Stay Sane this Holiday Season

For the past 2 weeks, my days have been tireless and longer than usual. And it won’t get any easier as Christmas and New Year approaches. I’ve found myself just running from dawn to dusk tackling my day and running off adrenaline. The moment I get home, I feel drained, depleted and realize my entire day was one big fat blur.

This is the time of year when we are all tapped out. Schedules are maxed, time is limited, and lists are extra long. Squeezing in another commitment is nearly impossible. As we run-run-run and tick off the Wunderlist (I’m obsessed with this app), we are also losing touch with being present as the days pass. So the one thing that has helped me stay sane this holiday season is scheduling time (yes I actually put this on my calendar) to sit still and breathe.

Meditation helps to slow down a racing mind….calm the nerves…be more productive…live longer and fuller lives. The list goes on. But this artful technique to induce consciousness and train our minds is not an easy feat. Our so called “monkey minds” are hard to tame. It has taken me over 5 years to attain a calm and peaceful state in my meditation seat. I have tried them all but found these 4 techniques the most effective (and enjoyable) to help me get out of my own head and slow down.

flame

 – A DANCING FLAME –
I learned this technique during my yoga teacher training. Burn a candle and watch the flame flicker. Not only is it beautiful to watch but also very calming and instantly relaxes you.

 

binaural-meditation
 – FOCUS ON SOUND –
Sound association transports us to a fond memory. My favorites are sounds of the ocean and rainfall. These sounds take me to a serene space that relaxes my mind and removes all worrisome thoughts. There are several great apps with a wide selection of calming sounds like waterfall, rain drops, and crashing ocean waves. My favorite is Calm (even their website relaxes me).

Music and melody is also a great way to tune you out. Relax Melodies App not only has a variety of soothing sounds but guided meditations that are customizable too.

breathelungs
 – COUNT YOUR BREATHS –
Close your eyes – inhale deeply through the nose for 4 counts – exhale slow and full for 6-8 counts. Repeat. A very common and simple technique but it does take more focus as your mind can easily steer away. If it does, no worries, just stop and start again.

 

mala

 – MALA BEADS AND GRATITUDE –
Sit comfortably with your mala beads and think of one thing you are grateful for. Focus on that gratitude as you slowly push one bead at a time with your thumb and middle finger. Retrace the beads when you complete the string as many times as you’d like.

I know it sounds counterproductive to schedule yet another commitment in your day but remember that meditation is essentially resting the mind. So even if for just 2 minutes you capture the moment of being still and centered, you have achieved a different state of consciousness that is outside of your normal waking state or in this case, a frantic holiday state. This rest will help you find clarity and be more present as you chug away into your day. If it helps us to enjoy the holiday season just a tad bit more, I’m game. Have a Wonderful Holiday!! xo

TRY THIS! A THANKSGIVING WORKOUT YOU MUST DO

turkey-with-weights

I (heart) Thanksgiving! A day of the year where we gather with family and friends and do absolutely nothing but eat, drink and lounge around the house. As a personal trainer, this is my busiest time of the year. My classes are packed and my clients squeeze in an extra session because they know what is to come on this joyous day of feasting!

Personally, I make sure I get in a workout the day of and after Thanksgiving. And guess what… you should too!
Here’s a pre and post Thanksgiving workout that will burn lots of calories so you can justify the 3 extra servings of turkey and pie. 🙂

Go Up & Go Fast (12 minute treadmill work) – YES this is all you need!
1 min     4.0 speed / 5.0 incline
1 min     5.5 speed / 8.0 incline
2 min     6.0 – 8.0 speed / 3.0 incline
2 min     Sprint! 7.0 – 11.0 speed / 1.0 incline
1 min     6.0 speed / 8.0 incline
2 min     Sprint! 8.0 -11.0 speed / 3.0 incline
1 min     6.0 – 9.0 speed / 5.0 incline
1 min     Sprint! 8.0 – 11.0 speed / 1.0 incline
1 min     4.0 speed / 5.0 incline

Modify the incline or speed but try to keep to the minute. I included a sprint range so to accommodate all fitness levels. Not a fan of the treadmill?? You can take this run outside and find landmarks to sprint to. For ex: from one lamp post or bench to another for sprint range. Use hills for sprints instead of distance.

Heart Rate Up / Keep it Up! (In this order for 3 sets)
1. Elbow to hand plank with push ups: 5 each arm / 10 push ups total
Start in hand plank, lower right arm into elbow plank, press up with right hand to hand plank then add push up. Repeat with left arm.

2. Kettlebell Swings: 20 swings (with at least 20lb+ kettlebell)
Set your feet hip width apart and arms straight holding kettlebell. Thrust hips forward to raise kettlebell up and no higher than shoulder height. Make sure to keep your back straight and chest up. Be safe and check out these tips first. 

3. Split Squats (option to add weights): 15 reps each leg
One leg rests on a bench with the other leg in front. Bend both knees into a right angle keeping your upper body weight forward into the front leg. Check out a demo here.

4. Jump squats (option to hold weight at your chest): 15 jumps
Bend knees to squat deep and then jump as high as you can landing back into a deep squat. Make sure to land softly and with bent knees.

5. Mountain climbers: 1 minute
Start in plank position with a towel or glide under each foot. Keep your shoulders aligned with your wrists and slide one knee in towards your chest and slide back. Repeat on other leg and switch. Check out a demo here. 

This workout targets your entire body and will kick your butt in less than 45 minutes. Your goal is to get your heart rate up and keep it up so try to do each exercise back to back with minimal rest in between each set. Check out last year’s workout to add more core work and extra time on the treadmill.

Now go have an amazing time with your family and friends and enjoy an extra slice of pecan pie (you know I will!).
Happy Thanksgiving!! 

Yoga on Steroids?

_MG_8505_updated
“Bootcamp Yoga”, “Yoga on Steroids”,”Kick Ass Yogi”, and “Military Yogi” are some names used to describe me and my yoga classes. I take them all as a compliment because I admit…I do have a very unique and somewhat intense style of teaching.

I started my fitness career as a personal trainer then later received my certification as a yoga teacher. I have crazy love for high intensity sport and training which explains a lot about my style of yoga teaching. Many yogis would disagree with the way I teach but I can give 3 poops about it. There are so many schools and styles of yoga. Some offering a grounding and more spiritual practice and others a more physical and anatomical approach. I am not about chanting or preaching about life lessons (I’m still learning my own so I’m not about to teach someone else) nor do I touch the topic of chakras or energy work. I love and believe in all of the above but it’s just not in me to teach them.

What I strive to teach my students is what most teachers didn’t teach me when I started yoga. And that’s how to prevent injuries from happening when practicing. Students come into class throwing themselves into a flow and jamming their bodies into poses, causing more pain in the long run. I want my students to understand each pose, what muscles to engage, which are lengthened, how to breath and stay focused, and the importance of full body integration during a practice. Most students will rely solely on their flexibility and fail to use their muscles. It’s so important to build strength when practicing. Have a solid and strong foundation in the basic poses and the more challenging (+ pretty) ones such as inversions and arm balancing will come easier.

So YUP…with this in mind, my sequences are intense and chock full of ab/core work, full body strength focused exercises, and long held poses. So what are the benefits to my “power yoga” teaching?

Here they are!
1. Gain a strong understanding of what muscles to engage when holding poses
2. Learn the alignment structure of each pose
3. Build full body strength when holding poses and flowing through them
4. Break a sweat and get the heart pumping
5. Increase flexibility through strength to avoid over-stretching attachments (tendons and ligaments)
6. Prevent injuries and keeping the body safe and efficient for years to come
7. Learn full body/mind connection and awareness

Here’s a quick power sequence that I love to teach and one you can do at home. Use this sequence as your own yoga practice or before a workout to get the heart going, the muscles working, and your body flowing. 😉

I totally get it…a power yoga sequence is not for everyone. Well that’s the beauty of yoga…it’s never a one size fits all.  Because of all the injuries in my early years of practice, it’s become the main reason I teach with focus on alignment and strength. I beg of students (especially those who are just beginning yoga) to take the time to understand the poses as you flow through them. Work with a teacher that will demonstrate and explain the alignment and foundation of each pose. It’s an invaluable lesson that will save you from future injuries and to enjoy a life long yoga practice.

Never Underestimate the Booty!

Everywhere I look – fitness sites to social media to marketing campaigns – having a booty is ubiquitous and desirable. This was not always the case. A big butt was not something one would aspire for. It was actually quite the opposite. Especially women, they wanted narrow hips and a small butt. Well the trend has taken a turn. The era of skinny is over and a more curvaceous and healthy physique is in.

Several reasons to want and work for a great butt. #1 Serves as an accessory to a pair of jeans #2 Makes women biologically attractive #3 Streamline the body’s silhouette and increase curvature. The list goes on. Obviously these are all aesthetic reasons and legitimate (I should add!) but do we really know what having strong and round glutes does for our bodies biomechanically? Probably not...so let me explain!

– THE ANTIGRAVITY MUSCLE –
The butt (gluteal muscles) is the biggest and most powerful muscle in the body yet it’s often the weakest. This muscle group is made up of 3 muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. All work together to keep your torso erect and to hold your upper body up when in motion. If not for the glutes, we’d be slumped over and crooked.

Glute-muscles

– BETTER POSTURE –
If you’re like 86% of American workers, you are sitting all day long at your job. Add to that the number of hours one sits reading, watching tv, playing games, surfing the net, this can total up to 13 hours a day of flattening your butt in a seat. It’s been labeled the “sitting disease” and can be more harmful to our health than you think. Because of prolonged sitting, the hip flexors become very short and tight making it difficult for one to stand up straight. However if the glutes are strong, they help to lengthen your hip flexors and keep your body in alignment. That in turn helps to relieve the chronic low back pain 80% of the population experiences and prevents you from looking like a hunchback.

– INJURY PREVENTION –
The gluteal muscles are prime mover muscles responsible for extension, abduction, and internal/external rotation. These motions are critical in performing basic exercises such as walking, running, stepping to more dynamic movements like sprinting, jumping, and power lifting. So when the glutes are weak to initiate these movements, other muscles will chip in and take on some of the workload. This is called syngergistic dominance. As this pattern continues, these helper muscles become overactive, overloaded, and susceptible to problems. Muscles do not engage properly, joint motions alter, alignment will change, and injuries occur. The most common muscle groups that suffer from weak glutes are the hamstrings and hip complex – basically all muscles attached to the pelvis and knees. Some common injuries are runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, and hamstring tears. The stronger the glutes the less the helper muscles will have to work. The right muscles will do their job so the body can move efficiently and safely.

– BIGGER GLUTES = MORE POWER –
For those that are into sport specific training, strength training and body building know how important the glutes are in primary exercises like squats, dead lifts, lunges, jumps, and sprints. Performing these exercises with weak glutes will force your body to compensate (again using those helper muscles) and will cease to gain strength, move faster, and more powerful in these movements. This makes progressive training stagnant and really frustrating especially when a competition or sport is involved.

Now that you know how important it is to strengthen your glutes, let’s get to work. There are dozens of glute focused exercises but here are the most effective (and my fave)!

#1 SINGLE LEG BRIDGE & KICKS

bridges

Single Leg Bridges & Kicks

Maintain proper form:
– Keep hip points at the same height through the set
– Drive the heel firmly into the floor to engage glutes and hamstrings and to execute lift of the hips
– Flex the foot when lowering leg down and point the toe when leg lifts up
– For single leg glute lifts, keep knees together by squeezing inner thighs together to stabilize the hip

#2 WEIGHTED BRIDGES

weighted bridges

Weighted Bridges

Maintain proper form:
– Align feet directly under the knees
– Drive the heels down to elevate hips and squeeze glutes at the top
– Draw abdominals in to protect lower back
– Lift hips up in a controlled motion engaging glutes, quads, and hamstrings
– Use a balance bad or cushion under bar to protect boney hip points

#3 DEEP SQUATS

squat

Deep Squats

Maintain proper form:
– Engage the abdominals to straighten spine and keep chest up
– Set feet hip width apart (slightly turn toes out)
– Lower your seat down past the knees
– Avoid knees moving too far forward beyond toes

#4 SPLIT SQUATS

lunges

Split Squats

Maintain proper form:
– Relax the foot on the bench and completely disengage the back leg
– Shift upper body weight to the front leg
– Bend knee into right angle making sure knee does not go beyond toes
– Keep abdominals engaged to protect lower back and keep spine straight

#5 SINGLE LEG DEADLIFTS

deadlift

Single Leg Deadlifts

Maintain proper form:
– Slightly bend the standing leg
– Engage abdominals and back muscles to keep upper body in full extension
– Activate and extend back leg so it becomes an extension of your upper body
– Avoid gripping toes for balance
– Squeeze glutes when standing straight up

#6 HIP HITCH

glute medius

Hip Hitch

Maintain proper form:
– Slightly bend standing leg
– Keep abdominals engaged to keep chest up and spine straight
– Shift the active hip as far to its own side to get a deep stretch followed by strong contraction when hitching hip up

 

Sure the aesthetic of a great butt may be enough for some to work on these exercises. But don’t sell your booty short. It can be more powerful than you think. Shoot for strong glutes and your body will thank you for it!

TRY THIS! GRAB A TOWEL AND GO!

I know how demanding life can be with family, work, and social responsibilities. Sometimes the thought of working out is an unappealing and impossible feat. I hear the reasoning and the excuses all day every day!

Making fitness a priority, setting time aside, and being as efficient as possible to maximize the little time you have is the key to getting your workouts in. There is no longer a need for 90 minute or 2 hour workouts. If you have the time, then more power to you! But if you’re limited on time, like I am, then you have to make good with what you have.

There are so many options these days that don’t require you to even leave your home for a kick ass workout. YouTube videos, on-demand workouts, TRX exercises and so on.

Check out my workout that requires 3 things: (1) YOU (2) 20 minutes (3) 2 small towels. Perform these 5 exercises back to back with minimal break in between and feel the burn. 🙂

#1 SLIDING LUNGES 

lunge

Stand with your feet hip width apart. Place the towel under the right foot and begin to slide the towel back, bending both knees into a right angle. Track your front knee in line with your toes, making sure it does not move in front of the shoelaces.
DO: 20 repetitions on each leg. GO!

 

#2 MOUNTAIN CLIMBING

moutaincimbers

Start in plank position with one towel under each foot. Make sure your shoulders are directly above your hands, body is straight and abdominals are engaged. Slide right leg in to your chest, then slide it back. Slide the left leg in and back. Begin to move faster while maintaining a straight body in plank.
DO: Climb for one minute. Option to widen your legs on the last 15 seconds. GO!

 

#3 SIDE GLIDE LUNGES

side lunge

Stand the feet together with one towel under the right foot. Slide right foot out to the side keeping the leg as straight as you can, while left leg bends and hips lower into a squat. Keep the chest up when lowering your hips. Engage the adductors (inner thighs) and slide the right leg back to the left leg. Repeat and then switch.
DO: 20 repetitions on each leg. GO!

 

#4 PIKE UPS

pikes

Start in plank position with both feet on a towel. Shift your weight forward into the arms and start to draw your abdominals in to slide your feet to the hands, keeping the legs as straight as you can. Slide back into plank pose to start again. Engage your abdominals to avoid the hips from dropping when sliding back to plank.

DO: 15 repetitions. GO!

 

#5 KNEES IN / KNEES OUT

knees in (1)

Start in plank position with both feet together on a towel and shoulders directly over the hands. Use your abdominals to pull both knees in towards your chest then extend legs back out into plank. Slide both knees to the outer right arm then slide back to plank. Repeat on the left and then back to the middle. Keep your weight in the hands and your arms strong throughout the set. Slightly round the back to engage your Serratus anterior muscles and refrain using the lower back for support when sliding back to plank.
DO: 15 repetitions (middle, left, and right is considered 1 rep). GO!

 

There are so many exercises you can do with a towel but these are my fave. This workout gets your heart rate up and targets several different muscles groups. Challenge yourself and perform these exercises back to back for 4-5 sets with minimal break in between. There’s no way you won’t get a sweat going!

Great workout – Minimal Time – No Equipment – In Your Home! What’s better than that? LET’S GO!

Do You Take Your Chocolate…Dirty or Clean?

Cocoa and chocolate isolated on a white

When I first started “clean” eating several years back, I learned the rule on reading the ingredients on packaged foods. If the ingredients contained more than 5, were tough to pronounce or ones that I didn’t recognize, I need not eat it. Sadly, lots of foods that I have been enjoying for most of my life was nixed off the list. Such foods like sugar/fat free sweets, whole wheat crackers/breads, frozen desserts, fruit-filled yogurts, and more!

But the one fave food of mine that shocked me the most was dark chocolate. Its supposed healthy benefits were clouded by a list of additives, preservatives, sweeteners, dairy and fillers. All making chocolate an unhealthy choice. However it was one treat that I wasn’t about to give up so easily. So I started exploring the world of chocolate and the most natural it had to offer.

Let’s start with the most common ingredients you’ll find in “dirty” dark chocolate.
– Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners: used to lighten the natural bitterness in cacao
– Milk Fat: used to plump up the chocolate and give it a rich, creamy texture
– Soy Lecithin: an emulsifier that helps to bind the ingredients
– Saturated Oils: vegetable, palm, and canola oils are most commonly used to give smooth texture
– Cacao: dried seeds found in the pod of the Theobroma cacao pod that provide the rich taste of chocolate
– Cocoa Butter: vegetable fat extracted from the cacao bean to give chocolate its flavor and aroma

These ingredients do play a major part in creating a scrumptious chocolate bar but are they necessary? Sure…some are, like the obvious cacao. But just like all packaged foods, most are not and are used mainly to preserve shelf life, for bulk manufacturing, to lower costs, and increase taste and texture.

Here are some ingredients you’ll find in “clean” dark chocolate.
– Naturally derived sugar: coconut sugar, stevia, inulin, and xylitol are all great substitutes to the commonly used white, brown, palm or cane sugars
– Liquid Sweetener: raw honey, real maple syrup, and molasses are all great natural sweeteners
– Coconut Oil: a good alternative to using cocoa butter but has a slight coconut taste and scent
– Raw Cacao: processed at lower temperatures to ensure highest nutritional value. Not usually treated with alkalizing agents or additives
– Nut butters: almond and cashew are most popular. Gives chocolate its sweet, rich, and creamy taste

Do we have to sacrifice clean eating so to enjoy foods that we love? HELL NO! With the “clean” eating rage, we have choices and don’t have to opt for “dirty” chocolate!

Here are some of my fave “clean” dark chocolates that make life worth living. 🙂

1. NOT YOUR SUGAR MAMA
LOVE! (1) they use raw cacao (2) has consistency and taste of fudge (YUM!) (3) they use essential oils for flavor

not your sugar mama

 

2. HU KITCHEN
LOVE!
 (1) they use coconut sugar (2) comes in delicious and unique flavors  (3) also an amazing Paleo restaurant

HuKitchen

 

3. ADDICTIVE WELLNESS
LOVE!
 (1) they only use raw cacao (2) no processed sugar EVER (3) they use Amazonian superfoods and Chinese herbs

Addicitive-Wellness-Front

4. SACRED CHOCOLATE
LOVE! (1) made in 100% renewable energy facility (2) use maple sugar or inulin (3) they too like Chinese herbs!

sacred chocolate

 

5. ORGANIC NECTARS
LOVE! (1) they use Madagascar Vanilla for a rich, creamy, mellow flavor and texture (2) they use coconut sugar as a sweetener (3) they use non-GMO sunflower lecithin

Organic Nectars

*These brands are found in Whole Foods, Fairway, Trader Joe’s, Health Nuts and smaller health food stores. 

Because of raw cacao and the natural ingredients used, you will find a slight more bitterness in “clean” chocolate. But explore both”dirty” and “clean“. I guarantee you will taste the difference. It’s all about what you want to put in your body. Going raw, macrobiotic, paleo, vegan, organic, clean (or whatever label you want to use) is not easy.  Sometimes you just want to enjoy a piece of “dirty” chocolate. But for those that don’t want to steer too far away from their cleaning eating habits, now they don’t have to. Having options is a GREAT thing.  YAY FOR CHOCOLATE!

Hey Man…You Need Yoga!

home_be_more_flexible_larger

In the female dominated world of yoga, I’m actually seeing more men attending my yoga classes. Although the classes I teach are more of a power yoga style, they’re still coming week after week and I love it. It shows me that the old association of yoga being touchy feely, only for women and for hippies is finally making its breakthrough. Men are understanding the importance of adding yoga and stretch to their fitness routine and those who are consistent are seeing results.

With my experience in teaching yoga and performing personalized stretch sessions, it’s evident that yoga and stretch are great for the body and can increase potential in very specific activities. Here are some examples!

Mike Loves Yoga & Stretch
My good friend and trainer, Mike plays football and in order for him to be faster and more agile on the field, he needs to move in different planes of motion at max speed. If his hip flexors and rotators are tight, his ability of moving quickly and easily is limited to a very specific range. He can lack power in agility or move too quickly when tight which can cause an injury. Mike stretches with me once a week in addition to taking yoga classes.  Great job, Mike!

Manuel Loves Yoga & Stretch
My man loves his overhead squats! This CrossFit exercise requires specific muscle mechanics in order to execute safely and properly. So much mobility, flexibility, and stability is required in the shoulders, hips, hamstrings, glutes and adductors. Without a full range of motion or flexibility in those muscles, this exercise becomes increasingly difficult and unsafe to perform. Manuel spends at least 15 minutes after his workout to stretch, takes my power yoga class, and will grudgingly take a class with me. Yay Manuel!

Jonathan Loves Yoga & Stretch
Jonathan owns a finance company and barks orders all day long to over 100+ employees. He is consistently in demand and pulled in every direction. The stress and tension he feels every day is unbearable at times and the only way he can wake up the next morning to handle the pressure all over again is to create space in his body and mind. But that doesn’t come without challenge. In our stretch sessions, he is forced to succumb to specific yoga poses, stretches, and breathing that help release physical and mental tension. Without this, he would not perform at the peak level his work demands of him. Way to go, Jon!

There you are…solid proof that yoga does a man’s body good.
Here are 4 poses/stretches that all men can benefit from. So whether you perform agility sprints, deep squat, or run a successful company, these are the go-to stretches that will change your life!

LOW LUNGE (ANJANEYASANA)

lunge

Low Lunge

Benefits:
1. Stretches hip flexors (illiopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius) and rear of the hips (piriformis and glutes)
2. Strengthens quadriceps of the front leg, helping to support and increase stability in the knee
3. Promotes balance and mental focus

Make sure to:
– Align your front knee above the ankle
– Drop your hips down, engage your abdominals to protect the lower back, and lift the chest up

DOUBLE PIGEON (AGNISTAMBHASANA)

doublep

Double Pigeon

Benefits:
1. Stretches outer hips (gluteal group, tensor fasciae latae) and lateral rotators (piriformis, quadratus femoris, gemellus, obturators, psoas, sartorious)
2. Increases range of motion at the hips
3. Therapeutic for stress relief and anxiety

Make sure to:
– Sit as far forward as you can on your sit bones or in front of your tailbone.
– Align your foot directly on the knee and bottom foot directly below the knee.
– Flex both feet to protect and stabilize the knee joint

DOLPHIN POSE (MAKARASANA)

dolphin

Dolphin Pose

Benefits:
1. Opens upper back, shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and feet
2. Strengthens core, arms, and legs
3. Calms the brain and helps to relieve stress and tension
4. Great prep pose for forearm stand inversion
5. Relieves headache, back aches, and fatigue

Make sure to:
– Keep the legs as straight as you can and press the heels down to the floor
– Keep a neutral pelvis and slight arch in the lower back
– Press firmly into the forearms to stabilize shoulders and upper back
– Draw shoulders blades down to relax the trapezius from overworking

RECLINED SPINAL TWIST (SUPTA MATSYENDRASANA)

spinaltwist

Reclined Spinal Twist

Benefits:
1. Stretches mid to lower back muscles, pectorals (chest), shoulders, hips and glutes.
2. Stimulates and detoxifies the organs
3. Lengthens, relaxes, and realigns the spine
4. Encourages blood flow and aids with the health and function of your digestive system

Make sure to:
– Adjust your hips to align with your spine before dropping your knee to twist. For ex: if you drop your left knee to the right, move your hips slightly to the left before doing so.
– Relax your neck and try to connect both shoulders to the floor
– Breathe deeply when you twist

There are so many more stretches and yoga poses that are beneficial but these are perfect to do when limited on time. They target the hips, shoulders, lower back and chest – the most commonly tight areas in men. Women can absolutely benefit from these stretches, too. All stretches are great as long your body is set up properly and they’re performed safely.

Yes…yoga and stretching can be boring, monotonous, time consuming, and painful. But we work so hard all day to compound, contract, and tighten our muscles with daily activity, workouts, and simply living life. Take the time to create space, lengthen, and reverse those effects so you can move freely and never feel limited in the potential of your body! Spend some time stretching after your workouts, take a yoga class or learn more about my Stretch Sessions. Now…Go Stretch!

TRY THIS! SERRATUS EXERCISES = STRONGER CORE

Since my last blog post on the “secret core muscle” and why it’s so important in our workouts, I’ve been obsessed with teaching my students how to target and strengthen the serratus anterior muscles. I want them to understand and feel the recruitment of these muscles and how they help increase upper body strength and develop a stronger, more efficient core.

Here are the exercises and tips that I’ve been teaching to strengthen and tap into the power of the Serratus Anterior.

SERRATUS PUSH UPS
I heart this exercise and love to challenge my yoga students by adding them to the sequencing. Not only does it help with deep breathing but it creates a drawing in effect that will instantaneously make you feel lighter.

 

ktszs

Targeting Tips:

#1 Stack shoulders directly above the elbows and keep body weight forward.
#2 Initiate the movement from the shoulder blades to isolate the upper body only.
#3 Press the forearms into the mat to round the upper back as much as possible.
#4 Avoid lifting or dropping the hips. Engaging the abdominals, glutes and legs will help.


CABLE  CHEST PRESS

The primary muscles worked are the pectorals (chest) and secondary muscles are triceps and shoulders. Simply adding scapula protraction and retraction is a great way to get the serratus anterior to engage making this upper body exercise a core workout, too.

cable pull down

Targeting Tips:

#1 Step one foot forward and engage the abdominals to maintain a forward lean.
#2 Begin to extend the arms ending in protraction (rounding) of the shoulders. Squeeze the shoulder blades together when releasing the arms to stretch the chest.
#3 Refrain from moving the hips. Keep movement in the upper body only.
#4 Exhale and round the upper back to fully engage the serratus and abdominals.


KNEELING CABLE CRUNCH

This effective exercise recruits the help of several muscles. Your entire upper body and hips help to stabilize and support the movement while the rectus abdominis and serratus are the target and synergistic muscles.

Pulldowns

Targeting Tips:

#1 Focus on articulating the movement from a flat back to a rounded back. Bring the elbows to the legs by curling the upper body down to the lower body.
#2 Keep back and abdominal muscles engaged when allowing the resistance to lift your torso.  This will help to avoid a swinging motion.
#3 Hips and neck remain neutral and stationary through the exercise.

TRY THIS!
3 sets of 15-20 reps of each exercise. Add weight or resistance to develop more strength and power.
Add to any upper body workout and get the core working. Add to a yoga sequence to discover deeper breathing and a drawing-in effect when coming up to inversions.

We’ve all heard it before “…working muscles that we never thought we had”. The Serratus Anterior are one of those muscles.  Focusing and strengthening this secret core muscle will create mind-body awareness and help you harness an untapped resource.  HAVE FUN!

 

The Secret Core Muscle

I have been adamant about practicing my inversions these past few weeks and have reached a point where I’ve overcome the fear of going upside down and can now focus on the muscles engaged to get up and stay up. This is where I discovered the power of the Serratus Anterior.

What’s the deal with Serratus Anterior?
Known as the “boxer muscles”, the serratus anterior are the muscles that boxers rely on for multi dimensional movement and speed. Movements such as pushing, pressing, punching all stem from the strength and power of these muscles. Protraction and retraction of the scapula (shoulder blade) help strengthen the serratus and provide a strong and stable foundation for the chest and back to move from. This also supports your shoulder in rotational movements. Also when strengthened and developed, aesthetically, these are the sexy muscles that define the upper sides of your abdominal area.

Where can I find my Serratus Anterior?
Connected to your rib cage originating on the surface of the 1st to 8th rib, the serratus muscle wraps to the medial border of your scapula. Due to the wrapping, this creates a “wing” appearance and function that plays a crucial role in mostly all back and chest exercises. Because of its attachment to the ribs, the serratus also serves as a breathing accessory. Taking deep breaths will increase the internal pressure which provides stronger support for stabilization, action, and resistance.

Serratus_anterior_muscle_animation_small

Why the Big Deal?
Several reasons!
(1) Common in sports and exercise, shoulder pain and injuries comprise of 21% of the population with 40% of those injuries lasting over a year and treatments accumulating to an annual cost of $39 billion, according to NASM. Weakened serratus also contribute to neck problems due to tension, tightness and possible numbness down the arm because of poor circulation. Strengthening these muscles will help to provide more stabilization so your joints can remain safe and healthy.

(2) Let’s go back to the whole reason of this post…my inversion exploration! Because the serratus stabilizes the positioning of the shoulders, arms, and midsection and aids in breathing to create full expansion of the rib cage, it is the secret core muscle to getting up into inversions and maintaining arm balances. When activating the serratus in these challenging poses, you create a drawing in and “push up” effect (for ex: crow pose, peacock pose, headstand, forearm stand). When engaged, you will feel the power and lightness of your body with minimal effort.

(3) A common mistake in exercise is using the path of least resistance. We all want to use the larger muscle groups to power through exercises because they’re easier to recruit so we don’t feel the pain/burn as much. The serratus anterior is a muscle group that is not often seen but yet carry a load of power. However, activating these muscles are more about connecting and feeling rather than forcing and powering through.

Focus and great detail is needed to fine tune the serratus anterior. Although its power is evident in sports such as boxing, its “quiet” function is so important in more calmer activities like yoga. So instead of just pushing through your next inversion, arm balance, or back/chest exercise, take your time and connect to this secret core muscle. You’ll find that it’s almost effortless. Almost… 😉

*Check out my next blog post on some great exercises to strengthen your Serratus Anterior!

 

 

Stretch with TRX

Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX) is a suspension training program that’s known for its strength workouts. The exercises are functional, effective and all dynamically challenge your core by leveraging gravity and your bodyweight as resistance. Here is a great TRX exercise that gets the heart rate up while tapping into your core.

As much as TRX is known for its intensity, it also serves as a great tool to assist in exercises so one can develop better and stronger form. I love using TRX for my workouts but more recently discovered its assistance for getting deeper into yoga poses. Check out these great yoga stretches to try with TRX!

UPWARD FACING DOG
This pose is a back bend and requires strength in the abdominals, legs and upper body to hold the pose. Using the TRX will allow the hips to drop lower giving a better stretch in the abdominal wall and chest. Shifting the weight forward into upward facing dog can be challenging so be sure to engage the core and press firmly through the arms to help stabilize when moving.
Keep in mind! (1) Set up so that the straps are directly under the anchor point (2) Lengthening the straps will deepen the stretch but will also require more core strength (3) Press hands into the handles to push back to standing

updog

fur1w

LOW LUNGE TO STANDING SPLIT
One of my favorite hip openers is Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge). This pose stretches the hip flexors particularly rectus femoris and tensor fasciae latae (TFL) which are both very tight muscles due to prolonged sitting or overuse in exercise. Standing split is a balancing pose that challenges the core and leg strength while stretching the hamstrings. So combining the two poses is not only a great warm up but a great way to open up two very commonly tight areas (hip flexor and hamstrings). The release in both will immediately alleviate lower back pain and tension.
Keep in mind! (1) Twist the handles together so they make one big handle/one strap and line up directly under the anchor point (2) Keep the back leg in strap straight when in low lunge pose (3) Keep the front knee slightly bent when in standing split (4) Make sure to keep a flat back and chest up when in low lunge

Lunge

lowlunge

HALF ANKLE TO KNEE (PREP FOR TIP TOE POSE)
A very challenging hip opener as it requires flexibility in so many areas. All muscles in the LPHC (lumbo-pelvic-hip complex) must be open to sit in the full Tip Toe Pose. However modifying with half ankle to knee helps to release tension in the glutes and hip external rotators. The TRX straps will help with balance so that you can sit as low as you can while keeping a straight spine. Moving from seated to standing position will warm up the hip but also strengthen the quadriceps of the standing leg. This stretch will also help deepen your Pigeon Pose and Seated Ankle to Knee.
Keep in mind! (1) Keep your back straight and chest up (2) Very important to flex the foot placed on the knee to protect the joint (3) Move hips back (as if sitting in a chair) when bending the knee (4) Don’t be afraid to use the arms to help pull up to standing

ankleknee

Stretching is an essential part of being fit. Without full of range of motion, your body is restricted to complete any exercise or pose in its proper and ideal form. Find time to incorporate stretching and/or a yoga practice into your weekly fitness routine. Using fitness props such as TRX straps, blocks, yoga straps, bolsters will aid tremendously on modifying and assisting so the body is aligned and working safely, efficiently and pain free. Now…Go Stretch!

Get EXCLUSIVE ACCESS
to four yoga sequences designed to help you develop your personal practice.

SIGN UP NOW!

x