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Emulate Those You Want To Look Like

Monday, July 19, 2010

Which type of physique do you admire and wish you looked like? Is it the people who run all the time? Bike? Sit on the couch with a remote in one hand and a bag of pork skins in the other? The ones who spend all their time at the gym in cardio classes? Doing Pilate's or Yoga? Those who spend most of their workout time on weight lifting machines? Or the ones who spend their time on the grunt-end of the gym with the heavy free weights and bare-bones machines?

None of these answers are wrong (except for perhaps the couch potato one, simply because it will lead you to an early grave). The answer, though, should clearly show you what it is you need to be doing to obtain a body most closely resembling the one you desire.

Me? I took a look around many years ago and decided I'd most like to look like the gals who compete in figure and bikini competitions. Upon a little investigation I discovered those ladies spend a bulk of their exercise time lifting heavy weights, and a moderate amount of time doing both cardio and stretching, while completely avoiding steroids. (I did NOT want to look like a freaky manly-muscled she-male- Gross!) They eat really clean and keep a good amount of protein in their diets. So I decided to do what they do and see how close to looking like them I could come. I've never regretted that decision. It's yielded me results that I am really happy with.

So if you like the way gymnasts look, take a look at how they train (and eat!) and see if you can't implement some of those principles into your own exercise time. If want a runners legs, run! (And if you don't like the way runners legs look, why are you running?) Like the way yoga enthusiasts look? Yep- Do yoga! But if if you want muscle tone, even a little, you're going to have to get on down where the big boys work out and start picking up really heavy stuff. I've never seen someone with substantial muscle tone who only does group exercise classes! Am I dogging group classes? No! I love them and take them occasionally. But they aren't going to get the kinds of results alone that adding weight lifting into the equation will.

If you want to look fit, though, you're gonna have to do something more than just have low body fat. You're going to have to find time to exercise. And how you exercise will eventually dictate the way your body looks, so choose how to spend your exercise time wisely.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NEWYORKORCHIDS 7/30/2010 12:55PM

  I'm an idiot...why didn't I think of this? It's so simple.

Thank you!!!

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MINIUM 7/27/2010 2:34AM

    Great! Thanks!

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TINA5318 7/23/2010 10:42AM

    emoticon emoticon

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MICHARM 7/20/2010 6:54PM

    Perfect blog...I too am like you and loving the lifting heavier! I think I may need to find a workout partner soon, because I am afraid to go heavier without a bit of assistance! I really do not want to hurt myself- so a spotter would be nice once or twice a week.
You are looking amazing! I am following your lead!!!

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KERANCE 7/20/2010 5:07PM

    This is so true. I looked at someone and thought 'I wanna look like that' - so I started lifting and now own weights lol
xXx

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TABS17 7/20/2010 4:03PM

    Right on once again!!! :)

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KJFITNESSDUDE 7/20/2010 1:27PM

    You make a good point about having a vision of whom you'd like to look like. It's been studied that people who have the end goal/product in mind that that helps tremendously in their efforts to reach that goal. I like Steve Austin's Bad Ass shoulder ball look so I work mine hard every week and guess what? I'm getting there!!!!

I never knew what horseshoe tricpes were until YOU mentioned it. So i got pics, LOTS OF PICS of that horseshoe look and mine are getting more defined every week. I'm glad I looked it up, I LOVE 'EM!!!

Another note: I have read/heard women talk about staying the hell away from weights because they don't want to look manly. Is it true a woman, not taking steroids and just lifts on a regular workout schedule, can BECOME manly looking? I mean those manly looking women (which I sorta like that look,....) don't spend a lot of time in the gym and take supplements galore including steroids? Don't you have to do all that inorder to get that MANLY look?

NancyAnne, you exemplify the epitome of a well-trained, good looking woman, it just so happens that you lift weights as a part of your physical training which has worked for you. You in NO WAY WHATSOEVER look manly, your body shape is all woman (is it me or is it getting hot in here? *gulp*)
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Bottomline: You look great and your sharing of this information is not only helpful to those of us who need guidance but a real service to helping people become healthy in our society.

Sal-LUTE!
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GONNA_BREAKAWAY 7/20/2010 12:56PM

  I love walking but it won't get me the definition I want. Thanks for making me think about this.

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SHAYGETSFIT 7/20/2010 11:50AM

    Like it...ALOT!!!!

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MESEATURTLE 7/20/2010 1:46AM

    u totally make sense!!!i never thought about this before....now i will! thanx so much

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SUNSHINE667 7/20/2010 1:16AM

    I love it Nancy Anne and thanks for the reminder! Well, you will always be my SHEro! I am the first to admit, you told me the exact same thing...to get the body I want I had to get down with the big boys and watch what you put in your mouth! So true and I 'm proof it DOES make such a big difference!

Thanks girl!



emoticonBlog!!!

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ALESHABEE 7/19/2010 11:07PM

    Amen sister! I love, love, love cardio but like you said it will not give you the toned body that you want. So I'm getting down in there with the big boys, emoticon

My problem is I want to look like the figure competitor but want to run a marathon, lol

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CDSPARK 7/19/2010 10:54PM

    Thanks!

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Abdominal Workout Tips

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your ab exercises. All of these help to ensure that your abdominal muscles do the work and not other body parts:

1. When doing any kind of crunch, strait up or to the side for obliques, keep your elbows so far back that you can only see them in your peripheral vision.

2. Also for any kind of crunch, keep your chin well back from your chest wall. You at least want a fists-length distance between your chin and the base of your neck- more is better.

3. When doing standard crunches, focus on a spot on the ceiling slightly behind your head. You want to be looking up and back, not up and forward.

4. When doing side crunches, pull your shoulder towards your knee, not your elbow. Keep your elbow far back as in rule #1, above. Envision there is a rope or cable attaching your shoulder and opposite knee that is being pulled on to pull you up into the crunch position. And come up as far as possible on side-crunches.

5. When doing strait-leg lifts (also called ceiling stamps) for lower abs, point your toes towards the ceiling at the top of the move.

6. ALWAYS think of the part of the abs you are using (middle, upper, lower, or obliques) as the originator of the movement. The more mental focus you can put on the muscle worked, the more muscle fibers you will engage and therefore the better the workout of the muscle will be.

And remember: The best ab work you do is in how you eat. The less fat cells you have at your mid-section, the better your abs will look.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

AMERAG 6/15/2011 2:07PM

    makes a lot of sense now

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NARA87 12/10/2010 10:33PM

    Hi, just read this and it's great advice, but I have a question (I'm sorry, I know the post is old): I always shake when I do crunches. Any idea as to what I'm doing wrong? An instructor at the gym told me that I shouldn't, but he didn't tell me how to avoid it.

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DRAGONPEARL 8/4/2010 10:53AM

    Thank you! These were excellent tips!

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JAZZID 7/31/2010 5:31PM

    emoticon

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LOVE_2_RUN 7/25/2010 10:57PM

    Thanks for these tips!!

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GONABFIT 7/14/2010 8:10PM

    Great tips! My next goal is to make my stomach my FAVORITE body part!

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FITBECKSRN24 7/10/2010 10:40AM

    thanks for the tip! they'll deff hlep!

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NA-NA0921 7/10/2010 2:36AM

    Thanks for the tips.I really can use them in my abs workout.

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WREN67 7/9/2010 6:47PM

    Thanks - this is a huge help! I've been getting more out of my abs exercises (thank goodness), but I know that I could do more. Especially #2 and #3.

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SUNSHINE667 7/9/2010 5:46PM

    Thank you for the this post! This will help me with my ab workouts...thanks again!

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KERANCE 7/9/2010 5:01AM

    emoticon
Thanks for tips

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FITWITHIN 7/8/2010 10:41PM

    I'm waiting for the day I see some definition with the abs. I still have a long way to go. However, I'm very confident that day will come.

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JMCADE 7/8/2010 10:21PM

    thanks for the tips. I can really use them. Some of these I didn't realize made a difference. Thanks again

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Squatting Re-learned

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The biggest difference to my body since I've started working with personal trainers is my hips. I'm convinced that it's because they've had me squatting so much. Just about every single time we worked lower body they had me doing some kind of squat.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't really like squats. Never have. They're hard, and I've always been afraid of injuring myself. The first time I did squats many years ago I did too many reps with too much weight and employed bad technique. I literally hurt my whole body. I could barely walk for a week or so. I probably should have gone to the hospital. Ever since then I've been leery of squats. But knowing what I do now, I think squatting should always be included in a lower body workout. Even when you dislike them like I do.

My first trainer was a power lifter. Therefore, the man knew about squats! Here are some things I learned from him that might help you:

1. TAKE A WIDER STANCE THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED TO (shoulder-width apart is usually a little wider than you think it is), and turn your toes slightly OUT. The way most of us learned, with toes pointing forward, isn't necessarily best. After doing some research I discovered that the toes-pointed-out version of the squat is a power-lifting stance. I'd had problems with my knees when I did squats with my toes pointed forward before, but haven't since I've started doing them with my toes out. My guess? The risk of injury to the knees is lessened in this position. I think power lifters, bearing those huge amounts of weight, discovered this long ago.

The other advantage to turning toes out is that it more recruits the inner thigh muscles. This not only involves more muscle in the exercise, therefore giving you more power, but also tones up this area faster than anything else I've tried for inner thigh to date.

2. STAY IN YOUR HEELS! That first trainer, Ross, had to work to drill it through my head to stay far, far back on my heels all the way through the move. This helps to keep the knee from jutting too far out over the toe and puts the emphasis where it needs to be- on the quads and glutes. Lean back hard on your heels on the way down and drive up through them on the way up. I'm so far back on my heels when I squat that my toes are almost lifted off the floor, and Ross often STILL told me that I was too much on the front of my foot. He harped on me about heels more than anything else. Evidently, it's a pretty important point to squatting.

3. YOU AREN'T GOING DOWN LOW ENOUGH! I'm sure you've heard of the hard and fast "Don't let your thighs go below parallel to the ground" rule. This is a very valid rule, and you should follow it. However, parallel to the ground is MUCH lower than you think it is! When I finally got myself low enough that Ross approved, I felt like my butt was going to hit the backs of my shins. When I watched Ross do it, I thought it looked like HIS butt was going to hit the backs of his shins! But here's the thing- it's the FRONT of your thigh you are wanting to have parallel to the ground, not the back. If you have thick thighs like me, parallel is a very different thing when you are considering the front of your thighs as opposed to the back. I'll be honest: Coming down low like this is uncomfortable and awkward- especially at first when your hip flexibility is still improving! But it's recruiting more muscle, and therefore giving you a much better workout.

4. YOUR KNEES AREN'T AS FAR OUT OVER YOUR TOE AS YOU THINK THEY ARE. Another thing that I worried about with squatting in the past is the position of my knee over my toe. It's a widely known fact that when doing any kind of exercise your knees should not project past your toes. However, the execution of your heels as described in point #2 above prevents your knees from coming out too far and causing damage. So.... if you employ point #2(heels), it will ensure you don't hurt yourself with point #3(thighs parallel). Make sense?

5. LOOK STRAIT AHEAD! This was probably been the hardest habit for Ross to break with me. I thought constantly looking down at my knees to ensure they weren't jutting past my toes was a good thing. But when you look to the side while squatting you subconsciously swing ever so slightly to one side, putting uneven stress on your joints, especially your knees. Pretend your neck is in a brace and look strait ahead and slightly up!

6. IF YOU ARE A WOMAN, DON'T BE AFRAID OF SQUATS! They do GREAT things for a woman's rear view!

At first, after a hard squatting workout I always found it interesting that some part of my upper body (usually shoulders) was more sore and felt better worked than it did when I work that same body part specifically. That's because, while generally targeted for the quadricep (front of thigh) and glute (butt) muscles, squats literally involve the whole body, making muscles work in ways they've never been challenged before. And THAT'S a whole lot of bang for your exercise buck!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ANAJAMA 8/18/2011 8:15AM

    the only time I do squats and lunges is in the hot iron class which I got to only once a week and they've only been in the warm up during the programme we did the last three months. this entry makes me think I should do squats more often than that, maybe on my cardio days. I guess I never did them often enough in order to get considerable results. thanks!

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JANC7223 8/5/2011 12:04PM

    This was very informative. Thanks.

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BAILEYS7OF9 8/5/2011 10:59AM

    emoticonthanks so much!

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NFLDCOOPER 11/7/2010 7:11PM

    Thanks for the info. I checked it out after you replied to a message I posted in the "Gain Muscle" forum. Thanks again for the info, very helpful and enlightening. Better than anything else I've read online to date about squats.

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HEALTHY4ME 10/6/2010 5:11PM

    I have never ever ever b een able to squat, even as a kid. I always had to use my knees. well now at 53 I have had one knee surg. and today being a bad day, can't manage the stairs well. Thanks for thses tips cos I am going to try squatting but not till my knees stop throbbing. It is supposed to rain tomorrow an dbetting that is part of the issue. thanks for this blog.

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BECKY_ROWE1984 9/12/2010 8:49AM

    Love this blog. I love squats but having realised that my technique is not quite there yet I am going back to basics to get things sorted. As said this is such a powerful movement and engages the whole body. I have tried the toe out version before and they are amazing for the inner thigh. Gotta love em!
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SILVERSCOTLAND 7/21/2010 9:25PM

    Oh, so glad I'm not the only one who has/had trouble with the 'look straight ahead" I don't like to look straight because there's always a blooming mirror in front of me and i can see how naff I look while lifting. I just keep telling myself one day I'm going to LOVE looking into that bloody mirror. Brilliant Blog! emoticon

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NYCFA1 7/20/2010 7:39AM

    Thanks for the tips. Especially the one about staying in your heels. I was doing No More Trouble Zones the other day and making an effort to stay in my heels and WOW! what a difference it made. Especially taking the pressure off the knees. Thanks!

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IXCHEL23 7/17/2010 9:35PM

    Thanks for the great informative blog! So there still is hope for my pear-shaped big butt and thighs to get toned!

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FINEARSESOON 7/14/2010 1:00AM

    Um...Yeah. Thumbs up to all of what you said. My 17 yr old daughter has started coming to the gym with me and I'm teaching her all these tips...plus weighted lunges. There will be no falling rear ends...haha! Great tips NancyAnne!!!!!

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DREMARGRL 7/13/2010 11:14PM

    Better late than every, NancyAnne....This is a great, informative blog. Thanks...I'm sure you've helped a lot of people with form here. Squats and lunges....Fabulous for the boo-tay! XO MaryAnn

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BECCA103 7/7/2010 11:29AM

    Nancy, I just got caught up on your blog posts and I thank you for sharing so much with all of us that are new to weight training. Becca ;~)

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JSOL170 7/5/2010 4:39PM

    I am learning so much from reading your blogs today... just read your ab's one too. Thanks for all the helpful information and for being very descriptive. I'm a newby and I love trying new things. Your making my butt hurt just thinking about the workout. Hehe, Love it!

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WRITINMYSTORY 7/4/2010 8:38AM

    Hey Nancy!
Thanks for the great reminders in this blog. It is always good to go back and review what you think you have already learned. I remembered your tips this week and definitely felt it in my inner thighs and my bootay! take care!

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DS9KIE 7/4/2010 12:27AM

    great info

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BIKERCHICK74 7/3/2010 1:23AM

    Sweet!!!! Thank you!

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HARISHABAD 7/2/2010 2:14PM

    Wow, great info. I will try these tips in the gym today and refer to this again and again. I am fully convinced of the effectiveness of squats but I battle knee pain all the time so I really have to watch my technique.

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CCFIRECRACKER 7/2/2010 1:10AM

    awesome blog! i can't wait to try these techniques in my workout tomorrow. i've never been a fan of squats either yet they target the area where i need the most work so THANK YOU!!!

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MISTYMOVIN 6/29/2010 12:25PM

    Wow, I tried the lower/wider stance today with the barbell and that is a killer. I thought I was going pretty low before, but yeoch. I managed to get 2 sets in at least with my normal weight load.

I'm thinking I'm going to do some more front squats holding a plate to really push my core stabilization and practice that lower squat.

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TKDGIRL49 6/29/2010 7:44AM

    Ok, NancyAnne,

You've become my idol! Your such an inspiration!

Love your knowledge , I hope you know how helpful you are to us.


Thank you very much for sharing*

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ROCKNBUTTERFLY 6/28/2010 4:16PM

    I actually like squats I feel them in my booty for days:) Great blog

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MRSGOFARR 6/28/2010 11:24AM

    my but was burning just reading this. i just discovered this too with my personal trainer.

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ALIMESSA 6/27/2010 10:29PM

    AWESOME blog...thank you so much for the great info. Doing the P90X right now, and, although they don't do a ton of squats, they do enough to where it is nice to know how to get the most out of the exercise...he gives you some tips, but not to the extent that you have, that is for sure...thanks again!

As always,
Stay Strong!!

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TABS17 6/27/2010 9:01PM

    Everything you said is Right On!! I LOVE squats and the development of my derriere (sp?)is credited directly to them!! I have done smith squats, barbell squats, front squats, DB squats, sumo squats...but my ABSOLUTE favorite and current squat workout is belt squats!! Love, Love, Love them!

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HULAHOOPLA 6/27/2010 8:03PM

    after reading this i doubt if i'm going low enough. i'm going to have someone watch me this week. i always enjoy your blogs. thank you for sharing your knowledge!

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MRS.CARLY 6/27/2010 7:38PM

    Do you do squats with a smith machine, barbell or Dumbbells?

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WREN67 6/27/2010 7:03PM

    Thank you for this - it was a huge help to me! I used to be terrified of squats and have only recently (past few months) started doing them again - and only in the last month or so been actually getting low (though I'm guessing not as low as I should be getting). I had to laugh at the knees beyond toes point - I am very worried about this (and will often look!) - I swear, I feel like they are coming close to going past, but must not be - I haven't had any pain.
I will use all of these points to improve my squats - because, goodness know, I want the benefits they offer!!

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GERAPTIKO 6/27/2010 5:34PM

    Thank you for these great tips!

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STYLELADY1 6/27/2010 5:12PM

    Thanks so much for posting these informative blogs - you are a real educator! LOoking forward to reading more.
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MISTYMOVIN 6/27/2010 4:52PM

    Awesome thanks. The guy who taught me squats also had me pointing toes outward and sinking into the heels..but I'm probably not doing it enough after reading this blog. My next squat session I think I'll empty my bar and work on the technique again just to make sure I'm doing it all right.

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ABBEYCHARLIE 6/27/2010 4:51PM

    Awesome post! Jillian Michaels employs a lot of squats in her videos and I am always wondering if I am doing them right! This was a great, very descriptive intro to proper squat technique. Thanks!!

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Least and Most Fav Lifting Moves

Monday, June 21, 2010

Here are my favorite moves for different body parts when lifting weights, along with my least favs and the ones I feel are most effective for me personally. Thought this might get people thinking about how they can change their routines up!

Starting from the top:

Delts:
Fav move- Lateral Raises
Least Fav Move- Dumbbell bent-over Rear Delt raises (awkward!)
Most effective move- Probably Arnold Presses

Triceps:
Fav move- Overhead rope cable extensions (don't remember the real name, but I'm sure you know what I'm talking about)
Least Fav- Barbell Skull Crushers (hard to keep my elbows in alignment)
Most effective- Probably bench dips.

Biceps:
Fav Move- 21's
Least Fav Move- Cross-body curls- have to do them one at a time, so they take eons!
Most effective- 21's

Pecs:
Fav Move- Flat Dumbbell Flyes
Least Fav- Machine Flyes (hard to get the seat the right height)
Most effective- Bench press

Back: (My fav body part to work, by the way)
Fav Move- Strait-arm lat pull-downs (LOVE the way these feel!)
Least Fav- Good mornings. Feels like they are putting too much stress in the wrong places
Most effective- Wide-grip chins with palms facing forward

Abs:
Fav Move- Cable Crunches
Least Fav- Planks (these stress my shoulders way before I feel anything in my abs)
Most effective- Hanging Leg Raises

Hams/glutes:
Fave move- Stiff-legged deadlifts
Least Fav- Weighted Hyperextensions
Most effective- Stiff-legged deadlifts

Quads:
Fave Move- Weighted Walking Lunges
Least Fav- Squats
Most effective- Squats
Exercise I do most often for entire lower body- Squats
Exercise I would do if I only had time to do one for lower body- Squats (It's the granddaddy of lower body exercises, and what I believe has been the most instrumental in reshaping my bottom half. I have a true love/hate relationship with Squats.)

Calves:
Fav move- Bent-knee Toe Presses on Leg press Machine
Least Fav- Any calf move done Reeeealllllly slowly. Youch!
Most effective- Standing Calf 21's

Was this a completely useless blog? Tell me what you think!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ROVISI 1/24/2011 11:49PM

    What are these 21s of which you speak....

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JAZZID 7/31/2010 5:36PM

    ... OMG, you like "walking lunges".. . emoticon, they are killer... I like "squats", so I am glad to hear that they are the most effective emoticon..

Planks are my least fav too, and like you, my shoulders seem to get much of the workout... I have to get something to put in the doorway to that I can do the hanging abs exercise,

... very informative, thanks for sharing... emoticon ~ Dee ~

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LINELIJEN 7/28/2010 3:17PM

    I'm going to do squats today then! I hardly do strength training but I'm seeing how important it is. :) Thanks!

-Lindsey

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MQBEAST 6/25/2010 8:50AM

  I agree with you completly on all exercises, want to workout sometime? Your before/after transformation pics are crazy amazing!

P.S. I LOVE SQUATS
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ALIMESSA 6/24/2010 1:59PM

    Your blogs are never useless!! They are always so informative...full of great information!! Thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom and knowledge with us!! I'm doing the P90X right now, but when I stop that, I will definitely be coming back to reference many of your blogs to get some ideas!

As always,
Stay Strong!!

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ALESHABEE 6/23/2010 10:04AM

    Thanks for the info...I had forgotten about 21s (duh!). Will be doing those...love lat pull downs and step-ups are great for legs too. For me they were responsible for shaving lots of inches off my thighs :)

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EPIPHANYANGEL 6/22/2010 6:05PM

    My favourite exercise has to be reverse crunches and my least least favourite are forward lunges emoticon

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SAMSON826 6/22/2010 11:20AM

    this is a great blog...can you or anyone explain what 21's are.?

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MASONK 6/22/2010 10:30AM

    This is a great blog. I'll definitely be trying some of your favs.

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HELENAWF 6/22/2010 8:22AM

    Thanks for sharing! My least favorite exercise is bench step ups. Hard to do and awkward at times. Favorite exercise is pull ups now that I can do them, lol.
Wendy

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SEPTEMBERSPIRIT 6/22/2010 4:49AM

    Not useless at all - it's great to see your fav's because it's obviously working! Thanks again for sharing!!

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WREN67 6/21/2010 11:39PM

    Answered my own question...

And yes, the blog is a great help!

Comment edited on: 6/22/2010 11:10:26 AM

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TABS17 6/21/2010 11:34PM

    LOL!!

Love Arnold Presses and Hate Lateral Raises!!

Triceps...I agree!

Bi's...Fave is Preachers, least fave BB Curls.

Pecs...HATE DB flys!! Love to bench!!

Back...Hate hypers!! Love the rest!

Abs...Love Cable Crunches and Suspended leg raises!

Hams...LOVE Deadlifts!!

Quads...HATE lunges! LOVE Squats!! Belt squats, ever try them???

Calves...anything slow!! LOL I so know this pain!!!!

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WREN67 6/21/2010 11:33PM

    PERFECT timing!!!

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The Evolution of a Muscular Back

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Many years ago (20 or more), I saw an article in a magazine where the author gave kuddos to the best body parts in Hollywood. Raquel Welch got the vote for back, and the attached caption for the beautiful photo of her back stated that a muscular back on a woman is sexy.

I decided I was going to try and get a back like that.

And try I did. Back had always been my favorite body part to work, but at that point I started putting concentrated effort into building the back muscles when I lifted. The problem was that I couldn't really see my back and it didn't occur to me to have someone take a picture (bright, I know!), so I never knew if my efforts were paying off.

Then I started working with as a nutritionist and distance coach in February of 2010. He taught me some basic posing and I had my daughter take pictures to show him, so that he could see where my body was muscle-wise and have a good idea of the work that needed to be done. When I looked at those first photos I was shocked for two reasons: 1) I was REALLY bad at posing, and B) I had developed back muscles! I truly was stunned. 24 or so years of weight lifting had paid off, I just hadn't known it until that very moment.

I think I can safely say I not only met my goal of having muscle like Raquel's, but surpassed it.

This isn't to say that it will take you 24 years of lifting to have a strong back, but it IS to say that when you concentrate efforts on building up this area, for Pete's sake, be sure to have someone snap flexed pics along the way!

Okay, so here is my prescription for building a strong back:

1) Diet. As I stated in my "Creating Abs You Can Be Proud Of" blog, if you don't get the fat off of the area, you'll never see all the beautiful muscle you are building. Having said that, many people gain fat in their backs LAST, so it could very well be that you will see development in this area faster than others. I know this is the case with me. But if you have excess fat to lose anywhere on your body, do it! A little will still come off of your back, and even a small amount of fat reduction can make a big difference in how much developed muscle you can see. Also, proper nutrition and a cleaned-up diet (ban the junk!) will help you to put on muscle much faster.

2) Lift heavy! You can't get a muscular back without resistance training. Push-ups alone aren't going to build a balanced and symmetrically muscular back. You are going to have to pick up the weights!

3) When I train, I target 3 different muscle groups: Lats, Rhomboids, and low back. The lats are the muscles that flare out to the side under your armpit and down the side of the ribcage when well-developed. These look wing-like on very muscular men, in particular. The rhomboids are what I call the tenderloins- they run on either side of the upper area of the back bone and attach to the scapula. The lower back is all the muscles that make up the lower region of the back area. As I said in my abs blog, if I have not done an exercise that brings low back in some other time in my workout week (stiff-legged dead lifts, hyperextensions, etc), I will include lower back exercises on back day.

So on back day, since I usually do deadlifts, squats, and/or hyperextensions on leg day, I concentrate most of my weight lifting efforts on Lats and Rhomboids.

Lat exercises are going to be mostly pull-down and overhead type moves, like different types of lat pull-downs and chin-ups.

Rhomboid exercises are going to be mostly squeezing-type moves, like various rows and and reverse flyes (which you have to be very careful to keep in a lower plane of motion, so as not to make them a shoulder exercise).

Having said this, both types of moves incorporate all muscle groups in the back, so don't be surprised if you feel one exercise in the rest of the back.

When I work my back, I really concentrate hard on contracting the muscle targeted. I put in max effort, and usually do three sets of 15-20, with the goal being exhaustion at the end of each set. If I were trying to build my back muscle, as opposed to maintaining it (I need to let the rest of my body catch up to my back), I'd do a pyramid setup of four sets of 12, 8, 4 then another set of 12, with the same goal of exhaustion by the end of all but the first set. This is pretty much the way I built my back to where it is now.

So my current back exercise selection once a week (the only muscles I work twice a week are quads, hams, and delts, sometimes abs), might look something like this:

3 Super-sets, 15-20 reps each to exhaustion, of:
- Wide-grip lat pull-downs (always front- I won't do behind-the-neck pull-downs without an experienced spotter)
- Narrow-grip seated pulley rows

Then separately:
- Dumbbell bent rows, single arm (to let one side recover while the other rests).

If I feel a need to work lower back, I'll perhaps jump over and do three sets of 15 hyperextensions, weighted or not, depending on how strong I feel that day after the back exercises. I might point out that when I first started working my back I did NOT max out on lower-back moves. I realized I needed to slowly build my strength to avoid potential injury. If you are just getting into the back-building business, I would advise that you do the same.

I usually work biceps with back, so will often super-set a bicep exercise with a back exercise (moving immediately from back exercise to bicep exercise). This helps to save time while my back recovers, and uses the back exercise to somewhat pre-exhaust my biceps, which gives them a better workout.

There is another big muscle back there- the trapezius (a kite-shaped muscle that runs from the base of your neck out to your shoulder girdle and then about 1/2 way or so down your backbone). I never target it because I don't feel big traps bulging up between the shoulders and neck is a particularly attractive look on females. And I'm starting to get concerned that mine is almost disproportionately large compared to the rest of my back muscles. My traps don't need any more volume! If, however, you are either a female who feels your traps are underdeveloped or are male (big traps look great on guys!), you will want to find exercises to target this muscle, as well. Shrugs are the most popular exercise I know of to build traps.

I hope this information is useful to someone.

If you have questions, as always, please don't hesitate to ask!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SAMSON826 7/5/2010 6:07PM

    thanks for the info...i am slowly started to work my back more. i am getting married next july and i really want something backless or that will show a lot of back so i need to work on!!!

do you have any suggestion about working it at home. the gym by my house is not open yet, so i have to do everything at home. lately i have been doing a lot of workouts from zuzana's website and toneitup.com. i know a big thing for me right now is getting my diet under even more control. it's good but it can be better.

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DISCDOG 7/4/2010 10:17AM

    My back is my fave body part to train, too. Also my stongest, thanks to a gymnastics background.
wide-grip pull ups are 90% respnsible for the way my back looks today.

As always, you look great!!!!

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HARISHABAD 7/2/2010 2:19PM

    Great info, thanks. You are right about the back muscles showing first. I was doing back exercises because I was "supposed to," but I was thrilled when I looked in the mirror (2 mirrors needed for this) and saw real definition there. WooHoo! We all like to look as good leaving a room as we did entering it!

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SWEETLIPS 6/23/2010 5:53PM

    HOLLARING AT YOU. I read your blog like a mechanic reading a how to manual for an engine. I thank you for being thorough -right now I have 2 -3 hours of cardio a day - aquatics and walking. I am now planning to add strength training, cause I want to see what this body God made can do - and to take care of me. I am 5"10.5 and today I am 247.4 - I have large bones, my wrist measures 71/4. I can't wait to see what will be revealed. Now off to read about the abs. Thanks for being passionate.

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MASONK 6/22/2010 11:13AM

    Another great blog. Thank you for sharing so much information. I am so ignorant to this whole weight lifting concept but i know it's crucial to a good physique. I will incorporate your knowledge into my plan.

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TABS17 6/21/2010 11:38PM

    I had to laugh at this...running joke at the gym is that I am the 'trap star'..I swear I incorporate those suckers into everything unintentionally. So I NEVER target them! I focus on not using them instead...but those last few reps you can see them engage.

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MRSGOFARR 6/21/2010 11:03AM

    i truly love this routine. thank you for all of this information.

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WREN67 6/21/2010 8:48AM

    Great ideas - most of all, I need to work on redesigning my workout schedule to incorporate some of these.

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SEPTEMBERSPIRIT 6/21/2010 5:23AM

    Great info! Thanks for sharing!!

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HELENAWF 6/21/2010 12:09AM

    Great blog Nancy! Thank you for sharing!
Wendy

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ALESHABEE 6/20/2010 10:57PM

    Thanks Nancy for the info...and I love working my back too. As you stated usually there is little fat there so it is actually one of the few body parts I flex can actually see the muscle. Like you I was shocked the other day when I looked at my back :)

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