Strength From Within

First, consider the abdomen as only part of the core. Your core musculature extends into your pelvis and hips. Think of it as your center of gravity, the place where your upper body connects to your lower body. A system that essentially, allows you to accelerate, decelerate, transfer and resist forces throughout your body. Why should you worry about these stabilizing muscles, if you want to have a flat stomach?

Your core stabilizes your spine to allow movement of your legs and arms. Without proper stabilization there is a decrease of efficient movement. If there is a decrease in any movement pattern, compensation must occur leaving you open to a higher rate of injury. Most of us think of a “strong abdomen” or core as having a “six-pack.” However, the primary function of the rectus abdominus (six-pack) is flexion (bending forward) of the trunk (upper body). The external obliques run along your ribs and attach to your pelvis, allowing you to bend
and twist. Although these two groups of muscles allow movement about the spine, they do not stabilize the spine.

For example, doing sit-ups and leg lifts without a strong core will create a compensation of the iliopsoas musculature to provide most of the work in flexing the trunk. The iliopsoas is a muscle group that originates in the lumbar spine and attaches to the femur (thigh). If this muscle becomes over developed it could have an adverse effect on your low back, creating lordosis (arch) in your low back. Excessive lordosis is generally a lack of control in the pelvis, which can develop into low back pain.

Some of the major core musculature, the transverse abdominus, internal oblique, multifidi and pelvic floor muscles surround the spine to provide stability. Think of it as your internal safety belt, when strapped in, it protects your spine from numerous forces.

Activating the core muscles, or bracing your mid-section, if never done before requires some practice. One of the best methods to activate this muscle is to “cough” or “suck in your bellybutton.” Start by performing a pelvic tilt. While lying on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, tilt your pelvis so that your back flattens against the floor. Brace your mid-section by sucking in your bellybutton or coughing to activate the deep transverse abdominus. Next, activate your pelvic floor muscles much like you are stopping yourself from going to the bathroom, hold for a count of 10, relax and repeat for 5 repetitions. Make sure to keep breathing while performing this exercise.

Improve Joint Flexibility

Trigger Points and Stretching

A muscle originates on a bone, crosses over a joint, and inserts onto a bone that will move when the muscle contracts. This is the way the body moves, and it functions perfectly until a trigger point forms in the muscle. As the muscle shortens it is pulling on the insertion point and when you try to move in the opposite direction you feel stiff, inflexible. You may decide to stretch, however, people sometimes complain about feeling worse after stretching than they did before doing the stretch. To stretch a muscle, while it still has an active trigger point, could cause tiny tears to occur in the fibers, and could cause even more pain.

Consider this analogy. If you tied a rope onto a strong tree and then went straight across and tied the other end of the rope onto a flexible tree, the smaller tree would continue to stand straight. If you then tugged on the rope the flexible tree would bend. However, if you tied a knot, or two, or three, into the rope, the flexible tree would be leaning over. If you then pushed the bent tree so it was again standing up straight, you would only cause the knot in the rope to tighten, and you would be overstretching the fibers on either side of the knot. This is exactly what happens when you try to stretch a muscle that is shortened by knots in the fibers, without first releasing the trigger points.

Tips to Effectively Treat Trigger Points

As mentioned, the trigger points caused knots to form in the muscle and the shortening of the fibers put a strain on the insertion point on the other side of the joint. You can reverse this situation by doing the following steps:

  • Treat. Hold the pressure on each trigger point. In order to effectively stretch a muscle you need to first press on each trigger point, holding the pressure for 30-60 seconds.
  • Understand the Muscle Movement. Look at the muscle that you will be treating. To best treat and stretch a trigger point, you need to know what movement the muscle makes. For example, the muscles in the back of your neck will pull your head back so you can look up at the ceiling, and the muscle on your shoulder blade raises your arm. To stretch, you need to go in exactly the opposite direction as the movement of the muscle.
  • Stretch. Move so the muscle needs to stretch. For example, the trapezius muscle will raise your shoulder, so to stretch it you want to move your head away from your shoulder. You can accomplish this by dropping your head in the opposite direction while pulling your shoulder down toward the floor.
  • Press and Stretch for Optimal Benefit. To optimize the treatment, whenever possible, continue the pressure on the deactivated trigger point and then move your body so the muscle is forced to lengthen.
  • Slowly Move the Joint in a Smooth Circle. Slowly rotate your shoulder in a circle, move your leg so your hip joint loosens, curl and open your fingers fully, circle your neck, and arch your back like a cat. Finally, stop pressing on the trigger points but continue the slow, relaxed movement of your joints.

Workout Routine for Starters

Start by performing the following deep breathing exercise. Researches have shown, that during exercising most people forget to breath deeply or they are unable to integrate their breathing pattern with the exercises causing them muscle pain and fatigue after the workout. So, in the first week and whenever you like, start breathing deeply. Inhale for 3 seconds, exhale for 3 seconds and start inhaling again after a short while. Take about 5 to 10 breaths as deeply as you can and in a slow pace. During a normal working day our breathing is very flat. The breathing exercise is relaxing and cleans your lungs. While you are breathing you can visualize yourself working out. Important: Use visualizations, which can become reality in the near future. Imagine you enjoy the fitness exercising and the satisfaction as well as the physical feeling you will have after exercising. You may also hear relaxing music while breathing. This way you quickly develop enough motivation to get started.

When you feel ready, do the deep breathing exercise and start by taking a medium fast walk for about 5 to 10 minutes, don’t run. You should sweat, but at this stage you shouldn’t be out of breath, while exercising. If you haven’t trained your muscles for a long time, then this is enough for the beginning. While walking you can say affirmations like:

Every breath gives me new energy.

While breathing (walking) I connect to the messages of my body and mind.

My movements follow my body.

I trust the wisdom of my body and mind.

This way you slowly increase your physical tolerance, you expand your mind and you focus more on exercising. After walking stretch yourself, it relaxes your muscles. You can do this while taking a hot shower it contributes to the relaxation effect. This way you get a good start at fitness exercising and you develop a good workout routine.

After a week you may increase your walking time by 5 minutes every week, provided you feel comfortable doing so. Don’t forget to breath before and to stretch after exercising.

Keep a positive attitude towards exercising even if there are weeks when you can’t increase your walking time, your body is still progressing by building up the necessary muscle tissue. Researchers came to the conclusion that a slow increase has a longer lasting effect on your overall health, than a quick one.

Moreover it helps to collect friends while working out. You enjoy the exercising more and it substantially increases your motivation. The same goes for tracking your progress. Write down the days you are working out, the amount and the feelings you had while doing so. This way you create an enjoyable workout routine for yourself.

Plan To Fantastic Health

  • Detoxify your body. Over time we all accumulate toxins in our bodies. They can come from polluted air, water, and the food we eat. Toxins and pollutants of all kinds have a very detrimental effect on health. They provide the necessary environment for disease to thrive. Detoxifying your body is the single most important thing you can do.

You can accomplish this full body detoxification using juice fasting, clay baths, herbal cleanse products, and enemas. You should really do a mixture of all of the above if you want the best results. Don’t skip this step, as it is critical in the health restoring process.

  • Increase your water intake. This is especially important while detoxifying your body. The extra water helps to carry all of the harmful toxins out of your system in the most efficient way possible. Your body is made up of over 70% water. Imagine the health benefits you can receive by constantly flushing fresh water throughout the body. This will greatly aid in weight loss, improve joint pain, and clear up skin, along with many other health benefits. To find out more about the vital importance of water, read the book, Your Bodies Many Cries for Water.
  • Supplement with omega oils. Omega 3 and 6 oils are absolutely essential for great health. They help the whole body run properly and perform its best. Most Americans have excessive levels of omega 6 oils and not near enough omega 3s. You cannot reach optimum health and wellness with low levels of omega 3s. Luckily it is extremely easy to supplement with omega 3 fats.

I like to grind up 2 tablespoons of flax seeds per day and add it to cereal. They taste great and are a very rich source of omega 3, fiber and lignans. If you don’t want to grind seeds you can supplement with flax oil or fish oil. These will work properly if they are of high quality and have not oxidized. These oils are highly susceptible to oxidation so great care must be taken during processing and storage. With oils, it only takes ten seconds to get your day’s dose.

  • Begin to exercise. Exercise will greatly enhance the power of the steps we have covered so far. You will become stronger, more fit and age at a much slower rate with proper exercise. You can easily find an extra 15 minutes during your busy day to allot to some time to this step.

The more you are able to exercise, the better the results you will get. Exercise will also prevent chronic diseases from forming. Do what you can to work at increasing the amount of time you spend exercising each month. This will pay rich rewards.

  • Get proper nutrition. Most people are depleted of vital nutrients. This is mainly because of an unhealthy diet consisting of nutrient poor foods. Multi vitamin tablets are of little help because the body cannot properly absorb them. Many of these pills pass right through digestion without breaking down at all. This means you absorb very little of the vitamins and minerals your body needs and that you are paying for. You can avoid this entirely by taking a natural liquid nutrient supplement such as wheatgrass juice or goji berry juice. These will give you all of the nutrients and antioxidants you need to reach great health.

Stretching To Prevent Cramps

Before beginning any exercise or workout routine you should always stretch your muscle groups for at least a minute. The best way to accomplish this is to gradually stretch out your muscles. Don’t stretch so hard and fast that you injure yourself by tearing the muscle. Slowly stretch and increase every 10 seconds until you can’t stretch any further and then hold it for 30 seconds.

According to David Joyce, a resident sports massage therapist, you should utilize a very light 10-minute warm up period at 50% effort. Then follow that up with 10 minutes of stretches. David has found that up to 70% of leg cramps and injuries can be prevented by following these tips. This applies to runners, football players and basketball players.

David also mentions that a combination of massage and stretching will work the best. When you watch an NBA basketball game you will notice that during warm-ups the players stretch and trainers will massage the players legs.

Of course, most of us don’t have a personal trainer or massage therapist on hand to help us, but you can do some of this yourself with a little massage therapy basics. Read up on it and apply some of the principles. It will greatly reduce the possibility of getting leg cramps during exercises.

Know How Flexible You Are

If you know how flexible you are then you can know if you’re prone to getting leg cramps or even a lower leg injury like an Achilles injury.

How do you test your flexibility? For your calf muscles you should sit on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you. Keep your knees straight and grab the top of your feet, pulling them toward you. You should be able to pull them back 90 degrees without discomfort.

If it feels tight then you know that you need to concentrate on exercising and stretching these muscles. Spend a little extra time stretching and you’ll notice the results immediately.

If you live in a colder climate you may need to spend more time stretching than you would in a warm climate. The colder air tightens your muscles. Keep that in mind on those cooler days.

I know that 10 minutes can seem like a lot of time to warm up, so you may want to start out with a slow jog. After a few minutes you can begin stretching and even mix in a yoga routine. By adding the yoga to your stretching you can warm up your muscles quicker without the risk of getting a leg cramp or muscle injury. Be sure to end any workout or exercise routine with stretching.

Aerobic Exercise

Strength training helps improve your muscle tone and the strength of the various muscle groups that you exercise. This is important in any overall fitness program. Muscle strength allows you to more easily perform many everyday tasks. One of the muscles that is strengthened during strength training is the heart muscle. The heart is the most important muscle in the body. But, strength training is not the best form of exercise for strengthening the heart. Aerobic exercise is.

When aerobic exercise is done properly, it increases both the strength and the efficiency of your heart. As I said earlier, the heart is the most important muscle in the body. The pumping of the heart keeps oxygen and nutrients going to all the various parts of the body. Without this supply mechanism, we can not survive.

The newest information from the American College of Sports Medicine(ACSM) indicates that aerobic exercise sessions as short as 10 minutes in duration can help you to improve the strength of your heart. To be effective, the ACSM says that this kind of exercise has to increase your heart rate to at least 60% of your maximum heart rate. And, if you do these short duration sessions, you should try to do at least two to three sessions per day.

As is the case with all forms of exercise, a lot of people say that they can’t find the time to do aerobic exercise on a regular basis. It can be a challenge, but the real key is to find exercises that you enjoy and can fit into your schedule. This isn’t as difficult as you might think. Realizing that you can do aerobic exercise sessions as short as 10 minutes should make it easier to fit these sessions into your schedule. Now, try to think of all the different kinds of aerobic exercises that you enjoy and will fit in with your lifestyle. This may take some creativity, but it might be easier than you expect.

Here are some forms of aerobic exercise that you might want to consider: walking, jogging, running, biking, exercise bike, swimming, jump rope, dancing, jazzercise, aerobic dance, skipping, jumping jacks, cross country skiing, ice skating, elliptical trainer, stair climbing, or any other kind of exercise that will raise your heart rate to at least 60% of your maximum and keep it there for at least 10 minutes. Remember that you don’t have to do the same exercise each time. You can “mix and match” different forms of exercise, which in some circles is referred to as “cross training”. As an example, you could walk the dog (briskly) for 15 minutes after he does his thing in the morning, at lunch you could spend 10 minutes climbing the stairwell in your office building, and after work you could spend 15 minutes on the exercise bike in the corner of your family room while you watch the evening news. Doing the math and putting this together gives you 40 minutes of acceptable aerobic exercise for one day. Now, that wasn’t too hard was it?

All you have to do is think about the different parts of your life and decide where and what you can do to fit some aerobic exercise into the things you already do. Remember, a complete exercise program is ideal. But, if you don’t think you can fit it all in, try to figure out creative ways to at least include 30 minutes of aerobic exercise in your daily routine. Say yes to aerobic exercise.

Fun Losing Weight

  • Playing Sports – Guys and gals alike love to play some sort of sport. And playing sports is the equivalent of doing interval training. You spend part of your time at rest, ready for the next spurt of action – and the other part of your time doing intense bursts of activity.

Almost any kind of sport is like this: Baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, raquetball, the list is almost endless. So if you enjoy sports of any kind, make an effort to go out and do that at least once or twice each week, and you’ll find yourself quickly shedding not just body weight, but body fat too.

  • Dancing – This is another cardio activity that can really boost your metabolism, burn calories, and burn lots of body fat too. Any kind of dancing will work because you’re moving when you’re doing it. The more energetic your dancing is of course, the more fat and calories you’ll burn and the faster your body will begin to tone up.

If you don’t have the option of taking dance classes, try renting or buying some dance instruction DVDs instead. There are plenty of dances that can be done alone, and many that can be done with a partner too. So you can have fun with friends or loved ones while still burning the fat from your body at the same time!

  • Bike Riding – This is another excellent exercise that you can have fun with while toning your muscles and shedding the body weight. This is even more fun when you can go for bike rides with your spouse, kids, or friends. In fact it’s even an excellent family time activity for those of you who don’t get enough quality time with the family.
  • Skiing – If you want more of a full body workout, and you don’t mind the cold, try skiing instead. This can also be done with family or friends, and can be great fun – especially while you’re still learning!
  • Hiking – This activity can range from walking along a ready-made hiking path in your local area, to forging your own way through the underbrush up a mountainside. Try to choose hiking paths which vary to some degree – having inclines, declines and flat areas in various places. This way even if you’re doing more “walking” than hiking, you’re still changing the muscles that are used and the intensity with which you’re using them.

Ways To Avoid Missing Next Workout

Plan Some Redundancy Into Your Workouts

Let’s say you usually do cardio on Mondays and Wednesdays and strength training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Now it just so happens that you can’t make Tuesday’s scheduled strength training. (groan) Another long meeting!

Can you do some cardio instead and shift it to another day? Maybe at home and like, on a Friday?

Sounds obvious right?

Well, I’ve seen many people abandon their workouts that day and wait for next week. What if something else comes along next week? If the same thing happens again, then they’ve skipped two workout sessions.

Instead, treat your workouts like appointments. Give it serious though when scheduling… give it some priority (compared to things like grocery shopping, watching TV, etc.)

Have Some Guaranteed Time

For example, I try to put in at least one strength training session during weekends plus one cardio.

Unless something really urgent comes up, I know for sure that I can be faithful to my workouts. The best part is that by doing so, I’ve already taken care of a big chunk of my workouts even before the week starts.

So now it’s less pressure mentally, plus I got more room to move my workouts on other days (as explained in (1) above).

So, ask yourself these questions: are there certain days (and times) of the week where you’re almost certain you can fit your workouts in? Is the place you train in (e.g. your health club) not crowded at those times?

The Mini-workout Alternative

So your workout’s been delayed today… but you’ve still got 30 minutes remaining (instead of that 1 hour you initially planned for).

Could you do a quick workout instead of just passing it off?

Let’s say you were planning two sets of exercises for your shoulders, two for your arms and some abs workouts. Don’t simply abandon your whole workout because you can’t do the full set.

Why not do one set for your shoulders, one for your arms and one for your abs.

These cut-down versions of your exercise routine will still benefit you. Those 30 minutes are definitely better than none. Don’t let it go.

Just avoid getting into the same kind of situation every other day (save this for those rare unavoidable circumstances).

After removing those excess pounds, you have to have a routine for maintenance. To establish a routine, you have to make it a habit to always perform your workouts on time.

Once the habit grows, then it really becomes a part of your life.

Huge Fitness Myth Revealed

Their workouts take too long! A huge mistake that the general public is under is the assumption, “longer workouts are better.” That’s a huge fitness myth for many reasons, and I’ll outline a few basic ones for you.

Most people, especially those who don’t have a lot of background in the realm of fitness, can’t physically take a 60-minute-plus workout. That means if your workout consists of running on the treadmill for an hour then going over and doing abs, you are likely to injure yourself. Unless you are an exceptional athlete, you need to drastically alter the length.

Recent studies have shown many negative effects of running on treadmills or doing the elliptical for long periods of time. This is because it is a constant pounding on your knees and ankles, and it is just too much for your typical gym goer who is deconditioned, or doesn’t have much fitness experience.

Personal trainers estimate that about 90 percent of their clientele are looking to lose weight, so I’ll use that population for this article. Most people looking to lose weight will jump on the treadmill for about an hour, burn 600 or so calories, maybe do some abs, and call it a workout.

Unfortunately, this is not the way to go. Cardio workouts are very good for your cardiovascular system, and if you are training to be a distance runner or a swimming competition, by all means run your heart off! But I’m guessing you are one of the 90 percent of the gym population looking to tone up and lose weight.

Your body is broken down into multiple systems. Think about it like this. We all know Lance Armstrong (won the hardest cycling competition, The Tour de France, seven times). Lance trained his cardiovascular system and his muscular system to prepare for his race. He bikes and bikes and bikes as he prepared to win his event year after year.

Would Lance Armstrong win a marathon? Probably not. His body wasn’t trained for it. His muscular and cardiovascular systems were trained for the grueling Tour de France, not a marathon.

Since you are probably not training for either, why are you wasting an hour of you life on the treadmill and the elliptical? The solution: grab some weights, and do a progressive workout done at a fast pace. You will save plenty of time, work out your entire body, and burn just as many calories.

Don’t fall into a huge fitness myth. Get off the treadmill and grab some weights. The size of the weights is irrelevant. If you do low weight with high repetitions and little rest, you won’t bulk up, but you will burn more calories and therefore, burn more fat while decreasing your chance of injury and improving your quality of life.

Fastest Way to Fat Loss

Interval training is the fitness world’s equivalent of a visit to the in-laws. The shorter and more intense the visit, the better.

An interval is a short period of exercise performed at a given intensity for a specific length of time. Each interval is separated from the next interval by a short rest or lighter activity. There are no strict rules on how long or how intense the interval must be, however, changing the interval length or intensity changes the way your body works and responds to exercise.

Never sacrifice the quality of rest between intervals because this will only reduce the benefits. To succeed with intervals, you must first shake the mindset of traditional continuous cardio training.

No matter where you start with intervals, heed this warning. The high-intensity nature of the exercise can cause muscle soreness you’d associate only with weights, and can cause your legs to feel like j-e-l-l-o.

What most people don’t know is that intervals are the best cardio method for fat loss. Most guys in the gym are hung up on doing excessive amounts of work, but shorter, more intense intervals get the job done better.

Intervals continue to burn calories and fat after the training session, and that’s something you won’t get from slower, longer sessions of cardio. When Canadian researchers compared interval training and long, slow cardio training, it was interval training that was shown to be more effective for fat loss.

Use this workout 3-5 times per week to blast fat.

Start with this beginner protocol:

  • Warm-up for 5-minutes.
  • Work for 30 seconds at an 8/10 level of intensity.
  • Follow that with “active rest” for 90 seconds at a 3/10 level of intensity.
  • Repeat for 3-8 intervals.
  • Finish with 15 minutes of traditional cardio for “transition” and cool-down.

As you become accustomed to intervals, progress to the experienced protocol:

  • Warm-up for 5-10 minutes.
  • Work at a 9/10 level of intensity for 30 seconds.
  • Follow that with “active rest” for 60 seconds at a 3/10 level of intensity.
    Repeat for 4-10 intervals.
  • Finish with 5 minutes of low intensity exercise for a cool-down.