Healthy Byte: A Proper Plank

Originally Posted HERE

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Whether you’re taking a group fitness class or following an exercise DVD at home, it’s a sure bet that you’ll be doing planks at some point during the workout—and there’s a good reason. Planks are the ultimate test of total-body strength—not just your core. That’s why they’re the groundwork for many bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and burpees.

“The plank is one of those jack-of-all-trades exercises you can carry in your back pocket to strengthen not only your core, but also your chest, arms, back, legs, and booty,” explains, Nicole Blades, as NASM-certified trainer at BodyRoc FitLab in Connecticut. “A plank with proper form can help improve your posture, too. The best part is, this dynamic move doesn’t require any equipment. It’s a total bodyweight exercise.”

So what muscles do planks work, exactly?

Whether you’re in a low or high plank, you’re balancing weight on your arms and toes. This targets a wide range of muscles, especially the rectus and transverse abdominis, Blades says. The rectus abdominis are the front muscles in the abdomen that support the muscles of the spine and help keep organs in the abdomen area in place. They’re known as the “six-pack muscles” because they give your abs shape and definition. On the other hand, the transverse abdominis (TVA) muscles are as known as the “corseting muscles” because they cinch the waist and act as core stabilizers that support the low back. In fact, a weak TVA is often the culprit of low-back pain.

When you engage your upper-body muscles, you’re putting less pressure on your core and are able to hold a plank longer. You can further engage your shoulders and back muscles in a plank when you grip the floor more with your fingers and hands. Keeping a neutral spine will also help relieve pressure on your neck and make holding a plank less uncomfortable. But that’s just the upper body! Here’s how a plank works your lower-body, too.

Your core includes your hips and low back

When people think of their core, their tend to think only about their abs, but the powerhouse includes your hips and low back, too. “A solid plank works the quads (front of the thighs), glutes, and calf muscles in your lower half,” Blades says. In fact, your hips play a big role in making your planks stronger. Your hips are connected to your lower abs, aka the lower part of your rectus abdominis, so engaging these muscles will help you hold the position longer with proper form. When you squeeze your hips, you’re also able to brace your core more and keep your low back lifted—something that many fitness newbies tend to overlook.

How to do a proper plank

That said, there are many different ways to achieve the perfect plank, but here’s a step-by-step breakdown on how to do a high plank.
  1. Get into a tabletop position with your shoulders directly over your wrists and hips in line with your knees.
  2. Engaging your abs, shoulders, back, and glutes, extend your legs back to straighten into a plank and hold.
  3. If you can, do the exercise in front of a mirror, to check that your butt isn’t raised. (A common mistake, but your body should be flat as opposed to an upside down-V shape.)

For a modified plank Blades suggests dropping to your knees instead of holding yourself up on your toes. “Get on all fours and walk your hands forward so your body forms a slanted line from your head to knees, like you would in a modified push-up,” Blades ays. To recruit the glutes and hamstrings, keep your feet lifted toward your butt. Once you master this variation, you can work your way up to a forearm plank by placing your forearms on the ground.

Aim to hold a plank for 15 seconds, then work your way up to 30, 45, 60 seconds, and so on. Instead of watching the clock, Blades suggests setting a timer. This way you’re not painstakingly watching the seconds go by. Don’t forget to also use your breath, deeply inhaling and exhaling. By focusing on your breath, you’ll be able to help set your mind at ease throughout the uncomfortableness. Sometimes you have to practice a little mind over matter. As Blades puts it, “If you feel like you’re about to quit, push yourself to stay in plank a few seconds more. You can do it!”

Healthy Byte: Confidence through Fitness

Originally Posted HERE

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Have you ever felt unathletic or out of place at the gym? So has celebrity trainer Massy Arias, and she’s tired of the exclusive nature of the fitness industry. “If you have a body, you’re an athlete,” Arias tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Fitness changed my life and shaped me as a person. I want to help women find their confidence through movement and through fitness.”

Arias strives to celebrate and promote inclusion, both in the fitness industry and as a beauty ambassador for CoverGirl. “I’m trying to change how women look at their bodies and find confidence in themselves, no matter what their body type,” Arias says. “The more awareness we bring to the space of beauty and diversity, the more pressure we’re putting on brands to actually include and start making products that really help all of us.”

For Arias, embracing fitness was a life-or-death situation. She used it to battle crippling depression that left her weak and malnourished. Now, she uses it to inspire her 2.5 million Instagram followers to turn their lives around, too.

But even though fitness saved her life, Arias knows the industry is imperfect, lacks diverse representation, and tends to leave out certain groups of people and perpetuate a harmful body ideal. So she’s working to change it.

As an individual with a large platform, she feels it is her responsibility to counter these stereotypes. Arias focuses on showing her followers that a healthy lifestyle fits for people of different shapes, sizes, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. She offers fitness and nutrition tips that work — like her healthier pho recipe and equipment-free exercises.

“I think it’s important in my industry to be diverse. I’m a Latina, if my parents would have put me in to play any sport, I think I would have been an amazing athlete,” Arias says. “I will say with confidence that in the Latina community, girls do ‘girl things’ and boys do ‘boys things.’ That’s not how I’m going to raise my daughter.”

Arias also believes diversity and body inclusivity go hand in hand, and she wants people to know that curves can be healthy, too.

“You don’t need to be lean in order to have health. You don’t need to have my muscles. I lift heavy and I have a certain nutrition, and therefore I look this way,” Arias says. “But then you have someone who’s a yogi, someone who may not be muscular and is still healthy, and you have someone with more curves, and that’s still healthy, someone who’s taking care of themselves and may carry more body fat than I do.”

By working to break down stereotypes, Arias has made strides in her own self-love journey as an Afro-Latina. “For so many years, I was pressing my hair, dying it and doing all these crazy things. And I never had the courage to say, you know what, I’m just going to chop it,” says Arias. “I think I’m in a platform right now where I have so many opportunities coming my way, that when I gave birth to my daughter and I saw this little rich chocolate brown girl with curly hair, it had me question myself and my character. The one person she needs to relate to is me, and [cutting my hair] is something I did for her and for my community.”

Ultimately, Arias wants to inspire others to embrace their uniqueness with confidence and happiness. “We’re like ice cream. We come in so many flavors and so many colors — why not embrace us? There’s not a specific mold of what beauty is and who can be beautiful,” she says. “As cliché as it sounds, we need to be comfortable being us, and when we exude confidence, even if you put a ton of makeup on, your personality is gonna make you more beautiful. You can be really pretty and have all this makeup on, but that’s not what makes you beautiful.”

 

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Healthy Byte: The Mighty Six

Originally Posted HERE

Trimming the fat — that’s what fitness is all about. But taking the very notion of slimming things down and applying it to all aspects of your life can be equally as difficult, and equally as satisfying, as becoming more fit and muscular. Imagine if you could trim the proverbial fat from your workday, commute, or any other number of responsibilities? Chances are, you’d reclaim a good amount of time, and be a lot happier.

 For the uninitiated, playing the architect and devising a fitness routine can be difficult — so difficult that we’ve trimmed things down to six simple exercises that can get you started on the path to success.

1. Squats

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Squats will always be a workout staple. | iStock.com

 We discuss squats a lot — and for a good reason. Squats are basically the founding lift or exercise that everything else builds on top of. Squats not only help you build a powerful lower body, but also work your abs, back, and really to some extent, your entire body. You’ll become stronger, faster, improve your range of motion, and your balance as well. There are many, many reasons why squats are integral to a balanced workout, so be sure to get them in.

This is why they tell you not to skip leg day.

2. Pull-ups

man doing pull-ups

Chin-ups and pull-ups are the ultimate display of strength. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Think of pull-ups as the squat of the upper-body. It’s an exercise that incorporates nearly every muscle in your personal northern hemisphere, and forces everything to work in conjunction: your back, chest, abs, and arms. Hell, you’ll even get a little cardio going. Of course, there’s a steep curve for pull-ups, as a lot of people can’t even do one. But that shouldn’t deter you — do what you can, focusing on form. Before you know it, you’ll be busting several out over a few sets.

3. Power cleans

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This lift works your entire body. | Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The clean is an excellent lift, with the only potential downside being they require access to barbells and gym space. Even so, this is one of those lifts that, similar to squats, will get your whole body into action. Not only will you be using your lower body to get a powerful lift off, but you’ll need your back and core, and finally your arms to handle the weight once you get it above your waist. You’ll develop explosiveness and definitely build a lot of muscle by incorporating cleans into your workout. There are substitutes, like rows, but if you can, get your hands on a barbell and some plates for the full experience.

4. Planks

man doing planks while a woman times him

Planks will give you the abs of your dreams. | iStock.com

Here’s an exercise that can be done in a barren fitness center, devoid of any equipment, or even in a hotel room or airport. Planking is so much more than just a passing internet video fad — it’s one of the better exercises that can be adopted into your regimen. Planks will give your core and upper legs a real workout and even help sculpt your abs. And there are a ton of variations you can throw into the mix as well to ensure you don’t get bored.

5. Lunges

man doing a dumbbell lunge

Lunges are great for your booty. | iStock.com

As if we haven’t given your lower body enough of a run-through, we’re going to add lunges to the list. Lunges, like planks, can be done in a much more convenient setting, and only require a set of barbells — or anything weighty that can be carried, really. Lunges will train your glutes and quads, helping you build explosive muscle that will also help with cleans, squats, and deadlifts. Use them in addition to your other lifts, or if you can’t do anything else, use the simplicity of lunges to your advantage.

6. Burpees

man in the bottom phase of a push-up in an empty room

Burpees are tough, but they’re seriously effective. | iStock.com

Yes, the exercise you probably hate the most is, indeed, one of the most effective. Burpees are the whole package — they raise your heart rate with the jumping movement and offer strength gains with the squat, plank, and push-up positions. If you’re unfamiliar with how a burpee works, you begin by jumping up and then immediately lowering to the ground to perform a push-up. Once the push-up is complete, hop your feet back in, and jump skyward once more. This is just one rep — do as many as you can in a minute to complete a set, or try out one of these difficult variations.

 

Healthy Byte: Quality Not Quantity

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Photographer Benjamin Von Wong

It’s no secret that there are a plethora of factors that might make your workouts less frequent. When you’re stuck juggling work, running errands and still trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour, there just aren’t enough hours in the day! Or, perhaps you simply haven’t grown fond of the whole fitness scene, and working out just feels like a daunting chore.

Working out, however, is an essential ingredient in maintaining a healthy body—mentally and physically. But, the best part is, you don’t have to devote hours every day to hitting the gym to see results. We spoke with celebrity trainer Ashley Borden, and YouTube fitness star and founder of Fit Strong and Sexy workout regimen Amanda Russell, to figure out the least amount of time you can work out and still transform your body.

It all comes down to quality over quantity. “It’s really not about the time at all—it’s about the quality of what you’re doing. So you could put in 80 hours a week and see no results, and you could but in three hours a week and see incredible results,” says Russell. In fact, working out for longer at a high intensity can bring you less-efficient results because the longer you work out, the more you have to lower the intensity, which completely changes the exercise. “If you’re doing [high intensity exercises] right, you physically couldn’t be able to do them longer,” Russell explains.

Borden is on the same page when it comes to intensity over time. Her 10-minute workout suggestion is to warm up for two minutes using a foam roller and doing active stretches, and then take eight minutes to do the following: 20 seconds of mountain climbers and 10 seconds of rest four times; 20 seconds of lateral bounds and 10 seconds of rest four times. “That is 10 minutes and you have worked out your entire body with just your body weight. Pushing your intensity and pace is what will dictate the speed of your results.” Her minimum recommendation, however, is full-body strength training and high intensity interval workouts three times each week.

The best part of using just your body weight is that you can do it anywhere, no equipment required. Russell, whose online platform is based on the idea of programs that take up less time, is a huge advocate of that workout technique. “You want something you can literally do in your hotel or bedroom. Your body is hands down the best tool you have.”

All that said, not everyone is built alike, which may be a factor in how often you need to hit the gym. As Borden explains, ectomorphs are on the leaner side and have narrow hips, mesomorphs have round and long muscles and a small waist and endomorphs have thicker bodies with wider hips. One is not better than the other, but it just means you have to work out differently. “An ectomorph would have to focus on eating and getting enough healthy calories in a day,” whereas an “endomorph body would like more of a mix of steady state cardio and short high intensity type of workouts.”

While you make your workouts less frequent, you can make some lifestyle changes to help out your health in the long run. Borden recommends focusing on your posture throughout the day, and emphasizes the importance of water. “Start with half your body weight in ounces of water. If you weigh 160 pounds, you would try to drink 80 oz daily.” Striving for a nutritional diet is also a huge factor, as the foods you put into your body are reflected on the outside. According to Russell, your diet is 90 percent of the deal.

So, luckily for all you busy-bees or gym foes, the overarching point is that, as long as you give it your all, you do not have to stress over the time commitment of exercising. “The busiest people on the planet will either say that they don’t have time to work out, or that they never skip a workout. That’s where it falls into the priority zone for them,” says Russell. No more excuses—grab your sneakers or your yoga mat, and get to it.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Elevating the Push Up

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If you feel standard Push-Ups are too easy, perhaps it’s time for some variation. Hindu Push-Ups are a fantastic option for athletes of all ability levels to obtain the muscular pectorals that are necessary for strength, power and effective posture, movement and stability—all things athletes should be concerned with.

Hindu Push-Ups can be superior to Bench Presses for a few reasons:

  • By being able to manipulate the position of your body, you can create more tension in your chest, a key component for building muscle.
  • Bodyweight exercises are excellent for improving the mind-muscle connection, so you can create greater tension within the target muscle.
  • Because no external weight is involved, most athletes aren’t tempted to do more than they are capable of just to appear stronger or to stroke their ego.

The best way to include Hindu Push-Ups in your programming is to use them as an assistance exercise. Assistance exercises can be used for injury prevention and/or muscle hypertrophy, making them more suited to moderate to high reps (6-12-plus).

Although you can manipulate your body to make this movement more difficult, it isn’t a great option for maximal strength development. Instead, you should perform Hindu Push-Ups after you’ve done a maximal strength-focused movement like the Barbell or Dumbbell Bench Press.

To start, perform 3 sets of 6-12 repetitions after you finish your maximal strength exercises for the day. For example, start your workout with Barbell Bench Press for 3 sets of 3 reps. After you finish all sets and reps of the Bench Press, do Hindu Push-Ups for 3 sets of 10 reps.

Programming Push-Ups as a finisher (the last sets of the training session) also works extremely well on upper- and full-body days.

How to Perform Hindu Push-Ups

1) Assume a push-up position with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your core tight and back flat.

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2) Push your torso backward and raise your butt up to move into a pike position so your body forms an inverted V.

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3) Bend your elbows to lower your upper chest to the ground while keeping your butt up. As you lower your chest, drop your butt down so your body is in a straight line when you’re closest to the ground.

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4) Straighten your arms to push your chest up, but allow for a slight arch in your back similar to the yoga Upward Dog position.

 5) From this position, push your torso backward and repeat the sequence beginning at Step 2.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: 8-Minute Workout ANYWHERE!

This 8-minute workout is broken down into 16 different 30-second intervals — including moves to warm you up and cool you down some. For each interval, you can take it as hard or as easy as you want. If you want to make it a true HIIT session, then really push yourself to do as many reps as you can of each move per interval. If you’re wanting to take it easier (say, you’re doing this over your lunch break and don’t have access to a shower), then take your intensity down a notch. It’s up to you! No matter how fast you do it, you’ll be working your entire body — and getting strength and cardio work in at the same time. Plus, we think it’s totally fun. And, only 8 minutes, so totally doable!

1. March in place. Think about what you want to get out of this workout today.

2. Jog in place. Think about why you’re doing this workout today.

3. Jumping jacks. Be sure to reach all the way up and touch your hands overhead.

4. Squats. If you need a refresher on proper squat form, read this. And if squats are too easy, try jump squats.

5. Mountain climbers. Really try to get your feet up and near your hands.

6. Plank on your hands. Oh, the fun is just getting started in plank.

7. Side plank to the right. If you need to drop down to a knee, that’s totally cool.

8. Side plank to the left. Again, feel free to modify down to that knee.

9. Reverse plank. Keep those hips lifted! Almost done with the planks, we swear.

10. Plank on your forearms. If you need a break, come into down dog, and then get right back in it as soon as you can.

11. Dance party. After all of those planks, you deserve a 30-second impromptu dance party, don’t ya think?

12. Forward lunges. Don’t let that knee go past your front toe for proper alignment.

13. Jumping lunges. If these are too intense, try backward lunges.

14. Burpees. You’re in the home stretch! After this, we start cooling down. So give this one your all!

15. Left to right side touches. Bring that heart rate down. Think about what you got out of your workout today.

16. Big inhales and exhales as you reach your arms over ahead and back down again. Think about your why again. And then feel really freakin’ proud of yourself.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Workout Smarter Not Longer

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What if you could get all the benefits of a sweaty bike ride and a trip to the weight room in 7 minutes?

There’s an app for that — and it’s the best one we saw this past year.

Originally envisioned by a personal trainer and an exercise physiologist, the 7-minute workout app builds on new research suggesting that short spurts of intense exercise can provide long lasting benefits comparable to longer, more grueling regimens.

Anyone can use the app — all it takes is a smartphone, a spare wall, and a chair.

The Workout

The 7-minute session (which was so successful it inspired the New York Times to release their own version of the app a few months after the original came out) consists of 12 relatively standard exercises like jumping jacks, sit-ups, and push-ups. Ten of them require nothing but your own body (you’ll need a chair that can support your weight for the other two).

times 7-minute workoutHere’s the Times app counting down: 18 more seconds of jumping jacks. Screenshot

Here’s the full set of exercises, which I tried out myself:

1. Jumping Jacks

2. Wall sits

3. Push-ups

4. Crunches

5. Step-up (on chair)

6. Squats

7. Triceps dips (on chair)

8. Planks

9. High knees/running in place

10. Lunges

11. Push-ups and rotations

12. Side planks

Between each exercise, you rest for 10 seconds.

Worth The Hype?

The workout is quick, unpleasant (in the way only a good workout can be), and came with some pretty quick results — I was slightly sore in two areas of my body that my 5-day-a-week yoga regimen hasn’t seemed to have reached. I also noticed a little bit of extra mental clarity and decreased anxiety (which is why I do yoga) immediately after the workout.

Another plus to the 7-minute-regimen: I live in a New York apartment with very little extra space, but I was nevertheless able to do the whole workout in a corner of my living room using just my phone, a yoga mat, and a fold-up chair.

A Few Caveats

7-minute workout times appThe Times app illustrates how to do a wall sit. Screenshot

As expected, the physical benefits didn’t seem to last quite as long as my 1.5-hour yoga sessions. While my heart raced and my mind cleared for a few minutes immediately after the workout, those side effects wore off within a few hours. I only did it twice, though, so perhaps if I committed to a daily 7-minute workout the benefits would persist.

Also, since this specific workout is so new, there are no long-term studies comparing its results to those of longer cardio and weight-training workouts. In general, though, the evidence researchers do have supports the benefits of high-intensity intervals, both in terms of building muscle mass and improving heart health.

Even for patients with coronary artery disease, short bouts of intense interval training were found to be more beneficial in helping them regain heart function than traditional, continuous workouts — though anyone with a heart condition should consult a doctor before trying a new exercise routine.

The Science

The workout is based on the idea of interval training, an exercise style of short, intense periods of exercise broken up by brief periods of rest. Despite being far less time consuming, an interval workout may actually be more beneficial than a comprehensive, hours-long bout of exercise, according to some research done in the past decade.

So instead of a grueling one-hour run followed by weight-lifting, for example, you can do several minutes’ worth of intense push-ups, squats, and jumping jacks for similar results.

That’s pretty significant considering that many of us skip working out because we feel we don’t have enough time, because the weather is bad, or because a gym membership is too expensive.

The Mayo Clinic endorses interval training, as does the American Council on Exercise. A 2012 study comparing two groups of runners — one who trained by doing traditional, continuous runs and another which did interval training — found both groups achieved nearly the same results (the only difference being that the interval trainers had better peak oxygen uptake, an important measure of endurance). And a recent study in the journal Diabetologia found that doing walking interval training — walking briskly for three minutes and resting for three minutes for an hour — helped people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels far better than simply walking at the same pace continuously.

The most important thing when doing interval training is committing as much effort as possible throughout the whole workout, making sure to push yourself. After all, each exercise only lasts 30 seconds.

Seven hellish minutes later, you’re done.

Originally Posted HERE

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