Just a few weeks removed from saying goodbye to 2011, most of us are still making good on our new years resolution to get back into the gym and lead a healthier lifestyle. Our renewed commitment has us eating healthier, pushing through our workouts, all with the hopes that we will achieve our desired levels of health & wellness. For anyone who has had the chance to work with me, you know firsthand that I always reinforce the mindset of working smart as opposed to just working hard. While I'm certainly not advocating a compromise on the level of intensity you bring to each workout, I want this years efforts to surpass prior years due predominantly to the effectiveness of the time invested.
What I thought I'd share with you next are some of my favorite fitness tips, and ones that might just keep us from repeating mistakes from years past. Enjoy!
Trade Slow Cardio for Interval Training
The road to a leaner body isn't a long, slow march. It's bursts of high-intensity effort paired with slower, recovery efforts. Fifteen to 20 minutes of interval training performed like this can burn as many calories as an hour of traditional, steady-state cardio. And unlike the slow stuff, intervals can keep your body burning long after the workout ends.
The pushup is one of the world's greatest exercises, and doing it with proper form is as simple as this cue: Maintain a rigid body line from the top of your head to your heels throughout the push. With this in mind, you won't sag your hips, hump your back, or bubble up your butt. Keep your elbows tucked in towards your sides as you lower your body, and push back up, strong as steel from head to heels.
Brace Your Core Before Every Exercise
Your core's much more than a six-pack of muscles hiding beneath your gut -- it's a system of muscles that wraps around your entire torso, stabilizing your body, protecting your spine from injury and keeping you upright. Fire these muscles before every exercise to keep your back healthy, steady your balance and maintain a rigid body position. You'll get the added bonus of isometric exercise for your middle, which could reveal the muscles in your core you'd like everyone to see.
Trade Machine Exercises for Free Weights
Machines are built with a specific path the weight has to travel -- one that wasn't designed for you. If you're too tall, too short, or your arms or legs aren't the same length, that fixed path won't match your physiology and you'll increase the likelihood of injury and develop weaknesses. Trade your machine exercises for dumbbells, barbells and medicine balls to build strength in ways more specific to your body, while also working all the smaller stabilizing muscles that machines miss.
Explode Through Every Rep
The "slow lifting" trend should be confined to the eccentric, or "lowering" portion of any exercise. During the concentric portion, where you push, pull, press or jump, move the weight (or your body) as quickly as possible. Even if the weight doesn't move that fast, the intention of moving the weight quickly will turn on your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which will make your body more athletic and train it to use more fat as fuel.
Load One Side to Work Your Core
Since your core stabilizes your body, creating instability means it has to work that much harder. That means you can work your abs without ever doing a crunch. Here's how: Load one side of your body. Hold a weight on one shoulder during a lunge, press just one dumbbell overhead during a shoulder press, or perform a standing, single-arm cable chest press.
Run Hills to Burn Fat Faster and Reduce Injury
More muscle means more results, and uphill running activates 9 percent more muscle per stride than trotting at the same pace on level ground. It can also save your knees: increasing the grade to just 3 percent can reduce the shock on your legs by up to 24 percent.
Write it Down
When it comes to increasing strength, you might hear the phrase "progressive resistance." This means "do more work as time goes on" -- lift heavier weights or do more reps of the same exercise to see results. Keep yourself on the path to success with a workout journal. Research shows that those who record their progress are more compliant and see better results than those who wing it.
Reduce Soreness with Active Recovery
Bed rest is not the best prescription for sore muscles -- you'll actually reduce pain with a little activity. Metabolites in your sore areas that cause pain are dispersed and diffused by activity, and blood flow is increased to the muscle tissue, speeding recovery by up to 40 percent. Play a light game of basketball, perform some foam rolling, or do a few simple rounds of calisthenics at home the day after a workout.
- Livestrong.com - Susy Sedano