Strength Training Tips for Beginners

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There are many benefits to incorporating strength training into your regular workout routine. Such benefits include an increase in strength, muscle tone, and confidence! When you are physically strong and feel good in your body, your mentality will follow suit. If you’re just beginning your journey into strength training we’ve got you covered with plenty of tips on how to do it most effectively. If strength training is already a part of your schedule stick around and learn a few more things you can do to take your training up a notch!

 

Start training with your body weight

Strength training doesn’t have to mean that you lift weights. Strength training means using resistance in order to make your muscles work harder and bodyweight exercises are perfect for getting the job done. This comes in handy if you don’t have the means for a gym membership!

2 days a week is more than enough when beginning

If you aren’t already strength training, take it easy on yourself for the first few weeks. Your body has to adapt to a new workload and recovery time is essential.

Warm-up properly

If you don’t warm-up, you are increasing your risk of injury. Foam rolling and then a dynamic warm-up of the muscle groups being worked will suffice. It increases blood flow and range of motion giving you an extra edge during your workout.

Full body workouts

If you’re following the 2 days a week routine, working your entire body and firing up all muscle groups will give you the best results. Following an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise allows the upper body to recover and vice versa. For example, after completing a set of pushups, complete a set of squats.

Take a post-workout stretch

This will drastically reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) over the next couple of days and something you will absolutely thank us for later. It’ll also improve your flexibility and calm your nervous system, giving you similar effects of yoga and meditation.

Strength training is fun, challenging, and obviously great for your mind and body. Keep these tips in mind when beginning and be gentle with yourself as it can get tough when getting into the swing of things. But you can handle it- good luck!

These Mistakes Might be Hindering your Strength Training

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Lifting weights is one of the most effective ways to build a strong, healthy body from the ground up. However, many people self-sabotage and stall progress. Here are ten mistakes to avoid when hitting the gym.

Having unclear goals

Without a goal in mind, you won’t stick with your plan. Do you want to be more powerful, look good naked, or improve your health? Knowing what you want will keep you motivated and help you design your routine.

High reps with low weights

To get the best results, you need to do low reps with the maximum weight you can lift. This is called “lifting to failure.” Otherwise, it’s an aerobic exercise and you won’t build muscle or burn fat.

Not resting between sets

Resting between sets allows muscles to recover so you can lift your max weight in the next set. Rushing through your workout may get you home faster, but it will also slow progress.

Isolating muscle groups

Compound lifts like deadlifts and squats are more efficient and build strength evenly because they activate multiple muscle groups.

Having poor form

Lifting with proper form will ensure you are activating the right muscle groups while also reducing the likelihood of injury. A personal trainer can help correct errors in form.

Choosing the wrong footwear

The best shoes for lifting provide a flat, firm surface to maximize stability. Professional lifting shoes have wooden soles, but other options are available.

Not pushing yourself

Working hard keeps your heart rate up and maximizes the value of your gym time. You can chat with your buddies later over a protein shake.

Avoiding your weak spots

Failure to train your body evenly can lead to lopsided muscle gain, making you uncomfortable and potentially increasing the risk of injury. Don’t avoid challenging lifts if overall strength is your goal.

Neglecting rest days

When you exercise, you create microscopic tears in your muscles that take 48 to 96 hours to heal. Rest is a vital part of becoming stronger.

Avoiding the gym due to insecurity

The worst mistake to make is not lifting at all. Everybody has a “day one” of hitting the gym–get out there and make today your day.

 

Five Essential TED Talks On Physical Fitness

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Nothing is more important than keeping fit and healthy. Exercise has been shown to counteract stress levels, but there are other areas of a human physical health that can greatly benefit from it as well. Here is a list of 5 of the most important physical fitness TED talks to watch.

 

Why Some People Find Exercise Harder Than Others

Social psychologist Emily Balcetis explains how having a weak or a strong motivation to exercise can determine how far or close a person feels they are to meeting their fitness goals. She underscores the value of “keeping your eyes on the prize” when it comes to getting fit. To watch the video, click here.

 

The Brain Changing Benefits of Exercise

Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki recently did a talk on how exercise changes not only the physical body, but the brain and mind as well. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain which controls things such as attention span and personality.

She accidentally discovered the correlation when she decided to work her way through a mild depression funk by going to the gym. After a period of time, she noticed her mind seemed to be getting sharper, and the idea for the study was born. To watch the video, click here.

 

Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work

Sandra Aamodt explains why diets so rarely ever have a permanent positive effect, and how a person’s weight range is largely determined by the hypothalamus. She also speaks on eating mindfully with special attention to one’s particular body’s needs as a solution to excessive weight gain. To watch the video, click here.

 

Physical Therapy is Boring — Play a Game Instead

When 70 percent of patients are failing to do their prescribed home exercises, it’s been clear that a solution needed to be found to encourage them to take better care of themselves. Self proclaimed “software geek” Cosmin Mihaiu and his friends created a P.C. software platform called MIRA to turn the dull chore of physical therapy into a time for engagement and fun. To watch the video, click here.

 

High-intensity Physical Exercise Will Boost Your Health

Cardiac health researcher Øivind Rognmo explores how exercise changes the heart system, and how to use the body’s own mechanisms for maximizing that impact. To watch the video, click here.

Exploring Common Cycling Ailments (Pt. 1)

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Like any endurance sport, cycling can come with its fair share of overuse injuries. There are a variety of pesky ailments that can plague dedicated cyclists and quickly interrupt — or end — an otherwise fruitful training cycle.

Here is how to approach and manage five of the most frequent cycling ailments.

 

Achilles tendonitis

Tendonitis of any body part is never fun, as the inflammation can be incredibly painful and stubborn with movement, but the achilles tendon is arguably one of the worst spots to develop the injury — especially in cycling. Each pedaling motion and dorsal flex is contingent on a healthy achilles, and pain in this area can quickly take a cyclist out of commission. Like most forms of tendonitis, achilles tendonitis can be avoided by preventing overtraining, stretching the area properly, and taking time off at the onset of any noteworthy pain. If the injury has already developed, the R.I.C.E method is your best bet (in other words, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Additionally, give yourself ample recovery time to allow all the inflammation to fade.

 

Neck pain

The neck may not be a first consideration when listing areas of potential cycling injuries, but the reality is that neck pain plagues countless riders on a regular basis. Typically, this issue stems from poor head position and even poorer riding posture. The best rule of thumb is to keep your chin tucked, make a 90 degree angle between your shoulders and upper arms, and engage the muscles in your neck while looking up. Maintain this position and you should be able to solve your neck problems moving forward.

 

Groin pain

Cycling-related groin pain is not exactly surprising, for obvious reasons, but it is also fairly easy to fix. In almost all cases, the pain is likely coming from a poorly shaped or positioned saddle. It is important that you find a saddle that fits your body type perfectly, all while making sure it is properly installed onto your bike. Even a well-fitted saddle will create problems if it is not positioned correctly.

 

Knee pain

Given the basic biomechanics of cycling, it is also not surprising that many cyclists deal with nagging knee pain. The issue is arguably the most prominent in the sport, but it can be avoided with proper footwear, foot positioning, and proper foresight in terms of overuse and overtraining. If you are already experiencing knee pain, in addition to mending the aforementioned factors, take a few days to let your patellas recovery; they are potentially delicate parts of your body that will need to be strengthened and properly healed to avoid long-term problems.

 

The Most Awesome Workout Ever

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It was the year 1899 when then commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents Charles H. Duell declared, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” From our perspective 118 years later it seems absolutely ridiculous that someone who had so much access to the world of innovation could make such a statement.

Is your fitness and nutritional knowledge similar, or on par with what Duell thought regarding innovation back in 1899?

Have you concluded, based on what you “know”, that someone your age and current physical condition simply cannot change your physique or alter your metabolism? I would like you to think again as science continues to evolve and, in recent years has only begun to think differently. It wasn’t that long ago we were all impressed watching Rocky Balboa crack five raw eggs into a glass so he could increase his protein intake but, science has since proved a cooked egg harbors far more nutritional value than a raw one! So, if you’re drinking raw eggs and think you’re making gains, the fact is you’re not. Now I don’t know of anyone who is drinking raw eggs any longer but the point is, it’s time to disregard old workout myths and nutritional knowledge and replace them with some new scientific fact.

One of the old workout myths that may be keeping you away from the weights is that you need to lift hours upon hours, every day of the week. Well, the good news is that’s just not the case. In the pursuit of healthy fitness your body has three simple requirements: Exercise, Fuel, (in the form of food), and Rest-lots of rest! The primary focus of this blog is exercise so I’ll key in on that but you need to understand, the old way of thinking of over exerting ourselves, or “stop when you drop” is quite simply not true.

Contrary to what you may believe, weight training or “resistance exercise” has much more to offer than an overall increase in muscle size. Resistance training causes an increase in your body’s metabolism AND a decrease in body fat all while increasing its lean muscle mass. As discussed in one of my previous blogs, the reduction in caloric intake without resistance training simply teaches our bodies to store fuel in the form of adipose fat tissue, (as future emergency energy stores), while eating away at its own lean muscle mass for its current energy requirements. In other words, if you don’t use your muscles, you’ll lose them! Our bodies literally cannibalize themselves in order to preserve energy in the form of fat as, when dieting, (or caloric intake reduction), we are actually training our bodies to store fat for future energy needs. So, contrary to common belief we MUST eat AND resistance exercise to lose excess body fat!

So now that we know we need to work our muscle to lose fat, let me share my personal experience how I lost 20 pounds of adipose fat tissue and gained 6 pounds of lean muscle in just 6 months.

Like you may be, I was one who came to the conclusion that I simply do not have the genetic makeup to be lean. I always considered myself athletic, I just never had an athletic look, (do I sound like Duell back in 1899???). It was time to make a change. In order to do so I began to read and study. I took what I learned and prescribed a workout formula specific to my personal need. I hung up the bike and running shoes and hit the weights. Here are some interesting facts I learned throughout my research.

Our muscles are comprised of three different types of muscle fibers, each having its own primary function. The proportions of these three muscle fibers vary within each individual person AND within each individual muscle themselves. Genetics determines muscle fiber dominance. Let’s look at all three and find out what they do.

White Fast Twitch, or type IIb muscle fiber is responsible for strength and explosiveness. It is this muscle fiber that gives us muscle size. Work this muscle fiber exclusively if an increase in muscle size is desired. Athletes who possess natural ability for explosive movements required in such sports as sprinting and weightlifting are white fast twitch muscle dominant. To increase muscle size, resistance training requires using a weight heavy enough to be moved in the 4-6 rep range to exhaustion. If you can’t move the weight 4 times, you need to lighten the weight, if you can move the weight beyond 6 times, you’ll need to increase the weight-it’s that simple.

Red Fast Twitch, or type IIa muscle fibers are responsible for sustaining loads over a relatively prolonged period of time. People who genetically have more red fast twitch muscle fibers are best suited to play sport requiring stamina such as boxing, football, or basketball. To improve stamina, work your muscles in the weight room using a weight allowing 12-15 repetitions per set.

Red Slow Twitch, or type I muscle fibers provide energy over long periods of times and are best suited for endurance events such as long distance running and cycling. Exclusively work this muscle fiber in the weight room if it is weight loss desired and improving your long-distance endurance while not increasing muscle size. Using a weight allowing repetition ranges of 20-25 times is the weight required to work these muscle fibers.

I learned each of the three muscle fiber types provide a unique purpose from its other two counterparts but when called upon they can all work in unison. For my own specific purpose, I determined I wanted to lean up AND increase muscle size and stamina. I decided I needed to work all three. Sounds like a lot of work? It’s not. The National Federation of Professional Trainers, (NFPT), suggests working all three muscle fiber types in a single workout. Holistic training was the work out prescription for me.

The trick to working each muscle fiber within the same workout is to exhaust one muscle fiber before moving along to the next one. One must start with the biggest muscle fiber and work your way down the ladder. If muscle fibers are worked in the reverse order it would be easy to exhaust your red slow twitch muscle fibers recruiting your red fast twitch muscle fibers to take over the load. This is exactly what you must avoid.

So, let’s use a chest press as our example workout. Perform two warm up sets using a weight approximately 60% of the weight you plan on using for your heavy set. I perform 10-12 repetitions using slow and deliberate form. After your warm up, load up the bar to a weight you will be able to move 4-6 times before exhaustion. Always use a workout partner as a spotter to ensure your safety. Perform the first set to exhaustion. If you were able to do more than 6 reps, add weight to the bar, couldn’t do 4 reps, remove weight from the bar. This is an absolutely critical component of this work out. Now, rest three minutes and perform the set one more time.

During your next 3-minute rest, remove enough weight from the bar so you’ll be able to perform 12-15 reps for your next two sets. Remember, always take a three-minute rest to flush out your muscles making certain to drink water. Now that you have successfully exhausted your white fast twitch muscle fibers it is only your red fast twitch which can be recruited to move the new, lighter weight. Complete two sets here, lighten the bar one final time to a weight that you’ll be able to complete two final sets at 20-25 reps. The last set sounds easy but you’ll find these last two sets are the hardest. Your muscles will be filled with lactic acid which will not be allowed to be flushed out of your muscles until you put the weight down. You will feel a burn like you haven’t felt in years!

I work 5 different muscle groups for each work out. I am able to perform all repetitions as described in just 75 minutes. Stay focused and the time flies.

Day 1 and day 3 I work this exact set as described. Day 1 is chest and shoulders, Day 3 is back and legs. On days 5 and 6 I work the same muscle groups but instead of the holistic work out as described above I work my red slow twitch muscle fibers exclusively as weight loss is my primary goal. 5 sets of each muscle group done in reps of 20-25 is a fun and demanding workout. Obviously, diet plays a role in order to achieve desired results but we will discuss that in a future blog.

After years of running and performing long distance athletics I have finally achieved the physique I had always hoped for. My current body fat percentage is at 9 percent, pretty good for a 57-year-old!

More ways to make healthy eating affordable

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A healthy lifestyle is a commitment in many ways, as it requires a fair amount of discipline, will power, and accountability. Making changes to your daily routine can be difficult at times, but these challenges are what will ultimately shape you (maybe figuratively and literally) into a fitter, happier individual.

Where dieting is concerned, one consistent challenge is the price of eating healthier meals on a regular basis. Healthy foods can, at times, reach lofty prices — regardless of where you are shopping. However, there several under-utilized, if not entirely overlooked techniques that can be adopted to make healthy eating less of a financial burden.

Here are three more easy ways to make healthy eating affordable.

 

Don’t buy it, grow it

When it comes to healthy eating, you cannot beat homegrown foods. Many wholesome items, especially fruits and vegetables, are capable of being planted and grown at home in a garden or greenhouse. Figure out which of these foods you consume the most, then find out how to effectively plant and nurture it so that you can produce it yourself. The process may be slow and a little time-consuming at first, but it should pay off in saved money and peace of mind knowing you are eating as naturally as possible.

 

Buy in bulk

Bulk buying can be a huge money saver in many aspects of grocery shopping, and it is just as effective when applied to a healthy eating regimen. You can buy almost any healthier food options in bulk, including grains, meats, fruits, and vegetables. Namely, items like breads and smaller fruits like berries and apples stand as ideal bulk choices thanks to their larger quantities. This approach will save you time otherwise spent on periodic weekly shopping trips, and it should also cut down on general costs (assuming you effectively divide your high-volume purchases into logical portions).

 

Freeze and refrigerate meals

I previously discussed how meal plans can be a huge asset to affordable, healthy eating, as they allow you to plan out healthy meals and apply them to the constraints of your weekly grocery budget. However, you can take this approach a step further by actually preparing your planned meals in advance and freezing or refrigerating them. Depending on the food in question, you should be able to quickly thaw out your food for an at-home meal or a packed work lunch without the present effort of throwing it together on a time schedule. You may even find yourself less stressed as a result of the latter notion.

The best movies for fitness motivation

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Movies are appealing for a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons we continually absorb them is the chance to live vicariously through their characters. Nearly all movie characters endure challenges that are reflective of our own lives in one way or another, and this connection can be incredibly motivating in the right context.

This notion is especially true of sports and fitness films, many of which feature protagonists attempting to improve their athletic skills, win a crucial competition, or simply find their place in not only their sport of choice, but the culture encapsulating that sport.

Here are a few of the best films for fitness motivation.

 

Rocky

Often regarded as one of the most uplifting and motivational sports films of all time, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky consistently produces a powerful vicarious effect over viewers. Something about Rocky Balboa’s against-all-odds situation is potent and moving, especially when paired with the brutal chapters of his training to fight heavyweight champion Apollo Creed.

At its core, Rocky is a typical David and Goliath tale, but with enough memorable characters and doses of reality to keep it fresh, it is able to remain one of the most resonant films of all time (and if those factors don’t pull you in, the film’s score will).

 

Remember the Titans

The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Remember the Titans focuses on the true story of African-American football coach Herman Boone (played by Denzel Washington), who helped to bring racial unity to the T.C. Williams High School football team. Though the film is occasionally criticized for following an all too familiar sports film plot, it ultimately succeeds in providing an uplifting message that intertwines themes of tolerance and hard work.

 

Warrior

Warrior exhibits many of the same emotional drawing points as similar films before it (namely Rocky), but it is able to rise above cliche with a series of strong performances and a plot that is full of heart. The fim stars Tom Holland and Joel Edgerton as “two estranged brothers whose entrance into a mixed martial arts tournament makes them come to terms with their lives and each other.” The film is able to remain motivational due to its effective blending of familial turmoil and athletic drama.

 

Miracle

Miracle tells the true story of the 1980 United States men’s hockey team, which stunned the world when it defeated the heavily favored Soviet team to win gold at the 1980 Winter Olympics (aka the “Miracle on Ice”). The film is yet another classic underdog story told in a relatable and inspirational manner.

Kurt Russell’s “again” scene alone is chilling enough to inspire fresh training motivation.

The best cycling apps

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Like most aerobic fitness endeavors, cycling requires hard work in a variety of ways: commitment to training, planning routes and loops, developing a weekly schedule that works with your unique employment routine, and making sure your bike is regularly maintained for optimal performance.

With so many variables constantly at play, a biker’s life can occasionally be as hectic as it is relaxing and addictive. Luckily, there are a variety of technological resources available to make cycling an easier and smoother process, namely a long list of useful smartphone apps dedicated to the sports’ most crucial fundamentals.

Here are a few of the best cycling apps.

 

Strava

Strava has risen as a household name in fitness-based smartphone app technology. Aimed mainly at cyclists, runners, and walkers, the app records periods of activity and allows users to simultaneously log them and share them with other Strava users. For cyclists, the app is a great tool for monitoring rides and recording time over set segments.

 

Bike Gear Calculator

Simply titled, but infinitely useful, the Bike Gear Calculator app “is a quick way to compare different gears on your bike and on setups you’re considering, and for seeing how fast you’ll be travelling in a given gear at a particular cadence (pedal revolutions per minute).” The app serves as a great measuring tool and foresight resource for upcoming rides and races.

 

Cyclemeter

Cyclemeter’s main strength is its ability to use past and current experiences to contribute to future training approaches. The app implements GPS ride data to store your progress, focusing primarily on speed, distance, and overall time.

 

Garmin Connect Mobile

Like Strava, Garmin Connect Mobile stands as a popular resource among many different types of aerobic athletes. Specifically for cyclists, the app provides an advanced ride logging system through the Garmin Connect database, which can also be shared across Strava, MyFitnessPal, and other leading fitness-based apps. By using this app, cyclists will also have access to other Garmin features such as LiveTrack, which allows others to track you in real time during a ride.

 

Fill that Hole
Fundamentally different than the other apps on this list, Fill that Hole is a unique and quirky app designed to let cyclists report potholes and other road hazards to local authorities. The UK-based service strives to make the hazard reporting process easier and less micromanaged in terms of communication. After all, a roadside direct line of communication is a lot easier to navigate than a weekly municipal government meeting.