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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!
emoticon

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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.

emoticon emoticon

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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
emoticon

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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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Creating Abs You Can Be Proud Of

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

I have received multiple inquiries as to how I've managed to get my abs into the condition they are after birthing four babies and spending forty-three years on this earth. What I am about to share is nothing earth shattering or new, and you've probably heard it all before, but I thought I'd blog about it so that I can give people my own recipe for ab success when they ask me how to get a nice midsection.

The first thing I want to point out is that there is no magic bullet for getting good abs. I think people really want me to share some literal secret, like drinking a weird vinegar or doing some super-off-the-wall ab move to have tight abs, and that's just not the case. It really is a multi-faceted, yet still simple, approach.

In order from most important to least, here is what I do for a tight midsection.

#1. Diet- Bring your body fat down! It does not matter how well all the tips following this are working- If your beautiful abs are hidden by fat, no one (including you) will be able to see and appreciate them.

#2. Hold 'em in! All the time. As often as you can think of it. Honestly, I'm almost always in an isometric ab contraction. It's a habit. The more you do it, the more automatic it becomes. There is not a single ab exercise out there that does as much for ab flatness and definition as simply contracting your abs as much and as often as possible. Reason? Ab exercises last for just a few minutes. Holding your abs in lasts all day long.

3. Cardio. Same reason as #1. Cardio helps burn fat. Lack of fat means ab visibility.

4. Hold 'em in while doing ab exercises. I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone doing an ab exercise with their abs protruded. The tighter you hold your abs in while working them, the more effective (and harder!) the ab exercise will be.

5. Strengthen your lower back. Your ab and lower back muscles cross over each other. To to have tight abs, you MUST have tight lower back muscles. If you have tight abs and a weak lower back, your abs will have the appearance of being wide, no matter how strong they are. Plus, you will have created a skeletal imbalance. I can't tell you the people I've given this advice to, and after strengthening their lower back they begin to see the V-taper they've been unable to obtain until then.

6. For my actual ab workouts, once a week I usually do 20 minutes of an ab tape. My favorite is Kari Anderson's Curl DVD. But sometimes I will choose two of the ten-minute sections in either Kathy Smith's Tummy Trimmer DVD or 10-Minute Solution Quick Tummy Toners DVD. There are other DVD's out there you could use.

Often I will add another ab workout in the gym a couple of days later (abs are like every other muscle group and need plenty of time to recover between targeted ab workouts). When I do this, I treat them as two different muscle groups: Middle abs (always including both upper and lower in the move), and obliques. I don't isolate upper abs because they are the same muscle running between the rib cage and pelvic bone. Upper abs are not my issue- lower are. So it is much more efficient for me to spend my workout time targeting the area of the muscle that is weakest. I've found that upper abs get tightened in the process.

I do at least three exercises for the middle abs, and two for obliques. Sometimes, I will work them between other muscle groups (for instance, super-set them between back or bicep exercises), and other times I do them back to back to really burn them up. A sample ab workout for me looks like this:

3 Super sets of:
- Reverse Crunch on bench (feet coming down all the way to the ground with control at all times)- 20 reps
- Weighted side bends- 20 reps, each side (challenging weight- you want to FEEL this in the obliques!)

Then 3 Super sets of:
- Captains Chair leg lifts (curl your lower back off the padding to lift your legs, don't just lift them- it's supposed to resemble a reverse crunch!)- 12 reps
- Cable Rope Crunches- 20 reps (weight should be challenging)

Finish with:
- Bicycle Crunches 3x15, alternating sides (15 on each side)

And if I haven't hit lower back by doing something like deadlifts or squats some other time in the week, I'll do 3 sets of a targeted lower back exercise like Supermans or weighted hyperextensions on a Roman Chair.

The only thing I'd say that is negotiable, here, is #6. I know of others who do their ab workout quite differently and get similar results. This is just simply how I prefer to work my abs. In all reality, the way you target exercises for the abs is really just the gravy of the whole process. The meat and potatoes of having beautiful abs lies in the other five steps.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

AMERAG 6/15/2011 2:20PM

    just printed this! YAY I am excited to try them and make them part of you my routine! THank you!

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SPITFYRE75 5/29/2011 8:01PM

    Yes, this blog is old. But, I am just now reading them. I have to say that after reading about holding your abs in I tried it and about DIED after just one minute! Best workout my stomach has had aside from childbirth! emoticon

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SPITFYRE75 5/29/2011 8:00PM

    Yes, this blog is old. But, I am just now reading them. I have to say that after reading about holding your abs in I tried it and about DIED after just one minute! Best workout my stomach has had aside from childbirth! emoticon

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FATHINSN 8/5/2010 12:43AM

    Great blog, restore my faith on the tips that fitness articles always gave emoticon, especially after looking at your fab abs picture! So, in short = body fat+tuck in+lower back+variety abs workout. I'm so used with bicycle crunches, I hardly look at other abs and core workouts!

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NANCYANNE55 7/3/2010 8:33PM

    Weighted Side Bends: I've been doing them and a myriad of other weighted ab moves for 26 years. I've also heard the school of thought that one shouldn't do weighted ab moves, but I think it's baloney. After all, how many people do you know with ab muscles that are too big?

Comment edited on: 7/3/2010 8:35:13 PM

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MTP717 7/2/2010 5:12PM

  Thanks for your great tips. I am a little confused about the weighted side bends. I had always heard that you don't want to build muscle there especially if you are a female. Please explain.

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MASONK 6/22/2010 11:22AM

    Thanks great info.

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ELLIE381 6/8/2010 7:15PM

    Thanks for the information. I have been doing my captain's chair lifts all wrong. Thanks for clearing this up for me.

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MRSGOFARR 6/7/2010 11:33PM

    great information. thank you!!

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SEPTEMBERSPIRIT 6/6/2010 5:57AM

    Great blog and great tips! I'm doing the 10mins with Slim in 6 Pack and then do 10mins of the Turbo Jam as it provides for some lay down and stand up exercises.

Now just working on the 'diet' and losing some of the body fat!

Love your post and progress! Consistency is key and I'm going for it!!

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AJB6886 6/6/2010 5:19AM

    I couldn't have said it better myself! I have people ask me all the time (grabbing their midsection) "how do I get rid of THIS?" I really feel like saying "put the fork down and move" BUT......I have to be nice so I say all the things you said. You are absolutely right. Have a great day! emoticon

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FITNHAPPYNOW 6/5/2010 3:10PM

    Thanks for the reminders/ tips. Sucking in my abs!!

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ALIMESSA 6/4/2010 7:16PM

    Thanks for sharing...you are AWESOME! I'm going to start the P90X next Monday, June 7th...hopefully it will get me started on my way to a leaner, more toned body...

As always,
Stay Strong!!

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TRENTDREAMER 6/3/2010 7:38PM

    Great advice. Thank you!

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BECCA103 6/3/2010 12:14PM

    Thanks for sharing. Becca ;~)

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BEKAH_IS_FIT 6/3/2010 8:46AM

    Thanks!

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CRISPINI 6/3/2010 6:27AM

    Great advice, thanks!

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IAMFIRMIN 6/3/2010 4:30AM

    abs are DIET DIET DIET!

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YINYANGSJM 6/2/2010 9:51PM

    Thank you for sharing these tips! Even sitting here at my computer concentrating on holding my abs in I can feel what a difference it would make to work on that all day. Great info!!!!

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PTESORO 6/2/2010 9:42PM

    Thanks for sharing!

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RAEVENSWING 6/2/2010 9:21PM

    Thanks for sharing! Some extremely good advice. You look great!

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CAROLYN1213 6/2/2010 8:28PM

    This is my next goal! Thanks for the tips!!! I'm still working with Ruben to get some of the extra fluff off the top of my abs, but when that is done, I want those strong muscles to already be there to show off!

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DREMARGRL 6/2/2010 8:20PM

    EXCELLENT, NANCY! You've explained your approach quite well. As you said, there are many workouts that get the same results. The most important thing, IMO, that you state is to stay in "isometric ab contraction"! Posture posture posture....all the time! Our mothers in the "olden days" had us hold our stomachs in.....always! Anyway, thanks again, Nancy, for passing the word along...... eloquently. Luv ya, my friend. XO MaryAnn emoticon

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STARSTRUCKJEN29 6/2/2010 7:49PM

    Thanks for sharing!

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RTB444 6/2/2010 6:41PM

    Just what I needed today, thanks!

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WREN67 6/2/2010 6:37PM

    I knew it! I knew it was vinegar! (just joking - couldn't resist)

To be honest, I never asked because I never thought I could get those abs! (and I've only had 2 kids). Thank you!

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MISTYMOVIN 6/2/2010 6:31PM

    emoticon

I focus on holding my abs in when doing cardio but never really thought about doing it all the time, that's such a simple and awesome tip.



Comment edited on: 6/2/2010 6:37:49 PM

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DOLLIE6 6/2/2010 6:26PM

    Thanks so much for sharing. You are such an inspiration.


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BIKERCHICK74 6/2/2010 6:24PM

    Great BLOG!!!! Thank you!!!
YOU are the BEST!

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TABS17 6/2/2010 6:18PM

    Thanks for sharing!! :) I do have ab envy when I look at your pics!!!

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Two more more product recommendations.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I added two more products, my favorite Ab workout DVD and a self-tanning product, to my "Products I Have Found Useful" blog here:
www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=3214254
, if anyone is interested.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ALIMESSA 6/1/2010 8:57PM

    ALWAYS interested in your opinions!! Thanks for sharing!

As always,
Stay Strong!!

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MISTYMOVIN 5/31/2010 8:02AM

    Glad to know you like Banana Boat..I picked some up earlier to get some tan, a long with a more expensive Neutragina(sp?) spray. I hated the spray....it was so uneven. The cheaper Banana Boat seemed so much better, and cheaper!

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IAMFIRMIN 5/31/2010 5:04AM

    I LUV METOBOLIQ BARS.. you nuke them for 12 sec.. TASTES LIKE A BROWNIE

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