal is 15, men < 160lbs = shoot for 20 or more, and if you’re over 200lbs = shoot for 12. Women, once you can do one, keep going… female Army Rangers have to do 6-12 (just saying). 

6 Foundation Exercises to Build up your Baseline Fitness Abilities

5. Run 1 mile in under 9 minutes

Cardio is a great predictor of long-term health (and we’ve probably all had an experience where a flight of stairs left us embarrassingly winded). For those of you (okay, most of us) that don’t love the thought of long runs, it’s still important to take care of your heart and lungs. There are many of ways to get your cardio in, but check yourself against this baseline and see if there’s room, or the need to improve!

6 Foundation Exercises to Build up your Baseline Fitness Abilities

6. Box jump 66% of your height 

This one will add some explosiveness to your workout! If you’ve already progressed from sitting on machines to training on your feet, the next step is adding some air. In addition to the strength, speed, and power you’ll get out of this exercise–I also love seeing clients overcome the mental challenge of a box jump. Some people can freeze over even a small box. But nothing worth doing is easy… if you can knock this challenge down, you’ll feel like a champ!

*The source of these tests and parameters come from Men’s Fitness.

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