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6 Exercises That Build Better Arms

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If you’re looking for simple workouts to build or tone your arms, look no further! Below are six ways to pump iron at the gym or with the right pieces of freestanding equipment at home. That’s right: You don’t need any machines to perform these! Read through each description, and watch the corresponding videos to see what they’re all about.

#1 – Alternating Hammer Curl

To do the alternating hammer curl, you’ll need two dumbbells. As you curl each dumbbell, maintain proper form with a straight torso and fixed elbows. Your forearms do the active work here, but your biceps get the greatest burn reward.

#2 – Barbell Curl

When performing a barbell curl, keep your upper arms steady while using your biceps to lift the weight. Lift the bar to shoulder height (or higher like the guy below, if you can). This workout also affects your forearms.

#3 – EZ-Bar Curl

This type of curl uses an EZ-bar, hence the name. Like the barbell curl, it also targets the biceps and forearms — with an added bonus of shoulder work. Unlike the barbell curl, though, it’s easier on the wrists. (The EZ-bar was actually designed for this reason.)

#4 – Bicep Band Curl

The bicep band curl has nothing to do with pumping iron like the other workouts, but the mechanics are similar to a curl involving weights. The resistance you get from a band like this, especially when you add extra speed, is perfect for toning your biceps and forearms!

#5 – Standing Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension

If you really want to “feel it” in your triceps, try this dumbbell tricep extension. While standing, hold a dumbbell with both hands underneath the top weight plate. Keep your upper arms stable as you raise the dumbbell above your head and then lower it behind.

#6 – Swiss Ball Dumbbell Lying Tricep Extension

If you’re in for an adventure, lying down on an exercise ball gives tricep extensions a new perspective. While maintaining careful balance on the ball and keeping your pelvis parallel to the ground, lift two dumbbells above your head with your palms facing each other. You’ll also feel this one in your forearms!

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Flexibility vs. Mobility in Fitness: Why Not Both?

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When you hear the word stretch, you might think immediately about flexibility (or perhaps your lack thereof). Flexibility was always the term used for enhancing limited movement, until the word mobility arrived and took the fitness industry by storm.

As a NIFS Health Fitness Instructor for five years now, I’ve spent plenty of time in and around the fitness center using these terms. Whether I’m speaking to a client regarding their goals or sharing instructions on warm-up drills, these two words often get used interchangeably; however, they are not identical.

An Exercise Example to Illustrate the Difference

Generally speaking, flexibility can simply be defined as the greatest length a muscle can achieve during a range of motion (ROM), passively or actively. Mobility also requires achieving a certain ROM, but it also requires coordination and core strength to move around the joint under load.

Let’s examine a front squat to help make this clear. A flexible person may reach the deep squat position, enabled by the flexibility in ankles, knees, and hips, but then lack the mobility (coordination and core strength) needed to correctly complete the exercise by standing up. Similarly, without flexibility, that person wouldn’t even begin to reach the range of motion needed for the deep position required for the front squat, so mobility isn’t even a factor without the proper flexibility.

The Affects of Age

When it comes to flexibility and mobility, age is definitely not on our side. As we age, we lose the elasticity in our muscles, and the tendons and ligaments tighten, making flexibility hard work. It’s not until someone suffers from poor movement patterns resulting in limited functional movement that causes injuries for someone to start trying to combat the effects of aging. (You can learn more about your own condition by having a Functional Movement Screening at NIFS.)

Movement vs. Static Hold

Lastly, when looking to improve and enhance these two concepts, mobility requires movement, whether we are testing for it or training to improve it. On the other hand, flexibility is done more often with a static hold. It’s safe to say that you could have excellent flexibility (the length of muscles required for a deep squat) but very poor mobility because you do not possess the ability to stand up out of a deep squat position under load.

Let me share with you a few helpful movements to further differentiate between these two concepts:

Flexibility Mobility Elbow to instep Elbow to instep w/ oscillation Half-kneeling ankle Ankle moving in and out Knee hug Hip drop

                

Be sure to stay tuned for part 2 of this series as I discuss the important addition of stability to your movement patterns.

This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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5 Exercises for a Stronger Lower Back (Demo Videos)

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Get the Basics…

Strengthen your lower back with these five workouts. Two of them require equipment. Watch demonstration videos to learn how to perform them.

If you work a desk job, drive often, or sit a lot for other reasons, the strain this puts on your lower back can cause stiffness and aches. Other than stretching and performing aerobic exercises to get your body moving between sits, it’s likely you also need to strengthen those muscles.

But, if you struggle from chronic, debilitating back pain, please see a trusted chiropractor, physical therapist, or other spine specialist who can assess whether your back muscles are compensating for an underlying joint issue. Before you try the following lower back exercises, please clear them with your specialist.

Sign up for our annual Pro plan, where it’s simple to log workouts like these and view your progress!

#1 – Bird Dog

The bird dog is an exercise you’ve likely done in a yoga or Pilates class before. It focuses on the diagonal positioning of your body, which means that you simultaneously move one arm forward while moving the opposite leg backward. Make sure you tighten your core while doing this move. You’ll also feel this one in your traps, shoulders, hamstrings, glutes, and abs.

#2 – Superman

Another calisthenics and Pilates exercise is the superman. To strengthen your lower back with this workout, lift up your chest, arms, and legs while lying on your stomach. You can “fly” side-to-side to pretend you’re the cape-draped superhero, or you can remain stationary. Pretending to fly is more fun, but either way, your glutes and “hammies” will also thank you for this exercise.

#3 – Pilates Swimming

Pilates swimming is like the bird dog and superman workouts combined. Lie on your stomach, lift your chest, arms, and legs, and simultaneously move one arm with the opposite leg; then switch. Pick up the pace to get a cardio boost!

You’ll feel this one in several different muscles groups, including the abs. After all, an important part of strengthening the lower back involves stronger abs. They’re connected and support each other.

#4 – Back Extension

The back extension requires the back-extension station at your local gym. If your spine specialist has approved this type of bendy workout, please perform it carefully. Cross your arms over your chest, and bend at the waist. Don’t over-arch your back when you pull yourself up. Your glutes, hamstrings, and abs also favor the back extension.

#5 – Weighted Back Extension

Hold a weight plate over your chest for the weighted back extension. Unlike the previous workout, you’ll start with a lower bend and pull up to where your chest is parallel to the floor. Your hamstrings and lower back (obviously) will feel the most impact. Again, please make sure this exercise is doctor-approved, especially since there’s more than bodyweight involved. If you feel pain, stop.

 
Track your lower back progress and more when you sign up for our annual Pro plan. With our advanced stats in a convenient app, it’s never been easier to stay motivated and meet your fitness goals!

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4 Quick Workouts for Students

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Busy college schedule? No time to fit in your workout between exams, papers, and class? Don’t let school be the excuse to skip or miss your workout. According to The Lancet, people who exercise as little as 15 minutes a day have a 14% lower mortality risk than people who don’t exercise at all. Just remember, something is always better than nothing!

Quick at-the-Gym Workouts

Here are some quick workout options, that require dumbells or kettlebells, that you can do if you are short on time.

Workout 1: 2–3 rounds Workout 2: 2–3 Rounds Fast Workouts That Don’t Require Equipment

No equipment, no problem. You can still get in a quick workout. Just because you do not have weights available doesn’t mean you should skip.

Workout 1: 3–4 rounds Walking lunges x 8 each Pushups x 10 Squat hold x 5 (hold the bottom position of your squat for 10 seconds) Side plank lifts x 8 each side March in place x 30 seconds Workout 2: 3–4 rounds Side lunges x 8 each side Bear crawl x 30 seconds Single-leg bridge press x 8 each Eccentric pushups x 5 (8–10 seconds on the way down; 1 second on the way back up) Jumping jacks x 30 seconds

Always remember, something is better than nothing! “No time” should never be the reason for not getting in some strength movements as a student. If you need more help for quick workout ideas, stop by the track desk at NIFS and a trainer can help you out.

This blog was written by Kaci Lierman, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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