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Archive for Ab strength

Strong Core for Winter Sports

It’s December and now is the season for skiing, snow boarding, snow shoeing, ice skating, and even sledding. If you’re not an active winter athlete, and you prefer to sit on your butt gaining weight this winter, then don’t bother reading this article. But if you have hopes and dreams, or scheduled plans to get involved in winter activities, I advise you to strengthen your core. Even if you do just want to sit on the couch all winter, tucking in your tummy and improving your posture will at least make your waistline appear a little slimmer.

Many people refer to “the core,” and typically we think of the abdominals as our core. But it is much MUCH more than just abs! It includes any muscle that is directly engaged with the spine or pelvis. The core will be the protective barrier for accidents or nasty falls. Therefore, a strong core is automatic injury prevention. Many winter sports are on very slick surfaces, where balance and stability are absolutely essential. Yet again, the core muscles will keep you balanced and on your feet. Changing directions on snow comes not just from your lower body, but the pelvis shifts your weight as it is the powerhouse of your whole body. Need a few exercises that will get your core powered up for the season, without any equipment? Watch this video:

Please don’t end up ruining your entire winter season, by getting injured out there on your first weekend. Firm up and stay tight. Have fun!

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Remove ugly belly fat

Some articles proclaim “how to get rid of belly fat!” or “Try these exercise to remove unwanted belly fat!” The articles may be missing one key point. We cannot simply laser off belly fat magically, unless you get surgery. Don’t get me wrong, exercise DOES WORK to reduce body fat. However, you can’t eat cookies and pie all day long and expect to lose the body fat!

Keep in mind, we all have different body shapes and different places fat cells like to accumulate. One type of body has those nice dimply thighs and chunky butts, where the fat cells love to pile up, with less of a chance for the extra ugly belly fat. The other type has less fat on the legs, but chronically chubby tummies. These are body types that you can’t escape. The fat will go where it wants to go.

If you are the type that has extra belly fat, you can do sit-ups all day long and it won’t burn those stubborn fat cells. Although, core and abdominal strength are an extremely important part of a fitness regime. The solution to burning the fat is essentially burning more calories, and then to eat less calories. If you’re burning calories, you’ll eventually use the fat cells to produce energy. Hence, zapping away those piled up fat cells around your belly button!

Don’t listen to all the articles that proclaim the cure to belly fat as being one specific exercise or trick. The key is to just go out there work hard, burn some calories, and then skip the ice cream at night.

Look better by standing taller

The way our bodies appear has more to do with what’s going on inside than you realize. When you are feeling down you actually tend to look down, and slump forward. As humans we have body language saying so much to each other. We cross our legs, fold our arms, close our bodies off to the dangers of the world. When feeling insecure about the state of our bodies, we suffer thinking we’ll be this way the rest of our lives. Do you think your body does not react to these negative thoughts? Of course our body feels the hatred and anger the brain emits! Loving your body today will most likely help it feel good and strong and healthy for tomorrow. You can think of it as, “I am just getting older” or “today is the youngest I will be for the rest of my life.” Your young body is alive and thriving so will you choose to let it sit there on the couch wasting precious time? Or take it out and see what it is capable of? Seize the day, my friend!

One chronic problem with many of my clients is that they hunch over and have poor posture. Do you know how much better your chest will look if you just stand tall and feel proud of who you are? Good posture is an amazingly simple way to look taller, leaner and more attractive overall. Men are notorious for doing a lot of bench press and or push-ups and tend to get really tight pecs and proportionately weaker upper back muscles. Thus, the hunched back problem festers. Even women, especially taller women and big-breasted women have to fight against our natural tendencies to slump forward. Also, focus on strengthening those beautiful upper back muscles by doing more fly, rows, and lat pull-downs to develop a nicer posture. If you keep your posture in mind throughout your training, it will improve.

Baby got back! Work those back muscles to improve your posture.

So, keep your chin up. Love yourself. Love your body. Because one day, you may look back and regret not taking advantage of these younger years.

Freshen up your workout

If you do the same ol’ same ol’ workout every time you are training, your body has in innate reaction to find the easiest way possible to get from point A to point B. So doing the usual 5 exercises and machines every time you’re at the gym will create a sort of staleness and ultimately, your body won’t benefit from the workout. The rule known as S.A.I.D., which means Specific Adaptations of Imposed Demands, sums up this training theory. Your body adapts to the demands placed on it while you’re training and then you need to increase either the intensity or the volume to improve and see results. So, if you are always using 15-pound dumbbells, now’s the time to up-your-fit to 20!

Here are a few original goodies to throw in your bag of tricks next time you’re working out.

  • The Decline Sideways-walking Push-ups : WATCH THE VIDEO. All you need is a bench of about 12 – 18″ or a lower ledge if you’re just starting out. In the video I do a building repetition but you can do a full pyramid to 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1.
  • The Russian Plank: WATCH THE VIDEO. Again no equipment necessary, just a nice slow count of five on each lift. This really improves stability and core strength!

Start off moderate with reps and then each session increase the quantity by 2 or more reps to increase the volume. Good luck getting stronger!

Try out this class to Up Your Fit in San Diego!

Strength, the missing part of the equation

For many years I trained very hard and competed as a swimmer and as a triathlete. Day after day, mile after mile, I made progress as an endurance athlete, to a certain extent. Then, I plateaued. I was never aware of the benefits weight training and body weight exercise could bring to me. Possibly, because I thought I was training SO hard in practice, that practice was all I needed.

Many years later, after getting certified as a Strength & Conditioning Specialist, I’ve come to appreciate the power, strength and advantage of training muscles in a specific way. When one improves strength skills, it translates to faster movements in practice, more powerful kicks on the field, greater distance with each stroke, and passing your competitor at juuuust at that right moment! It’s that extra spring in your step, you might say. And suddenly moves in practicing a sport suddenly feel easier.

Focusing your strength and conditioning towards your sport can be a touchy subject since different muscles are used for various movements. One muscle group I find benefit all athletes, regardless of the sport, is the abdominal muscles, specifically the transverse abdominus and the internal and external obliques. Exercises, such as planks and plank variations are great for working abs and many upper-body muscles. But, many other abdominal exercises like the Russian twist, the Bicycle and rope climbers are effective at targeting those really important muscles of the abdominals. Here’s a video of my five ab series. I do NOT recommend standard old sit-ups as it uses much of your back muscles to do the work you want your abs to do.

Simply practicing your sport will not always give you the extra edge you can achieve from strength training. Find a good personal trainer, or functional strength training class to start making the most of your muscles’ potential.

Benefits of strength training:

  • Higher power to weight ratios, making hill climbing faster and easier
  • Greater resistance to injury
  • Jumping higher
  • Hitting, kicking harder: increasing force output at higher velocities
  • It can reduce body fat up to 9%, according to Fleck, S.J., and W.J. Kraemer. Designing Resistance Training Programs
  • High Intensity loads can actually improve the connective tissues involved.

Are You Conditioned for your Sport?

When you find a sport you love, you usually get hooked and do the sport over and over as the only form of exercise. I know this is true with soccer players, basketball players, triathletes, runners, and more. We find ourselves racing and competing and having fun with it! Kudos to you for having discovered a form of exercise that you love. However, building up a conditioned base of muscular strength, agility, power and endurance really launches us into some rewarding results, while keeping us more injury-resistant.

First, our bodies naturally find the path of least resistance: using the same muscles each time you exercise creates a movement pattern that is the easiest way to function. Throwing your body off will “keep you on your toes” and get stabilizer muscles firing, which are crucial for protecting us from injury. Back injuries are caused by a myriad of potential problems. Weak core stabilizer muscles are ultimately essential for protecting the deep internal muscles and tendons near the spine. Bad posture creeps in at a younger age which causes bad habits while playing sports, which leads to injury. Improve your posture, improve your form, improve your function.

Second, most sports emphasize specific muscle groups, leaving many muscles out in the cold. For example, weak inner thighs, like adductor muscles, are very useful in good fast running mechanics. If unused, they will load a lot of the stress on the quads and hamstrings, preventing us from running or changing directions as fast as you have the potential to. Many other muscles are capable of acting in a synergistic way to larger muscle groups giving them the extra push they’ll need to get you out of reach from your competitors. Besides, who wants lop-sided musculature? (Think Popeye’s funky arms.)

Lastly, stabilizer muscles don’t fatigue so quickly. Invest in cross-training and you’ll develop a well-rounded healthy body that stands the test of time. Some fitness aspects to focus on for all athletes is balance, flexibility, core strength and agility. In the next few articles I will highlight ways to work each one of the fitness aspects through specific exercises.

Strong Abs — Do It Right!

If you’ve had me as your fitness coach, you know I’m a big proponent of strengthening your abdominals. However, strong abs seem to be commonly done wrong and it is simply sad that all these hard working fitness enthusiasts are only working the external muscles known as the rectus abdominus, AKA “six pack.” The six pack is one of the LEAST useful part of your abs. It is mostly just a show-off muscle that looks nice but does little for actual core power and strength! The ability to run faster, stay stronger longer, win tennis matches and races of all sorts is facilitated by your “powerhouse,” as we call in in Pilates. I’m talking about the full spectrum: obiques, transverse abdominus, the diaphram, intercostal muscles, the Pelvic floor muscles, the Multifidus, the muscles of the inner thigh, and the muscles encircling the sitting bone area. It’s a complex and powerful network of muscles that is often glossed over by most coaches and personal trainers. Strengthening inner core muscles helps you breathe better in the water while swimming, to run faster at the end of a workout or race, and creates better balance and overall injury resistance. The common misconception is that you need to use really heavy loads like dumbells and medicine balls to do all the ab strengthening. If you do this, you scare away all your stabilizers and interior muscles from doing the work. The bigger muscles, global mobilizers take over, not the muscles you want to target. In short, don’t be a meat head by just hammering out some hard core ab work. This will get you no where in the long run.

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