Tag: exercise tip

Why We Do So Many Lunges

Most people know that lunges are a great exercise. They burn your legs, they get your heart rate up, and they taste your balance. They strengthen the entire leg from the quadriceps to the glutes. Many, however, do not fully understand the benefits of being able to perform the lunge correctly or the way to progress and change your lunges.

Basic Lunge Form
To perform the basic lunge, take a big step forward leading with the heel. At the same time, come up to the ball of your foot on the back leg. Find your balance in this position before moving on. Once you feel stable, lower the back knee towards the ground keeping your weight in the heel of the front foot. Both knees should make a 90 degree angle with the ground. Press through the heel of the front foot, activating hamstrings and glutes, to move back into a standing position. Maintain a neutral spine (upright posture) throughout the movement for the basic lunge.

Lunge with a Twist
This lunge makes the exercise involves all 3 planes of motion, helping to activate the core muscles and spinal rotation. While holding a weight or a medicine ball, perform the initial phase of the basic lunge. As you lower the knee to the ground, rotate the body towards the forward knee, tightening the stomach as you move. Return back to center as you stand up, focusing on the heel. Make sure you stay in control of your body through the whole movement. If you find that you are unstable, break the steps down and make it two separate movements. Lunge-twist-return to center-stand up. Once your body learns to do that you can work towards putting it all together.

Side Lunge
The side lunge is one of the more difficult lunges to perform correctly. For beginners, stand with your feet wider than shoulder width apart with both feet pointing forward. Lean your weight to one side as you reach your hips back lowering down. Press into the foot to stand back up and then lean to the other side. The feet do not move and the toes stay pointing forward. Be sure the weight stays in the heel and that the knee stays over the foot. Once the standing side lunge becomes easily done you can move into the stepping side lunge. The movement is the same only now you need to find the right placement of the foot; not to short, not to far. If you try to think about where your foot was for the standing side lunge you should be good to go. Be careful that the foot doesn’t turn out as you step. This exercise is meant to activate the hip stabilizers more than a basic lunge.

Several day to day activities require lunges to be performed. This can be as simple as pulling something out of the car or picking up a pencil that has fallen on the ground to as complex as reaching for a drop shot on the tennis court. By training the body in the three planes of motion, you will be prepared to deal with different types of situations that our bodies face daily!

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Criss-Cross or Obliques

Purpose: The last of the Stomach Series, this works the external obliques, waistline and powerhouse.

  1. Lie on your back with hands behind your lifted head; elbows wide and your knees bent into your chest.
  2. Extend your right leg out long; hovering above the mat. Twist your upper body until the right elbow touches left knee. Open the back (left) elbow behind you. Inhale as you lift to twist and hold for 3 counts.
  3. Exhale and switch sides, bringing your left elbow to your right knee while extending the opposite (left) leg out in front of you. Hold for 3 counts. Keep your upper back and shoulders off the mat as you twist from side to side.

Complete 8-10 times. To end bring both knees into chest.

Checklist: Lift and twist from your waist, not from your neck and shoulders. The back elbow never touches the mat. Look at your back elbow as you twist.

Anchor your center to the mat so you don’t roll from side to side. Lower your extended leg about 45 degrees or more… back should not arch off mat.

Note: Avoid twisting exercises such as this if you have suffered a recent back injury.

Visualization: Imagine you have an X on your stomach and you are crossing to each end of the X.

Improve Your Balance, Stability and Strength with a Bosu Ball

The Bosu ball is an excellent piece of equipment that can be incorporated into any exercise routine. Whether you are an elite level athlete or simply want to increase your balance and stability, the Bosu will help in a wide variety of ways.

As with any balance exercise, make sure that while using the Bosu ball you have something that is anchored to the ground close by. You will be purposely placing your body in unstable situations and you may lose your balance throughout the exercises. Having something close by will make you feel more comfortable and progress more smoothly through the exercises until you develop the needed strength. Remember, safety first.

Bosu stands for Both Sides Up, meaning you can stand or place your hands on either the black side or the blue side. Both sides change the degree of instability in different ways.

When standing on the blue side of the Bosu you recruit more ankle and foot stabilizing muscles since the foot does not have a solid place to make a balance point. This is great for runners who are training on variable of surfaces or people who may be worried about falling or twisting an ankle. By subjecting the foot to the instability of the Bosu you will train it to be prepared to react quickly when placed in a similar situation. This can be anything from hitting a rough spot in the ground, a tree root, or, of course the worst of all, holes. The Bosu will help you train for injury prevention as well as treatment of ankle or knee injuries.

The black side of the Bosu focuses more on the knee to hip complex and less on the ankle (the ankle will still be very much active). Since the black surface is perfectly flat, the ankle no longer has to struggle for stability. However, since the blue side is now touching the ground, the rest of the body must work together to maintain balance.

Exercises to Try:
Single Leg Step-up (blue side first then progress to the black side)
Place the foot directly in the center of the Bosu on the blue side. Let the circles on top of the ball guide you to proper foot placement. Contract the muscles through the leg that is on top of the Bosu and step up bringing the opposite knee up to assist with balance. When you first start, the goal is to get up and touch back down in the same spot. As you get into a rhythm, start holding longer at the top of the movement, testing your balance.

Basic Squat (blue side first then black)
Blue Side Facing Up: Stand on top of the blue side of the Bosu with both feet. You want your feet a little less than shoulder width apart. Find your balance by relaxing your legs and extending your spine up from the crown of your head. Maintain this spine length as you bend at your hips and knees to lower down into a squat.

Black Side Facing Up: While holding on to a secured object place one foot on the black side of the Bosu, fully tilting it to one side. Contract the muscles of that leg as you press yourself up and place the opposite foot on the other side of the Bosu. Your toes should be pointed forward and your feet should be a little wider than hip width apart. Relax the legs and extend the spine up. Maintain this spine length as you bend at your hips and knees to lower down into a squat. Your legs will most likely shake as they struggle to find stability (this is why we stay close to an anchored object) but as you progress in the exercise your muscles will calm down and the shaking will subside.