Tag: exercises

Pilates Exercise of the Month: (SIDE KICK SERIES: FRONT/BACK)

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PURPOSE: This exercise will stretch the back of the legs, tone your buttocks and improve balance. It is the first exercise in the Side Kick Series.

SET UP:  Lie on your side and align your body against the back edge of the mat. Prop your head up on one hand and place the palm of the other hand on the mat in front of you. Position your legs in a 45 degree angle in front of your body.  Feet are slightly turned out slightly in a Pilates V.

  1.  Lift your top leg hip height, turn leg out slightly from the hip.
  2.  Inhale, press navel into spine, swing your front leg and pulse it twice (similar to 2 small kicks) as far forward as it will go without rocking forward in your hips. Reach the leg further on the second kick.
  3. Exhale, and swing the leg back, reaching for the back corner of the room; gently pointing your toe; while stretching the front of the hip.
  4. 4. Repeat 8-10 times on each side. Bring your legs back together to prepare for the next exercise in the series- Up/Down.

 

Visualization: Imagine your leg swinging like a pendulum of a clock while the body holds still.

Modifications: If you experience discomfort in your shoulder, wrist or neck, lay your head down on your arm. You can also use a rolled up towel under your neck for added support.

To advance the exercise, place the hand behind the head and point the elbow to the ceiling.

 

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Avoid letting hips and shoulders roll forward.
  • Don’t lift leg too high, only hip height.
  • Make sure your hand on the mat is close to the body with forearm pressed into your midsection.

Are you fit for hiking?

As the snow starts to melt and the flowers start poking their heads through the frozen ground, hikers across the Puget Sound area are dusting off their boots and trekking poles as they prepare to resume their exploration of the vast Pacific Northwest! Will you be one of those hikers this year? Better yet, will you be PREPARED to be one of those hikers this year?? Below is a simple series of exercises designed to strengthen the muscles used while hiking. Most people tend to focus solely on quadriceps strength in regards to hiking. While the quads are very important (especially for the decent), the glutes and core muscles help prevent injuries to your ankles, knees, hips and back.

These can be incorporated into a regular, normal routine or at the completion of a cardio session!!

Warm-up

  • Hip Bridges – 10 reps
  • Knee Drops – 10 each side
  • Walking lunges – 1 lap (feel a stretch in the hip flexor, keeping the stomach strong!)
  • T walks/Birdfeeders – 1 lap (no weights. Take 3 steps in between each 1 to bring you to the next leg)
  • Curtsey Squats – 10 each side

Main Set:

  • Step Ups – 10 each leg (Stay on the same leg for all 10, then switch. Bring opposite knee up to add a balance component.)
  • Walking lunges with 15lbs dumbbells – 2 laps
  • Lateral quick steps over the BOSU – 10 each side (start at the side, move sideways over the BOSU staying as low as you can. Be sure to bring each foot down to the ground before you change directions.
  • Standing squats with 15lbs dumbbells – 20 reps
  • Band side steps – 1 lap
  • Plank Mountain Climbers (knee to opposite elbow) – 10 each side
  • Repeat x3

Cool Down

  • Knee to chest stretch
  • Figure 4 stretch
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Hip flexor stretch
  • Foam roll calves, quads, IT band, hip flexors

Summer core prep with the Side Plank yoga pose

Vasisthasana = “best, most excellent posture”

Vasisthansana or “Side Plank Pose” is a very rich core exercise indeed. As summer approaches and we want to look our “bikini” best, time to add Side Plank to your routine.

Most summer athletic sports require a strong core and flexible side waist. Think, reaching for a football pass, keeping your balance on your mountain bike while ripping up a tricky trail, or max length for free style swim. Side Plank will strengthen your Serratius (deep side muscles) and Latissimus Dorsi (the big group of outer corset muscles that span from your shoulder blades and wrap around your side waist to pelvic region). This pose will also strengthen wrists, shoulders, arms and legs, while creating flexibility in your hips. I will give modifications for those with injury in the arms.

Let’s Play

  1. Start in Down Dog and tune into your breath. Once your breath is steady and engaged, then start your practice. This will help you stay focused.
  2. Roll forward to Plank Pose
  3. Move your right hand underneath your nose on the mat, and spread your fingers wide like a pancake. IF you have injury in any part of your arm, please drop your bottom knee on the floor to support your body weight from here on out.
  4. Carefully roll to the side, opening hips and stack your feet on top of each other, lifting the hips as high as you can, reaching the left hand straight up to the ceiling.
  5. If you are feeling fresh, lift your top leg a few inches off the other while lifting hips. This will increase your balance and strength practice.
  6. Hold Side Plank for 5-10 breaths and repeat on opposite side.
  7. Rest in Child’s pose with hands by hips for 10 breaths before moving into the rest of your practice.

Modifications

  1. Drop bottom knee to the floor, and keep it there.
  2. Rest on forearm for side plank instead of wrists, to protect injured parts.
  3. Engage your core, and lift kneecaps for max focus on strength. Stay like a board, not sagging in the hips, shoulders, etc.
  4. BREATH!

Side Plank is one of my favorite poses to build the core strength and awareness for more complex poses and inversions. I am available for private Yoga coaching at Seattle Athletic Club, if you have any questions about this pose or want to enrich your on going practice!

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Scissors

Benefits:
Strengthens the abdominals, increases spine flexibility, stretches the hamstrings and hip flexors.

Starting Position:
Lie down on mat and bring your legs up to a 90 degree angle, toes pointed. Arms long by sides, palms down.

  1. Inhale; prepare the body and scoop abdominals inward. Exhale; continue to lift your legs up to ceiling (toes to ceiling). Inhale; bring the hands underneath the hips with finger tips pointed outward and the wrists supporting the back and hips.
  2. Exhale; scissor the legs; one leg moves over the head as the other leg moves toward the mat in the opposite direction. Switch legs and continue to scissor. Keep the hips and pelvis still as you move legs; pulsing slightly.
  3. Inhale; bring the legs back up over the hips (toes reach to ceiling). Exhale; allow your back to roll down to the mat, slowly and carefully, one vertebra at a time.
  4. Complete 3-5 sets

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Do not roll onto the neck
  • Keep the elbows parallel to each other (or as close as possible) & cradle the pelvis with the hands
  • Keep torso rock solid as you scissor
  • Breath fully and deeply to facilitate the scissor motion

Visualization:
Imagine the legs opening wide like a handheld fan, then closing and opening to the other side.

It has a certain “Ring” to it!

Gymnastic rings + you = super fun and strong times!

Now, I know what you are thinking… It sounds a little crazy but trust me, you can do it and you will love it! Gymnastic rings are a great tool to improve core strength, shoulder strength and flexibility, increase body awareness, and improve total upper body strength. I’m sure you can remember the last time you were upside down (those keg stands in college were a long time ago!), but you should totally give it a shot! It’s amazing how just getting inverted will teach you so much about your body in space and show you just how little control and awareness you have!

Gymnastic rings can be used to get inverted, for various pull up exercises, and for lockouts… Think Iron Cross. There are many many many steps before you will get strong and flexible enough to do real fancy things with the rings, but that’s part of why they are great. Even just learning the basics will give you so much body improvement in such little time you will be amazed! Here are a few things we do in class:

  1. Pull ups: Sitting on the floor with your legs crossed and keeping that position thought the full movement, this can also be done assisted if you cannot do a pull up (yet!). Doing a pull up this way will increase core involvement, increase shoulder range of motion (rotating your hands at the top to touch your shoulders to the rings), and increase lat strength (starting from a dead stop and taking out any leg/hip flexor assistance), it’s amazing how pull-ups on the rings are so different than on a bar!
  2. Lock outs: Getting up on the rings and locking out your arms. Sounds easy enough…the higher the rings the more you have to jump into lockout; which is challenging to jump up and power your arms straight down at the same time. You can do lockouts for time, with hand rotations, or with knee/leg raises for added core effort. Getting into position over the rings takes a ton of tricep, lat, core, and shoulder strength! You will be amazed at how challenging this simple movement is!
  3. Ring Inversion: We start with the basics of just simply getting upside down. Getting your hips over your head is tough; ideally we work to do that starting under the rings with straight arms and pulling our legs up with just the use of our core and lats. That is incredibly challenging so using a bit of a pull up, getting a step in start, and using a spotter are all great ways to start. Once you get upside down you use your core and shoulders to maintain balance and control. When you come back to the floor we focus on core strength by slowly lowering your body down in a ball until your feet touch the floor. That is a tall order to say the least!

These are just a few basic exercises we do with the rings. The possibilities are endless however. You will be amazed at how quickly your strength, control, and skill come along on the rings with just a little effort!

Interested in trying out the rings? Come join the fun and challenging ring workouts today!
Contact Personal Fitness Trainer Adriana Brown.

Rethinking Your Cardio

One of the key components to any exercise program is cardio, however for most there is still a lot of mystery surrounding this topic. What machine works the best? How fast should I go? How much time is needed? As a result of this confusion most will tend to gravitate to one machine and perhaps even worse, remain at one pace and intensity for weeks on end. The goal of this article is to shed some light on this topic and leave you with some alternative ways to challenge yourself in a more time-efficient and fun manner.

How long should my cardio be?
There are many theories surrounding the topic of most effective duration of a cardio workout. It seems as if every year there is a new study claiming 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes, etc. is the key to the most effective cardio workout. With such a wide variety of options to choose from, all claiming to be the superior method, it tends to leave many overwhelmed and confused. There is however good news. What virtually all of these methods have in common is the inverse relationship of time to intensity. The more intense the activity, the shorter the time needed to produce or maintain a training effect; the less intense the activity, the longer the required duration. In short, if you find you only have 30 minutes to devote to cardio, rather than choosing a light jog, try adding in sprint intervals. This will in turn not only promote positive changes to your cardiovascular system, but will also have a significant impact on the total number of calories burned.

What machine works the best?
This is often one of most discussed aspects pertaining to cardio training and unfortunately there is no right answer. Regardless of the machine, all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, while the treadmill has the added benefit of forcing the user to exercise at a certain pace, it provides little to no benefit to the muscles of the upper body. The elliptical provides a low impact option to cardio training but leaves the intensity of the workout solely up to the user. All of these machines can have tremendous benefits but it is important remember to challenge your body in new ways regularly. Remember, there is no “perfect shape”, rather than always gravitating towards that same cardio machine, try a new machine each week. This will help keep your body balanced and prepared for whatever life throws at you.

Lastly, while we all know those certain individuals who absolutely love nothing more than spending an hour on a cardio machine, the reality is that this doesn’t describe the vast majority of us, myself included. Possibly the most difficult hurdle involving cardio to overcome is the mental aspect. All cardio machines revolve around a repetitive movement than can quickly become boring and monotonous. This is especially discouraging when the goal of a quality cardio workout is to challenge your body through intensities it isn’t used to. Here is a list of cardio workouts that will hopefully spark your interest, and in the process, might introduce you to a few new pieces of exercise equipment.

For more information on cardiovascular training or questions surrounding the four workouts, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Will Paton.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pike on Floor or Stretch with Pumping

Purpose: This exercise increases flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back, plus challenges the powerhouse. It’s a great prep for the Mat exercise, Teaser.

Starting Position: Sit on the floor facing the chair, weight just back of sit-bones. Place your feet on front edge of chair with legs together. Arms long, reaching forward, palms on raised pedal. Shoulders down and stabilized.

  1. Inhale; Prepare. Exhale; Nod your chin, increase spinal flexion to maintain C-curve. Engage abdominals as you press the pedal down (arms can be slightly bent).
  2. 2. Inhale; Lift the pedal back up with control, keep abs engaged. Lengthen the spine and release the pedal. Exhale.
  3. 3. Repeat 3-5 times.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid neck, arm or shoulder tension
  • Keep abdominals engaged throughout exercise
  • Keep arms in same position relative to torso so the pedal is depressed by abdominals, not by pushing with the arms

Modifications: Sit on a foam cushion or platform extender to decrease gripping in hips.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pull the Pedal Up or Elephant on the Wunda Chair

Purpose: To develop abdominal control, scapular stabilization and strengthen shoulder girdle. This exercise is 100% Powerhouse, making it difficult to perform. A trained professional must spot throughout exercise.

Starting Position: Face the pedal & place the palm of your hands on the edge of the chair with fingertips hanging off. Step 1 foot on the pedal to press it down, step the other foot on. Glue your heels together and lift so you are balancing on your tip toes.

  1. Inhale; Keep scapulae stable and round the trunk in a pike position, scooping your abs. Float your head between your shoulders.
  2. Exhale; with Powerhouse strength, lift pelvis up towards ceiling allowing weight to shift into hands. For 3 counts, lift pedal higher to top of its range.
  3. Inhale; lower pedal down with control. Bring pedal just above base (not quite to the floor), maintain the pike position.
  4. Complete 3-5 reps, lower pedal all the way down. Step 1 foot left; then the other, not letting the pedal rebound.

Visualization: Imagine your are floating upward – levitating.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid sinking through shoulders
  • Keep head aligned with spine, think of dropping top of head toward floor
  • Stabilize around shoulders and through arms to avoid losing control
  • Don’t let your body rock or your hips move from side to side

Modifications: Omit the 3 count pulses.

Attention Squash Players: Don’t Warm Up

At least don’t warm up in the typical fashion: No 5 minutes on the elliptical, no just jumping onto the court. If you are playing the Seattle Open Squash Tournament this weekend, prepare yourself for success with Purposeful Movement Preparation. A Purposeful Movement Preparation routine facilitates movement patterns common to squash, namely lunges, shoulder rotation and rotational stability. The emphasis is on perfect movements and drills that offer ample feedback. Let’s compare three warm-up options to better understand the benefit of Purposeful Movement Preparation.

Option 1: 5 minutes of light cardio exercise on a bike, elliptical, treadmill etc. combined with static stretching of any muscles that feel “tight.”

Option 2: 5-10 minutes on the court hitting

Option 3: 5-10 minutes of Purposeful Movement Preparation

No single strategy is perfect, but the advantages of Purposeful Movement Preparation are apparent. 5-10 minutes focusing on performing perfect repetitions of the movements most necessary for squash will overcome stiffness and soreness while allowing you to play to your potential. After this, a few minutes hitting on the court will provide adequate cardiovascular and skill preparation.

Performing your Purposeful Movement Preparation will require that you execute drills that foster perfect movement through patterns like lunges, shoulder rotation and rotational stability. First, focus on attaining mobility through a full range of motion and then work on stability in the legs, hips and shoulders in progressively more challenging postures. To make your Purposeful Movement Preparation most effective, tailor it to primarily address the movements that you find most challenging.

If you would like to create a personalized Purposeful Movement Preparation routine to facilitate your performance, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Hunter Spencer at hspencer@sacdt.com. Hunter will also be available during the Seattle Open Tournament on Saturday Jan. 18. He will be leading complimentary group Purposeful Movement Preparation routines and providing complimentary Functional Movement Screens to identify your area of greatest need. More in depth corrective exercise sessions are also available to ensure that you maximize your potential at this tournament.

Lower Back Pain: Quick tips to a healthier back

Have you ever bent down to tie your shoe or pick up some small object and come up with back pain? Have you hurt your back while playing with your kids or walking the dogs? Low back pain is a common problem and one of the main reasons is inactivity. As we get older and less active, we lose the strength and the balance in the core muscles (abs and low back) can lead to poor posture, improper alignment, fatigue and pain. Regular exercise is the best way to protect your lower back.

Quick tips to a healthier back

Sitting:

  1. Do not sit for long periods of time.
  2. Avoid sitting forward on a chair with back arched
  3. Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for the task. Keep your shoulders back. Switch sitting positions often and periodically walk around the office or gently stretch muscles to relieve tension. A pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small of your back can provide some lumbar support. If you must sit for a long period of time, rest your feet on a low stool or a stack of books.
  4. Avoid sitting with legs out straight and raised on a stool.

Standing:

  1. If standing for long periods, shift positions from one foot to another or place one foot on a stool.
  2. Stand tall, flatten low back, tighten lower muscles under belly button, and relax the knees a bit to lessen the pull of the hamstrings on your pelvis.
  3. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. A raised heel will exaggerate the curve in your lower back.

Lifting and Carrying:

  1. To pick up an object, bend at knees and not the waist; do not twist to pick up an object. Face the object squarely; and tuck in buttocks and tighten abdomen.
  2. To carry an object, hold object close to body; hold object at waist level; and do not try to carry object on one side of body for extended period of time. If have to be carried unbalanced, chance from one side to the other.

Sleeping:

  1. Do not stay in one position too long.
  2. The bed should be flat and firm yet comfortable.
  3. Do not sleep on the abdomen (stomach).
  4. Do not sleep on your back with legs fully extended.
  5. If sleeping on your back, a pillow should be placed under the knees.
  6. Ideally, sleep on the side with knees drawn up to reduce any curve in the spine.
  7. Do not sleep with arms extended overhead. This will increase curve in spine.
  8. If your bed is too soft and gives little support to your back you may need to place a ¾-inch plywood board underneath the mattress to give it a firm, stable surface for your low back.
  9. If dealing with acute pain from an injury the position of least strain on the back is in the fully recumbent position with the hips and knees at angles of 90 degrees.

Regular exercise and a healthy diet will help decrease your chances of a low back injury. Special attention should be placed on flexibility of the muscles that directly impact the movement and stabilization of the hips and low back. Please come and talk with personal trainer Jason Anderson janderson@sacdt.com or any of our training staff at the Seattle athletic club to get you started on a safe and effective workout program to protect your back.