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12 Exercises for Strength and Grace

by Samm Kweku Richardson(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 146 - April 2008

A normal, healthy body is one that is equally well nourished in all of its parts, and no part is properly nourished unless it is used. A part that is unused receives less than the normal amount of nourishment, and in time becomes weakened. Therefore, the man (or woman) who is able to so regulate his life that he gets both mental and physical exercise is apt to be the healthiest and happiest.

It is absolutely necessary that a person exercises in order to keep the body strong and healthy. During exercise the heart beats faster, and in this way every part of the body gets a better supply of blood. During exercise one breathes more often, and in this way every part of the body gets a more abundant supply of oxygen. The mind becomes dull if the muscles of the body are not exercised. If one desires to have a good memory and to be able to study diligently and learn rapidly, one must exercise the muscles of one’s body daily.

Below are a dozen simple exercises which I have personally been performing on a daily basis over a stretch of two decades. If followed, these exercises will give you all the movements necessary to exercise your entire body, bringing every part into play, strengthening every organ, and making you not only well developed, but straight and erect and as supple and quick of movement as an athlete. Do not let the simplicity and brevity of these exercises cause you to undervalue them. Put some fun and interest into your practice. In this way, both mind and body will obtain multiplied benefit, and you will leave your exercise with a splendid glow and thrill such as you have not experienced for many a day.

Let me assure you that if only you will take the time and trouble to put them into regular faithful practice, the ensuing exercises will practically ‘make you over’ physically and have all the unnecessary fatty features ‘trimmed off’. They are simple but wonderfully effective. Try them... enjoy them... and be strong!

Bear These In Mind:

•    Do not exercise soon after a meal, or immediately before one – at least two hours before or after a meal is all right.
•    Women should not practise these exercises during pregnancy.
•    Do not overdo things – start with a few repetitions of any exercise at first, and then gradually increase it until you have reached a fair number of repetitions. Better go through the exercises several times a day (if possible) rather than attempt to do too much at one period of exercise.
•    Practise faithfully and take an interest in the work. Carry the thought of ‘strength and development’ with you when you exercise, and you will get much better results.

Now, are you ready?… Let’s begin with the standing position.
Each exercise starts from the position of attention – Stand in a natural manner, i.e., with your heels together; head erect; eyes front; shoulders back; chest expanded; abdomen drawn in a little; arms at the sides.

Exercise 1: The Pendulum

1)    Extend the arms straight out in front of you, on the level of the shoulder, with palms of the hands touching each other;
2)    Swing back the hands until the arms stand out straight, sideways from the shoulders, or even a little further back if they will go there easily without forcing; return briskly to position 1, and repeat several times. The arms should be swung with a rapid movement, and with animation and life. In swinging the hands backwards, it is an improvement if you will rise on your toes during the backwards sweep, sinking on your heels as you move the arms forwards again. The repeated movements should be rhythmical, backwards and forwards, like the swinging of a quick pendulum.
This exercise is most useful in developing the chest and muscles of the shoulders.

Exercise 2: Hand Circles

1)    Raise the arms sideways to horizontal position, with opened hands, palms turned downward;
2)    With the arms so extended, swing the hands around in circles (not too wide – a 12-inch diameter circle is okay), keeping the arms back as far as possible, and not allowing the hands to pass in front of the line of the breast while making the circles. Do twelve circles in one direction and twelve circles in the reverse direction. See Illustration 1. It improves this exercise to inhale a full breath and to retain the air until several circles are made.
This exercise develops the chest, shoulders and back. Put life into it, and take an interest in what you are doing.

Exercise 3: The Bow

1)    Lie flat on your stomach. Stretch your arms back and, raising the heels, grasp both ankles;
2)    Pulling with your arms, lift the legs as high as possible, at the same time arching the front part of the body. It is as if you were trying to touch the back of your head with the soles of your feet;
3)    Breathe freely. Hold the drawn-bow position for at least six seconds as in Illustration 2;
4)    Relax for a moment and give it another try.
The Bow is not easy at first, and beginners usually have to keep their legs a little apart. As the muscles strengthen, the legs should be brought closer together until finally they can be kept in contact throughout performance.
This exercise stretches and strengthens the spine and makes it more supple. It stretches the muscles of the abdomen, the back, the legs, the arms and the neck. It tones the nervous system and improves the efficiency of the liver, the kidneys and the glands. It also improves digestion. It is one of the finest correctives for faulty posture.

Exercise 4: Floor Touch

This exercise, Floor Touch, which you are about to perform, stretches, strengthens and limbers the spine.  It loosens the ‘hamstrings’ at the backs of the thighs and firms and tones the legs. It massages the abdominal muscles and enables blood to flow to the brain, the scalp and the facial tissues.
1)    Standing erect, raise the arms straight up over the head, hands remaining open with thumbs touching each other when the arms are fully extended upwards – palms to the front;
2)    Then, without bending the knees, bend the body forward from the waist and endeavour to touch the floor with the extended finger tips, as in Illustration 3, while the face is brought against the knees. If you are unable to do this at first, do the best you can, and you will soon be able to do it properly – but remember that neither the knees nor the arms must be bent;
3)    Hold the pose for at least six seconds. Rise and relax. You may want to give it another try… why not?

Exercise 5: Elbow Clash

1)    Extend the arms straight out, sideways from the shoulders;
2)    Then, still keeping the upper arms extended in the same position, bend the arms at the elbow and bring the forearm upward with a circular movement, until the tips of the extended fingers lightly touch the tops of the shoulders;
3)    Then, keeping the fingers in the last position, force the elbows out to the front until they touch, or nearly so. (A little practice will enable you to touch them together.);
4)    Then, keeping the fingers still lightly touching the tops of the shoulders, swing the elbows as far back as you can get them. (A little practise will enable you to get them much further back than at the first attempt);
5)    Swing the elbows to the front position and then back to the rear position, several times.

Exercise 6: Calf & Squats

1)    Standing erect, with hands on hips, raise yourself on the balls of the feet several times, with sort of a springy motion. Pause a moment after you have raised upon your toes, then let the heels sink to the floor, then repeat, as above. Keep the knees unbent and the heels together.
This exercise is especially beneficial in developing the calf of the leg, and will make it feel sore the first few times it is tried. If you have an undeveloped calf, here is the exercise for you;
2)    Raise arms to horizontal position. Place your feet about two feet apart and then lower the body into a ‘squatting’ position, with the weight upon the ball of the foot and keeping the trunk as nearly erect as possible. See Illustration 4. Repeat several times, but not too often at first as it will make the thighs feel a little sore at the beginning.
This exercise will give one well developed thighs.

Exercise 7: Push Ups

1)    Lie upon your stomach and assume the following position: Keeping the body rigid from head to foot, raise your body (Illustration 5) until its weight rests upon your palms (the arms being stretched out straight in front of you) at one end, and upon your toes at the other end;
(2)    Then, gradually bend arms at the elbow, allowing your chest to sink to the floor;
(3)    Then raise up your chest and upper body by straightening out your arms, the entire weight falling upon the arms, with the toes as a pivot – this last is a difficult motion and should not be overdone at first. In your first bout, try doing twelve push ups.  Then, increase the number with practice. An excellent exercise for developing biceps and forearms.

Exerecise 8: Hand Flashes

1)    Extend the arms straight, sideways from the shoulder, and hold them there stiff and rigid with hands open;
2)    Close the hands forcibly, with a quick motion, pressing the fingers well into the palm;
3)    Open the hands forcibly and quickly, spreading out the fingers and thumbs as widely as possible, forming a fan-shaped hand;
4)    Close and open the hands as above stated, several times, as rapidly as possible. Put life into the exercise.
This is a splendid exercise for
developing the muscles of the
hand, and for acquiring manual dexterity.

Exercise 9: Belly Tonic

Belly Tonic is an exercise for those troubled with a too large abdomen, which is caused by too much fat gathering there. The abdomen may be materially reduced by a reasonable indulgence in this exercise – but always remember ‘moderation in all things’, and do not overdo matters or be in too much of a hurry.
Here is the exercise:
1)    Stand firmly with the legs about fifteen inches apart, the knees slightly bent, the palm of the right hand on the right thigh and the palm of the left hand on the left thigh;
2)    Exhale completely and forcefully through the mouth, emptying the lungs. Do this in two rapid rushes of air, with the briefest possible pause between. Without breathing in, expand and slightly raise the ribs and draw back the abdomen towards the backbone, creating some sort of a hollow tank; the diaphragm rises into the cavity of the rib cage;
3)    Hold the retraction a second, as in Illustration 6, then release it and immediately retract again. The hollowing of the abdomen is repeated several times to each emptying of the lungs. As the muscles become stronger and more accustomed to the exercise, you should be able to perform ten to twenty quick retractions to one exhalation. This is called a round. A rest of about fifteen seconds, breathing freely, should be taken before starting another round. Three rounds will be sufficient for you;
4)    Give the abdomen a good (but not rough) kneading and rubbing.
It is surprising how much control one may gain over these stubborn muscles with a little practice. This exercise will not only reduce the fatty layers over the abdomen, but will also greatly strengthen the stomach muscles.

Exercise 10: Sit-Ups

1)    Start by lying flat upon the back at full length, with the knees bent a little and the fingers of both hands locked behind the neck;
2)    Then, gradually curl your upper back off the floor while still supporting your neck with your interlocked fingers and try to touch your bent knees with the forehead;
3)    Then, go back gradually to the lying-down position, and repeat the rising and lowering several times.
This is another wonderful exercise for strengthening the muscles of the stomach and making the back muscles very supple.

Exercise 11: Waist Massager

1)    Stand with the legs slightly tensed and the feet about six inches apart;
2)    Stretch the arms straight above the head, fingers interlocked, arms touching ears;
3)    Then, with the fingers still interlocked, slowly describe a complete circle about thirty-six inches in diameter, the body bending and rotating only at the waist. See Illustration 8. Do this six times in one direction and six times in the opposite direction. Go through the entire movement without moving hips.

Exercise 12: The Breather

This last exercise, called The Breather, is marvellously effective – very bracing and stimulating to the entire body. It tends to strengthen and develop the respiratory muscles, the lungs as well as the air cells. It is recommended for reversing stomach, liver and blood disorders and frequently relieves bad breath, which often arises from poorly ventilated lungs.
The following directions will give you a clear idea of the exercise:
1)    Raise the arms sideways to horizontal position, palms turned downwards;
2)    Then, inhale a complete breath while raising the arms to an angle of forty-five degrees and also raising the heels until you are resting on the balls of the feet. See the idea in Illustration 9;
3)    Retain the air as long as you comfortably can;
4)    Exhale vigorously through the open mouth while coming back to the original position, feet flat on the floor, arms horizontal;
5)    Repeat the process at least six times and then give yourself some rest. Be careful not to raise the arms more than forty-five degrees or return them to below horizontal. Should you find a slight dizziness resulting from the first few trials, sit on the floor and discontinue the exercise for a while until you regain your fitness.


All drawings by the author.


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About Samm Kweku Richardson

The author is a 48 year-old Ghanaian male freelance writer based in Accra, the capital city of the Republic of Ghana in West Africa. Married with children, his hobbies include writing, cooking, gardening, playing the piano, watching the sea, listening to the BBC World Service on radio, reading novels and watching crime and detective films. His sporting interests are boxing, judo and table tennis. On the side, he operates a small restaurant in town. He can be contacted on


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