Exercise Articles

Form Check: Deadlifts

One great lower body exercise to be adding to your workout routine on a regular basis is the deadlift. Deadlifts are great for strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, and quads if done with a bent knee or the lower back if done with a straight leg.

Since they are a primary compound movement, they’re also going to burn up a number of calories as you do them, boost your metabolic rate significantly, and help add more muscle toning and firmness to your body.

That said, you need to be doing them properly. Some people make some major mistakes when doing deadlifts, this will just lead them to quickly become injured if they aren’t careful.

Here are the points to know about deadlifts.

Keep The Back Neutral 

First, the biggest mistake that is often made when doing deadlifts is adopting an unnatural curve to the back. This is going to place far too much excess strain on the lower back joints and can lead to inflammation, muscle pulls, or even chronic back pain.

Keep the back in a neutral position as much as possible. This way you will be loading up all the stress and strain from the weight on the actual muscles you’re targeting instead.

Look Straight Ahead 

Next, be sure you look straight ahead as you lift the weight upwards as well. This can help to keep your back in a proper position and prevent you from leading forward too much.  If you’re doing this exercise in front of a mirror, this also allows you to do a quick form check and make sure that you are going about things correctly.

Focus On The Muscle Contraction 

Finally, the last quick tip to remember as you do the deadlift exercise is to ensure you focus on the muscle contraction at all times. So many people just ‘go through the movement’, aiming to lift as much weight as they can, but that is a fast route to injury and lack of progress.

Focus on the muscles you’re targeting contracting and you’ll get a far more intense workout and proper strength gains.

So keep these quick tips in mind as you start doing deadlifts in your training protocol. Done right, this is a very powerful exercise but done wrong, you’ll be sorry you added them in when you end in pain and injured. Maintaining good form is a must at all times, so don’t let this go overlooked.

3 Reasons To Squat

If you are getting ready to start out on your workout program and want to make absolutely sure you are going to see top-notch success, one of the post pivotal things to be paying attention to is that you are choosing the proper exercises as you go about your workout protocol.

One of the main exercises that must be included is the squat, but yet, some people skip over it because it’s just too intense or because they don’t know how to do it correctly.

But, if you want optimal results, you will want it to be there.

Let’s have a look at three key reasons why doing the squat is going to be a must for your success.

Total Lower Body Strengthening 

The first reason to be adding the squat to the picture is because it’ll help boost your lower body strengthening level. When you do squats, you’ll hit the glutes, hamstrings, as well as the quads, so this can help to reduce the total number of exercises that must be performed in the workout session.

This allows you to get in and out of the gym more quickly even on your busiest of workout days.

High Calorie Burn 

Moving along, the next reason to be adding squats into the picture is because of the high calorie burn they’ll offer you.  Do squats and you’ll be burning up calories faster for hours after the session is over, meaning your fat burning capabilities are significantly enhanced.

Since these are also the largest muscle groups in the body, your entire workout intensity will go up when they’re performed.

Stabilization Improvement And Ab Integration 

Finally, the last big reason to be adding squats into your workout protocol is because they require the stabilization muscles in the body to be contracting intensely as well, which then means that you will see great ab core strengthening as well.

When it comes right down to it, it’s far more effective to strengthening the abdominal muscles using heavy weight compound exercises than loads of abdominal crunches, so this is what you should be focusing on getting into your workouts if that’s the goal.

So as you can see, the squat is not an exercise to miss out on. If you are not regularly doing this in your lower body or full body workout routine, it’s time that you brought it into the picture.

Stretch Smarter

As you move through your workout program, one variety of exercise that you must make sure you aren’t overlooking is stretching.  Stretching is not only going to help reduce post workout muscle soreness, but it’ll help to boost your total range of motion, which then means you can see better results from each and every exercise you include in your protocol.

Now, some people simply don’t know how to stretch properly for best results, and as such, they avoid it.

Let’s get you off to a better start by going over a few key tips you should know for proper stretching.

Don’t Forget To Breathe 

The very first thing to remember is that you will be able to stretch further and deeper if you are practicing deep breathing as you stretch. With each deep breath you take in, the muscles will relax and this will allow you to move deeper into the stretch.

Try and do one to two long inhales and exhales with each stretch you do.

Hold Each Stretch, Never Bounce 

Next, make sure that you hold each stretch for at least 10-20 seconds per muscle group. This will help your body adapt to the stretch and help you push even further as the tension in the muscles relax.

Also be sure that you never bounce up and down through a stretch either. That’ll just ask for an injury and will put your muscles at risk for a tear or pull.

Warm-Up First 

Finally, the last thing to remember and note for a proper stretching session is that you always must be warmed up first.

Never stretch while cold or you will tear a muscle. It’s typically most effective to stretch after your strength training or cardio workout is done as part of your cool-down, however if you aren’t working out on that given day and still want to get some stretching in, you can do so after a brief 5-10 minute warm-up.

So keep these points in mind as you go through your stretching protocol. It’s one area of your fitness that won’t produce direct results in terms of your body composition but it can indirectly impact the performance you give during each session you do. That then will impact how you look, so it’s still of great importance to dedicate some time to each week.

Proper Push Up Technique

If there’s one upper body exercise that you should make sure you’re doing regularly in your workout program, the push-up is it.

Yet, many people completely overlook this exercise because it’s not making use of the weight machines or free weights they’re used to.

But, make no mistake about it, the push-up can be just as challenging and can cause just as much muscle strength improvements when done right.

To help ensure you are performing the push-up correctly, let’s go over 6 quick tips that will help you execute using best form.

Tense Your Abs 

First and foremost, you must remember to keep your abs tight as you do the push-up. This is going to help to ensure that you are maintaining that flat body position that’s integral to success with this exercise.

In addition to this, keeping them contracted also means you’ll get a good core workout as you do the exercise as well.

Keep Your Head Down 

Moving along, also remember to keep your head down as you do the push-up. Some people have a tendency to look straight forward, however this is going to only put their body at risk for poor position and strain their neck.

Straight down is where your sight should be.

Use Various Hand Positions 

Moving along, also be sure that you use various hand positions as you perform the push-up as well. You can use a wide stance hand position, a triangle hand position, a staggered hand position, or try balancing on your fingertips if you really want a challenge.

Each of these will adjust the nature of the stress on the muscle slightly, producing a greater result.

Elevate The Legs 

Another quick and simple way to increase the total amount of tension on the muscles is to elevate the legs upwards. Place them on a bench behind you or for extra challenge, on an exercise ball.

This increases the angle the chest muscle has to work at, increasing the strength gains you’ll see.

Pause At The Bottom 

Finally, last but not least, consider taking a brief pause at the bottom. This is where you will be in your weakest position, so by pausing there, you really increase the stress pattern on the chest, triceps, and shoulders.

So keep these quick tips in mind and you will be on your way to a more optimal push-up.

3 ways to enhance your core engagement during workouts

If you are hoping to get flat abs sometime in the new future, it’s important that you are paying attention to your core engagement during each and every exercise you do.

One big mistake that some people make is simply doing a few crunch exercises at the end of their workout and thinking that’s all that’s needed for firm, flat abs.

Not so.

For best results, you want to be increasing your core engagement during each and every exercise you do throughout your workout session. This way, they get optimal stimulation.

Let’s go over a few quick and simple ways you can do just that.

Perform Moves On The Exercise Ball 

First, consider incorporating the bosu ball into your workout protocol more often. The exercise ball can easily be used when doing shoulder presses, lateral raises, bicep curls, or even tricep extensions.

Because it’s an unstable surface, the abs will contract extra hard through each rep you do, increasing the tension on those muscles.

Do One Leg Exercises 

Next, also consider doing one leg exercises whenever you can as well. Single leg deadlifts, single leg split squats, or single leg full squats are all great moves that will require maximum abdominal contraction in order to keep you balanced.

Remember that reducing your base of support is one of the best ways to boost ab strength while also improving your balancing capabilities.

Use Free Weights, Not Machines 

Finally, the last thing to keep in mind is that if you want to experience greater abdominal engagement the entire time throughout the workout session, you should focus on using free weights rather than weight machines.

Weight machines won’t require the core for support since you are sitting in the machine as you do the exercise, so it reduces the need of those muscles to contract.

Instead, move to dumbbells and barbells. These are going to be a far more intense way to train the body and not only will you reap greater functional benefits from doing free weight movements, your calorie burn will increase as well as all the muscles in the core are rapidly contracting.

So keep these quick tips in mind and you can be well on your way to creating a firmer, flatter midsection that will help prevent lower back pain and make everyday activities that much easier.