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frankzappa

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  1. This compilation of flexibility exercises targets all the major muscle groups. Stretching should form a fundamental part of any exercise program and not just as part of the warm up… In fact recent research suggests that static stretching may not be beneficial before training or athletic performance. Dynamic stretching seems to be more appropriate as part of the warm up. If you’re not sure what the difference is between various types of stretching see the main flexibility training section for more details. The flexibility exercises on this page are classed as static stretches. When is static stretching best performed? Ideally, after an exercise session when the body is fully warm. Many athletes perform a series of flexibility exercises like those below at the end of a training session or even after competition. While you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from stretching, you should be thoroughly warmed up before you begin to stretch. Here are some general guidelines to bear in mind when following a flexibility program… You should be thoroughly warmed up before performing these exercises Stretch to just before the point of discomfort The feeling of tightness should diminish as you hold the stretch Breath out into the stretch. Avoid breath holding Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds If tightness intensifies or you feel pain stop the stretch Shake out limbs between stretches Complete 2-3 stretches before moving onto the next exercise
  2. 14 Seated Neck Release Karen Joubert, D.P.T., owner of Joubert Physical Therapy in Beverly Hills, tells SELF that most people tend to forget to stretch the neck. But relieving tension in your neck can make a positive impact on the rest of your upper body, from your shoulders to your spine. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, or sit down with your back straight and chest lifted. Drop your left ear to your left shoulder. To deepen the stretch, gently press down on your head with your left hand. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Stretches neck 15 Lying Quad Stretch Lie on one side. Keep your bottom leg straight and bend your top knee so your foot is by your butt. Hold your top foot with your hand, pulling it toward your butt. Keep your hips stable so you're not rocking back as you pull. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Switch sides and repeat. Stretches quads 16 Sphinx Pose New York City-based yoga instructor Shanna Tyler tells SELF that this pose stretches the lower back in a gentle way—plus, it engages your abs, which further supports the lower back. Lie on your stomach with your legs straight out behind you. Place your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms on the floor as you lift your chest up off the floor. Press your hips and thighs into the floor, and think about lengthening your spine while keeping your shoulders relaxed. Sit up just enough to feel a nice stretch in your lower back. Don't hyperextend, and stop immediately if you start to feel any discomfort or pain. Stretches lower back, chest, shoulders 17 Extended Puppy Pose Start on all fours. Walk your arms forward a few inches and curl your toes under. Push your hips up and back halfway toward your heels. Push through the palms of your hands to keep your arms straight and engaged. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Stretches back, shoulders, glutes 18 Pretzel Stretch "I like the pretzel stretch because it stretches multiple important postural muscles in one stretch, which can be a huge time saver," Cyrelson says. You'll stretch the quads of your bottom leg, your spine, and the glutes and hip flexors of your top leg. Lie on your left side with your head resting on your arm. Bend your right knee and hip up toward your chest as far as you can, and let it drop to the floor. Bend your left knee and grab your left foot (use a strap if you can’t reach it) with your right hand. Make sure your leg and torso remain in a straight line as you gently bring your top shoulder blade toward the floor. For more of a spinal twist, turn your head to look over your right shoulder. Stretches quads, glutes, obliques, hips, back 19 Reclining Bound Angle Pose "This is an excellent stretch to do both as a gentle warm-up and at the end of a workout as a releasing pose," Murray says. "Due to the passive nature of the posture, it can and should be adjusted based on how the body is feeling to encourage the proper stretch and release." He suggests using pillows or a rolled up towels as bolsters under your knees if you need the support at first. Lie on your back. Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to open up and move closer to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Stretches inner thighs, hips, groin 20 Standing Quad Stretch Stand with your feet together. Bend your left knee and use your left hand to pull your left foot toward your butt. Keep your knees together. If you need to, put one hand on a wall for balance. Squeeze your glutes to increase the stretch in the front of your legs. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Repeat on the other leg. Stretches quads 21 Knees to Chest Lie on your back and pull your knees into your chest with both hands. Keep your lower back on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Stretches lower back, glutes
  3. 4 Triceps Stretch Kneel, sit, or stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms extended overhead. Bend your right elbow and reach your right hand to touch the top middle of your back. Reach your left hand overhead and grasp just below your right elbow. Gently pull your right elbow down and toward your head. Switch arms and repeat. Stretches neck, shoulders, back, triceps 5 Figure Four Stretch "This specifically stretches the piriformis and iliopsoas muscles (essentially your hip rotator and flexor muscles) and the IT band. Because of this and the passive nature of the pose, it is an excellent and gentle approach to helping relieve symptoms associated with sciatica and knee pain," John Murray, yoga instructor and co-founder of Lyons Den Power Yoga, tells SELF. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Cross your left foot over your right quad. Lift your right leg off the floor. Grab onto the back of your right leg and gently pull it toward your chest. When you feel a comfortable stretch, hold there. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Switch sides and repeat. Stretches hips, glutes, lower back, hamstrings 6 90/90 Stretch This modification of pigeon pose helps with internal rotation of one leg and external rotation of the other, "so you're hitting both movements of the hip at once," Atkins says. It's a good option for people who have extremely tight hip flexors, she adds. "The front thigh is safely on the ground in a position that doesn't cause too much stress." Sit with your right knee bent at 90-degrees in front of you, calf perpendicular to your body and the sole of your foot facing to the left. Keep your right foot flexed. Let your leg rest flat on the floor. Place your left knee to the left of your body, and bend the knee so that your foot faces behind you. Keep your left foot flexed. Keep your right butt cheek on the floor. Try to move the left cheek as close to the floor as possible. It may not be possible if you're super tight. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Repeat on the other side. Stretches hips 7 Frog Stretch "Most of us sit and cross our legs, which can lead to tight hips and result in lower-back pain," Lacee Lazoff, a NASM-certified personal trainer and instructor at the Fhitting Room in New York City, tells SELF. "This stretch directly target tights spots in the hips/groin and is especially useful for runners." Start on all fours. Slide your knees wider than shoulder-width apart. Turn your toes out and rest the inner edges of your feet flat on the floor. Shift your hips back toward your heels. Move from your hands to your forearms to get a deeper stretch, if possible. Hold for for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. 8 Butterfly Stretch Sit tall on the floor with the soles of your feet together, knees bent out to sides. Hold onto your ankles or feet, engage your abs, and slowly lower your body toward your feet as far as you can while pressing your knees toward the floor. If you're too tight to bend over, simply press your knees down. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Stretches hips, glutes, back, thighs 9 Seated Shoulder Squeeze "I love this stretch because it relieves poor posture and releases tension in the upper back," Jess Sims, a NASM-certified personal trainer and instructor at Shadowbox and the Fhitting Room in New York City, tells SELF. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Clasp your hands behind your lower back. Straighten and extend your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Do this for 3 seconds, and then release. Repeat 5 to 10 times. 10 Side Bend Stretch Kneel on the floor with your legs together, back straight, and core tight. Extend your left leg out to the side. Keep it perpendicular to your body (not in front or behind you). Extend your right arm overhead, rest your left arm on your left leg, and gently bend your torso and right arm to the left side. Keep your hips facing forward. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Repeat on the other side. Stretches groin, hips, inner thigh, obliques 11 Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch Kneel on your left knee. Place your right foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent. Lean forward, stretching your left hip toward the floor. Squeeze your butt; this will allow you to stretch your hip flexor even more. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Switch sides and repeat. Stretches hips, quads, glutes 12 Lying Pectoral Stretch "This is a great stretch to do before or after pushing motions," like push-ups or rows, Zack Daley, a NASM-certified personal trainer and head coach at Tone House in New York City, tells SELF. Lie on your stomach with both arms extended to the sides so your body is in a T shape. Push off the ground with your left hand and bend your left knee for balance as you start to roll to your right side. You should feel this in your right-side pectoral muscles. As your mobility increases, you'll be able to stretch further and roll your body further. Repeat on the other side. Stretches chest, shoulders 13 Knee to Chest Stretch Lie on your back with both legs extended. Pull your right knee into your chest, while keeping the left leg straight and your lower back pressed into the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Repeat on the other leg. Stretches lower back, hips, hamstrings
  4. Stretching may not be the most exciting part of working out, but doing flexibility work is just as important for a well-rounded fitness routine as strength and cardio work. Incorporating some stretching exercises into your workout schedule will help you improve flexibility, reduce tightness, and ultimately, make your workouts more efficient and safe. "Tight muscles can cause undue strain on the neighboring joints during normal daily function, or they themselves can become injured," Sasha Cyrelson, D.P.T., clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy in Sicklerville, New Jersey, tells SELF. As we age, our muscles get shorter and less elastic, she adds. "We need to take an active role in maintaining and improving the length of our muscles so we can continue to enjoy our abilities without pain." It's true that stretching is neither glamorous nor hardcore, and it probably won't give you the same rush that a run or HIIT class will. "It is uncomfortable and it takes time, so people don’t like to do it," Cyrelson says. "However, you can’t just do strength training and cardio without putting yourself at risk for injury and pain." By doing a ton of work that contracts the muscles (which shortens them) and never stretching (lengthening) them, your muscles will end up imbalanced. Imbalances in the body increase your risk for injury because they can cause some muscles and joints to overcompensate for other ones that are too tight to engage properly. This leads to strains and discomfort. Also, when your muscles are loose and stretchy, they're less restricted. This allows you to move them wider a full range of motion (ROM). For example, greater range of motion in your hips and knees will allow you to sink deeper into a squat. Ultimately, having a greater ROM will make it so you're able to do more exercises—and do them properly. Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., instructor at Soul Annex in New York City and creator of Le Stretch class, tells SELF that she likes to use the word mobility instead of flexibility to hammer home how important stretching is for everyday life. "For me, it's about about daily things that become harder the older you get, like bending down to tie a shoe, walking upstairs, picking your kid up from the floor, or even just getting up off the couch." Improving your mobility makes these daily activities easier—"you can move more freely," Atkins says. Luckily, improving your flexibility and mobility isn't hard. It just takes a little time. Try adding the stretches for flexibility that Atkins demos below into your routine to help relieve muscle tension and increase mobility—so that you can move through both the gym and life more freely. 1 Standing Hamstring Stretch Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms by your sides. Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lowering your head toward floor, while keeping your head, neck and shoulders relaxed. Wrap your arms around backs of your legs and hold anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes. Bend your knees and roll up when you're done. Stretches neck, back, glutes, hamstrings, calves 2 Piriformis Stretch The piriformis muscle is a deep internal hip rotator, located on the outside of the butt. Its primary role is external rotation, Atkins says. "Deep internal rotators, while small, produce a lot of the movement at the hip and are often overlooked." Since the piriformis crosses over the sciatic nerve, "if it is tight, it can result in sciatic nerve irritation," Cyrelson says. "Stretching this muscle can prevent potential future sciatica, or help treat it." Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Cross your right leg over your left, and place your right foot flat on the floor. Place your right hand on the floor behind your body. Place your left hand on your right quad or your left elbow on your right knee (as shown) and press your right leg to the left as you twist your torso to the right. If the spinal rotation bothers your back, take it out and simply use your left hand to pull your right quad in and to the left. Stretches hips, back, glutes 3 Lunge With Spinal Twist Atkins notes that this stretch is commonly referred to as the World's Greatest Stretch (WGS) in the fitness community. And for good reason: "It's essential to help with posture-related pain or for people who sit for prolonged periods of time," says Dan Giordano, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., cofounder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City and Seattle. "It helps open your hips and improve thoracic (mid-back) mobility," he tells SELF. Start standing with your feet together. Take a big step forward with your left foot, so that you are in a staggered stance. Bend your left knee and drop into a lunge, keeping your right leg straight behind you with your toes on the ground, so you feel a stretch at the front of your right thigh. Place your right hand on the floor and twist your upper body to the left as you extend your left arm toward the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Repeat on the other side. Stretches hip flexors, quads, back
  5. Flexibility is necessary for people of all ages and body types. It’s never too late to start working on your flexibility. Being inflexible can cause injury when you try to move one of your joints through a certain range of motion such as reaching up for something. A lot of people tend to injure their lower backs when attempting to lift items so make sure stretches for your lower back is covered as well as following the correct procedure when lifting. You should aim to work on your flexibility every morning and night. If you’re not planning to workout, then you can do a few static stretches. This is particularly important for office workers who tend to be seated and hunched over their computer throughout the day. Just a few stretches will help to relieve those stiff joints and muscle cramps that tend to occur when they suddenly get up or rush for their bus/train. Many people like to do some yoga just after they wake up in the mornings as it helps to relieve the stiffness of muscles brought on during sleep and it is relaxing too! For fitness people, on workout days or before you play sports, you should aim to warm your body up with dynamic stretches and then perform some static stretches after your workout. Although being flexible is very beneficial, it is important to not overdo it as too much flexibility can cause the tissue around the joints to soften and that can also cause injury. So it is best to just work on your flexibility for about 15 minutes each day or every other day. If you are stuck on which exercises are best for flexibility, then check out my article ‘Top 10 Best Flexibility Exercises’ and incorporate some of these into your stretching programme.
  6. In our everyday lives, many of the movements we perform involve the use of our joints and muscles. This is where our flexibility comes into play as it helps us to do the simplest things such as vacuuming the carpet or cooking a casserole. We become more at risk of an injury the less flexible we are which also affects our posture. For athletic sports, a lack of flexibility in the body will hinder performance and inability to use the full range of motions that the body is capable of. This can lead to injuries such as a pulled muscle or a strain injury. Stretching for a few minutes on a daily basis can help to keep our bodies flexible to ensure the full ranges of motions are used and to help strengthen our muscles as well. There are different ways to stretch for flexibility. Static stretching involves holding a stretch position between 5 – 30 seconds which is ideal for yoga, as a cool down or just to improve flexibility. Dynamic stretching involves using a wider range of motions to move your arms and legs in order to prepare for your workout. HOW DOES BETTER FLEXIBILITY GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE IN SPORTS? Many top athletes stretch their muscles out before they perform their sport. Stretching improves their performance because tension is released in their muscles which will allow their muscles to stretch further due to better mobility and posture. This also decreases the chances of an injury such pulling a muscle due to overstraining. Each sport requires different uses of our muscles in our bodies so stretching programmes will differ. In boxing, the muscles to focus your stretches on should include the shoulders, arms, abdominals, legs and hip areas as this will allow for better mobility for boxers in the upper and lower body movements to evade/deliver punches. Good flexibility will increase a boxer’s speed as stiffness in the muscles and joints are decreased which will help footwork to be more effective. In sports such as badminton and tennis, flexibility will ensure the player to run around the court to reach and deliver a strong shot back over the net without risking injuries such as a sprained wrist. Typical areas that a player should focus their flexibility on are the spine, shoulder and hip. Flexibility in these areas will widen and increase your reach and allow you to twist and turn to return those overhead shots. With sports that involve a lot of lower body movements such as football and rugby, players should focus their stretches in the hip and leg areas ensuring that their hips, hamstrings, glutes and calves are stretched out correctly. Flexibility in these areas will increase your agility to ensure that you are able to run and change directions quickly and suddenly. This involves the full range of motions in bending your knees and twisting your hips. 5 TIPS ON HOW TO BECOME MORE FLEXIBLE 1. FOLLOW A PROGRAMME Follow a stretching programme that consists of static and dynamic stretches to ensure the full ranges of motions are covered to enable full use of your joints and to release tension. This programme should include exercises to stretch the muscles in your upper and lower body as well as your lower back. 2. STRETCH DAILY Aim to stretch on a daily basis or every other day for at least 15 minutes – ideally in the morning. Skipping or missing out on stretching exercises will cause your body to lose its flexibility, range of motions, balance and makes you less agile. Your body does not ‘remember’ these things, that’s why it is important to stretch daily. 3. TAKE UP YOGA Each pose in Yoga aims to stretch and strengthen different muscles in the body as staying in each pose for several minutes stretches out the tightness in your muscles. A lot of the poses targets major muscle groups that are used on a daily basis and the more often you do this, the more flexible you will become. Start off with basic/beginner poses and move onto more complicated ones as you get more flexible. 4. TAKE UP PILATES Exercises in Pilates aims to release tension and tightness in muscles which could be causing pain in movements. By practicing Pilates on a regular basis, this ensures your muscles do not become tight overtime. Weak lower back muscles tend to be caused by inflexibility thus leading to common lower back injuries. Pilates can build stronger lower back muscles to help support your body. 5. DANCE, DANCE, DANCE! Taking up dance classes will ensure you get a full body stretch of all your muscles with the warm ups and cool downs. But that’s not the reason why you should take up dance. This fun exercise requires you to move in different ways that you don’t normally in everyday activities so by pushing your body into various forms increases flexibility overall.
  7. 6. SEATED TORSO TWIST STRETCH Focus – Abdominals, obliques, glutes, hips, back and neck Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you, your back straight and core engaged. Cross your right leg over the other and place your right foot flat on the floor in line with your left knee. With your left arm, push the outer side of your bent right knee and twist your head slowly to the right to look behind your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. 7. ROLL DOWN STRETCH Focus – Lower back, abdominals, hamstrings and calves Stand with your feet a hip width apart, inhale as you lift your arms above your head and as you exhale, slowly roll your body downwards bringing your arms down and pulling in your abs in towards your spine at the same time. Make sure your knees are slightly bent as you roll down. Keep going until your hands touch your feet and slowly straighten your legs. If you are unable to do this, then place your hands on your shins instead. Keep your head pointed downwards and relaxed. Hold for 15 seconds and inhale as you return slowly to the starting position. Repeat twice. 8. TRICEPS STRETCH Focus – Triceps, shoulders and neck. Stand with your feet a hip width apart and your arms extended above your head. Whilst keeping your arm straight, bend your right elbow back so it touches your back and with your left hand, reach across overhead to hold your right elbow and pull it back and towards your head slightly. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat on the other side. Repeat twice on each side. 9. CHEST STRETCH Focus – Chest, shoulders, arms, lats and wrists In a standing or seated position with your back straight, bring your arms behind your back and clasp them together. Straighten your arms and slowly lift them upwards. Make sure your back stays straight and that your shoulders are not hunched. Hold for 15 – 30 seconds. Unclasp your hands and bring your arms forward in front of you about chest level and clasp them together. Straighten your arms but keep your back straight, you should feel a stretch in your lats and upper back. Hold for 15 – 30 seconds. 10. SIDE STRETCH Focus – obliques, shoulders, triceps and abductors In a standing position, cross your left leg in front of your right and lift your left arm above your head. Lean your head and body to your right slowly until you feel the stretch in the left side of your body. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side. If you feel unbalanced during this stretch, put your right hand on a chair for support.
  8. Having a flexible body is important and essential for our general health and well-being and as we get older, it becomes necessary if we want to avoid injuring ourselves. This can happen in the simplest of movements such as twisting around to look behind us which uses our neck, back and shoulder muscles and can be strained if you are inflexible. Being flexible also helps to improve your posture which will make you look taller and make you feel more ‘open’ as your shoulders and back are not hunched forward. Your body will become more comfortable as well as your joints and muscles will not feel so stiff. The flexibility exercises in this article will give your body good flexibility overall and it is recommended that you perform these on a daily basis or every other day for at least 15 minutes each time. 1. HIP FLEXOR STRETCH Focus – Hips, quads, hamstrings and glutes Start in a kneeling position, then bring your left leg forward into a lunge position so it should be at a 90 degree angle and your right knee should be flat on the ground. With your hands on top of your left knee, lean your hips forward and hold for 15 – 30 seconds. Then bring your left knee back to starting position and repeat on the other leg. 2. NECK STRETCH Focus – Neck In a standing position, put your left hand on the right side of your head and pull gently towards your left shoulder. You should feel a stretch in the side of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat on the other side. 3. SAMSON STRETCH Focus – Arms, shoulders, lower back and hips Start in a standing position with your feet a hip width apart. Raise your arms and elbows straight above your head, back straight, chest forward and palms facing upwards. Next move your left leg forward into a wide lunge, touch your right knee to the ground and look upwards. Hold for about 10 seconds and then bring your right leg forward to return to the starting position. Repeat on the other leg and do this three times on each side. 4. DOWNWARD DOG STRETCH Focus – Hands, wrists, back, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendon Stand with your feet hip width apart and parallel to each other. With your knees bent, bend over and place your hands flat on the floor. Walk your hands forward until your feet and hands are completely flat on the floor so your body is like an upside down ‘v’ shape. For beginners, keep your knees bent otherwise straighten your legs until you feel the stretch in your calves and hamstrings. Keep your head pointed downwards and make sure your neck is relaxed (you should be able to look at your lower leg/shin without strain), your core is firm, your knees are not touching each other and your hips are pushed back. Hold for 30 seconds. 5. CAT STRETCH Focus – lower back, mid back and traps Start on the floor on your hands and knees with your spine straight and your head pointed downwards. Inhale and as you exhale, pull your belly in towards your spine and round your shoulders in and point your head inwards so you are looking at your legs. Hold for 15 seconds and then inhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat this 3 – 5 times.
  9. Eccentric muscle action is an overall lengthening of a muscle as it develops tension and contracts to control motion performed by an outside force. For example, your calf muscle shortens to rise onto your toes but lengthens to control your descent. The lowering phase is an eccentric contraction. Why is Eccentric Strengthening Important? Muscle are basically divided into two sections. The contractile (red) muscle belly and the (white) tendon and non-contractile components. Muscle shortening (concentric contraction) stresses and predominately strengthens the red muscle belly. Active muscle lengthening (eccentric contraction) stresses and thereby strengthens the (white) tendon tissue more. For more advice on a whether an Eccentric Strengthening Program is suitable for you please consult your physiotherapist. Tendinopathies respond particularly well to eccentric exercises.
  10. Strengthening exercises are best known for bulking up your muscles and lift heavy weights. However, strengthening exercises have different requirements depending upon your treatment goals, sport or function. Basic muscle strength is required for joint control during your simple everyday tasks. These tasks can include static activities (such as sitting or standing posture) or dynamic activities (such as walking, running, reaching, lifting or throwing). The tasks that you require strengthening for pre-determines the specific strengthening exercises that will help you to achieve your goals. Your physiotherapist is an expert who can guide you. In addition to muscle strength, which can involve power, endurance and speed of contraction, the timing and balance of muscle contractions is very important. Specific Muscle Strengthening Your muscles have different roles to play. Muscles are predominately fast twitch, slow twitch or endurance-based stabilisation muscles. Their roles all differ so they should be exercised the depending upon their specific characteristics. For example, Stability muscle exercises with generally be low intensity - long duration type exercises. Dynamic strengthening exercises are more likely to be higher intensity (weight, speed, power) and shorter duration but this can vary. Eccentric strengthening exercises are important for both speed and weight-bearing control. Each strengthening exercise and the speed that it is performed will strengthen your muscles in different ways. The best way to prioritise the exact strength exercises that are most appropriate to your needs is to discuss your case with your physiotherapist or sports coach What are Core Strength Exercises? Core stability retraining is a vital component of optimising your core strength program while reducing your chance of injury and improved performance. In basic terms, your core muscle provide a solid platform that your dynamic muscles enact upon. In most cases, your abdomen or back core muscles are the best known core muscles, but they also exist in other regions. The important thing to remember is that if you are not performing core stability exercises, you should be! It's one reason why elite athletes are elite performers. More information about: Core Exercises. More Strengthening Exercise Advice Your physiotherapist is an expert in the assessment and correction of muscle strength deficits, timing and individually prescribed strengthening exercises appropriate for your injury, sport or lifestyle. It is important to remember that individual injuries, your stage of rehabilitation, age, gender and your sport or level of activity will dictate the best exercises suitable for you.
  11. Muscle building isn't just for those who are into fitness as a hobby. Muscle strength is crucial for good health, especially as we age. "Muscle strength is important to help reduce injuries, most notably falls," says Ashley Wiater, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Strong muscles are needed to strengthen bones, control blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels, maintain a healthy weight, reduce joint pain, and fight mild depression. Those things can help you maintain your independence. Unfortunately with muscles, there's a use-it-or-lose-it effect. "Inactivity causes a loss of muscle protein, resulting in a decrease in muscle strength. Without continued strength and resistance training, the rate of muscle mass decline is much greater," explains Wiater. If your doctor says it's okay, start a strength training program to supplement moderate-intensity exercise that gets your heart going. Aim for two to three sessions a week. Consider these five tips to achieve the best results. 1 Work with a pro A certified personal trainer or a physical therapist can design a program tailored to your needs and abilities. That way you'll get the results you want without risking muscle strains and ligament tears. Ask your doctor to prescribe physical therapy if you're recovering from injury or struggling with a chronic health problem. If you're in good health, seek out supervised programs, such as those offered at senior centers, the YMCA, or a private health club. 2 Try weights and bands You'll likely use weights to build muscle—dumbbells and weight machines—but don't forget resistance bands. These bands—which resemble large flat or tubular rubber bands—provide resistance while you're in a variety of positions, as opposed to the limited amount of movements you perform using free weights or weight machines. Weights and bands provide resistance to your muscles, which ignites physical change in the tissue that allows your muscles to generate more force. 3 Get more sleep When you strengthen your muscles, they need 48 hours to re-knit. You must avoid strength exercises on the same muscles on consecutive days. But sleep is another key to muscle recovery. "Sleep is critical to allow for proper healing of the tissues when we stress them," says Wiater. Adults should aim for seven to eight hours per night. That will give your body time to repair muscle tissue and replenish your muscle's energy stores. Without enough sleep, the muscles may continue to break down without rebuilding. 4 Watch your diet A healthy diet is necessary to give your muscles the building blocks to become stronger. That means you need a combination of protein sources, grain-based carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables. You may want to work with a dietitian to come up with a baseline of what your body needs to build muscle and keep up energy. A typical range is 130 grams (g) per day of carbohydrates for both men and women, including nine servings (four and a half cups) per day of fruits and vegetables; and 56 g of protein per day for men, 46 g of protein per day for women. 5 Use daily activities You don't have to limit muscle building to workouts. Take advantage of daily activities to challenge your muscles. This may mean that you lift that carton of milk a few times before you put it back in the refrigerator, to build your arm muscles; use the stairs when possible, to build the muscles in your legs, hips, buttocks, and abdomen; and get active while talking on the phone or standing in line by doing leg lifts and heel raises, to strengthen the muscles in your legs and buttocks.? How's your grip? It's not unusual if your grip strength isn't what it used to be. But if it's much weaker than it used to be, that's worrisome. Poor muscle strength has been shown to be a predictor of disability and even early death. That's why physical therapists and doctors sometimes use a person's hand grip strength to assess his or her muscle mass. Want to check your grip? Ask if your doctor has an instrument called a hand dynamometer, which measures how hard you can squeeze. All it requires is a brief squeeze, usually with your nondominant hand. If the results indicate muscle weakness, it may be time to reassess how much muscle strengthening you need.
  12. Exercise 4: Shoulder Press Works: Shoulders, arms Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit up tall on a chair that has firm back support. Place your feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Pull your abdominals in so there is a slight gap between the small of your back and the back of the chair. With palms forward, bend the elbows and raise the dumbbells up so they are level with your ears. Elbows should be at or just below shoulder height. Straighten arms up over your head, without locking elbows, then slowly lower to start. Exercise 5: Biceps Curls Works: Biceps Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Let your arms hang down at your sides with your palms facing in. Pull your abdominals in, stand tall, and keep your knees relaxed. Curl your right arm up, fist close to your shoulder, twisting your palm so that it faces the front of your shoulder at the top of the movement. Slowly lower the dumbbell back down, then repeat with your left arm. Continue alternating until you've completed the set. (One rep consists of a bicep curl with each arm.) Exercise 6: Kick-Backs Works: Triceps Stand to the left of a chair. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, feet hip-width apart. Lean forward at the hips until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Place your free hand on top of the chair for support. Bend your right elbow so that your upper arm is parallel to the floor, your forearm perpendicular to it, and your palm facing in. Keep your elbow close to your waist. Pull your abdominals in and don't lock your knees. Keeping your upper arm still, straighten your arm behind you until the end of the dumbbell is pointing down. Slowly bend your arm to lower the weight for one rep. When you've completed the set, repeat with your left arm. Exercise 7: Plank Works: Abdominals, shoulders, chest, lower back, buttocks, thighs Lie on the floor, hands clasped in front of you roughly under your forehead, toes tucked under. Press up to balance on your forearms and toes. Pull your abs in so your lower back does not sag and your hips do not drop. Focus on keeping your torso straight and your abs pulled in to support you. Hold for 10 counts.
  13. Improve your strength and achieve optimal muscle tone with this workout. To maintain your muscles, aim for 20 minutes of strength-training exercises two to three times a week―with at least one day off in between workouts so your muscles have time to rest, recover, and grow. Liz Neporent, an exercise physiologist and the president of Wellness 360, a New York City-based corporate-wellness-consulting company, suggests the following seven exercises, which work most of the major muscles in your body. Do one to three sets of 8 to 15 repetitions of the exercises, resting no more than 45 seconds between sets to keep the workout challenging. If you haven't used weights before or if you're out of shape, start with light weights (when they're called for) of two to five pounds and do fewer sets. Exercise 1: Squat Works: Buttocks and thighs Stand with your feet hip-width apart, weight slightly back on your heels, hands on your hips. Pull your abdominals in, standing up tall with square shoulders and a lifted chest. Sit back and down, as if there's a chair directly behind you. Lower as far as you can without leaning your upper body more than a few inches forward. Don't allow your knees to stick out past your toes. Straighten your legs and stand back up. Be careful not to lock your knees at the top of the movement. Exercise 2: One-Arm Row Works: Upper and middle back and shoulders Stand to the left of a chair, feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing in. Pull your abdominals in and bend forward from the hips so your back has a slight arch and you are roughly parallel to the floor, knees slightly bent. Put your left hand on the chair's seat for balance. Tilt your chin toward your chest so your neck is in line with the rest of your spine. Your right hand will be in front of your right shin. Pull your right arm up along the side of your body until your elbow points to the ceiling and your hand brushes against your waist. Slowly lower the weight back down. Complete the reps, then switch sides. Exercise 3: Modified Push-Up Works: Chest, abdominals, shoulders, and arms Lie on your stomach, knees bent and ankles crossed. Place your palms on the floor a bit to the side and in front of your shoulders. Tuck your chin a few inches into your chest so your forehead faces the floor. Straighten your arms and lift your body so you are balanced on your palms and knees, abdominals tight. Be careful not to lock your elbows. Bend your elbows and lower your entire body at once. Rather than trying to touch your chest to the floor, lower just until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push back up.
  14. Why is core strengthening important? Some people think your core means your abdominals (abs). But your core also includes your back, side, and butt muscles, as well as the muscles around your pelvis. Why is it important to strengthen these muscles? Because your core plays a role in almost everything you do, including: Everyday tasks like carrying an armload of books or keeping your balance on an icy street Playing sports and other types of physical activity like tennis or jogging Maintaining good posture when you're standing or sitting Improving balance on and off the field, which may help prevent falls and injuries
  15. What about resistance training? Resistance training is a way to strengthen muscles that uses things like weights and elastic bands. These tools create resistance, which is a force you work against. (You also can use your own weight to create resistance, like when you do push-ups or sit-ups.) Resistance training also sometimes is called strength-training. Here are some tips for resistance training: Get help. You need to learn how to train safely. Your best bet is to work with an instructor who has experience training people your age. Your gym teacher or coach may have suggestions. Warm up. Avoid injuries by preparing your muscles for their workout. You can jog in place for five to 10 minutes. Do the right amount. Experts suggest that young people do formal resistance training two or three times a week — and not two days in a row. Of course, if you do things like climb trees, swing from monkey bars, or take a brisk walk, you'll be building muscle more days a week from those activities, too, which is great. Build up slowly. Muscle-strengthening exercise should not cause pain. As you get stronger, you will need to do more repetitions or use heavier weights. You will need to increase the challenge a little bit at a time, though. Stay safe. You might check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to do strength-training, especially if you have some kind of health problem.
  16. Ways to work different muscle groups Different exercises work different muscle groups. You should try to work all of your muscles each week. Some exercises work many muscles, so this is not as hard as you might think! Check out the chart below for more info. And if you're not sure how to do the exercises, get help from an adult, like your gym teacher. IF YOU DO YOU WILL WORK YOUR.... Push-ups Chest, shoulders, arms, abdominals (abs) Sit-ups Abdominals (abs) Jumping jacks Calves (lower leg), inner/outer thighs, butt Running Calves, front/back thigh, abdominals (abs) Jumping rope Calves, thighs, abdominals (abs), shoulders, arms Swimming Nearly all major muscles Dancing Nearly all major muscles (depending on type of dance) Walking Arms, calves, front/back thighs, abdominals (abs) Squats Calves, front/back thighs, butt Inline skating Inner/outer thighs, butt Hula hoop Lower back, abdominals (abs)
  17. Should I Use Weight Machines or Free Weights? Weight machines and free weights each have advantages and disadvantages. Machines help you do the movement with proper form. You can also get a pro to show you how to use the machine correctly. Machines also isolate specific muscle groups, letting you target your biceps, triceps, leg muscles, abdominal muscles, chest, shoulders, back, or other area. Free weights can be more convenient. You can use them anywhere. Although free weights require strong hands and wrists, they let you do more types of exercises and give you a greater range of motion than machines do. Because the risk of injury is higher with free weights, it's best to exercise with someone when using heavy weights. This way, you can "spot" for each other and keep each other safe Get trained in how to lift properly using free weights, so you don't get hurt. How Do I Start Strengthening Exercises? Start strengthening exercise with light resistance or weights at first. Add more weight very gradually as you get stronger. Start slowly, and allow your body time to adjust. Never hold your breath during the exercise. Follow this pattern: Exhale when pushing against the weight or resistance. Inhale when there is little or no resistance. How Quickly Do Resistance Exercises Work? It takes about 2 weeks for your muscles to get used to resistance exercise. Always allow for a day or two off for rest after training, even when your body is used to the exercise. Your muscles need that rest period to get stronger. If you work out daily, you will end up exhausted and sore, making injury, strains, and sprains more likely. If you stick with your strengthening program, within a few weeks you'll start to feel stronger, have better posture, and have noticeable muscle definition. Listen to Your Body Only you know how much weight or resistance you can handle during exercise. You need to choose weights and exercises that fit your size and ability. If the weight or movement feels like it's too much, then it's too much. Stop, and let your body rest. The next time you work out, start with a lower weight (or no weight). You should feel like you're challenging yourself without causing too much stress on your body.
  18. You run, walk, and ride your bike to keep your heart and lungs in good shape. You stretch your muscles and do yoga to stay limber and flexible. But are you also doing regular strengthening exercises? Strengthening or resistance exercises help keep your muscles that support your back, abdomen, knees, chest, shoulders, neck, and wrists strong and less likely to get injured. Strong muscles mean greater endurance and energy, a faster metabolism (which burns more calories), and better posture. What Are Strengthening Exercises? Strengthening exercises work muscles as they move against resistance. This resistance can come from workout machines, free weights or barbells, elastic bands, water, stairs, hills, cans of vegetables from the pantry -- even your own body weight as you do a pushup. For example, walking on a treadmill (which is aerobic exercise) becomes strengthening as you raise the incline of the treadmill. Benefits of Strengthening Exercises Just as aerobic exercise keeps your heart in peak condition, regular strengthening exercises help keep your other muscles strong and healthy. For example, your lower back and abdominal muscles stabilize the spine, allow proper spinal movement, and help with posture. Strengthening hip and leg muscles is also important, so you can safely lift objects from the floor using your leg muscles rather than those in your back. Strengthening exercises also build muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn all day. Strengthening exercises lower blood pressure and help cholesterol levels, and help make your bones stronger.
  19. Step, funk-fusion, hip-hop, jazz, kick box, boot camp, cardio box...There are dozens of classes to choose from. They last anywhere from 30-60 minutes and vary in intensity. Here's some advice for choosing classes: Classes are generally rated as beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Choose the level that fits your condition. It's no fun taking an advanced class if you're a beginner. It will be hard and frustrating and you won't enjoy the experience. Watch the class or speak with the instructor to help you decide what's right for you. Sometimes it comes down to the class time that fits your schedule, but just be sure to not get in too far over your head. Low-impact classes mean that one foot always stays on the ground. They are less intense than high-impact and may be more suitable if you are a beginner. Some classes are now called, "high-low" or "mixed-impact" which means they combine low and high-impact moves. Again, speak with the instructor if you're not sure. High-impact means both feet leave the ground, so there will be jumping and balance moves. Stick with lower-impact and more gentle and rhythmic dance classes if you are concerned about the pounding (low back problems, knee arthritis, or other joint injuries). Experiment until you find the classes that work best for you. Classes are great for people who like to exercise with others, who like to dance, who like music and rhythm, who want the extra motivation and energy that an instructor and class provides, and who prefer the structure and schedule of a regular class. Classes, equipment, and videos are all great ways to stay fit and healthy, but if you're limited by injury or other conditions, then aerobic exercise chair workouts may be just the thing (see resources for online vendors). The instructor leads you through a workout in a chair and it's great exercise. You might not need chair exercise, but you may have a parent or friend who does. Exercise videos and DVDs make great gifts! The bottom line to equipment, classes, and videos is that if they get your heart rate elevated and keep it there, then it's aerobic and it counts!
  20. Rowers, treadmills, bikes, and cross-country skiers are all effective if you use them. There is some suggestion that some individuals are more inclined to exercise at home with equipment than at the gym or a class. The activity you choose is a personal choice and it varies for everyone, and so you need to experiment until you find what works best for you. Some individuals prefer to go to the gym while others are perfectly content to work out at home on their own equipment in front of their TV. TV can make the time pass quickly, and so can your favorite movie, music, scholarly courses taught by professors, or books on tape (see resources for online vendors). Finding something that will distract you might just make that 30-minute workout bearable, and believe it or not you might even look forward to it! After all, it could be the only 30 minutes in your day that you have all to yourself. Indulge! Aerobic exercise videos and DVDs are also effective if you use them! They are convenient if you prefer to work out at home instead of taking a class at a studio or a gym, and there are hundreds to choose from. I suggest that you check out Collage Video (http://www.CollageVideo.com), or give them a call and ask for a recommendation. Also check if your local library rents exercise videos on tape or DVD. And by the way, there are videos for all types of activity; from weight training, to tai-chi, to stretching. Check out all the possibilities to add flexibility and strength-building to your cardio workout.
  21. There are two physical activity guidelines in the Unites States. The first, the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, is a lifestyle recommendation. That is, you can modify it to fit into your daily routine and activities of daily living. The recommendation is that all adults should accumulate 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, if not all days of the week. The key words are "accumulate" and "moderate-intensity." Accumulate means that you can do 10-15 minutes at a time and repeat that a couple of times throughout the day; for example, 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes around dinner. Moderate intensity is equivalent to feeling "warm and slightly out of breath" when you do it. Recently there has been some controversy about the effectiveness of this guideline and its benefits. At the moment the recommendation stands, but we may hear more about it in the not-too-distant future. The second recommendation is from the American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM recommends 20-60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity (biking, walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, etc.) three to five times a week, at 60%-90% of maximum heart rate, and two to three days of resistance training. This is a more formal, "workout" recommendation, although you can also accumulate the more intense workout in bouts of 10-15 minutes throughout the day if you like. Follow this recommendation and your fitness and your health will improve. Which one you choose is a personal choice. They are not intended to compete with each other but rather to provide options and maybe even complement each other. For instance, the Surgeon General's recommendation may be more practical for individuals who are unwilling, or unable, to adopt the more formal ACSM recommendation. Of course, there's no downside to working out regularly with aerobic exercise and also becoming more physically active as per the Surgeon General (take more stairs, mow the lawn by hand, park far away from the store and walk), so combining them might be a good decision.
  22. Cognitive function Scientists have recently become interested in the effects of aerobic exercise on cognitive function. It has been shown in rats that use of a running wheel every day stimulates new brain cells to grow in as few as 12 days. Brain cells in humans can't be studied directly, but what has been shown is that rates of dementia and Alzheimer's disease are lower in older individuals who exercise three or more times per week compared with older adults who exercise fewer than three times per week. In some cases, the risk is 62% lower. Evidence is also accumulating that active individuals perform better on cognitive function tests such as tests of memory and spatial relations than sedentary individuals.
  23. Cardiovascular disease The list of studies that show that aerobic exercise prevents or reduces the occurrence of cardiovascular disease is so long that it would take this entire article and probably five others just like it to review all of the research. One of the most important is one of the earliest. In a study of more than 13,000 men and women, it was shown that the least fit individuals had much higher rates of cardiovascular disease than fit individuals -- in some cases, the risk was twice as high. Aerobic exercise works in many ways to prevent heart disease; two of the most important are by reducing blood pressure and allowing blood vessels to be more compliant (more compliant means that they become less stiff and it's less likely for fat to accumulate and clog up the vessels). Results like these have been proven over and over again. Obesity and weight control Aerobic exercise is believed by many scientists to be the single best predictor of weight maintenance. You can lose weight without exercise by reducing your caloric intake enough so that you burn more calories than you consume, but it takes a regular dose of exercise to keep your weight off. How much is not clear, but somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes of vigorous exercise several times per week, to 45 to 75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five or more days per week is probably about right. Your mileage will vary, and so once you get to the weight that you want to be at you'll need to experiment with different amounts of exercise until you find the one that works for you. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that overweight and obese individuals progressively increase to a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, but for long-term weight loss, overweight and obese adults should eventually progress to 200 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity. These are general guidelines, and so again, you need to experiment to see what works for you.
  24. Depression Most of us who exercise regularly understand that exercise can elevate our mood. There have been a number of studies investigating the effects of exercise on depression. In one of the most recent studies, it was shown that three to five days per week for 12 weeks of biking or treadmill for approximately 30 minutes per workout reduced scores on a depression questionnaire by 47%. It's not a substitute for therapy in a depression that causes someone to be unable to function (in which case medication and/or psychotherapy may be necessary), but for milder forms of depression, the evidence is persuasive that it can help. Diabetes No study has been more conclusive about the role of lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) in preventing diabetes than the Diabetes Prevention Program. It was a study of more than 3,000 individuals at high risk for diabetes who lost 12-15 pounds and walked 150 minutes per week (five 30-minute walks per day) for three years. They reduced their risk of diabetes by 58%. That's significant considering there are 1 million new cases of diabetes diagnosed each year. Aerobic exercise can also improve insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body doesn't use insulin properly, and this condition can occur in individuals who do and do not have diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells in the body convert glucose (sugar) to energy. Many studies have shown the positive effects of exercise on insulin resistance. In one, 28 obese postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes did aerobic exercise for 16 weeks, three times per week, for 45-60 minutes, and their insulin sensitivity improved by 20%.
  25. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone density, which can lead to an increased risk of fracture. The good news is that exercise may increase bone density or at least slow the rate of decrease in both men and women. It may not work for everyone, and the precise amount and type of exercise necessary to accrue benefits is unknown, but there is evidence that it can help. In children there is good news, too. It seems that active children have greater bone density than sedentary children and that this may help prevent fractures later in life.
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