Strengthen Your Core with the Plank

24 Aug

EX+plankcore-abdominal-and-lower-back-exercises-23[1]The plank is one of my favorite core strengthening exercises.  Most variations require little or no equipment and can be done anywhere.  Additionally, the plank works your entire core — shoulders to hips — and not just your abs.

The basic plank is done with hands (or forearms) and feet on the floor, as if you were in the pushup “up” position (pictured).  Here are several variations of the plank exercise that can further challenge and strengthen your core musculature:

  • One arm elevated
  • One leg elevated
  • One arm and one (opposite) leg elevated
  • Side plank
  • Hands on BOSU ball (flat side up)
  • Feet on physioball
  • Hands (or forearms) on physioball
  • Alternating, opposite elbow to knee
  • TRX plank with feet suspended
  • TRX plank with arms suspended
  • Weighted plank (wearing a weighted vest, or with a weight plate on your back)

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Are You Addicted to Food?

22 Aug

Food-addiction-1[1]For some people, food delivers a false sense of security for dealing with stress.  In the short-term, eating can make you feel better, but only temporarily.  The key is to manage your food “addiction” by developing healthy, daily habits that “re-wire” your brain, keeping you happy, healthy, and productive.

You might get your “fix” from yoga, a hobby, meditation, listening to music, volunteer work, painting, or some form of exercise (weight-lifting, swimming, hiking, biking, running, etc.).  Basically, you’re looking for a healthy, productive substitute to eating.

Here are some tips for your daily routine:

Make it healthy.  Choose one new productive habit you’d like to adopt to achieve your goals, such as eating healthy meals and snacks to support your weight-loss goals.

Be honest with yourself.  Understand what it is you want to change and what triggers unproductive, undesirable behaviors.

Face your fears.  What’s the worst that could happen if you succeed?  Change can be scary, but your imagined fears are probably worse than reality.

Be committed.  Convert your fears into positive affirmations of your goals.  Commit your goals to writing and say them, aloud, every day.  “I am committed to being a healthy person.”

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Creatine for Female Athletes

15 Aug

pGNC1-4505613dt[1]Although there are dietary supplements that have been shown to improve performance – in addition to training alone – including creatine and whey protein, they are often underused by female athletes.

In a Strength and Conditioning Journal article, Joan M. Eckerson, PhD, FNSCA provides information and rationale for creatine as an ergogenic aid for female athletes.

Effects of creatine supplementation for female athletes include:

  • Enhances muscular strength and power with minimal effects on body composition
  • Favorable effect on anaerobic performance and fatigue
  • Enhances recovery from aerobic exercise

Creatine is not an anabolic steroid – it is naturally produced by the body.  It enhances performance by reducing fatigue and enhancing recovery, providing for a greater stimulus of training.

Creatine increases both strength and power without large fluctuations in body weight or muscle mass.

Creatine may be especially beneficial for women involved in “power” sports – those that require short bursts of high-intensity activity (for example, basketball, volleyball, sprinters and throwers, soccer, field hockey, and tennis).

Creatine does not impair aerobic performance and may enhance recovery.

Creatine is safe and effective when taken as recommended.  Individuals with pre-existing kidney or liver problems should consult with their physician before taking creatine.

Creatine has not been reported to intensify premenstrual symptoms.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Summer Means Watermelon

12 Aug

juicy_watermelon_wallpaper[1]Watermelon has been around for thousands of years.  Although most of us consider it a fruit, it actually comes from the same plant family as the cucumber, squash, and pumpkin.

Watermelon is a perfect, juicy summer treat.  It is over 90% water, so it can help you stay hydrated.  Watermelon is high in lycopene (more than tomatoes) — a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your cells and DNA.  Research has shown that lycopene reduces the risk of certain cancers and increases energy.  It is also a good source of vitamin C and other nutrients.

Watermelon is also versatile.  You can slice it and eat it as you would any other fruit, serve it as a soup or in a salad, or season and eat the seeds as a snack.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER

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The Fallacy of Workout Duration

10 Aug

gym-weight-plate-clock[1]More is not necessarily better, when it comes to strength and conditioning.

Many trainers would have their clients believe that hour-long (or more) workouts are required to get results.  Sadly, I know of a trainer – a PhD, no less – who has gone on record saying that workouts lasting less than an hour are a waste of time.  And this individual is not the only trainer conveying this misinformation.

There is no support, in the scientific literature, that “more is better.”  As a matter of fact, there can be a diminishing return as workout frequency and volume increase.

The key is to focus on effort, not time.

You can get the same – or better – results in less time, but you have to work hard.  Think workout intensity instead of workout duration.

More importantly, your training should incorporate task-specificity: The appropriate weight, repetitions, sets, rest intervals, and exercise selection, based on your desired goal/outcome. (a qualified, knowledgeable strength and conditioning professional can help!)

Work hard and work smart.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Stay in the Game

8 Aug

NCAA FOOTBALL 2010: Oct 02 Wyoming at ToledoIt’s important for athletes (and everyone else) to take care of themselves, physically and mentally.  You can’t skip the basics of good physical and mental health and expect to perform at a high level.  Here are some tips to help you stay active:

Make exercise a habit.  If you do something on a regular basis, it becomes part of your life.  Regular exercise has demonstrated the ability to improve physical and mental well-being.

Take it easy.  Try to relax rather than putting a lot of stress on yourself.  When you’re relaxed, you’ll be better prepared and see things more clearly.

Listen to your body.  One of the biggest mistakes athletes make is coming back from injury too soon.  Take some time to allow your body to heal normally.

Don’t overdo it… moderation is the key.  Whether it’s your diet or exercise, avoid an extreme, fanatical approach and don’t go overboard.

Believe in you.  When you’re confident, it enhances a lot of things, including your physical and mental performance and achievement.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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I’ll Just Go to the Gym Tomorrow…

5 Aug

Stop-300x200[1]Does this sound familiar?  Perhaps something you, yourself, have thought or said?

Don’t let a busy schedule derail your exercise or weight-loss goals.  Exercise isn’t about having time, it’s about making time.  If it’s important, you’ll make time (and it is important).

So how do you solve the time problem? Maybe you need to convince yourself that  lack of time isn’t actually the problem. It’s you. Instead of coming up with  creative ways to talk yourself out of your workout, spend some brain power on  talking yourself into working out.

Stop wasting time on unnecessary activities.  Many of us spend far too much of our precious time lounging on the sofa watching mindless television programs, or sitting in front of a computer.

Get up earlier in the morning or go to bed later at night.  You really only need 30 minutes of daily exercise to help with weight loss and maintain good health and fitness.

Fit in exercise sessions during downtime.  Whenever you have as little as 10 minutes to spare you can perform a few exercises.  And if you can manage to do 10 minutes three times each day, you have done your 30 minutes of daily exercise.

The hardest part is getting started and making it a routine. After it’s a habit it’s a cake walk.

Pack your gym bag the night before, so it’s there as a reminder of what you need to do the next day.

Keep a notebook and plan your workout schedule for the week in advance each week so you have an idea of what you’re going to be doing.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Train Your Brain, Improve Your Focus

3 Aug

mental-training[1]The digital media era is supposed to have made us smarter and more efficient.  In reality, it has probably had the opposite effect, fragmenting our attention and making it more difficult to focus on the task at hand.  Here are some suggestions to help improve your effectiveness, efficiency, focus, and productivity:

  • Focus on what you’re doing.  Stop multi-tasking — when you do, every level of performance is lowered.  Your brain wasn’t wired to do two things at once.  When you do one thing at a time, you increase brainpower and energy.
  • Prioritize.  Focus on just a few critical things per day.  Forget about the to-do list approach, where you address the quickest, easiest things first.  Tackle the two items that require the most energy and don’t allow yourself to be disrupted during that time.
  • Avoid lengthy email sessions.  You’re better off dealing with most issues with a quick phone call or in-person conversation rather than a lengthy email exchange. If that’s not possible, at least limit email to three times a day or the last 10 minutes of every hour.
  • Interval training.  I’ve written a bunch about interval training for athletes.  Just as endurance athletes understand the importance of alternating between hard bouts of work and periods of lesser activity or rest, why not apply this concept to the brain?  Get started by focusing for just 15 minutes on one task. Don’t allow anything to distract you during that time frame. Gradually work your way up to 30 minutes and an hour.
  • Clear your mind.  I’m not referring to meditation.  What I am talking about is temporarily “unplugging” all the digital distractions — stepping away from the computer, cell phone… even the car radio.  Doing this for even a few minutes can help you think more deeply and change your brain for the better.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Is Creatine For You?

1 Aug

pGNC1-4505613dt[1]Are you an endurance athlete?  If so, creatine can help you recover.  Do you lift weights?  Creatine can help you do more work per set.  Are you a sprinter?  Creatine delivers more energy for interval training and agility sports, like basketball and soccer.

Creatine is your primary fuel for explosive, high-intensity exercise.  It is found in foods like meat and fish.  Your body also makes its own creatine, but supplementation can increase your supply by as much as 33%.

If you’re looking to get bigger, start with a loading dose — 20 grams per day, in 5 gram doses, for the first five days.  If you play sports that require quick movements, skip the loading dose and take 3-5 grams per day.  With regard to safety, as long as you adhere to the appropriate dosing guidelines, creatine is safe.  If you have heart or kidney problems, talk with your doctor before taking creatine.

Forget about all the designer forms of creatine — they’re all marketing hype.  Stick with creatine monohydrate.  German creatine is high quality (look for the “Creapure” seal), as is creatine made in the U.S.  Powder, tablets, and bars are all effective forms of creatine.  Avoid liquid forms.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Apple with Peanut Butter: The Ideal Snack

29 Jul

peanut-butter-apples[1]Good nutrition bars are really hard to find (unless, of course, you have access to Whey Better Cookies).  Sure, there are some good ones out there, but most are full of cheap fats, sugars, and unnecessary additives.

The goal should be to find a portable, nutritious snack with a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein, and 5-10 grams of fiber.  Most of us fall short of the recommended 38 grams of fiber per day.  Fiber is a slow-digesting nutrient that can help you stave off hunger until your next meal.

The next time you’re looking for some grab-and-go nutrition, consider an apple with peanut butter (1.5 Tbsp):

  • 240 calories
  • 8 g protein
  • 30 g carbohydrates (6 g fiber, 21 g sugars)
  • 12 g fats

It just may be the ideal snack.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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