The Best Lower Body Exercises

DB Squats

If you have ever been to a health club before, you probably saw lots of strength training machines that isolate and work all the major muscle groups in your body. Wanting to work your hamstrings? There’s a machine for that. How about your calf muscles? There’s a machine for that as well. For all muscles from head to toe, fitness machine engineers have developed an apparatus to actively engage whatever you’re looking to lift, trim, or enlarge. However, this is the real question: Do you really have to have access to a $1,000 piece of equipment in order have a great workout? Absolutely not! When it comes to lower body exercises, make your body the machine and move it in a natural way that is applicable to everyday life. The exercises included below will engage and work all the major muscles of the lower body together while increasing core stabilization.

With that being said, here are the four best lower body exercises (in my humble opinion  of course) that you can do anytime, anywhere and can be intensified by adding dumbbells, increasing the tempo, or decreasing resting time in between sets.  The envelope please…

Dumbbell Squat

DB Squats Start
1. Stand with feet straight and shoulder-width apart, knees bent.
2. Hold dumbbells at side of body.

Movement
1. Slowly squat, bending knees and keeping feet straight, without letting knees extend forward over your ankles.

2. Keep chest up; squeeze glute muscles and press through heels to return to start.

Front Step-Up Balance

Step upsStart
1. Stand in front of box with feet straight and hip-width apart.

Movement
1. Squeeze glute muscles and step onto box with one leg.
2. Stand upright and balance on same leg, flexing hip and knee of opposite leg; hold.
3. Step both legs down to ground.

 

Front Lunge to Balance

Front lunge 2Start
1. Stand with feet straight and shoulder-width apart.
2. Lift chest, tuck chin and place hands on hips.

 

Front lunge 1Movement
1. Squeeze glute muscles and lunge forward. Bend front and back knees 90-degrees – front foot flat, back heel lifted.
2. Push off front foot, straighten leg and lift opposite leg until hip and knee are flexed 90-degrees; hold two seconds.
Return to start position.

Single Leg Romanian Dead-Lift

Single Leg Dead LiftStart
1. Stand with feet straight and hip-width apart.
2. Lift chest, tuck chin and place hands on hips.

Movement
1. Squeeze glute muscles, balance on one leg (bent 5 degrees at knee) and lift other directly beside it.
2. Bend at waist and reach opposite hand toward balance foot; hold two seconds.

If you have questions regarding these or any other exercises, please leave them  in the comments below.

Do Your Workouts Fit? Why Custom Fitness Is Essential

pt-male

pt-maleWhen you walk into a library or bookstore, you wouldn’t take a random book off the shelf and say to yourself, “It really doesn’t matter what I read, just as long as I’m reading.” Before purchasing or checking-out your new book, you would have considered certain criteria of what kind of book(s) will be of most benefit to you. Are you looking for a book geared towards children, teenagers, or adults? Fiction or non-fiction? A biography, a novel, self-help, or even maybe an instructional manual perhaps? Maybe you’re not even looking for a book, but a particular magazine, newspaper, or CD.

Sometimes, especially during the new year when health and fitness are at the forefront of our minds, people will approach exercise with the same thought process as taking any random book off the shelve with the intention that, “It really doesn’t matter how I exercise, just as long as I’m exercising.” Exercise and physical activity are always an important part of your overall health. However, it can be even better if you consider certain criteria that make your exercise program specific to your ultimate goals and objectives.

Questions to ask when considering an exercise program:

  • What do I like to do? Biking, yoga, weight training, etc.
  • What are my goals and purposes?  Finish a 10k, increase power in my golf swing, ability to go hiking with my grandkids, etc.
  • What is my current fitness level? Beginner, intermediate, advanced.
  • How active am I now? Sedentary, occasionally active, very active, etc.
  • Do I have current or previous orthopedic injuries? Pain in my shoulder, hip, low back, knee, etc.
  • What are my medical issues? Heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
  • How much time can I dedicate towards exercise? 30, 45, 60 min/day; how many days a week?
  • What do I have access to? Gym, home equipment, parks, trails, etc.
  • What outcome do I want most from my exercise program? Increase strength, improve balance, decrease body fat, etc.

When you have access to and utilize an exercise program that is tailored to you, you reduce the risk for injury and increase the likelihood of actually achieving your desired objective. A specific training protocol creates a specific outcome. Contact a fitness professional to help you design a program that fits your needs and objectives.

Our affiliate website, CustomFitWorkouts.com can help you take the guess work out of developing a fitness program that is designed specifically towards what you want to accomplish using the latest exercise scientific research. We have helped and designed thousands of exercise programs and no two programs are exactly alike. Check them out today!

Shopping for a Gym? 3 things you might be overlooking

Health Club

New Years has passed which brings thoughts of goals to workout and be more physically active in 2014. Although working out at a commercial gym may not be the best option for everyone, some people Health Clubfeel it’s their only hope. This isn’t the all inclusive list of everything to consider when shopping for a gym, but it may give you some components to consider if you’re looking for a place to get your sweat on.

Price

Many times people sign up for a membership at a particular club or gym based solely on the fact it was the cheapest. However, always be sure to ask for trial passes to multiple facilities and see which gyms you like better or are more likely to use. You may end up paying $5 or $10 more a month, but which is a better situation in terms of getting more for your money: paying $20/month for a gym you end up hating and never use, or $30/month for a gym you actually utilize on a consistent basis and enjoy. There’s a reason why certain workout facilities really want you to sign up “today and today only.”

Cleanliness

Health clubs and gyms can sometimes be a very dirty place. Be sure to not only ask about how well they clean the facility, (of course they’ll say it’s spotless), but pay close attention to the locker rooms and exercise equipment. Does it look like it hasn’t been cleaned or wiped down since the grand opening? Also, are members expected to wipe down equipment after each use? If you’re scared to death to walk barefoot to the shower or pool based on what you’re seeing at a particular gym, you may as well wear plastic gloves when you grab the dumbbells because there’s going to be a lot of viruses passed around day in and day out.

Professionalism and Service of the Staff

You can learn a lot about a gym by how they treat their employees. If the front desk people or personal trainers look like they’re waiting in line at the DMV all the time, your experience as a member at that particular location will probably feel much the same way, except only worse because employees are being paid to be there. Ask employees other than the sales people how they like working there and how long they’ve been an employee for the company.  Also, take notice if employees say hello and goodbye when other members enter and exit the gym. If current members do not seem valued at the club you’re investigating, don’t plan on being the exception after you sign up.

In short, there are many obvious and hidden clues to whether or not a certain fitness facility will satisfy your needs and objectives. In addition to talking to other members and reading reviews online, these 3 considerations can help you uncover a company that truly values its members and will most likely provide a better exercise experience.

Column: 3 Phases of Fitness Training

CFW_blog_logo

CFW_blog_logoIt’s always an exciting time when anyone starts an exercise program. However, the fire can be reduced to small ambers if one does not understand some basic fundamentals of fitness training. Many of us want to see visual results within the first few weeks or so, but it is very common for changes in body composition to take more time. Here are the three phases of fitness training to help better understand when and how our bodies will make positive changes due to exercise and proper nutrition.

The Initial phase: 2-6 weeks

During this phase, we are “training the body to begin training.” By starting at a slower, more reasonable intensity of exercise, (based on the fitness level of the individual), people are better able to commit to a consistent fitness lifestyle. In addition, greater emphasis on balance, stability and correcting muscle imbalances are appropriate during this phase to avoid injury and/or aggravation of an old injury due to the new stresses placed on the body. Remember, you must learn to walk before you can run.

The Improvement phase: 3 – 12 months

This is usually the fun part! (Well, depending on your definition of fun.) Although the intensity of training is the highest during this phase, the benefits of exercise and nutrition are usually the most noticeable during the improvement stage. In order to see changes in your body you have never seen before, you must train or place a stimulus to the body it’s never had before. If you follow the same old routine, or just go through the motions of an exercise program, your body basically says, “been there, done that” and no new adaptations will take place. In short, you will need to train smarter, harder and eat better than you have previously in order to see the type of results that so many people fail to reach.

The Maintenance Phase: A life-long process

This is the phase where health and wellness is what you have become, not just something you’re doing. This lifestyle becomes second nature to you and you will naturally feel and see the benefits of healthy living. Very few are at this stage, but it is a great place to be at when the principles of health are not just a list of things to do, but they become unbreakable habits. They become who you are. Begin now and your life will improve in ways you never thought possible.

 

No Time for Exercise?

Couple Biking

We all know exercise is important and that it brings healthy benefits. But just like any good habit, those benefits come from the doing, not just the knowing. The obstacle most people face with exercise is not having the time, which begs the question, what can be done to tackle this issue? Well for starters, learn to begin at the right place, based on the outcome you want.

Couple BikingMany times in health articles such as this one, the terms ‘physical activity’ and ‘exercise’ are used interchangeably. However, technically they have different meanings.  Physical activity is doing anything that requires movement and energy that doesn’t have to be structured. Mowing the lawn, playing tag with the kids, or painting a fence are examples of general physical activity. Exercise on the other hand is physical activity that is structured in some way for a specific purpose—such as to lose weight. Examples are jogging, lifting weights, swimming laps at the pool, basically anything that has a structure component. Both will lower your risk for chronic diseases, but exercise is more likely to promote a change in body composition—such as an increase in muscle, more flexibility, or decrease in body fat.

So why I’m I telling you this? Specific activities promote specific outcomes. If your main objective is to increase your general health, start by being more physically active at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. If you’re trying to lose weight, begin by being more physically active, then work into a structured exercise regimen that promotes weight loss. It’s all in the baby steps.

Based on whether you are looking for more time to be physically active or to progress into an exercise routine, included below are suggestions on how accomplish both.

Time efficient tips for more physical activity (disease prevention):

Make it a family affair- You know you need to spend more time with your family, why not try something that’s physically active? Go rollerblading, biking, hiking, play at the park, or go for a walk around the neighborhood. Use your imagination and get the kids involved in generating ideas.

Break it up- Don’t have time for 30 straight minutes of physical activity? No worries. Break it up into two 15 minute segments or three 10 minute segments. It’s just as healthy and beneficial as doing it all at once.

Make TV time your active time- Don’t sit on the couch! March in place while swinging your elbows back and bringing your knees high. Your kids might think you’ve lost your mind at first, but may end up joining you. If you dedicate yourself to this habit, you’ll either lose some weight or stop watching TV. Both positive results if you ask me.

Time efficient tips for more exercise (disease prevention and positive change in body composition):

Find a workout/babysit buddy- The two of you can either take the kids and go to the park, or you can watch each other’s kids while the other one exercises on their own. This protocol seems to work for date night, why not try it out for a chance to get your heart rate up without disruptions.

Check out an exercise DVD from the library- It’s free, there are many different DVDs to choose from and you can do it on your terms and time schedule. Plus, if your kids are used to seeing you do funny things in front of the TV, (remember the marching suggestion from earlier), they might just join you in crazy town!

Don’t wait for things to ‘calm down’- Life is always going to be hectic! If you’re looking for time to exercise, you have to make the time! Write it down in your schedule, stay positive, and tell others about your goals.

Stretching – Why You Shouldn’t Skip It

Stretching

StretchingFlexibility… compared to the other components of exercise, (cardiovascular and resistance training), it is usually the neglected after-thought that seems to get overlooked the most. If people realized just how much regular stretching on a daily basis would help them move better and with less discomfort, they would be wondering why they didn’t do it a long time ago.

However, the question is do you know what type of stretching is best for your current fitness level and whether or not you’re doing the right type of stretching before or after a workout? If not, this article is worth the next 5 minutes.

First, some benefits of increased flexibility:

  • Increases range of motion
  • Decreases excessive tension in muscles
  • Relieves joint stress
  • Helps correct muscle imbalances
  • Injury prevention
  • Improved joint function

There are basically 4 types or forms of stretching:

Ballistic – (Not Recommended)

  • Uses repetitive bouncing movements by way of momentum to increase stretch.
  • Oldest technique of stretching.
  • Use of ballistic stretching by a health professional is very rare, due to safety concerns.

PNF – (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation)

  • Uses some form of an altering contraction and relaxation pattern.
  • Usually requires a partner in order for the stretch to be performed most effectively.
  • Can provide greater improvement in range of motion (ROM) as compared to other stretching techniques.
  • Usually recommended under the guidance or observation of a health professional.
  • May be appropriate to use in performance based programs (athletics for example).

Dynamic

  • Incorporates movements that mimic a specific sport or exercise (marching or jogging in place for example).
  • Movements are exaggerated, yet controlled and prepares muscle fibers for activity.
  • Often are included during the warm-up or preparation of an exercise session.

Static

  • Most common form of stretching you will see people performing.
  • Involves passively stretching a muscle to the point of mild discomfort.
  • Involves holding a stretch for an extended period, ranging from 10 – 60 seconds.
  • Relatively safe and relaxes the muscle fibers.
  • Often included in the cool down or after an exercise session is completed.

So what does this all mean? How can you incorporate this information into your exercise routine? Well, for a majority of general workouts, the following is a great pattern to follow for your next training session:

(1) Warm-up — (2) Dynamic stretching — (3) Exercise Session — (4) Cool-down — (5) Static Stretching

If you have additional questions regarding the benefits of a flexibility program or are interested in having a stretching program designed by our professionals based on your specific needs, please include your inquiries in the comments box below.

Video: Leg Circuits

Leg Circuit

Need a great way to increase the intensity of your lower body workouts without spending a lot more time exercising or buying equipment? Check out the video below that will show you how to increase your heart-rate while building strength in your legs and core.

Source: Health and Fitness Provider Network

The video is only going to demonstrate each exercise for about 5-10 seconds, but challenge yourself to go longer, (30 – 60 seconds each for about 3 – 6 sets, depending on your current fitness level.)

Time To Switch It Up

bootcamp

I hear it at least two, maybe three times a week. “I’m doing my routine.” “Oh, I’ll just stick with my routine.” Routine, routine, routine! What I really hear when people use this type of language is, “I prefer doing what I’m used to doing. I don’t like change.”

Now keep in mind, another phrase that is commonly heard, and in many cases by these same people is, “I’ve hit a plateau. I’m not seeing the same results as I was before. What do I do?”

Can these common exercise statements be interconnected? Probably yes.

bootcampRemember, your body is an amazing machine that has this incredible ability to survive almost any stress you place on it through adaptation. For example, suppose you took someone who lives in Siberia (very cold) and moved them to Ecuador (very hot). Then vise versa by moving another person from Ecuador to Siberia. The result: Two very uncomfortable people for the next month or so as their bodies learn to adjust and adapt to the new temperature stimulus being placed on them. After a month however, these same two individuals will probably say their new environments are not nearly as difficult to live in as it was in the beginning.

So what’s the moral of the story? In order to see increased progressions in your body composition, strength, endurance or any other fitness goal, you will need to incorporate a different stimulus or variables to your exercise program.

When your workout is completed, if your body says ‘been there, done that’, you will not see the desired changes that you seek.  On the other hand, if you are looking to maintain the status quo, then changing your workout is not quite as urgent.

Some common ways that you can change up your workouts are performing different exercises, increasing weight, increasing the number of sets, incorporating cardio intervals (higher intensity bouts, recovery, then higher intensity again).

If you need other ideas, talk to a fitness professional, check out an exercise book from the library or seek information from credible health and fitness websites (like this one).

Have fun with it! Expand your horizons! You’ll be surprised how much this can spring added life to your exercise routin… I mean, program.

How to Get Your Kids to Exercise

Active Kids

By Shaleen Weston; BS

With so many distractions for kids not to exercise, from video games, tablets and every other type of electronics, the fattening of America is taking place at an ever increasing pace. Kids are heavier and more unfit than any other time in our history.

Active KidsChildren need to accumulate at least 30-60 minutes of moderate activity each day. However, it’s estimated that only one in three American children participate in daily physical activity. About one-fourth of young people from the ages of 12 to 21 are not getting any vigorous exercise at all.

You may be asking…what is the secret to getting my kids to be more active? It’s you mom and dad. Everyone has heard the saying, “The family that prays together stays together”, the same can be said for exercise, “The family that plays together stays fit together.” One of the best ways to increase the overall fitness of you and your family is by exercising together. Choose fun activities such as tag, hide-and seek, kick-ball and other active running games.  Having variety in your activities is the key to keeping all family members enjoying exercise. Make it fun! Let the kids imaginations determine the game.  Motivation comes through your example, creative activities, and persistence. Physical activity sessions do not need to last longer than 30-60 minutes but should be scheduled on a regular basis.

In my experience working with children, those who get the appropriate amount of daily exercise also enjoy the ability to sleep better, reduce stress levels and are happier.  Remember as you take the lead in your children’s activity level you will get the same great benefits and much more.

Some fun game ideas can be found on this site:

http://www.pecentral.org/lessonideas/searchresults.asp?category=60

Joseph’s Miracle Run Bicentennial 5K

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LDS Fitness Network is proud to sponsor this wonderful event on August 3, 2013 at This Is The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. Please participate, donate o receive more information on their website www.JosephsMiracleRun.com or by visiting their Facebook page. Here is an excerpt from their website explaining the history for the event.

The year 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s life-threatening typhoid fever and the experimental and successful surgery performed by Dr. Nathan Smith, founder of Dartmouth Medical School (1811). The 1813 surgery blesses millions yet today. As a thank you, the Joseph Smith Sr. Family Association is working to establish a scholarship of gratitude on behalf of Dr. Nathan Smith to the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical College.

Dr. Nathan Smith was the only physician in the United States who had the skill and ability to successfully treat Joseph’s infection. His personal preparation, life’s work, timing, and placement converged to allow Dr. Smith to operate on Joseph, saving his leg and his life, fully 100 years before this life-saving surgery became accepted as standard procedure.

Dr. Smith was one of the great men of the 19th century, who worked tirelessly to improve medical education. He helped establish 4 medical institutions, including Dartmouth and Yale. At the 200th commemoration of the founding of Yale, Dr. William Henry Welch stated that Dr. Smith, “did more for the general advancement of medical and surgical practice than any of his predecessors or contemporaries in the country.”

To honor Dr. Nathan Smith, the Joseph Smith Sr. Family Association is hosting the Joseph’s Miracle run to create a scholarship endowment in behalf of Joseph. This annual scholarship will be granted to a deserving surgical student at Dartmouth, and will be a reminder of the great good that charitable contributions like Dr. Smith’s can be in the community. To join us, or to learn more, please visit: www.JosephsMiracleRun.com.