As the fitness industry expands, new training programs are developed and introduced to the public. This advancement also requires quality instructors to facilitate the programs safely and effectively. Personal trainers get trained themselves that’s why you might see various certificates posted in their offices or gyms. Now how would you know if you’re looking at an efficient personal trainer? It is important to assess your instructor first before entrusting your lives to them. It might be an overstatement but I’ve seen lots of injuries, minor and major, just because of an incompetent instructor. It is a lesson that everyone should take; don’t follow anyone blindly. Make informed choices and educate yourself while letting them guide you reach your goal. They know their stuff, but you should also know where you’re led to.
Stop. Look. Decide.
In some countries, if not most, there are reputable certification bodies which you can check. They have a roster of certified trainers and their qualifications. It’s like looking at resumes and then you can decide which one to hire. If there is totally none in your area, you can search gyms/trainers websites or you can visit local web forums if available. You might get recommendations from forums so you might want to check it out too. You can also personally see an instructor and ask about their credentials, they should be able to show it to you.
Personal instructors with first-aid training and Basic Life Support (BLS) certification is a big plus. It is now becoming a standard requirement for fitness instructors.
Make an interview. Personal trainers have different styles and personalities, have a check and feel which one you might be comfortable working with. Find someone who’s not only GOOD for you, but also RIGHT for you.
Style. Each and every trainer you meet might have different styles. Regardless of their personal style, a good personal trainer should be able to adjust their means according to your needs. They should be well aware that what works for someone may not work for another. They will usually assess your fitness level and make a workout plan accordingly. They should involve you in the planning to increase your awareness and facilitate a more understanding environment. As you go on with the plan, they should be able to give you feedbacks and make adjustments as necessary.
Personality. Remember that you’re going to train with this person for quite a long period of time. Hire someone you like, someone you can get along with, someone who understands you. Find someone who will motivate you and criticize you in a positive manner. There’s no need to be harsh, make your training session fulfilling instead of taxing.
Professionalism. It is important to have a personal relationship with your instructor but never compromise your professional relationship with them. Workout sessions should be optimized and concluded in a professional fashion. Look for someone who genuinely wants to help you and is flexible to accommodate your schedule as necessary.
How about the rates?
Personal training rates depend on a few factors. It is based on the trainers experience and qualifications, the facility needed for the training program, your geographical location, and maybe just their preference. Ask yourself if it is worth investing. Just keep in mind that probably the most difficult part of training is how to start training. For someone who knows little about fitness training, consider hiring an instructor to help you get started. It might be expensive at first, but as you learn and grow, you become more independent and might not need the guidance of a personal instructor later on.
Definition of terms:
- Circuit – A set of selected exercises performed consecutively.
- Cardiovascular fitness – The ability of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels to transport oxygen-rich blood to the body, as well as the body’s ability to make use of the oxygen to support physical activities.
Circuit training is a combination of cardiovascular fitness and resistance training. It targets gains in muscle strength and endurance as well as improvement in cardiovascular endurance. It aims to maximize the volume of activity in a short period of time. A set of selected exercises are performed consecutively with little to no rest in between. So if you can’t squeeze your workout plan on a busy day, Circuit training is the answer to your workout needs.
Horizontal vs. Vertical
Circuit training is recognized as a vertical loading system. Vertical loading means doing 1 set of an exercise then moving to the next exercise with no rest in between until all the listed exercises are performed. Horizontal loading on the other hand means you have to complete all sets of a given exercise before moving to the next one. Horizontal loading requires more rest because you’re working a specific muscle group continuously. This is the usual pattern that you’ll see in strength and hypertrophy programs.
To compare both loading systems, vertical loading is more beneficial for cardiovascular fitness. Since body parts are alternately trained from set to set, each body part has time to recover while maximizing your training time. Heart rate is also kept elevated because of the short rest periods.
Benefits of Circuit training
- Improves cardiovascular endurance.
- Improves muscle tone.
- Use of weights adds to strength and mass gain.
- Increases metabolism. You’ll definitely burn calories even after you finish your workout.
- Trains the whole body with minimum time. Just the perfect workout for those who can’t spend an hour or so sweating out. This also means lesser trip to the gym since you get to exercise all body parts in one session.
- Improves stability and coordination.
- Beats boredom.
In circuit training, you can perform the exercises in two ways. Either set the number of reps per exercise or set a time frame. Say I want to do squats; I can either do 20 reps or do as many as I can in 5 minutes.
When developing a circuit training routine, you can choose from a variety of equipment and exercises. You can do circuit training with a pair of dumbbells, resistance bands, physioballs or even your own bodyweight alone.
Here’s a sample of a Total body Circuit training exercises:
NAME OF EXERCISE
|Squat thrusts||20 reps each knee|
|Dumbbell squat to press||15 reps|
|Skipping (both feet off the ground)||20 reps|
|Weighted alternating lunges||20 reps each leg|
|Hanging leg raises||15 reps|
Complete 5 sets of the circuit with 1 minute rest in between sets. You can also have 30 seconds rest in between each exercise or none at all depending on your fitness level. As you progress, you can add few more exercises in the circuit or increase the number of repetitions per exercise.
The best exercise you can do as a runner is, of course, running. Running builds muscle endurance and cardiovascular fitness, but what is lacking then? What will make you stand out from the rest is how you maximize your body’s potential. In order to become a more balanced runner, training for strength is a must. When you run, one leg supports the whole body, how much weight could that be? If your legs aren’t strong enough, your speed and mileage will suffer.
Studies show that regular Leg strengthening exercises improve the body’s oxygen use which improves overall speed and muscle endurance. Strong legs also mean more power generated.
Strength training corrects muscular imbalances caused by running; it also improves over-all running form and helps to reduce chances of injury. While a full-body strength training workout is beneficial, your training plan might not be able to accommodate the load. In such cases, focusing on the mostly used muscles should be prioritized.
Leg muscles used in running:
- Quadriceps – Muscles in front of the thigh
- Hamstrings – Muscles on the back of the leg
- Calf Muscles – Muscles on the back of the lower leg
In addition to these leg muscles, several other muscle groups help support proper running form and stability. These muscles help to generate energy for a better push-off force. It is also important to include these muscles in your workouts. If these muscles are weak, so is the force generated for the leg muscles.
- 1. Core muscles
- 2. Gluteal muscles
- 3. Hip muscles
- Don’t forget to warm-up and stretch before your workout
- Always make sure that you’re doing the exercise with good form, keep practicing and master proper form
- Start with few repetitions and slowly increase as you progress
- Once you’ve mastered proper form, start adding weights to add resistance and build more strength. You can use dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, ankle weights and other options for added resistance. As you increase resistance, lower the number of repetitions for each exercise and focus on the quality of the lifts
- Don’t hold your breath. Inhale as you relax and exhale during lifting or exertion of force
- Perform strength training 2-3 times per week
- Do strength training on rest days or lighter training days
- For long-distance runners, it’s best to do strength training in the early phases of your training plan and ease up as your endurance training increases
- For short to middle-distance runners, strength training can be maintained and incorporated in the training plan.
Tips for effective strength training:
Basic Leg Strength Exercises without equipment:
- Body weight Squat
- Singe-Leg Squat
- Single-Leg Balance Touch
- Forward and Backward Lunge
- Thigh Raise
Total Leg Strength Exercises with equipment:
- Dumbbell/Barbell squat
- Dumbbell/Barbell Forward and Backward Lunge
- Deadlifts (deadlift variations to target different areas)
- Leg Presses
- Leg Extension
- Hip raise with One Leg
Pelvic Strength Exercises:
- Side Leg Raise
- Hip Adduction
- Glute Bridge (can be done with barbell)
- Loop Band Shuffle
Calf and Foot Strengthening Exercises:
- Dumbbell Calf Raise
- Dumbbell Single-Leg Calf Raise
- Farmers Walk
- Toe Raise
- Toe Balancing
Friend or Foe?
Lactic acid has gained a bad reputation; often blamed for muscle soreness, cramps, and fatigue after exercise. Let’s take a few minutes to understand the role of Lactic acid in our workout.
Lactic acid is naturally produced in the body. It is released when the oxygen demand of the cells is greater than what the blood can supply; without oxygen involvement, lactic acid is then produced to serve as temporary energy source. So during intense workout, lactic acid is produced to supply us the energy that we need in order to sustain the activity. Sounds like a friend, what do you think?
Lactic acid is actually a by-product of carbohydrates when it is used by the body to create energy. The lactic acid then breaks down into lactate and hydrogen ions. These hydrogen ions cause the burning sensation that you feel during an intense workout. It’s like a signal telling you to stop. So, it might be a foe then?
Well then, according to a research study performed at the University of California, Berkeley, endurance training teaches the body to efficiently use lactic acid for energy. With proper training, lactic acid is definitely a friend, not a foe.
How to deal with the burning pain? Work harder!
If you’re efficiently training your body to use lactic acid as energy source, there will be no reason for build-up. This means doing something to make the mitochondria in the cells grow. Why the mitochondria? It’s because this is where lactate is burned for energy.
Athletes usually do interval training; during these repeated short intense exercises, loads of lactic acid is released. The body then finds a way to adapt; this is when the body builds up the mitochondria to get rid of the lactic acid quickly. Training helps the body to use lactic acid before it builds up to the point of discomfort and fatigue. Another adaptation that happens during interval training is the improvement in cardiovascular fitness; increased oxygen delivery to the cells minimizes the body’s need to breakdown carbohydrates into lactic acid.
What else can be done?
A slight modification in your diet will be a good addition. Increasing intake of foods rich in fatty acids and Vitamin B actually helps in glucose breakdown and transport to fuel the body during workout. This will reduce the body’s need for lactic acid production. Foods to include in your diet would be cold water fishes, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds for the fatty acids. Green leafy vegetables, beans, poultry, beef and dairy products are good sources of Vitamin B.
What about an immediate response to the muscle burn?
- Hydrate. Since it is water-soluble, staying hydrated will help flush lactic acid out of the tissues. Lactic acid is normally flushed out of the system 30-60mins after workout.
- Breathe Deeply. If you trace the cause, the muscle burn can be a result of inadequate oxygen in the cells. Deep breathing will help deliver oxygenated blood to the muscle tissues.
- Stretch. Stretching will speed up release of lactic acid out of the body.
Work harder and use lactic acid to your advantage; train harder and you’ll have a friend you can rely on.
Sports injuries are generally the injuries that occur during sports or exercise. These injuries can be results of accidents, poor training techniques, and inadequate equipment.
The first usual sign of a sport injury is pain. If a sudden pain occurs, stop immediately and investigate the cause.
For close wound injuries such as contusions, strains, sprains, dislocations and minor fractures, use the R.I.C.E. technique:
R – Rest. Stop using the injured part and avoid over manipulation.
I – Ice. Stops internal bleeding and reduces swelling.
C – Compression. Compression may help reduce swelling.
E – Elevation. Elevate injured part above heart level to decrease swelling and pain
For minor open wounds such as abrasions and cuts:
- Stop the bleeding. You can do this by applying gentle pressure to the site.
- Clean the wound. Wash the wound with soap and water to prevent infection.
- Cover the wound. If there’s no active bleeding, it is better to keep the wound uncovered to hasten the healing process.
- If bleeding persists and the cut is deep, go to a hospital and have it stitched.
Giving first-aid to minor injuries will help to minimize complications and help to hasten recovery process later on. If no first-aid was done, more problems can arise such as infection of a wound and worsening of an otherwise minor fracture.
- NSAIDs. Injury causes pain and inflammation. Taking Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen will address the problem.
- Immobilization. Immobilization should be done immediately, as early as giving first-aid treatment. It reduces swelling, muscle spasms and pain. Reducing movement in the affected area prevents further damage. This can be achieved by using slings, splints, casts or leg immobilizers.
- Surgery. In some cases, surgery is needed to repair torn tissues or fractured bones. Minor injuries usually do not require surgery.
Rehabilitation is as important as your treatment. Rehabilitation aims to restore the injured body part’s function back to normal. For some injuries, early mobilization can speed up healing. The goal is to start mobilization without causing pain.
- Range of Motion (ROM) exercises. Start with gentle ROM exercises to mobilize injured area.
- Stretching. Damaged tissue causes scar formation when they heal; this causes the injured part to be tight thus the need for stretching. You should be able to stretch the injured area without causing pain and swelling or any other discomforts before going back to your activities.
- Strengthening exercises. Rebuild strength and joint stability. Get a specialist to guide you through the process. This involves getting the joints back to proper alignment, and exercises to regain muscle strength.
- Rehabilitation therapies. Other rehabilitation therapies used in sports injuries:
v Massage – Soothes tense muscles and improves blood circulation in the injured area.
v Heat therapy – Use of heat to reduce pain and improve blood circulation. This should not be used in the first 48 hours after an injury. This can be done with the use of hot compresses, heating pads or heat lamps.
v Electrostimulation – use of mild electrical current for pain relief and to stimulate immobilized limbs to prevent muscle atrophy.
Take time to rest after an injury. Some injuries take time to heal, proper rest will aid in the healing process. A balance between rest and rehabilitation techniques will soon get you back to your normal activities.
Not all injuries can be prevented, but you can reduce the risks.
- Proper warm-up and stretching before doing exercise.
- Learning proper form and techniques should be a priority.
- Using the recommended sport-specific protective gears.
- Do not push yourself too much; avoid overtraining.
Still struggling with your weight after trying a lot of diet? Kept on regaining the weight that you’ve worked hard to lose? Your diet’s not working? Maybe you need a new one, but NO.
The main problem is that people think that diet is the key to weight loss. If nothing changed after some time they’ll just switch to something else that ‘might’ work. Sure, the food that you eat plays a big role in controlling your weight but you have to think bigger than that. Weight loss is not all about diet!
In order to lose and control your weight, there are some factors to consider. Check out these tips and try to evaluate which part you fail to integrate in your supposed-to-be-perfect weight loss plan.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Have you skipped breakfast because that’s what your diet book says? Did you ever feel tired and hungry and decided to binge later on? Then you have your answer why skipping breakfast is not a good idea after all. Eating breakfast actually boosts your metabolism so go eat a healthy breakfast. A low glycemic index meal is your best option.
- Apply the “Plate method”.
- Non-starchy vegetables: These are high fiber, low carb, low calorie foods. Broccoli, Asparagus, Cabbage, Spinach, Carrots, Onion, Cucumber, Tomato, Green Beans, Cauliflower, Peppers, Eggplant.
- Carbs: Avoid refined ones. Good sources of carbs are starchy vegetables such as Potato and Corn, Brown rice, Whole grain bread, Whole wheat pasta, Fruits, Beans, Milk, and Yogurt.
- Protein: Meat, Poultry, Fish, Cheese, Eggs and Tofu.
- Regular exercises. Weight loss is not all about food control, you have to be active. Being physically active and doing fitness workout will actually help you burn more calories. Gaining lean mass also means you’ll burn fat more. It also boosts your mood, so for those who would constantly binge eat when feeling down, keep moving and give your body a little exercise. Quit making excuses, whatever your fitness level is, there’s always a variety of options to do exercise and be active.
- Cheat meals are okay, in moderation. Every now and then you can indulge yourself with your favorite not-so-healthy foods. Feeling deprived of your favorite food might discourage you to resort to a healthier eating pattern. Take them only in small portions.
- Prepare ready to eat fruits and vegetables. Cut them up and put them in a sealed container and keep it in the fridge. Whenever you get hungry you can just grab them and there you have a healthy snack.
- Water intake is important. Drinking water instead of sugary beverages will help you control your caloric intake. When you’re feeling hungry, drink water first, it might be thirst that you’re actually feeling and not hunger.
- Write down your goal and plan. Writing what you want to do and what you want to achieve will keep you on track. Record your progress and use this as a motivation to keep you focused on your goal.
- Involve family members. I know it’s hard to keep everybody involved especially if you’re following some weight loss diet that not everyone’s willing to try. Introduce clean and healthy eating, it’s more reasonable to push them to eat healthier anyways. A group exercise would also be fun and beneficial.
Keep your focus and be patient
Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. You have to work hard for it and be patient. Avoid crash diets for fast results; aside from the fact that they’re not really effective, they are also detrimental to your health. Be motivated and have a positive outlook, your health is worth the effort.
Some people can’t simply indulge themselves to physically demanding activities either because of health problems or a bunch of excuses to stay inactive. But this doesn’t mean that there’s no exercise plan that they can follow. It’s not so difficult to start with and safe for everyone, just WALK. It’s one of the easiest exercises you can perform with the guarantee of benefits.
Regular brisk walking benefits:
- Improves cardiovascular fitness
- Improves blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Strengthens bones
- Improves balance and coordination
- Helps to maintain body weight
- Lifts your mood
How to start:
If you have any medical problem, consult a doctor first before starting any routine. Always start slow and easy, adjust the pace and distance once you get used to the activity or build a certain level of fitness. You can start within the confines of your home and hit the road later on.
Proper walking technique:
- Head’s up. Look forward, not down.
- Back should be straight and relaxed. Not arched.
- Tighten abdominal muscles.
- Neck, Shoulders and back should be relaxed.
- Allow your arms to swing freely with your elbows slightly bent.
- Step from heel to toe.
How to prepare:
Before you start, a little preparation is needed.
- Shoes. Choose the proper sneakers. If you don’t know what to look for, go to stores selling running shoes and have someone properly fit you. Using shoes designed for running/walking will save you from avoidable discomfort and injuries.
- Water bottle. It is important to drink water before, during, and after walking. You lose a significant amount of water in your body so you need to rehydrate.
- Clothing and paraphernalia. Wear comfortable clothing. If you decided to walk during the night, it’s advisable to wear bright-colored clothes or reflective tape for visibility. You can wear a cap during daytime to protect you from the heat of the sun.
- Area. Plan your course; choose a path where there are no hazards. Uneven or damaged roads can be dangerous. Avoid polluted areas and roads with heavy traffic as much as possible. If you’re planning to walk at night time, choose a well-lighted place.
- Warm up. Walk slowly for a few minutes to warm the muscles and to slightly elevate your heart rate before starting your routine.
- Stretching. Once your muscles are warmed up, stretch for around 5-10 minutes. Dynamic stretching is preferred before exercise to improve flexibility and prepare the body for the activity, and Static stretching at the end of the activity also helps improve flexibility and helps to facilitate muscle relaxation during cool down.
- Cool down. At the end of your walk, don’t stop immediately and sit down. Walk slowly for another 5 minutes to cool your muscles down as well as stabilize your heart rate and breathing back to normal.
Once you have formed the habit and started doing it regularly, it’s time to evaluate your progress. Make a record of how long you cover a particular distance. Record your heart rate as well. You may notice that after some time the usual distance you walk become more and more effortless to finish. You may also notice that you can increase your speed without panting or getting easily fatigued. At this rate, you can decide to increase the intensity of your workout. You can increase your speed, distance, and the time dedicated for the workout depending on your goals. You can as well start walking up and down the stairs, or if you prefer walking outdoors, you can find some hill or a ramp to increase resistance.
Muscles become strong when they are constantly exposed to a stress which is greater than they can handle. In order to adapt, the muscles grow bigger and stronger to cope with the stress. Let’s say you started working as a mechanic and you have to carry lots of heavy tools every working day. If the body is not used to this kind of activity, it makes ways to adapt to it by stimulating the Central Nervous System and stimulating morphological changes to the muscles. So to speak, building stronger muscles means applying the concept of our body’s natural way of adapting to stress—Overload.
Principle of Overload
This doesn’t mean you have to work the muscle to exhaustion, though yes, endurance is improved when the muscle is worked for a long period of time and for a higher number of repetitions. When training for strength though, focus on the quality of your lifts rather than its quantity; lift heavy for lower reps. In order to gain more benefits from this principle, you have to keep in mind that the body continuously adapts to the load that you give it; this means that you have to constantly challenge the body for it to grow. When you feel that your routine is starting to get easy, try to add another set or increase the weight by 5-10%.
How it works?
Applying the principle of overload, there are 2 levels by which adaptation occurs in the body.
- CNS level. The neurological changes happen. This is when the CNS is stimulated to recruit and engage the muscles.
- Muscle level. Morphological changes. This is when the change in the muscle itself occurs.
According to studies, the optimum rep range for strength gain is 1-8 reps with 100% to 70% of your 1 RM (Rep Max); heavy enough that you should be struggling for your last rep with good form and without using momentum. This much weight and rep range stimulates myofibrillar hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the growth of the contractile parts of the muscle which means strengthening the muscle fiber itself. If you’re a beginner, focus on your form first before actually lifting heavy.
Rest and Recovery
Since heavier resistance is applied, it is recommended to rest a muscle group for 2-3 days after workout. It is during this rest period that the muscles repair and grow stronger.
This is the stage where you no longer adapt and change. In order to get past this stage, you have to surprise the body with the load you give it. Try to change your routine after a few months or reverse the order of exercises you do in a day. You may also want to introduce a substitute exercise, like for example using dumbbells for your Woodchop rather than cable.
Having a well-balanced diet will not only make you feel better after a tiring workout but it will also aid in fast healing and recovery. A good nutritional status will also help in the training process. Remember that energy comes from food and a sustained amount of energy is required for you to maximize your training session. Poor nutrition will result to poor training and thereby poor results.
Since you can’t technically strengthen the joints, let’s take a look on what we can do to strengthen the muscles around the joints.
The knees are surrounded by leg muscles; strengthening these muscles will provide better support and stability to the joints.
The knee joint is surrounded by:
- Quadriceps muscles – the large thigh muscles in front of the leg.
- Hamstring muscles – the large muscles on the back of the leg.
- Calf muscles – muscles on the lower back part of the leg that control the foot.
- IT bands – a long band of connective tissue that runs straight from the hip bone down to the outside of the knee.
Simple leg strengthening exercises can be done in the comforts of your home or in the gym. Here are few exercises that you can do with or without the use of weights.
Quads strengthening exercises:
- Squats – Make sure to perform with proper form. Bend the hips and knees on a sitting position until the thighs are parallel to the ground; knees shouldn’t go past your toes and with neutral spine. This can be done with or without weights. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
- Quads contraction – Keeping your legs and knees straight, tighten your quads by pushing the knees down. You should feel your thigh muscles clench. Hold for 3 seconds for 15-20 reps.
- Quads over fulcrum – While lying down place a rolled towel or foam under your knees. Slowly straighten your knees as far as possible while tightening your quads. Hold for 5 seconds for 10 reps. It should be pain-free
- Knee extension – With your knees bent on a sitting position, slowly straighten your knee tightening the quads. Keep your back straight and the movement controlled. Do the same for the other leg. Do 3 sets of 15 reps. For added resistance, use ankle weights or resistance bands.
Hamstring strengthening exercises:
- Hamstring curls – lie on your stomach with the legs straight. Slowly bend your knee tightening the back of your thigh. Do 15 reps for each leg. This can be done with the use of resistance bands.
- Front leg raises – hold onto something for support with one hand. Swing the opposite leg forward while keeping the leg straight. Swing the leg backwards as far as possible without causing pain. Repeat 5-10 times then switch sides.
- Walking lunges – on a standing position step one leg forward and lower the body until the thigh is parallel to the ground. Get back up to standing position and do the same with the other leg. Do 15 reps for each leg. Use weights for added resistance.
Calf strengthening exercises:
- Heel raises – Stand on your toes with feet slightly apart; lift the heels as high as possible. Hold onto something for support while doing this. Hold the position for 5 seconds and slowly lower down the heels. Repeat 15-20 times.
- Seated calf raise – on a sitting position with knees directly over your feet, slowly lift your heels as high as possible then slowly back down. Keep your back straight when doing the exercise. Weights can be placed over the thighs or use a calf press machine.
IT band strengthening exercises:
- Side Leg lifts – While lying on your right side lift the left leg up to about 45 degrees. Do the same on the opposite side. Try to keep the legs and knees straight and perform the exercise with controlled movements. You can use resistance bands or ankle weights for added resistance. Do 15-20 reps each leg for 2 sets.
- Side lying clam – lie on your side with hips and knees bent to around 90 degrees, feet together. Lift the upper knee off the lower knee for as high as possible without having pain. Keep the spine stable and isolate the hip. Do the same on the opposite side. Perform 2 sets of 15 reps for each side. Resistance bands can be used around the thighs just above the knee.
- Bridging March – While lying on your back lift your hips to bridge position. Lift one foot off the ground while maintaining the bridge position. Get back to starting position and do the same to the other foot. Perform 15 reps for each foot.
Resistance training which works on the principle of Overload will help improve upper body strength. For strength gains, it is recommended to do lower reps with heavy weights.
Here are few exercises you can perform to increase upper body strength. Perform these exercises with a strict adherence to proper form and techniques. Use weights around 70-80% of your 1 Rep Max (RM).
- 1. Push-ups
- Face down on the floor with arms extended in front of the chest and shoulder width apart. Back flat and feet together
- Lower the body towards the floor while maintaining a straight back. Elbows shouldn’t flare out
- Push your body back up as you exhale
- Repeat 20 times
- 2. Pull-ups
- Grab the pull-up bar with palms facing forward using wide, medium, or close grip
- Hang down with arms extended, lower back slightly arched
- Pull yourself up towards the bar until it touches your upper chest. Perform the movement using mainly your back muscles. Breathe out as you do the movement
- Slowly lower your body down to starting position with arms extended and lats stretched as you breathe in
- Repeat 20 times
- 3. Barbell Bench Press
- Lie on a bench with feet flat on the floor, with neutral spine or a slight lower back arch
- Using a medium-width grip, grab the bar and lift above your chest
- Breathe in and slowly lower the bar towards your middle chest, around the nipple area until the arms form a 90-degree angle. Don’t go lower than this as the workload will be transferred to the shoulders instead
- Push the barbell back up as you breathe out
- Do 2 sets of 6-8 reps
- 4. Flat Dumbbell Fly
- Lie on a bench with feet flat on the floor, with neutral spine or a slight lower back arch
- With palms facing each other, hold the dumbbells in front of you; with straight arms and a slight bend on the elbows, shoulder width apart
- Breathe in and lower your arms out at both sides in a wide arc until you feel a stretch on the chest
- Get back to starting position with dumbbells in front of the chest while you breathe out
- Do 2 sets of 6-8 reps
- 5. Lat Pulldown
- Sit and adjust the thigh pads for comfort and to prevent the knees from rising up while you do the exercise.
- Hold the cable bar with a wide overhand grip
- Keeping your back straight with a slight arc on the lower back, pull the bar down towards your chest while squeezing the shoulder blades together. Breathe out on this movement
- Slowly return the bar to full height as you breathe in
- Do 2 sets of 6-8 reps
- 6. One-Arm Dumbbell Row
- Place the right leg on top of the bench, lean forward and rest your right hand on the other end of the bench until your torso is parallel to the bench
- Use the left hand to pick up the dumbbell and hold it while keeping your back straight.
- Pull the dumbbell up towards the side of your chest as you exhale, keeping the arm close to your side. Use the back muscles in doing the pulling motion instead of the arm muscles. Squeeze the back as you do the lift.
- Lower the dumbbell back to starting position as you breathe in.
- Do 2 sets of 6-8 reps per side.
- 7. Standing Military Press
- Grab the barbell with pronated grip
- With back straight and a slight arc on the lower back, feet shoulder width apart and a slight bend on the knees, hold the barbell in front of your upper chest
- Lift the barbell over your head in a steady, forceful motion as you breathe out
- Lower the barbell back to upper chest level as you breathe in
- Do 2 sets of 6-8 reps
With or without the presence of a personal instructor, you can definitely work out at the convenience of your home. That’s why you see workout DVDs being advertised on TV or online, it’s for home use, and you also get a virtual instructor. Sweet!
All you have to start with is motivation. Be motivated enough that you will want to finish your workout plan despite the temptations at home; like the difficulty of doing a warm up whenever a couch is nearby. Next maybe is a monitor, either of your TV or your PC, not for lifting purposes but for a little company. Working out alone can sometimes be lonesome affecting your mood which in turn makes you feel more sluggish and think of abandoning the work out altogether. I use to watch a couple of motivational workout videos online before I play my workout video; it makes me feel more ready and motivated to exercise. It is also a nice way to encourage other family members to join the activity. If nobody else would join, just enjoy your virtual buddies. Third to consider is equipment. You can invest on a pair of dumbbells or a kettlebell if preferred, but you can also find something at home to add spice to your workout when buying is not an option.
Before starting a workout routine, remember 3 things: Warm up, Stretching, Cool down. Do not neglect these essential parts in performing any workout routine.
Now here are simple workout routines that you can accomplish at home with or without training equipment.
Compound routine without equipment:
- Planks: 2 sets of 30-second holds
- Push-ups: 2 sets of 20 reps.
- Squats: 3 sets of 30 reps.
- Burpees: 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Lunges: 3 sets of 20 reps of alternating lunges.
- Step-ups: 1 set of 50 reps.
- Bench dips: 2 sets of 15 reps.
- Pull ups: 3 sets of as many as you can do. If you don’t have a pull-up bar at home, you can always improvise. Use the doorway, a beam at home, the stairway, or maybe the gate outside or even the fence if possible. If you can have access to a playground nearby, better.
Compound routine with dumbbell/kettlebell:
- Squats: 4 sets of 20, 15, 10, 8 reps with increasing load.
- Deadlifts: 4 sets of 20, 15, 10, 8 reps with increasing load.
- Flat dumbbell press: 4 sets of 20, 15, 10, 8 reps with increasing load.
- Clean and Jerk: 3 sets of 20, 15, 10 reps with increasing load.
If you don’t have a dumbbell, you can use few other things as a substitute. A good example is water bottles. Fill it completely to keep the water steady inside or leave some space for a little challenge since the weight shifts in this condition, thus you have to exert effort for balance. You can change the bottle sizes to increase load.
As you may have noticed, I’ve mainly used compound exercises in the given workout samples. Beginners are often confused where to start, and I believe that a good grasp of the compound movements is of most importance for any level of fitness training. You can always work on isolation exercises later on. If weight training doesn’t interest you at all, there are plenty of dance workouts available nowadays such as Zumba.
You can also devise your own workout plan according to your needs and fitness level. You can check fitness programs available online for additional learning and workout options. Free workout routines are everywhere! Be resourceful and read a lot. Remember that in the fitness industry, knowledge is power.