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What Is Static Stretching

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Classic Flexibility-Builder

The original stretch is an oldie but a goodie. Despite research suggesting that static stretching temporarily reduces strength, most trainers still recommend this approach.

Why? Recent research, including a 2019 meta-review of past studies, indicates that any reduction in strength and power caused by short sessions of static stretching is minimal (less than 2 percent) and short-lived (10 minutes or less). So unless you’re preparing to compete in an athletic event requiring maximal strength and power (tennis or golf, for example), or trying to hit a personal record in a lift, light preworkout stretching should not be a problem.

In fact, the benefits of static stretching often depend on when you do it:

  • Before your workout. If you’re about to perform an activity that requires a significant range of motion — a barbell squat, a tour jeté, or a high roundhouse kick, for example — static stretching associated muscles beforehand can be beneficial. For example, if you feel constriction through the hips, performing a hip-flexor stretch before squatting could help, says Rusin.
  • After your workout. “Static stretching enhances the parasym­pathetic, or rest-and-digest, arm of the nervous system,” he notes. “That makes it great to use after exercise, when you’re trying to wind down rather than ramp up.” Postworkout, your muscles are also loose, warm, and engorged with blood — a perfect time to lengthen them with minimal risk of injury.
  • Between workouts. Are there chronically tight areas of your body that don’t seem to relax no matter what you do? If so, it’s a good idea to stretch those areas on off days, during breaks at work, or before bed on workout days, holding the positions for up to five minutes each. Tight hip flexors, calves, pectorals, and glutes are common among desk workers, so stretch those areas regularly.

Whenever you do a static stretch, be specific about your alignment and focus, and be sure you’re stretching the right area: A few inches can mean the difference between an effective and an ineffective stretch.

Additionally, be prepared to spend some time in each stretch. “A pitfall with static stretching is that people don’t hold the stretch long enough to see any change,” explains Mike Thomson, CSCS, USATF, a Life Time personal trainer.

“Many people pull their arm across the body to stretch their triceps and lateral deltoid or grab their foot behind their body to stretch their quad — but hold it for only 10 to 20 seconds. That doesn’t do much to increase flexibility over time.” Aim for a minimum of one to two minutes in each static stretch.

And “static” doesn’t mean you should remain motionless. Instead, oscillate slightly in, out, and around the stretched position. Breathe deeply, Rusin advises, and try to settle farther into the stretch on each exhale.

“Small movements create more feedback from the nervous system.”

This was excerpted from “Stretch Your Fitness” which was published in the April 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.

The post What Is Static Stretching appeared first on Experience Life.

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Hiking to Burn Fat and Calories

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Thirty-year-old Marylyn Connors from Newark, New Jersey, walked gingerly into the Ute Mountaineer Outdoor store in Aspen, Colorado. She had an expression of distress on her faintly sunburned face. Immediately she approached the retail counter stating, “I need to talk to someone in the hiking department.”

Behind the counter was the store’s hiking expert, known locally as “Dennis from the Ute.”  Dennis replied, “What can I do for you, Ma’am?”

Connors described how she had just been on a four-hour hike on the Continental Divide that put her about as far from a “Rocky Mountain High” as she could imagine. Her feet were bruised, ankles swollen, knees ached and her back had developed a sharp pain in the lower vertebrae.  On top of all that, she was hobbling around with quarter-sized blisters on the backs of her heels and now her vacation, in which she had been expecting to hike for days in the high country of Colorado, had suddenly become a walking nightmare. She came into the outdoor store looking for advice to get through the rest of the week without suffering more pain out on the trail; otherwise she would catch the next flight back to Newark.

According to Dennis from the Ute, Connor’s story is typical for many would-be trail hikers on vacation. “Some people come here looking for a workout. You can burn from 350 to 500 calories per hour hiking in the great outdoors. That’s true, but many people expect trail hiking to be just like the treadmill or stair climber they have been working out on back at home. But it’s a lot different.”

Loose soil, undulating terrain, variable walking surfaces and improper clothing choices can throw a monkey wrench into your workout. Yes, hiking trails can give you a great, pain-free, calorie-crunching workout, with the added bonus of fresh mountain air and amazing scenery – but if you don’t take a few precautions, you can find yourself miserable after only a few miles on the trail.

Dennis suggests three things a first-time hiker can do to avoid the pitfalls of pain for those who are more familiar with cardio machines than calluses: select the proper footwear, use trekking poles, and wear the proper clothing.

Footwear

Those comfy running shoes that are still clean and sparkling after many miles on the treadmill might be the obvious choice to bring out on the trail – but think again. “Your typical running shoe has a soft sole that does not give as much protection to your feet as you may think,” Dennis says. “Rocks have jagged edges that can stab up through soft soles, bruising the bottoms of your feet. Imagine a field of shark’s teeth trying to bite into your shoes and bang up into the your tender arches. Around here, they are not called the Rocky Mountains for nothing – you can’t avoid rocky trails.

But no matter where you hike, if you have rocks, running shoes just will not do the trick. What you need is some firm hiking shoes or boots with more substantial soles. Choose a hiking boot or shoe with a polyurethane sole that gives more protection to your feet; it will help you walk long and far without pain.

Trekking Poles

When hiking over rough terrain, four points of contact with the earth are better than two. Dennis says, “Trekking poles – similar to ski poles – can really help out hikers, especially people who are new to outdoor trails. If you work out on a treadmill or any type of elliptical or stair-climbing machine and are used to resting your hands on bars or handles of any kind, you are a strong candidate for trekking poles. Using poles on a hike can help you stay stabilized, just like you do on the cardio machines.

“Trekking poles distribute weight more evenly, allowing the hiker to use the upper body as well as the lower body for balance. What we see around here, is that hikers who use poles have less pain in the ankles, knees, hips and lower back.”

Recent research backs up Dennis’ claims. According to a study in Britain, hikers using poles reported a lower perception of effort and reduced muscle pain and soreness during and after climbing 3,400-foot Mount Snowden in Wales.

In addition to adding stability and lowering discomfort, according to some small studies, trekking poles may actually increase the cardiovascular workload, because the upper body complements the work of the lower body.

Dennis from the Ute also adds there are many different kinds of poles with springs and shock absorbers and different angles to customize anyone’s style of hiking.

Proper Clothing

“Cotton kills” is the common phrase of hikers who are “in the know” says Dennis. According to Dennis from the Ute, clothing that is made out of cotton can cause more problems than a kitchen full of rats. “What people need are socks and undergarments that are made with quick-drying synthetic materials,” Dennis says. Cotton socks hold moisture and that moisture increases rubbing inside footwear, which causes blisters.

The “cotton kills” phrase holds true for most all hiking clothing. Instead of a 100 percent cotton hoodie and T-shirt for a hike, choose clothing that “wicks moisture away from the body and breathes” according to Dennis. Soft-shell wool and synthetic tops and rain jackets with underarm ventilation will help hikers feel comfortable and dry throughout their hikes without the chill and rubbing of material such as cotton. “It’s always better to be warm and dry, rather than cold and clammy,” he said.

One thing for certain about hiking in the great outdoors is that you don’t want to end up like Marylyn from Newark. Before you hit the trail, take the proper precautions, because your next trip to Aspen (or wherever you may choose to hit the trail) should be as carefree as can be.

References:

Talking of walking in three easy steps. Gait speed, hiking poles, and footwear. Harvard Health Letter March 2011 www.health.harvard.edu

Medicine Science Sports Exercise, 43: 140-145, 2011.

The post Hiking to Burn Fat and Calories first appeared on FitnessRX for Women.

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6 Best Chest Exercises of All Time

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Many people have made the resolution to stay healthy and work out more this year. However, it can be quite hard to keep up a good workout routine that focuses on all the right muscles and keeps you motivated.

Why Is Working the Chest Muscles Important?

Many people have heard the saying “never skip leg day” but it can be easy to forget about the chest. Chest muscles are what give your body that build you are working toward and it also increases your upper body strength so you can push yourself to be and look your best.

Which Muscles Need to Be Worked the Most?

Here is a list of muscles that are often neglected but are essential enough to be regularly included in chest workout routines, according to gym trainers and bodybuilders.

• Pectoralis Major

• Pectoralis Minor

• Serratus Anterior

• Subscapularis

• Deltoid

• Latissimus Dorsi

• Teres Minor

• Trapezius

• Sternocleidomastoid

• Coracobrachialis

• Supraspinatus Tendon

• Rectus Sheath

 

Top 6 Chest Exercises

Here are the top six exercises that can help build your chest muscles.

1. Push-ups

Starting your workout with push-ups is a great way to loosen up your muscles. There is no need for a machine for this exercise. The technique for doing this exercise is as follows:

The proper way of doing push-ups is through making sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight, your back flat and your neck completely parallel to your spine.

Keep your elbows to your sides.

Your hands should also be under your shoulder position when you are lowering yourself slowly.

Keep your muscles stressed and hold your position for a few seconds when you press up.

Repeat the entire movement all over again.

 

2. Dips

Dips are great for building up upper body strength and all you need are some dip bars and stamina. The technique for doing this exercise is as follows:

Grab the dip bars firmly in each hand.

Lift your body using your forearms only.

Make sure your elbows are straight, your head is in line with your abdomen, and your wrists are in line with your forearms.

Contract your abs while establishing a stable position with your legs bent.

Exhale deeply when bending your elbows to lower your body.

Lower yourself so that your elbows are at a 90° angle.

Keep your wrists straight and your upper arms parallel to the floor.

Hold yourself in that position for a few seconds.

Return to the starting position and repeat the process all over again.

 

3. Cable Crossover

The cable crossover is one of the more advanced workouts that you can do easily once you know the technique. The machine you need for this workout is a cable crossover pulley. The technique for doing this exercise is as follows:

Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground at hip-wide length as if you are walking.

Grab the cable handles with your arms straight out.

Make sure that your hands are below your shoulders and your elbows are bent at an acute angle.

Pull the cable handles in the machine down and inward.

You should reach a position where your palms are facing each other in front of your chest.

Make your movements slow and measured so your chest muscles are stressed.

Bring your arms back to the starting position slowly.

Repeat the entire movement all over again.

 

4. Bench Press

Bench pressing is a very common but efficient way to stimulate your core pectoral and arm muscles. All you need is a bench for pressing and a barbell with plates. The technique for doing this exercise is as follows:

Get someone to spot you.

Lie down on your back on the bench with your feet firmly planted in the ground.

Hold the barbell with palms forward and thumbs wrapped around the bar.

Move into a starting position where the barbell is directly above your shoulders with your arms fully extended making a 90° angle perpendicular to your chest.

Keep your elbows and wrists straight.

Stick your chest out so all your muscles are under stress and inhale.

Lower the barbell with slow movement until it touches your chest.

When the bar lowers, make sure your elbows are spreading out slightly.

Press the barbell up while exhaling.

Make sure to keep your wrists straight and your back is flat on the bench.

Repeat the entire movement all over again.

5. Chest Press

The chest press is very similar to bench pressing with the exception of using two dumbbells instead of a barbell. The technique for doing this exercise is as follows:

Lie down on your back on the bench, with your feet firmly planted in the ground and your knees bent.

Grab the dumbbell handles.

Exhale deeply when you push the dumbbells up until your arms are straight out above your shoulders.

Inhale deeply when you pull the dumbbells toward you without completely lowering the weights or allowing them to touch down; keep tension on the muscles.

Repeat the entire movement all over again.

 

6. Pec Deck

A pec deck is a perfect ending for your workout since it has a seat to relax your back so as to not put too much strain while you can train your chest and arm muscles. The machine you need for this exercise is called a pec deck machine, and the technique is as follows:

Do not do this exercise if you have a shoulder injury.

Select the weight on the machine and make sure to resist selecting extra weight or you may get seriously injured.

Sit down on the seat with your feet firmly kept flat on the floor at shoulder-length width.

Grab the handles of the pec deck machine with each hand with your arms at a 90° angle.

Pull your arms toward the center of your body.

Hold your position for a few seconds.

Reverse the entire movement to the starting position.

Repeat the process all over again.

 

How to Maximize Your Gains

The best way to maximize your gains along with getting a proper workout routine that stimulates all the right muscles is to make sure you have all the necessary nutrients for muscle growth. Certain people take to eating protein-rich and high-fiber food on a daily basis. However, there are many people that find it difficult to incorporate too much protein into their diets. To compensate for having a less protein and nutrient-rich diet, we recommend taking dietary supplements. Not only will they help your muscle buildup but they will also improve your immune system efficiency and increase your overall workout productivity.

The post 6 Best Chest Exercises of All Time appeared first on FitnessRX for Men.

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Bring on Summer: Week 2 Workouts

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Welcome to week two of our three-week Bring on Summer program workouts. If you’d like to view the full complimentary program, which also includes additional workouts, meal plans and recipes, and other healthy-habit tips, you can do so here. (Find the week one workout plan here.)

The Workout

This workout is comprised of three circuits. Complete all exercises in a given circuit consecutively, one set each, and then take your rest before moving onto the next circuit. Continue until you’ve finished all sets. Repeat the full workout a total of three times throughout the week.

Circuit A

Sets: Three

Reverse Lunge

Reps: 15 (each side)

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Take a large step backward with one foot, gently touching your knee to the ground. Your other knee should bend to a 90-degree angle, with your trunk leaning slightly forward.
  • Return to standing by pressing the heel of your standing foot into the ground and bringing your leg forward. Repeat on the opposite side.

Lateral Raise

Reps: 15

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the dumbbells so the palms of your hands are facing the sides of your body.
  • Keeping your elbows slightly bent and even with your hands, raise the dumbbells out to your sides to shoulder level. Keep your elbows and hands at the same height the entire time.
  • Lower back to the starting position.

Hip Opener With Rotation

Reps: 15 (each side)

  • Start in the up position of a pushup.
  • Bring your right leg forward to the outside of your right hand.
  • Keep your left hand on the floor, even with your right foot. Make sure your left knee doesn’t touch the floor.
  • Keeping your right arm straight, rotate your trunk, reaching toward the sky.
  • Try to pull the toes on your left foot up toward your shin.
  • Lower your arm to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

Circuit B

Sets: Three

Squat

Reps: 15

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Brace your abdominals.
  • Lower your body as if you’re going to sit in a chair. Keep your knees in line with your second and third toes, and keep your trunk from leaning too far forward.
  • Once your thighs are parallel to the ground, push into the ground to move back to the starting position.

Overhead Triceps Extension

Reps: 15

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Holding a dumbbell using both hands, tighten your glutes and abs.
  • Lift the dumbbell above your head until your arms are fully extended. Your palms should face the sky and your elbows should be pointing forward. This is the starting position.
  • Bending at the elbows, slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.

Reverse Crunch

Reps: 30 seconds

  • Lie on the ground on your back, with your arms at your sides and your legs straight.
  • Bracing your abs and glutes, bend your knees slightly as you lift your feet until they are above your hips, then straighten your legs while bringing your feet up to the sky, lifting your hips and back off the ground.
  • Return to the starting position in a controlled manner, tapping your feet to the ground.

Circuit C

Sets: Three

Dumbbell Chest Press

Reps: 15

  • Lay with your back on a bench. Holding two dumbbells, start with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and positioned slightly below your shoulders, squeezing your shoulder blades together and into the bench.
  • Ensure your wrists and elbows stay in line with each other throughout the entire exercise.
  • Slowly drive the dumbbells up until your arms are straightened.
  • Squeeze your chest at the top, while keeping your shoulder blades on the bench.
  • Slowly bend your elbows, lowering the weights out to the side just below your shoulders, until your elbows form 90-degree angles.

Dumbbell Row

Reps: 15

  • Hold dumbbells in both of your hands in a neutral grip at the sides of your body.
  • Keeping your arms and back straight, bend forward at your hips roughly 50 to 60 degrees.
  • Focusing on pulling your elbows up, bring the dumbbells toward the lower part of your chest, squeezing your back at the top.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position.

Inchworm With Up Dog

Reps: 15

  • Stand with your feet about hip-distance apart.
  • Look down at the ground and start reaching your hands toward the floor in front of your feet, allowing your back to bend forward. Let your knees to bend slightly as needed to help your hands to reach the ground.
  • Place your hands on the floor in front of your feet and walk your hands forward, one at a time, until you reach a pushup position.
  • Lower your legs to the ground as you use your arms to push your upper body into a slight backward bend to the upward-facing dog position.
  • Return to a pushup position and slowly crawl your hands backward to return to the starting position.

The post Bring on Summer: Week 2 Workouts appeared first on Experience Life.

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