Tuesday, September 25, 2012

V-Twist For Your Core

It’s time to come back to our wonderful and extremely important core muscles.  As all of you know, I love the core muscles.  After all, it is our core muscles that pull together our entire body and lead to our overall mobility and balance.  However, to truly develop our core muscles we must go beyond the basic crunch or sit-up; instead, we must work both the external and internal abdominal muscles, both the strength and stabilizing muscles.
This week’s exercise is going to target the harder-to-reach transversus abdominis (internal support ab muscles) along with our obliques (side abdominal muscles).  As we work these muscles we’ll get more definition in our core and improved mobility and support.   In addition, this exercise will require you to use legs as you hold them in a ballerina-esque position.  So get those ballerina legs ready and we’ll twist, twist, twist to a stronger core.

The V-Twist
Start by lying on your back.  Lift your legs up into a “V” position, trying to keep them pulling up toward the ceiling, perpendicular to the ground.  Extend through your feet, activating all your leg muscles and your lower abdominal support muscles.  Remember to pull your belly in toward your spine to support your lower back.  (NOTE:  If this position hurts your lower back right now, and you are already pulling your belly in to support the spine, try bending the knees as a modification.  If this is not enough, bend your knees, placing your feet on the floor.)  Now it’s time for the twist part.  For this you are going to reach up and touch your right hand to your left foot and then your left hand to your right foot, alternating sides. 
If you have not worked you lower abdominals and internal support abdominal muscles very much, this may be a pretty tiring exercise.  Adjust your repetitions as necessary to prevent you from getting tired and switching to using your lower back instead of your core (do NOT do this!).  Your goal is to do at least 3 sets of 25 repetitions (touching both left and right foot equals 1 repetition). 
Stick with this exercise and you’ll notice it becoming easier to hold those legs up and to reach up towards those feet.  Plus, you just might find yourself having an easier time moving around, doing all the things you love to do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Skater Move -- work your heart and your legs

Don’t you just love this time of year with the beautiful warm days followed by the slightly crisp air at night?  I know I do!  But as the temperatures begin to dip I am reminded to bump up my exercising so that I don’t begin to hibernate like the bears!  This week we are going to be working out our entire body, especially or lower half, as we get our hearts pumpin’. 

Up until I left for college I spent 5 hours a day training on and off ice for competitive ice dancing; oh how we worked our legs.  I even remember how my dad used to have people touch my quads because they were so strong, just pure muscle without an ounce of…”cushioning”.  So after all those long hours, and the incredible fitness results achieved from those ice dancing moves, I have lovingly named this exercise: “The Skater Move”.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do as it heats up your inside and tones up your outside.  (Spandex and leotards are optional (wink)).

The Skater Move

Begin with feet hip width apart, belly in to support your spine, and chest lifted.  Take a big step to the left, reaching your right leg behind you to the angle.  Keep your weight on your left leg as you bend down toward the floor with your right hand (twisting your arms and right leg across your body).  The farther you lunge down the farther you should extend your back leg behind you.  As always, make sure you keep your belly pulled in to support your spine and your front knee over (not past) the ankle.  NOTE:  only go as far down as you can while still protecting your front knee and lower back!  Keep your head up and shoulders relaxed.  Now, pull your belly in as you lift up your upper body and spring to the right, twisting your left hand and left leg across the body.  Alternate back and forth for 1-5 minutes, all the while making sure to maintain your position of belly in and a safe knee stance.  As your legs start to burn, just think about how great your legs are going to look the next time you bust out a lovely pair of shorts or a swimsuit.  And for you men out there, just think of how you are becoming strong, powerful and fast…you can forgo the spandex.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Speed Bag for Toned Arms

The cooler days of Fall are coming and we only have a few more weeks of being able to (comfortably) bare our arms.  But before all the sweaters and long sleeve coats, imagine wearing a sleeveless shirt and being able to show off sleek, toned shoulders…this exercise will help you get there.

This week I am highlighting the “speed bag” workout.  Granted, without an actual speed bag to work with, you might feel a bit goofy doing, but I promise you shoulders and arms will feel the burn (in a good way)!

Speed Bag Exercise – (forward)

Start with your feel past shoulder width with your knees bent.  Twist your upper body toward the left (working your obliques (your sides)) lifting both hands in front of your chest.  With your hands in fists, rapidly rotate hand-over-hand in a forward direction.  That’s it!  Easy enough, right?  To maintain proper position, make sure your knees are over your ankles with our belly pulled in, your chest lifted, and your shoulders down.  The biggest mistake people make on this exercise is allowing their shoulders to raise up toward their shoulders; especially as the muscles before more fatigued the temptation will be to shoulders-ears, with no neck in between.  Do not do this!  The only thing it will do it leave your back and trapezius (the muscle between your shoulders and your neck) sore…not the muscles we want to focus on for this exercise.  Instead, periodically throughout the exercise check in with your shoulders and consciously try to relax them down.

Alternate sides (for about 10-30 counts each side) for a total of 1-3 minutes.  Now, spin those arms and spin them fast! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tone those saddlebags!

It’s leg lift time!  This exercise is designed to tone the sides of your legs as well as your glutes (your bootie).  However, this is not a cardiovascular exercise so you will want to add it in to an exercise circuit or do heart pumping movement first (such as a brisk walk, jumping jacks, or jump rope). 

Butterfly leg lift

Sit on the ground with your left leg bent in front of you and your right leg bent out to the side.  Place both palms on the ground in front of your left leg, pressing slightly into the ground with your hands as you straighten your spine.  Now, pull your belly in to support the posture with your core.  Maintaining this position, lift your right leg up toward the ceiling as high as you can (it probably will not be very high, that’s okay).  Return your right leg back to the ground.  That is one rep.  Repeat 15-30 times on each leg, 2-3 more times.  Add this exercise in 3-5 times over the next week and then we’ll add another next Monday.