I have been watching the Winter Olympics, and one thing that has stood out for me in almost every event is the postures that the athletes have to hold for long durations, be it skiing or skeleton singles luge. All I can think about when they are zooming across icy tracks at speeds of more than 100kmph is the amount of time they spend in the chair pose (on skis), a half cobra hold (in skeleton) or the hollow hold on the bobsled.
By the time they get to the finish line, I can feel my core and quadriceps burning by merely watching them. The Winter Olympics have turned the spotlight on static holds and there’s a good reason to include them in your workouts. Don’t be fooled by the word “static” because these holds will still make you sweat and leave you in tears while strengthening your muscles and increasing your endurance. Here are four great holds to work your legs and abs.
Wall sit and chair pose: The wall sit and chair pose are quite similar and involve replicating sitting in a chair. The chair pose is a standard yoga asana, whereas in case of the wall sit, you do the same thing, but with back support (back flat against the wall). In both these static holds, you need to keep your spine straight and knees bent at an angle of 90 degrees. Both these holds are excellent workout for your lower body, especially the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and ankles.
In case of the chair pose, your abs and back are also engaged. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Women's Association in 2014 found that an exercise routine that included wall sits improved balance and leg strength. The movement also enhances muscular endurance and stability.
Warrior pose: The warrior pose and its variations are similar to the lunge hold. Like the chair hold, the warrior poses strengthen your quads, hamstrings, ankles and calves. Additionally, it also helps stretch your chest, shoulders and groin. This static hold also leads to better flexibility in the hips and shoulders and improves stability. It not only adds strength but also improves endurance of muscles engaged in the exercise. Yoga instructors often use this asana as a measure to fix back pain.
Plank: This is arguably the most popular static hold exercise in the world. Doing planks might be easy but holding one till fatigue is definitely not. Whether you do a plank on your elbows or a high plank on your palms, this exercise is meant to strengthen your core muscles that include abs, lower back, pelvis and glutes. A strong core is key to doing well in sports, exercise and anything else that requires a physical effort.
Planks are great for stability training, which is first step towards building a strong base for any human body, says Gagan Arora, coach and founder of Delhi’s Kosmic Fitness. Once you master the plank, you can do it during your warm-ups, intra-workout or right at the end, Arora suggests. They also make for a great standalone quick workout when mixed up with some other bodyweight exercises like squats, pushups, jumping jacks and mountain climbers in the HIIT format.
L-Sit: Unlike the plank, doing an L-Sit is certainly not easy. But if you can manage to do it, that’s good evidence enough of your flexibility, mobility and core strength. Apart from being an excellent strength workout, it also helps strengthen the core muscles and enhance grip strength. While the plank is for just about everyone, the L-Sit is usually performed by those with some experience in exercise and sports, especially calisthenics. Like the plank, the L-Sit improves stability and it improves your overall endurance as well.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.