Challenge Your Core

19 04 2018

When asked to identify one’s core, most people will point to his or her abs. The core muscles are more than just the rectus abdominal which are the “six-pack” of the stomach. The core muscles can include the gluteus maximus and minimum, hip complex (iliacus, psoas, pectinus), abdominals (rectus, transverse, and obliques), erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, latissimus dorsi, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Although there is no specific definition for the “core”, we have to get away from thinking of the core as just your abdominal region.

The purpose of the core muscles are to provide balance and stability to your body(1). No matter if for sport performance or daily function, the core muscles help support the bones and increase ease of movement. The core also aids in keeping our posture in alignment. Picture the folks who are bent over from the waist and always looking down because their muscles in their backs aren’t strong enough to hold their spine in alignment. Also, if you’re an athlete or a weekend warrior, that core needs to be strong to get you through the sport or you’ll end up with some back, hip, shoulder, or foot pain. Yes, a weak core can also cause pain at the other end of your body!

If I ask you to think of some core exercises, you’ll probably come up with a bunch for your abs, specifically for your rectus abdominis, a.k.a “six-pack,” but can you come up with some exercises other exercises to challenge your core? Don’t forget that your body moves in three dimensions so exercises should also involve the three planes of movement; frontal (side to side), sagittal (front to back), and transverse (rotational).

Give your core a challenge with the following exercises. Disclaimer: If you have any health restrictions, please check with your physician before attempting any of these exercises. Also, check with a certified Personal Trainer if you are unsure of your technique. 

Rotational Side Plank with Hip Drop
3CDE8847-6B45-46E3-8000-396EF6B16289

Start with your elbow or palm under your shoulder while lying on your side. Lift your hips up off the floor so as much of your side is not in contact. Taking the opposite arm, rotate and reach down and through the space created by the floor and your side. Return back to start and then lower your hip toward the ground. Before it touches, pause and lift the hip back up. Repeat for 8-12 reps, then switch sides.

Quadripeds
237166B7-5F99-49C6-B61A-438BB35082A8

Start in a pushup position with your feet shoulder width apart (you can adjust width to make it easier or harder; wider = easier, narrow = harder). Lift your left arm up in front of your body by your head while at the same lifting your right leg up. Pause for a second and then lower back down. Switch arm and leg lift and repeat for 12-20 reps.

Bicycles
5E2025A2-0C64-481B-B9C1-85E593407FCA

Lying on your back, extend your legs out with your heels just off the floor and hands behind your head. Begin to bring your right knee up toward your chest as you take your left shoulder (not elbow) and bring it up towards your right knee. Make the timing of this so that the knee and shoulder comes up at the same time. Return the leg and shoulder back down toward the floor at the same time. Then repeat the movement with the other side. Perform 12-20 reps.

Deadlift
1830543B-A286-415B-A18F-BC967A2293D7

Yes folks, believe it, because this exercise is a total core exercise! I put this last because in order to get the benefits and not injure yourself, technique is paramount. Please use a certified Personal Trainer or Strength and Conditioning Coach if you are performing this for the first time.
Start with legs shoulder width apart. Grip a barbell with hands just outside of your legs (use an over-under grip if needed). Keeping your back straight and shoulders over your arches, push down with your heels to lift yourself and the bar up until you are standing straight up. As you lift the bar, keep the bar close to your legs and keep your back following your path upward so that the back doesn’t hinge forward from the waist. Pause a second at the top and lower yourself back down in the reverse order.

References:
1. “Core exercises: Why you should strengthen your core muscles“ Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/core-exercises/art-20044751





Battle the Ropes

10 04 2018

Once in a while I need to get in a quick ten to twenty-minute workout between clients. With the limited time, I don’t want to waste it on moving from one machine or bench to another, nor do I want to fight over the free weights. Coming up with a workout that involves some added resistance, but doesn’t include a lot of equipment takes some creativity. I could go with a personal favorite, the TRX suspension trainer, and add a weight vest, but it doesn’t help if you don’t have a weight vest. In times like these I turn to…(fade in angelic music and point spotlight on) battle ropes.

1411E48C-5F2F-4737-B0E5-D19D1408F16F

I’ve come to respect the simplicity and effectiveness of battle ropes. This bundle of threaded, nylon joy has what it takes to get my heart pumping and my muscles burning. With only one piece of equipment, I’ve turned a twenty square foot area into my battle arena. It’s me versus the rope and I’m determined to sweat it out till the end. Believe me, all you need is twenty minutes to feel accomplished. Keep reading and I’ll explain how you can equip yourself for a great match with the battle ropes.

Arm Yourself
If this is your first time swinging battle ropes be prepared for your arms (as well as the rest of your body) to be sore. The thickness of the ropes cause your forearms to work harder as they grip tightly to swing the ropes at various speeds. This constant grip will tax the forearm’s muscular endurance, so it’s a good idea to give yourself more rest time between sets. In addition, you’re constantly moving your arms which will expend more energy in your shoulders, biceps, and triceps. You’re done when your arms are done, so warm them up really well. If you don’t, good luck trying to swing the rope with you teeth.

Concentrate to the Core
Your abs and back should stay engaged throughout the entire movement phase. One common error is to round the back because the rope is pulling you forward as you swing the rope. This can cause back pain and possible injury. Another reason you have to start slow and get the rhythm down before speeding up the cadence of the swings. If you lean forward, remember to hinge from the hip and not from the waist. Perform planks and deadlifts to create a solid core that will hold your body upright and withstand the blows of the rope.

Get a Leg Up
Even though battle ropes look like an entirely upper body workout; don’t be fooled. Similar to any explosive movement, the lower body generates the power that you see when someone is making waves or slamming the rope in all directions. Aquring a good strength base in your legs will help make it easier to control the rope’s movement. Don’t focus on using machines to get the strength though. Exercises like lunges, squats, lateral lunges or sumo squats will get your legs conditioned to go the extra rounds.

It’s All About Rhythm
So now that you have the strength and endurance to pick up the rope and swing it, the final part is making the movement smooth like a fine tuned machine. Focus on the midsection so that the hips can move freely, while engaging the abs and back. Let the shoulders relax so each wave that comes out of the rope is fluid. Tightening up the arms and shoulders too much will result in a choppy and irregular waveform. Think of counting in your head, “1,2,1,2,1,2.” You can also use a power song or a song with a heavy down beat to keep your rhythm. Whatever you do, don’t force the muscles to move sporadically.

Now that you’re ready to go a round with the nylon beast, keep in mind that it does take time. Don’t get discouraged if you lose the control of the rope. Just remember to stay relaxed and hang on tight. You might find that you’ll be a champ at this like you are with your fitness goals.

For a great total body blast, try the following workout.





Tone Up By Making Waves

11 09 2014

Once in a while it’s nice to get off the fitness floor and jump into a new workout environment; literally. Even though the beach season is coming to a close, do this workout to give you another reason to be by the water and show off your results.

Warm-up:
5 minutes of easy swimming any stroke.

Workout: Perform each exercise for 45 seconds quickly but controlled. Move directly to the next exercise until you complete all exercises. Rest  1 minute  and repeat 3 more rounds. (click pictures to enlarge)

1. High Knees – Start with one knee up and the other one on the floor. Switch knees by driving the knee on the floor up to your chest as you thrust the raised knee back down to the bottom.
High Knee End High Knee Start

 

 

 

 

2. Punches – Get into a depth where your shoulders can be submerged when you stand with your legs wider than shoulder width and the knees are bent. Perform open palm punches by pushing your hand through the water and pulling the other hand back to the side of your chest. Rotate your hips slightly as you punch so you’re also incorporating your oblique abdominals.
Punches StartPunches End

 

 

 

 

3. Squat Jumps – Start with your feet shoulder width apart and squat down till your shoulders become submerged in the water. Explode upwards by thrusting your arms upwards and jumping out of the water as high as you can. Land with your knees bent.
Jump StartJump End

 

 

 

 
4. Reverse Abdominal Crunches – Hold yourself in place on a step so your body floats to the top of the water. Contract your abdominals as you pull your knees in towards your chest. Hold for a second and then extend your legs back out.
Crunch StartCrunch End

 

 

 

 

Cool Down:
5 minutes of easy swimming any stroke





I’ve Got DOMS and I’m Feeling Good

23 08 2014

 

I love waking up in the morning and feeling the rewards of my labor. In this case, I’m feeling soreness in my legs from a run I did in the pouring rain two days ago. I felt the soreness in my legs while walking down the stairs to retrieve my newspaper; I felt it squatting down to pick up the newspaper; and I felt it walking back up the stairs with my newspaper.  And although it sounds like I’m whining, I’m actually loving every moment of it. I know that I have overloaded my muscles (topic for next blog) and thus my legs will become stronger and I have DOMS to thank for it.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a condition where soreness in the muscles is felt twenty-four to forty-eight hours post exercise and can last up to seven days. This is a neurological response to notify the body that the muscles have been stressed to their limit and any further stress could lead to serious injury. The American College of Sports Medicine refers to DOMS as the first sign of muscle damage “where the individual has done too much too soon” (Bushman, p.366). However, soreness and muscle fatigue are common and are precursors for the muscle adaptation response, therefore, casting a grey area when referring to DOMS as an indicator of the muscles getting just enough or too much workload.

Many of my clients are very timid when it comes to feeling sore after a workout. Many do not like feeling pain after exercising and I can’t blame them. The once popular mentality for building muscle, “no pain, no gain” has long been abandoned. Therefore, as a trainer, I need to progress individuals at a safe rate and allow their muscles to adapt at the right pace. For those who are trying to gain muscular advantages, whether it be strength, power, or endurance, I must heed the warning signs of overtraining. Delayed onset muscle soreness can be a good way to track your workout intensities. Rate your post soreness on a zero to six Likert-type scale, where 1 = minor soreness, 3 = moderate soreness, 5 = extreme soreness. You should try to stay below a rating of three. This will allow you to elicit the adaptation response and promote physiological gains without overly damaging your muscles, leading to injury and setback.

Even with minor soreness from DOMS, the body has encountered micro-trauma within the muscle. It’s important to allow those muscles to repair and rebuild before tackling another intense bout of exercise using those same muscles. Ample rest time is recommended and hydration with proper nutrition is beneficial in healing the damaged tissue. Static stretching does not aid in the repair or reduction of DOMS, but should be done after exercise to return the muscle to it’s lengthened state. Deep tissue massage is controversial for relieving DOMS, as they may cause more pain within the musculature and extend the length of time needed to heal. Be aware of your intensity and remember, if you can’t walk the next day, you’ve probably gone to far.

References:
Bushman, B. (2014) ACSM’S Resource for the Personal Trainer (4th Ed.) Philadelphia , PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

McGrath, R., Whitehead, J., & Caine, D. (2014) The Effects of Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretching on Post-Exercise Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in Young Adults. International Journal of Exercise Science. Retrieved on August 23, 2014 from http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijes/vol7/iss1/3/

Herbert, RD., de Noronha, M., Kamper, SJ. (2011) Stretching before or after exercise does not reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Retreieve on August 23, 2014 from http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/45/15/1249.short

Jernigan, K. (2013) Problems of Deep Tissue Massage. Retrieved on August 23, 2014 from http://www.livestrong.com/article/92924-problems-deep-tissue-massage/





Sweating It Out

26 09 2013

It slowly emanates from deep within my body. It’s caused by my internal temperature rising. I feel the droplets form on my forehead as my arms begin to glisten in the light. I know I’m working hard and sweating is the cause of my efforts. I continue to push on as sweat appears from the pores of my body. I will get through this no matter how much I sweat; fatigue will not get the best of me.

Rep after rep my arms extend and retract as my body stays in a squatted position. “A workout this will be,” I think to myself. Droplets from my forehead beads into my eyes, but I keep working harder. I don’t let a little sweat stop me. In fact, I invite sweat to come. I know that sweating is the mechanism which cools my body and without it, I would overheat and fatigue will have won.

My back begins to signal that it’s getting weaker and I brace my abs to help my core stabilize. “A couple more reps and I can rest,” I reassure myself. This motivates me to work harder. Controlling my pace, I work on my technique to get the benefits of the labor.

I return to thinking of the other benefits of sweating. Like the elimination of harmful toxins and improved skin tone. I know that sweating also is a sign of increased caloric burn. This leads to weight loss, which is not my goal.

Taking my mind off the task made the last few reps bearable and I hunch over to catch my breath. Sweat drips into my eyes and I wipe them away. I slowly raise my body up and reflect on my hard work. The bathtub, now clean, sparkles in the light and I think to myself, “My wife better be happy with this request.”





Listen to the Cookie

7 05 2013

“Finding time to fit a good workout into the day is as hard as the workout,” is a response I get a lot. And to sympathize with these folks is an easier path for many. In a work day, I would say that I get bogged down in my work and find hours slipping by as I loom over my computer to finish a project so that I can cross that off my list. Then I catch my breath and continue to the next project as if on autopilot. Yet, throughout the day there are times when the chance to stop and get in a few minutes of a workout arises and the choice to get up and move is up to me. “I didn’t choose to not workout, my work/time/fill in the blank just didn’t allow me to do it,” a repeated echo rings in my head. “Bunch of bull!” Snuffs out the echo as I am pull myself away from the computer and prepare to exercise.

This scenario is a constant hinderance in our daily life and separates those who move backward in their fight to succeed with those who make positive progress.  We will always be required to make a life altering decision as the seconds past way in our lives, but we are always in control of the choices we make. Allowing ourselves to break under the pressure of excuses and blame it on something other than our lack of defiance over status quo keeps us in a vicious cycle that never ends where we want to be.

Cookie Doesn't Lie

The average person makes roughly 3,500 decisions a day. What to eat, where to go, how to dress, pass the car, say hi to that person…. The list goes on and on, and yet, with one choice taken, the other is left behind. So we can say that we didn’t have the opportunity to choose both. This is true and many people lose ground from choosing only one and not the other maybe because of comfort level, external pressures, or priority levels. However, when we make that choice to not do something, we are in control of this decision and internal factors provide the foundation of this choice. Work did not keep me from taking ten minutes to get up and move around so my muscles could stretch out from sitting for 4 hours straight. No, I told my body that it was not allowed to get up because I thought that I would lose precious time to get my project down. I chose to keep working. As the cookie states, we still choose even if we decide not to make a choice. Make every decision count and never blame that fact that you couldn’t choose your future. You are in control of your free will and to wake up half hour earlier to get a workout in is your choice.





Slice Up A Post Workout Meal

5 04 2013

After a tough workout, you deserve to enjoy a slice of pie; pizza pie that is. Try out my fresh spin to this delightfully healthy margarita pizza and tell me what you think.
Doug's Margarita Pizza

Ingredients:
1 bag – fresh pizza dough
1 cup – flour
1 – fresh mozzarella ball, sliced
3 – plum tomatoes, sliced
1 cup – fresh basil leaves, rinsed
1/2 cup – tomato sauce
1 cup – shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tbls – extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp – garlic powder (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread flour on counter top. Roll out dough to desired thickness and shape.
2. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese around the pizza. Pour the tomato sauce on top of the cheese and using a ladle, spread sauce to cover the cheese.
3. Lay the basil leaves on top of the sauce  to cover the pizza. Next, arrange the tomatoes to layer the pizza. Finish off the pizza with fresh mozzarella slices.
4. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil and garlic powder together. Then using a brush, brush on oil mixture along the edge of the crust.
5. Place in the oven on a pizza pan or pizza stone for 18 – 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.