Fitness Archive

Hammer Those Hamstrings

hamstring workoutNovice bodybuilders often put most of their leg training emphasis on the quadriceps. After all, they are the muscles that show in the mirror. But the hamstrings are equally important to the size, shape and overall beauty of the legs.
For men, the “hams” add strength and separation to the thighs. For women, shapely hamstrings will make the back of the thighs appear sleeker. They also give you that desirable, sensuous curve to the entire “backside.” (Go ahead – call me sexist. I don’t mind.)
Here’s a superset combo that will bring out the appeal in your hamstrings – men and women alike.

Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Stand upright with your feet a few inches apart and hold a light barbell. Start with just the bar or two light dumbbells if you are unfamiliar with this movement.
Bend forward, lowering the bar toward your feet and keeping the spine straight and the lower back tight (to assure this, keep the chest pushed out).
Bend as far down as possible without bending the knees, then contract the hamstrings and lift back up to the starting position. Maintain the same flat, somewhat arched, back. Repeat for 12 reps.
Then go immediately to the leg curl machine. Do 10-15 reps. This deadly duo is one superset. Repeat the procedure four times.
This combination works because both exercises stress the hamstrings – but they work in an opposing manner. The stiff-leg deadlifts force the hamstrings to stretch while the leg curls impose a strong contraction.
Use this routine in conjunction with your regular leg workout or by itself to focus on the hamstrings alone. Before long, your “rear view” will be stronger and sleeker.

For Women, BodyPUMP Puts the Weights Debate To Rest

body pumpAre you looking to lose weight and strengthen your muscles, but think weight training at the gym is boring or intimidating? Then check out the fast-paced group exercise program called BodyPUMP.
It might sound a little odd, but one of the most effective ways to lose weight is to pick some up. Weight training builds strength and endurance, and boosts metabolism, helping you to take off inches. BodyPUMP classes – sprouting up at health clubs nationwide – combine weight training with a steady musical beat in a fun and challenging environment that offers a total body workout using moderate weights and high repetitions. With BodyPUMP, you don’t get bulging muscles – just sleek and strong muscles, with improved tendon and ligament strength.

What kind of results are people seeing, and how long does it take to see a change in your body? “We get mail from people every day, and no one has ever said they’ve gotten big muscles,” says Rich Boggs, who brought BodyPUMP to the United States in 1997, in a Fitness interview. “They’ve toned their muscles, lost weight, and gained lean muscle mass. People tell us they’re seeing the changes usually in about two to four weeks.”
It almost sounds too good to be true, but according to Maggie Lynn, this is no magic bullet. Lynn, a 43-year-old housewife from Atlanta who has enjoyed BodyPUMP classes at her gym for two years, says the workout is more than just comprehensive – it’s downright tough.
“I was exhausted after that first workout,” Lynn recalled. “But I really liked working with the free weights and the music. Before I knew it, I was seeing muscles that I didn’t know I had. I didn’t bulk up, I just got toned.”

What Makes BodyPUMP Special?

A one-hour BodyPUMP session is divided into 10 four- to six-minute segments, each focusing on a specific muscle group. The workout covers all of the basic exercises:

The workout covers all of the basic exercises: bench presses, biceps curls, squats, lunges, rows, triceps extensions, military presses, front shoulder raises, and even the clean and press.
Between segments, participants quickly adjust their weights (which are secured with spring clips) for the upcoming exercise. Though it’s not designed to be a cardiovascular workout, the pace is as brisk as the music. In fact, the sessions are vigorous enough to require a minimum of 48 hours of recovery time between workouts during the first 12 weeks.

Those muscles Lynn didn’t know she had showed up thanks to an increase in her lean muscle mass. She is also burning fat, since weight training increases your metabolism while you are exercising and after you are done. In fact, exercises that use more muscle groups at higher intensity and for longer periods of time keep your metabolism elevated for the longest period of time after your workout.
There are other health benefits for BodyPUMPers – strength training can help fight osteoporosis, and research has shown it can help women reduce their blood pressure, too.
Of course, all those benefits are predicated on staying with a regular program, and that’s where BodyPUMP has an impressive track record over its 10-year life.
“Consumers want workouts that are simple, fun, and that get results,” Boggs said. “We’ve had good staying power because BodyPUMP has all of those things. People can join a class and immediately feel successful in what they are doing.”

Simple Moves, Quality Instruction

Simplicity is a key to the BodyPUMP program. It’s strictly a strength and endurance program with no stepping, dancing, or complicated movements. It utilizes Boggs’s step platform product, but onbody pump exercisely as a bench for exercises such as the bench press.
Even though the moves are simple, keeping the exercises and music fresh is a complex affair. BodyPUMP’s pre-choreographed routines are updated regularly by a team of experts, so boredom is never a problem for participants.
“There are over 2000 people working full-time on this program,” said Boggs. The routines and music are created in New Zealand – where BodyPUMP started in 1990 – while marketing and instructor training is handled in the United States.
The quality of instruction is a major selling point, according to Boggs. “People can’t teach BodyPUMP unless they’ve had 24 hours of training, which includes videotaping three sessions,” Boggs explained. “Instructors have 90 days to send us the tapes so we can assess their competence.”
Ultimately, the success of BodyPUMP puts to rest the myth that women who train with weights will end up with manly looking muscles. And with benefits that include weight loss, increased strength and endurance, and greater bone density to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, you might want to consider BodyPUMP-ing it up.

The Treadmill Or the Open Road: Which Is Best For You?

treadmill workoutsWhen Dr. Christine Clark emerged as the upset winner of the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in Columbia, S.C., a couple of years ago, she gained recognition as an unlikely champion. The 37-year-old pathologist and mother from Anchorage, Alaska, trained by logging 70 miles a week on a treadmill because the roads were too icy. Although her 2:33:31 achievement is a testament to treadmill workouts, do these motorized mini-walkways offer the same advantages as an outdoor run or walk?

If you consider the intensity of the workout alone, research indicates that running or walking outdoors provides a slightly better workout than doing it on a treadmill. But that doesn’t mean you should trash your treadmill. With a little ingenuity, you can even the score.
One factor that makes outdoor running a better workout is wind resistance. A second reason has to do with biomechanics, says author Greg McMillan. Outdoor running requires pushing off against the ground, while treadmill running is a more air-borne activity, with the ground moving beneath the runner. But according to McMillan, it’s easy to compensate for these discrepancies. In an article published last year in Peak Running Performance, a bi-monthly newsletter for runners published by Road Runner Sports, McMillan suggested that runners use proper, upright form and raise the elevation of the treadmill to one-percent to compensate for the lack of wind and ground resistance.
Monitoring your heart rate can also provide valuable information about how to compensate for the differences between the surfaces, says Dr. Edmund Burke, Director of Exercise Science at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and editor of Burke’s Complete Home Fitness Handbook (Human Kinetics; 1996). “Notice your heart rate [during outdoor and treadmill workouts]. If there’s a difference, you can make up for the loss. Increase the speed or elevation [on the treadmill],” he says.

Treadmills do offer one technological training advantage that nature can’t match. Interval training, a method that runners rely upon to increase their speed, may be more challenging on a treadmill than on the pavement, according to Len Sherman, contributor to The Precor Treadmill Training and Workout Guide (by Alberto Salazar, Hatherleigh Press; 2000).

During interval training, Sherman says, “every quarter or eighth of a mile, you increase your speed by a tenth of a mile. On a treadmill, that’s easier to do than anywhere else,” says Sherman. It’s difficult for runners to accurately monitor such tiny increments on a stopwatch, Sherman explains, but a treadmill computer can do it precisely.
Of course, outdoor running and treadmill running both offer distinct secondary benefits
Of course, outdoor running and treadmill running both offer distinct secondary benefits that the other can’t match. Outdoor running, for instance, offers the refreshing treat of an outdoor breeze after a long day at the office.
Treadmills, on the other hand, can help keep you motivated when refreshing breezes aren’t your type of thing. If you tend to peter out on a lone outdoor jog or stroll, an indoor treadmill, combined with the charged atmosphere of a gym, can provide the motivation you need to log the miles you’re striving for.
“People run in the mirror and look at themselves. It can help you work a special pace,” says Susan Kalish, the executive director of the American Running Association . Kalish isn’t a big fan of the treadmill, but she recognizes its benefits. “There are a ton of things that you can do on it.”

outdoor runningWhatever surface you choose, the most important thing you can do for your fitness program is avoid injury. “We encourage people to pick their surfaces carefully, as well as walking and running shoes,” says Dr. Kevin Stone, an orthopedic surgeon at the Stone Clinic and chairman of the Stone Foundation for Sports Medicine and Arthritis Research, both based in San Francisco.
Stone recommends wearing relatively new running or walking shoes with shock absorbing soles. He cautions against wearing sneakers with hard inserts. “It increases the force in people’s knee joints,” he says. Choosing a proper surface can also help minimize stress on the joints. Stone recommends soft outdoor surfaces such as grass, instead of concrete or asphalt.
The hardness of the running surface is even important when picking a treadmill. “You want enough give so that you’re not shocking the joints,” says Tracy Morgan, education and training manager for Cybex International, the Medway, Mass.-based exercise equipment company. “But you also want hardness so that you have enough surface to push off on.”
Most runners and walkers who use a treadmill agree: They’d prefer to run outside, but the treadmill can be useful if the weather turns ugly or if you simply prefer an indoor workout. By making a few small adjustments to your treadmill workout, it can offer the same fitness benefits as the great outdoors.

Strength Workout with Elastic Resistance

Workout with Elastic Resistance

Grueling overnight business trips jam your schedule for the next few weeks. So much for your exercise program. You may be able to squeeze in a cardio workout, but forget about strength training. It’ll have to wait until you get back … unless, of course, you have elastic resistance.
With rubber bands, you can take your workout on the road. And no matter how much you’ve packed, resistance bands will fit easily into any suitcase.

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Why elastic resistance?

Elastic resistance offers benefits that typical strength training equipment doesn’t. It’s not necessarily tougher than free weights or barbells, but it does challenge your muscles differently.
Bands allow you to concentrate on the lifting and the lowering phases of an exercise. With free weights, for example, you might reach the top of the motion and then drop the weights suddenly. With bands, however, you have to stay in control; otherwise, the band will snap back at you. You can also perform exercises that free weights and barbells typically won’t allow.
A band isn’t just any strip of rubber, though. Many companies make bands in different resistance levels; the thicker the band, the harder the workout. Inquire at a local sporting goods store about elastic resistance, or search the web for home equipment resources.

The ins and outs of elastic resistance

Before you work with a band, make sure that it doesn’t show signs of normal wear and tear. Temperature changes often affect the tension and condition of the band so check for splits, holes or changes in tension. If you find anything wrong, throw away that band and get another one.
Also, when you exercise with bands, be aware of your body posture. Many first-time band users tend to bend their wrists excessively, especially when performing exercises for the upper body. Be sure to keep your wrists in line with your elbows at all times.

Finally, keep in mind the properties of elastic resistance. If the resistance is too great, ease up slightly on the band. On the other hand, if the resistance is too light, slide your hands closer together. Never, though, tie two bands together. Always stay in control of the band to maximize safety.
So pack up your bands and follow these exercises when you’re on the road. Who knows? Maybe going out of town won’t be so bad.

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The Workout

Spend at least five minutes warming up by doing light aerobic activity like jogging in place or walking up and down . People who are just starting a fitness routine or exercisers who are short on time should perform at least one set of six to 10 repetitions.
Intermediate and advanced exercisers can increase the intensity to two or three sets of eight to 12 repetitions, time permitting.

Tie the band to form a loop. Sitting on the floor, place the band around your ankles. Keep your feet on the floor and lie face up. Lift your right foot off the floor until that leg is almost straight. Lower to starting position and repeat. If the band slides up your leg, step on the band with your left foot while you’re lifting. Switch sides and repeat.

With the band still tied in a loop around your ankles, lie face down on the floor. Place your hands on top of one another, directly underneath your forehead, and rest your forehead on top of your hands. Keeping your hips on the floor, slowly lift one foot off the floor and curl it into a 90-degree angle towards your body. Lower to starting position and repeat. Switch sides and repeat.

Standing, place the band around your upper back and shoulders and pull each end under your arms. Start with your elbows tucked by your sides, palms facing each other. From this position, press the band up and out at a 45-degree angle. Return to starting position and repeat.

Standing, hold the ends of the band in front of your body with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Keeping your elbows relaxed, lift your arms overhead. Slowly pull your right elbow down to your waist. Return to starting position and repeat. Switch sides and repeat.

Stand on the band with your right foot. Hold the other end in your right hand. With your right palm facing your body, slowly lift your arm to the side no higher than your shoulder. Remember to keep your wrist straight and your elbow relaxed. Return to starting position and repeat. Switch sides and repeat.

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Kneel on the floor with your right knee. Place your left foot on the floor in front of your body, your left knee directly above your left foot. Place the band under your left foot; make sure the band is securely held by your foot. Hold the other end of the band with your left hand and place your left elbow to the inside of your left knee. (For comfort, rest your right hand behind your left elbow.) From this position, keeping your wrists straight, lift your left hand toward your left shoulder. Lower to starting position and repeat. Switch sides and repeat.

Standing, grasp the center of the band with your right hand. Place your right hand on your left shoulder. Grasp one end of the band with your left hand. Tuck your left elbow into your waist and bend your left arm so that your forearm is parallel to the floor (your left arm should form a 90-degree angle). Straighten your arm and press your left hand toward the floor. Return to starting position and repeat. Switch sides and repeat.

Best Time to Exercise

Best Time to ExerciseMorning, noon or night – which will it be when you exercise? Of course, the time that you work out will be dictated by your schedule, but if you could choose, is there one time that’s best? Experts say yes, but that time largely depends on you.

The effect of circadian rhythms on exercise

For years, researchers have tried to link the body’s circadian rhythms with exercise to determine what time of day you’ll burn the most fat. Circadian rhythms are the body’s daily cycles that regulate body temperature, metabolism, and blood pressure.
According to a handout distributed by the American Council on Exercise, “It is the influence of circadian rhythms on body temperature that seems to yield the most control over the quality of a workout.”
In other words, when your body temperature is high, your workout will be more effective than if you exercise when your body temperature is low. Generally, your body temperature dips to its lowest point about one to three hours before you wake up. It reaches its peak late in the afternoon.

Thus, it would be safe to assume that your workouts will be more effective in the late afternoon. After all, by then, your muscles are warm, your strength is at an all-time high, and your resting heart rate and blood pressure are low.
Yet Douglas Brooks, M.S., an exercise physiologist based in northern California and an international authority on exercise, warns people against paying strict attention to circadian rhythms. “The best time to exercise is when you can get it done,” he says. “So place exercise in your schedule when you won’t miss the session or schedule it out of your day, and forget about the nuances related to the body’s natural rhythms.”

When should you exercise?

In determining when you will exercise, ask yourself two questions. First, what does your schedule look like? Are you too busy in the late afternoon or evening to exercise? Will mornings work better for you? Or will you have to alternate between morning and late afternoon or evening workouts?
Second, when do you feel your best? Do you have trouble getting revved up in the morning? If you’re not a morning person,you might perform better at the end of the day when you’re wide awake. Or are you usually dragging by the end of the day? If so, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. Because you’re exhausted, you may not exercise to your fullest potential. You might also risk injury if you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing. Maybe, though, you function better in the morning when you feel more alive and most importantly, more willing to exercise.

Best yet, after exercising in the morning, you still have the whole day in front of you and you have that much more energy to tackle the day’s activities.
Ironically, morning exercisers have one big advantage over late-day exercisers: There’s a good chance they’ll make exercise a daily habit. In fact, studies have shown that people who exercise in the morning are more likely to stick with their exercise programs. After all, morning exercisers don’t have to contend with scheduling problems that often occur later in the day. They’ve allotted time to exercise, and for most people, there aren’t many other distractions to prevent them from exercising in the morning.
This advantage is important for someone starting an exercise program. If you’re new to exercise, consider committing to mornings to increase your adherence to your new routine.

There is one exception to choosing a time that suits you best. If you’re training for an athletic event like a marathon or a century, exercise at the time the event will take place. For example, if a cycling century starts at 8 a.m., get used to cycling at that time, especially if you’re used to working out later in the day. This will help your body adjust to the demands of the event.
Whatever time you choose, follow these suggestions to make your workouts more effective and fun.

For morning exercisers:

Lay your clothing out the night before. When your alarm rings, you’ll be able to leap into action without having to gather shoes and clothes.
Set two different alarms. If the snooze button tempts you, set two different alarms, one by your bed and the other across the room.
Buddy up. Exercise is always more fun with a partner so why not add this motivation to your morning workouts? If you’re ever tempted to miss your workout, your buddy will keep you going.

For late afternoon to evening exercisers:

Set your exercise time and stick with it. Don’t let late-day distractions tempt you to neglect your exercise program. Try planning your exercise schedule on Sunday night before your week begins. If you have to make small adjustments, that’s okay, but try not to stray too far away from your goals.
Be careful of outdoor elements. If you’re exercising outdoors, pay attention to the soaring temperatures and high humidity of summer. Your body will drag in the hot weather. You’ll also need to make certain you’re well hydrated in hot weather; drink more water than usual if you’ve been sipping on coffee or caffeinated soft drinks all day. Finally, watch for traffic, especially if you’re exercising around rush hour.


Lose Those Love Handles

how to lose love handlesWhat is one of fat’s favorite vacation spots on the body? The sides of the waist – those soft flabby areas affectionately known as “love handles.”
The muscles underlying the love handles are known as the obliques. When this area appears out of shape, it’s logical to assume the oblique and abdominal muscles need exercise in order to become firm. But be careful. The obliques are generally easy to build up. This may be the one muscle group which can indeed get too big – if they become too muscular, the waist will look wider.
More often than not, the waist appears soft because it’s simply a favored storage area for fat. It’s even possible to lose weight and still store fat around the waist. It’s the last “holdout.”

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The key to a trimmer waistline is twofold. Making the correct changes in your diet is crucial, but a proper exercise program is equally relevant. The following workout can be performed once a week as part of a total-body fat-reducing and muscle-building program (read: this workout alone will not rid you of your love handles). It’s imperative to move quickly from exercise to exercise in order to optimize the fat-burning process.

Exercise 1: Twists with a Bar

Standing with your legs a little further than hip-width apart, place a light barbell across your shoulders. Twist to one side, then twist to the other side, continuing back and forth with a brisk motion. Do not lean forward or backward. This movement is disregarded by many as ineffective but that’s because most people do it improperly. It’s important that the twist isn’t executed in a leisurely fashion. Move quickly from side to side and keep your abs and obliques tight! Total time: 5 minutes.

Exercise 2: The Vacuum

Inhale deeply. As you exhale, suck the stomach in as far as it will go and hold it for a count of ten. Not only does this simple exercise strengthen the abdominal wall, it improves posture and lung capacity.

Exercise 3: Side Bends

It isn’t a good idea to do sidebends with a dumbbell. Instead, place your hands behind your head and bend from side to side, contracting the muscles at the waist. If that’s too difficult, keep your hands on your hips. Do 50 bends to each side.

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Exercise 4: One Sided Bends

Stand with your right hand on your hip and your left hand outstretched above. Bend to the right and extend the outstretched hand over your head and as far to the right side as possible. Keep this position and “pulse” with tiny bends. Stay on this side for one minute. Return to an upright position, switch arm positions, and repeat on the opposite side. These little movements keep the obliques under constant tension.

Exercise 5: Lateral Leg Raises

This is similar to a simple leg lift. Lie on your side and lift your leg toward your head, contracting the oblique muscles. Do 20 reps on one side then turn directly to the other side and do an additional 20 reps. Once that’s completed, immediately repeat the set.
This routine doesn’t take long and it’s sure to keep your midsection tight. But remember: your waist will always look soft if there’s a layer of fat around it. The “love handles” are tough. They’re unforgiving. They’re also the first to let you know when you’re slacking off. Try this routine and you’re on your way to a trimmer waistline. And that’s something you can really love!

Fitness Propaganda,Cheats, and “Infomercial” Whores about Fitness

lies about fitnessThe premise of this article is simple:  There are no healthy short-cuts to acquiring a fit, trim body.  The TV and radio commercials lie to you.  The “infomercials”, featuring famous Personal Trainers To The Stars, lie to you.  They do it for one purpose, and one purpose only – to get a hand into your wallet, and they do a marvellous job, at that.  You can find their shoddy products in practically every garage sale in the country.  The diets and dieting aids hyped, are at best, barely effective, and at worst, can be downright dangerous.

Abdominal “rollers” are a prime example of useless junk.  They support your neck and cervical spine, while you perform the work.  You can get the exact same effect by reaching behind your head with both hands, and touching opposite shoulders.  And it won’t cost you 50 bucks!  Oh.  Some of them have weights to add-on.  So, hold a weight in one hand, and do the crunch while supporting neck and cervical spine with the other.  Still less than 50 bucks!

The various “riders” are okay if you’re totally out of shape, and want to get to the point where you can move for more than a few minutes at a time without becoming winded.  But their effect, if used properly, will plateau out in about 8 weeks after you start.  For the price of one of the better ones, you can get a whole year at a decent gym, many of which have these “riders”, but which also have other equipment for you to continue your progress on!

The leg-swinging “walkers” are actually laughable.  What can I say?  I got on one, swung my legs so fast that the thing threatened to tip over with the force, and still didn’t get into my aerobic range.  And I’m nearly50 years old!  I guess, if you’re just coming out of a long stay in the hospital, and can get one prescribed for you by your Physical Therapist, you might see some benefit.  But I wouldn’t bet on it for anyone else.  A “rider” is a better buy, in my opinion.  But get it at a garage sale.

Finally, there is stuff like that weighted steel “blade” thingie, that you hold in your hands and shake (I’m still shaking with laughter about that one!), and the plastic gadget you put between your knees and squeeze, supposedly to thin your thighs (uh… like I keep tellin’ ya … spot reducing does NOT work!).  I bought one of those for 50 cents at a garage sale, and asked my husband to try it out.  he’s pretty tiny, and in decent shape from running a small commercial veggie garden.  He broke the thing in about 3 squeezes – just snapped it right in two!  Need I say more?
There are a few products I’ve seen, which actually will work, if used correctly and regularly.  One of them (the best of the lot, in my opinion) is the Bowflex, another is the Total Gym 3000, promoted by Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley.  (World Fitness does not endorse any products.  This is the author’s opinion, only.)  Neither of the mentioned items, tries to delude you into thinking that there is no real work involved in becoming fit, or that you can do so in only a few minutes a day.  The infomercials for them show people actually sweating, and obviously working hard.  Personally, I think they’re rather overpriced, especially considering the fact that, for similar money, one can negotiate a lifetime membership in a good gym, many of which will offer more than those machines can provide, such as swimming pool, racquetball, etc.  However, if you prefer to work out solo, and are prepared to put some serious dedication and energy into the process, they will help you to become fit.

The diets promoted, can work, to one extent or another.  But don’t be fooled; they all work the same way!  How’s that?  Well, losing weight is absolutely and entirely a circumstance of caloric input being lower than caloric expenditure.  Short of liposuction, or the surgical removal of body parts, there is no other way to lose bodyfat!
Some of these diets tout “ergogenic aids”, and “herbal metabolism improvers”.  Well, maybe so.  A lot of ’em use caffeine, which is a stimulant, in one form or another.  Some of the less-desirable, use ma huang (ephedra), or plain old ephedrine.  Same stuff used in meth labs, to make crystal meth.  Now there’s a stimulant, indeed!  But do you want to put it in your body?  Caffeine can also have a mild diuretic effect, which will cause you to lose weight via loss of water.  Very, very temporary, that.  But let’s get to the bottom line.  Read the diet that comes with all these “aids”.  Add up the total calories you’ll get to eat on that diet, and compare it with what you’ve been eating.  Hmmmmm…  Lots less, eh?  Wonder how that diet works!!

Back on the subject of the cost of getting fit; a good set of hex dumbbells will cost you less than $150 USD, and a decent bicycle, at around $300 USD, is still a lot cheaper than just about any of the better “infomercial” machines.  You can also get used gym equipment at garage sales and auctions, for pennies on the dollar.  Running and walking shoes are also comparatively inexpensive, and both of those activities are among the best sorts of aerobic exercise you can do for yourself!  Shop around, pick an exercise you enjoy, and do it!  That’s the only way to really become fit and trim.

Summing it all up, don’t be fooled by a bunch of taut bodies parading around on TV, selling a piece of useless gear along with a nonsense bill of goods about how you can get fit in “only 4 minutes a day!!!”.  Remember that, if a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.

What is Cross Training and why you should do it?

Cross Training Mary recently started a program to get in shape.  It’s a lot of effort for her just managing to stick with a brisk walk on her treadmill 3-5 days a week.  Only this week she finally reached her first goal, of being able to do it for 20 minutes continuously without feeling wiped out.  She doesn’t enjoy the treadmill and doesn’t like sweating or the physical feeling of exertion.  She’s thinking that accomplishment may not be enough motivation to continue; there are too many other things she’d rather being doing.
John found his way past that point long ago and has been a regular exerciser for over a year.  But his chosen activity, weightlifting, is starting to feel stale and boring–it’s always so predictable, so mindless, and his progress has tapered off.  He’s been increasingly feeling twinges in his shoulder when he performs pushups, which he does a lot.  And although he thought he was in pretty good shape, a pick-up game of soccer with the kids wiped him out and left him hurting in muscles he didn’t know he had.

There’s a great solution for both of these exercisers:  CROSS-TRAINING!  Cross-training is performing a variety of activities, challenging your muscles and your heart in different ways as part of your regular activity

The advantages of cross-training are many; here are a few:

  • Develops all-around fitness
  • Promotes balanced muscle development
  • Prevents “burnout”
  • Prevents overuse injuries

We’ve all heard the saying “Variety is the spice of life.”  This turns out to be true for our bodies as well as our minds.  By tossing in another activity, you keep your body “guessing” and your mind engaged.
Mary and John above are both feeling a little “burned out” for lack of variety and interest.  John is developing an overuse injury in his shoulder, possibly due to an imbalance in muscle development.  John has also learned the hard way that his fitness demands aren’t being fully met by his weightlifting-only workouts–he’s lacking in aerobic capacity and there are many muscles that his weight machines haven’t trained.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with either Mary’s or John’s current programs, it’s just that adding complementary activities would give them both a physical and mental boost.

Here are just a few examples of how you might incorporate cross-training into your schedule:

If your primary activity is:
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Step aerobics
  • Soccer
  • Weight lifting
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Cardio-kickboxing
  • Rowing
  • Hiking
  • Weightlifting

In each example, you will either use different muscles, or use the same muscles in a different kind of movement, or both.
Using the same muscles in the same way at the same pace all the time will make them very good at doing that one thing at that one pace–this is known as the principle of “specificity of training“.   Your body becomes more efficient at performing that activity, meaning it becomes easier both in terms of the work required and the amount of attention you have to focus on your movements.  (Think of how effortless world-class ice skaters make their activity look!)  But that ease may not translate well to other activities which involve different muscles, or a different kind of movement.  Cross-training can ensure you’re at least somewhat prepared for anything that comes up!

So, mix up your schedule across the week with two or more complementary activities you think you might enjoy.  If one of them loses your interest or turns out to be unsuitable, try a different activity!  Exercise doesn’t have to be work–it’s just a matter of finding the right activities for _you_.  Cross-training is the way to go!

Balance Training Exercises

balance exercises Balance is also crucial in sports like snowboarding, downhill skiing, surfing, tennis, basketball and baseball where maintaining a center of gravity determines how well you can move. “Balance means being able to stop on a dime to hit a shot on the tennis court,” Ellison says. “It requires your body unconsciously knowing exactly where your center of gravity is so that you can position yourself in the correct place and make that shot off of a planted foot.”

There are two types of balance:

static and dynamic. Static refers to held balance. For example, if you were to time how long you could stand on one leg, you’d be working static balance. Dynamic balance, on the other hand, involves movement while your body balances itself. Take the classic exercise where models practice walking. They place a book on top of their head and walk across the room. Keeping the book on top of their head requires dynamic balance because they’re balancing while moving. You use both types of balance throughout the day.
To add balance training to your exercise program, consider practicing yoga which teaches your body where its center is. Or perform simple, athletic-based drills that challenge your dynamic balance.
The following exercises will challenge both types of balance. Try to complete them twice a week. Focus not only on your balance but also on your posture. Think tall and feel your body gaining confidence as it redefines its sense of balance.

To challenge dynamic balance, Suzanne Nottingham, author of several books on sports conditioning for winter activities and in-line skating, suggests the following exercises:

  • Stair steps: Position yourself in front of a low stair. You can also use a step training bench. Hold a cup of water in both hands. Step up and down the step as fast as you can without spilling the water.
  • Sidewalk challenge: Stand on the sidewalk and face one direction. Using your arms for balance, step one foot in front of the other (heel directly in front of your toes) and walk quickly down the sidewalk. Turn around and walk back.
  • One-legged hop: Balance on one leg. Hop forward on that leg four times. Then hop backward four times. Switch legs and repeat.
    To work static balance, try this standing pose from “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Yoga” by Joan Budilovsky and Eve Adamson.
  • Tree Pose: Stand tall with your arms down by your side and your weight evenly distributed. Slowly lift your left foot off the ground and place the sole of the foot along the inner thigh of your right leg. Place your hands together in front of your chest and raise your arms overhead, palms together. Keep your breathing steady. Find your focus and concentrate on balancing. Hold. Return to starting position and switch sides.

Want More from your Exercise Program? Add Balance Training

balance training exercisesLife is all about balancing, and I’m not talking about your checkbook. Every day, you work to maintain a balance between work, play and rest. On most days, you do well. On other days, though, everything collides. So you pick up the pieces and you get back into the balancing act.

There’s another kind of balance, though, that most of us forget to practice until it’s too late. I’m talking about the kind of balancing that you do when you stand on one leg. Or when you’re on the tennis court and you have to change your stance in mid-flight. Or when you’re walking to your car and you happen to step on a piece of ice.
Balance is crucial in all of these cases, which is why it is so important to add balance training to your exercise program. In fact, with regular work, you can improve your balance, which will enhance your function in daily activities and your performance in different sports.

“Training for balance improves daily functioning, sport performance and strength training,” writes John Blievernicht, M.A., president of Sports Health C.A.R.E. Inc. in Chicago. (ACE Certified News, October/November 1997). “A person who runs, or even just walks, while out of balance, compromises their speed, endurance and control.”
Everything you do requires balance, says Deborah Ellison, PT, a physical therapist and founder of the Advanced Personal Training Institute in San Diego, Calif. “Balance is simply keeping your center of gravity within your base of support,” she says. “If you know where your center is – and that’s your body unconsciously knowing where – then you’re more grounded physically and mentally.”

Without balance, you become apprehensive about moving and you limit your movements. Watch elderly people, for example, who have lost their sense of balance. You’ll see them hesitate as they walk up stairs or bend over to pick something off the floor. In the end, they carry themselves lower to the ground for good reason. “To readjust your center of gravity,” Ellison says, “you start holding yourself closer to the ground.”
In fact, having good balance affects your mental state as well as your performance in physical activities. “When you’re balanced, you’re confident and that carries into your emotional interactions,” she says. “You exhibit a calmness and focus that you might not have if you were off balance.”
Balance is also crucial in sports like snowboarding, downhill skiing, surfing, tennis, basketball and baseball click to continue

Effective Exercising Tips for Weight Loss

exercising tips for weight lossCutting down on weight requires that you commit yourself to all the ideas and activities that work towards assisting youth attain your desired objective. Weight loss comes with a number of benefits and that is why most of the people around the globe are determined to do all it takes just to lose weight. The exercise sessions are very important since they assist you attain that attractive body shape. You properly fit in your clothes and you feel very secure and confident.

Here are some helpful tips that will assist you reach your goal of staying fit and attaining that physic you have always wished for:

First and foremost it is important to ensure that you collect necessary information on exercising and the easy things that you can actually do in the comfort of your home. There is more than enough information online and all you need is to undertake some very serious research. With so much information online, you will be spoilt for choice in deciding on what the best strategies are for your weight loss agenda. Internet comprises of a wide array of books, and articles some of which are very affordable.

You can also choose to visit the nearest local bookstore and check out the various books on exercise and weights lose. Do not be in a hurry. Take your time to choose the most appropriate book that will see to it that you burn those extra calories. Most of the books are such that they are able to effectively guide you through the exercising. It is more productive when you chose an exercise buddy. They guide you right from the very first step to the last towards burning the calories.

Secondly, find an exercise buddy. An exercise buddy is someone who has the same commitment as you towards losing weight. Such a partner motivates you and keeps you committed to exercising. The competition that arises is a healthy one and helps both of you make the most of the exercising sessions. Just knowing that someone is waiting on you makes you try your level best to get out of bed and go exercising since you do not want to disappoint that person.

Thirdly you need to understand yourself a great deal. The moment you feel exhausted is the moment to take a break. As usual, when your work out for a considerable amount of time your body starts sending signals to you. It is very important to really understand your body especially during those first days when you embark on an exercise routine.

At times you feel the need to lengthen your work out sessions. It is important that you do not engage into some sort of a crash program. Do it gradually so that you do not exert so much pressure on your body. The same should apply to the intensity of your work outs. You need to increase them gradually if you must.
In conclusion, remember that discipline in doing the exercises is for your own good. It is therefore very important to maintain high levels of discipline.