I love squats because they are functional and efficient. Squats strengthen the muscles that keep us mobile and independent. Every time we sit in a chair or use the bathroom we are squatting. When we can no longer do those things on our own we are in trouble.
So imagine the challenge for those who cannot do squats as a form of exercise. I encounter people all the time who can’t perform a squat, because of injury or chronic conditions, include squats as part of their exercise program. It can be a frustrating situation for both client and personal trainer. While this does present a unique challenge it doesn’t mean they have to resign themselves to a lower body workout of machine driven exercises like the leg extension.
Machines can have their place in a strength training program; however, some of them do put the body in an unnatural position. They don’t mimic real world movements. We live in a 3D world and are meant to move in multiple planes. Strength training is most effective for most people with movements that mimic real life motions. Also many clients have limited equipment at home. By necessity, programs must be designed that utilize simple tools like resistance bands and their own body weight.
If squats are painful or have been forbidden by your doctor, there are still many exercise options for your lower body. Try this workout combination for an effective leg workout sans squats. Do 2-3 sets of each exercise, 10 – 12 repetitions per set.
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We need 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity physical activity, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. It’s a great goal but it can feel unattainable for many people. If you’re new to exercise, jumping from zero to 30 minutes EVERY DAY can feel as daunting as being asked to run a marathon. This is especially true if you have no idea where to start or what to do for those 30 minutes.
Even for experienced exercisers there are days with back-to-back meetings or when the alarm doesn’t go off – again. Exercise can get pushed off the plate to balance out the daily demands on our time. With the holidays upon us, time for workouts becomes even more precious and scarce then usual. Rookie or pro, we can all fall into the “all or nothing” trap.
By the time I drive to the gym, I’ll just have to turn around and come right back. If I can’t get my whole workout in why even bother?
I can’t walk on the treadmill for FIVE minutes, how am I supposed to do 30? Where am I even going to find 30 minutes in my day?
New Book Preview: What You Can, When You Can
If the “all or nothing” mentality is holding you back from getting your daily workout, I’ve got good news for you. The latest research says our minimum dose of exercise may be lower than we once thought. A recent study in the journal Lancet looked at exercise patterns and life expectancy of over 400,000 men and women. They found that as little as 15 minutes a day provided health benefits and reduced all cause mortality.
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I don’t like crunches. They hurt my neck. No matter how hard I focus on keeping my eyes up and my chin off my chest, I still feel my neck is getting more of a workout than my abs.
That’s why crunches don’t appear often in my (or my clients’) workouts. I don’t ignore the core however. It is the foundation of our body and functional movement. I just choose to train it other ways.
There are plenty of non-crunch techniques to help you develop your core. If you have low back issues or simply don’t want a pain in the neck, try one of these ways to build a strong and stable core.
1. Planks: I love ab holds and high planks, but they can get boring after awhile. Once a client can maintain an ab hold for 60 seconds, I move on to more challenging plank variations. To take your plank to the next level, try one of these.
- Stability ball plank: Place your forearms on a stability ball and toes on the ground. Hold for up to 90 seconds.
- Plank slides: I love Valslides for core work! Place one Valslide under each hand while in high plank position. Alternating pushing arms forward and back, about 6 inches away from your body, for 12 reps per side.
- Body Saw: Take your plank to a new level by keeping your forearms on the ground but place your feet in suspension trainers that are hanging about 10 – 12 inches from the ground. Move forward and back for 10-15 repetitions.
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When we think of cardio, running is often the first thing that comes to mind. Running is a great form of exercise, however, it isn’t the right solution for everyone. From beginners who haven’t built a base of strength yet to those with arthritis, high impact movements like running aren’t a good fit.
Cardio, by definition, actually means “from the heart.” Therefore, from an exercise perspective, it is anything that gets your heart rate up. This means there are plenty of low- or no-impact activities you can do to accomplish this goal. Make cardio easier on your knees while still benefiting your heart with these five moves.
Walking is a great form of cardio that we already know how to do, but you have to do it briskly or find a way to push yourself. The heart is a muscle and, like your biceps, gets stronger only with challenge. Make your walk more challenging by increasing the incline on the treadmill or wearing a weighted vest on your outdoor walks.
Dance lets you sweat and de-stress. Have you seen the transformations on Dancing with the Stars? If ballroom isn’t your thing, try a hip-hop or swing class. You can always crank up your favorite tunes and get crazy in your living room.
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Simplicity is a beautiful thing. Phong Tran, fitness specialist and master at designing accessible workouts, has provided us with her latest breezy creation, the Full Body Outdoor Summer Workout. Using only a kettlebell and your motor skills, this four-step regimen is designed to tighten your entire body. It strengthens nearly every major muscle group and can be done from the privacy of your home. This straightforward workout requires no gym membership or mastery of complicated exercise equipment. Phong has cobbled together the ideal summer workout where legs, glutes, abs, and arms will all be toned, leaving you in perfect bikini-wearing condition.
Side Lunge into Shoulder Press—Do 15 reps, switch sides, repeat.
Keep posture neutral. Bend leg into side lunge, keep other leg straight. Then raise ball into shoulder press. Hold the ball tight for better control and breathe out on the way up.
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