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Archive for April, 2009

The Best Piece of Fitness Equipment You Don’t Use

April 6th, 2009 No comments

Here are a few hints. It will help your body build muscle, but it’s doesn’t provide resistance. It can bring relief to sore, achy muscles but it doesn’t require costly appointments. And finally it can help with your balance but it’s neither a BOSU ball nor a wobble board.

If you guessed foam roller you really know your stuff. If you belong to a gym chances are you’ve noticed that these cylindrical shaped tools have earned a spot on the floor or in classes in the past few years. You may have noticed people rolling around on them or standing atop one while they lift weights and wondered what exactly this piece of equipment is supposed to do.

Admittedly a foam roller sounds a lot more boring than the BOSU. And it may seem completely unnecessary to those who don’t stretch after a workout anyways. But all those preconceived notions couldn’t be further from the truth.

Why foam rollers are breaking away from the pack:

1.Price – Sure if you have a membership at a fully equipped gym it doesn’t matter to you how much the equipment costs. If you’re looking for something useful at home you may not want to spend over $100 a pop, which is what a BOSU can set you back. Foam rollers on the other hand are often under $20.

2.Massage - Using myofascial release massage techniques (more on this in the next post) you can smooth out knots and target trouble spots without having to rely on a professional. If you get a foam roller to use for nothing more than self-massage, it’s still worth it.

3.Versatility – Foam rollers aren’t just good for muscle massage. By performing exercises while standing in different positions on the roller you can challenge your body’s stabilizing muscles and improve balance. It’s a great way to increase the difficulty of exercises you already do. Just try standing still on a foam roller and you’ll know what I mean. It takes a lot of practice to master the foam roller and you will really know you’re getting somewhere when you’ve worked up to just one full squat.

Muscle, Why You Want It and How to Get It

April 3rd, 2009 No comments

To complete the circle I started with my last few posts, now is as good a time as any to address muscle – more specifically why you should want it, how to keep what you’ve already got and the best way to get more.

Why you should want muscle– Aside from the fact that a tight, toned body looks great? How about that it feels great to be strong and capable of taking on anything life throws at you. It’s an unbeatable feeling when you can finally lift that weight you never thought you could or when you finally spot the first signs of definition in your shoulders. Then there's the fact that having more muscle means having a higher metabolism.

How to keep the muscle you’ve got – Here’s the bad news, if you haven’t so much as lifted a 2 lb dumbbell in the past few years your body's percentage of muscle is already decreasing. And the older you get the quicker muscle makes its retreat. But just one day a week of resistance training can stop the decline. Bump that up to two or three days a week and you'll start gaining back muscle that's been lost and then some. Just ask yourself, do you have 30 minutes to spare?

The best way to get more muscle – This one’s easy, lift weights. The more often you lift a certain weight, the better your body becomes at doing it. Your muscles grow and adapt to become more efficient. The weight you once struggled to finish 12 repetitions with will feel like a breeze in a few weeks or months time. At that point simply increase the weight or up the repetitions for more challenge. If you don’t have access to weights, no problem. Resistance bands are a cheap alternative and work just as well. You can also get an awesome total body workout using no equipment whatsoever. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, just a few sessions with an understanding personal trainer can give you the confidence you need to continue muscle building and toning on your own.

Don’t Forget to Stretch

April 3rd, 2009 No comments

With all this running and cycling my muscles (and hopefully yours too) are in need of a good stretch. That’s why I take about five to ten minutes minimum after every workout, making sure to show a little extra attention to the ones that need it. If you’re one of the countless people skipping out on post-workout stretch sessions you’re not getting all you can from your workout. Sure you’re home for dinner a little earlier, but is it worth the end result?

As we age, our muscles become less flexible – it can be chalked up to that old adage use it or lose it. I think it’s fairly well-known that when we don’t challenge our muscles to lift weight, they’ll take it as a cue from the body that they aren’t needed. Muscle that isn’t needed is used for energy and we’re left with a slower metabolism and an increased chance of gaining fat weight. Likewise, when we don’t stretch our muscles and encourage them to lengthen and become more pliable they’ll do exactly what they think is expected of them – nothing. Well that’s not exactly true, when we don’t stretch muscles that have previously been able to extend to a certain length, they will shorten. There’s a reason you could do the splits as a child while it’s difficult to bend down and touch your toes as an adult.

But all is not lost. With regular gentle stretching you can keep the flexibility you still have and even increase it, all the while helping your body recover faster from workouts and protecting it from injury. So what are you waiting for?

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