Whole Body Training – Top Fitness Trend in 2015

The new “buzz” in the fitness industry, and number one trend for 2015, is Body Weight or Whole Body Training. While free weights and machines can certainly make you stronger, your physical assembly can too! Whole body exercises use an individual’s body weight as resistance for muscle development, balance and bone remodeling – an essential component for enhancing bone mineral density and solidity of skeletal structure. As you master exercise technique, you similarly acquire an increased consciousness (kinesthetic awareness) of supplementary movement patterns associated with other activities and recreational sports. Best of all, body-weight exercises make your workouts portable! They can easily be performed in the privacy of one’s home, used while traveling, do not require special equipment, are time efficient and serve as a great alternative to other workout modes.

Eight Simplified Exercises for a Body-Weight Workout

#1        Squat: A squat is one of the most effective lower-body exercises for your legs, hips and behind. Stand with feet slightly greater than shoulder width apart, contract the abdominals, shift body weight toward your heels, bend knees and squat down while keeping your back straight. Imagine you are about to sit in a chair, then return to starting position. Do 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions. If your knees bother you, decrease the range of motion.

#2        Push-Up: Push-ups target the chest, triceps and core. Begin on the floor with hands slightly less than shoulder width apart, legs lifted up, back straight and parallel to the floor. Maintain a stable core as you perform push-ups to fatigue. For modifications, lower to the knees or do push-ups against a wall.

#3        Plank: The plank is recognized as an isometric (non-moving) exercise targeting the core, back, and shoulders. Begin in a push-up position or modified position with forearms resting on the floor or chair. Contract the abdominals and maintain a strong core without holding your breath. Hold plank position until you lose form or reach fatigue.

# 4       Lunge: A lunge is one of the best exercises for increasing muscular strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings and buttocks. Begin by stepping one leg in front as you bend the knee to a 90-degree angle, weight toward the heel. Pull back (don’t push) to starting position and repeat on the other side. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions for each leg.

#5        Side Leg Raise: This exercise targets the outer thigh, hip and core. Stand up tall or lie on your side while contracting the core muscles. Lift and lower one leg to the side in a flexed foot position without bending or leaning your body too far forward or backward. Maintain a strong core as you repeat 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.

#6        Triceps Dip: Sit on the floor or chair with palms facing the heels. Lift your body weight up and extend arms to full length without locking the elbows. Bend the elbows, slowly lower to a 90-degree angle (the dip) then return to starting position. Continue dips until you reach muscular fatigue.

# 7       4-Count Burpee: The burpee is a very effective, functional exercise targeting several muscle groups. It can also be incorporated into a cardiovascular routine. Start in a standing position. Lower yourself into a squat allowing your hands to touch the ground. Keeping your arms extended, step (beginner) or hop (advanced) both feet backwards. Return both your feet to the squat position and then to standing. Repeat to fatigue.

#8        Abdominal Crunch: For a basic crunch, lie on the floor, bend the knees and keep feet flat on the floor or elevated on a chair. Gently support head and neck with both hands, elbows out to the side. Contract the abdominal muscles as you lift the shoulder blades off the floor. Do not let your back arch – keep abs tight at all times. Variations: Twist the torso to one side and crunch. Raise legs off the floor and crunch. Do reverse crunches by lifting the tailbone off the floor. A starting goal is 3 sets of 15 repetitions per exercise selected.

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Back in Action / Maintaining a Healthy Back

Have you ever found yourself complaining of back pain, or describe yourself as “having a bad back?” If so, you are not alone. Current research indicates more than 65 million Americans suffer from low-back pain every year. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor, and 50% of all individuals who suffer from an episode of low-back pain will have another occurrence within 1 year (American Association of Neurological Surgeons).  Whether acute or chronic, the likelihood of encountering back problems is quite high. To decrease your chance of becoming another statistic, consider what’s best for an aching back.

Causes of Discomfort

Back pain can result from muscle strains or spasms, joint disorders, prolonged sitting or standing, repetitive bending or twisting, muscle imbalances, overuse, dis-use, improper lifting, weight gain or direct trauma. If you injure your back, immediately stop what you are doing. Rest and apply ice to the affected area (15-20 minute bouts) for the first 48 hours. After 2 days, apply periodic sessions of heat.

For general pain, approximately 90% of individuals experience relief with rest, ice, heat, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, stretching and back exercises. To keep pressure off the spine, take a daily back break! Extend the spine to a neutral position by lying flat on your back with a pillow under your knees. Relax!

If you experience intense pain, weakness, tingling, loss of bladder control or numbness running down an arm or leg, you may have a pinched nerve, herniated disc or sciatica. In this case, you should seek medical attention.

Preventative Measures

First and foremost, you must remove the movement flaws that cause back pain throughout the day. For example: when lifting a heavy object, bend the knees and keep the back straight. Avoid unsupported forward flexion (don’t reach by leaning too far forward at the hips or waist). For repetitive lifting and bending, use a “golfer’s lift”. Reach down with one leg extended backward as a counterweight to forward flexion. Pretend you are extracting a golf ball from the cup.

When performing monotonous chores (gardening raking, vacuuming, etc.) use your core muscles for spinal stabilization. Firmly contract the abdominals without holding your breath. Never let the belly sag as it can pull the spine out of alignment.

To promote muscular development, increase circulation and speed the release of “feel-good” endorphins, include walking in your daily routine. Walking is one of the best, non-jarring exercises you can include for back health.

Yoga and Pilate’s exercises promote balance, strength and flexibility. Significant research indicates both forms of exercise provide benefits for individuals with chronic back pain.

To stretch the low-back muscles, give yourself a reclining hug. Lie on the floor or on a firm mattress. Gently pull both knees into the chest while simultaneously bringing your nose up toward the knees. Repeat as often as you like!

Another good stretch is the “Spinal Rock” or “Cat and Camel”. Kneel on your hands and knees. Inhale as you arch your back (hyper-extend), drop the belly and gaze toward the tip of the nose. Exhale as you round the back while pulling the abdominals in and tailbone under. Slowly alternate each position at least five times.