WORKOUTS

Thirty-Minute Workouts  

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Ideally, you’d get to the gym or be able to exercise for at least an hour a day, five or six days a week. Unfortunately, life often gets in the way. Work, family, friends, and other responsibilities can take up a lot of time, and suddenly working out isn’t a priority. While you may not be able to hit the gym for as long as you like each day, there’s no reason to skip exercising entirely. You can fit an effective, full-body workout into just thirty minutes. Here are some thirty-minute workouts you can do when you’re pressed for time.

Workout 1:

You can do your regularly scheduled workout but just shorten the amount of time. If you were going to go for a forty-minute run followed by 20 minutes of strength training, cut it in half. Do a twenty-minute run followed by 10 minutes of strength building exercises. See the example below for some ideas.

Cardio

Do twenty minutes of whatever cardio you had planned—running, cycling, elliptical, swimming, etc. Try to go harder or faster than you would have during a longer period of time.

Strength

You can focus on one area, like legs or core, or do a few moves to tone your whole body. Try this to get started:

20 Squats

15 Push-ups

30 Seconds of Butterfly Kicks 

Do each set 3 times through and end with a one-minute plank.

Workout 2: Lunch Break

If you don’t want to shorten your normal routine, you can still get a great workout into a half an hour. You fit a full-body workout that doesn’t require a lot of equipment in on your lunch break. Do the circuit below three times through for a total body workout in less than 30 minutes.

Jump Rope—2 Minutes

Jumping rope is a great way to raise your heart rate in a short amount of time. You can use an actual jump rope, or simply mimic the move with your hands. A weighted rope will add some difficulty and tone your arms.

Walking Lunges—10 reps per side

Step forward with your right leg, and lower your knee to a 90-degree angle. Keeping your weight in your right heel, step forward and move your left leg into a lunge. Repeat 10 times. 

Squat Jumps—1 minute

Lower down into a traditional squat, when use your legs to jump as high as you can. Land softly with your knees bent and move back into a lowered squat position, then jump back up. 

Bicep Curls—15 reps

Stand upright with core engaged, feet hip distance apart, and knees slightly bent. Hold a pair of light to medium dumbbells with your palm facing away form your and your elbows tucked into your side. Raise the weights to shoulder height and back down. 

Mountain Climbers—1 Minute

Get into a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Lift one foot off the floor. Bend your knee and bring it into your midsection, trying to get as close to your chest as possible. Lower back to the original position and bring the other knee forward. The fast you go, the better the workout.

Plank—1 Minute

Get back into that plank position and hold it for one minute. Keep our shoulders pulled back and your core engaged. Your back should be in a straight line.

The Principle of Progressive Overload

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You’ve heard of progressive overload right?

The principle that you must do incrementally more every session to continue making progress. A little more weight, an extra rep, extra metres, or time. To continually progress, you must be giving your body a new stimulus. Something a little more challenging that it has had before.

This principle is not just how you progress in the gym. It is the basis of successful change in any area of your life. The gym is a great metaphor for achieving things in all other areas of your life too.

People that succeed in the gym are the ones who are committed to working out for the long term. They’re not jumping on fad diets and magic abs blasting machines for 2 weeks, and then going right back to eating takeout on the sofa.

They’re turning up day in and day out; working out, eating right and living a healthy lifestyle as a matter of habit.

Coincidentally, this applies to any area of your life where you want to achieve more.

The Gym Is Your Teacher

The skills, behaviors, beliefs and habits you build in fitness will carry over to every part of your life. Learning the discipline and hard work of following your training plan and eating right will make it easier to put the work into your business or career.

Working for delayed gratification by avoiding unhealthy foods you might be craving, and going to the gym instead of staying in bed; is the same process as saving money for retirement or getting out of debt.

The process of setting goals and working towards them in your body will mirror that in other parts of your life where you would like to make changes and achieve more.

You Build More Than Just A Body Through Fitness

Fitness is more than just building a body. You’re also building your mind. The beliefs and mindset you develop with training is going to lead to more confidence and belief elsewhere.

When you prove to yourself that you can set goals, implement the program and achieve results; you start to feel more confident and in control of your outcomes. What else could you achieve?

If you believe you can achieve something, and refuse to quit, then you will ultimately achieve it. Doing this in fitness is a great place to start, because you can make big changes in a relatively short time span. In 6 months you can look and feel 100% different to how you do right now.

Using Progressive Overload in Everything

One of the reasons people commonly fail in their fitness, and in other goals, are unrealistic expectations. Both in the speed or size of the results, and in the expectations of themselves. How significantly they can change their habits and routines in one go. How much they can change right away or how much impact a change is going to have on outcomes.

Setting expectations too high, where they are impossible to meet, is a recipe for failure, getting disheartened, losing confidence, and giving up. Every time this happens it gets a little bit harder the next time you try.

You now have more negative reference points, less belief, and more fear that you cannot do this. This is what kills people’s dreams. You’re essentially conditioning yourself to expect failure. Not a good thing!

To avoid this, you must apply the principle of progressive overload. You have look at where you are right now, where you are starting from. Look at where you ultimately want to be – your goal – as the opposite ends of a continuum.

Where people go wrong, is they do not fill all the steps in along the way. They want to jump straight from A to Z, and that is realistically never going to happen. You must fill all the steps in along the way. You have to ask yourself what is the next step forwards?

The one thing that is going to take me closer to my goals?

Using Pareto’s Principle

You want to apply the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule. Ask yourself which is the single step that is going to give me the biggest returns? What is the simplest, easiest thing I can do that will bring a big change for the least amount of effort?

The less intrusive it is, the less it takes away from your normal habits and routines; the easier it will be to follow through and stick with it. Sometimes the thing that will bring the biggest results is not the thing you should be implementing.

If it’s too advanced for you, too difficult, too far away from where you are now; it is likely to do more harm than good. Sometimes you have to move slowly to get there quicker. Being the tortoise, rather than the hare.

For progressive overload to work, you just need to do a little bit more than you have done before. It is incremental improvement. The process of Kaizen as the Japanese call it.

Trying to take giant leaps forwards and make huge changes all in one go rarely works. You might see some results initially, but after a couple of weeks it becomes unsustainable. You’ve changed too many things, too significantly. You’re always going to subconsciously pull back to your comfort zone.

If you’re using progressive overload, the changes are minimal and you do not suffer that pull back. Only when you’re doing too much does the comfort zone get the better of you.

Look at any goal as a series of steps, rather than just a final destination. Going from A to B, and then B to C is a lot less daunting, much easier to achieve and will quickly build positive momentum. The more momentum you have, the more belief you have.

With momentum and belief at your back, now you can start making bigger changes that make a bigger impact. Now you are in the position to start accelerating towards your goals, because you have built up to it slowly.

How to Ease Sore Muscles  

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If you exercise regularly, you will probably at some point experience sore muscles. This happens especially after you start a new workout routine or increase the intensity of your workouts. Soreness can be a good thing. You build strength by creating tiny micro tears in your muscles and then letting them recover and get stronger. However, it’s not a pleasant feeling. Thankfully, there are ways to ease sore muscles.

Apply Heat to Muscles

Applying heat to sore muscles will help ease the pain, as well as increase blood flow to the area so they recover faster. You can sit in a hot tub or warm bath, take a steamy shower, sit in a sauna or use a heating pad on a particularly sore area. 

Stretch

Stretching is extremely important to do after any workout, not just tough ones. The more flexible your muscles are, the less likely they are to feel stiff. Stretching can be used as a preventative measure for sore muscles, but a deep stretching session can help muscles that are already sore. Try going to a gentle yoga class on your rest day.

Move

While it seems counterintuitive, movement, whether by stretching or by doing some light exercise, can help ease sore muscles. It increases blood flow and oxygen to your muscles while making them more pliable and less stiff. You may be able to do a regular work out if you’re just a little sore, but try to ease off if the soreness is extreme. A brisk walk or gentle yoga works, too.

Knead Your Muscles

Massage muscles is another great way to increase blood flow so you can feel better faster. Foam rollers are a great option for massaging your muscles, also called self-myofascial release. You can also spring for a nice massage at a professional studio by a licensed massage therapist or even a physical therapist.

Eat Right

You probably already know that your diet has a direct impact on how you feel during a workout, but it influences how you feel afterward, too. Eat a meal with lots of protein shortly after a tough, muscle-building workout. Your muscles need protein to recover, build and get stronger. Drink plenty of water as well to keep yourself hydrated.

Rest

Sometimes you just need some time off. Muscles are built in the gym, but the periods of rest and recovery are where they really get stronger. If you’re pushing yourself every day, you don’t give those micro tears time to really heal, which will slow your progress in the long run. You can take some active rest days, but don’t feel bad about taking a few days to just chill. Your body might need it.

However, be aware of your body and learn to recognize the difference between soreness and real pain. Soreness will feel like a dull ache or a tight muscle, and you’ll generally feel it equally on both sides of your body. It typically doesn’t start until a day or two after a tough workout. Sharp pains, bruising, swelling, pain you feel immediately or pain on only one side could be the start of an injury. If you think you might be injured, take a few days to rest before working out again. But if it doesn’t get better within a few days, you may want to see a doctor.

Final Word on Easing Sore Muscles

Overall, try these tips to help ease your sore muscles and you’ll likely be back at it soon.  Working out is one of the best things you can do for your body, but it’s natural to feel some soreness.  Hopefully these tips help ease some of that pain.

How Sick is Too Sick to Work Out?  

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Most people fall into one of two camps when it comes to working out while sick. They will either call it quits the second their noses get the slightest bit stuffy, or they’ll try to power through a tough workout despite almost being on death’s door, much to the chagrin of their fellow gym goers. Just because you have a slight cold doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t work out. However, there is a line. So how sick is too sick to work out?

First, if you have a fever over 100 degrees, don’t work out. You don’t need to be raising your heart rate and core body temperature any more than it already is. If you feel nauseous or have been sick to your stomach, you are also too ill to exercise. A fever, vomiting and diarrhea all make you more susceptible to becoming dehydrated, and working out certainly won’t make that better. Stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Most people are well aware of this and wouldn’t even attempt to hit the gym.

Colds are where it can get tricky for most people. A general rule of thumb is that if you are sick in the neck and above, it’s probably okay to exercise. A little stuffy or runny nose may be annoying, but it likely isn’t cause to skip a workout altogether. In fact, an easy run or bike ride followed by a warm shower can help ease congestion.

When you have a cough, especially one that’s deep in your chest, it could interfere with your breathing and make working out uncomfortable. If you’re suffering from chills or body aches, it’s best to skip the gym. They could be a sign of the flu or a fever.

If you aren’t sure about how you will feel, you could just give it a try for ten to fifteen minutes just to see how you feel. If you don’t get into a groove or just feel terrible, stop. Of course, you can still exercise with a cold. Ease off a little bit to give your body a break. Take a walk instead of going for a run or do some gentle yoga. You’ll get your body moving without draining all your energy.

If you do take some time off due to illness, don’t just jump right back in to your normal routine once you feel better. You could have some lingering weakness or fatigue that could be worsened or exacerbated by exercising. Give yourself one more day than you think you need before you start exercising again, especially if you were very sick. Once you do get back into your routine, don’t go at it 100 percent. Ease back into your routine to give your body time to adjust. 

Ultimately, though, it will vary from person to person. What one person considers a mild cold is another person’s very sick. If you feel like your illness will negatively impact your workout, or that you’ll feel worse after exercising, then skip it and take a rest day.

Build a Bigger Bench Press

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The bench press is a mighty exercise that every guys wants to be good at.

The most common question people ask when talking about the gym is, “how much do you bench?”.

After reading this post, hopefully your answer will be slightly more impressive than before. I’m going to give you tips and techniques to both immediately increase your bench press, and also lead to more progress over the long term.

Let’s get started.

1. Set Up Strong

A strong bench press comes from a strong set up. You need to be rigid and stable, allowing you to put as much force as possible into the bar.

Before you even touch the bar, you should lay down and create as much tension in your body as possible. This will be a platform that allows you to display the strength that you already possess.

Have your feet flat on the floor, wide and making a solid triangle with the bottom of the bench. Squeeze your butt muscles and abs as hard as you can, pin the shoulders back and down against the bench and drive the head down. All of this before you even touch the bar.

If you’re doing it right, you should start to cramp up in the butt and upper back if you’re not used to doing it.

2. The Lift Off

 Set your hands – aim for a width that keeps your forearm vertical at the bottom of the rep. Use the rings on the bar to judge it.

Take a deep breathe in and grip the bar hard. When you lift it off, make sure you keep all of the tension you have created in your body. Think about ‘dragging’ the bar forwards, to rest above your chest. Use a spotter to lift the bar if you need to.

Too many people go to the effort of setting up strong, only to lose all that tension when they pick the bar up, going in to the first rep like wet spaghetti.

3. Breathe

 I’ve mentioned taking a big breathe during the set up. This allows you to create tension in your midline and increase stability.

You want to exhale through your teeth during the lifting phase – making a kind of hissing sound – and be sure to only partially exhale. You should never empty your lungs fully, you will lose all the tension.

Take another breath at the top before descending for the next rep. Hold during the descent and again breathe out through the teeth during the lifting portion.

4. Feet, Hips and Head 

Whilst doing the lift, forget about pushing with your chest – you’re going to do that regardless. Instead focus on driving the feet down into the floor, keeping the glutes squeezed as hard as you can, and driving the head back into the bench.

This will maintain your solid platform and allow you to transfer more force into the bar.

5. Break the Bar  

When you’re bringing the bar down to your chest, do not be lazy and let gravity do the work. You are not ‘letting’ the bar come down and then engaging effort to push it back up.

You should be pulling the bar down into your chest. Using your back muscles to create as much tension as possible on the way down.

Grip the bar as hard as you can and think about pulling it apart. This activates all of the muscles you’re going to be using and allows you to direct more force into the bar.

6. Get Your Angles Right

 The bench press is not actually a straight up and down movement. The most efficient bar path is to bring it down slightly on the descent, moving towards your hips and then push upwards on the lifting portion, towards the head.

Do not make the mistake of pushing too far up. At the top your arms should be vertical over your chest. If you’re pushing too far toward your head, it is because you’re failing to arc down on the descent.

7. Training ‘the Platform’

For long term improvements in your bench pressing, you need to get stronger in a number of areas. First of all in the ‘platform’. The base of support from which you press.

This means getting stronger in the upper and mid back. That sounds counter-intuitive to increasing your pressing strength, but the lats and traps and some of the most important muscles when bench pressing.

Have plenty of rows and pulling exercises in your routine to build up the base of support that will allow you to press big weights.

8. Training the Bottom 

The bottom portion of the lift, pushing the bar off the chest, is where you are at the most mechanically disadvantaged position.

To get stronger in this position you should focus your training on two thing.

a). Overcoming strength, with exercises such as pause bench press and pin presses.

b). Range of motion with exercises like dumbbell bench press and elevated push ups.

9. Training the Top

The top of the bench press is more reliant on the shoulders and triceps. As such you should train those muscles with military and push presses, triceps extensions and dips.

10. Training specificity

Finally, to get better at bench press you should bench press. That might sound obvious, but specificity is important.

Do assistance exercises that closely mirror the positions you need to be in to press, to see a greater carry over and benefit from these exercises.

Follow these ten tips and you will see your pressing strength increase quickly.

One final point I want to make is to stay healthy. Too much bench pressing is going to lead to rotator cuff issues. Be sure to moderate your volume and intensity.

Lifting as much weight as possible is how you test your strength, not how you develop it. Train at lighter weights for higher reps and focus on increasing muscle mass to build your strength.

Combine sensible training with a prehab and mobility routine to make sure you maintain full range of motion and keep your shoulders healthy. Too much pressing will lead to problems down the road and ultimately hinder your progress, if you do not balance it out with opposing movements and flexibility.

Easy TV Workout  

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If you’ve had a long, stressful day, the last thing you want to do is head to the gym. While we obviously think you should since exercise helps reduce stress, we also wouldn’t blame you for wanted to stay home and watch TV. However, just because you’re having some TV time doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. Here are a few ways to get a workout in while watching the tube. 

Do Exercises During Commercial Breaks

You can focus on the show while it’s on, and then use the commercials to do your workout. If you have stairs, running up and down them for a few minutes will give your lower body a workout while raising you heart rate. You can also do a set of basic but effective exercises (see below) right on the living room floor. 

Work Out During the Show

If the characters in your regular show always do certain things, use that as a cue to do a specific exercise. For example, in the show The Office, the character Jim always gives the camera a specific look. If you’re watching it on Netflix, you could do 10 squats every time he looks at the camera.

Sit On an Exercise Ball

If you really can’t bring yourself to do lots of exercises during your show, you can still burn a few calories and build some muscle. Instead of flopping on the couch, watch TV while sitting on an exercise ball. It will help you build strength in your core without too much effort on your part.

Best TV Exercises

The best exercises for when you’re watching TV are ones that don’t distract you too much from the show. If you didn’t care about watching, you would’ve gone to the gym. Below are some of the best exercises for a TV workout.

Lunges

Lunges work your legs, glutes and core in one easy move. Plus, there are lots of kinds of lunges at focus on different parts of your lower body. You can do classic lunges, backwards lunges, sideways lunges, or curtsy lunges.

Squats

Squats are a classic move that works for everyone from the serious athlete to the beginner. The best part is that you face one direction so you can keep your eyes on the screen.

Jumping Jacks (or Jumping Rope)

This is a great way to get your heart rate up. If jumping jacks are going to be too distracting (or if you don’t have the space), try jumping rope. You don’t even need an actually jump rope. Just mimic the motions with your arms.

Sit Ups

The sit up is a tried and true method for working your core. They can easily be done on a yoga mat on the floor.

There are all sorts of workouts you can do while watching your favorite TV shows or movies. Simply search online for a workout to do with a particular show. There are exercises for The Office, Parks and Rec, Law & Order, The Bachelor, Harry Potter and more. Pick whatever you want to watch and follow the exercise routine. Plus, you don’t have to have a ton of equipment to do a great workout at home.

How to Use a Foam Roller

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blog-image-topfitness-2A foam roller is an extremely versatile piece of equipment that everyone should have. They’re inexpensive (a cheap one costs around $25), portable and you can use them to do a wide variety of exercises. They can be used to help you stretch, relieve sore muscles and even build strength. Here are our favorite ways to use a foam roller.

Massage Your Muscles

The best and most popular use for a foam roller is for massaging your muscles, also called self-myofascial release. If you’ve been working out hard and your muscles are aching, massaging them with a foam roller can help loosen them up. It gives you a deep tissue massage that breaks up scar tissue and other tight spots. It promotes healing and speeds up the recovery process. Here are some of our favorite massage moves that can be used for both warm ups and cool downs. Be warned: it will hurt in the best way possible.

Back

Sit upright with the foam roller under your lower back. Place your hands on the floor behind you. Slowly bend your knees and move the roller up your back to just beneath your shoulder blades. 

Hamstrings

Tight hamstrings seem to be a big complaint. Place the roller under your thighs and roll from your butt to your knees. Cross one leg over the other and roll one thigh at a time for increased pressure.

IT Band

Lie on your side with the foam roller underneath one hip. Cross your top log in front of you with the knee bent. Move your bottom leg over the roller from the hip to the knee with as much pressure on the bottom leg as you can stand.

Do Some Yoga

Foam rollers can be used as a yoga prop to help deepen your poses and make yoga more accessible.  

Make the Ground Closer

If you’re in triangle or another pose where you want your hand on the ground but can’t quite get there, a shorter foam roller can help. Place the flat edge on the floor anywhere you need the ground to be a little closer.

Ease Lower Back Pain

Sometimes when you’re lying flat on the floor in yoga, it can cause pain or discomfort in your lower back. Place a foam roller under your knees to relieve pressure. 

Extend Your Stretch

If the basic yoga poses have gotten a little too easy for you, use a foam roller to make them more challenging. Place a foam roller under your ankle for a deeper hamstring stretch or use it to really work your shoulders and lats. 

Build Strength

You can use a foam roller to boost your workouts and help you build muscle. 

Plank and Pushup

Make planks and pushups a little harder by adding an unstable surface. Place your hands on the foam roller while doing a plank, or put it under your feet while you’re doing pushups.

Core Workouts

Instability helps build your core. Place the foam roller lengthwise down your spine while doing sit ups and marching crunches.

Balance

A foam roller can work like a balance disc. Try a rolling lunge. Instead of stepping backwards into the lunge, keep the roller under your back foot and roll into it.

Injury Proof Your Body with Strength Training

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They say that strong people are harder to kill. I’d add that they’re also less likely to get injured, in any capacity. Strength is the foundation of a body fit for anything. Be that running, team sports, obstacle races, or just daily life.

There’s a right way to do strength training in this context. The 220lb bodybuilder might well be as solid as a rock – but he’s not particularly athletic or mobile. Fortunately, you can be strong; without being huge and un-athletic.

In this post I’ll lay out the key do’s and don’ts for getting not strong and bullet-proof; but also faster, more agile and flexible.

Free weight training for stability

Free weights are going to challenge the bodies stabilizing muscles where machines will not. Machines will make the primary mover stronger, but not the supporting muscles. This actually increases the injury risk in many cases – assuming separate work is not done to strengthen the supporting muscles that are not active during the machine exercise.

For example, a machine chest press will make the pecs bigger and stronger, but will not help the function and strength of the rotator cuff muscles around the shoulder that create stability and allow for free and safe movement around the shoulder.

On the other hand, a dumbbell chest press will challenge the stability muscles as well as the prime mover (pecs), lead to more balanced development and safer, stronger shoulders.

Full range of motion movements

Using a full range of motion is actually more effective for strength and muscle growth anyway. Leave the ego at home and do your exercise through the full range of motion. However, here it is relevant because injury tends to happen at extreme end ranges of motion.

People get hurt because they are in a weak position with little leverage, and their muscles are not strong enough in that position to sustain the force applied to them. Something has to give.

As an example, if you watch a gymnast you would expect them to rip their shoulders out of the socket regularly – most people sure would. But gymnasts have incredible strength and joint integrity in extreme ranges of motion and they are able to take a high degree of force, in positions most people could not.

Loaded stretching

Loaded or weighted stretching is somewhat an extension of the previous point. It is building strength in an extreme range of motion, where a joint or muscle is under a large stretch. With loaded stretching you are also increasing the range of motion. You’re creating a buffer where your body is comfortable going beyond what is the general range of motion requirements for a joint.

This means you always have some spare room to play with This is the importance of mobility (active flexibility). As an example, if you can perform weighted splits, you are never going to get in a position where you land from a jump and overextend your hips, because you have so much additional range of motion you can access. The risk of injury drops significantly.

Loaded stretching not only increases range of motion, but will be increasing strength in the important extreme end range too.

Blend low, medium and high rep ranges

To achieve a fully balanced and strong body you need to use a mixture of rep ranges. Pure strength is built in low rep ranges, and it can be tempting to think doing lots of strength works is the best way to get strong.

Unfortunately, it’s not that black and white. To achieve maximum strength, you will also need to increase the size of muscles, which is generally mid-range reps (6-12). To support all of this, you also need to build strength in the tendons and connective tissue, which is best done with higher reps.

Powerlifters want to be as strong as possible, to lift a maximal weight once. The bulk of their training on the main movements – squats, deadlifts and bench press – will be done at low rep ranges. However, assistance work will all be done in mid and high rep ranges. This is to build joint integrity and ensure the skeletal structure is capable of supporting the large weights they are lifting in the strength building exercises. 50+ rep sets are not uncommon when looking to build supporting musculature.

Bringing this back to you, assuming you’re not a powerlifter but you do want to be strong, you should focus on a mixture of rep ranges. Start with lower rep strength work and then do assistance exercises with higher reps, focusing less on moving the weight, and more on creating tension in the muscles.

Use unilateral bodyweight movements to correct imbalances

Left-right imbalances are a common source of faulty movement patterns that cause injury. The best cure for this is unilateral (single side) exercises. This will immediately show up any difference side to side, and also stop the stronger side from taking over and doing the bulk of the work, which may happen on bilateral exercises.

Using squats as an example, if one leg is stronger than the other, it will do more of the work on a squat and maintain the imbalance. If you do a pistol squat (single leg squat), each leg has to do the work on its own. You will see straight away if you find it easier on one side than the other.

The other benefit of this is that it challenges the stabilizing muscles much more than doing a squat on both legs. In a team sport, for example, you are rarely stood on both feet. You’re usually running, with one leg in contact with the floor at any given time. That means training on one leg is better going to prepare you for the sport you’re going to be doing. Decreasing the likelihood of injury.

Even if you’re not a ‘gym person’ and just enjoy your sport, the benefits of doing some strength training in injury prevention and performance enhancement are vast and I would encourage you to fit a couple of sessions in to your routine.

All About Arms: Get The Most Out Of Your Arm Workouts

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Guys…

Who doesn’t want big arms?

Every man wants a set of bulging biceps to show off his physicality and strength. It’s a body part that you see getting the most attention in the gym, from guys young and old.

Unfortunately, a lot of people suck at arm development, because their training is all wrong. So, let’s look at how to train the arms for sleeve-tearing effectiveness.

Not Just Biceps

The first mistake a lot of guys make is only doing curls. Dozens and dozens of sets of curls. The biceps are important, and curls are an important part of any arm routine, but the arms are not just biceps.

In fact, the triceps at the back of the arm are bigger in surface area than the biceps, meaning developed triceps give the look of much bigger arms.

For a fully developed arm, you need to train the biceps, triceps and forearms. It’s easy for your arms to look big when you have a vest on, but if you want to show your strength in a t-shirt, you need to ensure the forearms are developed as well.

All The Angles

For full development of the arms (indeed any muscle) you need to train all the muscles through all the angles available.

The biceps have 2 heads, while the triceps have 3. To fully develop the arm muscles, you need to apply good training stimulus to each head. Meanwhile, the forearms are made up of about a dozen muscles, which for simplicity we will categorize into 2 – the flexors and the extensors.

To train all the different angles, you need to do exercises with different grips, and different shoulder angles. Palms facing up, neutral / facing each other, and facing down. With the arms overhead, in front of the body, straight down, and behind the body.

I will explain which exercises hit each position in the next section.

Exercises for Full Arm Development

Biceps:

Chin ups and pull ups work the biceps with the arms overhead. Using a variety of different grips will work the arms in a variety of different ways. This focuses predominantly on the short head of the biceps

Preacher curls, with the elbows in front of the body also work the short head predominantly, this time in isolation, without the help of the powerful back muscles.

Standing curls with dumbbells or barbell work the biceps in the most balanced way. Be sure to use all the different grips; palms up, hammer grip and palms down.

Placing the arms behind the body in a seated incline curl, or cable drag curl will work the long head of the biceps more.

Triceps:

Overhead triceps extensions, and to a lesser extent skull crushers will work the long head of the triceps, which will pack size onto the upper arm.

Triceps pushdowns work the triceps in a balanced way, be sure to alternate the 3 grips to fully develop the muscles.

Dips, with the arms behind the body, will build up mass on the short head of triceps, giving the ‘horseshoe’ shape to the muscle.

Forearms:

Not to neglect the forearms, you can work them as primary movers in wrist curls and wrist extensions. Supplement this with other exercises that force the forearms to work hard such as reverse curls, hammer curls and anything that challenge the grip.

Rope climbs, towel rows/pull ups and heavy carries/farmers walks will develop powerful forearm muscles.

Programming Arms Workouts

The arms are small muscles that tend to fatigue quickly. The upside of this is that they also recover quickly. This indicates the best way to train the arms is high frequency – 2 to 3 times per week. Use moderate volume and weight in your arms workouts for best results.

Go heavy on the multi joint exercises like dips and chin ups. Anything from 5 to 15 reps will be effective. These are the exercises where you should focus on the weight you’re lifting and look to progress.

On isolation exercises, such as curls, push downs and triceps extensions focus on time under tension and strong contractions. The aim is to ‘get a pump’, forcing a lot of blood into the muscles. These exercises should be done for 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps.

Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Arms Workouts

  • Minimize cheating. Avoiding swinging the body, using momentum and other muscles to lift the weights. Especially on the isolation exercises; you are better going a bit lighter and focusing on perfect form, creating tension and really squeezing the muscles.
  • Get a full stretch. When doing biceps, ensure the elbow fully straightens at the bottom, flexing the triceps to completely open the elbow and get a full stretch of the biceps.For triceps, fully close the elbow joint, feeling a deep stretch in the back of the arms.A full stretch will necessitate using less weight, but will give a more effective stimulus to the muscle.
  • Leave your ego at the door. Arms exercises are not powerlifts. It’s important to remember the point of doing them – to maximize growth – and train appropriately. Use control, high reps, short rest periods and practice creating as much tension in the muscles as possible.Arms are not the muscles to test your maximum strength.
  • Focus on squeezing the muscles. Don’t just move the weights from A to B. Make sure you are flexing as hard as you can, forcing blood into the working muscles. It is mind over matter when training arms. You must keep yourself strict and force the muscles to work. Do not let yourself get lazy and just move the weight from A to B. You will kid yourself that you’re getting stronger, while using a host of other muscles to do the work.

Cupping for Athletic Performance: What is Cupping?

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The world was introduced to “cupping” as a practice in the 2016 Olympics, where the tell tale marks were easily visible on elite Olympic athletes that are using the practice to reduce pain and improve performance.  While it may have been little known to the general public, cupping has been around as a form of alternative medicine for thousands of years, traditionally practiced by acupuncturists and eastern medical practitioners, and now practiced by a number of more modern therapists including physical therapists and massage therapists.

Cupping works by using a flame to heat the air inside a glass cup, causing the air to expand.  The cup is then placed on the skin, where the air inside the cup rapidly cools and creates a vacuum with the skin, causing a pulling sensation that stretches the skin and underlying structures. 

The Origins and Theory of Cupping

From an Eastern perspective, the theory behind cupping is similar to the theory behind acupuncture.  It aids in the flow of chi, and helps to mechanically move energy throughout the body.  While some cupping does create bruises, similar to a hickey, not all cupping leaves marks.  The same cup placed on the right and left side, using the same pressure, might result in a mark on one side and nothing on the other.  The eastern explanation for this phenomena is either an excess of energy or a deficiency of energy.  If a bruise is created, then there was too much chi present, and it has now been drawn out to the surface where it can be cleansed by the lymphatic system.  If no bruise results, there was a deficiency in energy and the cup helped to bring the energy and circulation where it was needed.   

Present Day Cupping

These days, more and more practitioners and athletes are using cupping for benefits ascribed by western medicine, ignoring the energy component all together.  In western medicine, cupping is often referred to as manual myofascial decompression.  A massage therapist uses positive pressure with their hands to improve tissue elasticity, break up adhesion and scar tissue, and release myofascial restrictions.  The same theory can be applied to cupping, but using negative pressure instead.

When cups are used by a massage therapist, they’re often placed on the skin after brief oiled warm up strokes with the hands, and then the cups are moved and manipulated over the surface of the skin, pausing where the tissues reaction to the negative pressure varies, as restrictions can be visibly seen by the therapist through the clear glass cups.

Cupping for Pain That’s Skin Deep

Subjectively, clients report that cupping can be quite uncomfortable during a treatment, but that after a session they’re feeling energized, with pain noticeably diminished and sometimes dramatic range of motion gains for restricted areas.  Objectively, therapists report that when range of motion for the hamstrings or runners of the upper back “reach and pull” muscles of swimmers are tested before the session, clients with substantial restrictions can observe a 10 to 15 degree increase in the range of motion after a single treatment.  Cupping is most effective for fascial conditions that are present right beneath the skin, including plantar fasciitis and illiotibial band syndrome. 

Cupping for Illiotibial Band Syndrome

For illiotibial band syndrome, cups are placed throughout the lower extremity and the athlete is often asked to perform slow active movement to stretch the fascial structures beneath the skin and increase the effectiveness of the cups in place.  As this is generally a fascial overuse injury, cupping can be very effective at accessing those structures and treating the injury within just a few sessions.

Cupping for Plantar Fasciitis

For plantar fasciitis, superficial restrictions in the connective tissue in the foot and calf result in dysfunction and inflammation in the plantar fascia.  Those restrictions are often treated with massage, exercise and stretching, as well as braces and extended periods away from athletics.  Cupping works to break up those restrictions and adhesion, allowing freedom of movement within the foot and lower leg, meaning that athletes generally see benefits after a single session.  For plantar fasciitis, the cause can often be postural or related to poor footwear.  While cupping can be very effective if the cause is overuse and damage to the fascial structures locally in the lower leg, it will only temporarily ease pain if the cause lies deeper in the posture.    

Cupping is only now receiving attention by the western scientific community, and there are few peer reviewed studies as to its effectiveness.  Thus far randomized controlled studies have shown cupping to be an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic neck pain and low back pain.   However, expect a number of studies to come forward in the next few years, as elite athletes are already anecdotally reporting substantial gains.