Any fitness challenge that isn’t measurable is destined to fail. It’s that simple. Because how can we ever expect to achieve success, if we’re not measuring our progress along the way?
Fitness is a journey. But too often we’re led to believe that it’s simply a means to an end, such as reaching a different pants size or a smaller number on the scale. As we start the new year, it’s time to ease up on these destination-type goals and instead celebrate victories in our body’s performance. How far have you come already? Do you have more balance? More strength?
Here are five must-do moves to include in your workouts to help you recognise improvements in your fitness and performance, and set your sites on a stronger, happier, healthier life.
Measure your performance at regular intervals to track your progress.
5 Telling Moves
You might be familiar with these movements, but do be sure to read the full descriptions and recommendations before tackling them. Having proper technique is essential for progressing your fitness level safely and in the most efficient way. We’ve added a few variations and modification options so you make sure to start safely, and progress regularly!
1. Floating Lunges (30 sec)
Begin with your feet together and then step one foot forward, being careful to keep your weight in the heel of your front foot as you lower down into the lunge. Push through the heel of the front foot to pass through the starting position and perform a reverse lunge. Ideally, your goal is to “float” from the front to the back lunge without stopping in the centre, and allow the knee of the back leg to gently touch the floor with each lunge. Perform the floating lunge for 30 seconds, with the right leg leading, and count the number of times the knee touches the floor. Rest for 30 seconds and then repeat with the left leg. Watch the floating lunge here.
You’ve successfully progressed if you increase the number of repetitions completed during those 30 seconds or increase your range of motion (e.g. if you can’t touch the floor with your knee when you begin, and now you can, even for one rep) or level of difficulty (like adding the float part of the lunge, or making that balance challenge even harder with a knee lift between the front and back lunge). You win each way!
2. Push-Ups (30 sec)
Begin in a high push-up position on the floor. Bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor. Perform push-ups for 30 seconds and count each time your chest comes fist-distance away from the floor. If you are not quite ready for a push-up, find a Smith Machine and place the bar at chest height, allowing yourself to perform an elevated push-up. As you become stronger, lower the bar down a notch. Watch the classic push-up here.
You’ve successfully progressed if you increase the number of repetitions or your difficulty level (e.g. you progress from an elevated push-up to a floor push-up).
3. Squat Jumps (1 min)
Get started by having a seat on a sturdy chair or box with your feet a bit wider than hip distance. The “seat” should be high enough to allow your knees, when seated, to be at hip height or slightly below—and far enough in front of you to keep your weight in your heels as you rock up to standing position.
For each squat jump, push through your heels to explode up, leave the floor, and then gently land. During the landing, you will sit back and lightly touch the seat, hovering for a count of two. Then, repeat. Perform the jumps for 1 minute. Count each time your glutes successfully touch and hold the bottom position. Of course, if jumping is not an option for you yet, you may complete this test with an explosive squat to calf raise, or complete the squat by itself. Watch a classic squat jump (without the box) here.
You’ve successfully progressed if you increase the number of repetitions or your difficulty level (e.g. you progress from a standard squat to squat-to-calf-raise.)
4. Pull-Ups (1 min)
Pull-ups may be performed on an assisted pull-up machine, with a Smith Machine, or in a more traditional way with a pull-up bar. Begin with your arms a bit wider than shoulder distance. Bend your elbows to bring your chest toward the bar. If using the assisted pull-up machine, note the weight you use initially and gauge progress as you reduce the amount of weight. If using the Smith Machine, begin with the bar at chest height, walk your legs out so you are in a reverse plank. To progress, lower the bar. Watch a classic pull-up here, your ultimate goal.
You’ve successfully progressed if you increase the number of repetitions or your difficulty level (e.g. you lower the bar on the Smith Machine or decrease weight on the assisted pull-up machine).
5. Plank Hold (1 min)
Come to your forearms with your elbows in line with your shoulders. Extend your legs out behind you. See how long you can hold the plank without sinking through your midsection or raising your hips. If you’re not quite ready for a full plank, perform a knee plank. Watch a proper plank set-up here.
You’ve successfully progressed if you increase the length of the hold or your difficulty level (e.g. you’ve reached the max of one minute, so you add a 1-leg lift or you move from knee plank to a few seconds in full plank).