How to Fuel Your Workout

13 Jun

How to Fuel Your Workout

Reviewed by Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN

how to fuel your workout


Which is better fuel for spinning class — protein or carbohydrates? Should you consume a sports drink on a long run? Is it safe to eat before a workout? Listen to locker room talk at the gym and you’ll hear lots of conflicting tips about what you should eat and drink before and after you work out. These answers to five common questions about fueling your workout sort fact from fiction.

Will Protein Make My Muscles Grow?

Protein is an important part of a balanced diet, but eating more protein will not magically make you stronger. The only way to grow muscles is to put them to work, and eat enough calories to build mass. Most people can get enough protein from food alone and do not need a supplement.

Carbohydrates are the major fuel for muscles and an athlete’s diet should consist of mostly carbohydrate. The body converts carbohydrate to glycogen, which is stored in your muscles to power your workout.

Do Sports Drinks, Gels and Energy Bites Live Up to the Hype?

There’s nothing special about the many sports drinks, gels and energy bites on the market. But it is important to replace lost fluids as well as provide carbohydrates to maintain blood glucose levels while working out for longer than one hour.

For some athletes, eating solid food in the middle of a workout can cause digestive upset. In these cases, easily consumed sports gels, chews or drinks may help. Food and fluid intake around workouts should be determined on an individual basis with consideration for an athlete’s gastrointestinal tract tolerance, as well as duration and intensity of the workout.

Is It Best to Work Out on an Empty Stomach?

Your body needs fuel to function, especially if you’re asking it to run, jump, swim or lift weights. Don’t skip breakfast before a morning workout. Eating before exercise, as opposed to exercising in the fasted state, has been shown to improve exercise performance.

Eating in the morning helps replenish liver glycogen and steadies blood sugar levels. If it’s hard to stomach solid food first thing in the morning, try a fruit smoothie, or a liquid meal supplement, and don’t forget to hydrate before you exercise.

Regular Exercise Means I Can Eat What I Want and Not Gain Weight, Right?

Wrong. Working out isn’t license to abandon portion sizes and healthy eating guidelines. It’s easy to overestimate the amount of calories you burn while working out.

You should adjust your calorie intake if you’re engaging in serious training, such as for a triathlon, where you might be working out more than once a day. Recovery nutrition is necessary if you are an athlete participating in strenuous activity, especially if you are participating in multiple events in the same day. For the casual exerciser working out for an hour or less, a healthy balanced diet will work just fine.

Is Chocolate Milk Really an Athlete’s Best Friend?

Because of its favorable carbohydrate and protein content, chocolate milk is indeed an effective recovery aid, but it’s not your only choice. Replacing fluid lost during a workout should be first priority. Plain water and water-rich foods such as fruit are good choices. Be sure to eat a balanced meal within a couple hours of working out to help muscles recover. For strenuous workouts, carbohydrate should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing the workout. This can be done with a sports drink or a carbohydrate-rich snack such as a fruit smoothie.


Source: How to Fuel Your Workout

The Ultimate Fitness Plan for Women | Muscle For Life

08 May

If you want a fitness plan for women that builds lean, “toned,” sexy bodies, then you want to read this article.

If you’re like most women, you want a very specific type of body.

You want to be lean but not too skinny (and most definitely not “skinny fat“).

You want a toned upper body but don’t want to look like a “bulky” weightlifter.

You want a flat, defined stomach.

You want tight, shapely legs, and last but most definitely not least…

You want that perfect, gravity-defying butt.

Well, you–yes, lil’ ol’ you–can have all these things.


You don’t need top-shelf genetics or a lifetime of training to look like a million bucks.

You have to know what you’re doing, though.

Forget what the fitness magazines have told you–you don’t become a “goddess” through starving yourself and doing an unconscionable amount of cardio.

Instead, you need to take a completely different approach. And believe it or not, a much healthier, more enjoyable, and sustainable one.

In this article, you’re going to learn exactly what that approach is and how to build the body of your dreams.

If that gets your attention, then keep reading, because we’re going to start with what you most definitely shouldn’t be doing…

The Worst Fitness Plan For Women

worst female fitness plan

If you follow the bulk of mainstream fitness advice for women, you’re almost guaranteed to wind up skinny fat.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Sounds familiar?

And what do you think you get when you subject yourself to this tortuous prescription?


Tired all the time…hungry all the time…dreading your workouts…daydreaming sensually about bingeing on carbs…counting the days until you can finally live again…

It sucks.

That’s not all that sucks, though. Even worse is what happens to your physique.

You’ll lose weight, of course, but you’ll also lose a considerable amount of muscle.

And the more muscle you lose, the worse your body begins to look even at a low body fat percentage.

What most women don’t know is just how different low body fat levels look with and without good muscle development.

For example, check out the following pictures:

female fitness training

woman fitness plan

Whose body would you rather have?

Most women would choose the second…and would be surprised to learn that both of these women have about the same body fat percentage.

What makes the second more attractive, though, is muscle mass. She has significantly more.

You see, muscle is what gives you curves, shape, and tone when you’re lean. Without adequate muscle, the best you can hope for by lowering your body fat is something best described as “scrawny.”

Here’s another striking example:

female fitness transformation

Can you guess her weight in each of these pictures?

Would you guess…the same?

Well, that’s the transformative power of improving body composition instead of just obsessively “losing weight.”

When you reframe your goals in terms of losing fat and gaining muscle, you open the door to real progress. That’s how you build a killer physique.

So…the question isn’t if you should gain muscle, it’s just how much.

For example, I’ve worked with thousands of women and the look most want (athletic, lean, and defined) requires they gain 10 to 20 pounds of muscle and reduce their body fat percentage to the 15 to 20% range.

Your numbers will ultimately depend on how you want to look.

If you want to be healthy, lean, and athletic, you probably don’t need to gain more than 10 pounds of muscle and go any lower than 20% body fat.

If you want to look like a bikini competitor, though (like the girl above), you’re going to need quite a bit more muscle and quite a bit less fat.

The “sweet spot” for most women seems to be around 10 to 15 pounds of muscle gained and 17 to 18% body fat.

This is where you look both feminine and fit and it’s also a look that can be maintained year-round.

So, now that we’ve dispelled some myths and located true north, the next question is…how do you actually get there?

It’s pretty simple, actually.

  • Lift a lot of heavy weights.
  • Don’t do too much cardio.
  • Use a moderately aggressive calorie deficit to lose fat.
  • Balance your “macros” properly.

That’s it.

Let’s take a closer look at each point.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

Doesn’t Heavy Weightlifting Make Women “Bulky”?

workout plan for women to tone

If that question is bouncing around in your head after reading my list above, I understand.

I’ve spoken with many, many women that were afraid that any type of serious weightlifting would turn them into an NFL linebacker.

Well, it doesn’t work like that. Even remotely.

In fact, if there’s one lie that prevents women from getting the bodies they desire more than any other, it’s the claim that heavy weightlifting makes them “bulky.”

The idea seems plausible at first blush.

Boys train with heavy weights because they want big, Hulk-like muscles, right? So why would women, who want long, lean, “toned” muscles do the same thing?

Crossfit hasn’t helped the matter, either, which many women think is representative of what heavy weightlifting does to the body.

Well, a quick Google search of “Crossfit girls” serves up stuff like this:

bulky crossfit female

And that’s enough to make most women swear on their children to never, ever do a heavy squat, deadlift, or overhead press in their lives.

“Whatever I do…I don’t want to look like that,” they say.

Well, if that was your first thought, I have good news for you:

It’s much, much harder to look like that than you probably know.

You don’t hit the gym every day and wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and scream in horror. It takes the right genetics and many years of training and eating like a barbarian…and in many cases, steroids as well.

That said, there are still many women seriously into weightlifting that don’t look like that but are still bulky enough to give you pause.

Well, here’s the reality:

Heavy weightlifting doesn’t make you bulky–being too fat does.

Harsh, I know, but let me explain.

First, a question: would you consider the following woman “bulky”?

strength training for women

Probably not, right?

Well, you might be surprised at how much different her body would look if she gained 15 pounds of fat because she has a lot more muscle than the average woman.

Her legs would lose their sleek lines. Her core would bulge and grow. Her arms would fill out like sausages.

The reason for this is simple:

When you gain fat, the majority accumulates inside and on top of your muscles, so the more you have of both, the larger and more formless your body tends to look.

Thus, a rule of thumb for women that want to be lean, toned, and defined:

The more muscle you have, the leaner you have to be to avoid looking bulky.

For example, a woman with little muscle might feel rawboned at 18% body fat and comfortable at 25%, whereas a woman with a significant amount of muscle will probably love how she looks at 18% but feel downright YUGE at 25%.

This is why I mentioned earlier that most women I’ve worked with are happiest when they’ve gained 10 to 15 pounds of muscle and dropped their body fat percentage to about 18%.

The muscle gives the shape and the (relatively) low level of body fat lets it shine.

What “They” Don’t Want You to Know About Cardio

workout plan to lose weight


How many marathon runners do you see with enviable bodies?

Probably not many.

Sure, you have the outliers, but on the whole, people that do a lot of endurance training look rather unimpressive.

This is a direct result of how they exercise and it shows you exactly what you don’t want to do in your workouts.

So, if you think you have to sacrifice your life to a treadmill or Stairmaster to look great, you don’t.

Unfortunately, most women don’t know this. They think that cardio is the key to losing weight and getting fit.

Ironically, research shows that this guarantees little in the way of weight loss (even when you do quite a bit).

In fact, studies have found that you can just wind up fatter as a result, mainly by negating cardio’s already meager weight loss benefits by unconsciously eating too much and/or reducing other forms of physical activity.

Hence the throngs of overweight people in your gym slaving away on the cardio machines, wondering why they’re still not losing weight.

Doing large amounts of cardio has another downside: it can result in a fair amount of muscle loss.

As you know, this only makes it harder to get the body you really want.

So, should you just forget cardio altogether then?

Some “experts” would say yes, you should use only weightlifting and proper calorie restriction to lose fat.

While they’re right in telling people they don’t have to do cardio to get and stay lean, I disagree that it should be shunned.

When done properly, I believe cardio is worthwhile.

It can burn quite a bit of energy and thus appreciably speed up fat loss (and especially when combined with weightlifting and with certain supplements as well, which I’ll talk more about soon).

What constitutes “proper cardio,” though?

Well, if you want to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss, high-intensity interval training is the way to go.

(And if you’re not ready to jump into the deep end yet, start with walking.)

Thou Shalt Not Starve

women's health diet plan


You have the lean, sexy body you want and you maintain it by eating foods you like every day, including treats normally considered off limits.

You never feel starved or deprived and thus rarely feel the urge to binge or even overeat.

You do this for the rest of your life and live happily ever after.

Okay…I’m no raconteur but this isn’t a pipe dream.

Millions of women are living it right now and you can too.

Repeat after me:

You don’t need an eating disorder or tapeworm to be lean and happy. You can eat more than you probably think.

Not only that, you can eat many more types of foods than you probably think. In fact, no foods are off limits.

That said, if you want to lose fat, you do have to eat less energy than you burn (and not so little than you lose muscle and/or impair your health).

The key to all of this is knowing how to regulate your caloric and macronutrient intake based on your total daily energy expenditure and lifestyle and food preferences, which I explain in detail here.

The Ultimate Fitness Plan for Women

best female exercise plan

If you’ve made it this far and are eager to learn more, I highly recommend that you read my book Thinner Leaner Stronger.

It will break down everything you need to know in terms of diet, training, and supplementation to build your best body ever.

That said, I want to leave you with an action plan that will prove that the strategies I’ve laid out in this article work for you.

So here we go.

  1. Do the weightlifting workouts below every week for 8 weeks.
  2. If you would like to do cardio to lose fat faster, use this article to determine how much you should do (and what kind).
  3. Now that you know how much exercise you’ll be doing, use this article to work out your dietary numbers.
  4. Once you have your numbers, use this article to work out a meal plan that will work for you.
  5. Show up every day and put in the work.
  6. Use this article to track your progress.
  7. Watch your body transform.

Yup, it’s really that simple. 🙂

Here’s the weightlifting workout:


Incline Barbell Bench Press

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re new to weightlifting)

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Flat Barbell Bench Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps


(Train your calves if you want more defined calves. Don’t if you don’t.)

Standing Calf Raise

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Seated Calf Raise

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

If you can’t do dips, find out whether your gym has an assisted dip machine.

If it doesn’t and you still want to do 3 more sets in your workout, you can do 3 sets of flat dumbbell presses.


Barbell Deadlift

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re new to weightlifting)

Barbell Squat

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Barbell Row

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

3 to 6 Abs Supersets

(Do the following 3 sets back-to-back to complete one superset.)

Cable Crunches

1 set of 10 to 12 reps

Captain’s Chair Leg Raise

1 set to failure

Air Bicycles

1 set to failure

If you have lower-back issues, remember that you can swap the deadlift for a more lower-back-friendly variation like the sumo or hex deadlift, or you can replace it with an exercise like the T-bar row.

If you can’t do pull-ups or chin-ups, you can use a machine that assists you. If your gym doesn’t have one, you can do dumbbell rows instead.


Standing Barbell Military Press

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re new to weightlifting)

Side Lateral Raise

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps


Standing Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Seated Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 to 15 reps


Barbell Curl

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Close-Grip Bench Press

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Alternating Dumbbell Curl

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Seated Triceps Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

3 to 6 Abs Supersets

Cable Crunches

1 set of 10 to 12 reps

Captain’s Chair Leg Raise

1 set to failure

Air Bicycles

1 set to failure


Barbell Squat

3 light warm-up sets

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (8 to 10 reps if you’re new to weightlifting)

Leg Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Romanian Deadlift

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Hip Thrust

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

That’s it–just 9 to 12 heavy sets for each workout with some optional additional sets if you feel you still have energy in the tank.

  • Rest 2 to 3 minutes in between each heavy set and 1 minute in between the bodyweight sets.

This will give your muscles enough time to fully recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

  • dOnce you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

For instance, if you get 10 reps on your first set of squats, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can squat it for 10 reps, and so forth.

I guarantee that if you do this workout and eat right for the next 8 weeks, you’ll be very happy with how your body responds.

What About Supplements?

best female fitness supplements

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your efforts to build muscle and lose fat.


Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven.

In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.



RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)


WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

PHOENIX Fat Burner

With the weight loss market valued at a staggering $60.5 billion and more than one-third of U.S. adults obese, it’s no surprise that there’s a glut of “fat burners” for sale these days.

And for the same reasons it’s also no surprise that fat burners are some of the most expensive supplements on the shelves and feature some of the loudest marketing claims, often making big promises of “scientifically proven” rapid fat loss.

The reality is most “fat burners” are junk but there are a handful of natural, safe substances that have been scientifically proven to accelerate fat loss. And that’s why I created PHOENIX.

PHOENIX’s caffeine-free formulation is helps you burn fat faster in three different ways:

  • It dramatically increases metabolic speed.
  • It amplifies the power of fat-burning chemicals produced by your body.
  • It increases the feeling of fullness from food.

It accomplishes this through clinically effective dosages of several ingredients, including…

Through these mechanisms, naringin also works synergistically with synephrine and hesperidin to further accelerate the basal metabolic rate.

Research has show that supplementation with forskolin accelerates fat loss and increases testosterone levels.

The bottom line is if you want to lose fat faster without pumping yourself full of stimulants or other potentially harmful chemicals…then you want to try PHOENIX.


Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.



What do you think is the best fitness plan for women? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

If you want a “paint-by-numbers,” step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body…faster than you ever thought possible…then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here’s a little sneak peek of what you’ll learn inside…

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body” without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger


Source: The Ultimate Fitness Plan for Women | Muscle For Life

5 Absolutely Insane Body Benefits Of A 40-Min Spin Class | Women’s Health

08 May

By Grethe Swart; photograph by Munetaka Tokuyama

We put a 40-minute spin class to the test! Not convinced you can sculpt the body you want in such a tiny time frame? Think again…

Indoor cycling has changed the exercise game as it recently boomed into a fitness culture worldwide. Young or old, fit or not, a 40- minute spin class promises to burn that fat, prevent unwanted injury and tone those muscles all in one! After putting it to the test by taking five 40-min classes per week, the results are pretty astonishing…

1. Goodbye to 500 calories (2 000kJ) in 40-minutes

Not everyone enjoys running for hours on a treadmill in the hope of shedding that guilty weight. According to Spinning Instructor News, the average individual is likely to burn up to 500 calories (or 2 000kJ) during a 40-minute class! (That’s roughly four cupcakes that are ditched for good).

2. Lower risk of injury and embarrassment

Training on a stationary bicycle ensures a low-impact workout that’s far easier on your joints and reduces the risk of injury. Bonus: apart from avoiding embarrassment (after tumbling off the treadmill a la Taylor Swift – now you may as well check out WH’s essential hip hop workout playlist), you’ll also look super-professional and in control of your workout (all hail stationary equipment!). Want to know which cardio is better: cycling or elliptical training?

3. Less thinking, more fun!

Gone are the angst-riddled nights of planning your workouts… and never sticking to them – there’s that guilt again. Not only does a 40-minute spin class save you time, it also allows you to free your mind and transport your body to a peaceful place, without having to look at a piece of paper and lose count of those reps. Your sole task? Listening to the voice of the instructor, who serves both as a therapist and personal trainer – another two-for-one win! Everyday obstacles can now be tackled effectively after a powerful 40-minute workout that doubles as stress release.

4. All-in-one exercise

Spin classes are usually divided into four types of exercises: speed, endurance, power and combination, which are scheduled throughout the week on different days and at different times. This allows you to integrate all the important aspects of training into your weekly fitness regime without having to switch equipment or ask the regulars for help (all the time). For best results: mix it up! This way, boredom can’t touch your fun workout.

5. Firmer everything!

Once committing to the spinning regime, your entire body will slowly but surely start to firm up. Due to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you’ll fry fat by cycling, melt away the kilojoules and build muscles – all at the same time! According to, a 40-minute class targets the large muscle groups (calves, hamstrings and thighs) in your legs to shape up fast, whilst strengthening the abdominal muscles, necessary to maintain your upper body rhythm.

If 40 measly minutes come with this many advantages, then spinning is winning! Great minds ride a bike #JustSayin’

Source: 5 Absolutely Insane Body Benefits Of A 40-Min Spin Class

Introduction to Plyometrics

05 May

Introduction to Plyometrics

A basic guide to plyometric exercises.

The post Introduction to Plyometrics appeared first on The LiveYourSport Blog.

Plyometric exercises

Remember the fun you had as a kid, hopping, skipping, and jumping around the playground? The exercises you do with plyometrics mimic those dynamic moves.

Plyometrics (“plyo,” for short) used to be called “jump training.” It’s a technique that you can use in many different ways. For instance, you can do plyometrics to help train for basketball, volleyball, tennis, or any other activity that uses explosive movements.

The physical demands of an athlete differ greatly from a ‘normal gym guy’ looking to build huge muscles. Explosiveness – a combination of muscle power and strength – is what an athlete needs to work on rather than ‘slow-rep’ bodybuilding exercises like bench press or bicep curls.

This is where plyometric exercises come in handy. Plyometric exercises are moves associated with a power component – so, if you were to do a ‘clap press-up’ that would be a plyometric move as opposed to a traditional press-up. Likewise, jump squats are plyometric compared to normal squats.

The three key benefits of plyometric training are: increased muscular power, prevent injuries, and boost high end abilities like sprinting or jumping.

  • Muscular power

  • Power is vastly different from strength. Power relates to one’s ability to apply force quickly (such as jumping) as opposed to strength which refers to one’s ability to simply displace weight. A real world example of this would be to take a bodybuilder who can leg press 800lbs and a kick boxer who can only leg press 400lbs. If we had each individual kick a training bag, the trained kick boxer will exhibit greater power and apply more force to the bag than the bodybuilder. This demonstration exemplifies how the bodybuilder may have more strength but the kick boxer has more power.
  • Prevent injuries

  • For many professional athletes, their careers depend upon how quickly their bodies can react and operate. Unfortunately, the demand for these quick responses places the body under a great deal of stress. By performing plyometric exercises in addition to regular strength training exercises and regularly stretching, athletes can build up all forms of muscular fibers which leads them to be less susceptible to injury.
  • Plyometrics target the fast-twitch muscle fibers. An activity like jogging targets the slow-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are exercised by executing movements quickly, therefore requiring the muscles to rapidly contract. Activities like long distance running allows the muscles to contract slowly (and sometimes not even fully contract as the stride does not require it)
  • Boost high end abilities

  • For an athlete looking to gain an edge in a particular sport, plyometrics is a great way to bring their skills to the next level. With proper training, plyometrics will increase an athlete’s vertical jump, enhance their ability to make quick lateral movements, allow for greater punching/kicking force, and of course, it allows for one to increase their top running speed.


Plyometric exercises:

  1. Jumps

Depth Jumps: This exercise uses gravity and an athlete’s weight to increase exercise intensity. Assume a standing position on a box, step or hop off, land, and immediately jump vertically, horizontally, or on to another box. Depth jumps can be performed with one or both legs. The height of the box is dependent on the athlete and his or her goals. Furthermore, one should ensure that the surface they are landing on is suitable for absorbing impact so as not to risk any shock injuries

Squat Jumps: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and jump as high as possible. Upon landing, squat and immediately jump up again.

Tuck Jumps: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Explode and jump as high as you can, bringing your knees into your chest. As you descend, straighten your legs and land softly on the balls of your feet. As soon as your feet touch the ground, repeat the sequence.

  • Long jumps– loading the lower body by squatting down a bit and using arm swings, explode forwards to complete a series of long jumps – increase the intensity by increasing the distance, the number of jumps or the speed at which you jump.
  • Vertical jumps– complete a series of vertical jumps reaching a pre-decided target hung up from the ceiling or marked on the wall.
  • Stair jumps– using the principle of pre-loading, jump with both feet and try to cover as many stairs as possible.
  1. Plyometric Push-Up: Assume a normal push-up position. Lower yourself to the floor. With explosive force, push off the floor so that your hands leave the floor. Repeat.
  2. Burpee – Stand straight, go down to push up then get up to do a tuck jump.
  3. Lateral Jumps – From a standing position, jump side to side.

There are countless other exercises and specific plyometric exercises that you can implement into your training routine, and given that most of them don’t require any equipment, you can perform them at any time (as long as you have a suitable landing surface—tarmac is not great for shock absorption).

Areas It Targets

Core: No. This workout doesn’t specifically target your core.

Arms: No. Most plyometric workouts don’t target your arms. But if you want to work them, you can add upper-body moves like medicine-ball throws and plyometric push-ups.

Legs: Yes. Expect your legs to get in great shape from all the jumping and hopping.

Glutes: Yes. Moves like jump squats fire up your glutes to make them stronger.

Back: No. Though the workout involves your whole body, it’s not focused on your back muscles.

Safety considerations

Plyometrics have been shown to have benefits for reducing lower extremity injuries in team sports while combined with other neuromuscular training (i.e. strength training, balance training, and stretching).

Plyometric exercises involve an increased risk of injury due to the large force generated during training and performance, and should only be performed by well conditioned individuals under supervision. Good levels of physical strengthflexibility, and proprioception should be achieved before commencement of plyometric training.

The post Introduction to Plyometrics appeared first on The LiveYourSport Blog.

Source: Introduction to Plyometrics

Strength Training: A Great Tool for Diabetes Management | Everyday Health

04 May


PantherMedia 906049

When you exercise with weights or other forms of resistance, it can be especially helpful for controlling blood sugar levels. “A lot of the resistance training actually improves insulin sensitivity,” says Dawn Sherr, RD, a certified diabetes educator with the American Association of Diabetes Educators. “Your blood sugar may not be as elevated if you develop more muscles.”

Lift Weights to Control Type 2 Diabetes

When you do strength training exercises that target muscles, your body uses glucose from your bloodstream to power them, which can help clear out excess sugar from your system. “It actually signals the glucose to enter the muscle cells,” says Joey Gochnour, MEd, RD, LD, a nutritionist and certified personal trainer with the Division of Recreational Sports at the University of Texas in Austin. Toned muscles also store glucose more effectively, and that helps regulate blood sugar even when you’re at rest.

Strength training also helps build stronger bones, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And it promotes weight loss — an important goal for many with type 2 diabetes — because the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn.

Keep in mind that strengthening exercises are just one part of a well-rounded fitness program. In addition to strength training twice a week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults also get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as jogging or cycling, each week.

“I always recommend that people do both,” Gochnour says. In fact, while both aerobics and strength training are helpful when you have diabetes, a long-term program of both produces the greatest health benefits, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Three Strength Training Exercises to Get You Started

Motivated to add strength training to your fitness routine, but not sure how? Here’s how to get started.

If you’ve never done strength training, start slow and resist overdoing it. Steady progression is key. For instance, with exercises involving handheld weights, choose a weight that you will be able to lift for one set of 8 to 10 reps, suggests the CDC. Work toward completing one set of 15 reps each and then move on to higher weights and/or two to three sets.

Always rest muscles at least one day between sessions. If you feel sore, ease up until you feel better. “You can still make progress if you only train once a week,” Gochnour says.

You can strength-train with free weights, resistance bands, and exercises that use your own body weight as resistance. At the gym, try weight machines, which are often better for learning proper form. Gochnour suggests working with a personal trainer to find the best exercises for you.

If you want to do strength training exercises at home that require little or no extra equipment, these simple moves can get you started:

Chair dips. Stand with your back to a sturdy chair or low table. Sit on the edge of the chair, with your arms behind you. Place your palms on the edge, fingers pointed toward you. Lift your buttocks off the chair and walk your feet forward, making sure your knees don’t bend past your toes. Slowly bend your elbows, lowering your body down, and then straighten. This works several upper-body muscles, including the triceps (rear upper arm), deltoids (part of the shoulder), and pectoral (chest) muscles.

Wall squats. Stand with your back against a wall, feet about a foot in front of you. Bend your knees as you lower your back along the wall until you are in a position similar to one you’d be in if sitting in a chair. Hold for several seconds, then return to standing. This works the quadriceps and hamstrings (front and back of the thighs).

Curls. Hold a lightweight dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides with palms facing up. Holding elbows steady, curl up your forearms to bring the weights almost to your shoulders, then return to starting position. If you don’t have dumbbells, try this with two soup cans or water bottles. Curls work the biceps (muscles on the front of upper arms).

For each of these exercises, aim for one or two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

Managing Blood Sugar While Strength Training

Check with your doctor before starting a strength training program. As with any exercise, strength training can lower your blood sugar level, so you should check your blood sugar before and after exercising to see what kind of effect the activity has on your body. If your blood sugar dips too low, you may want to have a snack before or during your routine. It may also be a good idea to talk to your doctor about changing your medications to allow for your increased physical activity.

Above all, be smart about your new exercise routine to keep it safe and enjoyable. “The best thing to do is start slow,” Sherr says. “You can gradually increase the intensity and reach your goals.”


Source: Strength Training: A Great Tool for Diabetes Management | Everyday Health

Deadlift Technique and Teaching Points | Australian Fitness Academy

02 May


The barbell deadlift should be a staple exercise in anyone’s gym routine. It is a great exercise to build a solid foundation for most other movements. Quite simply it is the exercise that, if performed correctly, will build unmatched mass while strengthening all the major muscles groups, although the squat could arguably be granted similar prestige.

The benefits of the barbell deadlift are numerous; it is a great exercise because it works more muscles simultaneously than any other movement, it creates core stability, is a relatively safe movement (the weight can be dropped if required) and won’t cause unduly stress on any of the major joints involved. There are real life applications; lifting objects from the ground without causing injury, which makes it a very functional exercise. It helps to improve grip strength and is arguably a true measure of strength. And finally, it requires minimal equipment to perform. In fact, you can do the movement with any object, as long as you can apply good form and technique.

Although it seems like a straightforward movement pattern, to get the barbell deadlift technique right is actually quite difficult, especially if you’ve never done one before nor been taught proper technique. There are many resources out there, from many “experts” whom have little credentials. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check the credentials of those teaching this technique before blindly following their advice. It is best to have your personal trainer go through the movement with you, and to do so using light weights until you have the movement perfected.

The basics:

A proper barbell deadlift starts with the weight on the floor. You start with your lower back straight—not arched—and knees bent. You then pull the barbell in an upwards direction and towards the body until your entire body is upright.

Barbell Deadlift Teaching Points

  • Grip the bar with hands in a pronated position (hands in the overhand position) and slightly wider than shoulder width apart (you can use alternate grip one hand forward / back if your grip strength is a limiter)
  • Feet shoulder width apart with the bar positioned over the mid part of the foot
  • Squat down keeping normal curve in lumbar spine, chest up, head facing forwards and shoulders over the bar
  • Keep arms straight, hold scapulae down, and brace to stabilise trunk
  • Commence lift by pushing through the floor with the legs and letting hips and knees rise at the same rate, keeping bar close to shins
  • When the bar clears the knees, continue to extend the legs and the lower back until body is fully upright
  • Lower the bar under control keeping lower back slightly curved and the bar close to the body until the plates lightly touch the ground

Common Errors:

  • Poor posture at starting position of movement: lower back rounded, head and chest forward
  • Bar too far in front of the feet
  • Shoulders not over the bar
  • Bending arms to help pull the bar up
  • Hips rising faster than knees
  • Bar too far out in front of body
  • Rounding the lower back at any stage of the lift
  • Hyperextending the lower back at the top of the lift
  • Head and chest dropping forward during descent phase of the lift

Movement analysis

The barbell deadlift is a compound movement which involves several joints and large muscles, listed below.

 Joint Action at each joint during the concentric phase Main muscles performing the action at each joint Exercise Classification
Hip Extension Gluteus MaximusHamstrings Compound
Knee Extension Quadriceps Compound
Ankle Plantar Flexion GastrocnemiusSoleus Compound

Deadlift variations:

Side deadlift – same technique as the barbell deadlift but using weight on only one side.

Suitcase deadlift – using two weights either side of the body, often dumbbells or kettlebells.

Rack pulls – using the rack to shorten the movement to the upper section of the lift. Focussing on the back extension more than the leg drive.

Romanian deadlift / Straight legged deadlift – starting from shin height and keeping the legs relatively still to work the gluteus maximus and hamstrings.

Deficit deadlift – simply stand on a weight or plate to add a little extra range of motion to the deadlift.

If you’d like to learn more about exercise from the industry leaders in fitness education, and become a Personal Trainer yourself, take our Personal Training Course.

Source: Deadlift Technique and Teaching Points

What are Plyometrics and Why Should You Do Them? | The Beachbody Blog

01 May

In the simplest definition, plyometrics refers to jump training. A key component of many sports, such as basketball, soccer, and tennis, plyometric training can enhance athleticism, strengthen the most powerful muscles in your body, and more.

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of plyometric exercises, and how to safely add them to your workout routine.

The Benefits of Plyometrics

In order to propel your body off the ground and land safely, a lot has to happen in your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. “Plyometric training targets your type II (a.k.a. fast twitch) muscle fibers, which are the largest, strongest, and most powerful in your body,” explains Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody’s Fitness and Nutrition Content Manager. “It doesn’t matter whether you are a seasoned lifter or a strength-training newbie—studies show that plyometrics can help you build muscle as effectively as conventional weightlifting, and that combining the two can help you reach your goals faster than focusing on either one alone.”

Not only that, the impact your body absorbs from landing has benefits for your bones, spurring them to become denser. And if you’re an athlete, plyometrics can improve your agility and explosiveness when it comes to fast-response moves, such as sprinting, quickly changing direction on the field or court, and, of course, jumping (say, to rebound in basketball).

How to Get Started With Plyometrics

If you’re new to plyometrics, as with anything you should start small. This is especially important for plyometric exercises because correct form is so crucial, as you need to both lift your body off the ground and control the landing.

This dual-action makes plyo exercises more difficult and complex than most exercises. If you have a movement dysfunction, it will be magnified when the speed and power of a jump is applied to it.

Thieme suggests incorporating plyometric training into your workout plan by adding a plyo element to exercises with which you’re already familiar. “So you might do the jump squat instead of a conventional squat, or the split jump to compliment a conventional lunge,” he says.

When learning a new plyometric move, you can first perform it without the jump to get a handle on the form, strength, and stability that is required to do it correctly. Once you have all of that, you can then add the jumping movement.

Another way to start small is to choose lower-impact plyo exercises, such as jumping jacks, jumping rope, skaters (hopping side to side from one foot to the other), and even some martial arts or boxing activities that involve punching and kicking.

And don’t ignore the upper body: plyo pushups (where you “jump” your hands up on the press, either off the floor, an incline surface, or even the wall) and medicine ball throws are great for building explosive power above the waist. Just always be aware of your form. When you become tired, form tends to suffer, and risk of injury increases.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t do plyometric exercises?

The short answer is no, as long as your doctor hasn’t identified a reason why you shouldn’t (such as deteriorating joints or bad knees). However, “if you’re significantly overweight, add plyometric exercises to your training plan gradually, and stay away from high-impact moves like box jumps entirely,” says Thieme. “Doing too much, too soon—or doing advanced exercises before you’re ready for them—can stress your joints, increasing your risk of injury.”

Try These 5 Plyometric Exercises

Although many people think of plyometric exercises as a lower-body workout, they can target your upper body as well. Here’s a representative sample of plyometric exercises that effectively work many of the body’s large muscles. To absorb some of the impact of these plyo moves, consider using a plyometrics mat.

Alternating step jumps

Stand tall with your arms by your sides and your left foot on a bench so that your hip, knee, and ankle are all bent 90 degrees. Keeping your chest up, shoulders back, and core braced, drive through your left foot while swinging your arms up and pushing your body up with enough force for the left foot to leave the bench. Switch feet in the air, landing with your right foot on the bench, and your left foot on the floor. Continue alternating legs with each rep.

Plyo push-ups

Assume a plank position with your feet together (or separated slightly), your body straight from head to heels, and your hands in line with (but slightly wider than) your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and brace your core to lock your body into position. Keeping your elbows tucked against your ribs, lower your torso until your chest is within a few inches of the floor. Pause, and then push up with enough force for your hands to leave the ground. Land softly, and transition immediately into your next rep.

Skater jumps (from 21 Day Fix–Plyo Fix)

Start with your right leg slightly bent and your left foot tucked behind it. Push off your right leg to move your body to the left, landing on your left leg, and tucking your right leg behind it. Continue the lateral jumps, landing softly and with bent knees each time.

Wide in & out abs (from INSANITY–Max Interval Plyo)

Assume a plank position with your hands in line with (but slightly wider than) your shoulders, and your feet wider than hip distance. Squeeze your glutes and brace your core to keep your body in a straight line. Keeping your hands on the ground, jump your feet in to come under your hips, keeping the feet shoulder width apart. Then, jump back to the starting position.

Scissor kick jumps (from P90X3–AgilityX)

Stand on your right leg, with your left leg lifted straight out in front of your body. Moving to the left, jump to your left leg, lifting your right leg straight out in front of your body. Switch once more to your right leg, and then once more to your left leg. Then reverse the direction jumping to your right, still alternating legs.

Source: What are Plyometrics and Why Should You Do Them? | The Beachbody Blog

7 Amazing Benefits Of Jump Squats |

01 May

7 Amazing Benefits Of Jump Squats

Do you want well shaped thighs and legs? Well, if you do, then this is the post you should be reading! Jump squats help exercise the quads and calves while helping you tone your body as well. There are many benefits associated with jump squats. Let’s look at how to perform Squat jumps and their variations. To know how squat jumps can be beneficial for you, read till the end.

The Routines:

To begin, stand in front of a full-length mirror. Bend your knees a little; make sure that the spine remains upright.

1. The Basic Routine:

  1. Begin squatting. To squat, lower your body as much as you can by squatting down. Bend your knees and assume the position of sitting down. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground. Pause and hold position.
  2. Launch your body upwards. Lift your hands above your head as you jump in the air.
  3. Try to land in the same position. Bring your arms back to the starting position. Repeat.
  4. As you land, go into the squat to finish one repetition. Try and land effectively (you may have to master this skill).
  5. Do 3-sets of 15 repetitions. (1)

2. Advanced Version:

You can increase the intensity of your workout by adding some variations to the simple jump squats. Jump squats help tone the calves, glutes, hamstrings, core, and quadriceps.

  1. Lift a pair of dumbbells and keep at the sides, with the knuckles facing away from your body.
  2. Lower your body as much as you can by squatting down. Bend your knees and assume the position of sitting down. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground. Pause and move back to the starting position.
  3. Launch your body upwards. Lift your hands above your head as you jump in the air.
  4. Try to land in the same position. Bring your arms back to the starting position. Repeat.
  5. Do 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions.


As the routine is more challenging than the normal jump squat, you can opt to decrease the number of repetitions or decrease the number of sets. You could also increase the rest time between each jump.

Equipment Needed:

  • Dumbbells
  • Weight vest
  • Water bottles
  • Towel


People with rheumatoid arthritis and knee pain should refrain from performing these exercises.

Wear knee caps and protective gear wherever necessary while exercising. (2)

Types of Squat Jumps:

Here are the various types to perform jump squats:

1. Regular Squats:

Regular squats

Image: Shutterstock


These are just regular squats. They focus on toning the legs and butt.

1. Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
2. With your feet firmly on the ground, push your hips out while slowly lowering yourself.
3. Make sure that your toes point forward, knees are in the front, and your head and shoulders are straight.
4. Rise slowly
5. Repeat the same.

[ Read: Benefits Of Frog Jumps Exercises ]

2. Wall Squats:

Wall Squats

Image: Shutterstock


These are regular squats, done against a wall.

1. Do the regular squat but instead of pushing your hips out make sure that your back is straight with the support of the wall.
2. Do not bend lest you hurt yourself.
3. Repeat without sliding up and down the wall.

3. Uneven Squats:

Uneven squat

Image: Shutterstock


Keep a plank at a little height to perform these squat jump exercise.

1. Place one foot on the floor and the other on the plank.
2. Do your regular squats.
3. Make sure that you balance your weight evenly.
4. Do not stress the knee.
5. If you have any problem doing this, do not attempt this squat.

4. Prisoner Squats:

Prisoner squats

Image: Shutterstock


These squats are tough to do.

1. Keep your hands behind your head.
2. Push your hip backward while you bend.
3. Keep your shoulders and arms straight.
4. Lower your body and squat

5. Monkey Squats:

Monkey Squats

Image: Shutterstock


Monkey squats are one of the tougher squats to do.

1. Stand with your legs a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
2. Reach for one knee or toe (depending on how flexible you are) as you lower into a squat.
3. Still holding the toe, squat as low as you can.
4. Slowly rise and release the toe.
5. Make sure that you never pull or push the toe or knee.

6. Sumo Squats:

Sumo Squats

Image: Shutterstock


These squats are regular squats, which you need to perform by placing your feet far away from each other.

1. Keep your feet apart such that the distance between them is more than shoulder length.
2. Make sure that it is not so much that you lose your balance.
3. Hold a heavy weight with both your hands and perform a squat
4. Remember to keep your upper body straight as you bend your knees.
5. Lower yourself as much as you can

7. Single Leg Squats:

Single Leg Squats

Image: Shutterstock


Single leg squats are difficult for beginners.

1. Stretch one leg out in the front.
2. Stretch your hands in the front too.
3. Now, squat as low as you can.
4. You can use a piece of furniture for balancing.

8. Frog Squats:

frog squat

Image: Shutterstock


You need to perform these just the way you do burpees.

1. As you squat down, jump and land on your feet with your hands in the front.
2. Jump back up and repeat.
3. It is similar to burpees where you continue to stretch down and back up.

9. Jumping Jack Squats:

Jumping Jack Squats

Image: Shutterstock


Jumping Jack squats are more of a cardio workout.

1. Start with jumping jack.
2. As your arms go down, squat down.
3. As your arms go up, your body should squat up.

[ Read: Benefits Of Tuck Jumps Workout On Your Body ]

10. Squats:


Image: Shutterstock


Perform any of the above squats, with weights.

  • 1. You should use weights, which you can lift comfortably.
  • 2. Always make sure that you have a proper balance without the weights. In that way, you won’t hurt yourself with the weights.

Benefits Of Jump Squats:

Jump squats have a variety of health benefits. For a start, they help build and tone the calves, glutes, hamstrings, core, and quadriceps. They have other benefits as well. Here we list some important ones:

1. Builds Muscle:

Not only do jump squats help build leg muscles, they help promote an anabolic environment. This environment helps build other muscle groups in the body.

2. Burns More Fat:

Gaining muscle is one of the best ways to burn calories. With every pound of muscle gained, you will burn around 50-70 calories more than regular days. Squats help you build muscle and thus directly help burn more fat.

3. Maintain Mobility And Balance:

Legs are crucial to mobility. As you get older, your leg strength decreases and squats can help you curb the natural weakening of these muscle groups. Squats help maintain motor balance and help improve brain to muscle communication.

4. Prevent Injuries:

Jump squats help improve balance. They help prevent injuries as they directly increase the extent of motion in the hips and ankles.

[ Read: Steps To Do Plié Squat Jumps ]

5. Boost Your Sports Performance – Jump Higher And Run Faster:

Scientific studies concluded that squatting helped athletes perform better, specifically in endurance exercises. This is why jump squats are a part of most of the athletic training sessions. (3)

6. Tone Your Backside, Abs And Entire Body:

Jump squats build muscles that are crucial to glucose regulation, insulin sensitivity, and lipid metabolism. Jump squats help prevent heart diseases, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.

7. Help With Waste Removal:

Jump squats improve body fluid circulation. The bodily fluids help remove waste and deliver nutrients to tissues, organs, and glands. (4)

These are the many advantages of jump squats! So do include them in your exercise routine if you haven’t yet!

You can also check out many videos on these exercises. If we missed anything or you have any suggestions, please leave us a comment below.

Source: 7 Amazing Benefits Of Jump Squats |

Lifting Heavy Weights: 7 Benefits

27 Apr

In college, I avoided the “bro zone” of the gym like it was a frat house after a rager. I was intimidated by the grunting, the weird machines, and the almost entirely male population outside of the cardio section and free weights. I didn’t want anything to do with their protein shakes and bro tanks. Instead, I used the cardio machines and would do the same one to two exercises with 8-pound weights every time I went to the gym.

But I really wanted to lift.

A taste of CrossFit was all it took to get me addicted to lifting heavy. After a couple of months, I was lifting more weight than I thought possible. Five years later, I regularly squat more than I weigh, and 25-pound dumbbells are my go-to. Today, I feel at home under the bar.

While there are great weight loss and calorie-blasting benefits of lifting heavy, it’s not why I do it. Weightlifting makes me care more about the weight on the bar than on my body. I work hard at the gym to push my body and mind. It’s about what my body is capable of, not what it looks like.

Lifting heavy, for example using a weight that you can only do 1 to 6 reps with, has made me battle the voice in my head — it’s far more crushing than any weight could ever be. With heavy plates on the bar, there isn’t room for self-doubt or negative thoughts. It takes all of my focus to step up, to stay in control, and to crush the lift.


Weightlifting makes me feel powerful. Confident. My lifting shoes are my “power heels.” When I hit a big lift, I’m unstoppable. I’m capable of moving the weight and handling the other challenges in my life. I walk down the street knowing the physical and mental strength inside of me.

The lessons I have learned in the gym bleed out into the rest of my life. They have made me a faster runner, a more independent person, and a confident woman. Before you get to the heavy lifting, here are a few reasons why you should take this on.

1. Confidence

It’s not just me. Training with heavy weights is shown to improve your self-confidence. Weight training can also reduce anxiety, ease depression, and increase happiness. While it might be hard at times to get motivated to hit the gym, the benefits outlast the initial struggle.

Get going and get happy.

2. Get stronger

Heavy weights increase the power and strength of your muscles without significantly adding bulk or size, especially for women. This means that everyday physical tasks get easier, and consistent training will increase the amount of weight you can lift. You’ll look stronger, too. Strength training with heavy weights enhances your muscle mass and definition.

Hello Michelle Obama arms and Beyoncé abs!

3. Cut the fat

Everyone knows that exercise helps you to burn more calories, but according to Mayo Clinic, a regular strength training program can also help you burn more calories when you’re not in the gym. You get an “after burn,” where your body continues to use more calories in the hours following a workout. In addition to that, strength training builds muscle. That larger muscle mass increases the calories you burn daily without exercise.

Just like a double chocolate chip brownie, heavy strength training gives you a double reward when burning calories.

4. Build your brain

Heavy weights develop more than just muscle. Lifting heavy increases the production of many hormones, including the hormone IGF-1, which helps to stimulate connections in the brain and enhance cognitive function. In a recent study, leg strength was positively linked with stronger minds that are less susceptible to the negative effects of aging.

Simply stated: Strength training can improve your ability to learn and think as you age.

5. Prevent injury

Resistance training using body weight and with free weights, strengthens more than just your muscles. It also strengthens your bones and connective tissues. This added strength and stability will help you ward off injuries and keep a strong body. It can also help reduce symptoms of many conditions like back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain.

In this case, the game reduces the pain­ — the game of strength training, that is.

6. Improve endurance

It seems counterintuitive, but strength training has been shown to improve endurance, speed, and running economy (the amount of energy and effort it takes to do something like run a five-minute mile). A recent study showed that lifting heavier weights improves economy more than lighter weights. That extra weight on the bar will pay off during your next run or spin class.

So don’t lighten on the weights. The heavier the better.

7. Fight aging

Inactive adults can lose 3 to 8 percent of muscle mass per decade. You might lament the loss of your rock-hard arms or killer abs, but even worse, muscle weakness is linked with an increased likelihood of death in men. Heavy resistance training can help fight, and reverse, the loss of muscle mass. It can also strengthen bones and help prevent osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women.

The old saying, “Use it, don’t lose it” seems appropriate for your muscles.

8. Next steps

Learn how to get started with the weightlifting guide for beginners. Or, get stronger at any of your lifts with the Smolov program, a 13-week long guide to improving your squats of all types, and gain strength. All it takes is one lift to get started!
Follow these tips to stay safe in the gym:


  • Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a heavy lifting program, especially if you have high blood pressure or any vessel disease.
  • It’s very important to use proper form anytime you are lifting, but it’s even more important when you are lifting heavy.
  • Meet with a trainer if you have never lifted, or if you have never lifted heavy weight, to get started. Ask them what weight you should start at to stay safe.
  • Pay close attention to your body and adjust lifting as needed to avoid injury.

Source: Lifting Heavy Weights: 7 Benefits | HealthLine

Functional Strength Training: What It Is, Why You Need It, and Exercises – InBody

26 Apr

[PTF Note: Many of these exercises are included in Plyometrics training at Perfect Total Fitness – stop in and talk to one of our certified personal trainers for more information!]

We all know injuries can happen in the gym—but how many times have you heard someone say they injured their back carrying heavy luggage or lifting kids? Or tweaked their knee going on a hike or walking the dog? That’s why functional strength training is such a hot topic these days.

The American Council on Exercise(ACE) defines functional strengthtraining as “performing work against resistance in such a manner that the improvements in strength directly enhance the performance of movements so that an individual’s activities of daily living are easier to perform.”

Quite the mouthful, right?

Let’s try this simplified definition for functional training:

“Training that attempts to mimic the specific physiological demands of real-life activities.”

Like most exercise philosophies, there’s some controversy over the term “functional training” though.Mel C. Siff, Ph.D. published a paper in the National Strength & Conditioning Association Journal and said:

“[Functional training] has become such a hot item that its proponents are creating the impression that all other approaches to sports training are wrong, unproductive, spurious, or ineffectual.”

Siff argues that the word “functionality” is highly subjective because it depends not only on the exercise itself but on factors like:

  • Characteristics of the athlete
  • Reps
  • Sets
  • Manner of execution
  • Phase of training
  • Interaction with other training
  • Current physical and mental state of the athlete

Regardless of the context in which we define functional training, clinical data from a multitude of sources clearly shows the effectiveness of “functional” strength training, particularly for older adults.

We’ll dig into the current research shortly. First, let’s talk about why you need functional strength.

Why do you need functional strength?

Here’s a scary stat: your muscle mass and strength will decrease 30 to 50% between the ages of 30 and 80. Despite this, only 6%of adults do resistance training two or more times per week (the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation).

Doing resistance exercises and movements that help you become stronger, more flexible, and more agile makes you better equipped to handle day-to-day feats of strength and athleticism that are often overlooked. And, it can help you become less injury-prone.

Another secondary benefit, according to ACE, is that improving your strength and agility in one area of your body leads to better performance in other areas.

The science of functional strength training

So, to work towards functional strength, do you have to start benching, squatting, and deadlifting? Not if you don’t want to, and for some, that might even a barrier to even getting started.

In one study that compared traditional weight training to functional training (which they defined as resistance training exercises mixed with isometric stability exercises) in middle‐aged and elderly adults, researchers found that traditional weight training and functional training were equally effective at improving functional capacity in test subjects.

Another study of 87 adults aged 65-93 years published in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed that functional ability improved for functionally limited elderly people who participated in a 16-week structured exercise program consisting of thirteen different strength training exercises using a Thera-Band resistance band.

When researchers tested the effects of 12 weeks of resistance training on the isometric strength, explosive power, and selected functional abilities of healthy women aged 75 and over, they saw statistically significant improvements in 4 out of 5 exercises measured.

Finally, another studyfound that for adults in their 70s, shoulder strength was a key indicator of upper body functional strength (we’ll look at some exercises that address this below).

The science is clear: functional strength training is more than just another fad. It’s something adults could really benefit from, especially at they age. Unfortunately, most aren’t doing it.

How to improve your functional strength

There are several exercises you can do to improve your functional strength. Functional training expert Michael Boyle says in his book New Functional Training for Sports that it’s a good idea to focus on functional “stability training” that targets three specific areas:

  1. Deep abdominals (transversus abdominis and internal oblique)
  2. Hip abductors and rotators
  3. Scapula stabilizers

Here’s a good list of exercises that work one or more of these areas you can incorporate into your workout routine every week.

Pushup to arm and hip raise

Muscle groups worked: Pectoralis major/minor, rectus abdominus, obliques,deep abdominals, hip abductors and rotators, scapula stabilizers

Perform a normal pushup. When you reach the top of the movement, lift one of your arms up, turn your shoulder, and reach your arm up to the sky. Then lift your outside leg up as high as you can, holding for up to 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Do 6-10 repetitions on each side. This exercise builds shoulder, arm, and hip strength, engages your core and ab muscles, and improves flexibility in your shoulders, back, and hips.

Bodyweight squat


Muscle groups worked:Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, deep abdominals, hip abductors and rotators

One of the best exercises for building all-around functional lower body strength is the mighty squat. Squats work nearly every muscle in your legs, while also building the necessary core strength to help you with day-to-day movements involving pushing, pulling, and lifting.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to load a barbell full of heavy weights on your back to reap the benefits of this exercise. Your own body weight is plenty for most people, and you can do several variations once you start building strength.

Focus on strict form over function (feet shoulder width apart, bend at the hips and don’t let your knees go past your toes, lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor).

For advanced squatters, hold on to a pole or TRX strap and do 1-legged squats. If your leg strength is above-average, you should be to work up to unassisted 1-legged squats (they’re much harder than you think).

Inverted row

Source: Everkenetic

Muscle groups worked:Back muscles, Biceps, deep abdominals, scapula stabilizers

This exercise effectively targets your back muscles, spine and scapula stabilizers, and arms, making it easier to do every-day activities that include any type of pulling motion (lifting things off the ground, starting a lawnmower, etc.).

To do it, lie down flat on your back and grab a stable barbell or set of straps above you. Pull your upper body up as high as you can while keeping your back straight. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top. Complete as many repetitions as possible. Here’s a quick video that shows how to do it.

Exercise ball hamstring curl

Source: Flickr

Muscle groups worked:Hamstrings, glutes, deep abdominals, hip abductors and rotators

Eccentric exercises like the hamstring curl are one of the most effective ways to build functional strength in your hamstrings and hips and prevent injuries down the road.

To do this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and lift your legs up so the bottom of your feet are resting atop an exercise ball. Roll your legs out until they’re straight, hold the position for a second or two, then return to the top of the movement while squeezing your hamstrings.

Working these muscles will help make any squatting, bending, or thrusting motions easier.

Exercise ball rollout

Source: Everkenetic

Muscle groups worked:deep abdominals, quadriceps, pectoralis major/minor, scapula stabilizers, deltoids, hip abductors

Exercise ball rollouts are one of my favorite functional exercises. They work your chest, shoulders, core, and legs. To do this exercise, start in a pushup position with your arms on the floor in front of you. Lift your legs so the tops of your feet rest on the exercise ball. Your knees should be bent to start the movement. Now extend your legs out as straight as you can. Hold the movement for a couple seconds, then return to the starting position. Do 10 total repetitions.

Hip mobility sequence

Muscle groups worked:hip abductors and rotators

GMB Fitness put together a great video of a 6-minute hip mobility sequence. Exercises include lying hip rotations, piriformis stretch, butterfly, frog, kneeling lunge, traveling butterfly, squatting internal rotations, and pigeon. Do this sequence three times a week to loosen up those hip abductors and rotators(author’s note: I tried it and felt fantastic after).

Scapula sequence

Muscle groups worked:scapula stabilizers

Russ Paine, PT and Michael L. Voight, PT published an excellent paper in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy called The Role of the Scapula, where they outline a 3-phase routine for beginner, intermediate, and advanced strength training athletes.

The beginner exercises are targeted more toward those who have had shoulder surgery but it’s always good to have a firm grasp on “the basics” before trying any of the other movements.

The Final Verdict

Functional strength training is a proven way to slow down the effects of age-related muscle atrophy and decrease your risk for injury. Try doing several of the exercises noted above to work the important stabilizer muscles in your core/deep abdominals, shoulders, and hips.

As you add more functional exercises to your workout, you should see improvements in your ability to perform your everyday activities and, thus, in your quality of life. That’s quite a return on a very small time investment.


Scott Christ is a health and wellness entrepreneur, writer, and website strategy consultant. He’s also the creator of the world’s healthiest plant-based protein powder.



Source: Functional Strength Training: What It Is, Why You Need It, and Exercis – InBody