Exercising first thing in the morning is a great way to energize yourself for a highly productive, purposeful, and fulfilling day. With lungs full of oxygen, blood pumping throughout your body, and your musculature contracting and firing properly you’ll be taking meaningful steps towards long-term health and vitality, but also towards making yourself highly energized, motivated, focused, and grounded which will enable you to be a person of action, accomplishment, and productivity every single day.
I have never been a morning person, but I have become one, and by exercising first thing each morning for 30 minutes I have become much more productive and healthy. The beautiful thing about these exercises is that you don’t need a gym membership or any expensive equipment. All you’ll need is a towel or a cheap yoga mat and a 30-minute timer. Here are some amazing exercises to begin your day:
1. Glute Bridge
Many men find exercising their legs and especially their gluteal muscles to be embarrassing, but you really shouldn’t as there are enormous benefits to doing so, and luckily you’ll be doing these in the privacy of your home. The gluteal muscles are the biggest in the body and a strong butt is foundational for a stable body and healthy posture. Do about 3 sets of 20 and as you get stronger do more sets, do them slower with paused contractions at the top, and eventually move up to harder variations such as single-leg glute bridges. Watch this video to learn the proper form.
2. Donkey-Kicks & Fire Hydrant Circles
Like the glute bridge, the donkey-kick will exercise your glutes, but instead of lying down you’ll be on your hands and knees. These will also hit your hamstrings hard. The important thing to remember with these is, as you reach full contraction of your glutes, keep your rib cage and abs stiff and contracted, not extended out, and also keep your neck and chin tucked, not hyperextended. Do about 3 sets of 15, push out and up forcefully, squeeze the top position, and lower slowly.
Fire hydrant circles will also hit your glutes, but they will also enormously improve your hip mobility and flexibility, which will translate into less back and neck pain and into better posture. Do about 3 sets of 15 for each leg and watch this video.
The first thing with planks is to make sure you’re doing them properly, as it can be easy to butcher them. But once you’ve got the form down, planks are a powerful exercise that will simultaneously give you shredded abs and improve your posture.
4. Scapular Wall Slides
For many people, their upper back, shoulder blades, and shoulder girdle are a mess, probably from excessive sitting. Doing scapular wall slides will strengthen your rotator cuffs, rear deltoids, lower trapezius, and all the other muscles that are necessary for proper shoulder and upper back health and functioning. Doing these will work to rid of any poor spinal alignment or posture that’s been ingrained and become habitual. These are highly underrated and incredibly beneficial. Definitely try these out. Do about 4 sets of 15 to 20.
5. Downward Dog Yoga Pose Variations
The downward dog is a mix of a stretch and an isometric hold. While writing this I actually just learned that I’ve been doing this exercise slightly wrong, which again is why you should watch and listen to others about proper form, such as in this video. These are great for building arm and upper back strength and stability, while simultaneously stretching out the muscles that contribute to poor posture such as the pectoral and latissimus dorsi muscles. These are amazing for correcting bad posture.
6. Bonus: Neck Stretches
Perhaps you noticed there is a common theme among all these exercises in that they all in some way work to improve and strengthen posture. Proper posture enables proper breathing and efficient blood flow, both of which are vital for being highly energized, focused, and productive.
One area that frequently gets ignored is the neck, and yet on a daily basis we subject the neck to terrible posture – while we eat, while we work, and while we stand. Due to the nature of our modern lives where sitting is dominant, there are certain muscles in the neck that have gotten very tight, which further reinforces bad neck alignment. Stretch these suckers out following the stretches in this video and your neck will feel amazing and over time you will correct your bad posture and build bulletproof posture.