Monday, October 29, 2012

Core Strength -- The Raking Twist (perfect for Fall)

Here is the second installment of exercises to keep your body protected and injury free while raking up all your beautiful Fall leaves.  This exercise targets your side abdominal muscles (your obliques) and really trains you to engage your core muscles to support your lower back.  And with the twisting and lifting of upcoming snowfall right around the bend, this is another good exercise to continue at least through the winter months.

The Raking Twist
Start with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.  Pull your belly in toward your spine to protect your lower back and lean forward slightly.  It is very important to keep you core muscles activated – keep that belly pulled in!  With your hands up by your head, inhale and twist your chest up to the left; exhale and return to the center.  Next, inhale and twist your chest up to the right; exhale and return to the center.  This counts as one rep; go for at least 2-3 rounds of 20-30 reps.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Strong legs -- lift without getting hurt!

Ah…Fall…the leaves are falling, the air is cooling, and it’s time to just snuggle up and relax, right?  No!  Now is the time to get our blood pumping and our body toning to help carry up through the cold months ahead.  Plus, with the beautiful falling leaves comes raking those leaves, and every year many people overdue it and injure their backs.  So, for the next two weeks I’m going to be covering a few exercises to get you prepared and ready for the 20 bags of leaves you’ll be raking up.
This week’s exercise is working the legs, core, and arms.  I like to think of this as training for picking up all those leaves.  Although leaves are light, if you lift improperly (with your lower back) over and over, you’re probably going to tweak or pull something.  If you lift like this week’s exercise, using your legs and core, it will be smooth sailing. 

Squat Lift
For this exercise we will be using a weighted ball.  If you do not have one of these, simply use what’s around you (jug of milk, heavy book(s), piece of firewood, etc.).  Begin with your feet wider than shoulder width apart while holding on to your weighted ball.  Exhale and squat down while lifting the weight up to your chest.  Inhale return to your starting position.  Go for 2-3 rounds of 20-30 reps.
Since safety and proper strengthening is all about the technique, let’s talk about your position as you squat down.  First, make sure as you squat down that your knees stay over the ankles.  The knees should not go past your toes or buckle in or out.  In fact, at the bottom of your squat you should have a straight, vertical line from your ankle to your knee.  Second, keep your legs pressing open, activating your inner thighs.  Feel your hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps activating to support you.  Third, keep your chest up and back.  Think of having a line running from the crown of your head down through your tailbone; keep this line pulling up toward the ceiling (not forward).  Fourth, as always, pull your belly in to support your lower back. 
Most simply put, as you go from your starting position to your squat your upper body should not change position at all.  All you need to do is keep your legs pressing open and your knees over your ankles.
That’s it!  You’ve got it!  However, the strengthening and muscle memory needed to help protect you through all those falling leaves (and upcoming snow) will take some time to develop.  So, continue doing this exercise 3-5 times per week for at least a month, then go down to 1-2 times per week to maintain (while of course substituting in some other great exercises I’ll be covering).
Conquer the leaves as we jump into Fall!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Venus Fly Trap -- Core Strength

This week is all about the core.  I like to call this week’s exercise “The Venus Fly Trap” (you’ll soon see why).  Not only does this exercise work our upper "6-pack" muscles but it also works the harder-to-reach inner and lower abdominal muscles.  In addition, since our legs and arms are up in the air we will also be working our inner thighs, biceps, and shoulders.

Get ready to snap up a stronger, healthier body!
The Venus Fly Trap – core strength

Begin by lying on your back with your arms spread in a “V” on the floor and your legs held in a “V” in the air.  NOTE: If you are not very flexible (yet) or have lower back problems, try bending your legs at the knee.  As always, keep your belly pulled in toward the spine to support the lower back.  This is your starting position.  As you exhale, pull your legs and hands together as you lift up toward the ceiling.  Keep your chin lifting to the ceiling as you try to get your shoulder blades off the ground.  Inhale, return to your starting position.  That’s it!  Easy bees!  Go for 2-3 rounds of 20-30 repetitions.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Push-Up Mountain -- Tone your Arms and Whole Body!

Push-ups!  Oh, the love-hate relationship I have with push-ups.  I love the excellent whole body workout I get while doing them but….I hate how hard they are!  Funny thing is I think almost all men I work with would chose push-ups over an ab exercise any day of the week; and almost all the women I work with would chose the abs!  But this is why we mix it up. 

So jump on board the push-up train and let’s rock those arms and tone your whole body!

Push-Up Mountain

Level 1: On your knees, no ball
Level 2: On your knees, with ball (works stabilizing muscles)
Level 3: On your toes, no ball
Level 4: On your toes, with ball (works stabilizing muscles)
*Chose a level so that you challenge yourself but are able keep your lower back supports with your core

Begin with both feet and hands spread out wide in a push-up position.  Make sure your belly is pulled in toward the spine to protect your lower back!  Keep your elbows bent slightly, your chest open and your head up.  Tuck your glutes (bootie) under, tighten your thighs, and extend through your heels.  Maintain this position throughout the entire exercise.   

Bend your arms for your push-up.  Now the “tricky” part.  While keeping your bootie down and your back flat, step your left hand up to your right hand and your left foot up to your right foot  so that you are holding your whole body in a straight line with your hands and feet together.  Now, step your right hand and foot out as wide as you can and do a push-up.  Repeat going back in the opposite direction.   

One round: push-up, left side up, right side out, push-up, right side up, left side out.  Go for at least 10 rounds, 2-3 times.

NOTE:  If you are using the ball, and I encourage you to, I have found that it works best to move your first hand to the side of the ball before placing your second hand on it.  For example: push-up with right hand on the ball, right hand moves to the right of the ball, place left hand on the ball as left side steps up, right side out, push-up,  left hand moves to the left of the ball, place right hand on the ball as the right side steps up, left side steps out.

Have fun and conquer those push-ups!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tight buns! - Lift and Strengthen

 This week we are working our bootie to get high, tight buns!  Every woman (and even some men) I know want to have a nice back side: one that’s curvy, lifted, and looks great in a pair of jeans.  Well, this exercise is going to help give you just that!  By working the sides of our glutes (our bootie muscles), we will create definition and lifting.  Plus, as an added bonus, we will be working all of our core muscles.
Side-Back Kick
Start of all fours with your knees under your hips and your hands slightly staggered, with your left hand ahead of your left shoulder and you right hand under your right shoulder.  Pull your belly in to support your lower back.  Open your chest and keep your neck relaxed but up.  While maintaining this position, pull your right knee up toward your right shoulder, trying to lift your knee up as high as it can go.  Your goal is to keep your knee and leg parallel to the ground the entire time.  For the kick simply press your foot behind you, keeping your toes and knee pointed to the side.  To enhance your workout, actively press your leg out, using all your muscles and might, and then actively pull your leg back in as though it’s a rubber band springing back. This is one repetition.  Do 4-8 slow, followed by 30 fast, on each leg.  Repeat for 1-2 more rounds.  Do this exercise 2-5 times per week and enjoy your tighter and higher buns!