All Entries For strength training
Although I’ve always been physically active, I’ve had to force myself to focus more on strength training over the past few years. My preference has always been cardio exercise (just because that’s what I like to do), but trying to keep up with my kids and carrying little ones around all day made me realize I needed to get stronger. My youngest is now 10 months old and weighs over 20 pounds. She’s not walking yet, so I still carry her on my hip for a lot of the day. Since I don’t have lots of free time to head to the gym for long workouts, I’ve had to create my own programs that are time-efficient but still challenging.
My favorite workouts involve compound exercises, which combine two movements into a single exercise. There are a number of benefits to these types of exercises: they more closely mimic real- life movements since you rarely use muscles in isolation as you go about your day. They also save a lot of time since you’re getting two exercises done at once.
Here are 5 of my favorite exercises that target the muscles I’m using all day long, as I put one of my children down and pick up another: Read More ›
During the last few years, ultra-intense workouts have been gaining popularity—and not just among athletes or hardcore exercisers who are gluttons for self-punishment. Even the relatively unfit and overweight are jumping at the chance to push their bodies to their limits. Why? Some consider it fun. Others feel that is the best (or only) way to really get in shape. Whatever the reason, intense workout programs are attracting a wide variety of participants who have a variety of different goals (whether strength, speed, power, health, muscle tone, weight loss, or looking better naked).
By now you've probably heard of CrossFit (the "sport of fitness") or know someone who has tried it. I stumbled upon CrossFit videos on YouTube a few years ago and was immediately intrigued. I would spend hours a night watching people work out competitively and was in awe of their strength and capabilities—not to mention their physiques! I've learned a good deal about CrossFit since then, through my husband and sister-in-law (both of whom are certified CrossFit trainers), friends who do the workouts, and my own research and reading.
As a certified fitness professional with a traditional background (and without any firsthand experience in an actual CrossFit gym), I can certainly tell you that CrossFit is unlike most other workouts and workout programs out there. It strives to be the total fitness package—to help people achieve optimal health and fitness across all measures of strength, agility, speed, power and endurance. (Read CrossFit's full description here.) It combines Olympic powerlifting + gymnastics + plyometrics + speed work + weights + time + competition in a way that continuously challenges one's body in new ways. And although it has a reputation of being intense (which it certainly is, no doubt about it), proponents also claim that it's completely "scalable" to every individual's fitness level.
Sounds great, right? Well, could it be too good to be true? Read More ›
Contest closed! The winner is:
Are you still dragging your feet on strength training? You're not alone--many people tend to skimp on the weights in favor of calorie-torching cardio. However, while cardio is excellent for weight loss, strength training is just as important since lean muscle mass burns more calories than fat mass, even when you're at rest. So by lifting weights, you'll transform yourself into a more efficient calorie-burning machine while changing your physique from the inside out! Plus, strength training helps to increase bone density and maintain joint flexibility, which is crucial as you age.
You might feel that strength training sounds good in theory, but don't know where to start. You may lack the motivation, or need some help structuring an effective plan. Or, you might not feel comfortable working out in the weight room just yet. Do any of these excuses sound familiar? Look no further: we've got the strength training solution for you!
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The DVD Ageless with Kathy Smith: Staying Strong is Kathy's response to dealing with the physical issues that women begin to experience as they head into the menopausal and post-menopausal years. The DVD targets strength-building to help women gain muscle and bone mass, and includes four 15-minute routines that are a quick and fun way to improve fitness.
The first 15-minute segment focuses on arm strength. Kathy hits all arm muscles with her exercises, and provides modifications as she goes through the routine. Kathy is known for her great cueing and frequent coaching on maintaining proper form. She's also a motivating instructor and projects lots of energy-something that can be helpful when you're struggling through those last few repetitions.
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Get slim thighs, gorgeous glutes, and legs for days with these 4 simple lower-body exercises.
1. Ice Skater
Targets: Abs, lower back, hips, butt, and outer thighs
- Stand with feet a little less than shoulder-width apart, arms extended, holding the back of a chair for support.
- Keeping abs engaged, bend left knee slightly while extending right leg to right side, toes pointing toward floor and rotated outward.
- Bring right leg behind left leg as far as possible without touching floor, bending left leg; contract inner thigh.
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When I first started SparkPeople as a member back in 2004, I lost the first part of my weight by doing a lot of workout videos at home. To this day, I still love to try new workout DVDs when I can so I can continue to have variety in my workouts when the weather is bad. When Coach Nicole asked for help in reviewing DVDs for the dailySpark, I couldn’t help but be excited about the opportunity!
I recently tried out the Ageless with Kathy Smith: Total Body Turnaround DVD. As some of you may know, Kathy Smith has been in the fitness industry for a long time (nearly 30 years). She definitely knows her stuff, and what I love about this DVD is that Kathy is great about giving cues and instructions for proper form. She wants to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly so that you don’t injure yourself. (Believe me, injuries can happen to anyone). Now, I honestly can’t remember if I have seen or worked out with any of Kathy Smith’s other workout videos, but I was very pleased with this one.
From the DVD cover:
"Split into three 20-minute workouts, each one targets a physical change people face as they grow older. It’s like a reset button for your body!
First, the circuit segment trims and firms, ramping up your calorie burn and attacking your trouble spots. You’ll tone and strengthen your legs, buttocks, arms, and core all while trimming your waistline. Next, you’ll hone your balance, a vital practice to keep you doing the things you love. Finally, refresh and recharge with the total-energy segment. You’ll wake up your body and de-stress your life.
With plenty of modifications to match your experience level, Total Body Turnaround is a convenient, fun, and fast way to get fit. Whatever your age, you’ll feel stronger, leaner, and more energized!"
My take on the 3 segments:
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One of the most concerning physical changes that occurs in postmenopausal women is an accelerated loss in bone mineral density within the first several years after menopause. The rate of postmenopausal bone loss can vary for each woman, and factors such as her bone mineral density prior to menopause, diet, exercise level and genetics all influence her rate of bone loss.
All types of exercise are great for your health, but to build strong bones, weight-bearing exercises like running, stair climbing, walking and strength training are increasingly shown to help prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women.
Recent studies have found that combining weight bearing exercises like walking or running or even jump roping with higher-intensity, lower-repetition strength training three times a week was more beneficial for bone mineral density (bone mineral density) than just doing the cardio exercise alone.
One of the key findings from bone mineral density research is that only the areas of the body that are loaded by the force of muscle movement are stimulated to rebuild and increase in bone mineral density. For example, if you're a postmenopausal runner who doesn't do any upper body strength training, you may have bone loss in the bones of your upper body. Just like the saying about tooth health and flossing, “only floss the teeth you want to save” you need to think about your whole skeletal system when developing an exercise program, and include exercises that'll target your entire body.
What helps maintain and even increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women?
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Think popping a calcium supplement is all you need to ward of osteoporosis? Think again. Check out what exercises you should add to your routine to help build better bones.
In Your 30s: Must-Do Moves
For fitness, the more "good" stress you put on your skeleton, the stronger it becomes. Try these moves from Ellen Barrett, a personal trainer and member of the Family Circle Health Advisory Board, with the heaviest weights you can manage.
Canoe Move: Strengthens your entire lower body
Starting position: Stand upright with feet together, holding one 5- to 8-pound weight in each hand at your left hip. Read More ›
It's one of our most flab-melting routines ever: Eight of the best lab-tested toners mixed together to boost your metabolism, with no sweaty cardio required. You'll get up to three times more firming per rep as you torch a third more calories each minute -- during and after your workout -- compared with typical strength training. The skinny secret? Supersets! Cutting out downtime between sets, as with these alternating pairings of moves that work opposing muscles, "increases your metabolism not only because your heart rate stays higher throughout but also because the body works harder afterward to recover," says Mark Schuenke, PhD, assistant anatomy professor at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine. Schuenke's research suggests that the bonus after-burn for a 140-pound woman can be up to 306 calories in the 24 hours postworkout. All you'll need is a set of five- to eight-pound dumbbells and a sturdy chair to net this slimming side benefit. Go on -- turn up the burn! Read More ›
No one wants saggy or flabby arms that flap like wings when you wave to a friend or raise your glass for a celebratory toast. That back-of-the-upper-arm area is a common trouble zone for women, a place where extra fat and excess skin seems to gather, hang out (literally) and never go away!
One of the best ways to improve the appearance of your arms is to tone up those triceps. While there is no such thing as spot-training (the idea that you can lose weight in a specific area of the body by exercising it more), strength training does help you improve your overall muscle tone. Combine that with a good diet and cardio exercise (the real key to burning the fat that's hanging off those arms), and you'll achieve a fitter, more toned appearance. (And let's not forget that strong muscles are functional and healthy!)
I was eager to read the latest study from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). ACE enlisted a team of exercise scientists from the University of Wisconsin/La Crosse Exercise and Health Program to find out which of the 8 most common triceps exercises are the most effective, and which are a waste of time.
The results are noteworthy for anyone who wants to get the most from their time spent working out—especially those of us who want to tone those triceps.
So are you wasting your time on triceps exercises that don't really do much, or are you using the most effective triceps toners? Read More ›
Kettlebells continue to lead the way as one of the biggest fitness trends of 2011. Having participated in an eight week kettlebell class with a certified kettlebell instructor this past spring, it is now one of my favorite of all-time cross training activities that I do outside running.
Kettlebell training incorporates cardio using strength training moves when you transition quickly from one exercise to another. However, performing individual exercises can be quite challenging as well, while giving your body the same benefits as conventional strength training exercises. Read More ›
I've been really bad. You see, there's this new DVD—actually set of DVDs—that I tried months ago and loved. I mean L-O-V-E-D. And even though I continue to work out with these DVDs and still enjoy them, I haven't shared them with you. I know, it's completely unforgiveable. But I'm finally finding the time to share my this secret now, and the good news is that you, too, can now benefit from this fitness trifecta by Andrea Metcalf called "Keeping Fit" (Acacia, 2010). These were sent to the SparkPeople offices and I've been keeping "Keeping Fit" all to myself, and I don’t plan on giving up these DVDs any time soon.
The set ($32.49 at amazon.com) contains three distinct titles: Strength, Cardio and Pilates. Each DVD has 60 minutes of total workout time that can easily be split up into multiple 5-minute segments.
Based on the description on this box, it's actually geared toward middle age exercisers, designed to help "build lean muscle, increase bone mass, and enhance balance and flexibility so you can remain active." So I was actually expecting a pretty easy workout when I first popped in the DVDs. Boy was I surprised! Read More ›
I was first introduced to balance exercises by my running coach when I developed a minor ankle injury a few years ago. However, before I even began using the balance board my coach had me do series of progressive balance exercises initially using only one-foot on solid ground, followed by doing these same exercises on a mat, than a rolled mat, followed by the BOSU trainer before moving up to the balance board. It took a solid six months for me to master the moves, but with these exercises I have been able to recruit the muscles in a different manner, therefore providing me with better ankle stabilization and muscle balance.
Below are links to balance exercises using various types of balance equipment. Feel free to modify the more advanced exercises by doing them first on solid ground, then standing on one leg, then on a mat, a rolled mat, etc until you have mastered the techniques where you can perform them a balance board. Even doing such exercises as a dumbbell curl standing on one leg or overhead shoulder press on one leg can do wonders in developing core strength as well as better proprioception and muscle balance.
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Strength training is an important part of any workout program, but it's not without its risks. That's why I am always (over)emphasizing safety and form in my workout videos and in real life when I lead people through a class. When you're hoisting weights around, especially when attempting new moves your body isn't accustomed to, your risk of injury goes way up compared to exercises that use your body weight alone.
Case in point: A study published last year in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that between 1990 and 2007, almost 1 million Americans injured themselves badly enough to warrant visits to the ER. And during that nearly two-decade time period, strength-training injuries increased by 48% annually.
These injuries ran the gamut from minor sprains and strains to serious issues like dropping weights on one's own body or crushing a body part (like a foot or hand) between weights or weight equipment. Ouch.
But don't think that only newbies are at risk. It's easy to slack off on your form when you've been lifting weights for a while, and the fitter you get, the heavier weights you should be lifting—which means you're even more at risk. So whether you're new to weight training or a seasoned pro, here are four quick tips to remember so you can stay away from the doctor, too! Read More ›
One of the most common questions I hear from new and seasoned exercisers alike isn't about which exercises are most effective or whether you should work out on an empty stomach. It's a question of timing. Should you do cardio or strength training first?
Most fitness experts agree that there is no right or wrong answer here—that you should do whatever matters MOST to you first. So if your goal is weight loss, you'd probably be better off doing cardio (which burns a lot of calories and fat) before you strength train; and if your goal was building muscle size and strength, you'd do strength training first.
But what about the exercises you do during a single strength-training workout? Does it matter which moves you do first when you pick up the weights? Conventional exercise wisdom has always said the same thing: You should work your larger muscles before you train the smaller ones, meaning you'd train your glutes before you train your calves or your back before your biceps. But an interesting study conducted at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University in Brazil may change that advice if your goal is to tone up a particular area of the body. Read More ›