Shari Duncan

Tag: high intensity

Opposites Attract: Train opposing muscles to achieve muscular balance.

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


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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Why Ply…ometrics?

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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Jump, Jump for your Health!

by on Mar.06, 2010, under Fitness

Minute for minute, rope skipping may be the single, most complete & beneficial exercise around.

It’s inexpensive, portable and easily incorporated to anyone’s lifestyle or fitness level.

Don’t be mistaken, rope skipping is hard work…but that’s good for you.  The more you do, the better your stamina.


Jumping rope can burn up to 1000 calories per hour, making it one of the most efficient workouts possible. It is considered a low-level plyometric exercise that can help develop muscular strength and power. It develops both muscular and cardio stamina as well as muscle tone, by developing long, lean muscles in both upper and

Powerful tool for Fitness!

Powerful tool for Fitness!

lower major muscle groups.

Jump rope training  also enhances:

  • Coordination
  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Quickness, timing
  • Footwork
  • Endurance and overall athletic conditioning

The heart rate achieved by jumping rope is equivalent to the heart rate achieved during running and jogging but without all of the jarring to the knees. In fact, jumping can help to strengthen calves, arms, shoulders and even abs. This form of cardiovascular exercise can increase metabolic levels – even after the workout is complete. As a result and because of the high calorie expenditure in a short time, jumping rope will burn excess fat & is an exceptionally efficient form of exercise for weight loss.

Many athletes skip rope as part of their training  (think boxing) and others engage in rope jumping competitions. There are numerous jumping techniques and levels of complexities to challenge even the most conditioned person.


One of the most prominent benefits of rope skipping is its simplicity.

Jump ropes are extremely inexpensive (especially compared to other fitness equipment) and can be purchased just about anywhere.  A quality jump rope might set you back about $10.00 !!   All that is needed is a 3’x4’ area to workout which means you can jump in your living room, backyard, office or gym.  They can be packed up in suitcases; purses or back packs with ease – making  this the perfect exercise for travelers.

No matter what your fitness level, anyone can have fun while working out with a jump rope. The more you do, the more creative and versatile you can become with your workouts.  And, This is one workout that the physical benefits will be felt immediately!


Done properly, with the feet coming off the ground an inch or two, rope skipping is safe for all.  Although considered a “high impact” activity, it is a lower impact form of cardiovascular exercise than jogging.  And current research shows that some form of high impact activity is beneficial in maintaining strong, healthy bones.  Jumping on a shock absorbent surface such as a wood floor, gym mat, outdoor track, or tennis court will be more forgiving on the ankles and feet.  Avoid concrete, asphalt and other hard surfaces when possible.

Be sure to start with the right equipment. A good pair of supportive athletic shoes is important, as they will provide more lateral stability. (– To avoid things like twisting an ankle!)  Good shoes will also save wear and tear on your feet and joints.

If you want to begin a rope-jumping program, ease into it just as when starting any new exercise program. If you are not fit, skipping rope for long periods initially can raise your heart rate too high and too fast.  Begin slowly, gradually increasing both time and intensity.

One way to start is by alternating rope skipping with marching/walking in place. Jump for one minute then march in place for one minute until you’ve completed a 10-minute cycle. As you improve, where you go with jump roping depends on you, your level of health and fitness, and how you want to incorporate it into your routine.

who says workouts and weight loss cant be FUN?

Who says working out and weight loss can't be FUN?

Jumping rope adds great variety to any workout. Try alternating one – two minute jumping intervals with other aerobic or circuit training activities.  Remember that variety is key to keeping boredom out and achieving the desired results from your training sessions. It is important to take part in activities that are fun and accessible…

It was fun when you were 5, so why not give jumping rope another look?

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Interval Training

by on Jan.28, 2010, under Fitness, Motivation, Weight Loss

The WHAT, HOW,  and WHY’s of intervals.

When you want to shake up your workouts and burn more calories without adding time in the gym, it is time to take a closer look at interval training.


Interval training is basically exercise which consists of activity at high intensityfor a period of time, followed by low intensity exercise for a period of time. Workouts are repeated for a  predetermined number of sets or overall time.

The high intensity portion of the exercise are called sprint intervals and is measured by time or by distance.  The periods of recovery are called rest intervals and involves the activity performed at a low intensity. The time of the recovery period is determined by general fitness level or by the type of sprint interval.

Examples of interval training are:

Timed sets of sprints and recovery are one example of interval training

Timed sets of sprints and recovery are one example of interval training

  • Stair Climbing/running
  • Plyometrics
  • 30 second sprint drills
  • Boot Camp Workouts
  • Speed and / or Agility drills
  • Jump Rope Workouts

A proper interval training routine involves  just enough rest to be able to push hard for the next intense effort…and you should be breathing pretty hard when the whole series is finished!!


The “how” of interval training is all about INTENSITY…. or how hard you push during the sprint interval.  Intensity is usually measured on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being no effort whatsoever while 10 represents the maximum effort possible. This is a very subjective scale based on the individual’s fitness level and the type of activity.  A ‘10’ would then be  the maximum amount of effort a person can safely expend for that particular interval.  The rest or relief interval allows the bodies high energy systems to regenerate and get ready for another round of oncoming high intensity work.


High Intensity Interval Training works because it is highly adaptable and can be tailored for anyone from novice to trained athletes.   And most importantly it produces results.

1) Saves time. Most intervals last about 20 minutes in comparison to an hour or more on the treadmill with traditional cardio exercise.

2) Stimulates a greater release of growth hormone. Studies have shown that intense interval training produces growth hormone which build lean muscle mass.

3) Better for your joints. There is less exposure on the joints because it takes less time to complete.

4) Metabolic disturbance. Interval training increases metabolism and post-exercise oxygen consumption which has been shown to burn fat for 24 hours after the interval session.

5) Variety. Interval training can be done with body weight exercises, on exercise machines, with medicine balls, with weights, and outdoors. Interval training is an effective method that has many tools.  This is important because workouts will never become stale or boring!

AND … more calories are typically burned during interval training than in lower-intensity exercise. By adjusting the intensity with bursts of movement throughout the workout,  the body is able to work  harder for a longer period of time than with moderate sustained aerobic exercises.

Interval training will improve conditioning and performance quickly, usually in just a few weeks.

As conditioning improves,  heart rate will be lower at both the work and active-recovery interval.  When that happens,  gradually increase the work ratio by 15 seconds to up to a full minute and decrease the active-recovery interval.

IMPORTANT: You should be out of breath and sweaty during the work interval to make it work but not so hard that you put yourself at risk for injury

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by on Dec.03, 2009, under Fitness, Motivation, Natural Bodybuilding

Are you ready to take your workouts to the next level??

Try the following  techniques individually or in any combination regardless of your current fitness level or experience in the gym.  Just remember that the most important aspect of any training is to be safe.  Practice safe technique and form before taking it to the next level.  It should ALWAYS be about quality of exercise and not quantity (of weight, or time, or speed, etc.)

.. After all, if you injure yourself on the first day, you are not maximizing your workout!

  1. PREPARE YOUR BODY FOR YOUR WORKOUT :  Dynamic warm-ups  get your body ready to perform.  Take a few minutes before jumping right in to take your body through basic functional movements that include bending, twisting and rotating the body. Dynamic warm-ups begin to raise your body temperature  and prepare the muscles, joints and nerves for your workout.
  2. INTERVAL TRAINING:   This is all about short-burst high intensity exercise followed by brief recovery periods.   This type of training is one of the most effective techniques for fat burning. Just 10-15 minutes of high intensity interval training is proven to be more effective in fat burning than 60 minutes of continuous, moderate cardio… REALLY!  The key word here is INTENSITY.. and form.  Again, this is about quality not quantity.  Sprints, plyometrics, and kettlebell swings are perfect ways to implement intervals into your workouts.
  3. TIMED WORKOUTS:  Get out your stopwatch! Very similar to interval training but the bursts of exercise last a bit longer and instead of performing total body movements, you isolate particular body parts with resistance exercises. This technique maximizes the effect of resistance training because you are also burning body fat by elevating your heart rate. Using a moderately heavy weight, focus on proper form, aim for a lifting time between 40-60 seconds with no more than 20 seconds of rest between sets.
  4. SUPERSETS – USING BODY WEIGHT:   Add variety and intensity by simply adding a second, similar exercise for a particular muscle group. This is also an extremely time efficient technique to improve strength and lean muscle development.  Do not use any weights for the second exercise.  Chest presses super-setted with push-ups; back rows super-setted with body-weight pull ups are  a couple of examples.
  5. RECOVERY & REGENERATION:  Your body requires recovery time  from the breakdown in muscle fibers caused by intense working out.  Without appropriate rest, over training may occur and result in injury and may in fact limit your progress.  Be sure to give specific muscle groups at least 48 hours to recover before training them again. Integrate regeneration exercises such as stretching, yoga and foam rolling techniques on your rest days to assist in muscle recovery.
  6. INTEGRATIVE TRAINING:   Simply put… Shock your body into transformation by changing things up often by incorporating a variety of fitness routines.  If you always do the  same routine, your body will adapt and you  stop making progress.  Plus, variety will keep you engaged, interested and challenged.   Try Yoga, cycling, kickboxing, plyometrics, sprinting, or my all time favorite – staduim stair running.  Talk about challenging  and pushing yourself to the next level!


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