Shari Duncan

Strength and Agility Training

CORE LIFTS: The BIG 3
Shari

by on Oct.03, 2010, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

Before incorporating “The Big 3” into your workout routine, first be assessed and monitored by a trained professional to ensure proper technique for safety and proficiency. Improper technique can cause an injury and will affect performance.

In regards to strength training, there are two basic ways to train. One is training with compound movements and the other is training with isolation exercises. Isolation exercises work single muscle groups as when using machines. Compound movements are bench pressing, dead lifting, squatting and using free weights where several muscles are involved and working together. If you want to improve your athletic condition, you need to perform compound movements by working more than one joint at a time during training.

The Bench

With a firm grip.. SQUEEZE the bar as if you are going to break it in two

With a firm grip.. SQUEEZE the bar as if you are going to break it in two

The primary muscles used in the bench press are the pectorals (major and minor), triceps, and deltoids. It will build upper body strength like no other, but if done with improper technique, can also result in injuries – especially shoulder injuries. For safety, be sure to have a spotter at all times.
Bench Press Setup. You need a strong base to press the weight from. Tighten your upper-back. Grip the bar hard: try to break it apart like breaking spaghetti. Squeeze your shoulder-blades before getting on the bench. Keep your shoulder-blades back & down at all times . This gives your body a solid base to press the bar from.  Keep chest up at all times; do not allow shoulders to roll forward.  Use a wide foot stance to increase stability on the bench. Feet flat on the floor, weight on the heels, lower leg perpendicular to the floor. This prevents extreme arching of your lower back.

EXECUTION: Keep the tight position during the Bench Press from start to finish. Squeeze the bar, keep your upper-back tight & your chest up. Unrack the weight with straight arms. Bench.

The Squat

Considered by many to be the most important athletic core lift, every muscle works when you Squat: your legs move the weight, your abs & lower back stabilize it, your arms squeeze the bar, etc. The Squat is NOT just a leg exercise, it’s a full body exercise. It is also a great tool for increasing lower body power which translates to increased speed and a higher vertical leap.

To avoid injury always Squat in a power rack. Set the safety pins so they can catch the bar would anything go wrong. The rest is technique – start light, add weight gradually, and remember form always comes before weight.

  1. Set the bar in a power rack at about mid-chest level.

    Always Squat with a Power Rack and  a spotter for safety

    Always Squat with a Power Rack and a spotter for safety

  2. Position your feet directly under the bar.
  3. Squat under the bar and put it on your back.
  4. Tighten everything and Squat up to unrack the bar.
  5. One step back with one leg, one step back with the other leg.

EXECUTION: Keep a low bar position, a tight upper-back, elbows back & wrists straight. Heels about shoulder width, point your toes out at about 30 degrees. Your toes must always follow your knees or you’ll get knee injuries. Practice and focus on technique.  The key to the Squatting correctly are your hips: you must have tension in your hamstrings at the bottom. Push your knees out as you squat down. Hit Parallel. Your hip joint must come lower than your knee joint. Ask someone to judge your depth or tape yourself. No Partial Squats

How to Squat Up. Your hip muscles will be stretched when in the bottom  position if you Squat correctly. Use that stretch to bounce out of the hole. If you Squat this way, you’ll be lift a lot more weight while keeping your knees safe.

  • Hips Up. Drive out of the hole by leading with your hips, not your chest. Don’t let your knees travel forward at the bottom or you’ll lose power.
  • Squeeze Your Glutes. Power comes from the glutes. Squeeze them hard as you lockout the weight. It will also keep your lower back safe.
  • Grab The Floor. Grab the floor with your feet; it will help activate your glutes. Do NOT let your heels come off the floor.
  • Knees Out. Same as for the way down: don’t let your knees buckle in. Push your knees out as you Squat up.

*Always use free weights for Squats. Machines are not only less effective for muscle and strength gains because they balance the weight for you, they also force you into fixed/unnatural movement patterns

The Deadlift

To Build a Better Back: Push from the heels... SQUEEZE the Glutes

To Build a Better Back: Push from the heels... SQUEEZE the Glutes

The dead lift is a full body lift that focuses on improving strength for the back and lower extremity (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluts etc.), as well as forearm and grip strength.  Keeping

your back straight is critical to avoid injuries when lifting heavy objects from the floor. Deadlift by pushing from the heels, and bringing your hips forward. Not by pulling with your lower back.

Deadlifts start with the bar at mid shin level. Walk to the bar and position your feet under the bar with shoulder width stance, toes slightly pointed out. Chest up, shoulders back, look forward – Keep this position and your back will not be able to round. Keep arms straight, tighten triceps.

EXECUTION: If you Deadlift correctly, you’ll feel most stress in your upper-back, glutes & hams. Shoulder blades over bar, bar against shins.  Bring hips forward and PUSH FROM THE HEELS, squeezing the glutes hard. Keep the bar close to you, rolling over shins and thighs.  The movement is complete when knees and hips are locked.

To bring weight down, unlock hips first, then the knees. Chest remains up, shoulders forward and head up as you bring the weight down.

*There is no need to arch or shrug at the top of the movement.  Rolling the shoulders or hyper extending the back are dangerous and inefficient.  Extend your knees and hips and stop.

Source: Stronglifts.com

This video was taken  at the Battle of Honor in Pelion S.C.  250lb DL / 111lb Bodyweight.

This was my first meet.

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Why Ply…ometrics?
Shari

by on Sep.14, 2010, under Fitness, Strength and Agility Training

Ready for some Explosive-Reactive Training?  Want Incredible Results?

The functional muscle gains from plyometric training will flow on to an overall health and fitness improvement. From this you get greatly improved physical performance which includes not only strength, agility and power but also coordination and flexibility.

Plyometrics help build fast twitch muscles and are an excellent component of power training. Basically, any exercise that involves a dynamic shift from absorption of force to expression of force is a plyometric exercise. It incorporates specialized, high intensity training techniques that assist in developing athletic power (strength and speed). Some people are put off immediately when they hear “high impact” or high intensity training; however experts in the field of exercise science, including The American College of Sports Medicine and  The American Council on Fitness states that plyometric training is a safe, beneficial and fun activity when done properly.  It is important to note though that plyometrics do not take the place of running (cardio), stretching, and weight training, if you perform plyometrics consistently AND correctly, you WILL see results!

Improve YOUR Performance with Plyometrics!

Improve YOUR Performance with Plyometrics!

Working out at high intensity is a great way to burn body fat and since plyometric training is a high intensity activity…this means that it burns lots of calories!

Jumping Exercises are generally very anaerobic. (Exercise in which oxygen is used up more quickly than the body is able to replenish it inside the working muscle). So when you work out at 90%-100% intensity, you really stimulate your metabolism and can have an elevated calorie burn for hours after the workout is completed.  If your workouts leave you never feeling out of breath, try incorporating some plyometric exercises to your routine to increase the intensity and help you burn lots of extra calories!

Be sure to follow safety precautions to avoid risk of injury when performing plyometrics (or any high impact) exercise routine. The most important aspect of a safe and effective plyometric program is developing a safe landing technique. This means the athlete lands softly on the toes and rolls to the heels. By using the whole foot (and a larger surface area) for landing it helps dissipate the impact forces on the joints. The other key to proper landing is to avoid any twisting or sideways motion at the knee.  It is essential to warm up thoroughly and start with small jumps and gradually build up.

Also, begin slowly. If you want to incorporate plyometrics into your workouts, start with one exercise for 3 sets of 8-10 a couple of times a week. Then add a second exercise. Once you have mastered a couple of jumps or throws, add a third and so on, always paying strict attention to form.

Examples of lower body plyometric exercises are squat jumps, box jumps, split jumps and tuck jumps. Upper body plyometric exercises often include the use medicine balls throws.

Clinical studies have shown that weightlifting and plyometric training are an excellent combination in enhancing power and speed. Combining weights and plyometric exercises into the same workout will heighten the responsiveness of fast twitch (speed and power producing) muscle fiber. (example: perform a set of squats, followed by a set of jump squats, continuing until all sets are completed; or completing all designated sets of jump squats then following it with a complete set of squats).

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Bands, Balls, Bells….. No Gym Required
Shari

by on Aug.04, 2010, under Fitness, General HEALTH, Motivation, Strength and Agility Training

Get fit. Lose the excuses…and those membership dues.


No money.  No time. No babysitter. Too busy. Too self conscious. These are the reasons given for NOT joining a gym.  But we all WANT to be fit and healthy. Guess what?  You don’t need a gym to get an amazing workout. And you don’t need to fight crowds to wait for fancy, expensive equipment.  You can get fit and healthy….at home!

Exercise should be made convenient and not made to rule your life… With a few simple, inexpensive aides, you will be on your way to a better you.  These aides will add versatility to your at home training sessions. Adding variety to your workouts will keep you engaged and interested, and keeps your muscles guessing and challenged so that you will make progress.

So swing by your local Wal-mart or Target and pick up one or all of the following:

Get back to basics with the 3 B’s…..

Resistance Bands:

Bands offer constant tension on the muscle, both in the positive and the negative part of the movement. Bands incorporate more stabilizer muscles to keep the band in alignmentthroughout each exercise, adding a different dynamic to the same old moves. This helps with coordination and balance as you engage more muscle groups. They also offer more variety than cables for example because you can create resistance from all directions – overhead, below, sideways, etc.

  • You can perform the same exercises as you do with free weights–the difference lies in positioning the band. For example, stand on the band and grip the handles for bicep curls or overhead presses. Or attach it to a door and do lat pulldowns or tricep pushdowns. The possibilities are endless and you’ll find there are a multitude of exercises available to you.
  • Bands range from $6 – $20, depending on how many you buy. Most bands are color coded, according to tension level. (It’s best to get at least 3, as different muscle groups require different levels of resistance).
  • And, they are easily packed away in a suitcase so that you can get your workout in even when traveling.
  • http://exercise.about.com/cs/exerciseworkouts/l/blbandworkout.htm

Stability Balls:

Exercise balls challenge you by placing your body in an unstable environment.  They are among the most versatile (and my favorite) exercise aides in that they help to improve core strength as well as strengthen abs and back.  When you lie or sit on the ball, your legs and abs immediately contract to keep you from falling off. Add an exercise to that (like a cheststability exercise ball or shoulder press or crunch), and you’ve just increased the intensity of the movement.

Use the stability ball as your “weight bench”.  This adds difficulty to the movement as well as engages the legs, butt and abs.

Before you buy a ball, make sure it’s the right size for your height. To test it, sit on the ball and make sure your hips are level or just slightly higher than the knees.  Again, you can find a stability ball for under $20.

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/gear/equipment/best-stability-ball-exercises/?page=1

**When shopping for fitness balls, you may also consider purchasing a medicine ball.  A medicine ball is a weighted, hollow ball that varies in size from the size of a volley ball (lighter) to a basketball (heavier).

Dumbells:

You don’t need a whole rack of weights to supplement your home workouts. 2 -3 sets of dumbbells will enable you to get in a full body workout; especially if used in conjunction with a stability ball and/or bands.   For every exercise you can do with a traditional barbell, you can do a similar exercise (and more) with a  set of dumbbells. Use the heavier set for exercises in which you can manage more weight — squats and lunges for example; and lighter weight for exercises that work best with comparatively lighter weights — raises, rows, curls, etc.

For the exercise suggestions that follow, remember that many times the stability ball can replace a weight bench.

http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/dumbbellexercises.html

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What comes first… Cardio or Weights? Prioritize YOUR workout.
Shari

by on Jun.25, 2010, under Fitness, Strength and Agility Training

You know you got to do it.  Love it, hate it, or just love to hate it; we all need to incorporate some type of cardio into our fitness routines.

It is an essential part of any training routine. The question that is  often asked  is whether it is better to do cardio BEFORE or AFTER weight training.  The answer lies partially on your specific goals and what you want to accomplish. Your current conditioning, stamina and mindset are also important considerations.

In general, any exercise performed when you have ample energy is performed with greater intensity and with more focus and efficiency. Exercises you perform once energy supplies

Cardio, BEFORE or AFTER?  The choice is Yours

Cardio, BEFORE or AFTER? The choice is Yours

are low (or depleted) are less effective and more likely to result in injury. So If you are a recreational athlete, you might consider doing cardio and strength training on separate days.  Or you might combine the two with intervals or circuit training, which both strength and endurance activities are applied to whole body or timed routines. Or you may just start with what motivates you that day.

However, if you are trying to achieve a specific goal, such as building muscle or improving sports specific skills, or if you have an extremely high level of fitness already, then order may play a role in your training regimen.

Cardio BEFORE Weight Training

Light cardio before training serves as great warm up that prepares the muscles for heavy lifting. The cardio can actually help to reduce the number of warm up sets necessary.

In order to build and maintain cardiovascular endurance,  perform endurance exercise first, If you are preparing for a hiking or biking event or training for a 10K or triathlon, then the focus, energy and efforts should be in the area that will assist you in improving/achieving optimal performance and results. Lifting prior to running is not recommended because you increase your risk of injury due to muscle fatigue.

Cardio AFTER Weight Training

Likewise, if the goal is to build muscle, it makes sense that your energy and efforts should be dedicated to weight training before cardio. Cardio burns fat and carbs depleting energystores necessary for strength training. So a hard cardio workout before training may not leave you enough fuel to challenge your muscles. If the body’s carbohydrate stores are depleted during intense cardio, there will not be enough critical fuel left to sustain a weight training session. Over time, this could actually lead to a decrease in strength.

Low intensity cardio activity after training also serves and is recommended as a cool down activity.

So if your goal is to improve your overall health and condition, the order really does not matter. Do what works for you.  If you prefer to get your cardio “out of the way”, then do it first. What matters is that you participate in activities that you enjoy and that combine both endurance and strength training!

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Vibram FiveFingers – Discover the Alternative.
Shari

by on Jun.13, 2010, under Fitness, General HEALTH, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

It has 5 fingers.  It may just be the perfect workout glove; for your feet.

So many of us struggle with posture, balance and proper body mechanics not just in everyday activities but also when we train.  Although we work hard to maintain correct form and execution, it becomes challenging if alignment is off center. Risk of injury increases and strength, speed and agility may suffer.  Many of the exercises we perform in and out of the gym rely on flexible yet stable support from our feet and legs. Most traditional athletic shoes unfortunately, do not provide a sense of control. Of course, traditional footwear is necessary for

In (and out) of the gym: Increase Balance, Improve Posture while strengthening muscles in feet and lower legs.

In (and out) of the gym: Increase Balance, Improve Posture while strengthening muscles in feet and lower legs.

protection, safety and security but experts believe these same shoes that we wear day in and out also serve as a “cast” for the foot. And over time, they in fact weaken our foot and leg muscles, leaving them underdeveloped and more prone to injury.   It is important that the foot be stimulated and exercised in its natural state as often as possible.

So in my personal quest to improve my own center and develop a stronger base, I have discovered the Vibram Five Finger Shoes.  These funny looking shoes have been around for a couple of years. I was actually introduced to them over a year ago by a fellow bodybuilding friend and immediately dismissed them as ridiculous. Said to him, “no way would I ever”!  But as I looked into ways to improve my situation, the more these “five finger shoes” began to make sense.  They are unlike any other conventional footwear in that their design mirrors flex points and silhouettes the foot to propel the body forward and promote a more natural gait.

Here’s what the official website has to say about 5 finger footwear for use during fitness training:

FiveFingers footwear not only provides a sure-footed grip to enhance torque during power moves, it’s untrathin sole enhances feedback and lowers your center of gravity to improve balance and agility. FiveFingers will allow your foot to move naturally, flexing easily with every move you make. Its five individual toe slots lets your toes to separate gently, allowing you to use them as your natural stabilizers and providing unrivaled balance and increased muscle stimulation to your feet, ankles, and lower legs.

6 Key Reasons to Wear or Train in Vibram FiveFingers:

1. Strengthens Muscles in the Feet and Lower Legs – wearing FiveFingers will stimulate and strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improving general foot health and reducing the risk of injury.

2. Improves Range of Motion in Ankles, Feet and Toes – no longer ‘cast’ in a shoe, the foot and toes move more naturally.

3. Stimulates Neural Function Important to Balance and Agility –when wearing Vibram FiveFingers, thousands of neurological receptors in the feet send valuable information

My new shoes... Black, of course

My new shoes... Black, of course

to the brain, improving balance and agility.

4. Improves Proprioception and Body Awareness – those same neurological receptors heighten body awareness, sending messages about body mechanics, form, and movement.

5. Eliminates Heel Lift to Align the Spine and Improve Posture –By lowering the heel, our bodyweight becomes evenly distributed across the footbed, promoting proper posture and spine alignment.

6. Allows the Foot and Body to Move Naturally, Which Just FEELS GOOD.

http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/indexNA.cfm

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Hurts so Good?… Post Workout Muscle Soreness
Shari

by on Feb.27, 2010, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

Muscle soreness is an unavoidable side effect of strength and endurance training.

After a hard workout, most people begin to experience soreness in the body parts trained within 24-48 hours. This type of pain is called “delayed onset muscle soreness” or DOMS and can last several days to a week. The primary cause of DOMS, according to most exercise physiologists, is from tiny tears that occur in the muscle as a result of high intensity exercise – especially resistance training.  DOMS is a normal and expected outcome of physical exercise.  The only way to eliminate DOMS is to avoid exercise.

When you work out you literally “tear down” muscle tissue fibers.  (These are microscopic tears -& very different from the medical definition of a torn muscle). During the days after the workout, the muscle begins to rebuild itself. However, the muscles must be given enough time to recover and as well as adequate nutrition. This rebuilding process creates a “new” muscle that is bigger and stronger than before. This is how the cycle of building lean muscle occurs.

It is important to differentiate between the burn felt during/after the workout from the pain of an injury. Soreness should not become debilitating or prevent you from participating in sports or performing daily tasks.  This type of “good sore” is a sign that the muscles were worked – & that muscle tissue was broken down during your training session. As a result, you will begin to become stronger and your muscles will grow.

DOMS is greatest, but not exclusive, to beginners new to exercising. Over time, the body will adapt to the workload imposed on it and the less sore you will feel.   If you continue to repeat the same workout over and over again, it will eventually cease to make you sore. AND you will cease to make any progressThis is why it is important, no

Dramatic changes to workout routine & intensity will bring on DOMS!

Dramatic changes to workload & intensity will bring on DOMS!

matter how long you have been training to change up your workout routines often.  Progressive overload is key getting stronger and building muscle.

Each time you “shock your body” with a new workout program, new exercises, new techniques you’ve never used before or in a long time, expect the soreness to return. Sometimes the amount of soreness from a change in your routine can be severe. So remember to go easy the first day on a new program and build intensity gradually or you may push over that line from “good sore” to “bad sore”.  Severe muscle soreness probably means you overdid it, which will happen from time to time.  In most cases is not reason for alarm.

Reducing the Effects of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

If you train intently, you will be sore post work-out.

The goal is to reduce the DOMS effects and keep to your workout schedule.

WARM-UP/ STRETCH – The benefits of warm up before and post workout stretch are numerous and should never be overlooked or their value underestimated.  Warm up and cool down properly and build your workout program gradually to minimize DOMS.

REST:  Remember, a little soreness is expected; it is a sign of a good workout and eventually the soreness will go away.  Rest and allow the muscle groups worked to recover for a couple of days before working them again.

MASSAGE/ Hot Bath / Heat / (heating pad) will sooth sore aching muscle and reduce inflammation and pain.

WATER:  Drinking extra water helps to flush toxins and other byproducts of muscle breakdown that occur during heavy exercise.

VITAMIN C /E – antioxidants are proven helpful in dealing with muscle soreness and recovery. Your muscles produce more free radicals during exercise. Supplementation with antioxidants C & E will slow down the oxidation process, which in turn reduces fatigue and soreness.  A healthy supply of these nutrients help to minimize pain the day after a workout and will speed the healing process.

SUPPLEMENTATION:  Glutamine and BCAA’s (Branched-chain Amino Acids) are known to assist in muscle recovery and repair.

ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES: – (Ibuprofin) – like Motrin will alleviate symptoms for sure. I usually try to use these as a last option to the ones mentioned above.

PROPER NUTRITION: The fuel we give our bodies have a significant impact not only on performance but also in the muscle building and recovery process.  While proper nutrients will not prevent or give instant relief from muscle soreness, it is essential for the muscle repairing process. By consuming the right balance of nutrients before, during, and immediately following workouts, you can minimize the amount of muscle protein breakdown incurred during workouts and maximize the rate of post-exercise muscle protein repair and rebuilding. This principle is known as nutrient timing and is topic that will be discussed more in depth in future blogs.

**If soreness persists many days, or you suspect an injury, see a doctor. Otherwise for mild to moderate exercise related soreness, some combination of rest, anti-inflammatory, hot water/heat, massage, and drinking plenty of water will handle it.

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