Exercises + Tips

4 Must Do’s After Every Workout

Your workouts do not end right after your last rep in an exercise. Don’t throw away all the hard work you put into an intense 60-90 minute workout by just going home and sitting on your couch. If you want to reap the rewards, incorporate these 4 essential steps in your post workout routine.

 

#1 STRETCH & ROLL

In any workout, your muscles are in a constant state of tension. Especially when strength training, the goal is to increase the time under tension in your muscles. With that comes tightness and some micro muscle tears which can lead to pain, soreness and stiffness. A stretch after your workouts can help to relieve tightness and increase range of motion. Especially for those who are not as flexible and focus on body building, a post workout stretch is especially important. Myofascial release with a foam roller will help to increase blood flow and circulation while lengthening the muscles and breaking up adhesions and knots. For best results, use a roller first to break up the tissue then go into the stretches. These active recovery methods will help you heal and recover for the next workout.
– These are my favorite rollers to use: Rumble Roller and Triggerpoint Therapy.
– Check out my past blog posts for some great stretches. #1 Hip Stretches #2 Twists  #3 Full body stretches 

 

#2 REPLENISH YOUR MACROS + MICROS

The goal of a post workout nutrition is to replenish your energy storage, increase muscle size and/or quality, and repair any muscle damage from your workout. So the important macronutrients to replenish are your protein and carbohydrate storage. Protein will help to decrease muscle breakdown and repair any damage caused by the workout. Enjoying a post workout protein shake will help with protein synthesis so you can build back your muscles, decrease soreness, and improve recovery. Carbohydrates replace muscle glycogen and aids in the role of transporting nutrients to the cells. Best option for carbohydrates to enjoy post workout would be whole foods (non-starchy vegetables and fresh fruit). Your body starts to rebuild muscle as soon as your workout ends so the ideal window for protein and carbohydrate replenishment would be 45 min to an hour after your workout.

When eating the right foods for protein and carbohydrate, the essential micronutrients should be present as well. Key micronutrients to aid in recovery and muscle building are Vitamins C,A,K,B, and D and minerals such as selenium, sodium, manganese, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. However if you are not able to enjoy whole foods packed with these nutrients, then taking a multi-vitamin and supplements can help. Specific for post workout, magnesium is important for recovery. Magnesium is considered the “helper”molecule in several biochemical reactions in the body. It helps convert food into energy, to create protein from amino acids, aids to reduce inflammation, helps to regulate neurotransmitters, move blood sugar into the muscles and dispose of lactic acid and over 600 more body reactions. Taking a magnesium supplement or soaking in an Epsom salt bath will help to replenish low magnesium storage and promote faster recovery.

– This is my fave protein powder: Dr. Lipman’s Sustain Plant Protein or Whey Protein.
– My sources for Magnesium: Integrative Therapeutics Magnesium Malate and Calm Magnesium.

 

#3 HYDRATE

Proper hydration regulates body temperature, lubricates the joints, and helps the body function at its peak. When going through an intense workout, we can sweat out over 30-50 oz of fluid. So if you’re depleted and close to dehydration, your body will see signs of muscle weakness, cramping and spasming. Adequate hydration is essential to refill what you’ve just excreted so be sure to not only drink post workout but before and during. Drink 8oz or more of water 30 minutes before your workout, 8oz during, and 10-12 oz after is ideal.

 

#4  PASSIVE RECOVERY

Unlike active recovery, passive recovery is literally doing nothing but relaxing your body and allowing it to heal. Getting a massage, elevating your feet, relaxing in a steam room or infrared sauna, salt baths, acupuncture, cold chambers, ice compression, cold baths, and a night of restful sleep are great ways to recover. These methods allow the body to rest, decompress, reduce inflammation, increase circulation, and rebuild itself so you can heal and prepare for your next training session.

 

We all have fitness goals and are so focused on achieving them but if these elements are not part of your routine, then all your efforts in training and hitting those goals will be twice as hard. Make a checklist for yourself and keep these top of mind. It is just as, if not more, important than your training. Make the time for these “must do’s” so you show up 100% for each and every workout and keep your body healthy and strong.

 

Every body is different. If you’d like to learn more about how you can incorporate these methods and build a specific plan that fits your fitness and wellness goals, send me an email to schedule a complimentary online consultation.

 

3 Tips: How to Motivate Yourself to Work Out!

alternate hand to foot kicks

Now that we have reached mid January, we should have some plan in place to work towards our intentions and goals for this year. As every year, most new year goals are fitness or health related. But where do you start and how do you keep that momentum going? Check out my 3 tips featured on Garage Gym Planner  that will help (and keep) you motivated all year long and reaching your fitness goals!

#1 FIND A FRIEND AND SET A GOAL

Working with a partner or in a team keeps you focused and accountable in reaching any fitness goal. Nothing like having like-minded people support and motivate you!

#2 JOIN A GROUP CLEANSE

Try a cleanse that will help support your workout routine. Consider eating clean and detox for 2-4 weeks. You will feel amazing and more than likely keep up with a cleaner lifestyle.

#3 TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Think of an activity or workout you’ve always wanted to try, then do it. Make a list of all the things you’ve always wanted to do and have been making excuses why you haven’t done it.

 

For more motivational tips from other trainers and wellness experts on getting your workout in, check out their full article here.

Workout at Work!

It can be tough to get in your workouts during the summer. Lots of travel plans, temptation of happy hour, or just choosing to bum around at the park, it’s inevitable that our workouts end up being last on our list. I admit that I’ve skipped a few workouts to hit the beach instead. So if your summer schedule is packed and you just can’t find the time…well there is hope!

If you’ve got just 15 minutes at work (and you know you do!), there’s no excuse not to sneak in a quick workout so you can at least maintain and keep your body fit. Try these exercises and stretches and build a mini workout in your office.

 

WORK IT OUT AT WORK!

Sliding Split Squat

split squat chair

Stand up straight with one foot on a rolling chair. Start sliding the chair back as you bend the front knee into a right angle. Slightly lean your torso over the front leg but keep your back straight. Slide the chair back to the front leg, repeat, and switch leg. Try 3 sets of 15 repetitions. 

 

Push Ups

push up

Set your body up in a plank position against your desk with straight arms set shoulder width apart. Bend your elbows into a right angle lowering your body towards your desk, keeping elbows in line with the shoulders, then press yourself back up. Try 3 sets of 20-30 repetitions.

 

Squats

squat

Place your chair slightly behind you to give yourself a boundary. Set your feet hip width apart, extend your arms straight, and begin to bend your knees moving your hips back towards the chair. Try not to sit fully into the chair instead tap the chair gently and then stand right back up. Make sure to keep your knees in line with your toes and don’t allow them to move past your toes when squatting. Try 3 sets of 20 repetitions.

 

Tricep Dips

tricep dips

Move your chair up against a wall or desk so it doesn’t move. Place your hands on the edge of your chair and extend your legs straight but keep your back close to the edge. Bend your elbows to a right angle, aligning the elbows with your shoudlers, then press yourself back up. To modify, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Try 3 sets of 15 repetitions. 

 

Walking Lunges

walking lunge

Take a big step forward bending both knees to a right angle. Then step the back leg forward next to the front leg or into the next lunge step. Make your way down a long hallway or just step forward and back in a smaller space. Make sure your front knee does not go past your toes. Take 40 lunge steps total (can be broken up into 4 sets of 10 steps)

 

STRETCH IT OUT AT WORK!

 

Chest Stretch

chest stretch

Stand right next to a wall or filing cabinet and raise your arm back and up so your inner arm is resting against the wall. Try to keep your shoulders in line and your arm as straight as possible. Switch arms. Hold for 30-40 seconds. 

 

Figure 4 Hip Stretch

figure 4

Sitting in your chair, bend one knee and place the foot on the other knee. Make sure to flex the foot to stabilize the knee. Lean forward towards the top leg, keeping your spine straight with a slight arch in the lower back. Switch legs. Hold for 60 seconds each leg. 

 

Hip Flexor Stretch

low lunge

Set your legs up in a very long lunge making sure your front knee is right above the ankle and position the back knee as far back as you can while keeping your hips in a straight line. Drop your hips forward as you lift your chest up, placing your hands on your front knee to stabilize and assist with a straight back. Switch legs. Hold for 40-60 seconds each leg. 

 

Seated Spinal Twist

spinal twist

Sit up straight in your chair. Turn your torso to the right, keeping your hips anchored and rotating only at the waist. Hold on to the back of the chair and right knee to assist with a deeper twist.  Look over your right shoulder.  Make sure to keep a slight arch in the lower back and your upper back straight. Repeat on the left side. Hold for 30 seconds each side. 

 

These exercises and stretches can be done as many times as you’d like throughout the day. It doesn’t take any equipment or much space so really…there are no excuses. 🙂 Be desk-smart and use that space and time to the fullest and sneak it in that workout! Then you can hit the beach and all the happy hours you want guilt free! Happy Summer!

8 Minutes to a Stronger Core

Here’s a typical ab routine: 50 sit ups, 50 crunches, hold plank for 1 minute and repeat. A bit boring, redundant, and after some time…ineffective. There’s nothing wrong with those exercises but there is so much more to strengthening your core than crunches and planks.

Most equate the “core” with the abdominals, which is the outer most visible layer, of course, that’s when it’s not covered with fat :). But the core muscles extend far beyond the abs. The major core muscles lay deep beneath the exterior musculature that people typically train. These muscles are the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis, erector spinae, multifidus, internal and external obliques, quadratus lumborum and the rectus abdominis. The minor core muscles are the hip flexor muscle group, adductors, hamstrings, latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and the trapezius. Basically, all the muscles that attach to the pelvis work together to functionally move, support, and stabilize the spine.

Core1

The core provides us with three dimensional functional movement which is more than just the lateral exercises most ab/core workouts include. Our daily activities include movements in all three planes: frontal (forward/back), sagittal (side to side), and transverse (rotation). Therefore we should train our core to be stronger while moving in those 3 planes, right? Right! So check out this quick and effective workout that will train your core front, back and around.

MINUTE #1: SUPERMAN

Superman

Break it down:
– Lay on stomach with arms extended alongside ears.
– Press the pubic bone into the floor to initiate a lift in the chest, arms, and legs.
– Engage back body muscles to lift higher and lower down with control.
– Reach fingers and toes in opposite direction to create length in the spine. Slight squeeze of the glutes and inner thighs to lift the legs up higher.

Targets:
– Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings, adductors, glutes, and trapezius

 

MINUTE #2: GLIDING ELBOW PLANKS

Gliding elbow planks 1

Break it down: 
– Start in elbow plank aligning shoulders directly over the elbows, body parallel to the floor, forearms push against the floor to slightly round upper back, legs engaged, feet flexed.
– Slide shoulders forward so they glide past the elbows. Feet glide forward onto tip toes.
– Slide shoulders back so they move slightly behind elbows. Feet glide back onto the balls or mid foot.

Targets:
– Rectus abdominis, multifidus, transversus abdominis, serratus anterior and posterior, pectorals, and deltoids.

 

MINUTE #3: SIDE LEG LIFTS

sideleglifts1

Break it down:

– Lay on one side with hips slightly tilted forward. Relax head and neck and place arms under the head.
– Place a block in between the feet to keep adductors (inner thighs) engaged.
– Squeeze the block and engage obliques to lift both legs up. Try to relax upper body.

Targets:
– Transversus abdominis, multifidus, external/internal obliques, and adductors

 

MINUTE #4: SIDE PLANK TWISTS

sideplanktwists

Break it down:
– Set up in side plank on the right side with shoulders directly positioned on top of the hand. Stagger feet so the right foot is in front of the left.
– Bend the left elbow to bring hand behind the head and open the chest.
– Push the floor away with the right hand to stabilize core and slightly lift right leg up towards abdomen.
– Move your left elbow across chest towards the leg so the elbow and knee connect in the middle.
– Release the foot back down while opening the chest.
– Repeat for 30 seconds then switch to the left side.

Targets:
– Rectus abdominis, multifidus, internal/external obliques, quadriceps, deltoids, serratus anterior/posterior, transversus abdominis

PERFORM THESE EXERCISES 2x FOR A TOTAL OF 8 MINUTES! 

Add these exercises to your routine and give your core a three dimensional workout. Targeting the front, back, and sides of your core will help you set up a stronger and more stable foundation. Your core becomes a force transfer center and stabilizer to assist you in all exercises and every day activities. The more you understand the muscles that make up your core, the more they will work. Training your entire core to work efficiently will help with balance and stability, a straighter spine, better posture, injury prevention and a stronger, more powerful you! Win Win! Now get to work! 

 

5 Stretches For Better Hip Mobility

In a general sense, mobility is the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. In the fitness world, mobility is being able to perform functional movement patterns without restrictions in range of motion (ROM)

The hip joint is the largest and one of the most important joints of the body. It bears our entire body weight when we walk, run, and jump.  Functionally, the hip joint is one of the most flexible joints and allows the greatest range of motion yet it’s also one of the tightest areas of the body and one that creates chronic and reverberating pain. It connects our upper and lower body so the muscles attached above and below the hip are affected by movements supported by this joint system. These movements require work from these muscles that stabilize and support and will place a certain level of force on the hip. The hip joint must accommodate these forces repeatedly. With repetitive motion, tightness occurs which create restrictions in the body. Mobility becomes challenging due to these limitations.

Open hips help to relieve back pain, improve circulation through the legs, increase agility and flexibility of your gait which all equates to better mobility.  The hips are also at the center of your body and alignment so releasing the hips will help to relieve tightness in areas above and below this ball and socket joint. Super important!

Here are 5 stretches to help you increase hip mobility. 

LOW LUNGE

anjaneyasana

GREAT FOR:
– Releasing tightness in the lower back especially for those that experience sciatica and LBP (lower back pain)
– Opening the hip flexors (psoas, rectus femoris, TFL) and the front chain of your body (rectus abdominis, pectoral muscles, side waists)
– Increasing ROM for faster and more agile movements

SOME TIPS:
– Keep the front foot directly under the knee
– Slide back leg as far back as you can so you’re above the knee joint and not directly on the patella (knee bone)
– Try to connect back pinky toe to the floor (slight internal rotation of back leg)
– Draw the abdominals in to protect lower back when leaning back

 

LIZARD POSE

lizard

GREAT FOR:
– Stretching and releasing inner thighs while opening the hip flexors
– Increasing range of motion and gait for longer strides
– Opening the chest and shoulders

SOME TIPS:
– Align the front knee directly above the foot
– Keep back leg as straight as you can. Drop the back knee to the floor to modify
– Keep chest lifted and back as flat as you can (avoid rounding upper back)
– Draw the front knee as close to the shoulder (midline) as you can

 

PIGEON POSE

pigeon

GREAT FOR:
– Relieving chronic LBP and sciatica
– Opening the hip flexors and inner thighs
– Releasing tension and increase ROM in the hip rotator muscles (glute medius, glute minimus, piriformis, gemellis)
– Increasing circulation through the legs and digestive and reproductive systems

SOME TIPS:
– Keep back leg as straight as you can
– Keep hips squared by placing each hip on its own side of the mat
– Keep front shin parallel to the front of your mat. Modify by propping your seat up with blankets or blocks
– Keep front foot flexed to stabilize the knee joint

 

COW FACE POSE

garudasana2

GREAT FOR:
– Releasing tension in the outer hips and lower back
– Opening all hip rotators muscles
– Stretches ankle joints

SOME TIPS:
– Flex both feet to stabilize knees
– Cross legs at the knee joint
– Prop your seat up with blankets or blocks to modify
– Keep a straight back when leaning forward over the legs
– Breathe…this is a very intense hip stretch!

 

ANKLE TO KNEE

ankletoknee

GREAT FOR:
– Relieving tightness in LBP and sciatic pain
– Releasing hip flexors and rotators
– Increasing ROM for quicker and longer lateral movements

SOME TIPS:
– Align both feet above and below the knees to form a triangle with both legs
– Flex both feet to stabilize knee joint
– Keep lower back slighted arched and back straight when leaning forward

*Hold each stretch for at least 20-30 deep and long breaths. I promise it gets easier, the longer you stay in the stretch.

The muscles and attachments of your hip joint are extremely strong, as they should be to keep this large joint stable. However this also makes stretching it a challenge! For those that sit all day long, your hips are in a constant state of flexion, so working on flexiblity and mobility is not to be overlooked. The tighter the hip, the less you use them. The less you use them, the tighter they get. Vicious cycle! So the more you release and open the hips, the more you can release tension and prevent restrictions…all leading to better mobility. We can all agree that we want to move without limitations and more importantly without pain. So the more mobile our bodies are, the faster we can move and feel good doing so.

 

 

3 Back Exercises You Should Be Doing!

At least once a day, I hear someone complain about pain in their lower back. Slipped or bulging discs, pinched nerves, back spasms, tightness, chronic pain…to name a few. With all the sitting, twisting, bending, and pounding we do on a daily basis, it’s hard to have a healthy and happy back. I can see how 3 out of 4 people have experienced some form of back pain, making it 90% of Americans with LBP (lower back pain).

The muscles of the back are very complex but yet divisible as each layer serves a specific purpose in movement.

  • Superficial Layer: attaches and moves the upper extremities
    • Trapezius
    • Latissimus Dorsi
    • Levator Scapulae
    • Rhomboid Group
  • Intermediate Layer: in charge of breathing and expansion as they are connected to the ribs
    • Serratus Posterior Group
  • Deep Layer: moves the trunk and supports the entire back
    • Spinalis
    • Multifidus
    • Longissimus
    • Iliocostalis
    • Splenius group

Due to high stress in our lives and the hours of sitting, it’s inevitable that our backs will start to change shape and adapt to the environment that we expose it to. Poor posture, weakness, tightness, and compensations are the common sides effect of poor functioning in the back. The importance of keeping your back strong and posture in alignment will absolutely help with your quality of life along with performing basic everyday movements and activities, particularly in exercise and sport.

Some great back exercises are the more common ones you will see at the gym.

  • Seated row
  • One arm row
  • Pull ups/ chin ups
  • Lat pulldowns

These exercises are definitely a part of my routine. But the 3 back exercises below target so much more than just the superficial layer of the back. They tap into all the layers and give your legs and core a workout and stretch, too.

 

#1 DEADLIFTS: Not only the quintessential weightlifting exercise but also an exercise that mimics a real life lift. Picking up your baby, a heavy box, luggage, a table, all should be in the form of a deadlift.

Deadlift2

Important Form to Keep:

– Feet are set up hip width apart
– Slight natural arch in the lower back
– Chest up to avoid lower back rounding
– Hips go back first and then knees bend

 

#2 BENT OVER BARBELL ROWS: a full body compound exercise that works the upper and lower back, abs, hips, and arms. This exercise isolates these muscles to build a stronger and more muscular back.

NewRow

Important Form to Keep: 

– Keep knees slightly bent
– Natural arch in the lower back
– Keep head neutral in line with your spine
– Keep your torso parallel to the floor. If need to, come up a few inches when pulling the back to the chest.
– Avoid thrusting hips forward when pulling heavier weight.

 

#3 SLIDING COBRA (BACK EXTENSIONS): a Pilates twist to the typical back extensions you see on the Roman Chair/Hyperextension bench. Use glides or small towels under each hand for easy sliding. Looks pretty easy and graceful until your third or fourth rep. 🙂 Works the upper and lower back plus the glutes, abs, obliques, hamstring, triceps while stretching and opening the chest. Sweet!

Extensions2

Important Form to Keep:
– Relax your shoulders and trapezius so there’s lots of space between your ears and shoulders
– Press your hips into the floor to initiate the lift
– Avoid squeezing glutes
– Squeeze shoulder blades together to keep chest open
– Keep head neutral in line with spine

Our back muscles are layered and multi-functional and most of them attach to our spine. Which is why they control so much of how we stand and why we experience LBP. We use these muscles daily and often demand more from them than they can handle. So build a strong back so the spine is in its proper and optimal position. This will also enable your body to move in a full range of motion through a strong foundation so restrictions won’t prevent you from doing a certain exercise, lifting a heavy object, or just moving throughout your day.  So if you don’t already incorporate these back exercises into your routine, now is the time!

Strong Backs = Better Postures! Get to it! 🙂 

A THANKSGIVING WORKOUT YOU MUST DO

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!! 

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!

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!

 

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

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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!