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Posts Tagged ‘muscle’

How’s Mastering the Single-Leg Squat for a Goal?

July 10th, 2009 No comments

I'm going to let you in on my dirty little secret. I'm a bit very scattered when it comes to fitness goals, or any goals for that matter. It's not that I lack goals, it's the exact opposite...I usually have way too many on the go. In a matter of a few weeks I'll decide I'm going to finally make it past that 15th push-up, teach myself to kneel unsupported on a stability ball while doing lateral dumbbell raises, run 5K and learn to play tennis. They are usually fairly lofty goals, so of course I don't always succeed or I have to shelve them for a later date...ahem running. But some of the time I do hit the mark - six pull-ups in a row thank you very much.

This week the one-legged squat has caught my attention. The strength, balance and sheer determination required for a successful one-legged squat is much too tempting for me to resist. And what a party trick! Dropped you pen? Let me just lower my body down to the floor on one leg and pick that up for you.

Ok so I have had this goal before. It was about eight months ago, which was way too soon for my first attempt, but I quickly realised that and set it aside for later. This time around I'm starting slow, using a stability ball between my back and the wall to help make sure I don't collapse in a twisted heap. I can't get down to 90 degrees for more than one just yet, but I can do about 12 part way. And I will continue to add single leg squats to my routine each week until I can do two, then three, and one day maybe even 10.

The reason I think it's a good idea to set goals both big and small (even though things don't always work out in my favor) is I need something to get excited for.  There is no better feeling than suceeding at something I set out to do, especially if I wasn't really sure I could do it.

If you set a lot of goals for yourself, chances are you'll reach at least one. And once you do there's another one waiting to be chased.

Categories: working out Tags: ,

Don’t Buy Into the Long and Lean Muscle Myth

April 11th, 2009 No comments

If you have any interest in fitness there’s almost no chance you’ve missed hearing about “long and lean” muscles. Every woman wants them and it seems none of us but dancers and non-skeltonized models have them. We’re often told the secret to long and lean muscles has nothing to do with our body makeup or genetics. The key, say various sources, is certain workouts like Pilates that will actually lengthen your muscles as they strengthen them. Other experts tell us the secret to long and lean muscles is lifting light weights and doing high numbers of repetitions, so the muscles we build aren’t too bulky.

So that must mean a routine consisting of Pilates and light weights is the answer? Not even close.

There is one main reason certain women appear to have long, lean muscles – they have less body fat than the rest of us. Take the same body and add or subtract 50 pounds. I guarantee you the lighter version will appear a lot longer and leaner. It’s more about what is overlying the muscle than the muscle itself. Any exercises that causes your body to shed fat will help you achieve the long, lean look.

Of course this is not always true you’re probably thinking. Just look at female bodybuilders. Well if you haven’t read our page on female muscle myths I won’t fault you for that belief. The truth is women need a lot of help to gain a significant amount of muscle. This can come in the form of a diet high in protein and muscle building supplements, coupled with frequent high volume strength training involving plenty of isolation exercises. Sometimes it also involves steroids. Without all that there’s no way the rest of us will ever come close.

The way your muscle will look has a lot more to do with genetics. Muscles can only be as long as the distance between their attachments. Your biceps femoris isn’t going to grow any longer than your upper arm, no matter how many reps you complete with a three pound dumbbell. Even worse, if you’re strictly using light weights the muscle not only won’t lengthen, it won’t grow in size or strength either.

A better plan of attack would be to fix your posture. If your shoulders are rounded forward and your back is hunched of course you’re going to look shorter. Work on strengthening the muscles that pull your shoulders back and improve posture (such as the rhomboids) and stretching the muscles that are tight and pulling you into that forward position (pectorals). And put down the baby weights. You should be pumping enough iron to hit momentary muscle fatigue after 8 – 15 repetitions (that means you’d have to cheat on your form to complete another one).

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.