Achieving 6-pack abs is pretty much the holy grail of physical fitness and strength, even though much of your abdominal appearance is decided by genetics, not effort. But whether you have 7% body fat or a layer of “insulation” over your abdominal muscles it’s extremely important to keep those muscles strong. Working the muscles that make up your core strong (the abdominals, obliques, and mid- to lower-back) will make your entire body feel stronger, give you better posture, and improve your balance. However, the question remains—what’s the best technique to building and managing core strength?
We’ve been presented with so many different options for strengthening the abdominal muscles that it’s hard to know what works best. Should we be lying on our backs, balancing on our hands and toes, standing up, squatting, or using a contraption like the ab flyer or ab rocket?
Luckily, a group of fitness experts commissioned by the American Council on Exercise recently conducted the research to answer that very question. ACE reached out to experts at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse to conduct research determining the effectiveness of the most popular equipment and exercises compared to the traditional crunch. The team incorporated several different varieties of popular equipment including the Ab Circle Pro, Ab Roller, and others, as well as exercises including yoga’s boat pose, the stability ball crunch, decline bench curl-ups, the captain’s chair crunch, the bicycle crunch, the side plank, and a standard plank. (more…)
We all know that working with a personal trainer can provide so many benefits. If you’re just starting out, a personal trainer is a great resource to learn how to exercise properly and regular appointments make you a lot more likely to show up at the gym. Of course, trainers often charge between $40 and $80 per session, or more. Luckily, there’s a great way to get the benefits of having a personal trainer for only a fraction of the cost: Online training. We sat down with Paige, an ACE certified personal trainer with years of experience training clients both in-person and online to find out a bit more about online personal training works.
1. What exactly is online training? How does it work?
Online training is a lot like in-person training, but all training is done virtually. After an initial assessment and consultation, I design a customized workout program for that client. However, instead of being there in-person for their “sessions” they refer to my online exercise video library, pictures, demonstrations, and detailed descriptions for the exercises. Depending on the tier of training they choose, my involvement can be a coaching them and providing feedback 3 to 5 times a week or as little as once a week.
2. What types of people (typically) sign up for online training?
The same as those who come to me in the gym—those who want to better their lives in some way through fitness. The only differences would be that often, those who come to me for online training have crazy hard-to-plan-around schedules. Also, online training is much more affordable than paying $70 an hour for in-the-gym training. Some of my online clients came to me looking for a more affordable way to have a personal trainer. (more…)
We’ve made it through the long winter and spring is finally here and in full swing! ‘Tis the season for baseball, sunny days, green things growing and everyone’s favorite activity: spring cleaning! Since free time is something that most of us don’t have an abundance of, it’s good to know that you can easily multitask while engaging in your spring cleaning chores. According to My Fitness Pal heavy cleaning can burn up to 250 calories per hour, making it a worthwhile fitness activity. And, by adding in just a few simple moves to your cleaning routine, you can burn even more!
Here’s six ways to fire up your heart rate, engage your muscles and get a calorie-blasting workout while you get your spring cleaning on:
1. Blast your favorite heart-pumping tunes
Before you start cleaning, make a playlist of music that gets you pumped. Think about songs that you listen to when going for a run or doing a cardio workout at the gym. Music with an upbeat rhythm is more likely to make you not only clean faster, but help you have fun while doing it. Go ahead and blast that music and dance around with that mop or duster (and burn a ton of calories while doing it!). You’ll discover a whole new appreciation for cleaning.
We all know that swimming is a great, low-impact, full-body workout. But it’s not the only way to get in shape in the water. Over the last few years, traditional strength training, cardio workouts, and even yoga have taken to the water to deliver a form of exercise that is easy on the joints and effective at toning and strengthening the muscles. Sure, there’s water aerobics. But there are also a handful of other fitness styles that have taken the plunge into the pool, creating an entirely new experience for some of your favorite group exercises classes.
Here’s an introduction to five popular group fitness classes that you wouldn’t expect to take place in a pool:
Aqua Zumba adds a fun challenge to one of the most popular group exercise classes in the world. The concept and moves are the same as in a traditional Zumba class, but the extra resistance created by pushing against the water adds a great strength-training element to the workout. The class is held in shallow water (about chest height for the average participant) and the instructor is positioned near the ledge of the pool (so that everyone can see her movements and follow instruction). Aqua Zumba is described as a fun pool party- where you don’t even realize that you get a great workout.
When you’ve been stuck in the same fitness routine for a while, finding some inspiration can be just the ticket to shake things up. Let’s face it: when we get bored we’re much more likely to quit. Changing things up could make you more likely to stick with exercise, whether it’s trying out a new group exercise class or learning a new sport. Spending time with other fit-minded individuals can also provide a major dose of motivation and help you break out of a fitness rut.
Here are five different fitness-focused events happening in the summer of 2014 that will enable you to network with others, make new friends, and discover the latest trends in fitness:
When & Where: June 6-8, Park City, Utah
Who attends: Healthy living bloggers and readers, anyone with a love for food and fitness
The Details: The Blend Retreat is back for a second year in Park City, Utah (in the gorgeous Canyons Resort) and is sponsored by Silk. It’s a weekend for like-minded individuals from all around the country to come together for three days of fun, great food, fitness and friendship. A ticket to the retreat gets you three meals (two breakfasts and a 5-course gourmet dinner), a cocktail reception with free drinks, coffee and tea all weekend, two sponsored snack breaks, a guided hike with pre- and post-hike snacks, two bootcamp-style workouts led by qualified fitness instructors, a t-shirt, an amazing swag bag filled with products from over 25 different vendors and entry into a closing ceremony raffle with big ticket items from various sponsors. For more information and to register, visit Blend Retreat’s website.
Everyone knows Jillian Michaels as the butt-kicking, brutally honest trainer on “The Biggest Loser” who can help contestants shed hundreds of pounds. She has a no-nonsense approach to exercise and healthy eating—which she’s written best-selling books about—but she’s really known for getting to the root of why so many of us are overweight and tackling the psychological issues around eating. That’s why I was so excited to get the chance to see her live!
For the second year in a row, Jillian is traveling around the country, speaking to thousands of loyal fans. She launched her Maximize Your Life tour in Denver, Colorado, earlier this month. The experience is described as this: Jillian shows how to harness your potential, kick-start your goals and live an exceptional life—sharing her keys to health, success and happiness. No hype, no false promises: Just results.
Tickets for the Maximize Your Life tour start at $25- and you can get a special VIP ticket for around $175. A VIP ticket includes the best seats in the house and a special meet & greet session with Jillian after the show. If you’re wondering what else you’ll get for the price of a ticket, here’s a few facts about the show and a preview of what Jillian shares with the audience: (more…)
We all know that there are many ways that you can get in shape for free. Riding your bike outside, going for a run, or even doing a bodyweight workout at home don’t cost a thing. But these are all at-home workouts and lets face it—exercising at home doesn’t work for everyone. There are a lot of us who need to actually go someplace to work out.
Visiting a gym allows me to add variety to my workouts by using different equipment and attending different classes. In a single week I might try indoor cycling, Bodypump, yoga and Zumba. But a major downside to joining a gym or going to an exercise studio is the cost. Health club and exercise studio memberships certainly aren’t cheap, but there are definitely ways to make them more affordable (and even free!).
Here are five ways to trim some of the cost off of gym memberships and exercises classes:
Take Advantage of Trial Memberships at Gyms and Health Clubs
Many national health club chains like 24 Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym and and Anytime Fitness offer free passes with no obligation and some can be used for an entire week! This is a great way to check out a gym before actually signing a contract (or go turbo for a week right before or after vacation). Additionally, most exercise studios that specialize in yoga, cycling, and more will comp your first class or give you a deeply discounted trial period. For example, Core Power yoga studios offer unlimited yoga for one week for new students! Also, be sure to check out the schedule at your local yoga studios: most offer at least one donation-based or free class each week.
If you want to get a heart-pumping cardio workout while enjoying a beautiful, snowy, and peaceful landscape, give snowshoeing a try. My love for hiking got me interested in snowshoeing initially—even with the best hiking boots, it’s not always easy to get around when the ground is covered in snow. With snowshoes I’ve easily walked on several feet of snow! Best of all snowshoeing is an easy activity to master activity for people of all ages and fitness levels—you can stroll at a slow pace or even run on snowshoes! It’s one of my favorite ways to get outside in the colder months.
Here are a few tips for anyone interested in trying snowshoeing:
What to Expect:
One of the really great things about snowshoeing is that it’s extremely easy to learn and you don’t need to take lessons. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. That being said, it will take probably take you few steps to get used to the feeling of wearing snowshoes and how they will affect your stride. Snowshoes can feel a little bulky at first and you may have to walk a little different than usual. The good news is that unlike some other winter sports, the learning curve is fairly minimal and it’s easy to pick up within a matter of moments. (more…)
As an East Coaster, I’ve always dreaded winter. But when my ski- and snowboard-loving husband and I moved to Colorado this past year—a state known for some of the best ski resorts in the world—I decided it was time to give winter a fair shot. Skiing seemed like one way to have fun and burn some calories so I signed up for a Women’s Program at a local resort.
My expectations were pretty low. I’d skied once before and the experience left me a little fearful and my first day of lessons was no different. I had a hard time and just felt out of control. If I hadn’t paid for the 6-week program up front, I probably wouldn’t have gone back. But I did go back, and that’s when things clicked. I’m still skiing—and improving.
And I’m even having fun! If you’re thinking about trying downhill skiing, here are some things to keep in mind:
What to Expect:
It may take a while to figure out the basics of skiing and feel comfortable. The mechanics of skiing are based upon some very simple concepts, but they might be hard to grasp. If you don’t “get it” right away just keep trying and eventually you will! (There are a few people that pick it up incredibly fast, but they are not in the majority.)
Eating before a workout can help prevent low blood sugar and fatigue—both of which can greatly decrease your exercise performance! What you eat will vary based on the time of day, what you’re doing for exercise, and how long you plan to be active. Prior to exercise, your main focus should be carbohydrates. It’s good to have little bit of protein and fat as well- make sure that your carbohydrate ratios are a little higher. It’s best to eat both simple and complex carbohydrates before working out to get a good balance of quick and slow-released energy.
Fats and proteins take more time to digest, so they will help keep your stomach satisfied so that it’s not growling while you’re at the gym. Protein will work on repairing muscles after your workout is over (and at that point, it’s good to consume more). In general, fiber is your friend—but not before a workout. Ingesting too much fiber before a gym session could leave in a pretty uncomfortable situation! If you have no problems digesting dairy, having a little bit before you exercise is just fine. However, just like fiber—stay away from it if you have any digestion issues.
Here are a few simple options to eat before exercising:
Whole Grain Toast with Peanut Butter and Honey
One slice of whole grain bread or toast topped with one tablespoon of peanut butter and one teaspoon of honey (or sliced banana) provides a great source of carbohydrates, plus a little bit of protein and fat. This snack is easily digestible and will provide a quick source of energy.