Tag Archives: Lifting

Upper Body Toning; Tricks of the Trade

This is not a post to tell you how many sets and reps is ideal for you. In fact, I’m not even going to mention the amount of weight you should attempt to lift. This article is centered on the stuff you probably don’t know about upper body lifting and how to achieve optimal tone. Your triceps can thank me later…wink wink. 

Upper Body 3

 

Forget Biceps and Triceps…Temporarily

Yes, I’m serious. You can actually put off doing bicep curls and tricep exercises until the end of your routine. These muscles [biceps and triceps] act as assistors to larger muscles. Literally, every time you flex your elbow, the bicep is shortening and having to work. This applies to motions like picking up something heavy or even lifting a fork to your mouth. Can we make that a fork puncturing a big fluffy bite of chocolate cake, please?  

The same is true for your triceps. Any time you extend your arm straight or push something away from your body, you’re shortening and actively working your tricep. Soooo, you know what this means? It means that when you’re doing chest, back and shoulder exercises, your biceps and triceps are actually getting a workout too!

Thus, if you’re pressed on time, opt for working larger muscles in your upper body. You will accomplish more overall work and will reap the benefits. Helloooo strapless dress! 

 

Back it up, Baby!

Your back is begging you to pay more attention to it. It’s actually quite common to forget about the back because we tend to focus our workouts on areas of the body that are easier to give the stink eye to via our mirror’s reflection. But, it’s SO important to incorporate more back work. Here’s why…

  1. You will get the optimal posture that you want by doing exercises (properly) like rows, reverse flies, lat pull downs and rotator cuff exercises. You will look more confident, tall and lean with improved posture. Not to mention “the girls” will now be sitting pretty! 
  2. Since we’re sitting down all day long, we often slouch forwards. This creates a rounded posture that can lead to kyphosis, discomfort, rotator cuff issues and impaired movement. Thus, it’s important for both function and tone to focus on opening the chest and working the back. I typically tell my clients to do two back exercises for every chest exercise. If someone has serious postural issues then I suggest an even greater ratio.

 

Upper Body 2

 

Get Low, Get Low, Get Low

I know I just preached about doing more back than chest exercises, but the chest is important too, and many women see great results when they work it. Here’s the thing though; if you want optimal tone for your chest exercises, you’ve got to complete a full range of motion in your exercises. For example, many people will opt for push-ups on their toes instead of their knees, but they only lower their bodies a few inches towards the ground before pushing back up to the starting posture. This is not ideal push-up form. A chick like this needs to humble herself and choose an easier modification (knee push-ups, wall/”mommy” push-ups, or push-ups with hands on a raised bench). Ironically, she will get more out of her workout this way.

You will achieve better results when you lower your body to a 90-degree angle (in the elbows) at the bottom of a push-up. You may not be able to complete nearly as many push-ups this way at the outset, but you will build up much better upper body and core strength in the process. Funny side note: I’ve corrected a lot of ex-military professionals on their push-up form. At first they think I’m crazy and arrogant, and then they feel the difference…

Upper Body 1

 

Don’t Fear the Transition

There’s this painful point in any exercise where you’re transitioning from lengthening your muscle to shortening it, or vice vera. For example, you’re doing a tricep dip and you’re changing from lowering to lifting your body (i.e. bending to straightening the elbows). The transition feels super intense and your body gets overwhelmed by the effort, so, oftentimes, people rush through this part of the exercise. They’re missing out…

By taking your time transitioning from one phase of the exercise to the next, you will get way stronger than if you rush the process. And you know what goes with getting stronger? Getting more toned!

There are many more bits of advice I could give you about upper body lifting and toning, but, for today, let’s leave it at these four nuggets. I hope you consider at least one of these concepts and achieve greater resilience through the application of it.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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10 Unspoken Rules of the Gym

This blog post may just be my personal vendetta to correct the many things I’ve seen go wrong at gyms over the years, or it may be an opportunity for you to kindly reference this article to the next person who gets on your last nerve at the gym. Maybe print it out and smack it in the center of their bench press? If nothing else, know that you’re in the right and can chuckle lightly to yourself about those who will soon see the error of their ways. There are some real life anecdotes in here that may make you giggle (or cringe) too…you’re welcome.

 

10 unspoken rules of the gym

 

1) Learn How to Share (it’s a basic life lesson)

Just like the little boy from the well-known Campbell’s Soup commercial said to his hungry older brothers: “Don’t hog it all!” Yes, it’s true that people at the gym can get overly possessive about the equipment they’re using. Take the following scenario that happened to me just a week ago…

I’m alternating sets between a leg extension machine and a reverse fly machine. They’re right beside one another and I was five sets done out of six. A man comes up to the reverse fly machine just as I’m finishing my last set for lower body and heading that way. I understand that he has zero notion of what my routine is so I ask him politely if I can finish my last set after his first one, while he takes a break.

This man gives me the nastiest look a human can possibly conjure up. After a pause he says in a snarky tone “But I’m just starting…” I reassure him that I’m happy to wait while he does a set and can finish my routine quickly while he takes his first break. The man gives me silence…yes, silence (oh yea, and another unusually offensive glare) and continues to adjust the machine’s seat to his preference. At this point I walk away. I could have responded to his comment “You’re just starting? Oh yea? Well, I’m just finishing! I was here first! Nah-Nah-Nah! It’s MINE!!!” But that would have been immature….we’re not children learning the rules of the playground for the first time.

So, don’t hog it all. It’s normal for people to ask to takes turns with you and it’s your right to ask the same. Some people might not follow the rules, but don’t you kind of feel sorry for them and their “I will be miserable to all of humanity” attitude? Apparently, they never learned that being ruler of the swing-set is something only preschoolers should get away with when their teachers aren’t watching.

 

 2) Respect Paid-For Sessions

I know this next point is going to step on some sensitive toes…but here I go anyway. Individuals who are working with a personal trainer have paid for a privilege at the gym. In other words, their needs are just a teeny tiny bit higher for the duration of their paid-for session. From the outside looking in, you may have no clue why that person is paying for a training session. From the inside out, I can tell you that those individuals, who make the intense commitment to pay for training, have something specific that they really need help with. It may be accountability or it may be something much more worrisome such as vascular disease or osteopenia. Either way, these people are contributing to what keeps the gym doors open for all; the bottom line (…and no, not all of them are more financially capable than you so dismiss that judgement right away).

Trainers who are with their clients should not ignore the standard rules of sharing and demonstrating respect for others, but they might be a little more assertive about asking permission to use a machine that you were just on. They’re not trying to be rude or reduce the importance of your workout, they’re just trying to do their job and make sure that their client’s significant investment proves worthwhile.

 

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3) Don’t Come Into a Group Class Super Late

At most gyms, group exercise instructors actually have the right to deny you permission to participate in class, if you’re over 10-15 minutes late. Yup, you heard me right. They are allowed to dismiss you because it’s not going to be very safe for you to jump in after the warm-up. You become a liability to the instructor AND yourself.

I have had plenty of people join one of my Spinning® classes over halfway through. Out of respect for them, I don’t yell through my mic “HEY YOU! GET OUT OF HERE! YOU’RE TOO LATE!” But, I do have to hop off my bike and go speak to them personally. Frankly, it’s annoying.

Even the people who meet my refusal and warnings with a “Don’t worry, I will get warmed up before I start following along,” don’t properly warm up. This takes me beyond my former level of annoyance to feeling genuinely infuriated. Warming up is essential.

Have you ever had a moment as a parent/guardian/friend/significant other when you see a loved one doing something that’s so blatantly harmful that it makes your skin itch? That’s how it feels to be an instructor watching an unruly participant just follow their own whim. If they’re not going to listen to professional guidance, why are they even in class?! It’s like watching a child who is about to dart across the street without looking both ways. The natural urge is to yell “Stop!!! You’re going to get hurt!”

 

4) Waste not. For real.

I recently wrote an Earth Day article for Mad Dogg Athletics’ Spinning.com site. The article, Conserving Water by Skimping on Laundry, explains how the average top-loading washer can use up to 45 gallons of water! Industrial size washers, like most gyms use, require even more water to operate. So, next time you’re at the gym, try not to be so nonchalant about grabbing a stack of white towels for your sweat, the leg press seat, the exercise mat, your neck support, your second round of sweat, and everything else you can possibly use a towel for. I have a feeling you can make do with just one (maybe two).

Big box gyms are EXPENSIVE to operate. So the little things, like extra loads of laundry, do add up over time. As boutique fitness studios chip away at big box gyms, they struggle more and more. If you love your gym (or even your studio!) then try to help them reduce costs by not being wasteful. More importantly, you’re helping Mother Nature too.

 

show-off

 

5) The Gym is NOT the Place to Show off Your Goods

Believe it or not, the gym is not the place to flaunt everything that you’ve got. There are certain exercise classes and environments where sports bras, booty-huggers and mid-riff shirts are commonplace, and okay, it’s not exactly against the rules to wear these on the gym floor either. But, no one needs or wants to see your one-woman parade purposefully making a spectacle of herself.

Have you ever seen a beefed-up guy lift his muscle tank, flex his abs for the mirror and grin? Um…hello Mr. Obvious! While he may physically look like a cool drink on a hot day, vanity isn’t very attractive. Plus, distracted exercisers might drop a dumbbell on their heads!

Even more extreme is when people show off their…err…actual private parts. I kid you not. Once upon a time, there was a middle-aged man who would pull a recumbent bike into the middle of a heavy-traffic hallway at the gym. It was always after work when the gym was at its most crowded. Women would pass through the hallway, heading his way, and come out the other side with their faces grimaced in disgust. Mr. Perverted would pedal away on his bike with his male anatomy hanging out of his loose shorts. Eventually, gym management cracked down on him. Apparently, he thought the gym is a place for exhibitionism. Gross.

 

6) Staking Claim to Cardio Equipment is NOT Cool

We’ve all been in gyms during the hustle and bustle of the new year, when people are practically fighting one another for their favorite treadmill or elliptical. During these busy times, and even during non-peak seasons, it’s just ridiculously rude to stake claim to a piece of cardio equipment (i.e. placing your personal belongings on it) if you’re going to peace out to another part of the gym or do a substantial warm-up or workout elsewhere first. I’ve seen so many unnecessary disagreements arise between people because of this behavior. Remember the old “#1 Learn How to Share?” Yea….

 

7) Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Time and time again, people put themselves in harm’s way, and disrespect other people’s workouts, by not being appropriately aware of their surroundings. I have seen a pretty young woman vigorously swinging a kettlebell near an older man’s head. I have seen clients with their trainers doing traveling lunges only to have someone obliviously walk directly into their path, sometimes causing awkward and hazardous collisions. I have seen people so immersed in their personal world, (typically lost in blaring music through their Beats headphones), that they trip over another clumsy gym-goer’s heap of dumbbells.

Recently, I had an experience when I was working out in a plank position. A man came in front of me and started doing triceps kickbacks INTO MY FACE. Really?! You don’t realize that you’re about to smash my head in?

I get it, the workout zone can feel like a real, other-worldly state, but for your safety and the wellbeing of others, try to stay just a little bit aware of your surroundings.

 

gym clutter

 

8) Clean up After Yourself

Cleaning up your gym equipment helps other exercisers avoid tripping hazards. Duh.

Cleaning up is also about reducing the spread of germs. In short, don’t hack up a lung on a machine and leave your germs to fester. I saw a man literally blow snot into his palm, wipe it nonchalantly on his gym shorts, and then resume his workout. I didn’t want to go near that elliptical ever again…even after it was cleaned.

 

9) Play Nice

Help reduce gym intimidation and try to lighten up! Stalking around the gym like you’re on a mission to kill doesn’t help get you into the right mindset for your workout, and it doesn’t help the people around you either. This seems so obvious, but it’s amazing to me how many people find ways to gripe and complain incessantly while at the gym.

The music coming in through the sound system may not be your jam. You may have set a record for the worst day at work ever. You may be experiencing hormonal shifts during your workout and the mass of sweaty bodies moving around might not let you feel as invigorated as your body is implying you should be. Nonetheless, no one, I repeat NO ONE, should turn into a crazy person who is so sensitive that she takes out her frustration on those around her. Remember that insane gym rat years ago who threw another guy off his bike during a group class? Yea…no one should leave the gym with a concussion and spinal injuries. Isn’t that exactly what we’re at the gym to avoid?!

 

10) It’s OKAY to Ask for Help

Many people are reluctant to ask for help. They worry that they will look foolish for not knowing how to adjust the treadmill’s speed or for not knowing the proper direction to face on the lat pull-down machine (facing in, always facing in). But, it’s so much better to ask for professional help and to stay safe. I promise, there are professionals at your gym who are available and willing to help. If they’re not, find a new gym. Plus, if you don’t ask for help, chances are you look exponentially more clueless because you’re doing an exercise wrong. Swallow your pride! Everyone has to start somewhere. You will be given respect for wanting to learn.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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References:

http://gothamist.com/2007/08/25/gym_rat_gets_wo.php

http://www.spinning.com/community/earth-day-conserving-water-by-skimping-on-laundry/

 

30 Day Exercise Plan: Surge into Spring

Bloom and thriveFeel free to call it a 30 day workout plan, a 30 day bust it to bikini season, a revamp of your fitness, whatever. Call it what you like! I only ask that you take this 30 day plan, and ANY exercise plan, with a grain of salt. There is no one-size-fits-all routine. But, this particular exercise plan will help satisfy a ton of your body’s needs. It is suitable for beginners and advanced exercisers alike, and can be completed in or out of a gym! There are lots of extra suggestions too, for how you can make the routine your own and boost your results. So, get ready to surge into spring. Get ready to thrive!

Below, you will see a 10 day program that incorporates all three energy zones of training. To put this simply, the exercises in this program tap into strength, speed, and endurance training. Why all three?

Strength (or building towards strength) – assists in muscle balance, spinal health, osteoporosis prevention, weight loss, toning, lean mass acquisition, and more.

Speed – short runs, or cardio workouts, with speed intervals, and/or High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) will help boost caloric expenditure in a short period of time and may aid in stimulating growth hormone.

Endurance – allows you to workout for a longer period of time while enjoying the benefits of fat burning and reaching an endorphin high.

There are many more benefits to each training zone. These highlights are just the start.

Go ahead, take a look at the example routine below that shows 10 exercise days that will balance your body, burn energy, and make you feel ready for warm weather. This routine should be repeated 3x, from start to finish, during the 30 day period.

Surge into Spring

For more details about how the exercise suggestions above can be turned into actual workouts, see the Beginner (B), Intermediate/Fit (F), and Advanced/Athlete (A) level suggestions below:

DAY 1:

B – brisk walk/slow jog for 45 min

F – 45 min jog/run

A – 45 min fast run with 30 seconds sprinting every 3-4 minutes (one way to do this is to do it once every new song on your playlist)

DAY 2:

B – 30 min lifting upper/lower combos

F –  45 min lifting upper/lower combos

A – 60 min lifting upper/lower combos

DAY 3:

B – brisk walk/slow jog for 45 min

F – 60 min jog/run

A – 75 slow to moderate pace run

DAY 4: REST DAY!

DAY 5:

B – 30 min upper and core workout

F – 45 min upper and core workout

A – 45 min upper and core workout heavy (aim for weights that fatigue you or cause failure within 8-10 reps)

DAY 6:

B – brisk walk/slow jog for 45 min

F – 45 min jog/run

A – 45 min fast run with 30 seconds sprinting every 3-4 minutes (one way to do this is to do it once every new song on your playlist)

DAY 7:

B – 20 min HIIT

F – 30 min HIIT

A – 40 min HIIT

*For more information about HIIT workouts, check this out: How to HIIT

DAY 8: REST DAY!

Day 9:

B – 30 min upper, lower and core workout

F – 45 min upper, lower and core workout

A – 45 min upper, lower and core workout heavy (aim for weights that fatigue you or cause failure within 8-10 reps)

DAY 10:

B – 20 min jog + 5 sun salutations + 3 burpee rounds of 8 reps

F – 30 min run + 8 sun salutations + 5 burpee rounds of 8-10 reps

A – 45 min running – every 6-8 min stop to do a 2 sun salutations and 2 burpee rounds of 8-10 reps *if you become dizzy then save the salutations and burpees for the end of the run

Notes to make this work for you:

  • Repeat days 1-10, 3x
  • As you cycle through the routine the second and third time, note that days 9, 10, 1, 2 and 3 are without a day off, so be sure to manage your energy and plan for a purposeful rest day
  • If you feel overly exhausted towards the end of the five consecutive days of exercise then eat a slightly heavier carb meal or two, to boost energy
  • If, at any time, you feel prone to injury or pain, cease exercise for a few days before resuming and/or contact a medical or fitness professional who can help you
  • Any of the running days can be substituted for low-impact cardio on machine equipment. I have included running suggestions simply because it’s a great form of exercise that can be done both in and out of the gym. Do what is best for you, though
  • Rain day contingency plan (for those exercising outdoors) – swap a run day with a strength day, or email me! I will whip up a routine for you in no time (it’s what I do)
  • Confused about which exercises to select for lower vs upper body? Want to know how to make this work for you? Leave a comment or contact me directly – I won’t leave you hanging if you’ve got questions

Over 30 days, this routine can help you lose anywhere from 2.5 – 6 lbs. Not bad considering that the vast majority of these workouts are under an hour, right?! The general weight loss recommendation for women is typically .5 – 1 lbs/week. We’re right on pace with those recommendations, if not pushing them a little bit because I know that women get extra invigorated once the weather turns warm. That said, we’re not going overboard and trying to lose “21 lbs in 21 days.” Yikes, was an organ removed?! We’re aiming for progress that is manageable for the long term. It’s not fun to feel fabulous in June and “junky” again by July, is it?

These weight loss estimates are only based on these workouts, not on the level of intensity you may bring to the table while doing them. The estimates also don’t take into consideration the calories you continue to burn after your workout. Additionally, these estimates assume that you’re eating for weight maintenance. If you eat a little less than your maintenance caloric level, then you can lose a little more. Even 150 calories less a day can be helpful for weight loss and will ensure that you’re not feeling deprived or swinging between binge eating days and starvation.

Here are a few general suggestions to help improve your diet during your program:

  • Eat veggies at lunch and dinner – this is so crucial for satiety, nutrition, and training your taste buds to appreciate truly yummy, natural, and healthy foods
  • Don’t skip breakfast – c’mon we’ve heard this one since we were 5!
  • Remember to drink water
  • Limit processed sugars/sweets – if you like sweet treats, I’m not one to tell you never to have them – simply try to plan a time of day in advance for when you will enjoy them. This will help prevent you from going overboard and will allow you to focus on the taste and anticipate the enjoyment
  • Try to limit processed foods by planning meals ahead of time and shopping the perimeter of the grocery store (where the fresh stuff is!)
  • Have a back-up plan – carry nuts, an apple, a protein bar, or any healthy snack to help avoid low blood sugar swings and keep up energy (my friends know that I can be quite the soccer mom – snacks are always on hand!)

As you can see, this isn’t reinventing the wheel. We don’t have to struggle to find the perfect routine or the next fitness fad. We just have to put simple actions into motion so that we can have healthy lifestyles that fill us with joy.

Good luck! I’m here if you need me!

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Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Men’s Health Next Top Trainer Finalist Weighs in on Women

Today we have a special treat as former contestant and finalist from the Men’s Health reality show “Next Top Trainer,” Kevin Mullins, weighs in on women’s wellness. Kevin is my male counterpart in the sense that he goes to bat for women and puts their greatest needs as his highest priority. His advice is honest and authentic. His training style is serious (and effective) but his personality can be goofy and light-hearted. Side note: we banter like siblings all the time. I regularly poke fun at him for eating “all the wrong things” to fuel up for workouts but then he manages to attain a six-pack. Geesh. Show-off. 

Handing it over to Kevin… (and my side commentary)

Fitness is Changing.  More specifically, fitness is changing for women. Gone are the days where women blindly jump on treadmills and elliptical machines and plod away for hours on end only to deprive themselves of much needed calories for the rest of the day after. Thankfully, an increase in the available education for gym goers and fitness professionals alike has helped women train appropriately and maximize on progress towards their goals, while also maintaining their health and well-being.

The fact that you find yourself here on Maggie’s awesome site proves that quality, unbiased, and factually supported information is readily available. Knowing her for years, I’ve seen her consult textbooks, research studies, peers, and her own intuition when building programs, teaching concepts, and sharing her passion for fitness. With Maggie, you are in great hands! (Maggie: Stop Kevin, you’re making me blush!)

I hope my two cents don’t disappoint!

Fitness is changing

How We Got Here

As a trainer I have supported, guided, and trained a wide variety of clients in a variety of locations and settings. I’ve stood beside professional athletes, fashion models, pregnant mothers, and college-aged young guys and gals. I’ve had some amazing experiences and breakthroughs with many of my clients, and intend on having many, many more.

Nothing, however, provides as much satisfaction to me as guiding women, young and old, into a new era of personal fitness. See, for far too long women have been misguided in the gym setting. Everything from “6 minute buns” in the 90’s, the popularity of Zumba and dance-based classes across America, and the creation of Curves has segmented women from men in the fitness setting. Add in provocative, sexually driven ads of ripped, but scantily clad, women in every women’s magazine and there is no wonder why many women are frustrated by fitness.

Frankly, it’s not fair. (Maggie: It’s refreshing to hear a man agree!)

Now, I’m not saying I don’t support a good Zumba sweat, or a nice at-home DVD for the busy-on-the-go woman. In fact, I support all of my clients being active as often as possible. Take a hike, a run, lift weights, dance your booty off, or dust off that old Jane Fonda tape…I don’t care! Just move.

Yet, “just moving” only gets you so far. If it’s progress you seek then it’s progress you must chase.

We want progress! You want progress!

Thus comes the need for women, like men, to train to be stronger. Yes, STRONGER. I implore you to put a little trust in fitness professionals and start picking up heavier things when you go to the gym. Let’s learn why! (Maggie: Yes, please!)

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A Quick Lesson in Science

Now, it wouldn’t be fair for me to talk about strength and how to train to achieve it without paying some time and word count to a bit of the science.

What is Strength, actually?

Strong is watching a baseball player hit a home run way over the fence. Strong is also watching an Olympic gymnast nail a dismount from the bars and not flinch, or an ice skater hit a Triple Lutz with grace and beauty.

Strong isn’t ugly.

There is an antiquated assumption that for a woman to be strong she must be big and “manly.” Women such as Maggie herself, Neghar Fonooni, and Molly Galbraith (the creators of Girls Gone Strong) prove that strength and beauty go hand-in-hand. (Maggie: Whoa, Kevin! Just threw me out of my ballpark – equally thrilled and in shock.)

The neuromuscular system is the “highway of information” that runs throughout our body. Our brain communicates to our muscles and our muscles communicate what they are sensing back to our brains. Oftentimes, a deficit in strength output is resultant of inefficiencies in this system. Imagine trying to win the Tour De France when you’ve never really ridden a bike before…No Bueno

Therefore, strength gains often come in the absence of muscle mass gain. In fact, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, all progress in the first 6 to 8 weeks of a strength training program can be attributed to neuromuscular efficiency, and not a change in muscle mass. (Maggie: Yes! I mentioned this in Frenemies.)

So, fear not! Strength is very independent of muscle size. You can train to achieve it without waking up tomorrow looking like Chris Hemsworth. I’m still trying to find what will make ME wake up looking like him though!

So, what is it then that makes my muscles bigger?

Oh my, oh my! If there were one answer to this question then you would be far more impressed with the muscularity of the men that attend your gym or fitness center.

Hypertrophy, is the fancy science word for muscle growth, and it is a darn hard physical phenomenon to achieve. The most modern studies have pinpointed training volume and time under tension as the foremost variables that cause a muscle to grow or not.

So, now that you know that strength and hypertrophy aren’t much like each other, you should feel more at ease for trusting me. If not, then let me give you one more reason why you don’t have to worry about looking more like the Beast than the Beauty if you start to train strength!

Men have an estimated 10 times the amount of the hormone testosterone as women.

Testosterone is the sex hormone that helps keep body fat levels low and muscle mass higher (i.e., the major physical difference between men and women).

Yet even guys struggle endlessly to put a single pound of real muscle on in a year. So, if a male struggles with muscle gain and has 10 times the potential for growth then I promise that you have nothing left to fear!

(Maggie: Okay, okay! Enough of the science Kevin…)

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Why You Should Train for Strength

I know what you are thinking…”this sounds great and all, but why do I want to be stronger?”

Here are my top 3 reasons women should train to be stronger!

  1. Lifting near maximum weights in exercises such as the squat and deadlift have proven to release calcium into the bloodstream. This will strengthen bones and go a long way towards minimizing the risk of osteoporosis.
  2. Lifting weights and achieving strength is also an exercise in postural control. Learning to position and move through exercises such as the deadlift and overhead press will help you understand correct spine, hip, and shoulder alignment. Furthermore, you will strengthen postural muscles such as the gluts, hips, and spinal erectors, so that they can better support you in everyday life.
  3. Lifting for strength is a measurable challenge. Instead of going to the gym and trying to burn off yesterday’s mimosas, and chasing an image that isn’t fair in the first place, you show up with the intent of changing numbers. Even if you lift 1 pound more than you did last week then you’ve made progress. Progress makes you happy and increases rates of compliance to exercise programs.

These are all incredible reasons to start training to be stronger. If you need any other ones, Maggie and I will be more than happy to provide you with a plethora of them!

Where do I Start?

Great question, ladies! I really feel like we are on the same page here.

Training for strength doesn’t have to be intimidating. You don’t have to venture into the jungle of sweaty, cut-off shirt wearing guys with their headphones and shaker bottles right off the bat. You can stick to that machine you’ve been working out on for a while but this time, GO HEAVY! Do this with every move you do. Try to do 5 sets of no more than 3 to 5 repetitions. That last rep should be very hard! (Maggie: Kevin has put ME to the test with a strength program before – I really saw results!)

Here are my 2 guidelines to get you started:

  1. Do a Set of the exercise. Could you have done more? If you think you could have done 3 more reps then add 5 pounds to the lift. If you think you could have done 5 or more extra repetitions then add 10 pounds to the lift.
  2. Focus on progress week-to-week not day-to-day. Take notes and observe trends.

I truly hope that you feel a little inspired to start training to be stronger! I hope that you can be an example for your friends and family. The most powerful people in the world are the ones who are willing to test the waters and take the risks. We follow risk-takers because we trust them and their intuition. Be the one who starts the change!

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you,

Kevin

(Maggie: Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap!)

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About the Author

Kevin Mullins is a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach for Equinox in Washington DC. Kevin was selected as one of Men’s Health magazine’s 2014 Next Top Trainers, and appeared on a reality show with some of the best trainers in the country. Kevin has also written and modeled for MetRX magazine, is an avid deadlifter, and teaches group exercise classes. Kevin can be contacted at Kevin.fit2last@gmail.com and maintains his own website, complete with blog, at KevinMullinsFitness.com.

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The Nitty Gritty; Secrets The Pros Know That You Should, Too

There is a vast array of knowledge that fitness and health professionals keep tucked away in their brilliant brains. It’s disappointing that this information is either not shared or is not communicated in easy-to-digest pieces. For this reason, I’ve decided to put together a very small sampling of some of the most important, unexpected things to know about exercise. You will see a dramatic change in your body and confidence if you put these tips to action. Ready? Set? Let’s GO!

We will focus exclusively on the breath today. Yes, it’s that important…go figure. 

YOUR BREATH IS POWERFUL

Power of the breath

Any person with a brain in their head knows that not breathing will cause you to, um…die. Things just got serious. This fact alone shows us the power of oxygen. What some people don’t know is that we can manipulate the breath in a number of ways for exercise performance, metabolic changes, and peace of mind. Faster breathing impacts the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) and slower breathing impacts the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest). Different forms of exercise utilize various breathing techniques to activate one of these two systems. For example:

Swimming Breath

Swimming: Bilateral breathing is crucial for swimmers’ performance. As I’m not the most expert swimmer, I will allow Swim Smooth to explain: “Bilateral is swimming jargon for breathing to both sides, left and right. Classically this is done every 3 strokes (counting both arms) so your breathing alternates from side to side. But equally it could be done every 5 or even 7 strokes.”

Pilates Breath (2)

Pilates: I can remember my first Pilates class to this day. I had NO idea what was going on and figuring out the breathing completely boggled my mind. Various disciplines/formats of pilates even coach you to breathe differently. Some have you breathe in and out through your nose only (like in yoga) and others encourage you to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. It can certainly be confusing for beginners. Make note of this: whenever you “pull in” or try to squeeze your abs in class is typically when you exhale. If you don’t breathe “perfectly,” don’t sweat it. The Pilates Police will never know.  

Running Breath

Running: Health and Fitness Director Budd Coates has brought increased awareness to rhythmic breathing in running over the past few years. To save you the stress of all the science (which exercise nerds like me love), I will explain it as succinctly as possible. When we run, we tend to use more energy from the dominant side of our body (probably the side of your body that you kick and throw a ball from). This creates extra stress on muscles on that side of the body and typically results in us exhaling as our dominant leg makes contact with the ground. At this point, the force that goes up into our bodies is 2-3x our normal body weight. To keep this stress more evenly distributed, rhythmic breathing helps runners learn how to sync their breath with their strides so that the exhalation is more balanced left-to-right foot strike, and stress is more evenly distributed.

Yoga Breath

Yoga: There are numerous breathing techniques in yoga. The breathing practice, Pranayama, is one of the most important and foundational components of Ashtanga yoga. When I was in yoga teacher training at Yoga Vidya Dham I learned about an instructor who practiced “fire breath” so much on his own that he both lost over 30 lbs and suffered from internal bleeding. He had to be rushed to a hospital for treatment. Unbelievable, right? When done properly, breathing techniques in yoga induce calmness, clarity of mind, and focus. There’s a little something for everyone and with experimentation and practice, you’ll find a technique that you love. This site has great, simple videos of some common techniques: http://www.doyogawithme.com/yoga_breathing

Quick tip: In yoga you are almost always exhaling as you bend or move forward, closing off your body in your mid-section. You almost always inhale as you open your body, bending backward or away from your mid-section. 

Exhale the sticking point

Lifting weights: It’s helpful to breathe slowly so that oxygen supplies “refill” your muscles, to the greatest extent possible, in between reps. This gives your body energy to keep going through the set. It also helps to exhale forcefully at the hardest point of each rep to push past what is called your “sticking point.” If you’ve ever tried to lift a heavy weight over your head and felt a point of resistance that was almost impossible to push past, you know where the sticking point is for that exercise. The same applies to all movements. Why does the forceful exhale help at this point? It helps because your diaphragm (which contracts and releases with your breath) is attached to a muscle in your core, the transverse abdominus. This muscle, when pulled in tight with an exhale, helps stabilize your body and thereby assists any lift you’re doing.  Just don’t forget to inhale too! Kind of important. When you’re not exercising the transverse abdominus acts like a gentle corset around your middle.

Now that you’ve WAY overthought various breathing techniques, remember to take a deep breath. Wink wink. With practice, you will get to where you want to be. It may take a while and at times, it might make you blue in the face, but sure enough, you will eventually be in full control of your breathing. Once you are, the power you have to stay composed during intense exercise will be incredible. You may also find that calming down your racing heart and shallow breathing is easier when your significant other forgets to pick up dry cleaning, your child cries bloody murder over a toy you refuse to buy, or your favorite pair of shoes is out of stock just when you need them most.

Stay tuned for tips similar to The Nitty Gritty! There’s plenty more of this good stuff in store for you…

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggiewellnesswinz logo 2

 

References:

https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/684/ace-integrated-fitness-training-ift-model-for

http://www.ashtanga.com/

http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1827342,00.html

http://www.doyogawithme.com/yoga_breathing

http://karimfitness.com/

http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/running-air-breathing-technique

http://www.swimsmooth.com/bilateral.html#ixzz3P1NGLSuM

http://www.yogapoint.com/info/yvd.htm