From core strengthening to total-body toning, structural exercises can provide you with the ripped physique you crave. While they may sound daunting, they're not. Most strength-training exercises you're already doing fall into this category. Structural exercises focus on multiple movements and muscles to burn calories in an efficient manner. Because these exercises place a lot of load on your spine, get your doctor's clearance before doing them.
The Big Six
According to strength and conditioning experts Lou Shuler and Alwyn Cosgrove, if you're looking for structural exercises -- or exercises that require you to move more than one joint at a time -- it comes down to the big six. To the authors, these moves are lunges, squats, pulls, deadlifts, twists and pushes. Shuler and Cosgrove emphasize the big six's power due to each move's ability to target major muscle groups. If you're targeting major muscle groups, you're burning more calories. Combining moves, such as a dumbbell squat with a shoulder press, uses more muscle groups -- quads, glutes, delts, triceps and traps -- in an efficient way.
What to Look For
Because of their complexity, structural exercises are not meant for beginners. If you're already accustomed to strength training, adding these moves can help you shed weight while building muscle. Keep an eye out for structural exercises that place more focus on the legs, back and chest and least importance on the shoulders and arms. You'll burn more calories doing exercises that target the quads and hamstrings, traps, delts, lats and pecs, than when flexing the lesser muscles of the shoulders and arms.
Despite the spinal load these exercise initially enforce, doing structural exercises will actually strengthen your back. As the exercise tones your chest, back and legs, these muscle groups will tighten your core, which further supports your back. To get the most out of structural exercises, seek the advice of a personal trainer. Personal trainers can assess your body type and fitness level, and know which structural exercises you should use, for how many repetitions and with what weight.
Safety and Precautions
Since structural exercises are spine intense, be cautious with your repetitions. Focus on the quality of the exercise, not necessarily the quantity of repetitions. Remember to start with a lighter weight, working your way to a heavier amount to avoid injury. Always use the proper form for each exercise. If you're unsure about form, ask a personal trainer. When working with weights, have a spotter, unless you're working on a machine.
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.