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Core Strength Training: Core Exercises

Posted by on Feb 19, 2013 in resistance training | 0 comments

Core Strength Training: Core Exercises

This article is devoted to the second component of the four critical areas of exercise training for dedicated athletes. We’ve covered flexibility and are moving on to core strength training. As a reminder, the four physical training components designed to increase speed, size, and power in athletics and include (1) flexibility (2) core strength (3) explosive movements, and (4) the strengthening of the posterior kinetic chain. Combining these components with a sound upper body strength routine will give you an edge on the court, the field or the ice. Let’s discuss the importance of core strength training in athletic conditioning. Core Strength Training – Significance Engaging in regular, consistent core strength training movements offers many benefits: it helps an athlete avoid muscular-skeletal pain and injury (particularly of the neck, hips and back); improves body control and stability and tones muscles involved in flexibility and balance. The importance of training your whole core is catching on fast…adopting a sound core strength training workout means engaging all of the muscles encasing your torso, from your shoulders to your thighs. Many fitness experts believe that, on its own, core strength training should be a separate workout component, alongside flexibility, cardiovascular and general resistance training movements. The most misunderstood fact around core strength training is that performing a few sets of crunches (and ignoring the back) does the job. Though research studies connecting core strength training to enhanced performance is in its youth, if you participate in a well-structured core strength training routine twice weekly, don’t be surprised if, after a few weeks, you can shave a full mile-per-hour off your running time. Exercises that strengthen core muscles involve stretching and balance routines. They are a foundation of the basic fitness principles of dance, yoga and Pilates. Unlike traditional resistance exercises, core strength training does not require large pieces of exercise equipment. Core strength training requires a mat, possibly a stability ball and/or Bosu trainer but these accessories are not required. It is much more important that you are able to focus and perform the movements slowly, to your tolerance, using care not to overload your back. You must concentrate on your muscles and maintaining your balance. Your mind cannot be ‘elsewhere.’ Core Strength Training – Considerations Gym warriors that consider themselves ‘advanced’ exercisers should start basic. Having a strong upper body and breezing through daily runs doesn’t necessarily mean you have a taut core. Many traditional strength training exercises are ‘forward’ directed (such as lunges and bench presses). Overdoing on these contributes to imbalanced muscular development or underdeveloped back muscles (from shoulders to the buttocks). By balancing out your strength, you can improve your posture, correct imbalances and breeze through functional movements (everyday activities) with a level of comfort and ease you didn’t have before. In addition to engaging in a series of core strength training movements (for your front and back torso), you can enhance core strength by tweaking traditional strength training exercises. For example, instead of using a bench for stability while working your upper body (chest press with dumbbells), use lighter dumbbells and perform them on a stability ball with the ball supporting your upper back and neck. Keep your body in a ‘bridge’ position with your knees bent at a right angle, feet flat on the floor and pelvis elevated to be even with your chest. The focus of this article is on explaining the importance of core strength training. In the future, look for a sample core strength training routine for beginners. Examples of core strength training movements include bird-dogs, lateral pillar bridges (side planks) and planks (with hands...

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Push-ups workout for your best upper body

Posted by on Nov 5, 2012 in fitness, resistance training | 0 comments

Push-ups workout for your best upper body

You might be surprised to learn just how effective body-weight exercises can be for muscle endurance and toning. Push-ups are in the ‘push and pull’ force category. Push-ups are excellent overall upper body toners, that require no external resistance. Body-weight exercises, such as push-ups are ‘functional’ exercises, or those that train your body to handle real-life situations. Push-ups Muscular Emphasis There are dozens of variations to the traditional wide-grip push-up. These push-up variations emphasize different muscle groups (target, synergists and stabilizer muscles); from your chest to your back to your shoulders to your upper arms. You can even do push-up drills (walk out push-up to a plyometric jump) which elevate your heart-rate and engage lower body muscles to burn more calories. Push-ups: military-style Modify push-ups to make them more appropriate for a beginner (on your knees) or an advanced exercisers (push-ups on toes, decline push-ups). The push-up we are all familiar with is the military-style, wide-grip push-up (on toes or on knees). Diamond or close-grip push-ups The ‘diamond’ or ‘close-grip’ push-up targets the triceps muscles more than any other push-up variation. For this push-up, instead of placing your hands shoulder or chest-width apart, place them together below your sternum, forming the shape of a diamond or triangle (hands may be touching at the index fingers and thumbs or slightly farther apart). As you push-down, toward the floor, your elbows should splay outward, slightly toward your lower body. Push-up to return to the beginning position, repeat. This one is tough, start on your knees and advance to your toes. Stability ball push-ups Adding a new dimension to a traditional push-up, such as controlled instability, offers multiple benefits. Performing push-ups on a stability ball (under your shins for a decline push-up or under your upper body in place of the ‘floor’ for an incline push-up) recruits additional muscle fibers, particularly core and stabilizer muscles, throughout the movement. Adding balance to this functional exercise also increases muscle fiber activation because you have to control the movement without the help of an exercise machine. Some experts consider the push-up to be more effective for muscular development than the chest...

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Flexibility Training

Posted by on Oct 17, 2012 in fitness | 0 comments

Flexibility Training

Dedicated athletes looking for an edge in their field of competition need an exercise regimen based on four critical areas of training. These four areas increase speed, size, and power in any athlete. They include (1) flexibility (2) core strength (3) explosive movements, and (4) the strengthening of the posterior kinetic chain.  When combined with an upper body strength routine one can almost guarantee improvement on the court, the field or the ice. In this piece, we’ll focus on the flexibility component of athletic training and conditioning. Importance of Flexibility Increasing an athlete’s flexibility (as well as warming up prior to workouts) helps to decrease risk of injury. If an athlete lacks flexibility he/she is unable to enjoy a full range of muscular motion. Think about a new rubber band. It stretches only to a point before snapping. By ‘working’ it, repetitively, it stretches further and further without snapping. Much like your muscles. Not being able to perform an exercise completely, through a full range of motion, makes the exercise or movement incomplete or stilted. That lack of flexibility, in combination with other factors such as inadequate recovery periods, unbalanced training and/or using poor form all inhibit muscular development. More often than not, flexibility in athletics is incorrectly incorporated into an exercise routine. It’s dangerous to stretch cold muscles. Performing a ‘dynamic’ warm up before a workout, event or game instead of static stretching is the best option. A dynamic warm-up may include movements such as walking lunges, knee raises, butt kicks, arm circles and squats. You don’t need equipment – use your own body-weight only. Active Vs Passive Stretching for enhancing Flexibility Passive stretching involves using an external force to push a joint beyond its active range of motion. Performing a standing calf stretch against a wall or using a partner to push you into a deeper stretch are examples of passive stretching. Instead of passive stretches, engage in ‘active’ stretching exercises. Active stretching uses your own muscular strength and effort to hold a position. Active (isolated) stretching is safe and effective as you eliminate external forces. You use your own muscle strength to achieve the desired range of motion. As the one muscle contracts the target muscle (opposite the contracting muscle – the one you want to stretch) relaxes and lengthens. An example of an ‘active’ stretch for the chest is extending your arms out to the sides and retracting your shoulder blades. To actively stretch the hamstrings, extend your leg straight in front of you and relax it by contracting the quadriceps. When you contract your quadriceps, your brain sends a signal to your hamstrings to ‘relax.’ This allows you to achieve a deeper stretch without force. Now that we’ve covered flexibility, we’ll move on to the second major component in athletic training and conditioning: core...

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Boot Camp Fitness: Choosing the Right One

Posted by on Aug 6, 2012 in workout routines | 0 comments

Boot Camp Fitness: Choosing the Right One

Choosing a Fitness Boot Camp In gyms and local parks all across America, fitness boot camps are giving exercise enthusiasts something different to talk about. The term boot camp is based loosely off of military training camps which utilize jogging, sprinting, plyometrics, push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges and other forms of callisthenic exercises to prepare new recruits for duty, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). The high intensity intervals performed in fitness boot camp classes helps to maximize caloric burn while promoting lean muscle growth, both key components of weight loss. These classes can be effective, fun and engaging. It’s easy to see why these military-style boot camp classes are catching on. With this increase in popularity since they first appeared in 1998,  more boot camps are popping up nationwide every day. While they offer an exciting alternative to aerobics classes, one must use caution when choosing the right boot camp. Besides the obvious decision on price/affordability, there are several other considerations to keep in mind regarding how to choose a fitness boot camp class. Location, Location, Location! First and foremost, make sure the boot camp is held at a location that is within a reasonable traveling distance, whether from work or home. If you have to spend more time traveling to and from the fitness destination then actually working out, chances are it will be easier to blow off later on down the road and thus harder to stay dedicated! Boot Camp Instructor Make sure your boot camp instructor has some sort of credentials, such as a degree in Exercise Physiology or a related field, possesses a certification in personal training or group fitness instruction from a nationally recognized and accredited institution and/or has letters of recommendation from past employers or clients. Just because an instuctor is in good shape or may have an athletic background does not mean that he is qualified to teach a (boot camp) fitness class. It takes a watchful eye and a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to lead a group of individuals through a boot camp-style workout. That said, a certification does not automatically yield a gifted instructor that is compatible with your needs. Take it for a test drive! Any trainer/instructor confident in their ability to lead a quality (boot camp) fitness class should have no objection to someone participating in a free ‘trial class’ if the potential client has any reservations. This enables the potential client to see if the class is a good fit in terms of toughness and level of difficulty. It is not unusual to simply not like the instructor…some personalities just don’t mesh! Do not however, use this as an excuse to skip out of upcoming fitness commitments! Comfortable and Capable Most boot camp classes are designed to push participants past their comfort level while providing support with a team-like atmosphere. You still have to be able to perform the exercises without any pain or irregular discomfort. If the instructor expects you to perform a push-up, lunge, squat or run a mile – you should make sure you are capable of performing such tasks. If you have any past shoulder injuries or knee problems then a boot camp class may not be for you. It is always a good idea to communicate with your instructor prior to the sessions about any issues or concerns....

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Pose of the week: V-sit

Posted by on Jul 12, 2012 in yoga | 0 comments

Pose of the week: V-sit

Can one yoga pose really tone and tighten multiple core muscles…including your rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques, transverse abdominis, spine extensors and erector spinae? You bet. This crunch-free abdominal toner not only enhances core strength but may improve your posture. Start by sitting on a mat on the floor, on your “sit” bones or the bones at the base of your butt. Bend your knees and keep your legs together, feet flat on the floor. With your hands placed behind your thighs, contract your abdominal muscles, keeping your back straight and erect while you lift one leg, then the other, elevating your feet until your calves are parallel to the floor. The advanced position is pictured at left. In this position, your shoulders should be pressed down, away from your ears, arms and legs straight, at a 45-degree angle. Want to take it a step further and tone your upper body at the same time? Try a V-sit incline...

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Functional training: 2012 fitness trend

Posted by on May 3, 2012 in workout routines | 0 comments

Functional training: 2012 fitness trend

There are quite a few new ‘buzz words’ and key trends in the fitness industry. One of the most talked about this year is functional training, also known as personalized functional training. Unlike many ‘fitness fads,’ functional training has been a continually growing trend originally used by physical therapists for years. A physical therapist, working with a client that suffers from a chronic injury (knee or back) needs to be shown creative ways to exercise without aggravating their condition. These exercises should help the client not only strengthen the target and surrounding muscles through force-resistance, but improve how the client performs everyday activities, such as bending, squatting, reaching and kneeling. After all, this should be a main motivator behind smart strength training. Functional Training: What is it? Functional (strength) training involves performing work against resistance, like your own body weight or resistance bands, in a way that the improvements in your strength directly enhances your performance of everyday activities, or those that are a part of daily living. The desired result is that these activities are easier to perform. Think of functional training in terms of moving through a series of smooth, rhythmic motions in the three cardinal planes of movement (frontal, transverse, and sagital). A frontal exercise would be a forward lunge, a transverse exercise would be a side leg lunge and a sagital exercise would involve bending or twisting in the core area. Some of the movement activities you may perform (routinely) during the day include walking, running, jumping, reaching, lifting, bending, pushing, pulling, twisting and turning, climbing and lunging. functional training is all about transferring the improvements in your strength gained (in one movement) to enhance the performance of another movement. Functional training affects and involves your entire neuromuscular system. Another goal of functional training is to enhance the coordination and relationship between your nervous and muscular systems. Functional Training: Significance The difference between regular personal training and personalized functional training programs (some boot camps and Crossfit programs) in that the client does not perform movements until he/she is ready to handle it. It is an alternative option to the standard one-size-fits-all approach to fitness training. A client is screened and assessed by a certified personal trainer to observe his unique movement patterns, and then a very individualized, appropriate fitness program is designed for that individual. The program is designed according to the client’s current fitness level using a series of ‘purposeful’...

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