Posts Tagged ‘strength training’

Splurge and Steal Strength Training Equipment

July 12th, 2010 No comments

How to invest wisely or save pennies as you tone your body

If you want to get buff, or already are and want to maintain it, strength training is the only answer. When you’re at the gym there are endless possibilities for challenging the muscles, including cable and weight stack machines, free weights, isolation stations and more. At home you probably long for the same variety. The good news is it’s easy to get everything you need if you know the price you’re willing to pay.

Life Fitness home gym - If you’ve got about $3,000 kicking around you might be tempted by the Life Fitness G7, which includes a chin-up bar, adjustable cables with quick-lock attachments, dual weight stacks and a mounted exercise book. This home gym is about the best you can get. It allows the user to perform moves on a bench, standing, or using an exercise ball. Search our store to find a variety of home gyms for women.
Vibration platform- Some say a vibrating platform is simply an unstable surface, much like a stability ball, but others, including many professional athletes and trainers believe it offers much more including increased muscle gains when used as part of a strength training program. Workouts done on a vibration platform are said to require only a few minutes, three to five times a week. Many of these machines cost around $1,000, but Gaiam makes its own version, called the Chi Vibe, which is relatively cheap at between $400 and $500.

Grab the advice below then surf our store to see find great deals on strength training equipment.

Pilates bodybands - These kits include an instructional DVD and a set of two or more resistance bands for overall body toning and strengthening. Not only are they about as cheap a strength training system as you can get, at about $30, but they’re extremely portable and easy to store. Just because bands are light in terms of weight, doesn’t mean they can’t put the same force on your muscles as a 10 lb. dumbbell. Besides, you wouldn’t be able to pack your vibration platform in your suitcase and take with you on holiday.
Stability ball - Sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. Stability balls can be a very useful part of your strength training program. To get the most out of your ball, use it in place of a weight bench. Not only is it a heck of a lot cheaper (about $10 to $20), but it will engage more of your muscles because it’s an unstable surface. You can also use the stability ball to make weight bearing exercises more difficult. Prop it under your hands for push-ups, push your feet into it for pelvic thrusts, place it between your back and the wall when performing squats…the possibilities are endless.

Fidget Your Way to Weight Loss? Sounds NEAT

February 26th, 2010 No comments

Burn calories without workouts

Some people naturally burn as many as 350 extra calories per day - not because they exercise more and not because they have faster metabolisms. They can do it because of something called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). And the good news is it’s something we can do too.

What the heck is NEAT?
I’ll start with the basics of how we use energy throughout the day. Our basal metabolic rate (BMR) describes the energy expended by our bodies when we are completely at rest. Each of us has an individual BMR that tells us how many calories our bodies need just to perform the most basic functions.

After that energy is used to digest, absorb and store food, which is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Finally our bodies expend energy through something called activity thermogenesis, which can be exercise or non-exercise related.

You may be surprised to hear that most people burn fewer calories through exercise than they do through NEAT. That’s because exercise is often a once daily (or less for some people) calorie-burning spurt, while NEAT describes the calories we burn through any sort of activity all day long.

According to the Mayo Clinic people who are very sedentary may only be able to credit NEAT for 15 percent of their total daily energy (calorie) expenditure, while in active individuals it can account for up to 50 percent.

Things that affect your NEAT
Occupation - People with active jobs can burn up to 1,000 calories more per day than those with sedentary jobs. But you’re not a hopeless case if you’ve got a desk job. Get up often to take short walks around the office or walk to a co-worker’s cubicle to give them a message instead of using email. If you’ve got a really great boss, convince them that a standing desk will boost your productivity.
Leisure time - Do you spend most lounging in front of the TV, or are you always moving? I’m not saying you have to go outside for a run, just puttering around your yard or organizing a closet can elevate your daily energy expenditure.
Fidgeting - People with fidgeting habits - whether they gesture with their hands while they talk, bounce a leg while they sit or twirl their hair around a finger - might just have discovered the secret to staying in shape. These people are constantly in motion. Even though it may not seem like much, a day full of fidgeting can really add up.

What you can do to take advantage of NEAT
Since NEAT is a combination of everything you do throughout the day, it’ll take a lot of lifestyle adjusting to get the full benefits, but there are many easy ways to start.
Use a push or manual mower when you’re cutting the lawn
Avoid drive-through windows
Choose stairs over elevators
• If you must watch television do a bit of household tidying at each commercial, and change channels without using the remote.
Get a little restless - If you have the urge to move your hands, feet or other body parts don’t fight it
Laugh out loud, and do it often
Tell great stories - the more wild gestures the better
Stand instead of sitting whenever possible

Boost Your Strength Training Calorie Burn

February 5th, 2010 No comments

Supersets help you get things done faster
When most people tackle the weight room, they start with a plan that includes straight sets. This method involves performing two or more sets of each exercise, with about a minute or more rest in between each set. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing straight sets, it does have some negatives, including the fact that your sessions take longer to complete and your body will eventually adapt and quit realizing results. That’s where supersets and all its variations come in.
What are supersets?
Supersetting is when you perform two exercise sets without rest in between. Some pros recommend you perform sets on opposing muscle groups, meaning if you do one set of barbell curls to work your biceps, you immediately follow it with one set of skull crushers to work your triceps.

You can also perform two exercises that target the same muscle, such as leg extensions and squats. This method is known as pre-exhaustion supersets because the first move isolates and fatigues the quads and the second involves them in a compound exercise. Post-exhaustion supersets are the exact opposite, you do the compound move first and the isolation move second.

Why you should try supersets
• Supersets are a great way to blast through a weight loss plateau because they challenge your body to do work it isn’t used to.
• They make gym time go a lot faster since you’re resting less.
• They allow you to reach muscle fatigue without lifting heavy weights. This is good for someone working out without a spotter or who doesn’t want to lift heavy.
• They make for an easy session. All you have to do is pick two exercises, rest, then repeat. While you’re resting after those two you can decide on two more, until before you know it you’re done.

Types of supersets
Pre-exhaustion supersets - See above.
Post-exhaustion supersets - See above.
Tri-sets - This one is pretty self-explanatory. Perform three exercises in a row instead of two.
Opposing muscle groups - As explained, this method involves working one muscle group and then its opposing group. It can be very beneficial because you’ll be working both muscle groups evenly.
Compound supersets - Two different compound exercises are performed in a row.
Isolation supersets - This is also known as same-part supersetting. An example would be doing incline curls followed by barbell curls.
Staggered supersets - This type of supersetting involves performing an exercise for a larger muscle group, followed by one for a smaller muscle group.
In-set supersets - two different exercises within a rep. One example would be doing a dumbbell bench press and transitioning immediately into a dumbbell flye.
Upper body/lower body supersets - It doesn’t matter which part of your body you target first, just that you follow up an upper body exercise with a lower body one, or vice versa.

Ditch Isolation Exercises for Compound Moves

December 12th, 2009 No comments

Build more muscle in a lot less time

I've been thinking about my criticism of isolation exercises and I think I should say something more about a better way. Below are some ideas on compound exercises.

When you’re in the gym, moving monotonously from one machine to the next, you might be wondering if there’s a faster way to get fit. All you have to do is ask - any personal trainer worth his or her salt will tell you there is. Incorporate compound strength training exercises into your routine and you’ll soon find out why multi-joint moves are favored by the enviably fit.

What is a compound exercise?
Instead of working just one muscle, as an isolation exercise does, compound exercises often work two or more at the same time. They also take the body through more than one joint movement. A bicep curl is considered an isolation move, because it targets only the biceps. The clean and jerk (a very advanced move) on the other hand, works almost every muscle and joint in the body.

Which is better, compound or isolation?
Isolation exercises are great for bodybuilders and fitness athletes, or for anyone wanting to target a specific muscle. When rehabbing an injury or dealing with a muscle imbalance, isolation exercises may be what’s required.

But most people don’t have the same goals as bodybuilders, so why should they follow the same strategy? Compound exercises help us build strength evenly over our entire bodies. They let us work more muscle groups in a shorter amount of time, which is great for the average person who has to juggle a full-time job, family life and fitness.

Why compound exercises are better
They save time - If the length of your typical strength training session allows you to complete 10 different exercises and you choose all isolation, you’ll only be working about 10 muscles total. If your 10 moves are compound you can easily work 30 or more muscles in one session!
They allow you to build more muscle - The more muscles you work, the more new muscle you’ll gain when they repair themselves. And as I’ve mentioned, more muscle equals a higher metabolism.
They burn more calories - The calorie burn you get when doing one-muscle exercises, such as bicep curls (biceps) or leg extensions (quads), is nothing compared to an exercise that requires you to use your legs, butt, abs and arms all at once.
They mimic real-life movements - When you bend down and pick up one of your kids, or reach up to a top shelf to pull down a heavy box of Christmas ornaments, several of your muscles and joints are working together. Compound exercises better prepare you for these tasks because they also require simultaneous movement in more than one joint and draw strength from more than one muscle group.

Examples of compound exercises
Squat - This, my favorite of all the compound exercises, works the glutes, lower back, hamstrings and calves. To step it up a notch try to barbell squat which involves even more of your body’s muscles.
Lunge - Not only does this lower body move really hit your quads and glutes, it also requires balance that can only come from a number of stabilizer muscles working together.
Push-up - There’s a reason push-ups are hard, they work a lot of muscles. For the upper body push-ups hit the chest, shoulders and triceps. When you do full push-ups (on your toes) your lower body is also getting a workout. Core stabilizer muscles hold your body steady throughout.
Bench Press - Your upper body will thank you for this one, which along with squats and deadlifts is considered one of the three kings of bodybuilding. But don’t worry, the amount of weight you’ll be lifting and the amount of time you’ll be performing it isn’t nearly enough to make you actually look like a bodybuilder. It works the pecs, delts and triceps.
Deadlift - This one works the upper and lower body, and it’s one of the best for targeting the butt as long as you make sure to squeeze your glutes. Deadlifts work the back, shoulders and legs.

Hurry Up and Slow Down

July 22nd, 2009 No comments

It seems no matter how many times people hear certain advice, they quickly forget the importance of following it. At least I assume that's why most people who strength train only follow the slow and controlled protocol when their trainer is watching.

Also most people are trying to get through their workouts as quickly as possible so long-lasting reps aren't really a priority. I know this because I occasionally have to fight my own urges to throw form out the window and allow momentum to power me through a hard set.

But I know deep down that if I'm not doing my reps right I might as well not be doing them at all. I want my body to be strong, but I also want to work the right muscles and maintain good posture. And I don't want to risk an injury by swinging online pharmacy weights around instead of controlling them.

Take your time to lower the weight.

Take your time to lower the weight.

So here's the deal. Most of the time you should be lifting and lowering weights slowly, especially if you are relatively new to resistance training. About two seconds for the beginning part of the movement (the concentric contraction)  and four seconds to bring the weight back to the starting position (the eccentric contraction). That means two seconds to curl a dumbbell up with your bicep and four seconds to lower it back down.

If you really want to speed your workout up, try cutting down on the amount of time you rest between exercises instead.

A word of warning - the slower you go the less weight you'll be able to lift. But that's a good thing because you'll know your muscles are actually strong enough to handle it. So start slowing down for faster results.