High Energy Workouts for a Head Start on Swimsuit Season

High Energy Workouts for a Head Start on Swimsuit Season

Getting Fit for Swimsuit Season 

For a solid high-energy workout, you’ve got to put in the work! Even if you’re not keeping up with the class or if you’re running a slow mile compared to someone else, putting in the best that you can do means you’re getting an amazing workout. 

Your body is always competing with its own personal best. If you are challenging yourself in a way you haven’t been challenged before, then you’re doing things right! This can mean that you’re doing one more pushup when you thought you were ready to quit or running your mile a couple seconds faster than you did the last time. Strive to outdo yourself in bits and pieces and you’re bound to get more out of your workout! 

That being said, we know it’s easier to give that little bit extra when you have a game plan. Here are some options to help keep you moving until the last second of your workout! 

Circuit Training

Circuit Training tasks your body to perform a series of exercises back to back before a brief period of rest. This workout model is intense, not only because it works multiple muscle groups over the course of the workout, but because it requires you to keeping moving all the way through. If you’re really feeling ambitious you can even throw in some cardio before you start your circuit. 

A sample workout could look like this: Complete 8 to 15 reps performing the Leg Press, then the Chest Fly, then the Glute Kickback, and end with Bicep Curls. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat the circuit 2 to 3 times. 

View this circuit, and additional samples of this training model, here. 

Plyometrics

Plyometric exercises can be upper body or lower body focused. It’s all about building up your movement from slow and controlled to explosive and powerful. Plyometrics are great for generating speed, but to accomplish this, your body will need to expend a lot of energy to move the way you’re asking it to 

Lower-Body PlyometricsThese are exercises like box jumps, jump squats, and switch jumps. The sudden explosion of energy required to jump is what makes these exercises plyometric movements. You can even add a medicine ball to increase the intensity. Click to view some medicine ball plyometrics. 

Upper-Body Plyometrics – These focus less on jumping and more on generating power from your upper body. An example of this would be a clap push-up or a medicine ball wall throw and catch. You can view these and more upper body plyometric workouts here. 

Drop Sets

A drop set is several repetitions of the same exercise that you perform until failure. You are essentially pushing a single muscle group as far as it can go. To help pull you through this kind of workout, drop sets are designed to allow you to drop the intensity of your movement with each set. For example, once you’ve done as many as you can do at a certain level of resistance, you allow yourself to continue by decreasing the resistance and performing another set.  

The best way to perform these is on machines because you can more easily manipulate how much weight you’re carrying, and you’ll have a safe way to release the weight when your muscles finish their last possible rep.  

View some sample drop set workouts here. 

For more articles like this one, and to keep up to date on our fitness, nutrition, and wellness articles, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, today! 

Exercise Safety with Multiple Sclerosis

Exercise Safety with Multiple Sclerosis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. This system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord and, when it is compromised, it can be disabling. Essentially what happens is that the immune system attacks the protective covering on nerve fibers which disrupts the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. The affected nerves will vary from person to person, so not all people with MS will exhibit all of the same symptoms.1  

What Do Symptoms Look Like?

The most impacted function with Multiple Sclerosis is movement. Numbness or weakness in the limbs, tremors, and an unsteady gait are among the most recognizable symptoms. Vision, speech, sexual, bowel, and bladder problems are also known to occur.1

Exercise with MS

Muscle weakness, balance and coordination problems, dizziness, and difficulty breathing can make exercise a significant chore for people with Multiple Sclerosis. However, activity is still very important. Common MS treatments and inactivity can render people with this disease more susceptible to developing osteoporosis, which can make balance and coordination issues an even greater concern. This can be prevented or slowed, however, through physical activity and proper nutrition.2  

A 2004 study found that, even though cases of MS vary across patients, exercise programs designed to increase cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength, and mobility can enhance a patient’s quality of life while also reducing the risk of secondary disorders.3 However, it’s important to adhere to exercises that are safe.  

 

A publication by BMC Neurology identifies a number of practical and beneficial exercises for patients with MS. An important preface to their findings is that each exercise program should be designed to address a patient’s specific goal and should take into account a person’s baseline impairments and capabilities. Only a healthcare professional can provide the appropriate fitness routine for your needs, but generally, these aspects of training are known to hold benefits for patients with MS: 
  

  1. Aerobic Training: Low to moderate intensity aerobic training is effective on cardiovascular fitness, mood, reduction of fatigue, and overall quality of life. Examples include bicycling, aquatic exercise, and treadmill walking. Rowing and running are also potential options but only for patients with proper functioning.4
     
  2. Strength Exercises: For MS patients, supervised resistance training is safer than unsupervised training, and the use of weight-machines is safer than the use of free-weights. It is also important to prioritize the lower body because that is where the strength deficit is usually greater. Examples of strength exercises include the seated leg press, seated hamstring curls, knee extensions, shoulder press, chest press, and lat pull-downs. As a note, seated exercises are the safer option when compared to standing exercises.4
     
  3. Flexibility Exercises: These types of exercises are important to enhance mobility and improve balance and posture. Slow, gentle, and prolonged stretching is recommended before and after exercise with a particular focus on spastic muscles (tight or stiff muscles). Yoga and tai chi classes may be options for patients with higher functioning.4
     
  4. Balance and Coordination Exercises: Exercises that challenge balance can be very helpful. It is important that a stable support is available or that patients exercise in water. Water exercises provide support that help protect participants from dangerous falls.4  

Common Concerns

As with all new exercise routines, it’s important to know when to stop. You can help protect yourself from injury if you are attentive to how your body is feeling with each movement. When it comes to Multiple Sclerosis, there are a few more things to keep in mind. 

  1. Heat Intolerance: Heat stress caused by exercise can exacerbate the symptoms of MS. For this reason, heat-sensitive patients are encouraged to exercise in air-conditioned rooms, to perform water-based exercises, and to avoid exercising during the hottest part of the day.4
     
  2. Fatigue: Exercise can make symptoms of fatigue worse in MS patients.4 This is part of why it’s important that you don’t push yourself to exhaustion. It can be dangerous to do so, especially if you are using free-weights. In the grand scheme of things, exercise can actually help improve symptoms of fatigue,4 but it is important be aware of your limits during exercise.
     
     
  3. Risk of Falling: It is advised that patients who are at risk of falling be monitored during exercise.4 A fall is a risk not worth taking, so it is important to have non-slip surfaces in areas of aquatic activities and to take precautions during any form of exercise. 

What is your approach to exercise with MS? Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more articles like this one, and to stay in-the-know on important health and nutrition topics, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog. 

SOURCES 

  1. “Multiple Sclerosis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Apr. 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269. 
  2. Pietrangelo, Ann, and Kristeen Cherney. “The Effects of Multiple Sclerosis on Your Body.” Healthline, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/effects-on-the-body#7. 
  3. White, L.J. & Dressendorfer, R.H. Sports Med (2004) 34: 1077. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200434150-00005  
  4. Halabchi, F., Alizadeh, Z., Sahraian, M. A., & Abolhasani, M. (2017). Exercise prescription for patients with multiple sclerosis; potential benefits and practical recommendations. BMC Neurology, 17(1), 185. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12883-017-0960-9  

I’m Not Seeing Progress! What Am I Doing Wrong?

I’m Not Seeing Progress! What Am I Doing Wrong?

When You’re Stuck in Your Weight Loss or Stuck in Your Muscle Gain

Whether you’re hitting a plateau after weeks of steady progress, or you’ve been working hard from day one and have hardly seen a dent of change, something is happening when your body is seemingly stuck.

Is it something you’re doing wrong? Has your body simply adjusted to your routine? Let’s break down some of the reasons why your weight loss or muscle gain progress has hit a standstill. 

Weight Loss Plateau

1. You’re Gaining Muscle 

It’s possible that the scale isn’t moving because your body composition is changing. You may still be losing fat, but the scale may not be reflecting it because you’re gaining muscle at the same time. Author of our Body Composition article, Deanna Mercurio, explains that a more accurate way to track your progress is not with the scale but with body measurements and pictures. 

2. You’re Consuming Too Many Calories 

If you haven’t felt the need to track your calories, it might be a good time to start. Too many calories could be the culprit behind your plateau. Your body is smart, and it knows you’ve been depleting those precious fat stores. A study on weight gain found that the body’s internal protection against starvation encourages eating just so you will regain lost weight! Keeping track of what you’ve eaten can help you outsmart this natural response to weight loss. 

3. You’re Eating Too Many Processed Foods 

You might be hitting the right calorie count but turning a blind eye to the nutritional content of your food. Your body needs a variety of macro- and micro-nutrients to keep functioning at its best. Our dietitian recommends that you focus on real, whole foods and that you avoid processed food products.1  

4. Your Sugar Intake is Too High 

Sugar is the enemy in the battle with weight loss, partly because it’s easy to consume too much. The World Health Organization recommends that sugars comprise no more than 10% of your daily calories; that’s about 50 grams per day.2 A single beverage can easily contain more than that. Yes, that also means cutting back on healthier beverages like fruit juice. Our dietitian also warns against seemingly healthy smoothies that contain sherbet or fruit syrups. Those sweet additions, she explains, contain refined sugars that are easily absorbed and metabolized into fat.3 

5. Your Metabolism Has Adapted 

Switching things up can help kickstart your weight loss again. Again, we’ll lean on our dietitian’s recommendation. To switch things up, she suggests adding to or intensifying your existing fitness routine with weight training/resistance, cardio, or HIIT workouts, while adding some nutritious calories to those workout days. Those calories can take the form of vegetables, legumes, and pre-workout shakes or recovery drinks.4  

Muscle Gain Plateau 

1. You’re Not Eating Enough 

As you gain muscle, your energy needs change as well. You’ll need more nutritious calories (from lean proteins, vegetables, whole grains and healthy plant fats)5 and more protein than the average person because your body needs them to repair and build the muscles you’re working. Read our Protein article to learn how to calculate what your body needs (based on your weight and activity level) to help you bulk. 

2. Your Muscles Have Adapted 

Just like your metabolism, your muscles can adapt to your routine. This is why workout routines should be anything but “routine.” You’ll need to do things differently to break your body out of its comfort zone. Remember when you first started a certain type of workout and you really had to push yourself through your sets? If you no longer feel challenged by your workout, your body has adjusted. Try increasing your working weight or incorporating some more intense training, like drop sets, to get your muscles back into build-mode. Sticking to the same routine may help you maintain muscle, but progressive overload is crucial to building muscle. 

3. You’re Not Drinking Enough Water 

When your body doesn’t have enough water, your muscles must compete with other organs that are also demanding it. As you lose water through sweat, your blood volume is reduced. This slows oxygen delivery to and carbon dioxide removal from your muscle tissue.6 Essentially, you won’t be able to work as hard during training if you’re not giving your body enough water to cope with the physical exertion. It’s important to hydrate before, during, and after exercise.5 

4. You’re Inconsistent 

As we mentioned earlier, progressive overload and variety in your workout is very important to building muscle. Now you have to make sure you’re consistent about how you train. Your body needs to know that this type of exertion isn’t a once-in-a-while thing; that your muscles need to do this job often! Consistency, paired with progressive overload, prompts your body to build muscle because the physical tasks your body is being asked to do are not going away and they’re getting more difficult. 

5. You’re Doing Too Much Cardio 

The right amount of cardio can help you build muscle. Too much can do the opposite. Go back to the first item on this list for a second. To build muscle, you need to eat more calories! Regular cardio can help you consume those extra calories without gaining a lot of fat.7 Cardio also increases your blood flow, which if you remember for item 3, is important for oxygen delivery to and waste removal from your muscle tissue. The increased blood flow also helps deliver fresh nutrients (which your muscles obviously need for recovery and growth)7 

Too much intense cardio, on the other hand, can pull resources away from your muscle tissue. Now instead of those resources going towards building muscle, they’re fueling your cardio. If you’re trying to bulk, keep your cardio at low intensity and low volume.8  

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve learned something new! Will you be adjusting your workout or nutrition regimen? Stay in-the-know on trending health and nutrition topics and subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog! 

Sources  

  1. James, Debbie. “How to Handle a Weight Loss Plateau: QA.” Living Healthy, 25 Jan. 2020, https://blog.lafitness.com/2019/09/19/how-to-handle-a-weight-loss-plateau/ 
  2. “Daily Sugar Intake – How Many Grams of Sugar a Day?” Food Pyramid, http://www.foodpyramid.com/daily-sugar-intake/ 
  3. James, Debbie. “My Weight Loss Has Plateaued… Any Advice?” Living Healthy, 20 Apr. 2018, https://blog.lafitness.com/2018/03/29/weight-loss-plateaued-advice/ 
  4. James, Debbie. “What to Do When Weight Loss Stalls: QA.” Living Healthy, 25 Jan. 2020, https://blog.lafitness.com/2020/01/28/what-to-do-when-weight-loss-stalls/ 
  5. James, Debbie. “How Much Protein Should I Be Eating?: QA.” Living Healthy, 25 Jan. 2020, https://blog.lafitness.com/2020/01/09/how-much-protein-should-i-be-eating/  
  6. Muñoz, Colleen X., and Evan C. Johnson. “Hydration for Athletic Performance.” Nutrition and Enhanced Sports Performance (Second Edition), Academic Press, 12 Oct. 2018, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978012813922600045X 
  7. Hitchcock, Heather. “How Much Cardio Should I Do When Bulking?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 2 Sept. 2019, https://www.livestrong.com/article/437460-how-much-cardio-should-i-do-when-bulking/  
  8. Hartman, Bill. “Will Cardio Keep Me from Gaining Muscle?” Men’s Health, Men’s Health, 25 May 2018, https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a19540296/will-cardio-keep-me-from-gaining-muscle/ 

Compound Movements and Why You Should Do Them

Compound Movements and Why You Should Do Them

What are Compound Movements? 

What if I told you that doing compound movements in the gym burned more calories during your workout; would you know which exercises to do?  

What if I also told you that compound movements burn more calories postworkout than any other exercise, would you believe me? 

Imagine learning that this type of movement maximizes your time in the gym, helps you lose weight, and helps you burn more fat; would you do more?  

Compound Movements, also known as Compound Exercises, are multi-joint movements that work several muscle groups at one time, compared to isolation movements that work one muscle at a time.  

An example of a compound movement would be a squat. A squat works your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and core. An example of an isolation movement is a bicep curl, which only works the bicep. See the difference? One muscle versus many muscles. The more muscles you are working at one time the more calories and fat you will burn. Cool, right?  

Compound movements are not only for the gym but also can be a great home workout. You don’t necessarily need heavy weights. You just need a little bit of time and a little bit of space to get in some good compound exercises. 

Benefits of Compound Movements

One of the biggest benefits of compound movements is that they make effective use of your time. When you are short on time but want to put in a quick weighttraining workout, think compound movements. Other benefits include:  

+ more calories burned 

+ improved coordination 

+ improved flexibility and range of motion 

+ gaining more muscle  

+ improved strength

Best Compound Movements 

The following list is derived from an article by the American College of Sports Medicine. While these 7 items are personally my favorite, there are unquestionably other compound movements that might work better for you. It all depends on your level of fitness. Give them a try! 

  1. Squats 
    • Areas of Focus – quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and core 
  2. Deadlifts 
    • Areas of Focus – almost the entire body but especially the hamstrings, glutes, arms, core, and back (trapezoids)  
  3. Bench Press 
    • Areas of Focus – chest, shoulders and triceps 
  4. Pull-ups 
    • Areas of Focus – entire back region (emphasis on lats), forearms and biceps 
  5. Bent-over barbell rows (reverse grip) 
    • Areas of Focus – back region (emphasis on upper back; rhomboids, trapezoids), and biceps 
  6. Shoulder Presses 
    • Areas of Focus – entire deltoid region: front, medial and rear (emphasis on front deltoids) 
  7. Lunges (static) 
    • Areas of Focus – entire leg region (emphasis on glutes and hamstrings) 

Combine Compound Movements with Isolation Movements

Combining both types of movement makes for a great workout. For example, a squat to a bicep curl or a squat to a bicep curl to a shoulder press.

It’s important to keep good form while performing exercises. Squatting may seem safe but when weights are added and the exercise is done improperly, it could result in injury.

Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. Have an LA Fitness Pro Results® trainer help you with the basic principles of weightlifting and proper form when exercising.  

Bottom Line  

Next time you are in the gym or doing a home workout, incorporate a few compound movements. Get your heartrate up and boost your metabolism. Since compound movements engage several muscles at one time, it requires more energy from you. In turn, you burn more calories by spiking your metabolism and increasing your heart rate, which make you stronger.  

Check out this workout routine “The 2 Week Workout Finale for the Your Best Beach Body Ever!” This 2 week workout routine combines plyometrics, compound movements and integrated intervals so you can strut your stuff with confidence. For more articles like this one, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog.

How to Transition from Machines to Free Weights

How to Transition from Machines to Free Weights

Machines vs Free Weights 

Machines

Machines and free weights each have their advantages. Machines are great for people who need a bit more guidance. They support your body, usually have a seat and backrest, and they guide your movement which helps you learn how a specific exercise is supposed to feel. They’re great for people who are just starting out and need the direction a machine can provide.  

Both a benefit and a drawback of machines is that, often, they will isolate a single muscle. This can be great if you’re looking for a more targeted workout, but you’ll have to do a lot more exercises on a bunch of different machines to work more than one muscle group. The strength you gain from machines is also not very functional, but this may not be a concern if your focus is on aesthetics. 

Free Weights

Free weights are great for people who are looking to exercise multiple muscle groups at once. Because different muscles come into play to stabilize the weight as you move it, you get a more complete workout from one exercise. A drawback is that you are sometimes limited by what you can lift off the rack or by your grip strength. Your legs may be ready to squat more weight, for example, but your arms may not be ready to carry those couple extra pounds.  

The strength you gain from free weights is highly functional because your muscles are allowed to move naturally. You have the benefit of engaging parts of a muscle you normally wouldn’t engage on a machine, even though you’re doing a similar exercise. 

If you’re looking to transition from machines to free weights, we’re about to tell you how. There are some important precautions and considerations that can help make the transition easier and safer. 

Free Weights Don’t Weigh the Same

This sounds a bit ridiculous. How is squatting 250-pounds on a Smith machine (assisted squat machine) not the same as squatting a 250-pound barbell? Well, the answer is in the mechanics of the machine. Machines guide your muscles through a very linear motion. Your body doesn’t have to work to stabilize the weight (to keep it from tipping more one way than the other, etc.). Because of that, you don’t need to put as much effort into moving the weight that’s connected to a machine. 

>> When you transition from machines to free weights, you need to start significantly lighter and build your way up to find your working weight.  

Master Your Form First

The thing about machines is they stick you into a certain form. It’s great if you’ve never done a particular exercise and you need to know what it should look and feel like. However, once you step away from the machine, it’s all different. Your body will want to move differently to compensate for the position of your hands and feet and where the dumbbells or barbell happen to be resting. You may also notice that you have one arm or leg that is stronger than the other and that it is doing more of the work. This can also set the weight into a different balance that your stabilizing muscles will have to make up for. 

>> When you decide to take an exercise off the machine and onto the floor, you may notice weaknesses you hadn’t noticed before. Master your form first and then gradually incorporate weights. 

Don’t Push Your Muscles to Failure

It was easier to do this with machines because the equipment was relieving you of the weight once you had done your last rep. With free weights, pushing until your muscles can do no more can be dangerous, especially if your form is compromised. It’s important to leave your body a little breathing room and to have a spotter when you plan to challenge yourself in the weight room.  

>> Pushing your muscles to failure when using free weights can be dangerous. Always give yourself enough energy to complete your last rep with perfect form. 

For more workout tips, read up on what happens when you exercise on an empty stomach. Or, find out what you should know before you work out in cold weather. To stay up to date with our content, click to subscribe to our newsletter and receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

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