Archive for the ‘Stength Training’ Category

Regular Exercise Makes You Shine

November 10, 2013

Happy Beautiful WomanWorking out isn’t all about dropping pounds or prepping for your next triathlon. Regular exercise also gives you a healthy, glowing look and an unmistakable va-va-voom that you just can’t get any other way.

Anyone who makes a habit of going to the gym, unfurling a yoga mat or hiking in the woods is privy to a secret known only to the physically active: The rewards of exercise extend far beyond slimming down or adding muscle tone. Dozens of subtle changes visibly revamp the body and the psyche in ways scientists are only beginning to understand.

Maybe your skin looks brighter, your step is springier or you’re more confident at work. Such small victories may go unnoticed by unobservant exercisers, but those on the lookout for these benefits will find them every bit as valid as gains measured by scales and calipers.

Scientists chalk up such fitness boons to a range of powerful physiological and biochemical processes triggered by regular exercise. “Every cell in the human body benefits from physical activity,” says Tim Church, MD, PhD, the director of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. And, he says, you feel tangible rewards right away. “Within an hour of exercising, you feel less anxious; that night you sleep better; and for 72 hours afterward your body processes blood sugar more efficiently.”

Need more incentive to lace up your sneakers? Here’s a peek into a few of the ways exercise can make you look and feel fantastic.

1. Smoother, More Radiant Skin

Genma Holmes, 43, was horrified when she broke out in adult acne three years ago. “I was 40 and felt like a hot mess because my face was dotted with pimples,” says the working mom from Nashville, Tenn. Then, last year, she started walking two miles a day and working out on an elliptical trainer three times a week. Sure, she expected to shape up, but she was shocked when her acne cleared. “Looking in a full-length mirror and seeing a slimmer me is great, but looking in a compact mirror and not seeing blackheads is even better,” she says.

Holmes’s clearer skin comes as no surprise to Audrey Kunin, MD, a dermatologist in Kansas City, Mo., and author of The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual (Simon & Schuster, 2005). Working up a good sweat is the equivalent of getting a mini-facial, she says. “When the pores dilate, sweat expels trapped dirt and oil. Just be sure to wash your face afterward so the gunk doesn’t get sucked back into the pores.”

Breaking a sweat isn’t the only way exercise benefits the skin — it also reduces bodywide inflammation, helps regulate skin-significant hormones and prevents free-radical damage. When you exercise, the tiny arteries in your skin open up, allowing more blood to reach the skin’s surface and deliver nutrients that repair damage from the sun and environmental pollutants. These nutrients also rev up the skin’s collagen production, thwarting wrinkles. “As we age, fibroblasts [the collagen-producing cells in the skin] get lazier and fewer in number,” Kunin says. “But the nutrients delivered to the skin during exercise help fibroblasts work more efficiently, so your skin looks younger.”

2. Greater Self-Confidence

Confident people radiate a certain physical appeal and charisma. A recent British study found that people who began a regular exercise program at their local gym felt better about their self-worth, their physical condition and their overall health compared with their peers who stayed home. The best part was that their self-worth crept up right away — even before they saw a significant change in their bodies.

“You don’t need to improve your fitness level to improve your self-perception of how fit you are,” says Adrian Taylor, PhD, an exercise researcher at the University of Exeter in England and the study’s lead investigator. And from there it’s only a short leap to enjoying healthier self-esteem, he adds. “Our self-worth is directly tied to our energy levels, our feelings of competence and our perceived attractiveness.” And nothing is more gorgeous than the self-assurance that comes from feeling good in your own skin.

3. Increased Stature

Annie Appleby, 45, a yoga instructor and founder of YogaForce LLC in San Francisco, took up yoga as a means to relieve stress. But it wasn’t until she had a checkup a few years later that she saw the full effects of her practice. When the doctor measured her height, they both noticed she’d grown an inch and a half. “I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I’d always wanted to be taller; now I fit into my clothes better and feel more spacious in
my body.”

No one has studied precisely why exercise makes you taller, but activities that stretch and strengthen muscles at the same time, like yoga or Pilates, can correct bad posture and therefore add height, says Dan Bradley, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Texas Back Institute in Denton, Texas. Hunching makes some muscle groups contract and others lengthen, he explains, which subtracts height. “If you actively work to bring muscles back into balance, your back will lengthen, your posture will improve and you can grow taller.”

People with swayed backs benefit most from core strengthening exercises, such as planks, farmer’s walks and bird dogs. For hunched shoulders, working on strengthening the upper back using resistance with bands, machines or free weights can help restore lost height. And, of course, exercise that improves posture tends to also make you look thinner, fitter and more confident.

4. Less Stress and Anxiety

Anxiety, fearfulness and uncertainty all drain your vitality and dampen your mood, which in turn tends to show on your face and in the way you carry yourself. Roughly 40 million Americans over 18 suffer from anxiety disorders, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health — that’s nearly 20 percent of all adults — and for many of them, that anxiety strips both the smile from their face and the spring from their step. Exercise has been shown to alleviate most mild to moderate cases of anxiety, and can very quickly improve mood.

Jack Raglin, PhD, a sport psychologist at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., is only half-joking when he says, “Exercise is like taking a tranquilizer, but better because you get the side effect of improved health and fitness.” Studies out of Raglin’s lab suggest that as little as 15 minutes of exercise bestows a calm that can last for hours. As for what kind of exercise elicits the biggest response, he recommends either heart-thumping aerobic exercise, like running, cycling or swimming, or a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic exercise, such as weight training.

In one study, Raglin and his team recruited 16 athletes, tested their anxiety levels, then put them through 30 minutes of resistance training and another 30 minutes of cycling. Afterward, they rechecked the students’ stress levels and found that they had plummeted within 10 minutes of wrapping up the workout and continued to decline for the next hour.

For Dorothy Foltz-Gray, 61, a writer in Knoxville, Tenn., going for a bike ride at the end of a hectic workday delivers even faster results. “I can leave my desk anxious from a day of work, grab my bike and in a few minutes have a smile on my face as I glide along a bike path,” she says. “Suddenly I’m 12 years old again, grinning at all the other bikers who grin back because they are feeling the same burst of freedom.”

5. Better Immunity and Detoxification

With spring cold season on the horizon, exercise’s immune-enhancing powers are nothing to sneeze at. Exercise shores up the immune system by goosing the body into churning out more white blood cells, including neutrophils and natural killer cells. More white blood cells mean fewer bacteria and viruses sneak past the gate. Net effect: You don’t get that worn-down sick look that comes from feeling under the weather, and small blemishes and wounds of all kinds heal faster.

Exercise also keeps the lymph system happy. The body has roughly 500 lymph nodes — little nodules of tissue that take out metabolic trash. But the nodes can’t haul garbage to the curb without the help of nearby muscles. When muscles contract during exercise, they put the squeeze on lymph nodes, helping them pump waste out of your system. Result: You look less puffy and polluted.

Increased circulation is the key to both white blood cell production and better lymph drainage, and the best way to achieve it is to regularly do things that make you breathe hard, says David Nieman, PhD, director of the human performance labs at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. “Right now, your heart is pumping 4 to 5 liters of blood per minute, but, if you got up and went for a run, it would pump up to four times more.”

That increased blood flow is what revs up the immune system, he says. His research shows that just 45 minutes of walking each day can cut the number of days of work you miss because of illness by up to 50 percent.

Elle Swan, 39, a life coach in Las Vegas, Nev., radiates vitality and credits her regular exercise routine —which includes Bikram yoga, group-cycling classes and weightlifting — with the fact that she hasn’t missed a day of work in seven years. “I used to catch at least four colds a year, and they would often turn into ear and sinus infections,” she says. “But I started exercising regularly and now I never get sick.”

The takeaway message, says Nieman, is simple: “There is no supplement or medication that has proven to be as strong as regular exercise in improving the immune system’s ability to detect and destroy invaders.”

6. More Restful Sleep

Plagued by dark circles? You’re not alone. As many as 60 million Americans wrestle with insomnia, according to a recent Harvard Medical School report. A slew of studies show exercise can elicit longer, more restful sleep. Why? Well, an intense workout may leave you more hungry for shuteye recovery time, but there’s more to it than that. Shawn Talbott, PhD, nutritional biochemist and author of The Metabolic Method (Current Book, 2008), explains that exercise sharpens the body’s sensitivity to the stress hormone cortisol, which can enhance sleep. Sleeping better leaves you looking fresh and healthy.

Here’s how it works: When your boss yells at you, the body spews cortisol to help muscles either duke it out or run like the wind. But, instead, if you sit and seethe at your desk, the cortisol stays in the bloodstream, like a racecar circling the track in a speedway. If the stress is chronic, the presence of cortisol 24/7 blunts the body’s cellular receptors, muting the hormone’s arousal call. That lack of sensitivity causes the adrenal glands to make more, just to get the body’s attention. “It’s like your body turns the volume up full-blast to get the message across,” says Talbott.

As a result, the body’s natural cortisol rhythms (high in the morning, low in the evening) “flatten out,” he explains, which can leave you mentally wound up at night — and carrying excess baggage under your eyes the next day.

But exercise is essentially a release valve for cortisol, helping you sleep more soundly and greet the day looking more refreshed, Talbott explains. “It sends a message to the brain that you’re using the cortisol for its original purpose — movement — and that it’s safe to turn off the tap afterward.” Bottom line: Your body is able to use the downtime for the tissue-repair work that keeps you both looking and feeling great.

7. Less Visceral Fat

Yes, exercise can help you lose your love handles, but it’s the loss of excess fat deep inside the body that boosts your overall vitality and your looks.

The body contains two types of fat. The one you can pinch (subcutaneous) is relatively benign. But the less visible stuff, the visceral fat that pads the abdominal organs like so many packing peanuts, can be a killer. Excess visceral fat fuels low-grade inflammation in the body and is tied to a virtual who’s who of 21st-century ills, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer and dementia. It can also upset the balance of important hormones (more on that to come) that affect your skin, hair and general appearance.

Regular exercise trains the body to burn visceral fat more efficiently. Exercise attacks fat on several fronts, explains Jason Karp, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Miramar College, distance-running roach at San Diego State University and owner of in San Diego. When you exercise regularly, your body makes more mitochondria, the cellular engines where aerobic metabolism takes place; it also produces more proteins to speed up the transportation of fatty acids into cells to be burned as energy; and it makes more enzymes that break down fat. “Enzymes regulate the speed at which chemical reactions take place. So the more enzymes you have, the faster visceral fat can be burned,” he adds. And the better your whole body looks as a result.

8. Stronger Sex Hormones

Getting fit not only makes you look sexy, it also makes you feel sexy by balancing the body’s sex hormone levels, which in turn can improve the appearance of hair, skin and muscle tone. Although the most studied hormones linked to exercise are endorphins, sex hormones, such as testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH — the same youth-serum substance celebrities pay thousands to be injected with), also get a boost.

When British scientists compared the hormone levels of 10 middle-aged men who ran more than 40 miles a week with 10 healthy, but sedentary, men, they found that, on average, the runners had 25 percent more testosterone and four times more HGH than the couch potatoes.

“What’s good for your heart is good for your sex life,” says C. W. Randolph, MD, cofounder of the Natural Hormone Institute of America and coauthor of In The Mood Again (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He points to studies showing that the sex lives of fit 60- and 70-year-olds often resemble the sex lives of people decades younger. And, remember, testosterone fuels sex drive in both men and women, so this isn’t one-sided advice.

You can tailor your workout to produce more testosterone, says Randolph. He says working large muscle groups — doing things like squats, lunges, dead lifts, bench presses and rows — ramps up testosterone more than single-joint, small-muscle-group movements like biceps curls or triceps extensions. For best results, he suggests doing three sets of five to 10 repetitions with weights that push muscles to their edge, and rest 30 seconds to two and a half minutes between sets. (For more on the sex appeal of good health, see “Health: The New Sex Symbol” in the December 2006 archives and “Faked Fitness” in the March 2010 archives.)

Exercise researchers agree that the benefits of improved fitness are a boon to virtually every system in our bodies. And any kind of regular activity will help you experience more of these benefits for yourself. “Most people think exercise is only about burning calories, but it’s so much more than that,” says Talbott. “Exercise is about a million small perks, like stress management, better sleep and an overall healthy body.” And they all add up to a more radiant, gorgeous you.

Catherine Guthrie is contributing editor of Experience Life.

Knockout Nourishment

Exercise alone isn’t going to make you look and feel gorgeous — you need to pair your workout with healthy food choices.

Eat foods rich in vitamin A. Hair, skin and nails depend heavily on vitamin A to stay strong and supple, says Pick. To up your intake, reach for more sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens
and broccoli.

Add omega-3s. Healthy fats help the skin retain moisture, says Pick. “When people don’t get enough good dietary fat, their skin gets dry and flaky, especially on the arms and abdomen.” Reliable sources include coldwater fish, walnuts and almonds.

Ease up on alcohol. Being mindful of how much you drink can help keep the liver, the body’s main detoxifying organ, in tiptop shape, therefore brightening eyes and evening out skin tone. A little red wine (say 4 ounces) with dinner is fine, says Pick, but don’t overdo it — and avoid hard liquor altogether.

Prioritize fiber. “The more veggies, fruits, beans and legumes you eat, the more efficiently your body will eliminate waste,” says Pick. The fiber in these foods helps reduce inflammation throughout the body. “And the antioxidants lower skin’s oxidative stress levels, staving off wrinkles and sun damage.”

Cut back on sugar. A high-sugar diet can feed bad bacteria in the gut and cause a low-grade inflammation that can lead to skin problems, such as breakouts and dermatitis, says Pick. Instead, try agave nectar, a (truly) natural sweetener that doesn’t spike blood sugar.

This article was sourced from


Increase Flexibility in Your Hamstrings

October 22, 2013

If I had a dollar for every time a yoga student or friend bemoaned his or her tight hamstrings, I would be pretty wealthy. It seems that people are super concerned about hamstring flexibility, and strain hard to touch their toes. Frankly, this ability is overrated.

Located on the back of the legs, the hamstrings are made up of three muscles with tendons that cross over both the knee and hip joints. Because the muscle attaches to two joints, any decreased joint mobility affects the length of the muscle.

Because of our sedentary culture, we spend an inordinate amount of time sitting — with both the knees and hips bent. This position directly impacts the length of the hamstrings. Athletic activities, such as running and biking, further shorten the hamstrings. This tightening also affects the pelvis because the tendons attach to the sit bones (ischial tuberosities), the bottom hooks of the pelvic bowl. In sitting, and even in standing, the shortening of the hamstrings can rock the pelvis backward, causing a rounded, slouchy position in the lower back. This rounded position can stress the back muscles, creating the potential for injury.

Now take this understanding of pelvic alignment and physiological length of the hamstrings onto the yoga mat, and move through a series of forward bends: the back muscles and tendons, attached to the sit bones, become genuinely cranky. Too often in yoga classes, students are most concerned with keeping their legs straight while trying to get their hands on the floor in a forward fold. Accomplishing this move really does not matter for general function and mobility, and can actually be injurious if done incorrectly.  If a student strains to get their hands to the floor, and rounds at the pelvis, the lower back (and possibly the hamstring tendons) are at risk of becoming strained.

If the hamstrings are tight but the pelvis is allowed to tip forward as the student moves into a standing forward fold, the lower back is safe and, with time and practice, the student can work on gradually straightening their knees. The goal is to hinge at the hip, so that the lower belly moves toward the upper thighs.  As long as pelvic mobility is not affected, and the core is engaged, a slight tightness in the hamstrings might offer some protection to less-flexible students by acting as a bumper pad to protect them from overstretching the connective tissue in their muscles and tendons.

Moving from the pelvis safely and successfully helps gain and maintain hamstring flexibility.

Complete this practice to help improve both pelvic mobility and hamstring flexibility:

1. Start with cat/cow by going down on all fours. Focus on moving your pelvis by moving the sit bones up and down. Don’t dump into the lower back.

2. Move into downward facing dog. Lift the sit bones up towards the ceiling, lifting the tendons of the hamstrings. Keep the pelvis in this position as you tuck the toes, lift the knees off the ground and gradually straighten the knees. Move into down dog gradually as you keep the pelvis stable, stopping when the knees can no longer straighten without rounding the back.

If your hamstrings are really tight, place your hands on a chair and do the same cat/cow transition into a down dog. The focus should still be on lifting the tailbone.

3. In down dog, place a block between your upper thighs and squeeze the inner thighs together. Try to straighten the knees, with the block in place, by pulling the lower belly in and lightly squeezing the sit bones. This movement activates the hamstrings, inner thighs and quadriceps (on the front thigh).

4.  Lie on your back, and place a strap, or a towel, around your foot and straighten the knee. Instead of pulling the foot closer to your head, keep the foot over the hip point and firm the front thigh muscle/quadricep to stretch the hamstrings. This alignment keeps the pelvis in a slight tilt and does not let the lower back round (as it would if you kept pulling the foot towards the head).

5. Keep your abdominals engaged as you work on your pelvic mobility, on all fours or on your hands in down dog, so that you don’t dump into your lower back.

Completing this practice, and focusing on the pelvis instead of the hamstrings, may get you closer to the promised land of palms on the floor – or not. Remember, yoga is like life.  It isn’t about the result; getting your palms down is much less important than how you move towards that goal.

Article sources from

Cardio Vs Weight Training For Weight Loss

September 23, 2013

Almost every day, there’s a new study that comes out with sensational headlines that “proves” a certain way of training is better for fat loss than another. For example, a Duke study was published a couple of weeks ago that researched whether cardio vs weight training is better for weight loss.

The authors came to the conclusion that, “…It appears that AT (aerobic training) is the optimal mode of exercise for reducing fat mass and body mass, while a program including RT (resistance training) is needed for increasing lean mass in middle-aged, overweight/obese individuals.”

The media took this story and ran with it. Hundreds of headlines popped up like:

…to name just a few.

With a reputable university behind the study and the media fervently promoting it, you are led to believe that if you want to lose fat optimally, you should only do cardio training.

This article explores several reasons why this conclusion may not be as sound as the authors claim it to be…to put it lightly.

Cardio vs Weight Training: Duke Study Weaknesses

1) Is Cardio Really “Optimal” For Fat Loss? – If someone said they are going to the gym 3 days per week for 8 months in order to lose weight and fat, but only lost 3.6 pounds of fat, would you say that was a good workout routine? Well, the people in this research study did just that. When the researchers claimed that the “optimal mode of exercise for reducing fat mass” they claimed that the aerobic training group who lost only 3.6 pounds of fat in 8 months was the best way to do this. As anyone who has taken on a fat loss program knows, an average of less than half a pound of fat lost per month equals really poor results.

2) Questionable Diet Protocol – In this particular study, these “weight loss” participants were told to adhere to a 2100 calorie diet, yet were overweight or obese to begin with. A diet of 2100 calories for someone who’s overweight or obese, would be a low calorie diet that, in and of itself, would cause weight loss. In this study, the researchers used a 3-day food diary and a 24-hour recall, two methods that have been shown to be poor predictors of actual calorie consumption, especially when dealing with an 8-month weight loss program.

3) Cardio Group Did Not Burn The Most Fat – The researchers claimed that the aerobic training group was the group that lost the most fat, but in actuality it was the combination group who lost 5.4 pounds of fat (they also gained some muscle). This is still not a huge amount of fat loss over 8 months, but is better than the aerobic only training group.

4) Weight Training Exercise Selection Not Very Effective – Researchers only stated that the resistance training group used 8 machines that worked the entire body. In college, I worked at a commercial gym, where they put a “circuit line” of 8 strength machines, 4 of which included single-joint movements. For example, this line included a preacher curl machine, which only works the biceps and a tricep extension machine that only worked your triceps. The other 2 isolation exercises were a leg extension and seated hamstring curl machine. These machines have their utility, but for the most part, should be used sparingly and really only for those with body building pursuits. If on the other hand, you’re trying to lose weight, you want to do as many multi-joint, free-weight movements as possible. The multi-joint exercises will induce more intensity and cause you to work more muscles, therefore increasing muscle burn.

5) Weight Training Routine Not Very Effective – In addition to that, these circuits took anywhere from 10-12 minutes to complete the 8 machines. Three rounds of these 8 machines would take a total of 30-35 minutes. In this study, three rounds of 8 machine-based exercises took an hour, about 15-20 minutes longer than it took the aerobic group in the study. It was also 25-30 minutes longer than it took people to complete the circuit I was supervising nearly 10 years ago.

This leads to 5 major weaknesses with this study. Overall, the aerobic group lost less than a half of pound of fat per month (not week). Food intake was not really controlled, which plays a very important factor when trying to lose fat. The intensity of the resistance training group was probably a lot less than it should be when doing a comparison of the cardio vs. weight training workouts. Lastly, the cardio training group didn’t see the best results; the training group that included both strength and cardio did.

Cardio vs Weight Training: Duke Study Strength

Overall, the study still had strengths that would be used in an applicable real-world setting. It focused on non-active middle-aged overweight adults with basic workouts. Overall, this study was very indicative of what the “average gym-goer” does all too often. For example, many people who are not active simply hop on a treadmill for about 30-40 minutes while doing some machines afterwards. This is something I’ve seen all too often and these are the menial results they can expect to get for their efforts (less than 4 pounds in 8 months).

Cardio vs Weight Training: Why Not Both?

Those in the aerobic group were able to maintain most of their muscle mass and lost fat, but what the study didn’t highlight are other benefits of resistance training or the combination of both, better known as concurrent training.

Other studies, with a more intense exercise protocol, have shown that weight training before cardio training enhances fat burning during the session2, and that overall resting energy expenditure is increased following weight training.3 These studies indicate that fat-burning is indeed elevated when it comes to resistance training, especially when the workouts are intense enough.

Also, recent research is indicating that concurrent training (both aerobic and resistance training), might be the best mode of exercise for fat loss.4 The largest issue with concurrent training is that it has the potential to lead to over-training, but this can be avoided by cycling more intense workouts with cycles of easier workouts.

Cardio vs Weight Training Conclusion

Overall, this was a study of what the average gym-goer would expect to see if they went in without any real direction or a smart program to help them in their fat loss efforts. Whether those workouts included doing only machines, hopping on a treadmill or a combination of both, the results you will expect to see would not be very significant.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to work out with more intensity, use more multi-joint movements, follow and be consistent with a smarter eating plan, you can expect to see much better results. This is especially true if you use a combination of both smart resistance training with some form of interval training.

Article sourced from

The importance of strength training

August 28, 2012

Strength training as a form of exercise gets little to no attention compared to cardiovascular training. Most people know that walking or riding their bike is an essential part of maintaining good health; strength training is often acknowledged as a beneficial thing to do for optimal health, but not essential enough to regularly incorporate into their exercise routine.

Strength training, by definition, is a concerted effort to use resistance or weights to work a muscle group. Many people falsely believe that being active, such as standing and moving during a shift at work, or doing house work, is enough effort to keep muscles healthy and strong. Being active is beneficial to the body, but it takes a focused effort to work muscles by either using weights, or your own body weight, to get the benefits of strength training.

The benefits of strength training are much too important to omit when committing to a healthy lifestyle, and many of these benefits cannot be accomplished with cardiovascular training alone. A well-designed strength-training program can provide the following benefits:

Strength Training:

Increases muscle mass, and muscle burns more calories than fat. Even at rest, your body will burn more calories if you strength train regularly. As muscle mass increases, metabolism increases, making it easier to maintain a healthy body weight. If you don’t intentionally rebuild muscle through exercise, every ten years you will need to eat 150-450 less calories each day to maintain your current weight.

Helps to slow down or halt muscle loss that accompanies aging. A typical adult loses about one-half pound of muscle per year after the age of 20, which means you feel less energetic and generally weaker.

Slows bone loss that accompanies aging and increases bone density.

Maintains or increases joint flexibility.

Helps to manage or reduce pain from ailments such as arthritis and old injuries.

Improve fitness variables such as glucose metabolism, blood pressure, muscle strength endurance, body composition and even insulin sensitivity.

Improves your mood. Research from Harvard University found that strength training is very effective at reducing depression in older adults (Singh, Clements, & Fiatarone, 1997).

Improves brain function. The coordination that is required to strength train keeps your brain active.

Enhances appearance.

Improves balance and decreases your risk for injury.

Helps you sleep more soundly.

Allows you to do activities you otherwise could not do.

When beginning a strength training program, follow these tips:

Consult with a certified fitness professional to learn safe technique before beginning a strength-training program.

Warm up properly. Spend a few minutes before exercising to warm muscles and connective tissues up and reduce risk for injury.

Perform every exercise at a slow, controlled and consistent rate of speed throughout the movement.

Engage in a strength training program that is designed to achieve muscle balance. Make sure each muscle has a chance to be worked equally.

Perform all exercises through a full range of motion.

Breathe through each exercise. Inadvertently holding your breath while strength training can cause excessive stress to your heart.

Vary your program. Machines, free weights, pilates and fitness ball exercises, to name a few, are all effective tools for strength training. Try one or two together to further enhance muscle strength and decrease boredom.

Exercise each muscle group at least two times per week, with at least two days rest in between workouts.
You don’t have to spend three hours a day to see the benefits of strength training. Exercise two to three times a week for thirty minutes a session and you will reap all of the great rewards mentioned above. Strength training is undeniably worth your effort and time.

About the Author: Alice Burron is an affiliate spokesperson and highly successful personal trainer for the American Council on Exercise. She earned a master’s in physical education with an emphasis in exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming and is a leading national fitness and wellness program expert.

7 Muscle Foods for Men

April 29, 2012

Muscle Food for Men

Coffs Coast Health Club is always researching into useful information for its members, we hope you find the posting useful in your quest of health & fitness.    This article, from WebMD,  discusses “muscle food for men”.   It’s so easy to overlook nutritional issues but remember a healthy body starts from the inside out.

Building abs and sculpting muscles begins in the kitchen before you ever hit the club.   Achieving muscle growth is a formula based on adequate calories, fluids, protein, and muscle-fatiguing strength training.

Drinking plenty of fluids, eating the right energy-rich foods along with weight lifting — all timed to fuel workouts and repair muscle tissue — will help you sculpt your muscles.

Nutrition Game Plan

A balanced dietary intake as recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines is a good foundation for meal planning. In general, eating a well-balanced diet with enough calories to support exercise is the prescription, according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) position paper on nutrition and athletic performance.

The ADA and ACSM recommend getting enough calories including adequate fat and protein, with an emphasis on five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables, plenty of whole grains, cereals, beans, legumes, and enough fluid for optimal hydration.

Muscle and Food

Fueling your workouts takes a combination of healthy carbs and protein.

Protein is important to build and repair muscles. Carbs provide the energy to fuel fitness.

You can’t eat protein and expect it turn to muscle. “Pull protein into muscles with exercise,” says Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD and editor of ADA’s Sports Nutrition Manual, due out later this year.

Experts recommend these muscle-friendly foods:

  1. Fruit and vegetables – are the foundation of all healthy diets, providing fiber, vitamins, minerals, and fluids. Vegetables contain small amounts of protein.
  2. Low-fat dairy – provides high-quality protein, carbs, and essential vitamins such as vitamin D, potassium, and calcium. Rosenbloom and Clark recommend chocolate milk as a good workout recovery beverage. If you are lactose intolerant, you may tolerate yogurt with active cultures.
  3. Lean meat – This is a great source of protein, iron for oxygen transport to muscles, and amino acids including leucine, which Rosenbloom says is thought to be a trigger for muscle growth.
  4. Dark-meat chicken – Boneless skinless chicken is good, but go dark and increase iron by 25% and three times the zinc for a healthy immune system.
  5. Eggs – The 2010 Dietary Guidelines says an egg a day is OK but don’t throw out the yolk. “Eggs contain all of the essential amino acids and half the protein is in the yolk with other import nutrients like lutein for eye health,” Rosenbloom says.
  6. Nuts – Unsalted raw or roasted are a good source of protein that also contain vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats.
  7. Beans and whole grains – These quality carbs contain small amounts of protein for energy and muscle repair, along with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.

Timing Is Everything

Timing is critical in muscle development because you need carbs and protein to perform strength training and protein and carbs for muscle recovery. The best plan is to eat a diet containing both nutrients and small amounts of healthy fats throughout the day.

“Consuming a protein beverage like chocolate milk within an hour after exercise will give muscles the building blocks it needs when it is most receptive for repair” says Rosenbloom, Georgia State University nutrition professor emerita.

If you will be eating a meal within 1-2 hours after a strenuous workout, Rosenbloom says you don’t need a snack and can wait for the meal to provide the recovery nutrition.

How Much?

More than half your calories should come from healthy carbs, says sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD. “Carbs supply fuel for energy and prevent protein from being broken down and used as an energy source so always fuel up before working out.”

But be careful: It is a delicate balance of eating enough calories to build muscle but not too many calories, which can lead to gaining body fat.

Protein has a role to build and repair muscle tissue in addition to other functions, like producing hormones and immunity factors. The ADA suggests male endurance athletes get 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, whereas male body builders may need 1.6-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

“Two cups of milk contain about 20 grams of protein, which is the amount recommended to stimulate muscle protein synthesis,” Rosenbloom says.

But most people don’t eat by the numbers. So Clark, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, recommends meal suggestions. “The foundation of each meal is based on healthy carbs, with additional protein like oatmeal with nuts and yogurt; turkey and cheese sandwich with veggies or spaghetti with meat sauce, and a salad. These are all great for body building,” Clark says.

She advises her athletes to divide their food into four equally sized meals and choose three out of these four options: fruit or vegetable, grains, healthy fats, and calcium-rich or lean protein at each meal.

For a food plan designed just for you, consult a registered dietitian.

Get Muscle-Building Results by Fatiguing Muscles

The only way to build bigger, more defined muscles is with progressive resistance training – gradually increasing weights and endurance. Use a weight heavy enough to cause muscle fatigue after 9-12 repetitions. If you can easily do 13 repetitions with good form, you need to increase the weight.

“It is the act of pushing the muscles past the comfort zone that promotes muscle growth and see more definition,” Clark says.

Strength training results show up quicker than aerobic exercise. “It’s encouraging to start seeing enhanced definition fairly soon after working out at least twice a week for 30-45 minutes,” Rosenbloom says.

The exact length of time it takes to start seeing enhanced definition in your muscles also depends on your percentage of body fat. An extra fat layer around your muscles will not let the newly toned muscle show through without weight loss. Clark says gaining 2 pounds of muscle per month is a reasonable expectation.

Strength training is vital to building muscles but it is also an important part of any fitness program and should be done 2-3 times per week for 20-30 minutes. “It is a great investment in your future well-being because you need to use your muscles or you will lose them,” Clark says.

As we age, strength training helps maintain muscle strength, prevent osteoporosis, and decrease muscle and joint injuries.

Rosenbloom recommends going to a gym where you can work with a trainer to understand how to properly perform muscle building exercises to challenge but not injure your muscles.

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

Learning to Love Exercise

April 22, 2012
We thought this might be of interest,  written by Lavinia Rodriguez from the SMH, it gives  practical ways in which to look at exercise.  Remember if you’re needing some guidance with the “loving exercise” concept, the team at Coffs Coast Health Club are always available to introduce you to this great love affair.  So fall in love with exercise…it makes everything  in life better, we promise!
Generic fitness, exercise, health, weight loss, summer.Gradual change … celebrate incremental improvements.

It may be hard to believe that someone can go from dreading exercise to dreading a day that passes without it. But that’s just what happened to me.

Learning to love exercise wasn’t a miraculous conversion, but a gradual evolution that could happen for anyone. I’m proof.

In younger years, I avoided gym classes, team sports and the outdoors. Like a lot of my friends, I just didn’t want to exert myself.

But by the time I was in graduate school, I was having problems controlling my asthma. All that sitting and studying was having an impact on my weight, too. I knew the trend wasn’t good.

I started to realise that I wanted not only to be lean, but also fit for the rest of my life. I wanted to be stronger and have more endurance.

One of the good things about studying psychology was that I knew none of this would happen if I didn’t change my attitude and the way I thought about physical activity. But that didn’t mean I instantly knew how to do it.

Sure, you can grit your teeth and make yourself do something you don’t want to do. But that’s not the route to permanent change. I wanted to learn to actually like activity.

Looking back, I realised that the reason I learned to love activity is because I didn’t go looking for a magical solution. Instead, I systematically incorporated gradual changes that I knew I could handle. As I succeeded at each one, I found that I was eager for new challenges.

Here are the specific steps I took:

1. Embrace the process: Understanding that change takes time is important. I wanted to get into jogging and had noticed plenty of runners seemingly floating around a one-mile (1.6-kilometre) course on campus. But could I do the same with no exercise history whatsoever? I decided that running a mile without stopping would be a goal I would reach gradually. I alternated between jogging and walking based on my comfort level, increasing the jogging by as little as a few seconds at a time until I was able to jog nonstop for 1 mile.

2. Accept the difficulty: It takes at least some effort to make changes. But the effort shouldn’t be excessive. Pace yourself based on your condition and gently coax yourself to the next level. It’s not about “No pain, no gain”. It’s more like, “Comfort and vigour (minus pain) leads to steady gain”.

3. Pay attention to thoughts: Does any of this sound familiar? “This is going to be so hard!” “The end of the course is so far away!” “I hate exercise”.

That’s what I was thinking. But I decided to catch those self-defeating statements and turn them around – even if I didn’t really believe the new version yet.

“Focus on the present moment, slow down if you need to, but just keep moving forward”, I would tell myself. “You’ll get better and better.” With time, the new positive statements replace the old negative thoughts.

4. Don’t impose strict deadlines: It took me a year to jog a full mile without stopping. But that was back in the mid-1970s, and I’ve been exercising regularly ever since, so who cares how long it took?

If I had put strict expectations on myself, I would probably still be where I started. It was slow, but it worked.

It’s better to focus on taking one step at a time instead of setting deadlines when making major lifestyle changes. You don’t need to keep up with or compete with anyone.

I’ve tried different activities through the years, but I’ve never wanted to stop exercising. My asthma – my main inspiration to get fit – has disappeared.

Walking is my activity of choice because it’s inexpensive, it’s meditative and I can do it anywhere. I enjoy my daily hour of time alone to think, watch nature and greet my neighbours.

Exercising is one of the best pleasures in my life, and I hope that it can become just as much of a joy for you, too.

Read more:×392.html#ixzz1seXanf66

Build Muscle for Better Health-Strength training is about more than getting buff

March 25, 2012

Strength Training

We all know how important cardiovascular exercise is — how it’s great for your heart, cholesterol, and blood pressure. And whether you choose to walk, bicycle, or jog, you know that any exercise that increases your heart rate helps you burn calories and melt away unwanted pounds.

But that’s only half the equation.

For a balanced fitness program, strength training is essential. It can slow the muscle loss that comes with age, build the strength of your muscles and connective tissues, increase bone density, cut your risk of injury, and help ease arthritis pain.

“metabolism is very important, not just for your muscles but for your bones,” says certified fitness trainer Debbie Siebers. “It’s preventative for [bone-thinning] osteoporosis and other problems.”

Studies from the CDC have found that muscle-building exercise can also improve balance, reduce the likelihood of falls, improve blood-sugar control, and improve sleep and mental health.

And let us not forget the weight-loss benefits. Not only does it make you look trimmer and shapelier, but building muscle also helps you burn calories — even after your workout is done.

“Three to four hours after a strength-training workout, you’re still burning calories,” says Seibers, a creator of fitness videos including the “Slim in 6” series.

Strength training is especially important for dieters. When you lose weight, up to a quarter of the loss may come from muscle, which can slow your metabolism. Strength training helps you rebuild any muscle you lost by dieting — or keep you from losing it in the first place.

Getting Started

So you’re convinced of strength training’s virtues. But just how do you go about getting started?

The weight room at the gym, with all the buff bodies and complicated-looking equipment, can be intimidating to a beginner. Indeed, for someone with back or joint pain, just picking up a weight might seem daunting. Then there’s the issue of proper form: Without it, you could do more harm than good trying to build strength.

Your best bet when starting out is one-on-one help from a qualified fitness trainer — whether it’s a personal trainer,  an instructor at your gym or group fitness class such as Les Mills PUMP.   A trainer can address your personal goals and limitations and can help you with alignment and execution of each exercise.

“I can’t tell you how many people I see with a knee injury because they were not taught correctly how to do a lunge or squat,” says Sue Carver, physical therapist with A World of Difference Therapy Services in Little Rock, Ark.

Siebers also recommends checking out books, videos, and/or fitness- and health-related web sites for guidance on exercises and form.

Indeed, good technique, not heavy lifting, should be your primary goal in the beginning, Carver says.

Siebers recommends using a heavy enough weight to feel resistance, but not strain or pain. Your individual body will determine just how much that is, and you should err on the light side at first; five pounds may not seem like a lot, but it’s better to be conservative than suffer.

And how much should you work out? According to the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, beginners should do at least two days per week of any type of strength-training exercise. Your workout should consist of 8 to 12 repetitions each of 8 to 10 different exercises working all the major muscle groups — chest, back, shoulders, arms, abdominals, and legs. (A repetition is how many times you lift the weight, pull the rubber tubing, do a pushup, or whatever.)

Machines or Free Weights?

Both free weights and weight machines work well, and experts say there’s no evidence that one is superior to the other, so this is largely a matter of choice.

“Internet chat rooms and support groups really help to motivate.”

Machines are a good idea for people who are overweight and/or out of condition, since the exercises are generally done seated and with back support, Seibers says.

But if machines are not an option, investing a few dollars in a set of light dumbbells and/or some resistance tubing can give you what you need to start toning those muscles.

Whichever option you choose, keep your moves basic at first.

For the arms and upper body, try these exercises:

  • Chest presses
  • Reverse flies for the back
  • Overhead presses for the shoulders
  • Bicep curls
  • Triceps kickbacks or extensions

For the lower body, don’t start out with squats and lunges, which can put too much impact on weak joints. Instead, try:

  • Quadriceps extensions for the front of the thigh.
  • Hamstrings curl for the back of the thigh.
  • Side-lying or standing leg lifts to work the inner and outer thigh.

And don’t forget to work on strengthening your “core” muscles — the ones in your abdominal and lower back area. Core stability is key to avoiding injury, according to Carver. “Somebody with strong upper extremities but no core stability can hurt themselves doing a bicep curl, for example, if they can’t stabilize the trunk,” she says.

You’ll also avoid injuries — and get the best results — by varying your workouts. For example, if you work the biceps, back and legs one day, work the triceps, chest and shoulders the next time you train, Siebers says. Alternating between muscle groups gives the ones you worked plenty of time to recover.

Incorporating stretching in your strength program will also help keep injuries at bay, says Carver. Most important, don’t push too hard. Carver always cautions people that “feeling some discomfort in the muscle is OK, but feeling it in the joint is not.”

If you have a health condition or previous injury, you may need to do modified versions of certain exercises or skip them altogether, she says. That’s when it’s especially important to work with a fitness trainer.

Staying With the Program

Success comes from structure and constant support, according to Siebers. “Calendar it up,” she suggests: Chart your week of exercise out in advance so you know exactly what you’re expecting of yourself.

Having a friend to train with is one of the best ways to stick to a program, Siebers says, even if he or she is a cyber-pal.

“Internet chat rooms and support groups really help to motivate,” she says. “There are a million people out there in your same situation getting online every night and encouraging each other. People need that day-to-day hand-holding.”

But perhaps the most important things you need for a successful strength training program — or for successful weight loss — are patience and acceptance, she says.

“The problem is, people look too far down the road trying to see the big picture too quickly,” she says. “You have to try to accept and love yourself today and know that each day, you’re going to get better.”

If you’re interested in strength training why not talk to us at Coffs Coast Health Club and we can get you on the way to a strong and healthier body.

By Barbara Russi Sarnataro