Must-do exercises for 'Weekend Warriors'

Get the most out of your weekends with this six-week challenge

Credit: U.S. Air Force
Credit: U.S. Air Force

ANN ARBOR – Dedication to your career and family can really put you in the hole during the week when it comes to focusing on getting in a consistent workout routine.  

The weekend is your opportunity to catch up on your health and fitness by getting into the gym for the couple of spare hours in the morning that you have on Saturday and Sunday.  

Rather than sit here and give you the whole spiel on how you should be prioritizing your routine during the week, I’m going to partner up with you and give you some of the best "bang for your buck" exercises that you need to be doing on the weekend to decrease the wear and tear of sitting at your desk and in your car all week long!

Supine Breathing (during the week) with Pelvic Tilt + Reach (before workouts)

Breathing? Am I for real?!? Absolutely!

This breathing can be done daily and will have tremendous benefits if done for three to five minutes per day.  
Changes that you may notice include but aren’t limited to:

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Decreased tension in "tight" muscles
  • Enhanced mental clarity

OK, that’s great, but how does that help me with my workout?

Excellent question! The pelvic tilt can help undo the bad posture sitting all week long puts you in. Specifically, adding the pelvic tilt will help contract your hamstrings, decrease activity in your hip flexors and contract your abdominal muscles, while decreasing activation of your lower back muscles. 

Activating these muscle groups, coupled with the breathing and reach will help reposition your joints so that they’re in a better position to move during your workout!

Sets: 2

Reps: 5 breaths per set

Pro-Tip:  If you’re unable to touch your toes normally, try to after doing a couple sets of this exercise.  If you’re not able to, then I guarantee you will at least have more range of motion.

Wall Press Abs

Done correctly, this core exercise will light your abs up!  

Wall Press Abs is an “anti-extension” core exercise, which means we want to keep your low back from popping off the ground.

Reps: 8-10 per set

Pro-Tip: Imagine that there is an ant farm under your low back and that you're trying to crush those ants! You will feel more pressure between your low back and the floor, and your abs will engage. Maintain this through the movement.  

The goal is not to touch the floor with your feet. The goal is to go out as far as you can while keeping your back pressed into the ground. If your feet happen to touch the ground, then that’s great. If not, then no worries.  

When you’re ready to bump up the intensity, then think of tilting your belly button up toward you face. When you do that, you should feel your "lower" abs contract. Now, hold that position as you lower your legs toward the floor.

Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is an exercise that I see performed incorrectly way too often.  

Like the previous exercise, this will be a great exercise to add to your routine to loosen up your hips and add some strength.

You can progress this to a single leg glute bridge once you’ve mastered the two-leg version.

Reps: 10-12 per set if performing on two legs, if on one leg, then go 8-10 per side

Pro-Tip: Pause and hold for two seconds at the top. Push low back flat into the ground before going up. This will help you avoid arching your low back and using your low back to execute the movement. We want all glutes!

Alternating Deadbug

This core exercise is classified primarily as an "anti-rotation" exercise, and like the wall press abs, we're focusing on keeping our low back contacted with the floor. The coordination aspect of it can be a bit challenging at first but try your best to stay patient and persistent with it. You will eventually get it!

Reps: 4-6 each side

Pro-Tip: Take roughly three seconds to extend leg and reach overhead, and three seconds to return to start. You should feel your abs working like crazy on this one! Make sure that you're pushing your low back down into the ground throughout the movement.

Side Plank Variation

Another great core exercise is a side plank. There are two different versions that are explained in the video so choose which version is best for you. Pay attention to the details though -- the side plank is another exercise I commonly see performed incorrectly.

Reps: 4-5 each side for both variations. Hold for five seconds at the top.

Pro-Tip: Shoulder and hip position are key with this exercise. Once you lift your hip off of the floor, then rotate your shoulder and hip in the direction of the hand that is on the floor. For example, if you’re performing a side plank on your right side, then your right hand will be on the ground. You would then rotate your right left hip and left shoulder toward the right.

Downward Dog to Spiderman

This exercise doesn't look much, but done correctly it will have you a little dumbfounded as to how something that looks so easy is actually challenging your coordination, strength and mobility.

Reps: 4-5 each side. Hold downward dog and Spiderman position for two seconds.

Pro-Tip: This may sound silly but be sure to breathe through this exercise. It’s very common for folks to hold their breath, which will limit mobility.

Any Kind of Movement-Based Exercise

We’re taking it back to the playground with this one! Pick any locomotive exercise that you like. I've attached some videos for options that you could sprinkle in, but feel free to pick anything that we don’t list.

Pro-Tip: If you choose sprints, then start off by going at about 50 percent of your maximal effort. I'd even say avoid going above 75 percent at any one point in time. There’s too much risk for injury going beyond that as fatigue will start to accumulate by the time you get to your sprints and as you get further into the workout.

What Should A Workout Look Like?

There are so many different ways that you can do this, but start by doing this:

  • Set timer for 20 minutes
  • Perform exercises listed in order for the prescribed rep range listed
  • Attempt to get as many HIGH QUALITY (quality first, quantity second) reps as you can within that 20-minute time frame
  • Rest as needed if you do sprints. Sprints will be the most taxing thing that you can do during this program and may require a bit more recovery time than anything else. Try to let your breathing rate come back to normal before running the next sprint.

Here is how you can progress it:

Week 1: 20 minutes; get as many HIGH QUALITY reps as you can during that time frame.

Week 2: 20 minutes; beat previous weeks amount of reps.

Week 3: 25 minutes; get as many HIGH QUALITY reps as you can during that time frame (should definitely be more than previous two weeks).

Week 4: 25 minutes; beat previous weeks amount of reps.

Week 5:  30 minutes; get as many HIGH QUALITY reps as you can during that time frame (should definitely be more than week 3 & 4).

Week 6: 30 minutes; beat previous weeks amount of reps.

So there you go. You’ve now got a six-week program that will get you moving well, through multiple planes of motion, and feeling muscles that you didn't know that you had!

Mike Coval, BS Exercise Science, CSCS is fitness & performance coach and owner of COVAL in Ann Arbor, MI. COVAL provides individualized, expert coaching in fitness, nutrition, lifestyle, and mindset to help you be your best in an environment where you feel like family.