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Fitness

What is Tempo Training?

Posted by on Nov 6, 2014 in resistance training | 0 comments

What is Tempo Training?

Have you heard of it? Tempo training, once popular in the weight lifting circuit, took a back seat for a while and now is back in serious strength-training and coaching circles. Tempo training is not a new concept. It’s basically controlling and varying the speed and rhythm of each repetition of a set of strength training exercises. Tempo Training: Basic Components There are two essential ‘main phases’ to strength training exercises and, of course, to tempo training, the eccentric and concentric phases. The eccentric phase involves lowering a weight whereas the concentric phase involves lifting the weight (contracting the target muscle). If you use momentum to ‘hoist’ up your weight and then rapidly drop it, you are minimizing benefits, wasting time and risking injury. Two other components of tempo training are isometric ‘holds’ or short pauses that should be included when the weight is down/stretched and when the weight is ‘up’ or the muscle is contracted. With tempo training, you are purposefully using different speeds or ‘counts’ for each main phase depending upon your fitness goals how you wish to effectively target your muscles. Generally speaking, it’s best to work with a certified personal trainer to develop a basic routine, customized for you while perfecting your form. Mix and match cadences (tempos) to create multiple lifting variations. Imagine biceps curls. You start with straight arms. Consider curling up on a count of two, pausing for one second, lowering on a count of four and pausing for another second. As you lower the weight, you are engaging both target and ‘helper’ muscles, maximizing results. That’s tempo training! Always avoid using momentum or ‘swinging’ to help you hoist up the weights. If you can’t lift in a controlled manner, try using lighter weights. Tempo Training and Muscle Fiber Engagement There are two categories of muscle fibers: type I and type II. The speed or tempo you adopt when performing strength training exercises determines which type of muscle fibers are most engaged. Type I or slow-twitch fibers are working during low-intensity, sustained activities whereas type II or fast-twitch fibers are engaged during short, high-intensity bursts of activity. Lift a weight in a slow and controlled manner during the concentric phase and you’ll target mainly type I muscle fibers. Fast, powerful concentric phases, like a quick push (pushing weight away from your body) stimulates (and grows) type II muscle fibers. In general, super-fast concentric phases aren’t appropriate for most strength-training exercises. Increasing the speed increases the likelihood that you’ll use proper form, taking the work emphasis off of the target muscle and potentially placing undue stress on tendons and ligaments. Think of going from slow and to faster…but always very controlled. Tempo Training: Next Steps You’ll want to switch up your cadence, or tempo, depending upon your training goals, desired results; even the exercises you choose. In an upcoming post, I’ll delve further into the three main ‘cadences’ in tempo training: slow, normal and fast and list specific exercises appropriate for each category....

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Boot-camp workout: A pumped up version

Posted by on Oct 5, 2013 in workout routines | 0 comments

Boot-camp workout: A pumped up version

It’s autumn already and luckily we still have some beautiful weather to enjoy. Get the most out of the clear and sunny days left by exercising outdoors, whenever you can…even if it’s just a fast walk at lunchtime. An outdoor boot-camp workout need not be limited to the beach on summer days. When you can, get outside before it cools down and starts to get dark (around 6 pm). A fast track to fitness is to combine classic strength training moves, such as body weight exercises (back-to-back with limited rest) with short aerobic intervals to keep your heart-rate elevated for about 20-30 minutes, a variation of the traditional boot-camp workout. To minimize fatigue, alternate upper and lower body moves. Not only are there dozens of body weight exercises to choose from, but they are effective and require no equipment or accessories. Focus on choosing compound strength training exercises or moves that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Big movements that involve large muscle groups burn more calories. Think of a boot-camp workout taken up a notch. The goal is to keep your heart rate elevated (peaks and valleys) throughout the workout by performing 3 to 5 ‘sets’ of exercises in rapid succession. For example, one ‘set’ might start with walking lunges (the full length of your back yard). Before you turn around to walk back, perform 10 to 12 crawl out straight leg push-ups. From a standing position, with straight legs, touch your palms to the ground in front of you and, keeping your legs straight, inch your straight arms out and away from your toes, until you are in a plank position. Perform a full push up, crawl your hands back to your toes, stand erect and repeat. After performing another set of walking lunges, proceed straight into a cardiovascular set. Do a full minute of kettlebell swings or try incorporating challenging “burpees” into the set. To perform a “burpee,” begin in a standing position. Quickly drop down into a squat with your hands on the ground and kick your legs back into a push-up position. Perform one push-up and jump back into a squat position to complete the movement. Of course proper form and positioning is key to ensuring a safe and effective boot-camp workout. Squeeze in at least a few of these workouts before the really chilly air sets...

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Body Weight Exercises for Legs

Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in resistance training | 0 comments

Body Weight Exercises for Legs

Body Weight Exercises for Legs: Significance Let’s move on to your lower body, specifically, to exercises for legs. We will cover body weight exercises for the hips, buttocks and core separately. Alternate upper– and lower-body moves to minimize rest periods, keep your heart rate elevated throughout your workout and save time. Engaging in resistance training and doing body weight exercises for legs regularly makes performing activities of daily living easier. General recommendations call for choosing effective exercises in a meaningful sequence (work largest muscles first). Working toward developing balanced strength amongst major leg muscles (quads and hamstrings, for example) may protect you from common injuries, such as pulled muscles. There are dozens of effective body weight exercises for legs, for maximum efficiency, choose compound moves or those that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Best results come from working out smarter, not necessarily longer. Body Weight Exercises for Legs: Specifics You don’t need exercise equipment to get an effective, tough workout, even if you are already in great shape. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), squats, step-ups/downs, split squats/lunges and hamstring curls (standing or on all fours) are among the most effective body weight exercises for legs, in fact, for your whole lower body. First…squats. Start with a basic squat and build from there. Deep squats, self-assisted squats, one-legged squats, walking lunges and squats – the variations are virtually endless. Always challenge yourself and vary your exercise choices. Advanced exercisers may progress to plyometrics, power exercises that involve explosive but controlled jumping movements. Golden rule for standing leg work: Never extend your knees beyond your toes, keep your weight mainly over your heels. Don’t neglect your calves when performing exercises for legs. Best choice: calf raises (2-legged or 1-legged, balancing or assisted). Remember, if you are relying on body weight alone (for resistance), you must concentrate on really contracting the target muscle, imagining you are trying to move against resistance, such as water. Exercises for Legs: Last Words… Warnings: avoid over-training and using inconsistent, poor form. Always stop if you are experiencing unusual or sharp pain. Do not rely on exercise ‘lists.’ Watch them performed by a professional on exrx.net or YouTube to read descriptions and view proper form through the full range of motion (video). Do step-ups on a box of an appropriate and realistic height. Step-up from behind a box/bench or from the side. Always push through the heel of your working leg to lift your body upwards while contracting your butt. Last word: don’t forget to do a warm-up and post-workout...

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Body Weight Exercises for Back

Posted by on Jul 25, 2013 in resistance training | 0 comments

Body Weight Exercises for Back

Body Weight Exercises for Back: Significance Your back takes a beating every day – and deserves your care and attention. A strong back is a healthy back. Aesthetics aside, there are many small back muscles that support your spine and those that play a role in proper posture. You can work those at the same time as you are training the larger muscles with body weight exercises and/or isolate them with specific exercises that also involve your core, such as bird-dogs. While there are dozens of effective body weight exercises to work your upper, mid and lower back muscles, you don’t want to spend your whole workout concentrating on one area of the body. Workout smarter and harder, not necessarily longer, for best results. Body Weight Exercises for Back: Specifics Body weight exercises give you opportunity to work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Work your upper back by squeezing your shoulder blades together during slow incline push ups, or the muscles that line your spine by doing alternating leg raises while performing a plank. Or alternate a standard plank with a superman. For the following body weight exercises, you’ll need access to a bar, railing or even the jungle-gym at your local park. Be creative. Today’s jungle-gyms have platforms of varying heights, for more flexibility with your exercise choices. Performing a standard pull up (all variations) is an excellent exercise, but very difficult for most women that at first (without assistance and/or a partner). What do you do if you are working out alone or do not have a band to off-set some of your body weight? Try a self-assisted pull-up or a body row (technically an inverted row) instead. The emphasis is on your posterior deltoids and latissimus dorsi (upper back). The greater the incline or the less assistance you allow yourself, the harder the body weight exercises will...

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Body weight exercises: introduction

Posted by on Jul 11, 2013 in resistance training | 0 comments

Body weight exercises: introduction

Body weight exercises use your own weight as resistance instead of equipment that provides ‘external’ resistance, such as dumbbells. However, you can always add resistance to make these moves more challenging. In general, body weight exercises are effective, fun, require little to no fancy exercise equipment and can be tweaked to challenge beginner to advanced exercisers. You probably already are familiar with many classic body weight moves already: military-style push-ups, pull-ups, triceps dips, forward and backward lunges, squats, step ups and the like. However, there are endless variations to these standard exercises – probably more options than you can imagine. Choosing Body Weight Exercises What do you need to know, or keep in mind when choosing which body weight exercises to include in your strength training routine? Consider ‘compound’ exercises, or those that work multiple muscle groups versus those that isolate specific muscles, unless you have a lot of time to devote to exercise. Choose moves that work all major muscle groups, if possible (eight to twelve exercises). Select moves that aid in stabilization (balance), strength (building muscle) and power (explosive movements such as jumps) for the ultimate challenge. Keep in mind that ‘power’ moves may be too advanced for novice exercisers. There are body weight exercises that are double-duty moves: they improve your balance AND enhance strength. Summertime is a great season to shake up your routine. Many body weight exercises for the upper, lower body and core can be done outdoors, allowing you to enjoy the weather and watch your kids while building a stronger body. If you have access to a playground, all the better. You need a platform, rack or bar to ‘pull’ towards and ‘push’ from. This is just an introduction to this series. In subsequent articles, you’ll learn unconventional, effective body weight exercises to add to your ‘library’ for different muscle groups. NOTE: before initiating any exercise routine (especially on your own), get clearance from your doctor. This is a general, informational series. All exercises are NOT appropriate for all individuals. If you have back problems/knee pain or injuries, you should seek personal, professional advice on designing an appropriate routine with your specific needs in mind!...

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Fitness Trends for 2013: Topping the list…

Posted by on Mar 12, 2013 in fitness | 0 comments

Fitness Trends for 2013: Topping the list…

Every year, major organizations, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, conduct worldwide surveys of fitness trends to predict the upcoming year’s most significant fitness elements, not only ‘FYI’ but to aid consumers, industry professionals and retailers (of sports and exercise equipment). Just because a category of exercise or a fitness trend is considered to be ‘out of vogue’ for this year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to do it. The best indicators of whether you will be successful and adhere to a particular exercise program are how quickly you see results (and how impressive they are) and whether or not you enjoy the activity. So regardless of this year’s fitness trends, always stick with what works for you. Top Fitness Trends: Back to Basics and Group Personal Training What fitness trends are ‘out’ and what are ‘in’ for 2013? One of the biggest fitness trends for this year is ‘going back to the basics.’ Pilates and ‘Zumba’ classes, while once all the rage, are no longer considered to be ‘hot trends’ (do not appear on the ‘top 10  fitness trends list for 2013). So, what are the ‘basics?’ Good, common sense high-intensity aerobic exercise combined with basic resistance training moves is effective, takes less time and is cheaper, particularly if you perform body-weight training exercises (making the fitness trends list for the first time at #3). Fitness trends for 2013 that also made the top 10 list include small group personal training and programs that combine exercise with calorie-restricted diets. Small group training offers several benefits that make it worth considering. By training four individuals (if similar fitness levels) simultaneously, each participant pays 25 percent of what one person would pay, making it more appealing cost-wise. The trainer makes money without sacrificing on quality, and the participants obtain similar or even better results. Other Fitness Trends: Out with the new and in with the old? Once a staple of any strength training routine, classic body weight training exercises have made a huge comeback, forcing newer sensations, such as Zumba, to take a back seat. Why? Because they are effective and do not require expensive equipment, accessories or a significant learning curve. Exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges and even plyometric jumps benefit exercisers of all levels without busting the budget (think boot camp-style workouts). While some old classics are making a comeback, newer fitness trends, such as TRX suspension training, are only getting...

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