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A 15-Minute Cardio Workout for When Your Body Just Needs to Move

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When you're stressful, adding an hour-long workout to the mix might make it even worse. But if you still want to move, a 15-minute cardio workout can be just what you need.

So many of us can benefit from a short and sweet workout, whether your fitness level is beginner or more advanced. “Light and fun exercise gives you the freedom to just move,” NASM-certified personal trainer Kila Duncan, founder of Purely Strong Fitness, tells SELF. “You don't have to think so much and you have the ability to just let go of what's going on in your life.” Sign us up!

Duncan created this heart-pumping cardio workout with light movement in mind. While it includes some typical strength moves, like push-ups and curtsy lunges, you'll get that cardio burst since your work periods will be roughly twice as long as your rest periods. And it's just one more example that shows you don't need typical steady-state cardio, like running or riding a bike, to bring on the benefits of that kind of workout. Along with delivering a rush of endorphins, cardio training can help reduce blood pressure and also improve cardiovascular function as a whole. If you're more advanced and want to up the intensity (hello, HIIT!) of this quick workout, try going all-out during your work periods.

Another benefit? This workout is super efficient if you're strapped for time, or simply don't want to spend all the time you do have working out. That's because the 15 minutes includes both your warm-up and your workout. Warm-ups are especially important for cardio workouts because they prime your muscles and reduce your chance of injury—plus, studies have shown that they can even boost your workout performance.

This warm-up, which hits your core, glutes, hamstrings, and shoulder muscles, is meant to “rev up your engine” without being too sweaty and strenuous while preparing you to continue on with your workout. If you have a few extra minutes, Duncan suggests adding a couple more of your favorite dynamic stretches—like high knees or lunges—to the warm-up for a bit of added mobility and strength.

Duncan especially loves this workout for active recovery days, as the easy movement can help ease muscle soreness without added strain. And for beginners, “When you move just a little bit every day—even 15 minutes—it can go such a long way for your body to be conditioned to take on more strenuous workouts,” she says.

If you have hip, knee, or ankle injuries, talk with your doctor before trying this workout. And for higher-impact moves like the frogger, we've incorporated lower-impact modifications. Ready to take on this fun, quick 15-minute cardio workout? Here's what you need to get started.

The Workout

What you'll need: An exercise mat for extra cushioning.

The Exercises

Warm-up:

  • Frogger
  • Glute bridge
  • T-Spine windmill stretch

Circuit:

  • Plank to downward dog tap
  • Curtsy lunge to squat
  • Push-up

Directions

  • For the warm-up, you'll complete 5 reps of the frogger, 10 reps of the glute bridge, and 8 reps per side of the T-spine windmill stretch. Complete the circuit twice, taking breaks as needed.
  • For the workout, you'll do three rounds of the three circuit exercises. For the first round, perform each exercise for 1 minute, taking a 30-second break in between each move. For round two, do each exercise for 45 seconds, breaking for 20 seconds in between each move. For the final round, perform each exercise for 30 seconds, taking a 15-second break in between each move.

Demoing the moves below are Delise Johnson (GIF 1), CEO and strength coach at Wellness and Weights; Shauna Harrison (GIF 2), a Bay Area–based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; Caitlyn Seitz (GIF 3), a New York-based group fitness instructor and singer/songwriter; Cookie Janee (GIF 4), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Angie Coleman (GIF 5), a holistic wellness coach in Oakland; and Erica Gibbons (GIF 6), a California-based personal trainer and graduate student becoming licensed as a marriage and family therapist.

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Get Toned, Strong and Shapely Shoulders

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No one would claim that it’s effortless to shape and firm your thighs and hips, but at least those areas can be monitored by a full-length mirror. However, unless you sandwich yourself between a couple of mirrors, your upper back and rear shoulders – areas that can be seen by others, especially in the warm months – are difficult or impossible to be seen by you. Sometimes that translates into an “out of sight, out of mind” position when it comes to planning your exercise routine. If this describes you, then your upper back and shoulders may be somewhat neglected, a little weaker, and have less shape than you want.

If you want to look your best in your sleeveless and backless tops that are begging you to wear them this spring and summer, you may want to spend a little time training those “out of sight” muscles. Incline dumbbell raises are excellent for targeting those hard-to-see places of the posterior part of the shoulder, and some of the upper-back muscles.

The posterior fibers of the deltoid muscle, the rhomboids major and minor muscles, and the trapezius muscle are all strongly activated by incline dumbbell raises. The deltoid muscle originates from three different bony regions on the shoulder. The anterior part of the deltoid flexes the shoulder (i.e., raises the arm forward). The medial deltoid raises the arm laterally to the side of the body (abduction of the arm at the shoulder joint). The posterior (rear) deltoid extends the arm at the shoulder, pulling the arm backward.

Incline dumbbell raises preferentially activate the posterior part of the deltoid muscle. The posterior fibers of the deltoid attach along the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade), a bony ridge located on its upper and posterior side. They anchor on the lateral side of the humerus bone, about one-third of the way from the shoulder toward the elbow. These fibers produce a strong extension, which brings the humerus bone to a posterior position, and this is the primary function of inclined dumbbell lateral raises.

The posterior fibers also contribute to lateral rotation of the humerus at the shoulder joint. Lateral rotation turns the medial side of the arm out and away from the body (i.e., counterclockwise rotation of your right arm).

The rhomboids major and minor muscles are deep muscles of the upper back that lie just medial to the scapula, and they are also activated by incline dumbbell raises. When they are strengthened, they will add firmness to your upper back and help improve your posture. The fibers of both the rhomboid minor and major muscles extend along the midline of the back at the thoracic vertebrae, and attach on the medial border of the scapula (the side closest to the vertebrae). The larger rhomboid major muscle sits just below the smaller rhomboid minor muscle. Both muscles adduct the scapula (squeeze the shoulder blades together) and rotate the scapula upward – like when you raise your arms over your shoulders. The medial part of the large trapezius muscle attaches to the vertebrae medially and to the scapula laterally. These muscle fibers assist the rhomboid major and minor during scapular adduction during the pull backward in the incline dumbbell raise.

Incline Reverse Flye Dumbbell Raises

Incline dumbbell raises provide an excellent means for isolating the posterior fibers of the deltoid, rhomboids and medial trapezius muscles.

1. Select an incline bench that has no more than a 45º angle. Take a dumbbell in each hand and lie facedown on the bench. Your arms will be hanging toward the floor with your thumbs adjacent to each other at the beginning of the lift.

2. Your knees should remain slightly bent to reduce any lower back strain. Bend your elbows just slightly, then raise the dumbbells out to the side of the body and as high as possible. The trajectory of the dumbbells should fall slightly inferior (behind) the shoulder joint, but the dumbbells should be raised to the same level of your shoulders (or higher if possible).

3. Rotate your shoulders (not your wrists) as the dumbbells approach the very top position. The lateral side of the hand (the side with the thumb) should be turned toward the ceiling at the top position.

4. Hold the top position for a count of one or two, then slowly reverse the movement to the starting position.

5. Do not pause at the bottom or between repetitions, but immediately continue upward. The posterior shoulder should be under constant tension from the beginning to the end of the exercise.

6. Be sure that you lift the dumbbells as high as possible. At a minimum, your arms should be parallel to the floor at the top position. Hold this for a count of two, because this will ensure the greatest muscle contraction and activation of all of the fibers in the posterior deltoid and upper-back muscles.

The shoulder is literally held together by its muscle attachments, and therefore, it is never wise to lift the dumbbells quickly or explosively. It is especially important to be in full control of the dumbbells during the lateral rotation part at the top of the movement. Try to go for the best exercise form to activate the muscles, while protecting your shoulder joint from injury.

If you work carefully and with smooth, strict movements, your shoulders will respond by strengthening and firming. In addition, the muscles of your middle back (between the shoulder blades) will be strengthened and toned by this exercise. This will help your posture, and improve the quality of your entire upper body.

After a couple of months of incline dumbbell raises, you will show so much improvement that you will want to show off your new firm and toned shoulders. Your hard work certainly deserves the attention!

References:

Andersen LL, Andersen JL, Suetta C, Kjaer M, Sogaard K and Sjogaard G, 2009. Effect of contrasting physical exercise interventions on rapid force capacity of chronically painful muscles. J Appl Physiol, 107, 1413-1419.

Kibler WB, Sciascia AD, Uhl TL, Tambay N, and Cunningham T, 2008. Electromyographic analysis of specific exercises for scapular control in early phases of shoulder rehabilitation. Am J Sports Med, 36, 1789-1798.

Minning S, Eliot CA, Uhl TL and Malone TR, 2007. EMG analysis of shoulder muscle fatigue during resisted isometric shoulder elevation. J Electromyogr Kinesiol, 17, 153-159.

Moore KL and AF Dalley. Clinically Oriented Anatomy. Fourth Edition. Baltimore, Lippincott Williams & Williams, Kelly PJ, Editor, 1992, pp. 690-698.

Reinold MM, Macrina LC, Wilk KE, Fleisig GS, Dun S, Barrentine SW, Ellerbusch MT and Andrews, JR 2007. Electromyographic analysis of the supraspinatus and deltoid muscles during 3 common rehabilitation exercises. J Athl Train, 42, 464-469.

Uhl TL, Muir TA and Lawson L, 2010. Electromyographical Assessment of Passive, Active Assistive, and Active Shoulder Rehabilitation Exercises. PM & R, 2, 132-141.

Yoshizaki K, Hamada J, Tamai K, Sahara R, Fujiwara T and Fujimoto T, 2009. Analysis of the scapulohumeral rhythm and electromyography of the shoulder muscles during elevation and lowering: comparison of dominant and nondominant shoulders. J Shoulder Elbow Surg, 18, 756-763.

The post Get Toned, Strong and Shapely Shoulders first appeared on FitnessRX for Women.

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In Training, Consistency Is the Key to Your Fitness Goals

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Consistency is arguably the most important component when working to accomplish goals, in or out of the gym. Without consistency, programs are unorganized, the body has a harder time adapting, and forming habits may be more challenging.

Build and Follow Workout Programming

Whatever your goals may be, they require a consistent level of training for you to reach them. One way to ensure consistency within the scope of your goals is to build a program. Programs make it much easier to stay on track because you won’t have to think about what you’re going to do at the gym today—it’s already written out. Most programs are designed to be followed for a set amount of time, typically about 4 weeks. Depending on the desired goal, the program will have a different focus—hypertrophy, endurance, strength, and so on. Each day is designed with the goal in mind, while ensuring that you are training in a way that minimizes imbalances within the body. If you aren’t following the program consistently, the chance of it working is reduced.

Theoretically, if you have a program and you don’t follow it, the body is not going to be able to adapt to the program because there isn’t an opportunity for progressive overload, which is when the amount of stress on the body is gradually increased over time, leading to increased strength and performance.

Work Toward Adaptations

Biologically, a lot of things happen in the body during exercise. Over time these reactions change the body to become stronger, grow, or run more efficiently. Different factors affect adaptations in everyone, so it’s impossible to predict when these changes will occur. But being consistent with training will increase the likelihood of seeing adaptations sooner.

Different modes of exercise elicit different adaptations. Endurance training will produce different changes than resistance training. While there are far too many adaptations to discuss in this blog, a few examples reported by the CDC include the following:

Improved ability of muscles to use fat as energy Stronger ligaments and tendons Increased VO2 max and lactate threshold Increased number of capillaries in muscles Cardiac muscle hypertrophy Increased force production

Each of these changes is beneficial for different scenarios. The body is either becoming more efficient or stronger, or performance is enhanced. However, these long-term benefits are seen only after consistent training over a period of time.

Create Habits

We are creatures of habit. The more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. We experience this when we learn to walk as babies, when we learn to drive, and when we exercise. It’s normal to feel out of your element when you try something new, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel.

Current research suggests that to make a habit stick it must be performed for 68 consecutive days. The idea of sticking with something brand new for 68 days may feel overwhelming for some people. When taking on a new challenge, focusing on taking it day by day might be a helpful mindset. Yes, we might be aiming to create a lifelong habit; however, thinking about just starting a habit to last for years could seem daunting. Start by doing it for one day, and then two, and then three, and so on.

Once you feel comfortable with one small change, add another small change, and so on. Small changes are more sustainable over the long term and add up to form new habits. There will likely be days that your plan doesn’t work out how it was supposed to, but that doesn’t mean all progress is lost.

The Takeaway

Our bodies adapt gradually to exercise. In the end, consistency will help you reach your goals. Without it, you might not have enough structure to allow for growth. Work first on figuring out your goals, determine the best route to achieve them, and get started with one step. If you’re not sure how to get started, the trainers at NIFS can help you set goals and develop programs tailored to those goals.

This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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13 Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Weightlifting Program

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Weightlifting is straightforward in theory (you just, erm…lift weights, right?). But it’s a bit more complicated in practice. As a beginner to weightlifting, it’s confusing (not to mention intimidating) to figure out which muscles to target, how much to lift, and how often to work out. How are you supposed to know where to even begin with finding a good weightlifting program?

Although it might seem daunting at first, the benefits of lifting weights far outweigh any hurdles you might have to getting started. William P. Kelley, C.S.C.S, ATC, says some major benefits of weightlifting include improved strength, bone density, and heart health. Studies even suggest that it can help keep your brain sharp, as well as increase energy levels and decrease stress.

Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody’s senior manager of fitness and nutrition content, notes that lifting weights is also an effective way to lose weight: “Weightlifting can help you lose fat faster than steady state cardio because it keeps your metabolism elevated for longer post workout,” he explains. “The result is that it helps you burn more total calories.”

But before you get to enjoy all the benefits of lifting weights, you first have to get started. The first step? Creating smart goals.

What Are Your Weightlifting Goals?

“Goal-setting is critical to guiding your weightlifting path,” Kelley says. Before you even choose a weightlifting program, consider what you want to get out of it. Are you training for a specific event, for general health, or with aesthetics in mind? Do you want to lose weight, build strength, pack on muscle, or achieve a combination of any or all three of those goals?

“Each objective requires a different strategy, and by identifying your goal or goals, you can identify the most effective training program to achieve it,” Thieme says. The tips below will help you do that.

If you need some extra guidance to help you get started, check out Beachbody On Demand’s weightlifting programs, like Body Beast (which focuses on muscle building) and A Week of Hard Labor (an intense, five-day weightlifting routine). Both programs can help you achieve the lean, muscular physique you’ve always dreamed of building. (See the results for yourself!)

13 Common Questions About Starting a Weightlifting Program

These 13 questions and answers will give you the information you need to start lifting weights, including basic training tips and mistakes to avoid.

1. What equipment do I need for a weightlifting program?

If you’re starting an at-home weightlifting program, dumbbells are a necessity — but having just a single pair may not cut it.

Thieme says you need different weights to effectively challenge different muscle groups. Your legs should be able to handle heavier weights than your triceps, for example. That’s why he recommends investing in a pair of selectorized (AKA adjustable) dumbbells (like this set of Bowflex dumbbells). “A single pair of dumbbells can replace an entire dumbbell rack, saving you hundreds of dollars—not to mention lots of floor space,” he says.

A bench is another useful piece of equipment for developing overall strength and power, Kelly says, although you could get by without one if you’re short on space.

2. How much weight should I lift?

“You should always lift the heaviest amount of weight that allows you to complete all of your reps and sets for all of the exercises in your workout,” Thieme says.

If you can’t maintain proper form for the last several reps of an exercise, go lighter. If you can breeze through your reps with the last few feeling as comfortable as the first few, go heavier. The key to achieving muscle growth is to find your sweet spot, which in this case means a weight that challenges you without forcing you to sacrifice good form.

3. How many reps and sets should I do for each weightlifting exercise?

First, consider your weightlifting goals. “If you want increased strength, you should do from two to six reps per set. For hypertrophy [muscle growth] do eight to 12 reps. And for endurance, do 15 to 20 reps,” Kelley says.

As for sets, Thieme says it’s important to do multiple sets of each exercise, no matter your goal. Three sets per exercise is generally a good number, but don’t lock yourself into that. As long as you’re doing at least two and not more than five or six, you’re good. And if you want to increase your strength, build bigger muscles, and improve your muscular endurance, regularly vary the number of reps and sets you do.

“Optimal muscle growth occurs when you target both of the major muscle fiber types—I and II—and the best way achieve that is by lifting across the entire rep spectrum,” says Thieme. “Incorporate both heavy weight/low rep sets and light weight/high rep sets in your training program.”

4. Should I focus on one or two body parts a day, or do full-body workouts every time?

Both are effective strategies for packing on muscle. “The key is to work each body part or muscle group at least twice a week,” says Thieme, who suggests alternating between the two training strategies. “Do split training for two or three months, and then do total body training for two or three months.”

Your schedule is also a determining factor, Kelley notes. “If you can only work out two to three times per week, then a total body lifting program may be more efficient,” he says.

5. How many days per week should I lift weights?

How often you lift weights comes down to your goals and schedule as well, Kelley says. (Doe we sound like a broken record yet?)

“The ratio of exercise to recovery days that maximizes results and minimizes injury and overtraining risks depends largely on your current fitness level and the type, intensity, and duration of your workouts,” Thieme says. He recommends lifting a minimum of two days a week a maximum of six days.

6. Do I need to take rest days during a weightlifting program?

Yes! Giving yourself a day off from training is crucial to your weightlifting success. “Lifting days are where you [purposefully] damage muscle tissue,” Kelley says, while “rest/recovery days are when muscles repair and rebuild.” Both days are needed to become stronger.

If you don’t give yourself sufficient recovery time, you’ll sabotage your workout performance and hinder your results. “Training adaptations don’t happen during workouts, they happen between them, making recovery days just as important as training days,” says Thieme. “What people often forget is that, when it comes to exercise, more isn’t always better. You have to give your body the time it needs to respond to the training stimulus that each workout provides.”

How often you should take a recovery day depends on your fitness level, primary exercise type and intensity, age, and sleep habits, but a good rule of thumb is to take one or two rest/recovery days a week.

If you feel energized on your designated rest days, Kelley recommends active recovery activities, which facilitate blood flow to your muscles without overloading them. Yoga and light cardio (e.g., an easy jog, leisurely bike ride, or short hike) are good options. Also, don’t limit warm-up and cool-down activities to warm-ups and cool-downs. Perform dynamic stretching and foam rolling every day, regardless of whether or not you’re working out.

7. How do I avoid a muscle-building plateau?

There are numerous factors that contribute to muscle growth, but the key to achieving consistent gains is to regularly increase the challenge to your muscles, Kelley says. “By increasing the stress on a muscle through a principle called ‘progressive overload,’ you illicit changes in that muscle, including greater size, greater contraction force, and improved motor recruitment,” he explains.

Lifting progressively heavier weights isn’t the only way to do that. “Other ways to achieve progressive overload include decreasing the rest periods between sets, performing more complex exercise variations, and switching up the exercises you do,” says Thieme. “Even changing up your grip (e.g., from underhand to neutral) can increase the challenge to your muscles and trigger fresh growth.”

8. Can I do my weightlifting program and still do cardio and other workouts?

The short answer: yes. But you need to be strategic about it. “If your focus is weightlifting, then you should use cardio as a form of ‘active recovery,'” says Thieme.

If you do a heavy weightlifting session one day, and then go for an easy run the next, you can actually enhance your recovery (and results) from the weightlifting session by boosting blood flow—and the vital nutrient delivery and waste removal services it provides. “But a heavy weightlifting workout followed by a long, hard run or HIIT session the next day can do more harm than good,” says Thieme.

If you don’t allow your body sufficient time to recover between intense workouts, the only thing you’ll achieve is an increased risk of burnout and injury.

9. Will weightlifting make me bulky?

Lifting weights can cause men to become bulky if they focus solely and intensely on bodybuilding or pure strength training, Thieme explains, but this is rarely the case for women. Why? Genetics.

Men typically have a higher percentage of type II muscle fibers, which are bigger and have a higher growth potential than type I fibers. Plus, men produce more testosterone, which is critical for muscle building. “Women do not produce testosterone at high enough levels naturally to get bulky,” Kelley says, even if they’re lifting heavy amounts of weight. That said, a woman can still increase her muscle size through weightlifting if that’s her goal. “Studies also show that while most women can’t build as much muscle as most men, they can achieve similar increases in strength,” says Thieme.

10. How do I make sure I’m lifting with proper form?

Practicing correct weightlifting form is key to preventing injury and getting the results you want. The best way to guarantee good form? “Utilize a fitness professional [like a trainer] until you feel safe and confident in the staple lifts of your program,” Kelley says.

If you’re working out on Beachbody On Demand, pay attention to the trainers as they explain the correct starting stance, movement pattern, and key form points for each exercise, as well as which muscles to engage during the moves. Having a friend observe you can also help you keep your form on point.

11. How long should I follow a weightlifting program?

In general, Kelley recommends maintaining a specific weightlifting program for three to five weeks before you mix it up. “This gives the muscles time to adapt and grow in the current program; then, just as they acclimate, you tweak the program slightly to keep progressing,” he explains.

Perhaps more important than the timeline, however, is paying attention to the way your routine makes you feel. “If you haven’t increased the weight you’re lifting after a few weeks, or if you’ve noticed a significant drop in your motivation, it’s time to switch things up,” Thieme says.

Of course, if you follow a professionally designed program, like you’ll find on Beachbody On Demand, knowing when to switch things up isn’t even a concern. “Such variation is built into the program, eliminating the stress and guesswork for you,” says Thieme.

12. What should I eat before and after a workout to maximize my performance?

Before a weightlifting workout, focus on carbs, which will help top off your energy stores. The key is to choose something that you can digest before you start exercising. A piece of fruit is a good choice if you have 30 minutes or less until you work out. If your workout is still an hour out, our go-to recommendation is a piece of whole grain toast with nut butter.

Post-workout, the most important factor is protein, which can help facilitate muscle growth and speed recovery, Thieme says. Aim for 20 grams of fast-absorbing protein (like whey) within 30 minutes of exercising. A protein supplement such as Beachbody Performance Recover makes that easy.

13. How do I know if my weightlifting program is working?

To get the most accurate and objective measure of progress, Kelley suggests recording your workouts and tracking the numbers. “If you can increase the weight you lift by

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