Thursday, October 16, 2014

Core Workout

Studies, and experience, show that sit-ups are harsh. They force your lower spine into an unnatural curve, cause rubbing and undue pressure on the tailbone where nerves are the least protected.

There are several benefits to having a powerful core. First, when all the muscles around the core are strong they hold your body upright in good posture, which means less pain. Second, these muscle groups act somewhat like a girdle. The muscles will lift and pull in the tissue that is supported by them giving a more immediate appearance of weight loss as your waist becomes smaller in diameter. There are more, but these two are the primary focus of this article.

A strong core is supports all of your body movements. If it's weak then your entire body is weak. When the core is strong and supple, your body is stronger and you feel better. Your posture and balance both improve.

Abdominal routines are not mega calorie burners. It is recommended that you also add a smart diet and aerobic activity to see the fullest results, and those sculpted abs.

Muscles of the Core
The muscles that are referred to include the abdominals (the six pack section, rectus abdominus), abdominal obliques (hidden under the “love handles”), those long muscles that hold your spine upright that are called the erector spinae, and your glutes. There are several more layers of muscles underneath these, but detailing those is not necessary; they all get worked.

Before starting any routine, clear it with your doctor first. You want to be certain that you are healthy enough to train. If something hurts that is more than the delayed onset muscle soreness, which should last one or two days and lessen as you train, stop the routine and see your doctor.

One other point needs to be made before going to the routine. As a powerlifter, I was constantly told form first and the strength will follow. That applies here, as well. Once you lose solid form in any of these exercises that set is finished. Two more repetitions are not worth the risk of injury.

Bridge – Laying on your back, bend your knees and lift your hips while your shoulders and arms stay on the floor
Hold for 2 to 4 counts, then lower your hips or hold the position for a set period of time
If holding it static, start at 20 seconds and work up to longer periods
Keep your knees, hips, and shoulders in a straight line
Do this for 3 sets

Planks – Can be done with your elbows on the floor or from your hands in a static push-up position
Tighten your abs and lift your hips
Keep your knees, hips, and shoulders in a straight line
Do not let your hips sag down or your buttock stick up in the air
Hold this up position for 2 to 4 counts, then lower your hips or hold the position for a set period of time. If holding it static, start at 20 seconds and work up to longer periods slowly

Side Planks – Lying on your side with your right elbow and foot on the floor, reach up with your left hand, tighten your obliques to slowly lift your hips into alignment with both your knees and shoulders
Hold this up position for 2 to 4 counts, then lower your hips or hold the position for a set period of time
If holding it static, start at 20 seconds and work up to longer periods slowly
Superman – Laying /on your stomach, stretch your arms straight in front of you and point your toes so that you look like Superman flying
At the same time, lift your hips and shoulders up away from the floor
Hold this up position for 2 to 4 counts, then lower your hips or hold the position for a set period of time. If holding it static, start at 20 seconds and work up to longer periods slowly.

Squats with Knee Lift – Stand with your feet shoulders width apart
Keep your abs tight and your shoulders and head up, when performing the squat it may help to look upwards at the ceiling as this will keep your back upright and aligned (powerlifting safety tip that really works)
Bend your knees and lower your hips
Stand up
As you are standing upright lift one knee up to hip height
Repeat, this time raising your other knee to complete one repetition
Do 3 sets of 10

Back Lunges – Stand up straight and tall
Step backwards with one foot
Lower your back knee gently to the floor
Return to the starting position
Repeat with the other leg for one repetition
Your forward knee should not extend further than your toes
Do 3 sets of 10

Monday, October 6, 2014

Gym Fail Army

Ladies and gentlemen, we are not about to take ourselves too seriously. To that end, I offer up Fail Army Gym Fails.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Exercise versus Depression

Does exercise make you feel better? We know that it does. It is also proving to be at least as effective as some antidepressants.

There really is very little that feels as good as when you finish an exercise session. You are sweaty, hopefully, which means that you had exerted yourself for a given period of time. You might have been pulling deadlifts, running laps, swimming, body weight exercises, or whatever your thing is. The one common factor is that feeling of having accomplished something. Physically, maybe you are feeling worked, drained, or have that sensation that says tomorrow walking will be painful. 

Something else is going on inside your head that more and more studies are showing, is fighting depression and anxiety. Exercise causes the brain to release specific neurotransmitters into your system.

Neurotransmitters are how your brain cells talk to each other. Monamine Neurotransmitters are vital for the healthy function of our brain, but also for the healthy function of our psyche. Monoamine neurotransmitters include norepinephrine (NE), dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5H-T). These are essential for proper brain function and are being studied extensively due to their impact on mood. 

Monoamine Neurotransmitters 
What are these? Simply put, these are the exercise neurotransmitters which include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Exercise has an effect on the other types of neurotransmitters as well but the monoamines are studied extensively because of their affect on mood. 

What do they do? What parts of your system do these compounds effect?
Dopamine has a direct impact on our cognitive processes such as attention and working memory and motivational behavior. This is the primary neurotransmitter involved in reward pathways. It is considered important in minimizing the effects of drugs of abuse.

Norepinepherine/Noradrenaline is involved in mediating cardiovascular effects, arousal, concentration, attention, learning and memory. More of this makes learning that much easier. 

Serotonin is present in the CNS, but is also found in platelets and the gastrointestinal lining This neurotransmitter impacts several behaviors to include mood, appetite, sleep, cognition, perception, motor activity, temperature regulation, pain control, sexual behavior and hormone secretion. 

The immediate effect that we experience when working out is that these neurotransmitters function as analgesics and block the pain of what we are doing at that time. This is the reason for the “runner's high”, that sensation of bliss while going through a long session. They also alleviate psychological pain.

Versus drugs
Exercise does so much more than just get us up and moving. It really does have the potential to break you out of your funk. Studies snow that exercise can be as effective as some medications in beating depression and maintaining a healthier, more positive state.

In 1999 Archives of Internal Medicine published the results of a study showing this. In that study 156 men and women with depression were divided into 3 groups. One group was given Zoloft, one group exercised, and the third group was given both the medication and an aerobic program to follow.

Results show that 60% to 70% of the participants were reported to have no longer been classified as having major depression. The third group, the exercise and medication group, having the most positive results.

Following up with the study participants 6 months later it was found that positive results were still being experienced. Of the original group, 133 were contacted and found to be less likely to fall back into depression after 6 months of regular exercise.

Exercise duration 
As little as 10 to 15 minutes 3 to 5 times a week shows some benefits. Ideally, 30 minutes up to 6 times a week or 60 minutes 3 times a week is what you should be doing. Regular exercise is the most beneficial according to studies.

All types of physical activities reduce stress. Some examples include:
  • Biking
  • Dancing
  • Gardening
  • Housework especially sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming
  • Jogging
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Tennis
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Yard work, especially mowing or raking
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga

To sum it up, there is a growing pile of evidence that exercise combats depression and does so at least as well as some drugs and without the side effects. We also know that it has several benefits. Regular exercise has been proven to:
  • Reduce stress
  • Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
  • Boost self-esteem
  • Improve sleep
  • It strengthens your heart.
  • It increases energy levels.
  • It lowers blood pressure.
  • It improves muscle tone and strength.
  • It strengthens and builds bones.
  • It helps reduce body fat.