Golf Fitness Program

Golf, like any other sports, requires a good overall fitness level. Training grounds are not anymore confined to the courts or fields; cross-training is becoming more and more popular. This doesn’t mean you have to start swinging your club anywhere. You have to learn how to use them effectively as different types require different skills and strength control. Golf is a precision sport, strength and control is necessary, thus the need for a well-designed program that will improve a golfer’s performance.

Flexibility Training

The goal of flexibility training is to improve range of motion. Stiff joints and muscles won’t help you execute a proper golf swing. The golf swing involves a large movement, tightness on the joints and muscles involved will affect the performance. To improve flexibility, you should know how to stretch properly. Provide adequate time for stretching before every workout; around 10-15 minutes per session.

Reminders for proper stretching:

  1. Warm-up before stretching.
  2. Do not bounce.
  3. Do not overstretch.
  4. Do it slow and steady.
  5. Do not hold your breath.

Weight Training

For golfers, a weight training program designed for balance, control, and endurance is optimal. Weight and reps will be focused on strength gains rather than mass. Since golf involves almost all the muscle groups, a full-body workout is recommended. Special attention on some areas is needed though; Legs to create a strong base, and since golfers are always hunched, back and shoulders should also be given extra focus to support correct posture. Here are few exercises which involves balance, control, and endurance:

  1. Standing single-legged shoulder press
  2. Chest alternating dumbbell on a stability ball (you can actually do lots of exercises on a stability ball to improve your balance)
  3. Dumbbell V,T,W on a stability ball
  4. Single-leg Single-arm deadlift or Single-leg floor reach
  5. Pistol squat

Cardio Training

Cardio training builds your Stamina. Golf games may take hours to finish, you have to be able to endure long hours of physical activity. Poor cardiovascular fitness will impact your swings and overall performance. Everything will be put to waste if you’ll easily get fatigued during the game, so make sure to allot about 15-20 minutes of cardio activity at least twice a week.

Core Training

To produce powerful swings you have to train how to utilize core energy. More power means to engage the core and transfer energy towards the limbs. It requires practice to properly utilize your core muscles instead of just producing arm power for swings. This will result to a more stable and controlled swing.

Stronger core + Proper technique = More energy transferred to limbs = Powerful and controlled Swing

Functional Training

As the word ‘functional’ implies, it’s a program where you train your body the way it will be used in the sport. A very simple exercise covers this phase of training.

Rotational lunges with Medicine ball:

  1. Stand straight and hold a 3 to 6-pound medicinal ball with both hands in front of you; chest level with bent elbows pointing outwards.
  2. Perform a lunge. Step your right leg forward and lower your body until the right thigh is parallel to the ground. Keep the upper body upright and the right foot pointed forward.
  3. Rotate your shoulders while firmly holding the medicine ball from right to left.
  4. Go back to standing position.
  5. Repeat the same procedure for the left leg.

Perform the exercise for 2-3 sets of 20 reps of alternating lunges. You can do your functional training around 2-4 times per week for best results.

Getting Fit for your Skiing Holiday

Skiing is a fun, but very physical activity that can easily drain you. Where’s the fun when you can hardly stay on the slopes? The key to a more enjoyable skiing holiday is to prepare for it. Starting a fitness program 8-10 weeks prior to the activity will greatly benefit you. Aside from the physical demands, you also have to deal with altitude and low temperature. Then what are the necessary things to keep in mind during your preparation? 3 areas to work on: Strength, Flexibility, and Stamina. Work on these areas and make the most of your holiday.

Strength

Skiing-specific strength training will maximize the time that you have to improve your muscle power.

  • Core. In order to continuously maintain your balance, you have to improve your core strength. The slopes and quick movement requires good control of the body. A strong core also generates a strong energy to be delivered to the limbs. You can strengthen the core muscles by doing compound exercises, hanging leg-ups is also good. You can choose from a variety of workouts which focuses on engaging the core muscles.
  • Legs. Maintaining the correct skiing position means you have to work your quadriceps hard. Leg strengthening exercises include but not limited to squats, leg presses, and deadlifts.
  • Triceps. In order to keep your balance and aid you with changing directions, you have to use a ski pole. The continuous pushing and pulling of the pole to and from the ground requires muscle strength and endurance, thus the need to train your triceps. Good triceps exercises include triceps pull-down, bench dips, and the likes.

Strength training is only half of the story. To maximize your gain, add activities that will help you improve on skiing-specific movements such as football or skating. This in turn will improve your balance and reaction time.

Flexibility

Having a good range of motion is extremely important. Improving flexibility in the muscles and tendons also helps to counteract effects of low temperature. Since the environment is really cold, you are prone to stiff muscles affecting your range of motion, and your muscles’ ability to react quickly is compromised. Regular stretching during your training period will help you perform better and avoid injuries.

Stretching techniques:

  • Warm up. It is important to warm up before stretching. Never stretch a cold muscle.
  • Stretch, don’t bounce. Never bounce while stretching; this movement can cause injury to the muscle as you are trying to stretch it beyond its limit.
  • Do not overstretch. Stretching should not cause pain; it should be relaxing.
  • Slow and Steady. Stretch slowly and release slowly. Do it gently.
  • Breathe. Don’t hold your breath when stretching. Breathe normally; it will help you get more relaxed.

Stamina

Honing skiing techniques alone will not be sufficient. Your skills will be put to waste if you cannot endure the physical demands of the activity. Skiing requires the body to keep its balance thus requiring a good deal of control which can be taxing to the cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular fitness will not only make you endure longer hours of physical activity but will also be useful when dealing with the low oxygen supply in high altitudes.

Adequate preparation means lesser chance of having an injury and better performance, and better performance means a more enjoyable skiing holiday. Have fun!

Effective Cycling Exercise Program

cyclingPrograms for cycling are divided into phases. Since it is an endurance sport, patience is crucial. Going through these phases takes time and attention. Even if you’re riding just for recreation and not planning to join any event, knowledge of the basics of any cycling program will be of use one way or another. Let’s have a quick look at the phases of a cycling program.

Phases of training:

Base level. Building a solid foundation in any sport is crucial. Your progress and performance in high end workouts depend tremendously on how you establish your base. This is also called the aerobic level because in this level, you’re trying to improve the aerobic system of the body for it to become accustomed to long hours of riding. The main aim is to improve fitness and skills specific to your goal. The base level riding involves minimal effort, but do not confuse an aerobic ride with a recovery ride. Breathing is steady and can carry on a conversation. The point is to train within your limits and try not to bite off more than you can chew. Base training also teaches your body to burn its fat stores instead of glycogen stores in the muscles; pretty much what a person needs for weight loss.

Tempo level. This level isn’t as steady as the base pace and not as intensive as sprinting. It is around 75-85% of your MHR (Maximal Heart Rate) and breathing is quicker than base pace. This is still an aerobic training and considered as the highest intensity that you can sustain for a long time.

Threshold. A level below Max. This is 85-95% of your MHR. Quick breathing and your legs will feel like burning.

Max. It’s an all-out level!

Now that you have a basic concept of how a cycling program is conducted, let’s look on how we can prepare the body to be more strong and powerful for your cycling activities.

RESISTANCE TRAINING

Since your goals are different from others in the weight room, let’s also classify your weight training into phases.

  1. Transitional Phase. Adjusting to new and different kind of stress. Resistance is low with 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Focus on primary lifts such as squats, leg presses and hamstring curls.
  2. Hypertrophy Phase. The muscle building phase. Increase resistance by 20-30% with 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  3. Strength Phase. Heavier weight, less reps and fewer sets. 70-100% of your maximum lifting weight with 4-5 sets of 3-6 reps.
  4. Power phase. The same weight used in the hypertrophy phase but using explosive movements. The focus will be on speed to maximize strength gain and improve overall power.

Exercises to include in your routine:

  1. Squats. For the glutes and quads.
  2. Deadlift. For the hamstrings and the lower back.
  3. Step up/Lunges. For the glutes and quads.
  4. Crunches and side bends. For the abdominals.
  5. Hyperextensions or Superman. For the lumbar spine.
  6. Calf raises. For the calves.
  7. Push-ups and presses. For the chest and upper arms
  8. Planks. For the postural muscles of the trunk and core strength.

What to Look for in a Good Personal Trainer

personal-trainerAs 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.

Resting Heart Rate

heart-rateWhat is heart rate? Heart rate or pulse is the measurement of your heart beat per minute. It refers to how many times your heart contracts and rests in a minute. In a medical point of view, heart rate and pulse is technically different, though most of the time you will get the same result if you check both. According to Medilexicon’s medical dictionary, Heart beat is defined as a complete cardiac cycle, including spread of the electrical impulse and the consequent mechanical contraction.” and Pulse is defined as the “Rhythmic dilation of an artery, produced by the increased volume of blood thrown into the vessel by the contraction of the heart. A pulse may also at times occur in a vein or a vascular organ, such as the liver.” In some cases, like for example in certain heart conditions, a person might produce a contraction in the absence of a palpable pulse.

For most people, each contraction generates a pulse. Therefore, in the absence of heart rate monitors, counting pulse per minute is an effective and reliable way of checking your heart rate.

How important is heart rate monitoring then? Your heart rate is a good indicator of your fitness level. Heart rate monitoring gives you an idea of how your body reacts to exercise and in turn helps you to determine and control the intensity of your workout. Most of the people who enrolled themselves in workout programs are well aware that heart rate monitoring is important, but only few know why. If you’re planning to start on any exercise routines, it is best to understand first the concept of monitoring your heart rate.

Then what about the resting heart rate? Is it of any significance?

Resting heart rate is an excellent basis of your overall health. Monitoring may help to identify a number of conditions affecting your health. It is also a good indicator of a cardiovascular disease and risks associated with abnormal heart rate. If you’re currently active on a training program, it may be a warning sign for overtraining.

Points to consider:

  1. It is best to check your heart rate in the morning shortly after waking up. It is at this time that our body and mind is at its most relaxed state.
  2. Avoid stimulants. Smoking and caffeine is a no-no.
  3. Avoid drugs affecting heart rate before taking records.
  4. Take at least 1 full minute each day for a few days to get an average.
  5. Take measurements in the same position if possible (lying/sitting/standing) as this may affect reading.

Normal range varies with age, a normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60-100 beats per minute. Without any underlying health condition, a lower heart rate generally implies a more efficient heart function and cardiovascular fitness. So a well-trained athlete might have a resting heart rate around 40 bpm. Monitoring your resting heart rate can therefore help you gauge your progress.

If you found out that your resting heart rate is unusually high or low, or fluctuating without any apparent reason, it is always best to consult your doctor. A little precaution won’t hurt, at the end it is your safety that matters most.

General Tips on Fitness Training

fitness-trainingBeginners often struggle to get started with a workout plan that best suit them. The common question would be what and why. WHAT kind of program to take and a good reason WHY they should choose it over the other. Fitness training is a big industry; it is a big market loaded with tons of goods hence the struggle to decide which program will yield the best results.

Now let’s first take into consideration the goals of a fitness enthusiast. One, and maybe the most common among them, is weight loss. Another is to gain lean mass, may it be bulking or simply toning up. The third is to achieve overall health and improve day-to-day performance, and last but maybe not the least, is training for athletic performance.

Whatever your goal is, and whether you are a beginner or a pro, everything comes down to 2 basic concepts that we all should incorporate in our routines. It’s been available for decades but left hanging somewhere in the corner because we often favor the most advertised ones.

It’s simple and no rocket science at all. So what’s the not-so-new approach that we often fail to embrace?

  1. NUTRITION

A lot of fitness enthusiasts, and not just the beginners, would often have questions as to why results cannot meet their expectations after long periods of hard work. I myself struggled to gain lean mass. A well-researched training program coupled with supplements and protein powder didn’t make me achieve my goal, but why? I’m not saying nothing worked at all; in fact, I gained a few pounds though it was mostly confined in my belly area. Feeling a bit hopeless, I started counting calories which I swore I would never do. After a week of recording, I was surprised to find out that I’m not even taking ¾ of what I’m supposed to eat regardless of the fact that I eat almost every 3-4 hours!

We should be aware that a good calorie intake doesn’t just mean to eat more or to eat less. It’s the quality that truly counts. It is best to consult a dietitian to discuss a diet plan that will suit your goals and current lifestyle. So what are the basic things to keep in mind then?

  • Adequate water intake. By adequate, I mean lots! How many of us often neglect our water intake? Well I wouldn’t really say few.
  • Eat frequently. Ever heard of ‘small frequent feeding’?
  • Eat organic foods and stay away from processed goods. It is always best to eat clean and healthy. If you can’t totally eradicate processed goods in the kitchen, which might be difficult for some, you might just cut it down. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, and don’t forget the meat if you’re not a vegetarian.
  • Nutritional Supplements.  How many of the available supplements in the market can you name? How important do you think they are for your goals? Well not much, unless you know the basics. Multivitamin/mineral is your safest bet. A pointer to remember, they are called ‘supplements’ for a reason, and not ‘replacement’.
  1. TRAINING

Simple things to remember regardless of your training program:

  • Warm-up and stretching. Isn’t it underrated? Often called a ‘waste of time’ especially in the gym. Don’t wait to get injured before you start recalling how to do it properly.
  • Cardiovascular training. In any setting, cardiovascular strength and endurance is important. Intensity and duration varies, but never take cardio out your list. You don’t want your lifting session ruined because you can hardly catch your breath, do you?
  • Get a trainer or someone to supervise you. This is a must for starters. Despite thorough web research and study, you still need someone to check on you. If it is at all impossible, then invest in mirrors or cameras perhaps. Your call.

Building Great Abdominals

abdominalsLet’s start it off with reviewing a little bit of our anatomy. Abdominals or what we informally call “Abs” is a big group of muscles in front of the stomach. They provide movement and support to the core. They also assist in breathing and supports posture. The most prominent among them is the rectus abdominis, it is a long flat muscle extending vertically from the pubis bone to the 5th, 6th, and 7th ribs; it gives the 6-pack effect we’d all like to flaunt.

“Abs are made in the kitchen.”

There is truth in this old adage. You just can’t out exercise a bad diet. Abs, just like any other muscle, have to be worked out and provided adequate rest to facilitate growth, but what about the belly fat covering those chiseled muscles you’ve been working hard for? In order to reveal those muscles, a certain body fat percentage should be achieved. The solution is not as expensive as liposuction, and is way safer than any other methods. It is simply a firm commitment to clean healthy eating; it might not be that simple though. Eating clean means selecting foods naturally extracted from the source such as eggs, fresh meat, and organically grown fruits and vegetables. Avoid those that come in boxes and cans, processed and/or preserved.

Commitment and consistency is a must. This is where most of us fail. It’s not like “once I get nice abs I’ll go back to fast foods”. I’m not saying no to cheat meals, but maybe you might not want to cheat at all once you get started eating clean. You will feel the difference not just in your abdominal area but your whole system. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Say ‘no’ to processed foods. If you can’t completely eliminate it, cut it down to the least possible amount. Every time I check new products in the grocery store, I would always read the labels and have this little voice inside my head saying ‘if you can’t read it, don’t buy it’. It applies mainly to the ingredients that I can hardly recognize; it’s like going back to chemistry class!

Refined Sugar. High blood sugar content hinders the body’s ability to use stored fats for energy. If you reduce your sugar consumption, the level of your ‘fat-storing’ hormone insulin drops and in response your glucagon level rises. The hormone glucagon promotes less fat storage and allows the body to use stored fats. A good quality intake of lean protein and complex carbohydrates will minimize insulin spikes and promote less fat storage as explained by the insulin-glucagon balance. Maintaining an optimal level of blood sugar helps to facilitate more fat-burning throughout the day.

Healthy fats. Don’t be alarmed with the word ‘fats’. Healthy fats are essential in your diet; they help increase HDL cholesterol and lower the bad LDL cholesterol in your body. It boosts immunity and brain function. According to research, they also help prevent accumulation of belly fat. Good sources of healthy fats are nuts, avocados, fish, olives, canola and olive oils, flaxseeds and sesame seeds.

Water! Adequate water intake offers lots of benefits for the human body. Drinking water helps you suppress your appetite and prevents you from overeating. It will also help you cut down on your flavored sugary drinks and unnatural juices. Surprisingly, we sometimes confuse thirst for hunger and we take snacks when in fact we just need to hydrate. You need water, do not ignore the need and definitely do not substitute.

..or made in the gym?

Some people do not agree with the saying ‘abs are made in the kitchen’, they prefer saying ‘Abs are made in the gym, and revealed in the kitchen’, whatever.

2 things to keep in mind when choosing the right exercises to develop your abs: Do something that totally challenges the abdominal muscles, and do something interesting. With the variety of exercises available today, there’s no need to stick to your hundred-rep sit-ups.