The Lingo

For many new gym goers, the gym can be an intimidating place trying to learn how all the machines work and then there are all these terms that you start hearing. The following are some of the most common terms you might hear when weight training. It may also give you some ideas of how to mix up your routine.

Superset: A superset is when an individual does one lifting movement and then immediately does another movement for a different body part. Example: Push ups then right into squats.

Compound Sets: This is when one does two movements in a row for the same body part. Example: Leg curls right into stiff leg deadlifts.

Giant Sets: Giant sets are performed when an individual completes more than two movements in a row without rest. Example: Wide grip pulldowns, crunches, then squat jumps.

Concentric: This is the “positive” movement of the exercise. Example: the curling up when completing a dumbbell curl or the pressing down when completing and tricep pushdown.

Eccentric: This is the “negative” portion of the exercise. Example: straightening the arms after curling them in a bicep curl.

Isometric: There is no movement during and isometric exercise. Example: a plank or a wall sit.

1RM: This is an individual’s one rep max. This is the maximum amount of weight one can lift in a single repetition for a given exercise.

Drop sets: This is when an individual will take the amount of weight they are lifting and lower it by a percentage in order to complete more reps. Example: Bench press 100lbs for 10 reps then drop the weight 20% for 10 more reps.

Forced Reps: These are reps that require a spotter-someone to help watch your form and lift the weight for you if you can not. A forced rep would require the spotter to help the individual lift the weight once he/she feels they have reached failure in order to get more reps.

Plyometrics “plyos”: a type of exercise training that recruits the fast twitch muscle fibers the body uses for explosiveness and heavy lifting. Often times one thinks of jumping when it comes to plyos. Plyometrics can also be done for the upper body. Push ups, barbell curls, pull ups, push press and various other upper body movements can be done with the plyometric style.

Aerobic v.s. Anaerobic Exercise – Top 4 Reasons for Each

images[1]Aerobic exercise (a.k.a. aerobics, cardiovascular exercise or cardio) is any sustained, rhythmic activity that primarily uses your larger muscles and challenges your heart and lungs.

Aerobic means “with oxygen,” so when you exercise aerobically your body uses oxygen to help produce energy during the exercise. Your heart and lungs have to work harder to constantly deliver oxygen to your body during aerobic exercise, and this strengthens your heart and lungs.

There are plenty of ways that you can exercise aerobically. You can walk, run, or bike. You can use a treadmill, stationary bike, stair stepper, elliptical machine, or rowing machine. You can participate in an aerobic exercise class. Here are the top four reasons to get moving:

1. Toughens the ticker. Aerobic exercise strengthens the hardest working muscle in your body – your heart. A stronger heart pumps blood more efficiently, which improves blood flow to all parts of your body. Better blood flow results in more oxygen and essential nutrients being delivered to the cells of your body. It also results in more effective removal of toxins and other waste materials from your body.

2. Helps keep arteries clear. Aerobic exercise raises HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol. This results in less buildup of plaque in your arteries. Plaques begin in artery walls and can grow over the years. The growth of cholesterol plaques slowly blocks blood flow in the arteries causing all sorts of health problems.

3. Rallies the respiratory system. Aerobic exercise improves the effectiveness with which your respiratory system can supply oxygen to your body. Your body needs a constant and plentiful amount of oxygen in order to function properly.

4. Reduces body fat. Aerobic exercise not only burns calories, it’s the only type of exercise that directly burns body fat. In order for body fat to be burned, oxygen must be used to help produce energy during the exercise, and this only occurs with aerobic exercise.

 

images[8]Anaerobic exercise is high intensity muscular activity that lasts for a short period of time. Strength training a.k.a. weight lifting or weight training and calisthenics (push-ups, pull-ups etc.) are examples of anaerobic exercise. Strength training is the most effective type of anaerobic exercise. Here are the top four benefits:

1. Builds and maintains lean muscle mass. The loss of lean muscle mass can begin as early as your mid-20s, and it results in a loss of strength, a slower metabolism and decreased functional fitness. The loss of lean muscle mass is not the normal result of aging; it’s primarily the result of a sedentary lifestyle. If you don’t use your muscles they waste away. Strength training is the most effective way to build and maintain lean muscle mass and stay strong and functionally fit.

2. Bolsters bones – strength and density. Millions of people worldwide suffer from osteoporosis. Consuming high calcium food (leafy greens, oranges, beans) or taking calcium supplements to increase bone strength and density is not enough. Bones need to be challenged by weight bearing exercise or they will become soft and brittle. Strength training will increase the strength and density of your bones more than any other type of exercise.

3. Motivates metabolism. The slower your metabolism, the easier it is to gain body fat and the harder it is to lose it. Strength training boosts metabolism because it builds and maintains lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass is metabolically active tissue, so the more lean muscle mass you have the faster your metabolism will be.

4. Reshapes the body and improves appearance. Vanity! No other type of exercise can reshape your body and improve your appearance like strength training can. Strength training will give you a strong, toned, looking body.

7 Ways to Maximize Every Workout

images5UGGPMAROne of my favorite sayings is to work smarter not harder. When you take the time and effort to lift weights, you want to get the maximum benefit from your efforts. We’re always being told what we should be doing at the gym: go faster, harder, slower; use a medicine ball; buy a band; free weights; body weight! But more important are the things we shouldn’t do during a workout. I am a little obsessive about form, and I see some crazy stuff going on in the gym each day. When is the last time you paid close attention to your weight lifting form?

So that you don’t cheat yourself out of an optimal workout—here are some common mistakes and solutions.

MISTAKE 1 : Skipping the warm-up. If you are lifting significant weight and you don’t warm up, it will be harder for you to lift because your muscles won’t be ready. You will also increase your chance of injury.

Solution: Do a general warm up before you start lifting, by using a cardio machine at a moderate level for at least four or five minutes. Then do a specific warm up for each of the exercises, starting with about 10 reps of 25% of the weight you intend to lift, and then moving to 50%, before you do your real workout. So, for example, if you are going to do 10 80-pound squats, start by doing 10 squats using just your body weight, and then 10 more squats using just the bar. Then go to your workout (three sets of 8 to 12 reps).

MISTAKE 2 : Stopping short. Not exercising through a full range of motion is a common mistake, especially when doing biceps curls. Many people stop the exercise before they’ve extended their arm all the way down. This means they are only strengthening the upper part of the biceps instead of fully developing the muscle.

Solution: Each exercise should be done in a slow, controlled manner through the complete range, with emphasis on the completely contracted position. Full-range of motion movements contract and strengthen the muscle you’re working and stretch the opposing muscle (in the case of the biceps curl, the triceps). Note: Do not confuse full range of motion with hyper extension—when you use more than the full range of motion, which can cause joint injury. Hang your arms by your side and relax them. This is your range of motion for the biceps curl; anything more and you’re hyper extending. Unfortunately it’s easy to go too far if you aren’t careful. You are in danger of hyper extension any time you use any type of free weight. That’s why it’s so important that your movement is controlled, and you use the correct amount of weight.

MISTAKE 3: Holding your breath during a lift. It’s easy to forget to breathe. My trainer had to remind me constantly to breath. Lifting weights causes your blood pressure to increase temporarily; holding your breath makes it soar even more, and then suddenly drop. Such a dramatic fluctuation in your blood pressure can make you pass out.

Solution: It’s important to develop a breathing pattern while you’re lifting. Some people inhale at the beginning of a repetition and expire at the end, others inhale on the upstroke and exhale on the down stroke. It doesn’t matter which you do. The point is to take a breath with each repetition to make sure you’re not holding your breath.

 MISTAKE 4 : Lifting hips off the seat or bench when doing exercises. For example  when doing a bench press. When you lift your hips you change the angle of your shoulders as you lift the bar, so you are using only your lower pectoral muscles instead of the entire pectoral muscle. Your feet are also contributing to the movement, so you’re not working as hard. More importantly, this also puts more of a strain on the spine which can lead to injury.

Solution: One simple way to prevent this is to place your legs on the bench with your knees bent and your feet down. How does this stop you from making that arch? If you are tempted to push with your feet, you’ll find very quickly that you’ll lose your balance and fall.

MISTAKE 5 : Straining the neck when doing crunches. Straining the neck is a very common mistake with crunches, because people place their hands behind their neck and then yank their arms to bring their head up rather than using their abs.

Solution: Do not do the crunch with your hand behind your back. Instead, cross your arms in front of your chest and hold your torso, neck and head in strict alignment. Your back will elevate to the lumbar spine region, which is exactly what you want. Lifting your torso (and not just your shoulders) off the floor will give you a lower abdomen workout as well. You can also vary this by adding oblique twists.

MISTAKE 6 : Rocking hips and pelvis while doing biceps curls. If you’re moving your pelvis back and forth during biceps curls, you are using the momentum to help you thrust the dumbbell upward, rather than isolating the muscle and using it to lift the weight. You aren’t getting an effective workout, and you can also throw out your lower back from the back and forth motion.

Solution: To make sure you perform the motion allowing only the biceps to contribute to moving the bar, try the exercise seated, with your legs spread, and rest your right elbow against the inside of your right leg. Then do the same on the left side. Another option is to use a preacher bench, or to stand up against a wall with your butt and back firm against the wall. You should have a 25-degree hip angle, with your legs straight.

MISTAKE 7 : Being wimpy with weights. If a weight is so heavy that you have to jerk, bounce or swing to get it to the top of the movement, it’s too heavy. But on the other hand, if you can do 20 or 30 reps your resistance is to light, and you are wasting your time. You’re not getting enough resistance training to increase muscular endurance or muscle size.

Solution: The setting should be chosen so that your muscle fatigues by the last repetition on the number you choose to do. For example, if you do sets of 12 reps, the 11th and 12th rep should be a struggle, after which you need to rest 1-3 minutes before you can do another set of 12. This takes a little playing around to determine the initial weight. When you are able to do 15 reps at that weight, it’s time to increase the weight.

5 Signs You Need a Shakeup to Your Shapeup

SONY DSCWhen it comes to exercise, it’s always good to mix it up a bit, but there are also times when your exercise routine may be ready for a more major overhaul. Because exercise is a personal thing, and your workout results (and problems) can only be recognized by you, here are a few things to be on the lookout for to determine if you need a shakeup in your shapeup. No matter if you’re a novice to physical fitness or an expert, here are 5 signs that you need to switch up your exercise regime ASAP! –

  1.  If you’re working out and eating properly, you should be seeing results. If you aren’t seeing anything noticeable in the mirror, or if your clothing sizes haven’t changed (or gotten tighter), it’s likely that you need a new exercise routine. With the right routine, you should be able to watch your body transform, even if it is only a little bit. Inches should be coming off and you should start to see more tone to your body.
  2. If in the beginning you wanted to lose weight and improve your endurance, so you did a lot of cardio exercises, such as running on the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, etc. However, now that you’ve lost weight and built-up your endurance, you want to focus more on gaining muscle, which requires lifting weights. When your fitness goals change, your workout routine should change with them.
  3. Exercising releases hormones within the brain that are supposed to induce a happier mood. If you’re unhappy with your exercise routine, you rush through your exercises, you cannot wait to get out of the gym, or you find yourself losing focus when you work out, you may be bored. A boring workout is never a good one, and it only makes sense to change it. Being unhappy with your workouts means that you aren’t doing exercises that make you feel good. You should be enthused (okay if ‘enthused’ doesn’t quite describe you, let’s just say you shouldn’t dread your workout), and by the end of it all you should be happy with the physical activity that you do.
  4. You could do your workout routine with your eyes closed. You don’t sweat nearly as much as you used to. You don’t have to put forth a lot of effort to complete your workout. When your workout becomes a walk in the park instead of a challenge, it’s definitely time to change things around. You want your workouts to challenge you and to cause you to push yourself to the limit. If you are going to take the time to exercise, you might as well make it count.
  5. Since the day you’ve started working out until now, you’re been doing the same exact exercise. Even though you’re comfortable with this routine, it’s always helpful to switch up your routine at least every couple of weeks. Doing the same workout for months at a time could not only lead to boredom, but your body get used to the workout and you may find that your exercises are now completely and ineffective.

Get Started (again) – Good Exercise Habits

We have all been there, probably several times. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym or done any type of exercise. Your day to day busy schedule, getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work have kept you from exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?

Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just do it. You go to the gym, you run three days a week, you play tennis every other day, you take a kick boxing class every Tuesday, etc… there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off. Choose the ones that you like and make the most sense, and then choose a few that don’t. You may be surprised at how well some of these tips work.

Reward Showing Up – 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go. Just go!

Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. There is an endless range of programs that can suit your tastes.

Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can adjust your workout plan to incorporate all the exercises you like and take out the exercises you don’t like. You will notice that after time, your likes and dislikes will change. An exercise you used to hate, may become one of your favorites.

Realistic Scheduling – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit. I have a very good friend who is always willing to go to a spin class with me, and she has turned me on to Pilates.

X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.

Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.

Habits First, Equipment Later – Expensive equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a bunch of equipment. Furthermore, some of the most effective exercises require no equipment at all.

Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.

Start Small – Trying to run ten miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Ease your body and mind into your exercise routine, and after a few weeks you will want to start challenging yourself by doing more.

 

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