Featured Exercise: 1-Leg Bench Squat

Featured Exercise:  1-Leg Bench Squats

Primary Muscle Groups:  Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes

Secondary Muscle Groups:  Hip Abductors, Hip Adductors

The 1-Leg Bench Squat is a great introduction to the more advanced, 1-Leg Squat.  Able to be performed anywhere there is a chair, bench, or bed, this particular exercise is a great way to make your lower-body exercise routine a little more challenging without adding any extra resistance beyond your own body weight.  In addition to the benefits of the regular squat, the 1-Leg Bench Squat challenges the stabilizing muscles of the knee and hip, improving tracking of the kneecap and helping to avoid conditions such as osteochodritis and patelofemoral syndrome.

Strengthen the leg and hip in a way you’ve never done before!

Instructions:
Standing in front of a bench, flex one hip to 90-degrees so that you are standing on only one leg.  With your foot flat on the floor, hinge the torso forward at the hips and bend the knee and flex the hip, bringing yourself to a seated position on the bench.  Inhale as you come down.  Exhale as you extend your hip and knee, returning to standing position.  Make sure that knee does not come farther forward than the toe and your back stays neutral as you come down to seated position.  Repeat this movement for the required number of repetitions, then switch sides and complete the exercise on the other leg.

Recommendation:Start with 8-10 repetitions on each side.  Perform 2-3 sets.  Discontinue the exercise if it places too much stress on the knee.

Put the Resolve Back in Your Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions.  Everybody has them.  Even the cynical “anti-resolutionists” can’t help pondering the usual questions.  “What can I change this year about myself?”  “What goals did I not reach this past year that I want another shot at?”  And for most people, one of those “non-resolution” resolutions has something to do with physical health.  Maybe it’s to eat less, or possibly to exercise more.  Unfortunately, I think most of our physical health resolutions are plagiarized from last year’s list.  Sure we have the best of intentions.  And we often start strong only to burn out well short of December.  I’m sure there are many reasons for this.  Regardless of these excuses, I would like to offer you 5 simple tips for successful health-related resolutions for the coming year:

1: Set multiple short term goals.  Split your year up into segments (quarters, months, weeks) and set goals for each segment.  This is helpful both for when you are knocking it out of the park or haven’t even gotten off the bench.  For those doing well, it is great motivation to keep it up.  For those failing miserably, it is a great time to refocus without feeling like “what’s the point?”.

2: Keep the goals attainable.  Be reasonable here.  No need to correct 30 years of bad habits in 3 months.  I’m by no means against optimism; but even more important to me is success.  I would rather see you set a goal for yourself that is too easy than to fail at one that only a chosen few could possible reach.  Feeling like you are successful breeds a desire to do more, and feeling like you are never going to reach the mark makes you just want to stop trying.

3: Simplify.  Don’t make your goals overly complicated.  Resist the tendency to try to change too many things at once.  Pick one or two things that are easy to assess.  You may need a complete overhaul in your diet, but start with the easiest changes that will make the biggest impact.  Maybe it’s “no more sodas”, or “less fast food”, or “start an “online personal training program“.  Even one minor change over time can make a major difference.

4: Keep track of your progress.  At regular intervals, reassess your progress.  Maybe that’s weighing yourself once a week or keeping a food journal.  Make it specific to the goal, easy to measure, and WRITE IT DOWN.  That way you can see trends as the year progresses.

5: Share the burden.  Find an accountability partner.  A friend, mentor, personal trainer.  Someone you trust who will be honest, yet encouraging.  Not someone who will enable you and make excuses with you, but someone who will be understanding and will gladly share the journey.   Even better would be someone who has a similar goal they are striving towards.  Then you could meet each other’s needs and lift each other up!

While these tips can work for any area of life improvement, they work especially well for health-related goals because those are usually pretty easy to measure.  And while these are by no means a guarantee for success, they will put you on the best path.  But remember, it is still up to you to take the steps.  Happy Travels!

J

Featured Exercise: Burpees

Featured Exercise: Burpees

Primary Muscles: You name it, it’s working.

Ok, I think the name says it all.  Don’t ask me the etymology of the word, but the image you’ve conjured up in your mind probably fits the bill.  If you’re not familiar with the Burpee, it is a great total body exercise that does not require any equipment, yet leaves you feeling like you’ve just completed a full gym workout.  There are a few variations for all fitness levels, which you will find in the video below.  Give this one a try, if you dare…

5 Fitness-Related Gift Ideas under $100

So you want to give someone a gift that they will not only enjoy, but will make a positive difference in their physical life.  Here are a few great ideas for some at-home fitness aids that I recommend, most of which will cost you less than a month’s membership at your local gym, listed from least expensive on up (complete with links to the brands I would choose):

1:  Resistance Band Set $30:  They don’t have the money or the space to outfit their garage with a full set of dumbbells?  Give them a set of resistance bands like the one linked here.  Train the whole body with the dozens of exercises available to them, with 7 different resistance levels possible.  A must for increased metabolism and muscle toning, and in a space-saving package!

2:  Stability Ball $30:  Not just for abs, this workout implement can enhance both upper body and lower body training, as well as supply flexibility variations.  Improve neuromuscular coordination while eliminating the need for a workout bench.  Give them an extra challenge to push them to new exercise heights.  Get the 65cm for most men and 55cm for most women.

3:  Pull-up Bar $40:  You no longer need to destroy your doorjamb to get a great back workout.  Not only for pull-ups, this versatile workout tool can enhance your push-ups and ab work as well.  It makes for a great anchor for your resistance tubes too, and paired can even allow you the option of doing assisted pull-ups for those that struggle to crank even one rep out.

4:  Body Weight Trainer $60:  Get all the benefits of the $200 TRX Body Weight Trainer for a fraction of the cost.  Add a functional component to their workouts.  Strengthens shoulder, hip, thigh, and core stabilizers while stressing all the major muscle groups.  This implement hardly takes up any space and is guaranteed to give them a challenge unlike anything they’ve experienced before.

5:  Non-Bouncing Medicine Balls $45-80:  They will work up a sweat while slamming and tossing this tool around.  Or they can use it as a regular, stationary weight to increase the difficulty of body-weight exercises.  Not only will it make their workout more effective, but more fun and varied at the same time.  10-15 pounds for most women, and 20-25 pounds for most men should do the trick.

6 (Bonus):  2 Months of Personal Training $99:  OK.  I couldn’t resist.  The star on top would be a personalized exercise program complete with strength training, flexibility work, cardiovascular training, and a nutrition plan.  Help them put those tools that Santa brought to good use with my help.  Give them a head-start to a new year and a new “them”.

Stuff their stocking with the gift of better health, and don’t break the bank at the same time!  Enjoy!

J

Featured Exercise: Stability Ball Leg Curls

Featured Exercise: Stability Ball Leg Curls

Primary Muscles:  Hamstrings

Secondary Muscles:  Glutes, Lower Back, Hip Flexors

How many of you have that big, blue dust-collecting prop in the corner of your room?  You’ve nearly broken your neck tripping over it and you’re constantly kicking it out of the way, only to have it rebound off the corner of your bed and take out your legs in retaliation.  Well, dust it off and give this one a try.  Here is a great exercise for the hamstring muscles.  Deceptively difficult and extremely effective.  I love this one for the guys because it looks so easy, yet it gets them crying in only a couple of repetitions.  The hamstrings are an underutilized muscle.  For those that have sedentary occupations, the hamstring muscles spend a great deal of time being sat upon.  Being in a shortened position for long periods of time leave these muscles weak and tight.  Give the hamstrings a jolt with the Stability Ball Hamstring Curl.  Here’s how it goes:

Lie on your back with your feet propped up on a stability ball, feet together just over the apex of the ball.  Hands should be at your sides, palms down for support.  From this position, pushing through the backs of the legs, lift the hips off of the ground until you’ve achieved a straight-line position with the body, with heels, knees, hips, and shoulders in line.  This is the starting position for the exercise.  From here, exhale as you pull the ball towards your glutes by lifting your hips and driving the heels back.  Make sure to pick the hips up as your heels come towards the glutes, maximizing the work in the hamstring muscles and minimizing the work in the hip flexors.  Once you have pulled the legs in as far as you can, inhale as you slowly bring the legs back out to starting position, dropping the hips back down as the legs extend.  You should feel a significant amount of work in the backs of the legs.  Start with as many repetitions as you feel comfortable.  Work your way up from there.  As always, if you have any questions feel fee to leave a question in the comments section.  Enjoy!

J