Shari Duncan

Tag: Core

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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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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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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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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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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Fly Like Superman… and Strengthen a Weakened Low Back
Shari

by on Jun.05, 2010, under Fitness, Stretching / Flexibility

One of the best back exercises to strengthen low back muscles is the Superman.

Whether you suffer from chronic low back pain or want to strengthen a weakened low back, the “superman” pose is an exercise that should be included in your workout.  Although, it primarily focuses on the low back, the movement will also help in developing a strong core and glutes. This pose can be part of your warm-up, integrated into your core/back workout

Keeping arms outstretched and feet flex, aim to hold the pose for as long as possible.

Keeping arms outstretched and feet flex, aim to hold the pose for as long as possible.

routine, or included as part of your stretch at the end of your training session.

To perform the Superman, lay on your stomach on an exercise mat. Place arms overhead, fully extended. Keeping your head in a neutral position, flex your feet. (Toes toward shins – Don’t point them)  This foot position keeps the focus on the glutes and lower back and not the hamstrings.  Simultaneously, raise your arms, legs and chest holding the contraction for 2 seconds. Lower and repeat 10-15 times. Complete 3 -4 sets.

Your goal should be to work up to holding the “flying” position as long as possible.

ALTERNATE SUPERMAN VARIATION:

If you find it difficult to perform the movement as described above, try the crisscross variation. In the same start position, first raise just the right arm and left leg, again holding the contraction for at least 2 seconds.  Repeat with left arm / right leg –  again aiming for 10-15 repetitions on each side.

As you gain strength, increase the length of time you hold the position and the number of repetitions. As your conditioning improves, you should also find that you will be able to rise higher and most importantly your low back pain level will decrease.Alternate Superman

The Straight Superman is another variation where you extend your arms straight down along your side. Slowly raise your legs and trunk as far as you can, making a “Bow” with your body. Try to hold this pose for a 10 count.  Slowly release and repeat for desired number of repetitions.

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Strong CORE = Stronger YOU.
Shari

by on Mar.13, 2010, under Fitness, Stretching / Flexibility

Core strength refers to the muscles of your abdominals and back and their ability to support your spine and keep your body stable and balanced.

The “core” consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine, pelvis and hip flexors and run the entire length of the torso. These muscles provide a solid foundation for movement in the extremities.  Think of your core where your center of gravity is located. It is the bridge between the upper torso, and the legs. It is the source of stability during daily activities and during exercise. It protects the internal organs in addition to stabilizing the spine.
A weak core can make you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries. Strong core muscles provide the brace of support needed to help prevent such pain and injury.

Core exercises work back and abdominal muscles in unison

Core exercises work back and abdominal muscles in unison

Abdominal muscles only make up one part of the core.

In addition to the abdominals, the core consists of muscles in your back, pelvic floor and hips. Many of the core muscles can’t be seen because they’re buried underneath other muscles.  This is precisely why many times they are overlooked when we exercise. One of the many “hidden” core muscles is the transverse abdominals, which are located behind the rectus abdominals (six pack, if you have one).  The transverse abdominis works deep inside keeping your posture upright and protects many of your internal organs.  The erector spinae, is another vital but hidden core muscle. –  – – It’s behind you, supporting your back. Strong core muscles keep your back healthy. They hold your body upright, improve your balance and enable you to have power, control and balance in your arm and leg movements. If the core muscles are weak, your body doesn’t work as effectively, and other muscles have to pick up the slack.

A weak Core = Recipe for back pain and/or injury

A weak Core = Recipe for back pain and/or injury

The most common site of injury related to lack of core strength is the lower back .

Strengthening the core will aide in reducing back pain. Weak core muscles result in a loss of the appropriate lumbar curve and a swayback posture. Stronger, balanced core muscles help maintain appropriate posture and reduce strain on the spine.  If you have weak muscles, poor posture and/or excess weight, your back will be one of the first places you feel the strain.

Learn how to strengthen your core, reduce back pain and get strong abs.

Any exercise that requires contraction of the muscles of the mid-section will work to strengthen the core. Most core exercises can be done anywhere and with minimal or no equipment other than your own body. Core strength training differs from many traditional weight training routines by working both the lower back and abdominals in unison.

Stability Balls for Core Workouts.  Versatile, Inexpensive and Portable.

Stability Balls for Core Workouts. Versatile, Inexpensive and Portable.

I recommend everyone invest in a stability ball for his or her home.  A  stability ball is inexpensive and portable and very easy to use for core exercises.  Try to focus on your breathe during each exercise, inhaling & exhaling deeply. Concentrate on tightening your deepest abdominal muscle — (the transversus abdominis) — during each exercise. This is the muscle you feel contracting when you cough.

Strengthening the core will reap tremendous benefits to anyone regardless of training experience. Workouts do not take long, and most importantly the  rewards are realized very quickly. Keep in mind that strengthening workouts — even core conditioning — are just one part of a complete fitness program. Include aerobic exercise and flexibility training to compliment your routine.

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CORE Training: PLANKS
Shari

by on Dec.12, 2009, under Fitness, Stretching / Flexibility

A solid core minimizes your chances of injury, corrects muscle imbalances and provides you with a pain-free better posture.

Plank

The plank is the most fundamental core exercise. It is the basis of many progressions to challenge and develop your core to its full potential. Not only does it strengthen the abdominal muscles but also works all the core muscles — the back, hips, etc.. Beginners can start by holding the position for 10-15 seconds, gradually increasing the time to one minute.

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Start: Lie flat on your stomach. Place your elbows and forearms on

Engage all core muscles, keep back & buttocks flat for maximum effect.
Engage all core muscles, keep back & buttocks flat for maximum effect.

the floor. Your elbows should be aligned right below your shoulders.

Begin the motion: Lift your hips up so your body is parallel with the floor. Your forearms to fists and the balls of your feet should be the only body parts touching the ground.

It is very important to not arch your back during the plank. Always make sure you feel the muscles in your abdominal area doing the work.

You should have your core drawn in tight and your glutes tightly contracted. If your form breaks down, stop, rest, and repeat.

Progressions are listed below. Make sure you can perform the most basic core exercises before you progress. This means you should be able to hold the static positions comfortably for a minute before progressing.

Beware of Cheating!

Remember to not let your hips and back sag. This exercise is only effective if you work to maintain a flat line from your shoulders to your feet.

Side Plank

Start: Lie on the floor on your side. Position your elbow directly under

Work to keep all muscles engaged & your body in a straight line
Work to keep all muscles engaged & your body in a straight line

your shoulder.

Begin the motion: Raise your body until it forms a straight line, with a straight spine. Hold this position while you maintain a drawn in core and contracted glutes. The side plank should be performed on both sides.

  • Beware of Cheating!

  • Remember to keep your body in a straight line, tightening your abs and butt muscles.
  • Try these variations to increase the difficulty and further improve stabilization of Core muscles

    Single Leg Plank

    Hold the plank position. Lift one leg off the floor. Make sure your foot is not externally rotated and your toe is pointed straight down toward the floor.

    Single Leg Abduction Plank

    Same as above. Abduct (bring away from body) the leg which is off the ground. Again, make sure your foot is not externally rotated and your toe remains pointed straight down towards the floor. This is difficult!

    Dynamic Side Plank

    Hold the side plank position. Slowly drop your hips until they touch the ground then bring back to original position, repeat.

    Weighted Side Plank

    Same as above. You can hold a dumbbell or weight plate on hip to increase the difficulty.

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