Shari Duncan

Strength and Agility Training

Is Your Time in the Gym Time Well Spent?
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by on Aug.10, 2013, under Fitness, Motivation, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

How balanced is your training program?

Are you training chest and back as  frequently as legs?…  How much recovery time do you allow between workouts?…  Are your fitness goals written out and  are you progressing towards those goals?…  How do you know if you are getting in enough cardio hours… do you designate time each week for stretching, ab and core work?…
What about time management? Do you pace yourself,  and give enough time to recover in between sets, or perhaps spend too much time socializing with other gym goers?
This is why keeping a training journal can be most helpful.  Workout logs are beneficial for beginners as well as seasoned lifters.  I’d say they are essential if you are serious about achieving your fitness goals.

Why keep a journal?

  • Motivation. Looking back at where you come from is inspiring.
  • Awareness. You get an understanding of what works for you.

    Training logs provide accountability, progress, and motivation for your training sessions.

  • Experience. You learn from your errors: injuries, etc.
  • Confidence. You’ve got a plan when you go to the gym.

The process of writing down your loads, sets, reps, etc.  helps you to better remember the workout.  It’s nice to be able to flip back and see what weight you used and how many sets and reps you did.   The process of keeping a log enables seasoned lifters to critically analyze their programs and see if they’re truly delivering results.

Also, use your log to jot down important notes such as machine settings, how the set felt; (light, heavy), how you felt that day (energized, fatigued, hungry, sore).

Keeping a journal accelerates the learning process.

By writing down your workouts you are taking an additional few minutes to process what you have learned, repeat the concepts and terminology to yourself, and ingrain it into your brain.

If you are a beginner it is likely you will be able to beat previous efforst every week for several months. As you establish new routines, it is helpful to know what you did your previous workout and to have a specific goal for each training session. Logging workouts helps you remember the appropriate weights to use. Beginners struggle most with remembering not only which exercises to do, but in which order, how many sets, reps, etc.  because everything is new to them.  They’re not yet familiar with the names of exercises, the loads they used, etc. so training logs for beginners are essential.  I have been  journaling  for several years now and still write notes in the margins to remind me of proper set-up and/or form on certain exercises.

Tracking results and being able to check your progress lets you know if what you’re doing is or isn’t working.   If you make notes about your workout, you are also less likely to spend time chatting between sets or resting too long.   Seeing your gains on paper will reaffirm that you are progressing, and as a result motivation will likely increase or stay high.

The basic benefits of journaling

  • Faster learning
  • Remembering weights
  • Having information to analyze
  • Tracking progress
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Mental Strength… Do you Exercise your Mind?
Shari

by on Mar.10, 2013, under General HEALTH, Motivation, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

Do you Train your Brain to be as Tough as your Body?

Some may argue that toughness is found in soul, spirit and mind…  and not in muscles.

Never underestimate the power of your mind…whether it is in sports, in business or in life.   Becoming mentally stronger may be the one factor that determines whether you realize your goals; or not.  It may be the one single factor separating you from being a champion or a runner up.

When life gets hard, we tend to want comfort, not change.  Those who have learned the secret to mental toughness have learned that comfort now may mean pain later, but a little pain now can yield great rewards in the future.

MIND POWER--Train your mind as well as your body

When it comes to training; having mental strength is one of the most important pieces of sports equipment you will ever own.  Your physical workouts will strengthen you body,  but mental strength training provides the necessary conditioning to fortify your mind.  It provides you a psychological edge that enables you to be consistent; to maintain focus and determination to not only finish but perform at your maximum potential,  despite any difficulty or consequences.   More simply put: To Never Quit.   Being mentally strong directly affects your confidence.  As mental strength rises, so will your confidence.    If you want to become mentally stronger, you have to become tough about what you think.  What you think determines how you act.  Replace weak thoughts like “I can’t or I’m too tired” with positive ones;  I feel great; my body is strong.”

Regardless of your fitness goals or where you are in your training you will be challenged many times to keep moving forward to achieve your desired goal.   Here are some common traits that make up mental toughness:

Be resilient:

Learn to bounce back from adversity, pain, or a disappointing performance. Realize and admit a mistake, understand a missed opportunity, embrace the lesson and quickly move on and refocus on the immediate goal ahead.

Focus

Focus in the face of distractions and unexpected circumstances.   Don’t avoid situations or make excuses for less than perfect conditions.  When your are dead tired, hurting and want to quit is the time to dig deep and focus.  Tell yourself to keep moving forward.

Trust:

Have faith in yourself   Trust that your body will know what to do when it is time to perform.  Trust in your training and your plan. Trust in your coach. Believe in yourself, even if there is no one nearby to boost your confidence.

—-BE POSITIVE:  TALK TO YOURSELF: VISUALZE:

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE: BE PREPARED—

“Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from an indomitable will”  Mahatma Gandhi

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Empower and Challenge yourself with Push-Ups!!
Shari

by on Mar.04, 2012, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

Because sometimes the most basic exercises are the most effective.

Push-ups are among the all-time great total body workout exercises.  They incorporate the triceps, shoulders, chest, abdominals, back and core.  They can be made easier or harder. They build strength and stamina.  They force the heart to work harder and the blood to pump faster. This increases metabolism and helps you burn more calories.
And, they can be done anywhere, anytime, by anyone regardless of fitness level.

No space?…   No equipment?…   No time?…    No Problem.

NO  MORE EXCUSES!

If you cannot do one push-up today, begin with wall pushups or by standing about 2 feet away from your kitchen counter and pushing away for 3 sets of 15. Gradually work to

Decline Push-up on Stability Ball -For added core stabilization and tricep involvement.

something lower as your strength increases. Once you build up arm and core strength, “graduate” to the floor,  and begin by holding yourself up in a plank position with your chest off the ground.  Start on your knees, with hands wide. (Wider is easier).  Don’t worry if cannot go full range yet. .. In time you will.

Build Core Strength

In addition to building upper body strength and gaining more power in the arms, shoulders and hands, pushups done with the proper form will help build the core muscles in the middle of your body. To do pushups properly, your elbows must be fully extended at the start and end of a pushup, your toes should be on the floor and your legs, hips and back should be straight.

There are dozens of variations of push-ups out there.

Wrist-Friendly:

If you find that push-ups put strain on your wrists, try placing your hands on a set of dumbbells (or a push-up bar) to keep your wrists in a more neutral position.  According to Oxygen Magazine author Pam Mazzuca, performing pushups in this manner also increases core activation as well as engagement of the back, triceps and rear deltoids.

Angled, Medicine, Stability Ball, Bosu Pushups:

Push Up on Dumbbells to reduce strain on wrists.

By altering the angle that you perform push-ups, you also change the emphasis of the muscles worked. Doing pushups with your feet on an incline work the shoulder and upper chest muscles a little bit harder than a standard pushup does.    If you really want to challenge yourself, place your feet on a stability ball instead of a stationary object. This forces you to balance your body at the same time that you’re working your pushups, offering a tough variation.  Incorporating an unstable, movable surface such as a medicine ball uses more core strength, increases difficulty of the exercise and engages more core and triceps.

As you continue to progress try:  plyo, staggered, deficit, diamond, handstand pushups… just to name a few .

Walk-out pushups are one of many ways to incorporate pushups into your overall total body workout routine.  Check out this short DEMO:

Walk Out Push-up Demo

Start your own push-up challenge today and watch as you impress yourself as you gain not only strength but confidence!

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Weightlifting and Joint Pain?
Shari

by on Feb.04, 2012, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training, Supplementation

Working out with weights will not cause joint pain.

Improper technique, insufficient rest, or poor nutrition might be contributing to your grief.

Joint pain is one of the most common problems among strength athletes.  It’s something younger lifters rarely think about when lifting and too many seasoned lifters wish they had when they are forced to stop lifting due to years of stress on joints.  Joints require mobility, stability, and motor control.  Proper weight training has been found to  improve joint health, return functionality and decrease pain. Regular exercise of the joints replenishes joint lubricants and builds cartilage.  Stronger muscles from weightlifting exercises offer more support to the joints.

Joint pain can be a slow progression over a long period of time. Repeated injuries can lead to chronic joint pain.  If you are experiencing pain from your weight lifting routine, you are probably doing something wrong.  Chances are one or more of these factors can be attributed for your pain:

  • ü  Insufficient warm-up prior to lifting.

    What's the cause of your joint pain?

  • ü  Over training. They train too long and/or too often
  • ü  Using overly heavy weights/low reps more often than they should
  • ü  Insufficient rest/recovery time to allow joints, tendons, muscles to recuperate from intense work.
  • ü  Poor form and less than perfect technique during heavy lifts
  • ü  Inadequate vitamins and  nutrients.
  • ü  All of the Above.

So let’s say that you are not guilty of the above 7 mistakes but still experience joint pain.  It could be bursitis, tendinitis, arthritis or the like causing aching joints.

Briefly:

ARTHRITIS: Osteoarthritis, by far the most common to bodybuilders and athletes is caused by wear and tera on the joints.  It is characterized by a deterioration of the cartilage at the ends of the bones. The once smooth cartilage becomes rough and causes more and more friction and pain.

BURSITIS: Joints contain small fluid filled sacks called bursae. The bursae assist in muscle and joint movement by cushioning  the joints/bones against friction. Inflammation from various causes (See above 7 mistakes!) results in a chronic pain called bursitis.

TENDINITIS: Tendonitis occurs when tendons around a joint become severely inflamed from overuse, micro-injury, etc.  It is probably the most common cause of pain to bodybuilders and other athletes and also the easiest to treat.  But if left untreated, as when people just try to “work through the pain”, it can lead to much more serious problems.

Many medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or treatments like cortical steroidal injections, address only symptoms and not the cause of the problem.  In fact, research has shown just the opposite; by merely masking symptoms, they may do more harm than good in the long run .

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/phys-ed-does-ibuprofen-help-or-hurt-during-exercise/

And the ever popular “stay off of it “ advice just does not fly with highly active  people.  The good news is that natural compounds and other dietary supplements may be helpful in supporting joints before, during and after lifting sessions.  If you are a lifter, joints require optimal nutrition to help you perform and recover.

Supplements to Consider:

GELATIN: A growing number of studies  now show that just 10 rams of hydrolyzed gelatin a day is effective in greatly reducing pain, improving mobility and overall bone/cartilage health.  Knox (the Jello people) have a product out called  NutraJoint.  It contains hydrolyze gelatin, calcium and vitamin C.

  • Diets rich in Vitamin C, D, and Calcium are important for optimizing joint health.

FLAX OIL: (Omega 3 Fats.) One of flax oils many, many benefits are those to improve overall joint health.  Flax oil is high in essential Omega 3 fatty acids.   Omega-3 fatty acids, from fish, flax, etc., have been shown in scientific/medical literature to reduce chronic  inflammation of any kind.  The recommended dose is 1-3 tablespoons/day.  Boost your intake with fatty fish (tuna,salmon,etc. ) walnuts, and flax.  If you can’t get it through food, supplement with 1-3 g of EPA/DHA per day from fish oil.

WATER: Drink more water.  Water helps to lubricate the joints.  Aim for ½ – 1 oz per pound of body weight per day. Or at least aim to drink 5-6 20 oz bottles of water per day.

FIBER: Focus on high fiber foods, and whole grains with at least 3g of fiber per serving.  Fiber controls blood glucose and therefore helps to control inflammation.

GLUCOSAMINE/CHONDROITIN SULFATE: Researchers  have found both effective for promoting joint health . Found in the body naturally, glucosamine is a form of amino sugar believed to play a role in cartilage formation and repair. Chondroitin sulfate, on the other hand, is a large protein molecule or proteoglycan that gives cartilage elasticity. Numerous studies have shown that regular use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate offers pain relief similar to that offered by anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, but minus the gastrointestinal upset that may accompany long-term use of these medications. A daily dose of 1,200 mg has been shown to reduce joint pain.

It is never too early to take good care of your joints so that you are able to work out longer and more importantly remain pain free. Always begin your workout with range-of-motion exercises or an aerobic warm-up .  Lift with perfect form.  Ice your joints following exercise to reduce pain and swelling.

Joint pain should not go untreated. Don’t try to self diagnose.  Be sure to get an opinion from a trusted sports doctor first to determine exactly what your problem is.

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A New Perspective…. “From The Dark Side”
Shari

by on Nov.20, 2011, under Family News, Fitness, Motivation, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.

–A couple weeks before my last Body Building competition in 2009, I weighed 100 lbs with a body fat ~11%.  I was hungry and exhausted from extreme dieting for  over 16 weeks. My entire life revolved around insanely meticulous calorie and nutrient counting and timing.  I spent HOURS every week preparing, carefully weighing and packing each meal, and was (many would say) obsessive about eating the exact calculated ratio of proteins, carbohydrates and fats at precisely the right time of day.  As my weekly caloric intake decreased, so did

INBF Natural Atlantic Coast Oct. 2009

my energy and I had less to put into my training or more importantly … to my family, friends and work.

—Today, I weigh 115 lbs and maintain a body fat of ~16%.  Eating healthy is still a top priority in my life.   I do not allow my diet to control me, although I am quite strict and careful about what I put into my body. .. but it is a process that still requires self control and discipline.  And YES, I still carry my cooler with me almost everywhere I go… (Some habits never die!)   These days however, I enjoy a variety of foods, and feel freedom to experiment with new recipes and ingredients without depriving my body of the nutrients it needs… or worrying that I may eat too many carbs or not enough protein at any given meal. I go to restaurants, and cook-outs and cocktail parties again.

After each body building season, I was nervous about gaining too much weight….I liked looking lean and muscular. But what I learned was this:  All this new energy allowed me to focus more intensely on my lifting.  … AND I quickly found out:

More Energy = More Intense workouts = EVEN MORE MUSCLE

Yes, I know, this is NOT rocket science. But initially I was so worried about that damn scale. Just like SO MANY of us.   Why do we so obsess over the scale? What exactly is “too much weight” … We need to stop focusing on the scale but on our own unique body composition. Today, I weigh more than I have in years, but I wear exactly the same size clothes, though I have stronger, more athletic physique.  My body fat percentage is in the excellent range for someone who is almost 50 years old.  My energy and my disposition are better than ever…  I feel (and look) healthier than I have in a long time.  (Most days) I am not obsessed by the mirror, or the scale.  And as I get stronger and continue to build more muscle…. I continue to burn unwanted body fat.

So now I look back on the last year or two with an entirely different perspective.  Body building gave me purpose and a goal and provided a direction and an accountability I needed in

APF Nationals Raw Power Lifting – April 2011

my life. It is a part of me but it doesn’t define me anymore.   I’m not saying that I am done body building; I honestly don’t know.  The competition circuit is amazing fun and has given me the privilege to befriend some really spectacular people.  I have great respect for the athletes and the sport. I appreciate how difficult the journey to the stage is.  So, it’s not so much that I have fallen out of love with bodybuilding but I’ve got a new itch.  I have fallen in love again… with power lifting.   The dark side, as some of my new lifting friends joke. I am a student again and I love all of it –from the scraped up shins to my overly callused hands.  You not only have to have physical strength, you have to be tough to be a power lifter.  There is no place for fear. You have to overcome your fears and your weaknesses. You have to not be afraid to fail or afraid of  pain because there will be many failed attempts and a lot of pain.  So here I go again pushing to my very limits, taking on new challenges, not only in body, but also in mind and spirit.  I’m on a journey again.   I am chasing numbers again, but this time around, the numbers I chase have nothing to do with counting carbs.  All I know is that while on this journey I’m determined to become the best lifter I can be…

Yes, I’ve fallen to the dark side.  And I’m all in. Some may even say I’m obsessed.

“The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.”


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Pool Running –Be kind to your joints AND burn more calories!
Shari

by on Jun.04, 2011, under Fitness, Strength and Agility Training

Get your feet wet and get in great shape.

It may look a little weird but pool running is one of the best cross training activities that’s not just for runners.  And it’s FUN!

Do you know someone who HATES to work out because they can’t stand to get sweaty and overheated?  Pool training might be the ticket that can whip them (and you) into shape!   Water resistance offers a no-impact, relaxing workout that still taxes the body, increases heart rate and results in an ideal cardiovascular exercise. Water running tests your endurance and fitness, increasing oxygen consumption and heart rate without putting weight and strain on your joints. We all know that running on pavement is a notoriously high impact activity. But water acts as a giant cushion for the body and is much kinder to joints and tendons than tarmac and other surfaces.  And the deeper you wade into a pool, the lighter your body becomes.
“The magic of the water,” says Jane Katz, Ph.D, a former Olympic swimmer, coach and author “extends the life of your

Burn calories and give your joints a break!

running by providing comfort, safety and a greater range of motion.”  Because the water pressure in a pool is significantly greater than air pressure, exercising in a pool provides two extremes at once–the resistance to stress the body and the liquid density to protect it.  So even when you travel, you can get a good workout from walking laps in waist –deep water in the hotel pool.

Added weight of ankle weights in a pool may be just what is needed to mix up your cardio routine and keep it challenging and interesting! The benefits of using ankle weights under water include enhanced resistance for not only your legs as you run or swim, but provide added resistance for your body in general.  Ankle weights tend to not cause joint damage or stress when used underwater.   If you are overcoming an injury, don’t stop working out… work out smarter!  Under water activities carry a lesser chance of joint strain and low impact and/or pool exercises can still give great results without compromising your routine or setting you back from your health goals.

Water Running:

As with any new workout program, start and progress gradually. Water running may not feel as grueling as running on pavement but it does require a good bit of energy. Studies by Dr Robert Wilder, a physiologist and the director of sports rehabilitation at the University of Virginia, have shown that the added resistance of water – it is 800 times denser than air and provides up to 12 times the resistance you get on land – means that you work harder and expend more energy pool-running than you do on land.   On average a person can burn 11.5 calories per minute running in water.  One study done at New York’s Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine found that walking at 3 miles per hour in mid-thigh water depth burned twice the calories of walking at the same speed on land

The exact number of calories burned are influenced by several different factors:

– your age

For buoyancy during deep water running/jogging

– weight
– fitness level
– water temperature
– range of motion used
– intensity
– time of day
– technique

At first you may find that you fatigue early and fail to sustain an entire workout. Give it time. In water, when you double your speed, your legs encounter a four-fold increase in resistance. While running, your body should be perpendicular to the pool. Your legs, however, should not flow as in typical running. To attain the greatest amount of resistance and smoothness, “sweep” your legs forward, from toes to hips, with minimal knee lift. This form, similar to the movement done on a cross-country ski machine, uses the entire leg to drive against the water.

Training Tips: Any type of training, from tempo runs to speed work, can be replicated in the water. For example, you can alternate faster leg action for 2 minutes with 2 minutes of easy striding (with high knees).  Or you can go hard

for 10 minutes, easy for 5, then repeat. Studies show you get virtually the same benefit as running “on-land” but with less wear-and-tear on the body.

If you engage in deep water running, you will need a special flotation belt known as an aqua jogger to keep you upright and afloat and enables you to run instead of merely treading water.  If you are running where your feet make contact with the pool floor, you should consider some aqua shoes (with rubberized soles) to protect the feet and prevent sliding.

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Stretch your Way to Better Mobility
Shari

by on Mar.06, 2011, under General HEALTH, Strength and Agility Training, Stretching / Flexibility

Spare your low back from stress by improving mobility.  Poor hip mobility leads to poor posture, poor sports performance and chronic pain.

Joints and limbs need to be mobile and have full range of motion to be useful.  Our hip joints especially take a beating all day long and tight hip flexors (the muscles at the front of your hips) are a big problem for lots of us. But, we all need the use of our joints and limbs for everyday activities like picking up groceries or walking up stairs.  And, if you are an athlete, improved mobility equates to improved performance and reduced chance of injury.

The way to improve mobility is through proper stretching.

The benefits of a good warm up before exercise include improved strength, flexibility, muscular endurance,coordination and the correction of major and minor muscle imbalances.  It also increases blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues and increases range of motion, thus reducing chance of injury during exercise.  It is vital to include dynamic stretching exercises your daily exercise routine as it will not only help your major muscles short term but also very importantly long term when our muscles start aging.

Dynamic stretching works by gently propelling their muscles towards their maximum range of motion. It is very important to not use jerky, forced movements to try to increase the range of motion beyond what is comfortable as it can easily cause injury.  A 2008 study in the “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” determined dynamic stretching a better choice for warm-ups for exercise over static stretches which were found to hurt muscular power output.

Lack of mobility in the hip joints is a very common complaint. This can be the result of a sedentary lifestyle and/or lack of stretching which shortens hip flexors & hamstrings and restricts hip movement. But the hips are designed for a wide range of motion and mobility. We should freely rotate thighs in & out, move them up & down, and pull them to & away from the body. Or at least we should be able to. Persistent pains in knees and/or lower back can be caused by lack of hip mobility.  Incorporating dynamic stretching can help the hip muscles regain their original length and alleviate pain in the lower back and hips.  If your muscles are tight, it is important to stretch every day.  Your hip mobility will improve by doing the exercises correctly and often.

Take it Slowly. Increase speed & range of motion as your muscles loosen. Don’t get injured by forcing the movement from the start.

Lunges are among the many recommended exercises to help stretch out the hip flexors.

Lunges and Leg Swings will help stretch and strengthen hip flexors

Lunges will also improve functional range of motion while also improving strength in the quadriceps, glutes and core.  There are many variations to the lunge that should be incorporated into your program.  (Stationary, front, reverse, lateral, walking, overhead, etc.)

Basic Kneeling Lunge (or split squat)

Kneel with your left knee on the ground and your right leg in front of you with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your upper body straight and lunge forward as far as is comfortable and then move back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.

Lateral Lunge (Squats). A great dynamic stretch for your adductors. Assume a wide stance, the wider the easier. Squat side to side with both hands behind your head or across your chest. Point Your Feet Straight ahead. Rotating your feet outwards is trying to compensate lack of hip mobility. Plant your feet into the floor.  Push Your Knees out. This better involves your adductors. Push from the heels and push your knees out.  Stay Tall. Look forward, keep your chest up and shoulder-blades back & down. Don’t round your back.

Leg Swings (Front to Back and Side to Side)

Stand up straight and hold onto something. Move from the hips; flex and extend your thighs, keep your pelvis still and do not allow your torso to rotate. Look forward.  Keep the movement at a steady slow pace, maintaining good posture throughout. 15 repetitions of each for each leg.

Restoring hip mobility will help in several areas. If you don’t already include these exercises in your current training, performing them will make a big difference in your body mechanics. It should reduce or eliminate lower back and/or knee pain stemming from overcompensation. It should improve performance output by allowing you to fully engage in training exercises like squats and dead lifts while making them safer.

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Opposites Attract: Train opposing muscles to achieve muscular balance.
Shari

by on Feb.06, 2011, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

… and build more muscle in less time with supersets.

Strength training is an important component of fitness, but when done improperly it can result in muscle imbalance and result in injury.  The effectiveness of a workout also depends on what you want to achieve in regards to your fitness.  There are many ways to combine muscle groups to get the most out of your workouts. One popular technique is to train opposing (antagonistic) muscle groups together especially if the goal is to improve muscularity (muscle tone) and endurance.

Opposing muscle groups are your chest and back or your biceps and triceps, for example. (Think front/back or inner/outer).  But because the triceps support the muscles of the chest, you could also consider the triceps to be a secondary opposing muscle group of the back muscles and train them together.  Other examples would include training quadriceps with hamstrings, or abdominals and erector spinae. (lower back) in the same session.

work lower back, when training abdominals to prevent muscle imbalance

PRIMARY ANTAGONIST MUSCLE GROUPS

1) Pecs/Lats
2) Biceps/Triceps
3) Quadriceps/Hamstrings
4) Abdominals/Lower Back

Opposing muscle workouts are most effective by doing supersets.

A superset is performing two exercises in a row without stopping (or with very minimal rest) for a prescribed amount of sets. An example of this type of superset would be doing one set of bench press (for your chest) followed immediately by a set of pull ups (for your back). When you first start doing these, you may find that endurance is a problem but stamina will improve with time.

Let’s say you choose to train your chest and biceps during one workout.   Because the biceps are involved minimally in exercises for the chest, you will not be pre-exhausting your biceps. The result is that you will be able to train both your chest and your biceps with the maximum amount of concentration, effort and weight and because each muscle group gets the maximum amount of rest in between sets, you may ultimately be able to lift more, and thus over time, increase strength.

Opposing muscle supersets are a very effective training technique for many other reasons too:

  • Saves Time
  • Offers a greater challenge than traditional workouts
  • Creates variety and encourages new muscle growth
  • Eliminates the natural tendency to rest too long between set

So when you find yourself crunched for time, instead of skipping exercises, or reducing the number of sets or even ditching your workout completely… opt for super-setting for a new challenge.  With super setting, you can complete the same 60 minute workout in 40 minutes… and with increased intensity!  You will recruit more muscle fibers, over different muscle groups, in a shorter period of time.  WOW!

Training opposing muscles may also prevent injuries.

This is because the muscles that work together are in balance with one another rather than one over powering another. Working opposing muscles combined with stretching the muscles that have been worked prevents one muscle from becoming significantly tighter than it’s opposer and thus injury is less likely. When a muscle is worked it becomes tighter and the tendons connecting those muscles to the bone also become thicker and stronger.  When muscle imbalance occurs it is important to strengthen the opposing muscle and also to stretch the tight muscles.  So if you want to prevent injury and keep muscles in balance, train opposing muscles and always stretch after exercise.

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Ready to start a strength training program?… Knowing where to begin can be the hardest part.
Shari

by on Jan.07, 2011, under Fitness, Motivation, Strength and Agility Training

“I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds”

Building muscle strength is really good for you. And if you’re a woman, I promise you’re not going to end up looking freakishly masculine by lifting weights. There are many documented benefits to strength training, which include toning your muscles, increasing bone density, decreasing your weight, and decreasing your resting blood pressure… not to mention how much better you will look and  how much more energized you will feel!

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make however is doing too much too soon. Think of the first few weeks of your

Proper technique is a critical component of strength training

program as a prep-time; a period in which you concentrate on learning proper technique and form, which exercises to do, which muscle groups to work and how much weight to use. I’m going to say this part again… use this time to learn about proper form and get into the habit of regular strength training.

An important part of strength training is to be consistent. Everything is life that is good requires efforts to achieve. You want results? You will have to work at it for at least 6 months. Set yourself this timeline and keep to it.  At the end of the 6 months, you will see results if you are consistent.

You can begin your program in a gym or at home… the most important factor to making improvements to your health is that you start… somewhere.

There are hundreds of websites that offer general guidance on getting started and although very helpful, for a newcomer it all can also be overwhelming, contradictory (depending on who is giving the advice) and therefore a bit frustrating. Books and DVD’s also offer fundamental information and starter workout programs to follow.

There is probably no better option than an actual, live person to help you get your program going.  A coach or trainer will listen to your goals, note your limitations and observe and help you with proper form.  Most gyms offer complimentary orientation sessions to new members or you can always enlist the services of a trainer to help you design a program that is right for you and sets you up for success!

Before you begin your strength training exercises, it is important that you always warm up at least 5-10 minutes.  The warm-up will help to prevent injury. The goal of warming up is to increase blood flow to the muscles you are about to exercise.
A sample beginning routine would include a total body circuit program that would incorporate 2 sets per exercise using a weight where 10-15 repetitions can be completed, with the last 2-3 repetition considered “challenging”.   Start off with 2-3 days of strength training per week and focus on exercises that target the major muscle groups. For example: you would complete 1 exercise each for Chest, Back, Shoulder and Arms, and 2 exercises for Legs.  Allow your body to recover a day or two between workouts.

As your conditioning improves, and your fitness level increases, you may wish to incorporate an additional training day and break down your routine into an upper body workout one day and lower body on another. Periodically, you will need to change up and vary your exercises and you should be increasing the weight you lift every two to three weeks in order to prevent plateaus. If your body isn’t being challenged, you won’t make any gains. Ideally, you should be bettering yourself every time you train.  You may not increase the weight you lift every time—(if you can, that’s great)–but you will be able to increase the number of reps or sets that you do. Strive to reach a new level of fitness every single time you lift.

The best workout is one where your muscles feel worked, and you feel satisfied with your progress. If you’re ever in pain, don’t ignore it. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and it should never be ignored.

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Put some FUN into your workout with “FUN”CTIONAL Training!
Shari

by on Nov.17, 2010, under Fitness, Motivation, Strength and Agility Training

Train your body to handle real-life situations.

Functional fitness focuses on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in a restrictive posture created by a gym machine. The key to functional exercise is integration. The primary goal of functional training is to transfer the improvements in strength achieved in one movement to enhancing the performance of another movement by affecting the entire neuromuscular system.  It’s about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently as conventional weight training does..  Functional strength training is not just done to improve your appearance, but to help improve performance in everyday activities. Exercises that

Train your whole body to improve performance in everyday life

Train your whole body to improve performance in everyday life

isolate joints and muscles are training muscles, not movements; which results in less functional improvement. For example, squats will have a greater transfer effect on improving an

individual’s ability to rise from a sofa than knee extension.

Train movements instead of muscles.  If you’re training the movement, the muscle will follow.!

Functional strength training (FST) is becoming more popular because it is so practical and is an ideal way to help maximize sports performance. The goal of FST is to develop athleticism. Athletic movements like running, jumping, throwing and lifting are enhanced. Sound technique and optimum speed with movements that are within the context of your sport are further developed. Functional movements offer an effective method in improving balance, coordination, and stability as well as agility, speed, power and strength.  FST should supplement traditional weight lifting and is not intended to replace it.  It provides variety and additional benefits that directly transfer to common sport movements. And because movements are neuromuscular in that they require the power of both your brain and your brawn, the best exercises to increase functional strength simply involve practicing the movement or motion you want to get better at.  Basically, exercises should mimic the movements of the sport while working against resistance. Weight training for strength may not enhance the endurance or strength required for a golfer. A golfer needs to work on core strength, and training involving swinging.  A runner, on the other hand, should enhance local muscular endurance.

Standard resistance training machines are of limited use for functional training – their fixed patterns rarely mimic natural movements, and they focus the effort on a single muscle group, rather than engaging the stabilizers and peripheral muscles.

Functional Equipment:

Tools of the Trade

"Tools of the Trade"

  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Body Weight
  • Resistance Bands and Loops
  • Sandbags
  • Cable Machines (Pulleys)
  • Exercise Balls
  • Medicine Balls

Strength training isn’t just about improving your physique. Incorporating Functional Strength Training can enhance overall well-being and help you achieve your potential, no matter the overall fitness goal.

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