Archive for the ‘Flexibility’ Category

You’ve heard the term, but what exactly does the word “superset” mean? Traditionally, a superset is two or more exercises performed consecutively to work opposing muscle groups. “These days, the term has been used a lot more loosely,” says Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute trainer Adam Friedman. “I tend to follow the traditional approach myself.” Supersets increase intensity level, heart rate and calories burned because you are doing two exercises consecutively. Plus, they amp up your mental toughness with more challenging gym time, and you have to push yourself to do continuous sets with less rest.

“I enjoy doing them because it’s more challenging from a conditioning standpoint, it’s time efficient, and it’s an excellent way to work opposing muscle groups to keep balance,” says Friedman. In a healthy body, the muscles that move and stabilize the bones have a natural reflex to relax when their opposite muscles are working. Doing supersets can help guarantee that you’re working all your muscle groups.

Here are five supersets you can use to supersize your routine. Beginners should start with three sets of 5 to 8 reps, while more experienced gymgoers can try three sets of 10 to 12 reps. Count to three on the way down, and go back up on two. “At the beginner level, the weight lifted during a superset should be a little lighter than what you would normally use during an exercise,” Friedman says. “This is just for safety reasons until you become better mentally and physically.” Intermediate to advanced should use the same weights you typically do with an exercise to maintain their strength levels, which may mean that they go down in repetition to start, but then increase as conditioning improves.

Dumbbell flat chest press
Begin by lying on a flat bench, feet flat, knees bent at 90 degrees, arms extended upward at shoulder width with dumbbells in hand. Squeeze your shoulder blades against the bench and lower the dumbbells level to your chest.

Dumbbell back row
Stand in a split stance, bend over until your back is parallel with the ground. Keep back in a neutral alignment, arms fully extended with dumbbells in hand. Pull dumbbells up to waist.

Dumbbell incline chest press
Begin by lying on an inclined bench, feet flat, knees bent at 90 degrees, arms extended upward at shoulder width with dumbbells in hand. Squeeze your shoulder blades against the bench and lower the dumbbells level to your chest.

Lat pull-down
Sit on a pull-down machine with a wide bar attached to the top pulley, legs at 90 degrees. Grab the bar just outside shoulder width. Pull bar down to the top of your chest, bringing your shoulders down and back.

Shoulder press
Stand with feet hip distance apart, knees soft, dumbbells in hand. With elbows straight, extend arms above head. Lower dumbbells to earlobes.

Pull-ups
Mount the assisted pull-up machine. Grab bar, lower body down, extend your arms, and pull up, aiming your chest toward the sky.

Chest fly
Begin by lying on a flat bench, feet flat, knees bent at 90 degrees, arms fully extended above shoulders with dumbbells in hand. Bring arms down to your side, with a slight bend in your elbow. Straighten elbows and squeeze your chest muscles on the way back up.

Reverse Fly
Begin by lying chest down on an incline bench, feet flat, knees bent at 90 degrees, arms fully extended with dumbbells in hand, thumbs facing down. Bring arms out to your shoulder.

Biceps Curl
Stand with knees soft, feet shoulder-width apart, with dumbbells in hand. Press your elbows into your sides. Bring the dumbbells ¾ of the way up to your shoulders.

Triceps Extension Machine
Stand with knees soft, feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your elbows stationary for the full move. Grab the bar and extend you arms downward to fully contract your triceps. Pause for one second at the bottom of the movement before bringing arms back up to the starting position.

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With so much to choose from when it comes to fitness, we decided to zero in on five moves that cannot be missed. So we asked three Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute trainers to weigh in. Here are their picks.

For each move below, we suggest trying three sets of 10 reps.

Why: ”Your glutes are the most important part of your core,” Robert Reames, Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute member and author of Make Over Your Metabolism, explains. “And if your glutes are strong, that helps your lower back and knees.”
How: Lie on your back, with arms comfortably at your sides and knees bent. Press your heels into the floor and raise your hips, shifting pressure to the upper shoulder. No pressure should be felt in the neck or back. For advanced-level positions, try touching your fingertips to the back of your shoes or clasping your hands behind your back and drawing your shoulder blades together. For added difficulty, place a Pilates ring between your knees and squeeze your legs to hold it in place.
Helps: Zeroes in on your butt.

Why: ”This move really helps to establish that power needs to come from the glutes and abdominals,” says Adam Friedman, celebrity trainer and Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute member. “Engaging the midsection in the movement first will help you to be more stable, strong and powerful when and where it’s needed.”
How: Place a kettlebell between your feet. Bend down as if you were sitting and pick it up. Snap your hips and swing it up to chest level.
Helps: Strengthens your core muscles.

Why: ”We constantly ignore the muscles we don’t see in the mirror—a big mistake,” Tracey Mallet, Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute trainer and author of Super Fit Mama, explains. “It’s important to counteract what most of us do every day, which is sit in front of a computer at a desk.” To do that we need a strong back and core for better posture, and this move works all the extensors and the mid-upper back, glutes and hamstrings.
How: Lie on your front on the floor with your neck parallel to the ground. Lift your right hand and left leg off the floor simultaneously. Repeat with the left hand and right leg, then continue switching back and forth.
Helps: Makes sure you are working your back and butt muscles.

Why: ”Works your whole body in one move, especially your arms and core,” Mallet says “A strong core is really important—if your center is weak then the rest of the body will be weak.”
How: Lie facedown with your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart and your feet together. Keeping your body straight, push up. For less effort, lower your knees onto the ground. For more difficulty, try it with a BOSU, an inflated rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform. (It resembles a stability ball cut in half.) Place the BOSU soft side down and hold on to the edges while you perform the push-up.
Helps: An all-over body exercise

Why: ”The most important thing is doing a correct squat,” Reames says. “Then I add in the upper body rotation with a medicine ball to emphasize everyday-life movement.”
How: Place your feet hip-width apart. Hold the medicine ball at chest level. Keep your chest high, draw in your abdominals and slowly squat down until your butt is parallel with the floor (and never further). Have a firm foot plant, and put emphasis on your heels. Make sure to keep your knees directly over your ankles, and never in front. As you stand up, hold the medicine ball out in front of you, shoulder-high, and slowly twist to the right, then back to center, then to the left.
Helps: Guarantees that you’re building your lower core muscles.

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Gold’s Gym interviewed four certified yoga instructors to show you how to get started at this tried and true practice that benefits your body and mind. The best part? Every class ends with a nap.

When yoga mats first rolled out on U.S. floors, many thought the practice was reserved for pony-tailed hippies and New Age commune dwellers. Now this ancient practice has svelte celebrities flocking to ashrams and medical researchers studying the positive effects of meditation. The votes are in: Yoga is a yes.

So if you think “down dog” is merely a puppy-training command or feel mystified by the term “chaturanga”—it might be time to look into yoga. To help you out, we did reconnaissance and spoke to four certified yoga teachers to dispel a few of the most common newbie fears and give you solid tips for how to get started as a beginner. Plus, you can check out an illustrated guide to one of the most common yoga series: Sun Salutations.

Now breathe deep and repeat after us: “Ommmm.”

To start, let’s dispel a couple of the most common fears of beginning yoga students.

You do not need to be a contortionist. “Sure, flexibility is a plus, but it isn’t necessary,” explains Elsie Escobar, creator of the highly rated free podcast Elsie’s Yoga Class, whose students include 60-year-olds with arthritis. If you can’t touch your toes, there are tools to assist you. Sitting on a block can help you keep your back straight during seated poses, and using a strap or towel when you stretch your arms or reach for your toes can ease you in to deeper stretches.

You will not look silly. Remember that your classmates were once young yogis too. “Every single person in the room, including the teacher, had to overcome their fear and step on a mat,” says Stacy Shepherd, a Gold’s Gym yoga instructor. Plus, there isn’t a peanut gallery there to judge you. “In yoga, we help hold each other up with our practice; there is no competition.”

Next, here are a few tips for those just dipping their toes into asanas:

Start at the beginner. Even if you can run a marathon and rock a Zumba class, a yoga newbie should try out a beginner class first. “People who are very physically fit will go to intermediate and advanced classes because they think yoga looks easy,” says Jennifer Rodrigue, senior associate editor at Yoga Journal. “But that is a surefire way to open yourself up to potential injury.” Beginner classes also help you learn technique, because basic points like where to place your feet, point your hips and hold your arms will be stressed more than they will in intermediate or advanced sessions.Teacher, teacher. “If you have questions, ask!” Escobar says. You might feel strange interrupting class, but most teachers don’t mind. “If we can’t help right then, we’ll let you know and we can figure it out together later.” (Shy beginners can always approach the teacher after class.) And just as with any fitness class, look for a teacher you like and respect. “Make sure it’s a person you don’t mind listening to for 90 minutes and someone who is experienced and you can trust,” Rodrigue advises. If you have any injuries or medical conditions, be sure to approach the instructor before class and fill him or her in on your health concerns.Know the safety pose. If you’re ever experiencing pain or need a break, take child’s pose. “It’s the time-out pose,” Escobar explains. Place your knees on the mat, then lower your chest on top of your legs and drop your head. You can then stretch your hands out in front of you or drop your arms to your sides.Find your style. “It’s a good idea to take several different styles of yoga to see what you like best,” says Samantha Martin, a Dallas-based yoga instructor. “Then try a few different teachers before making a judgment.” To get a full experience, try attending two classes per week for a month. “When you go to a new grocery store, it’s hard to find anything, even milk, but as you go more often, you remember where the dairy aisle is and you can get to it faster. Then you begin to relax and discover other parts of the store—that’s what yoga feels like at first,” Escobar says. “You’re moving in new ways and using parts of your body that you haven’t before, so the more often you go, the better you can navigate.” But don’t be afraid to say that yoga is not for you—as Rodrigue explains, “it’s important that you enjoy the process. Yoga is just one method. If you try it and don’t feel it’s for you, don’t force yourself to keep practicing.”

Last, but not least, here are the great reasons to add yoga to your fitness routine:

It clears the mental chatter. In this Internet and smartphone era, our brains are constantly multitasking and overthinking. “When you practice yoga, you put yourself in positions that make you be actively conscious and force you to slow down,” Escobar says. “You have to focus on breathing, think about where your hands need to go, where your knees should be.” Once you’ve learned how to be present, you can translate that into other parts of your life. As Shepherd explains: “You learn to focus on your breath coming in and out, so next time you’re in a meeting or listening to a friend, you can keep focused.”It’s like giving yourself a break. Above all the other benefits that our practitioners hear about and see, the raves about how relaxed their students feel after class have made the biggest impression. “They often leave saying that they feel like they just went to a spa,” Martin says. “Students are so focused on what they’re doing that all of the outside distractions can finally float away.”Nap time! If you’ve never heard of savasana—then your life just got better. This is the Sanskrit title for the typically five-minute rest that happens at the end of each class. The lights are lowered and you lie on your back with your palms up and eyes closed to let your body absorb the class. “Yoga is the one form of exercise where each class includes time to lie down and rest at the end,” Martin says. “I once heard someone say that nothing in class matters as long as you have a great savasana.”Oh yeah—a better body and mind. We’ll let Shepherd handle this one on her own. “People are typically attracted because of the physical aspects—like they heard it would help their core—and I see people achieve great results: sculpted muscles, a reduction of body fat, increased stamina and, of course, more flexibility. But the people that become regular lifetime practitioners stay committed because of the results they didn’t expect: increased self-confidence, a more authentic way of being, reduced heart rate, a reduction of stress in their lives and healthier eating habits.”

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