Tag Archives: Workout

Who Should Do HIIT? (and who should NOT)

 

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been extremely popular in the exercise realm for the last five or so years. High-intensity interval training consists of exerting maximal physical effort for an exercise set or period of time (typically less than two minutes) followed by a period of active recovery. The back-and-forth cycling between tough exertion and lighter movements has been proven to be a time-efficient way to exercise. HIIT can be done for anywhere between 15-45 minutes, meaning you “get it done” in a short period of time. Most notably, HIIT workouts produce excellent results because they target lots of muscles and burn calories both during and after the actual exercise bout. Not too shabby, I must say. 

While HIIT workouts seem like a sure-fire answer for quick weight loss and time efficiency, they’re not for everyone. Let’s review who should do HIIT workouts and who should approach them with caution (or avoid them entirely).

 

 

Who Should Participate in HIIT?

HIIT is an excellent workout option for people of all ages who are in good physical health. Generally speaking, as long as someone doesn’t have an injury or medical reason to abstain from exercise, they can do HIIT.

Most of the time when people hear the word “HIIT,” it conjures up thoughts of doing box jumps, wind sprints, burpees and squat jumps. Ahhh, the glory days of every athlete. But HIIT encompasses a scope much broader than this. A”HIIT workout” may look very different for a 50-year old woman who is working with a trainer to get her heart rate up and down. She may power walk on a treadmill incline for her high-intensity portion and then do slow hip bridges lying on a mat as her active recovery. A 20-something group exercise participant may comfortably do lunge jumps with dumbbells for the high-intensity portion followed by sit-ups for the active recovery. Everything about HIIT, and exercise at large, is subjective.

What feels tough for one person is not the same for the next person. Just because HIIT can be modified for an individual’s personal level of fitness doesn’t mean it’s the best idea for certain people. I’ve seen too many folks walk into HIIT-style workouts and overexert themselves to the point where they risk injury. No bueno. I’ve also seen plenty of people come out of HIIT workouts hating life. Well…hating exercise, at least. Sometimes that’s just what people need to get jump-started in fitness and, at other times, that’s exactly why people walk out of the gym and never return. The point remains: HIIT is great, but isn’t ideal for everyone.

 

 

Who Should NOT Participate in HIIT?

The following groups of people should probably avoid HIIT workouts, at least until their health changes:

  • People who are injured
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Women who are in the first 3-6 months postpartum
  • People who are immune suppressed and/or sick
  • People who have a heart condition or have recently undergone cardiac surgery
  • People suffering from osteopenia or osteoporosis
  • People with any form of incontinence, prolapse or pelvic floor weakness
  • *People who are brand new to exercise
  • *People who have no foundation of knowledge for how to perform exercise basics in proper form (ex: squats, lunges, push-ups, planks, etc.)

Most of these groups are relatively self-explanatory. The last two groups of individuals, marked by the asterisk (*) are up for a bit more debate…

People who are very out of shape or brand new to exercise can greatly benefit from HIIT programs. In fact, throngs of women line up to participate in Instagram-famous personal trainer Kayla Itsines’ Beach Body Guide (which focuses on HIIT workouts) and see fabulous results. More power to ’em! The challenge is that a lot of people will embark on HIIT workout programs that are overly grueling and unsustainable for the long-term. HIIT workouts must be done responsibly to avoid burnout and over-training. Trust me, I’m a professional AND I’ve overtrained! Unfortunately, too many people do too much HIIT, suffer the negative consequences, and subsequently get turned off from exercise.

The last group of individuals; “people who have no foundation of knowledge for how to perform exercise basics in proper form,” must approach HIIT workouts with caution. If the instructor isn’t giving cues for how to keep the body aligned and safe during each exercise and doesn’t offer any modifications to make exercises easier or harder, then it may be best to find a new instructor or workout. While it may seem like you’re getting a great workout if you sweat a lot, there can be long-term, significant repercussions from inappropriately stressing your knees, neck, wrists and back. Sweat is not the only indicator of an excellent workout. Can you tell that I’m the exercise world’s policewoman about proper form?! 

Just remember: Exercises done the wrong way break down your body. Exercises done the right way build it up.  

Stay strong, friends! Sweat hard. And treat your body with respect.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

PS – If you have more HIIT questions, please don’t be afraid to ask! 

 

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7 Ways to Ramp up Your Core Workout

There is no single “perfect” core exercise that trumps all the rest. For example, one person may perform a core routine with minimal effort or poor form, reaping fewer results from it compared to a hard-working friend who knows how to properly engage her muscles with each rep. So, instead of giving you a list of the “Top 5 Best Core Exercises,” I’m giving you a list of ways you can ramp up any of your favorite core routines for optimal tone.

how to ramp up your core workout

1)    Use Gravity

Gravity genuinely makes a world of a difference for many types of exercise. For example, which do you think is harder? A) Leg Pressing 150 lbs or B) Free Form Squatting 150 lbs. The answer: B. This is because of gravity. Anytime you work against it, you have to more actively engage the core for support.

Example Exercises: 

Planks, Decline Sit-ups, Captain’s Chair Leg Tucks/Raises, Roman Chair Back or Side Lifts, Balancing on One Leg + Medicine Ball Twists, and more!

2)    Increase Your “Lever Length”

Lever Length is basically an exercise pro’s lingo for the distance between your core and your limbs. The longer you stretch your arms or legs away from your body while performing a core exercise, the tougher it will get. Here is one easy to imagine scenario for how an increase in lever length can amplify the difficulty of a move – Imagine you’re picking up a heavy bucket of rocks. Is the bucket going to be more difficult to lift (i.e., it will feel heavier) if you A) pick the bucket up with your arms close to your body or B) pick the bucket up with your arms stretched far away from your body as you lift? The answer: B.

Examples of Increasing Lever Length:

Change a crunch with knees bent to a crunch with knees straight

Change a sit-up with a weight on your chest to a sit-up with a weight overhead

Change a side plank with one leg crossed in front for support to a side plank with the top leg lifting high into the air and the arm reaching high too

increase lever length

3)    Don’t Forget Your Back

A ton of people save their core exercises for the end of a workout and then tend to focus those five short minutes or so on abs (crunches, sit-ups, the like), but it’s equally important to work your back muscles. Although you probably don’t often stare at your back in the mirror while you might regularly evaluate your belly, it’s still important to work it out – and not just for toning reasons. Since many people sit at a desk for the majority of their day, it’s important to counteract the stretching and stress on the back by providing it with proper support. Plus, if you perform a back exercise after every 2-3 ab exercises, you may notice that you’re getting a bit more out of your ab exercise too, since your entire trunk is getting worn out versus just one part of it.

Example Exercises:

Trunk Lifts, Supermans, Swimming, Swan Dives, Saw, Double Leg Kicks, Prone Gluteal Raises, Pelvic Tilts, and more!

4)    Move in 3 Directions

I wrote an article in Feb. 2015 called Move in ways you never thought possible! that was all about gaining mobility and function by moving in all three planes of motion: frontal (front/back), saggital (side to side), and transverse (twisting). Moving in all three planes of motion also yields excellent full body tone, especially for our midsections! Plus, it helps to prevent injuries. So, I encourage you to think outside of the box with your core workouts. Do a million sit-ups and not a whole lot else? Time to switch it up with some side bends or obliques! Do a bunch of straight kettlebell swings? Time to add in some woodchops! Here are some ideas…

Frontal (front/back) Exercises:

Crunches, Double Leg Lifts, Sit-ups, Knee Tucks

Saggital (side to side) Exercises:

Side Bends with Weight, Side Planks, Isometric Crunch + Side Reaches

Transverse (twisting) Exercises:

Oblique Crunches, Woodchops, Side Leg Drops/Circles, Across Body Twists

move in 3 directions

5)    Use Proper Breathing

It astounds me how few people know how to engage their transverse abdominus during core exercises – and it’s so important! So, now is the time to really pay attention, especially since engaging this corset-like muscle both helps prevent injuries AND helps flatten the stomach. I recently wrote an article for Mad Dogg Athletics that explains how to recognize whether or not you’re engaging this muscle (which is activated by the breath since it’s attached to the diaphragm):

So, how do you get the flat abs that you want?

“The key is to focus on whether or not you’re actively drawing your abs in with every core exercise that you perform. You should be able to exhale and squeeze your core in and also hold it tight while both inhaling and exhaling (demonstrating even better control).

You can even get a friend to video tape you while you perform a set of crunches. The first time performing the crunches, just do them without thinking too much. When watching this video, you may find that your abs look a little bit rounded at the top of your movement. This shows that you’re engaging the rectus abdominus (six-pack muscle) but not the transverse abdominus.

During the second set of crunches that you video tape, try to focus on exhaling as you crunch up (note: you should always try to exhale as your abs shorten/work hard). While you exhale, mentally and physically focus on actively drawing your stomach in. When you watch this video, you should see that your abs look a little more drawn in or flat at the top of your movement. The two videos may not look dramatically different but, as you can imagine, if you keep your core more actively engaged with every set and rep then you will reap better results.”

6)    Incorporate Cardio

If you’re not prone to set aside time in your workout exclusively for core exercises, try to sneak core in during cardio. This will have your abs burning even faster due to the oxygen deprivation you’ll be fighting against. It’s really not that difficult to do either – just pick high-intensity core moves and alternate them with jumps, sprints or burpees, or perform cardio moves from plank positions like the following:

Example Exercises:

Mountain Climbers, Plank Jacks, Planks w/ Knee Tuck Jumps, Plank Hand to Toe Reach + Tap, Plank Diagonal Knee Tucks, and more!

core + cardio

7)    Add Weights

This one is pretty obvious, but it often takes a bit of confidence (not to mention control) to start throwing around weights. So, be judicious when selecting which exercises to add weight to, especially if it’s fast moving and you feel unsure of yourself. Otherwise, have no fear of weights – they will help you tone, especially if body weight exercises aren’t giving you strong returns anymore.

Example Exercises:

Kettlebell Swings, Overhead Plate or Dumbbell Lifts, Planks with Dumbbell Exercises (Rows, Twists, Kickbacks), Woodchops (w/ Cables, Ball, Dumbbell), Twists with Plate or Dumbbell, Weight-Loaded Ab Machine, Captain’s Chair Lift w/ Weight Belt (or ball btwn legs), and more!

I have no doubt that these clever maneuvers can work for you! More than anything, getting the midsection you’ve been wanting for years is about putting in the effort, keeping exercises varied (for fabulous tone), and eating healthy (to reduce body fat and reveal the muscle you’ve worked hard for). Lastly, if you are just getting started with core exercises or if you’re a bit out of practice, I encourage you to check out last week’s article Core Support: KeepMeTight, to learn about additional ways to boost your confidence and core strength.

Do you have any signature tricks for your core workouts or any favorite ab exercises?! I’d love to hear about them in the comments section!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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The Spice of Life

YALA! Lets go-Blog jpeg

What do I have in common with Oprah? We’re both champions of Laurent Amzallag, DC’s favorite fitness motivator. Oprah chose Laurent as a fitness expert for her “Live Your Best Life” tour. ELLE Magazine, FOX, NBC and CBS have also featured Laurent and his unique, invigorating cardio workout class YaLa, which means “Let’s Go.”

Tons of women enjoy Laurent’s workout program on a regular basis and allow it to recharge them physically and emotionally. Through his leadership and encouragement, many women, including myself, have discovered that they are worthy of feeling sexy.

I’m honored to have known Laurent for six years. I met Laurent during a “dark time” in my life when we were both working at the same health club. I was suffering major back pain due to a car accident. I was losing sleep and gaining weight. My confidence was dwindling. I realized that as a young woman, I had been using my physical strength and appearance as a crutch for self-worth.

I remember asking Laurent “How are you doing?” on a particularly glum day. His response caught my attention, “Great, Maggie! I say any day above ground is a good day.

It’s this kind of attitude that makes Laurent a ray of sunshine to all those around him. He can make anyone realize that “sweat is the spice of life” (a regular quote of his) and I have seen women, young and old, leave an hour of working out with Laurent with smiles stretching from ear to ear. He’s hard to ignore and impossible to forget. Ladies, enjoy this one-of-a-kind man and his message for YOU!

Check out the video below. What are you waiting for?! YaLa! Let’s Go!

Ready for more YaLa inspiration? Feel free to connect with Laurent:

Youtube Channel:
YALA! Fitness
Vimeo (free and On Demand videos)
Twitter: @yala_fitness
Enjoy the journey-Blog jpeg
Yours in health and wellness,
Maggie
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