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

man performing bodyweight squats on a track

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

bodybuilder power cleans

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.

 

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Healthy Byte: Day 1030

Perfect PU

For anyone who has followed me for awhile knows that I am intrinsically a bit lazy. I don’t particularly hold a fondness for exercise nor do I particularly detest exercise. I nothing exercise in the sense that it is just something I have incorporated into my life in order to stay healthy. It’s kind of like kids and high school. There are those who spring out of bed everyday with a ear-to-ear smile who truly adored high school. There are those who absolutely hated every waking moment of high school. Then there are those of us mucks who endured it because it was a necessary milestone to endure. Fitness to me is just that – a necessity to staying healthy – not a choice.

This is the primary reason that my personal fitness motto is ‘biggest bang for my workout buck!’ (BBWOB) Essentially, I want to do the bare minimum in the least amount of time.  I need an exercise which will build muscle, tone / define, and can be accomplished in as few movements as possible. And let me just toss out a disclaimer that I am not certified personal trainer nor am I any sort of fitness expert. I do however, am a little nerdy and spend hours in researching the latest & most efficient workout trends so that I can always maximize the results with minimum effort. This BBWOB approach is just what has worked for me in not only keeping the near 40lbs off for 2+ years but it has given me body definition I never thought possible. So please keep in mind what works for me may not be the right answer for you.

Now that is out of the way …

When I was transitioning from weight loss to maintaining, I slowly shifted my workout from all cardio to cardio with some form of strength training. Now when I hear strength training, my knee-jerk reaction is to think of traditional weight lifting; which sucks the happiness right out of my soul! Not because I hold any malice inclination towards the activity but because I know enough to comprehend the amount of time required to invest in it (refer to first sentence). I have always found the ‘heavy / serious’ lifting section of any gym to be very intimidating. It just makes me feel absurdly out-of-place, awkward, and reminiscent of being back in junior high school at that very first boy-girl dance. You know the one where all the girls tries to play it cool making small talk on one side of the gym while the boys awkwardly contemplate the distinct possibility of a public ‘no’ on the other? YES – that level of awkwardness. I can’t even tell you why but the minute I step on to the thick rubber mats in the free weight section of any gym I immediately feel like a fish out of water.

Aside from a major case of the inept, for the Ordinary Jane / Joe who is only looking to tone and define, who is not looking to bulk & exponentially increase muscle mass, enter physique/body competitions, or have any aspirations to be a serious weight lifter, the abundant time investment seem to be a bit of an overkill. However, the core concept of working muscle groups was a good one and it inspired me to look for exercises which targets the largest muscle groups in one or two movements.

Enter compound exercises. Compound exercise is defined as “… any exercise that involves the use of more than one major muscle group at a time. Typically, there is one larger muscle group that ends up doing the majority of the work, and then one or more smaller muscle groups that are recruited secondarily” (Source: A Workout Routine). One of the major benefits of many staple compound exercises can be done equipment free also known as bodyweight strength training. The dynamic dual allows me to work multiple muscles at once and no or very little equipment required was a natural win-win for me.

So here is a sample of my typical workout:

  • WHAT: Elliptical in various squat positions
  • DURATION: 30 minutes on high resistance. When the resistance gets too easy I bump it up. Started at Level 2 now I am at Level 6.
  • MUSCLE GROUPS: Quads, Hamstring, Glutes, Calves, Heart (cardio)
  • BBWOB TIP: No Time to Read – This exercise should never be easy enough to leisurely read while on the elliptical. If you can then it’s time to bump up the resistance to the next level!

elip wTip

  • WHAT: Three forms of Push Ups (Tricep, Regular, Wide Arm) 
  • DURATION: As many as I can pump out without falling on my face. Typically I do about 30-65 push ups in total. 
  • MUSCLE GROUPS:  Chest, Shoulders, Back, Bicep, Tricep, Abs 
  • BBWOB TIP: Quality over Quantity – In order to maximize the benefits form matters. For the first few workouts, do push ups long ways of a mirror to check body positioning. Generally in the upright push up position, visually the body, arms and floor should form an almost right angle (See fitness model photo above).

pu wTip

  • WHAT: Three forms of Planks (Regular, High, Arms Up)
  • DURATION: 1 minute hold between each Push Up set
  • MUSCLE GROUPS: Abs, Chest, Shoulders, Upper Back, Bicep, Tricep, Quads, Hamstring, Glutes, Calves
  • BBWOB TIP: Form Matters – Again form is key. In addition to planking in front of a mirror try positioning the hands face down or face up.

  • WHAT: Three forms of Pull Ups (Bicep Curls, Shoulder Width, Wide)
  • DURATION: As many as I can pump out without falling on my face. Typically I do about 10-30 pull ups in total.
  • MUSCLE GROUPS: Lats, Shoulders, Back, Bicep, Tricep, Abs, Quads
  • BBWOB TIP: Quality over Quantity – Instead of trying to do a gazillion mediocre pull up, try doing 3 perfect ones. Pull up fast then release slowly for an extra umph to the lats.

TOTAL WORKOUT TIME: 45 – 55 minutes (depending if I have to wait for the pull up bar). Six times a week with one rest day.

As you can see, there is not one exercise where I am not working multiple major muscle groups. This is how I get the BBWOB.

P.S. Will be phasing out the planks and replacing with this in the next few weeks:

  • WHAT: Full Hanging (Knee) Leg Raise (Progression Goals: Hang for 20-30 seconds →  Knee raise →  Eventually full leg raise → Add twist for extra oblique focus)
  • DURATION: As many as I can pump out without falling on my face. Reps is TBD.
  • MUSCLE GROUPS: (Core) Upper & Lower Abs, Oblique, Lats, Hip Flexors, Quads, Back, Grip Strength

GOAL #1: Modified Hanging Leg Raise

ULTIMATE GOAL: Full Hanging Leg Raise

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

HB Sig

Healthy Byte: Day 1020

Day 1020 op3

I came across a status update in my MFP newsfeed the other day and it really resonated with me. The poster said something to the effect that she is proactively taking time for herself and that she shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about wanting to keep herself in the ‘top 5’ of her priority list. Without knowing the specifics which instigated this bit of self-declaration, I can’t help but to admire her insight but I am also sadden that even in 2015, many – women specifically, feels obligated to justify this very intrinsic human need … to love oneself.

From very early on, I think most are taught to oppress our own wants and needs for the sake of others. And then we are continuously groomed that selfishness generally is a vile pursuit. But I think all the good intention in raising a better human being, many have somehow interpreted that as any form of self preservation is an agent of evil. But the reality of it is that we all need to be a little selfish in order to be the best version of ourselves.

I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.

Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

As wise old Bilbo the Hobbit so eloquently stated, sometimes I think we can all understand his sentiments of feeling a little ‘thin.’ And no one is a better caretaker of us than ourselves. So logically, in order for us to continue to be everyone else’s everything, doesn’t it make sense that our own wants and needs should be one of our top priorities?

We have to be our own best self-advocate because no one knows us better. Now I’m not saying forego all our responsibilities (whatever it maybe) with reckless abandonment. No. But what I am encouraging is that we should allow ourselves to purposely carve out time 100% guilt free. From my observations, a feat easier said than in put into practice, especially for mothers.

And perhaps it is this notion of total selflessness which serves as a stumbling block for many to be successful in weight loss maintenance because in order to keep the weight off, we have to make our own health a priority. Otherwise, the daily grind makes it far too easy to revert back to old habits.

It takes a certain level of self-perseverance, selfishness, self worth, whatever label it maybe – one has to have it to remain steadfast in our food repertoire as well as fitness routine. And no one should feel guilty about that … ever!

I think the quote below is a good one to file in the back of our minds so that we can all continue to be successful … remember our environment has tremendous hold over our own well being, and environment includes the people who are in our lives … for better or for worse. Day 1020 op4

TIP OF THE WEEK

Why I am a bodyweight strength training fangirl …

Believe it or not, I was within 2 lbs in all three photos below although I look ‘slimmer’ in the far right one. How is this possible? It’s the miraculous difference between what I have affectionately dubbed ‘doughy thin’ and ‘toned slender.’

doughy vs toned

It is hard to believe that a few toned & defined muscle here & there can make such a visual impact but it does. Aside from looking more healthy, there is an even more pertinent reason to build muscles.

Muscles uses more fuel to sustain itself, therefore increased muscle mass means more calories burned. And as we age, we lose muscles so unless we want to eat less and less calories in order to compensate for the muscle loss or do more & more cardio; the only viable alternative is to increase what we already have.

Bodyweight strength training is a wonderful method to doing just that. Unless one has aspirations to overly bulk or enter in physique competitions, the average Jane or Joe really only needs to tone & define without the traditional approach to lift weights.

One of the main benefits of bodyweight strength training is that it can be done anywhere at any time – equipment free, no gym required. Bodyweight strength training also offers less opportunity for injury because there’s no extra weight to support (weights). And there are essentially an endless amount of variation to increase level of difficulty.

For a very long time I did follow a rather strict lifting regiment but I saw very little results and was starting to have elbow and shoulder issues. After some research, I reverted to what I was familiar with from my days in the Army … basic calisthenics of push ups, pull ups, and planks.

My daily exercise routine consists of 30 minutes of elliptical (high resistance for leg muscles), variety of push ups (triceps, regular, wide arm) alternating with variety of planks (regular, high, arms up) for 1 minute, then variation of pull ups (bicep, regular, wide arm). Now just keep in mind that ANY form of strength training is a painfully slow process regardless of method so be patient, be very very patient. The results below are after almost two years of work.

drum rolls please ….

IMG_9786

IMG_9784 (2)

IMG_9780

I lifted nothing but my own bodyweight. Consistency is key.

HB Sig

Healthy Byte: Planks for Every Occasion or Trouble Spots

12 Planks To Target Every Trouble Spot

(Photo by: Brook Benten)

In the realm of body contouring, planks reign supreme. After all, what other single exercise can challenge your abs, buns, thighs, shoulders, and triceps all at once? Boost their power even further—and target any trouble spot—with these fun (OK, challenging!) variations.

To turn on those total-body trembles…

image

(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: High or low plank
Lie facedown with hands underneath your shoulders. Curl your toes under to grip the floor, then straighten your arms to lift your torso off the floor. Tighten your buns and abs. From a side view, there should be a diagonal line from the lobe of the ear to the shoulder, hip, and ankle. If this is painful on your wrists, transition to low plank. Simply bend the elbows and drop the forearms down to the ground, parallel to one another. Create a fist with your hands. Low plank is every bit as challenging for the core muscles as high plank, but it alleviates pressure from the wrists. Aim to hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

To set your abs on fire…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: A stability ball variation
Place a stability ball underneath your shins, then assume plank position. Lift your hips high towards the ceiling, causing the ball to roll toward the tongue of your shoes. Hold momentarily, then slowly, resisting gravity, return to start. To make it a little easier, bend your knees and tuck the ball in towards your tummy. Aim to do 2 sets of 12 reps.

To challenge your obliques…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: Side plank with a twist
Assume plank position. Turn to one side and lift the top arm towards the ceiling, staggering your top leg in front of your bottom leg, coming into side plank. From there, sweep your top arm down and under your torso, as if weaving a piece of thread through the eye of a needle. Return to side plank. Aim to do 2 sets of 12 reps on each side.

To pull in your waist even more…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: Plank with cross-body tap
Assume high plank position. Lift the left foot slightly off the floor. Bring the left knee in to kiss the right triceps. Return to plank. Repeat, bringing the right knee to the left triceps. It’s OK if the knee doesn’t make it all the way in to touch the triceps! Just twist as deeply as you can, without lifting your hips to shorten the distance. Aim to do 2 sets of 12 reps on each side.

To firm and flatten your low belly…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: Plank to squat jump
Assume plank position. Jump the feet in to position them in “sumo squat” position outside of the hands. Lift your torso up to “ready” stance. Place your hands back down on the ground, and jump back to plank position. Repeat! Aim to do 2 sets of 12 reps.

To really target the triceps…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: Triceps dip into an inverted plank
Assume a triceps dip position, with your arms straight and low back against a chair. Perform one dip, bending your elbows deeply, allowing your back to slide down the front of the chair, as if you’re using the chair to scratch an itch. Extend the elbows back to the top of the dip, then hoist your hips as high as you can towards the ceiling to assume “inverted plank” position. Return to starting position. Repeat! Aim to do 2 sets of 12 reps. If this is too challenging, omit the dip and just go from starting position to an inverted plank.

To up the toning power for your shoulders…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: Push plank
Assume high plank position. Bend your right elbow to drop your right forearm to the floor, then repeat with the left arm, coming into a low plank with forearms parallel. Now press back up to high plank: Press right palm into floor and straighten your arm, then repeat with the left. Continue, alternating your leading arm with each rep. To make it easier, drop your knees to the floor. Aim to do 2 sets of 12 reps.

To super-tone your back…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: Plank rows
Assume high plank position with a dumbbell in each hand. Without shifting your hips, bring the right dumbbell to meet your ribcage. Return it to the floor to return to plank position, then repeat on the left side. That’s 1 rep. Aim to do 2 sets of 12 reps. To make it easier, drop your knees to the floor or do the move without dumbbells.

Goodbye, stubborn fat! Get ready for flat abs and your best body ever when you try the Ultimate Flat Belly DVD.

To add a bonus challenge for the chest…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: Push-up to plank shoulder tap
Assume plank position, then walk palms out so they are slightly wider than shoulder width. Bend at the elbows to lower torso, bringing the tip of your nose down to touch the ground. Powerfully press back up to plank and tap your right hand to your left shoulder. That’s 1 rep. Repeat, tapping your left hand to your right shoulder on the next rep. Alternate which hand taps across to the other shoulder with each successive plank. Aim for 2 sets of 12 reps. To make it easier, drop your knees to the floor or omit the push-up and do plank taps only.

To lift and burn your backside…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: Plank hip abductor
Assume plank position. Lift your right leg up and then out to the right, away from the body (as you would if forming a snow angel). Pulse right leg out to the right 3 times, then lower the leg back to starting position. Repeat on the left leg. That’s 1 rep. Aim for 2 sets of 12 reps.

To super-slim your hips and waist…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: Plank hip dips
Assume low plank position, forearms flat and parallel to one another. Roll and drop your hips to the right, touching the top of right thigh to the ground. Return to low plank. Repeat on the opposite side. That’s 1 rep. Aim for 2 sets of 12 reps. To make it easier, shorten the range. Just barely tilt each hip down, without dropping all the way to touch the floor. Make “micro-movements,” returning to low plank between each little shift. This option is especially useful if the full range of hip dips bothers your lower back.

To tighten and tone your inner thighs…

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(Photo by: Brook Benten)

Try: Plank jumping jacks
Assume plank position. Step both legs out wider, where there’s about a 2-foot gap between your legs. Perform plank jumping jacks by jumping your legs in together (where your feet touch) then jumping back to wide plank position. Repeat. Aim for 2 sets of 12 reps. To make it easier, skip the jump. Simply step your feet in, in, out, out; alternate which leg leads first. You can do this easier variation in high or low plank position.

Originally Posted HERE

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