The Health Book   » Workouts

The Health Book » Workouts

As you may have already discovered, the squat is at the top of the heap (along with deadlifts) as one of the most effective overall exercises for stimulating body composition changes (muscle gain and fat loss). This is because exercises like squats and deadlifts use more muscle groups under a heavy load than almost any other weight bearing exercises known to man. Hence, these exercises stimulate the greatest hormonal responses (growth hormone, testosterone, etc.) of all exercises. In fact, university research studies have even proven that inclusion of squats into a training program increases upper body development, in addition to lower body development, even though upper body specific joint movements are not performed during the squat. Whether your goal is gaining muscle mass, losing body fat, building a strong and functional body, or improving athletic performance, the basic squat and deadlift (and their variations) are the ultimate solution. If you don’t believe me that squats and deadlifts are THE basis for a lean and powerful body, then go ahead and join all of the other overweight people pumping away mindlessly for hours on boring cardio equipment. You won’t find long boring cardio in any of my programs!

Squats can be done with any free weighted objects such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, or even just body weight. Squats should only be done with free weights – NEVER with a Smith machine or any other squat machines! Machines do not allow your body to follow natural, biomechanically-correct movement paths. You also perform less work because the machine stabilizes the weight for you. Therefore, you get weaker results!

The type of squat that people are most familiar with is the barbell back squat where the bar is resting on the trapezius muscles of the upper back. Many professional strength coaches believe that front squats (where the bar rests on the shoulders in front of the head) and overhead squats (where the bar is locked out in a snatch grip overhead throughout the squat) are more functional to athletic performance than back squats with less risk of lower back injury. I feel that a combination of all three (not necessarily during the same phase of your workouts) will yield the best results for overall muscular development, body fat loss, and athletic performance.

Front squats are moderately more difficult than back squats, while overhead squats are considerably more difficult than either back squats or front squats. I’ll cover overhead squats in a future article. If you are only accustomed to performing back squats, it will take you a few sessions to become comfortable with front squats, so start out light. After a couple sessions of practice, you will start to feel the groove and be able to increase the poundage.

The front squat recruits the abdominals to a much higher degree for stability due to the more upright position compared with back squats. It is mostly a lower body exercise, but is great for functionally incorporating core strength and stability into the squatting movement. It can also be slightly difficult to learn how to properly rest the bar on your shoulders. There are two ways to rest the bar on the front of the shoulders. In the first method, you step under the bar and cross your forearms into an “X” position while resting the bar on the dimple that is created by the shoulder muscle near the bone, keeping your elbows up high so that your upper arms are parallel to the ground. You then hold the bar in place by pressing the thumb side of your fists against the bar for support.

Alternatively, you can hold the bar by placing your palms face up and the bar resting on your fingers against your shoulders. For both methods, your elbows must stay up high to prevent the weight from falling. Your upper arms should stay parallel to the ground throughout the squat. Find out which bar support method is more comfortable for you. Then, initiate the squat from your hips by sitting back and down, keeping the weight on your heels as opposed to the balls of your feet. Squat down to a position where your thighs are approximately parallel to the ground, then press back up to the starting position. Keeping your weight more towards your heels is the key factor in squatting to protect your knees from injury and develop strong injury-resistant knee joints. Keep in mind – squats done correctly actually strengthen the knees; squats done incorrectly can damage the knees.

Practice first with an un-weighted bar or a relatively light weight to learn the movement. Most people are surprised how hard this exercise works your abs once you learn the correct form. This is due to the more upright posture compared with back squats. To see photos of proper form on the front squat, visit the link below.

The Best Way to Get a Flat, Firm Stomach 11 November 2008

When it comes to our bodies, we all have one place or another that we are somewhat unsatisfied with. You always here people say things like “I hate my thighs” or “my butt is too big”. Of course some of these things are said in jest, but there is still discontent hidden in there.

Despite it all though, the one thing that has become almost an obsession today is the way our abs look. It seems that everyone is looking for those ever elusive “six pack abs”, but much like Ponce De Leon’s search for the fountain of youth, it seems like it is impossible to find.

Now, while there is no “magical formula” for attaining a flat, firm, and toned stomach, there is something you can do that if done regularly, will get you the results that you are looking for. To get these results, stomach crunches need to be done daily but keep in mind that stomach exercises alone will not burn the fat off of your midsection.

Keeping your calories in check along with doing your crunches everyday will be the way for you to see that flat, chiseled, sexy stomach. Crunches are easy to do, and if done properly, are very effective for toning those abs. Here is a step by step breakdown of the proper way to get the most out of your crunches.

Lie flat on your back on the floor with your legs bent to about a 90-degree angle with both your rear and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head making sure not to interlock your fingers. You can make your hands into fists so you do not pull up on the back of your neck.

The next thing to do is to pick a spot on the ceiling directly above you. This should be done in order to ensure that you do not bend your neck during the duration of the movement. Do not take your eyes off this spot! The most common mistake while performing a crunch is too much stress on the neck as a result of pulling on it with the hands.

The next step is to stabilize the low back. This can be done by tightening the muscles in the abdomen. Slowly curl forward and up using your abdominal muscles only. There should be no bending at the waist. Keep your abdominal muscles firm for the entire duration to ensure low back stabilization. Keep your focus on that spot on the ceiling to prevent neck pain as a result of stress.

At the top position your shoulder blades should only be between 4-8 inches off the ground. There is no need to go any further. Pause at this top position. This whole movement should be performed slowly and take about 2 seconds to perform. Pause at the top position for 1-2 seconds to ensure full contraction of the abdominal muscles.

Slowly return to the starting position keeping your abs contracted.

That is all there is to it. The crunch is not a very big movement because you are working your abs only. A full sit-up does not work your abs better than the crunch because once you are past the crunch position, your abs are fully contracted and it is your hip muscles that are straining to lift you up, not your abs.

Doing a hundred of these a day is not the key here. Doing two to three sets of 15 to 20 of these at a slow and deliberate pace with good form is what is recommended for maximum benefits and minimum risk of injury.

A Workout For People Who Don’t Want To Work Out 07 November 2008

There’s good news for people who want to watch their weight without giving up watching TV. Now there’s a new workout for couch potatoes and people who think they’re too busy to find time to stay fit.

With time at a premium, many Americans are turning to creative forms of exercise. In a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the North American Spine Society, three out of four people said they used the stairs rather than the elevator at work, 58 percent said they started parking their cars far away in parking lots and almost half reported walking while on the phone.

At the same time, however, 46 percent of people described themselves as couch potatoes–a major contributing factor to being overweight. Many adults say they have procrastinated working out in order to do other activities, such as watching television, sleeping in, doing household chores or working.

Approximately three in four adults say they would exercise more if they could fit it into their daily routines, however, and a majority of adults say they would exercise more often if they could do it at home. Among noncouch potatoes, 80 percent would like to get more exercise, but say they don’t have the time.

Meanwhile, more than 4 million Americans suffer disc problems. One out of four Americans over 30 will have recurring back pain, and one in 14 will seek medical care for back or neck pain this year, totalling almost 14 million visits per year. Back pain is the second most common reason that people visit a physician. Back and neck pain result in more lost workdays than any other condition. Due to absenteeism, medical and other related expenses, the cost of back injuries exceeds $80 billion each year in the United States. Exercise is one way to avoid back problems.

That’s why it’s important to find time to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. In addition to things such as climbing stairs and parking farther away, there are a number of fun ways to make your daily tasks opportunities to exercise:

- Feet Alphabet. This exercise can be done anywhere you are sitting, except while driving. It should not be hard to find a place. Simply write the alphabet in the air with each of your feet and ankles. You can do the letters in capitals or small letters and, for that matter, in any language you would like. Doing this two or three times on each ankle will begin to strengthen the ankle and maintain or improve motion.

- Doing the Dishes Neck Circles. This exercise is easily done while doing the always fun task of washing the dishes. As you are standing there at the sink, slowly rotate your neck in a clockwise position, trying to extend the tip of your head out as far as possible. After three or four rotations, repeat the exercise in a counter-clockwise position. Remember, these rotations should be done slowly and in a pain-free range of motion. Besides increasing the flexibility of the neck, these exercises can pass the time of doing dishes.

- Overhead Laundry Toss. Put the laundry basket directly in front of you and have the washer or dryer directly behind you. Grab a piece or two of dirty clothes, reach over your head slowly and drop the laundry into the washer. Again, start with dry clothes, then progress to wet clothes from the washer into the dryer.

- Remote Wrist Lifts. This can be done on any Sunday afternoon watching multiple football games. Simply take the remote control (use the biggest one you have from the pile of remotes) and, while sitting watching your favorite team or movie and with your arm pointing toward the TV, aim the remote at the ceiling, moving your wrist only. Hold it there for 10 seconds, then aim it at the floor, again only moving the wrist. Repeat this three to four times during every commercial. Be careful not to accidentally change the channel when doing this exercise or it may irritate people who are watching TV with you.

These are just some ideas from “The Couch Potato Workout: 101 Exercises You Can Do At Home!” by Joel M. Press, M.D., president of the North American Spine Society and medical director of the Spine and Sports Institute at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. “The Couch Potato Workout” describes numerous practical and functional exercises people can do to build strength, balance and flexibility as part of their normal daily routine.

To accomplish a good cardiovascular workout all you really need is a good pair of running shoes. Most cardiovascular exercise needs little or no third party apparatus to help you accomplish your routine. Running, dancing, walking can all be done with no equipment (well, if dancing, then maybe some music would help). Other forms of cardio are step, circuit training, bike riding, swimming, aerobics and more…

With most exercise you should always remember to warm up first and cool down afterwards. This means gently stretching and moving your muscles to start off with. Suddenly moving into full exercise without building up first will cause problems such as stiffness and cramps. Ease yourself into it. Then after exercise, the cool down is basically gently moving the muscles and joints to stretch and relax, as your body returns to its normal pace.

Make sure you have a good pair of running shoes. The technology put into these shoes nowadays is highly researched and designed to reduce shock to the feet, ankles, legs and back. So don’t skimp on these - you get what you pay for.

Before you start your run, be sure to warm up first. Start with a brisk walk ensuring you move your arms vigorously gradually breaking into a slow jog. It is better to run at a speed to which you can still converse. If you find yourself losing breath, slow your pace down until you’ve recovered. If you are a novice runner try running and walking, until you can hold your run for 15 minutes.

Now increase the length and time of your run by a couple of minutes every other time you hit the road or treadmill, until you can run for 30 minutes without stopping. Try to increase your run time by 10% each week, remember not to over do it and don’t forget to warm down at the end of each by slowing down gradually. When your run is complete stretch your legs for 30 seconds per muscle, hamstring, calf and thigh.

Cycling is one of the best ways to get a good cardiovascular workout.

First of all, if you are riding on the roads safety is paramount, always use the appropriate safety equipment when road riding. You can stay fit by riding a bike to work, most people work within a five mile radius of there place of work, which is a perfect distance for a bike ride.

Exercise bikes can be used in a variety of ways, general riding for specified length of time, this is like going for a bike ride with out the dangers of road riding and the weather. Warm up riding you can use an exercise bike for warming up the legs before a leg workout. Also exercise bike classes, these classes are taken by an instructor, who will put you through various levels of pace, quite like a circuit training exercise with a bike.

You may find it surprising to find that riding a bike five miles 3 times per week will improve your heart rate, your posture, skin and weight control. Some even say that riding and running are great ways of relieving stress.

One of the best ways to firm up and trim your body down. Due to the resistance the water has on the body swimming involves all the major muscle groups this allows the body to burn up to 20% more calories than swimming through air. Swimming a few lengths per day will keep you fit and give you an excellent workout. Swimming also has less impact on the joints than say, running.

If you wish to take your swim a little further try picking up the pace of your swim, you can work up to a great aerobic exercise and give your body an excellent workout.

Start off by swimming 1-2 lengths at a time resting between sets if necessary, after you have swam ten lengths call it a day. The next day repeat the process until you can swim five lengths without a break. Progress to ten lengths in by adding an extra length each time you return.

You can put together your own cardio raining routing in the gym, if you have a problem with this then the staff on hand will write one for you and show you how to achieve your goal. Try to make your cardio last between an hour and an hour and a half. A good start point for cardio is always a run.

This cardio workout will work for a person of medium fitness, however adjust the times and pace according to your fitness levels.

1. Run at a light pace for 20 minutes, start off at a walking pace and gradually move to a run, this helps you get warmed up and the blood pumping.

2. Rowing machine - set the rowing machine for a countdown time of 15 minutes or keep a check on your watch or the clock. Start off with a slow rowing motion to get the pace up, maintain this steady pace throughout the full 13 minutes and use the 2 minutes to slow the pace down.

3. Move immediately on to exercise bike take a stead paced ride for 12 minutes with a sprint finish for the remaining 3 minutes.

4. After the exercise bike move directly on to the step climber for a period of 15 minutes climbing on a light level to get the legs going. Try to move at a swift pace for the full 15 minutes as this is the last of the leg work you will be doing.

5. When you have completed the step climber, move onto the abs bench for some crunches. 4 sets of crunches to failure is your target for this exercise. Try twisting your body and touching your left knee with your right elbow and vice versa.

6. The last exercise in this quick cardio workout is the leg raise apparatus. Bring your knees up to your chest for 3-4 sets for as many reps as possible (failure)

After the completion of this cardio workout, remember to do a full warm down by stretching the muscles. The full workout should take you around 1 hour 20 minutes.

Quick but Effective Workout Exercises 12 October 2008

Most people think that for a workout to be successful, it has to be lengthy and tiresome. People often struggle to spend two hours or more in the gym in the notion that the more time spent exercising would translate into more gains (in muscle) or more losses (in fat). While such feats may be worthy of a round of applause, they are often counterproductive. There will always come a point where you would get tired of going to the gym, and even dread the several hours you spend there. Soon, you might stop working out and put all the efforts you exerted to waste.

However such should not be always the case. If you want to be able to keep with your fitness regime for long, you might want to try to make use of quick workout exercises that will allow you to spend less time in the gym, but still motivate you to continue working out in long terms. While quick workout exercises may not give you results as fast as you want, they will allow you to maintain your ideal body type that will remain with you in the long run. It is important to keep things simple so that you would not find things too tiring and dreadful, eventually you can add some more exercises to spice things up and keep you motivated.

Here are simple workout exercises you can do in the gym or at home. The workouts can be done in less than 30 minutes, which allows you to enjoy more time for other things.

For the shoulders – get two heavy dumbbells or any two equally-weighing objects for each of your hands. Lift the weights suspended in your arms using your shoulders and hold for three to five seconds, then relax again. Repeat this step for 8 to 12 times depending on the weight you are using. Do up to three of this set.

For the chest – lie on your back on a bench press or any similar sturdy flat surface. Before doing the normal bench press, warm up first by doing a set of 8 to 12 repetitions using a third of the weight you normally can lift. After the warm up, do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of your normal bench press routine. Just keep in mind to avoid arching your back as you lift the weights.

For the biceps – lie on an inclined bench with both hands carrying dumbbells of equal weights. Lift the right arm for two counts and return for three counts, do the same with the left arm. Repeat for 8 to 12 times. Do three sets of this exercise.

For the thighs and buttocks – with heavy dumbbells on each hand, gently squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then stand upright again. Repeat for 8 to 12 times. Do two to three sets of this exercise.

For the calves – stand upright with heavy dumbbells on each hand. Gently tip your toes as high as you can without wobbling or getting imbalanced. Repeat for 8 to 12 times and do up to two sets.

The workout exercises above are indeed quite simple and easy that you might think that they would not work. However such a simple regiment would be easy to maintain, and the results will come in time and last for you to enjoy your body. You may alternate the above exercise with a 30 to 45 minute cardiovascular exercise, so that you would also be able to shed off fat as you gain muscle.

To get fit, you do not need to spend hours in the gym. You just need to maintain a fitness routine and make it a lifestyle. Of course you should have a balanced diet and do everything in moderation. In time you and other people would see the results. Soon you will have the body you would want.

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