Evaluating stability training – is it right for you?

Is stability training right for you? It’s getting a lot of hype these days, and you’ll see all sorts of new exercises out there.

Mike Furci cuts through the hype and gives you his perspective on the new fitness trend of stability training.

Unstable surface training (UST), also referred to as stability training (ST), has gained tremendous popularity in the last several years. Unfortunately, for the average person just trying to improve themselves physically, the popularity of stability training has exploded into the mainstream. Why do I think this explosion in popularity is unfortunate? Because, like any industry, the fitness industry is full of people trying to make a buck anyway they can.

The fitness industry preys upon people’s insecurities; the fitness industry is always looking for something new because of the ease at which they can hook consumers with an “easier”, “faster” way to look better. UST is not popular because it is more efficacious than traditional training, but because of a tremendous media campaign. They know there’s huge money in marketing a piece of equipment and/or workout program, especially when it’s backed by pseudo-scientific studies.

Read the entire article and see what you think.

The 6 Most Useless Stretches and Exercises – and Better Alternatives

Exercises

Unlike stretching, (below) which only takes only a couple of seconds, exercising takes a fair bit of time out of your day. So you want to be sure that you are selecting the absolute most efficient exercises available. No one wants to waste time burning energy if it’s not going to result in a loss of fat, or an increase in muscle mass.

Click on the “Underrated” links for a video version of the exercise in question.

1. Overrated: Pull Ups

Putting aside the fact that pull ups are hard, and not many people can manage to hammer out more than like two or three, it turns out the exercise is not even all that great for the body, putting unnecessary and sometimes dangerous pressure on your shoulder muscles and bones.

Underrated: Inverted Row

Instead of starting from an absolute dead hang like some kind of orangutan, Ben Hendrickson, NSCA-certified master-level trainer, suggests instead the inverted row pull up. This approach has the participant pulling themselves up to a bar from a 30 degree angle.

2. Overrated: Leg Press

No one even likes doing the leg press. It’s painful to pump out those reps and it makes you knees feel like they are about to burst out of their sockets. That aside, the leg press only targets one muscle group. In other words, “the strength you gain on a leg press doesn’t translate into everyday activities,” says Lauren Gould, ACE-Certified personal trainer.

Underrated: Clockwork Lunges

Unlike the above, clockwork lunges target multiple muscle groups and provide functional real world strength. After a couple sessions doing clockwork lunges you will notice that things like climbing the stairs or carrying those heavy groceries have suddenly become a lot easier.

3. Overrated: Crunches

Crunches are really pretty simple when you start crunching the biological numbers. You just lie down on the ground and start lifting your head, which is not very thought through. Case-in-point: crunches are actually one of the least effective strengthener of any abdominal area because they do not target any major abdominal muscle group.
Things can be improved.

Underrated: The Plank

The plank is just as easy to do as a crunch (easier, actually) and provides a host of benefits that the crunch does not. In addition to targeting multiple abdominal areas, research has actually shown that this position can help lower the risk of lower back pain developing later on in life because it almost completely bypasses all stress on the spine while simultaneously strengthening the muscles that constitute back strength and stability.

Stretches

The main thing to take away from this is the fact that when it comes to pre-workouts, the idea of the static stretch—that is, holding a limb in place for an extended period of time— is a thing of the past. Those types of stretches are fine for a post-workout scenario, but if are not warmed up yet, you want to be using dynamic stretches.

Let’s look at a couple right now.

1. Overrated: The Quad Stretch

Shying away from this stretch works out well because it is the one that most people seem to have some degree of trouble with anyway. Instead of staring at that one spot on the ground as you try to maintain your balance, give up this stretch all together.

Underrated: Butt Kicks

Stretching is moving away from static holds and more toward variable-motion options. Butt kicks involve “jogging” forward while kicking your heels back toward you butt before landing on the balls of your feet. It’s easier on your body, and easier to do without falling over.

2. Overrated: The Butterfly Stretch

You know the butterfly stretch where you push the bottoms of your feet together and push down on the inside of your knees while sitting on the floor? It is a common stretch that works your groin and inner thighs.

Yeah, don’t do that one.

Underrated: The Dynamic Groin Stretch

This variation is fairly similar to the above stretch with one big difference: you are standing up. You still spread your legs and keep your back straight, but this time you simply squat down, stretching out your groin and inner thighs without the need to press on the sides of your kneecaps.

3. Overrated: The Standing Hamstring Stretch

The standing hamstring stretch is the consummate “runners stretch” where you lift your leg up onto something and lean down towards the foot with your hands, attempting to touch your toe. As it turns out, this one wreaks havoc on your hamstring.

Underrated: The Leg Hugger

The leg hugger stretch involves standing on one foot, bringing your other knee up to your chest so that you can “hug” it inwards and upwards, touching your quad muscles to your sternum.

Simon is a writer and content specialist who is addicted to being on the front page of anything. A graduate of Dalhousie University, he specializes in using the em dash too often. Currently, Simon rests his typing hands in Vancouver, Canada. Check out his recent thoughts on gaming.

4 Healthy Ways to Handle a Midlife Crisis

Studies have shown that as many as one in every 10 Americans over the age of 35 experience what is called a “midlife crisis.” The simplest explanation of a midlife crisis is that point where a person starts to questions the past decisions he has made and tries to alter his lifestyle to accommodate his new perceived desires and goals. While these questions and decisions can alter one’s life, there are ways to deal with it that can save a marriage and preserve the family savings account.

Make Calculated Changes

golfing at sunset

People who go through a midlife crisis often take unnecessary risks such as quitting their jobs to seek out adventure. Instead of making rash decisions that you could regret later, a healthier way to handle the situation is to plan your own business and make a smooth transition from your current job to something new. If you take the time to plan your changes, then you’ll be able to support your family while satisfying the need for change that a midlife crisis creates.

Talk To Your Spouse

These uneasy feelings about aging, especially in men, are normal. A healthy outlet for these kinds of feelings is to talk to your spouse and let her know what you are feeling. This will give her a chance to do some research on her own and help determine the best plan of action to take. In most cases, men who go through a midlife crisis and allow their marriages to dissolve regret it later. If you let your spouse know what is going on, then she has a chance to transition with you.

Get It Out Of Your System

One of the ways to deal with a midlife crisis is to allow yourself one binge to satisfy these feelings. Head down to look at used cars for sale in Miami can help you to satisfy the urge for a sports car. By purchasing a used car, you get the kind of vehicle you want and you can still save money. You can also try a weekend in Las Vegas as a way to let off steam. These can be healthy ways to eliminate those initial anxious feelings that could drag on for months if they are not dealt with.

Exercise

In many cases, remaining active is a great way to combat the feelings of a midlife crisis. Men who start exercising can get their aggressions and frustrations out in a healthy manner that can make them feel better instead of worse. You can also start to eat a healthier diet and drink more fluids. All of this will help to boost your energy, as well as giving you the sense of accomplishment that you’re looking for.

When a midlife crisis comes around, it’s potentially very unhealthy to ignore it. Instead of making decisions that you’ll regret later, the healthiest thing to do is to meet the transition head on and turn it into something positive. With some good planning and support from your family, you can conquer a midlife crisis and become a better person because of it.

Author Bio:
George Root has been a published author since his college days in 1985 at SUNY at Buffalo. Throughout a long career, he has had thousands of titles published to his credit both online and offline. His work can be seen on websites such as the Houston Chronicle, Business.com and Answers.com.

Work your back and biceps

Here’s a video fro Power Up with a super set for your back and biceps.

How to Get Killer Abs Cooking with Coconut Oil

couple with tight abs

Summer is almost upon us, and if you’re like me, you’re staring at yourself in the mirror asking, “Am I ready?” For a woman wearing a bikini, the abdomen is one of the most important parts of the body. After all, the whole reason you’re reading a two-piece is because you are comfortable showing a little skin.

The difference between a nice, toned set of washboard abs and even a small accumulation of fat can mean the difference between jumping into that beach volleyball game, or maybe the arms of that guy you have been crushing on since last fall.

Fortunately, one of the easiest parts of the body to work out is the abdomen. You can achieve washboard abs in less than a month with a proper workout regimen, and there are tons of effective workouts out there. That said if you want to elevate your approach to a whole new plateau of physical results, you might want to give coconut oil a try.

Why Consume a Fatty Oil to Eliminate Stomach Fat?

It’s simple, actually.

In 2001, Harvard researchers said that diets moderate in (good) fats are actually more effective for weight loss results in the long run than diets that are low in fat.

Coconut oil is one of, if not the best known oil to use when it comes to keeping rolls off your stomach because the degree to which it is comprised of medium (as opposed to long) chain fatty acids. Lauric acid is one of these medium-chain triglyceride acids, and comprises about 50% of coconut oil. Lauric acid absorbs straight into the small intestines, and require less energy and fewer enzymes to metabolize as opposed to long-chained counterparts. To put this into perspective, 98% of all other fats we eat are long-chained, so to find a medium-chain triglyceride is relatively rare.

Lauric acid actually has antiviral properties as well.

Putting the Science to the Test

A study published in the journal Lipids had the following findings: a small group of obese women who consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil a day for 12 weeks saw their waistlines shrink, while women who consumed the same amount of soybean oil experienced no such change.

Comparing Different Types of Cooking Oil

If you are looking for a quality resource when it comes to all the different types of cooking oils out there, I suggest taking a look at the complete comparison chart of all known cooking oils, hosted over at Cooking Rules.

Simon is a writer and content specialist who is addicted to being on the front page of anything. A graduate of Dalhousie University, he specializes in using the em dash too often. Currently, Simon rests his typing hands in Vancouver, Canada. Check out a recent example of his work here.

Bikini bodybuilding journey

Here’s a very interesting story as a reporter goes through a training cycle to compete in a figure competition. Wall Street Journal reporter Alyssa Abkowitz took on a more intense project after toning up for her wedding by entering into a fitness competition and discovering the world of bikini bodybuilding. In the video she discusses the process along with her diet and workout routines.

Modern tricks to help you lose weight

women in workout class

If you’re anything like this author and most other people in the world you wouldn’t mind if you had a little more control over your weight. The advice we hear is simple of course – eat less calories and exercise more and the weight will come off. Unfortunately putting this into practice successfully is often easier said than done. The following hints and tips are directed at helping the modern human drop their body fat percentage and get into healthier shape in a way that synergises with the time limited modern lifestyle of juggling a full time job and a family. I hope you can use some of these tips in your every day life as you will definitely see some results if you stick to it.

Eat right – even when it’s difficult

The ideal way to eat healthily all the time is to be prepared in advance. If you wait until the last minute to cook dinner or do your grocery shopping you are much more susceptible to making poor dietary choices. Take time out of your schedule in the evening to make a legitimate plan of what you’re going to eat and what your calorie budget is. Go out shopping on a full stomach (to avoid impulse naughty purchases) and stick to exactly what’s on your list. If you don’t have time to make your meals fresh from scratch every day then ensure you make the time during the weekend time to cook an array of healthy meals that you can freeze or store in the fridge to call upon when hunger strikes. Taking this extra preparation time will make it much easier to stay disciplined. The other major challenge most of our belly’s face is the proneness to snacking during work hours. If you don’t have the time to eat a proper breakfast in the morning you should consider grouping up with your co-workers and actually have fresh fruit delivered to your office on a daily basis. There are loads of companies that offer this service, such as fresh fruit delivery company ‘fruitfuloffice’ -which serves the whole mainland of the UK, these guys are one of many who will be happy to deliver custom made fresh fruit packages to wherever you’re working and it will really help fend off those sugar cravings we’re all susceptible to.

Work out at the office

Just because you are stuck at your desk working doesn’t mean you are unable to have a work out! There are all manner of strength and conditioning techniques you can perform at the office. You just need to get creative with your approach. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, do abdominal contractions at your desk, give your arms a workout with some of your heavier piles of paperwork! All you need is the enthusiasm to see the potential workouts in the space around you and you’ll never be short of something to do.

Chart your progress online

We’re lucky in our modern era of online technology because it’s never been easier to gauge progress and connect ourselves to a support network of like-minded individuals. There are many fantastic websites exclusively dedicated to helping you map your weight, calorie intake, workouts and routine. Most of them are available for free, and you’ll find having this resource to fall back upon for support will really help you remain disciplined and focused on your goal.

The best of luck to you on your mission to look and feel healthier!

One Quick Chest Workout That Leaves You Crying

The chest is composed of large, powerful muscles, capable of withstanding intense force and trauma. That being said, it usually takes extra focus and effort to significantly wear them out and leave you with that lingering, ever-so-sweet soreness.

Since added work is necessary for peak chest stimulation, workouts are often structured with Arnold-style immensity, from the countless numbers of sets, to the fine-tuning exercises that can go on ad nauseum. All of the aforementioned can mean a serious time commitment in the gym, but what about if you only have a few minutes to tear it up before you have to head out?

The answer is: The Nemen (Nee-men) Special, which can reduce your mighty chest musculature straight down to rubble; all in one exercise.

What you will need: A bench, 45 lb barbell, eight – 10 lb plates (these weights may vary due to individual strength), preferably a partner, and a hearty appetite for suffering.

The exercise resembles that of a lightweight bench press drop set, with maximum repetitions being executed at each weight increment. If done correctly, meaning you attack each interval intensely and are 100% unable to complete a repetition on your own, you will be getting double takes from your fellow gym-goers as they walk by and chuckle at the image of you painfully struggling to rep out with just the bar.

Set 1, Four tens per side: To failure.

A spotter should help you with the last one or two reps, then once the bar is racked, remove the weight with as much speed as possible – time is of the essence!

Set 2, Three tens per side: To failure.

Set 3, Two tens…

Set 4, One ten…

Set 5, Just the bar!

By set 5, you should be working up a sweat, perhaps be slightly winded, and defintiely have a hearty exhaustion permeating your upper body. Although the bar is, well, the bar, the load should be adequate enough to reduce your pecs to a whimpering mess and you should get to the point where you need a spot to rack it.

Congratulations, you now know one of the most time-efficient chest nukes; next time you are lookign to quickly shred your pecs before class/work/a night out, give the Nemen Special a try!

 

 

PAIN TOLERANCE: The Most Underrated Exercise Variable

As yet another year in the new millennium gets underway, it isn’t a secret that scribbled next to ‘Quit smoking’, or ‘Cut back on alcohol intake’, many a resolute soul jotted down earnest promises regarding the acquisition of fitness and health. In other words:

Get ripped.

Get a six-pack.

Pack on ‘x’ amount of lean muscle.

Lose ‘x’ amount of fat.

Complete particular endurance event.

Return to pre-pregnancy body.

Lower blood pressure.

And so on and so forth, et cetera, et cetera.

In fitness terms, an entire year is a long time; definitely sufficient enough to complete a transformation that would make even Voltron blush. However, if the modus operandi is faulty, no amount of time or trendy new exercises and equipment will yield the results you really deserve.

So where do you go for that extra edge? That one X-factor that will separate your killer new routine from the ones that do little more than cause mass boredom and a hopeless staring contest with your anything-but-broken-in running shoes.

What if there was a variable regarding training that most people never considered and ever had the option of seeing listed alongside a workout routine? Not only is this tidbit free to everyone, but also incredibly potent and if learned correctly, can morph any dull exercise into award-winning training and allow an individual to truly succeed with their physical endeavors.

This variable is Pain Tolerance, or, in other words, one’s ability to confront and digest the party platter of discomfort brought about through hard exercise.

Before I go any further, let me clarify that the type of pain in question here is healthy strain derived from proper exercise and NOT joint pain, heart pain, or any other skeletal pain that comes from improper form or poor health and could potentially be dangerous and damaging. Regardless, this distress can take many forms, from a quad-searing burnout on the leg extension to a chest-annihilating giant set on the bench press; even a screaming in the lungs from a personal best at running the mile.

There is a quote that gets tossed around a lot in cycling that simply goes, “To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain.” We may not all be cyclists or even have the slightest inclination to don a skin-tight cycling kit and ride up a few mountains, yet that is the truly great thing about pain tolerance: it applies to everything physical.

Sure, if someone has a great pain tolerance yet goes into the gym and trains like a drunken Richard Simmons, he/she is not going to automatically be on the road to reaching true results, yet when that person does in fact learn to execute their workouts with the precision of science-based routines, it is safe to say they will surpass another doing the same routines due to the fact that they have taught their mind to turn the volume down on that pesky voice in the back of your head screams, “QUIT!”

Pain is tied into working out at the most basic levels. It truly is a physiological variable, although a more scholarly exercise physiologist or personal trainer may use language that disguises pain with smug terms such as ‘lactic acid buildup’, or ’100% VO2 max’ – AKA, “THIS IS BRUTAL!”

Let’s think about some real life exercise situations. When you walk into the weight room and are looking to start off with some bicep training, you may head over to a weight rack, pick up a barbell, then begin doing focused curls. The muscle fibers in your biceps will soon contract and relax in unison with each exertion and your mind perceives this strain as a form of pain.

It hurts, burns, whatever, the main point is that when attempting many exercises, pain is going to a one of the first and most unruly people knocking at the door of your workout party with one goal – crashing it. One of the main things that sets a successful, results-based exerciser apart from one who flounders aloofly and never loses the weight or gets the strength/muscle, is what he/she does when the pain enters the room.

Are you the type of person who begins the repetitions yet drops the barbell and curses, “Damn, that is really painful, let me grab a lighter weight or cut back a few reps”, or do you confront the pain head on and say, “YEAH? SO WHAT? I’m getting this fitness no matter how much you scream and complain,” and proceed to push pain to the side and break through its limitations?

We’ve all seen shows like the Biggest Loser, where a frustrated trainer watches as client after client easily bails on a particular workout and claims they simply can’t go on. When you see something like that occurring, truly analyze what that person is basically saying: it is clear as day that they are not familiar with the physical pain needed to really make results and this unfamiliarity is too shocking for their system to cope with, causing the mind the give up.

The thing is, that is OK! It doesn’t make them a bad or lazy person, it is just that their previous way of life and absence of physicality has left them with a currently very poor ability to digest the stress and pain tied to hard training and it will take some time before they can speak that language.

It is similar to a situation where a shredded workout guru with the utmost masochistic prowess suddenly makes a resolution to become versed in Russian History, yet on their first lesson with the professor, flounders under the heavy course load and cries out at the amount of focused, relentless studying needed to master the material. It isn’t that they will never be able to give a brilliant oration on Rasputin and the Tsars, it’s just that most human beings need time to adjust to the stresses necessary for seriously excelling above the norm.

So how does one gauge his/her pain tolerance? You probably already have a good concept of this, yet here are two great ways to get a feel for it:

Leg extensions: (Even better if done at the end of leg day). Set the weight to about 50% of your one rep max and begin doing focused, squeezing-at-the-top reps, and continue this until that familiar discomfort starts growing out of your quads and attempting to smack your motivation around.

Preacher curls: Grab a similarly graded weight and begin doing concentrated reps. Preacher curls and leg extensions are great ways to gauge pain tolerance because they are completed in a fixed motion and do not require any real form. For instance, if two people were doing squats, there would be a whole myriad of factors that may throw off the delegation of work to the muscles.

With these exercises, and many others like it, you can easily become familiar with what true physical and mental exercise strain feels like, and acclimating yourself to such an extreme will do wonders for every other motion you attempt to do work with.

There have been countless cases of athletes who, according to high-tech lab tests and pages of results, shouldn’t have outperformed their counterparts yet did so because there is no number or test that can quantify a humans ability to dig deep and really desire something.

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” -Vince Lombardi.

That’s it for now. Remember, when trying to fulfill your fitness goals this year, try taking a little detour from browsing the newest workouts or equipment and instead focus on being comfortable with the uncomfortable – your workouts will thank you.

The Rowing Machine: King of Cardio Equipment

It is of the utmost importance to any exercise-oriented individual that an adequate amount of cardiovascular exercise is completed regularly. Whether you are a bodybuilder with 22″ arms or simply a lean yoga enthusiast, the rule applies across all levels. Without a properly trained heart and lungs, your body misses out on a whole slew of health benefits and a decreased risk of heart problems; not to mention creating a disproportionate distribution of vitality within your body. Sure, your biceps have veins thicker than a garden hose, but what about what’s on the inside?

A dedicated gym goer may look at his/her six pack and scoff, “Cardio? My aerobic-free training has me leaner than ever and sweating it up on the Stairmaster for an hour isn’t my idea of a worthwhile workout.” OK, valid point, but a high performance vehicle is for nothing if the goods under the hood are garbage. Moreover, if you pack on muscle yet refrain to train your cardiovascular system, your physicality will resemble a hulking Toyota Tundra with the dinky engine of a Honda Civic. Struggling.

So, why rowing; better yet, why the rowing machine? Well, considering rivers that weave through your neighborhood with adequate boat houses are scarce, the rowing machine is the best substitute to mimic the movement and reap the rewards of such activity. Better yet, you never have to worry about bad weather, and even better than that, a great cardio workout can be accomplished in a fraction of the time that one may be looking at when getting on board an elliptical or treadmill.

The majority of people are under the assumption that rowing is an upper body intensive movement. Although there is some truth to that statement, the driving force in a successful rowing motion is derived from the lower body, where the body’s powerful leg muscles are able to sustain prolonged exertions that only they can deliver.

Need more reasons to try the rowing machine? How about the fact that the word impact can’t even be found in the same sentence as rowing machine, unless the word ‘low’ is front of it. Unlike running, which places unnecessary stress and trauma on the knees and ankles,  rowing favors a far more fluid, floating sense of power and work. As your body moves back and forth over the rolling seat, your joints praise you as they are gently coerced into the flexion and extension of various limbs.

Still need more reasons? One of the greatest aspects of the rowing machine is that it is a cardio exercise that trains your whole musculature; not just your lower body, as many machines do. When stepping away on the Stairstepper, one can feel the sole distribution of strain compiling itself on your legs, while the upper body remains slack and in complete boredom. The rowing machine ties the two sides together, with the legs generating the massive power and force for each stroke and transferring it up the body, giving your abs, arms, shoulders, and of course, back, an awesomely toning workout.

If you have located and affirmed the presence of a rowing machine at your local health club, here is a great way to get introduced to the motion:

  1. Adjust the foot stretchers: Each machine is equipped with a platform to strap your feet into, both in socks or with shoes, and it needs to be adjusted so that the strap rests atop where the balls of your feet are, and also so that your bending motion isn’t inhibited by the strap.
  2. Set the fly wheel resistance: 10 is heavy, 1 is light – to put it simply. Personally, I like to warm up in the higher digits (7-10), and then commit to my workouts between 4 and 5, as most university programs suggest.
  3. Set the clock: The rowing machine has a great computer for tracking your workouts, but for now, simply hit ‘Just Row’, or begin pulling on the handle and the clock will start on its own.
  4. Row!

Of course, it isn’t so easy to master the rowing stroke on your first few tries, so keep in mind these pointers:

  • Always begin each stroke with lower leg perpendicular to the ground and your seat as far up as can be achieved. At this point, your should be fully outstretched and grasping the handle.
  • Legs first! When driving, press off with your glutes, quads, and calves and drive your legs down to full extension.
  • Back second! once the legs are down, lean back with a straight back and begin to transfer the speed of the fly wheel to your upper body.
  • Arms in third! Once you have achieved a slight posterior lean with your straight back, pull the handle into your nipple line with by retracting your scapulae and flexing your arms.
  • The ‘finish’, or end of the stroke goes exactly in reverse order: Arms back out, back over, then slowly move back up the slide with the legs, ready for another stroke.

Sample Warm-Up:

20 strokes arms only

20 strokes arms and back only

20 strokes half leg extension

40 strokes full leg extension (full strokes)

Sample workout: 1 x 3000M, 1 x 2000M, 1 x 1000M, 1 X 500M, 1:00 rest in between each.

As you may notice this is a descending pyramid type of workout and it is great because mentally, the workload becomes easier and easier as you pass through each interval.

Select workout, then select Interval Variable, then enter the first distance, followed by the three others; then the rest.

The first 3000M should be done at 60-80% of your VO2 max, with that intensity increasing until the last 500M goes by at an all-out effort.

That’s it for now, I hope you can look into incorporating the rowing machine into your next workout and join the thousands who swear by rowing as the King of cardio.