How To Target Stomach Fat

Smurf roller...aka Ab Roller. This thing works!You can do hundreds of crunches, sit-ups, and buy all the latest “ab-blaster” type products out there, but they aren’t going to help you target your excess stomach fat.  It isn’t possible to target fat loss with body-part specific exercises, but there are other ways to lose fat, and it is possible to target stomach fat through means other than sit-ups.

The reason it’s possible to target stomach fat (and desirable) is because stomach fat, particularly what’s called visceral fat, is associated with an overall pattern of unhealthy eating and inactivity.  Visceral fat (fat stored in the mid section, around the intestines and organs, causing the appearance of a large belly), is associated with a number of heath problems that fall under the category “metabolic syndrome.”  These health problems include diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.  

Stomach fat (AKA visceral fat) can be eliminated slowly but surely; it’s not a good idea to aim for more than 2 lbs of fat loss per week.  Losing more than 2 lb of body weight every week can actually damage the body.  If you’re losing weight rapidly, you’re most likely losing water weight, muscle mass, and bone mass, not fat.  Also, rapid weight loss is associated with rapid regain, so follow the strategies below to keep your body healthy while targeting unwanted visceral fat.  

1) Eat Whole Foods – Storage of fat around the mid-section is associated with diets high in refined foods like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, white flour, and refined cooking oils.  The reason these foods cause weight gain is that they don’t contain any of the micronutrients and vitamins that help the body regulate metabolism.  Refined foods are also high in calories, but they don’t provide a feeling of being full, so it’s easy to eat an excess amount.  Eat whole foods like grass-fed meat and dairy, organic vegetables, organic fruits, coconut oil, and nuts to get the nutrients your body needs, while preventing excess eating.

2) Avoid Inflammatory Foods – Inflammatory foods, like sugar, sweets, alcohol, sodas, trans fats, refined seed oils (canola, soy, and vegetable oil), and wheat flour (which contains gluten), cause the body to act in defense by storing fat around the mid section.  Storing fat is one of the body’s survival techniques and defense mechanisms.  Inflammatory foods also disrupt one of the body’s important metabolism regulating hormones called adiponectin. Eat foods that promote balanced hormone response (the whole foods mentioned above), and if you drink alcohol, keep it to only a few servings per week.  

3) Reduce Stress – Stress causes increased inflammation in the body and an increase in the hormone cortisol.  Cortisol causes fat storage.  Make a practice of meditating on a weekly bases and releasing your concerns to God.  Find a healthy activity that reduces your stress level, like walking, running, weight lifting, journaling, writing, or painting — whatever works for you.  Also, minimize your caffeine and over-the-counter drug consumption as these drugs can exacerbate the body’s stress response and disrupt hormone balance.

4) Play Outside and Lift Heavy Things – Exercise is key to losing stomach fat, but it’s not sit-ups or crunches that are going to have a major impact.  The two best exercises you can do to burn excess fat are low-level cardio activities and intense exercises that will boost your overall metabolism.  Examples of low-level cardio include, walking, golf, disc golf, and stand-up paddle boarding.  Examples of metabolism boosting exercises include weight lifting, sprinting, and stair stepping.  Combining these two types of activities will optimize your fat burning potential.  To take things to the next level, incorporate as much physical activity as you can into your day to day schedule.  People from the healthiest cultures in the world exert physical energy throughout the day.  They make their food from scratch, walk, instead of drive to the store, and spend a very minimal amount of time watching TV or sitting down.  

5) Lose Fat – The advice to lose fat in order to target stomach fat might sound a little ridiculous, but the more excess fat you lose the more adiponectin your body will produce, and the easier it will be for you to burn more fat.  Fat loss is somewhat exponential in that regard.  Push through that initial challenge, make healthy habits, and overtime you’re belly bulge will flatten out!  The importnat thing is to be consistent and have patiences.  Making a healthy lifestyle change is far more effective at reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome and stomach fat than dieting, “bootcamps,” or diet pills.

 

Originally posted 2013-07-01 02:25:15.

Is ultra-pasteurized milk better than pasteurized milk?

1st Milk Pasteurization Historic MarkerIn our society the prefix “ultra” has a primarily positive connotation.  Anything that’s extreme tends to be a good thing; we want bigger, better, maximum, most, and “ultra.”  In the case of pasteurization, however, “ultra” isn’t such a good thing.

Most dairy these days is simply pasteurized, which means that it undergoes the High Temperature Short Time method of pasteurization (HTST).  When milk is treated with HTST pasteurization,  it’s heated to about 160 °F for 15-30 seconds.  This amount of heating kills the majority of any potentially harmful bacteria, but it also damages some of milk’s vitamins and enzymes (causing about a 10% reduction in thiamin and vitamin B12, and a 20% decrease in vitamin C).  Nevertheless, while raw milk is more nutritious, pasteurized milk (if it’s organic and not homogenized), still offers a significant amount of digestible protein, enzymes, vitamins, and healthy fats.

Pasteurization was sort of a necessary evil that developed  as a result of the growth of industrial milk production and the unsanitary conditions that accompanied it.  Today, despite our increased knowledge of bacteria and sanitation, Big Milk producers rely on pasteurization to an even greater degree in order to increase the centralization of milk production, improve shelf-life, and aid long distance transportation.  Ultra-pasteurization takes the profit-seeking trend one step further, resulting in an even less nutritious milk.

Ultra-pasteurization or ultra-high temperature processing (UHT) involves heating milk at about 280°F for 1-2 seconds.  The main benefit of this method is that it drastically improves the shelf-life of the end dairy product, but it also negatively impacts the taste and nutritional quality.  While it’s true that ultra-pasteurized milk contains only slightly fewer vitamins than pasteurized milk, what’s more significant is that it contains significantly less digestible protein.

For a large percentage of the population, milk is one of the best sources of high quality protein.  Pasteurized milk, despite its loss in other nutrients, contains as many digestible proteins as raw milk, making it a great source of protein.  Ultra-pasteurized milk, by contrast, has 8% fewer digestible proteins (the proteins are damaged by the high temperature pasteurization), making ultra-pasteurized milk protein only as good as purified soy protein.

Couple the bad taste and nutrient loss with 8% fewer digestible proteins, and I have more than enough reasons to avoid ultra-pasteurized dairy products.  Shelf-stability is a commercial concern.  Real, living foods are not shelf-stable; they should be grown locally and consumed regularly!

The take away: If you can’t get high quality raw milk, avoid ultra-pasteurized milk, and look for organic pasteurized.

References: A Systematic Study of Pasteurization, Ultra-High Temperature Treatment, Dairy Farmers of Ontario

Originally posted 2013-06-25 22:22:04.

What to Know About Exercising in the Heat

2010-04-10 DirtFest 1157As summer is approaching, the temperature is heating up.  Will you let the heat keep you from getting out and exercising?  I grew up in Redding, CA, where the average high temperature in July is 99°, and as a kid I wasn’t about to let the temperature stop me from playing outside.  As an adult, somehow I’ve managed to keep the same perspective, but there are a few things to take into consideration when exercising in the heat.  So for those of you who aren’t afraid to sweat a little, remember these three essentials to prevent heat sickness: hydration, acclimation, and perspiration.

Hydration – The body can loose a significant amount of water in the course of exercise and far more so during hot weather.  The risk of overheating is great anytime the heat index is above 90°.  Since perspiration is one of the body’s primary ways to stay cool, hydration is key.

According to the US Public Health Service short bouts of exercise (under 1 hour) require anywhere from 8-16 oz of water replacement.  For longer durations of exercise in the heat, the International Marathon Medical Director’s Association (IMMDA) recommends anywhere from 18oz to 36oz of water per hour, depending on the amount of fluid lost.

When it comes to rapid fluid loss, both dehydration and over hydration can have a negative impact on health.  Dehydration can lead to heat sickness, and over hydration can lead to depletion of electrolytes (hyponatremia).  The best strategy for staying hydrated in the heat is as follows:

  • If you plan to exercise in the heat, be sure to drink 16-32oz of water about an hour before exercising.
  • As you are exercising, pay close attention to your level of thirst and hydrate as needed.  This should be anywhere between 18 -36oz of water per hour (it all depends on the weather, level of exertion, fitness level, etc).  Listening to the signals your body sends you is the most effective way to ensure adequate fluid intake.  If you’ll be out in the heat for extended periods of time, bring adequate water!
  • Replenish with electrolytes (sodium and potassium).  Electrolytes are essential for proper muscle function, as well as blood volume and blood pressure.  One of the best electrolyte drinks is coconut water, which contains a high proportion of potassium.  There are also a number of other electrolyte sports drinks that contain both potassium and sodium.  Electrolyte replishment is especially important for long, endurance exercise (1 hour or more).

Acclimation – The human body is actually extremely good at adjusting to the heat, so don’t let the heat stop you from getting outside, just work your way into it.  Studies conclude that it takes the body about 7-10 days to adjust to physical exertion in the heat, but most of the adaptations occur between 4-6 days.  The physiological responses to repeated elevations in core body temperature include a lower heart rate, increased plasma volume, and increased sweating rate.

While the body will rapidly return to normal physiological responses after a period of not exercising in the heat, there may be some short term benefits of exercising in the heat before a competition.  One study found that trained cyclists who trained in the heat for ten days outperformed their competitors during a race held during cool conditions.  Heat acclimation improved the cyclists’ power at lactate threshold by 5%, as well as their plasma volume and cardiac output.

Perspiration – The final key to ensuring proper cool down during hot conditions is to maximize perspiration and evaporation.  Sweat evaporation is what removes heat from the body.  There are several things that can hinder proper perspiration and evaporation:  First of all, don’t wear antiperspirant — go for a natural deodorant instead.  Not only will antiperspirants prevent proper cooling, they also contain aluminium which may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.  Secondly, choose a natural sunscreen that’s SPF 15 or lower.  Anything above SPF 15 can block the sweat glands and interfere with perspiration.  Instead of using a higher strength sunscreen, just be sure to reapply.  Finally, wear breathable clothes and change out of wet ones.  If your clothes aren’t breathable  they’ll hold body heat in and promote rapid overheating!  Believe it or not, wet clothes are not very breathable.  Although they might feel cool at first, wet clothes can actually act like a wetsuit, insulating the body.  If you’re working in the heat for a sustained period of time, be sure to bring an extra shirt or wear specially designed athletic clothes with high breathability.

Even if you take all the necessary precautions, exercising for extended periods of time or during the middle of the day can still lead to heat sickness, so be aware of the signs.  There are different stages of heat sickness, including: heat syncope (nausea, dizzyness, and increased heart rate),  heat cramps (usually caused by loss of electrolytes), and heat exhaustion (shock-like symptoms, including dilated pupils, weak pulse, and clammy skin) , and heat stroke (the most serious of all, characterized by extreme overheating and possibly lack of sweating, racing heart beat, and unconsciousness).

Don’t let the heat stop you from getting outside, but be smart about it!  If you are especially sensitive to the heat (youth and the elderly are more susceptible to heat sickness), or when just starting out, try to get outside in the morning or during the evening, when it’s a bit cooler!  Have fun and enjoy the sun, but know your limits and remember: hydration, acclimation, and perspiration!

References: Heat Acclimation Improves Athletic Performance, Exercising in Hot Weather, IMMAD’s Revised Fluid Recommendations, Time Course of Heat Acclimation and its Decay, Heat Acclimation

Originally posted 2013-06-14 01:06:40.

An American Food Trip (a Vimeo film)

an american food tripThe more connected we are to our own food production the healthier we will be. As we grow our own food, we’ll grow stronger.  By knowing where our food is coming from, we eliminate the ignorance that enables us to keep eating “food” that is harming us and the rest of God’s creation.  This beautifully done short film motivates me to want to get outside, invest in valuable work, and eat REAL food! (not to mention, I love the Tolkien quote at the end!) Check it out:

 

 

 

An American Food Trip from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

Originally posted 2013-06-12 00:08:24.

Learn to brew the perfect pour over cup of coffee!

coffeedripperOk, ok, I might sound like a coffee snob, but what can I say, I love coffee!  Besides, learning the nuisances and flavors of the food you love doesn’t make you a snob does it? In my opinion, the more you learn about the flavors and descriptions of a particular food, the more you can enjoy it.  This is one of the beautiful things about language and human culture; they’re gifts God has given us to enjoy life.  Without qualifying my praise of pour over coffee further, read on to learn the ins and outs of pour over coffee and how to brew the perfect cup.

Pour over coffee has been around for a long time, it’s essentially what an automatic drip coffee maker does.  The beauty of using a manual pour over is that it brings out the full spectrum of delicious flavors contained in whatever type of coffee you are brewing.  It accomplishes that by achieveing the best possible extraction of the coffee beans.  Pour over brewing also provides the flexibility (for advanced coffee brewers who are so interested) to experiment with adjusting water temperatures and coffee grind coarseness to achieve the perfect brew for a particular type of coffee bean.  To begin:

First you’ll need a pour over device, such as the Hario 60 glass brewer depicted to the right.  Hario’s brewer is particular good because it allows an even and fast extraction of the coffee grounds, which helps bring out the sweet notes of the coffee without extracting too many of the bitter flavors.

After you have a dripper, start the brewing process by getting your water boiling (the ideal water temperature is about 200° F or just under boiling).  You’ll need about 12 oz of water for an 80z cup of coffee.

After boiling the water, put the filter in the funnel and rinse it with hot water. This helps the water flow more smoothly thru the dripper once you begin the pour.  Rinsing also washes away any remaining paper residue flavor and preheats the cone.

Next grind your beans to a medium grind.  It’s best to use a burr grinder, as this will ensure the smoothest and best tasting extraction of coffee.  A blade-style grinder can result in an uneven grind, with some beans ground to small (causing increased bitterness) and some too coarsely (resulting in weak flavor).  For one 8 oz cup of coffee, you’ll need about 1.5 – 3 tbsps of beans.

After you add your grounds to the pour over cone, pour just enough water onto the grounds to wet them, then let them rest and “bloom” for 30-45 seconds.   The blooming process is critical for achieving the best possible extraction of flavor.  It’s called “blooming” because when freshly roasted beans are used, pouring hot water over them will cause a release of CO2, which lifts the grinds and make them look like they’re blooming.  It’s importnat to let all the gas escape before pouring the rest of the water over the grinds, as the escaping gas will actually keep the water off of the grinds and prohibit optimum flavor extraction.  Once the coffee grinds have bloomed and collapsed (having released all the CO2), then the hot water can surround the entire surface area of the grinds and extract all those good flavors and oils.  If you don’t use freshly roasted and ground coffee, you’ll notice that you won’t be able to achieve the blooming effect; all the CO2 has already escaped the roasted beans.

Avoid beans that aren’t freshly roasted.  They go stale and don’t taste nearly as good as beans that were roasted within the last three weeks (not to mention you won’t get the cool blooming effect).

After you’ve let the coffee bloom, pour the remaining 12 oz of hot water over your grinds, circling the edges of the pour over funnel.  You may have to let the water drain then pour again.

Enjoy!

To see how it’s done, watch this video:

Originally posted 2013-06-11 23:31:11.

What's the point of buying organic?

usdaThe term “organic” get’s a lot of use these days.  “Organic” is a buzz word in the fitness world, among health nuts, and in the media, but sometimes when trendy words get thrown around their meanings gets muddled.  This has been true of the word “organic,” especially since a study (which was sponsored by industrial food companies) claimed that organic foods aren’t any “healthier” than conventionally grown foods.  Hopefully I can clarify exactly what organic is and why it’s important to buy as many organic products as your budget can manage.

To start off with, the term “organic” when used on labels in the United States is tightly regulated by the USDA and a number of third party organic certification companies.  The standards for organic foods established by the USDA are as follows:

  • Organic farming should integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity
  • Genetic engineering (GMOs) is not allowed
  • Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, or irradiation may not be used
  • Hormones and anti-biotics must not be use
  • Prohibited chemical pesticides cannot be used

Secondly, while organic foods don’t always contain  higher densities of nutrients than conventionally grown foods, they often do.  For example, organic milk, which comes from cows that have access to pastureland and grass, contains large amounts of the healthy fat CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and vitamin K2, which aren’t found in conventional dairy products.  Since organic foods tend to be raised with methods that are closer to what’s found in nature, the result is healthier, more life-giving food.

Also, one of the most important considerations when choosing to buy organic foods isn’t just what organic foods provide but what they don’t provide!  Unlike make of the fruits and vegetables that are sold in grocery stores, organic produce doesn’t contain any toxic pesticide residues!  Some of the most popular foods, such as apples, are the highest in pesticides.  With the rates of cancer increasing every year, it’s important to know and consider what we are feeding our families and putting in our bodies.

Finally, organic food is more sustainable and better for God’s creation, including people, plants, and animals.  I like to say, “What’s good for us is good for the environment.” Why? Because we are part of the creation; we are “creatures” as it were, therefore we are intimately linked to all of the natural biological process in the world.  We can’t continue to pretend like we live in a bubble.  When we put pesticides and chemical fertilizers on plants, not only are we at risk of ingesting their residues, these chemicals also get washed into water systems, destroying ecosystems, and eventually making the earth a less habitable place for all creatures (including us).

Buying organic foods isn’t going to fix all the problems with our food system, that’s for sure, but it is definitely  a great way to contribute.  It’s actually somewhat ridiculous that we even have to call organic foods “organic” or come up with all these standards.  Organic food is basically just normal food, the way it’s found in God’s creation, free of all the chemicals and industrial processes of man. Organic food is good food!*

*As a quick side note, just because something is organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  For example, there are all kinds of organic processed foods out there: candy, pastries, and other treats.  So, when you buy organic, just be sure to buy organic whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy, and meat! Organic foods can be found at a growing number of grocery stores and farmer’s markets!  There are also foods that are not yet certified organic that meet all the qualifications of real food, so meet your local farmers and find out what they have to offer.

Originally posted 2013-06-11 20:29:04.

Take Your Athletic Performance to the Next Level with Visualization

Mountain bike, lake tahoeWhile it seems paradoxical that in a society filled with so many images our ability to visualize or imagine is suffering, looking at images instead of actively recreating images in the “mind’s eye” is an entire different mental process.  Watching a stream of images on a TV or smart phone actually disrupts the mind’s ability to think or creatively imagine.  The damage audio-video technology has done to our imagination as a culture is truly a tragic affair.

Without a vibrant imagination it’s difficult (if not impossible) to engage in creative goal setting, which is one of the most important skills for achieving success in relationships, business, and athletics.  Visualization is one of those skills that few people practice and even fewer master.  Among those that do use visualization, however, include titans of industry, famous inventors, and world class athletes.  Researchers have been studying psychological visualization for the last 100 years, and the conclusion of their studies is that mentally practicing a physical skill results in significant improvements in that skill compared to physical practice alone.  The complexities of how visualization can improve real skills aren’t exactly known, but it’s thought that the autonomic nervous system responds similarly to both imagination and real life experiences.  Imagination can therefore help reinforce the neuro pathways and reflexes that correspond to the goals one is seeking to achieve.

The key components of visualization are similar whether applied to sports, public speaking, or business, but to make the most of visualization for fitness and athletic performance here are a few key considerations:

  • Remember that visualization takes mental effort.  The brain consumes a lot of energy and imagination takes focus, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t have much “mental endurance” at first.  Just as with the physical activities, “practice makes perfect.”
  • The more specific and realistic your visualizations, the more effective they’ll be.  Try and imagine every detail of the environment and movements that relate to the skill you are seeking to improve.  What are your body mechanics?  What does the terrain feel like?  What kind of equipment are you using?  How quickly will the action take place?  At first you might need to start with only a few details, but with practice you’ll be able to add more elements.
  • Set aside at least three times per week for visualization.  Find a place you can focus, relax, and get in a positive space, then fully engage your creative imagination in order to make improvements in your target skill! A visualization session may take anywhere between 5 minutes and a half an hour.

The great thing about using visualization to improve athletic performance is that it can also be done during otherwise wasted time, such as during an airplane flight, a road trip, or a wait at the DMV.  With visualization, what were once mundane activities that ate away at precious training time can become opportunities to make even greater gains!

The take away: set your mind on the specific athletic or fitness goals you want to accomplish, then imagine yourself accomplishing these goals.  If you do so consistently and with detailed imagination, you will see improvement!

References: AASP – Sport Imagery Training, Vanderbilt – Mental Imagery

Originally posted 2013-06-11 02:10:46.

Tips for Vacationing on a Budget

Italy-traveling-on-a-budgetFor many of us, taking at least one vacation per year is a necessary reprieve.  The time to rest from our work and literally “vacate” our usual occupations is essential for our mental health and state of being!  While it can be easy to spend thousands of dollars on a luxury vacation, booking a refreshing trip to relax and enjoy God’s creation doesn’t have to break the bank.  It’s pointless to stress your personal finances to take a trip that’s supposed to be relaxing, especially when doing so will only create more stress later on.  There are a number of ways to go on an awesome vacation with a minimal amount of cash; here are a few strategies that have worked for me and my wife:

Go on a “staycation.” Plane tickets, car rentals, or gas can add a lot of expense to a vacation.  Save money by going on a vacation that’s nearby. Stay in your local area (within few hours driving distance) and explore places you haven’t been before.  I often talk to people who have never visited the great sites in their own back yards.  Chances are there are people who travel to your state for vacation; find out what they’re looking at.  You might be surprised by what you discover!

Find hotel alternatives.  Hotel prices seems like they are going up and up these days, especially in highly traveled areas.  The good news is that there are a number of new “people to people” websites that make affordable vacation rentals easy to find.  Instead of paying exorbitant amounts for well known hotels in prime locations, give a vacation rental a try.  Many privately owned vacations rentals offer special amenities and are located in scenic areas that can’t be matched by large hotels (and at a fraction of the price).  Here are the sites to check out: airbnb and VRBO

Make your own food! Eating out for most of your meals can add up really quick, so find a vacation rental or hotel with a kitchen or kitchenette   Stock up with all the food you need for your trip at the beginning of the week, and you’ll be set!  Buying groceries and making your own meals will save you a lot of cheese, even if you buy a few gourmet groceries to help you really get in the vacation mode.  To get more of the local experience, shop at a farmers market and meet a few of the natives.  You might even get a few insider tips about what to do in the area.

What’s included? When considering the price of where you’re staying, carefully examine all the amenities.  For example, if a hotel you’re looking at includes a gourmet breakfast, that could be anywhere from a $10 to $30 value per person.  As previously mentioned, it might also be worth spending a little extra on a place that has a kitchenette, since you’ll ultimately save money on food costs.

Go with friends! Traveling with friends is probably one of the best ways to save money, especially if you’re traveling overseas.  You can potentially split the cost of a place to stay, groceries, and a rental car.  You might even be able to get group discounts on admissions tickets and passes.  Plus traveling with friends is just a lot of fun and provides a great bonding experience!

Plan and book ahead. Planning is a big money saver and can make your trip far more enjoyable.  If you set a budget for your trip and schedule what you want to do and how many times you plan on eating out, then you can enjoy your itinerary without worrying about spending too much money.  Also, by booking ahead (about three months) you can save money on flights and rental cars.

Travel in the off-season. Peak season is almost always more expensive for traveling, so try and vacation when everyone else is staying home.  Summer is often the most expensive time to travel, but the weather is usually still beautiful near the end of spring or at the beginning of fall.  In addition to saving money, you’ll also beat the crowds!

Travel light. By taking as few bags as possible, not only will you save money on baggage fees, you’ll also be able to rent a more affordable car, since you won’t need a ton of space to store your stuff.

Sign up for a frequent flyer miles credit card. This tip has really paid off for us.  Choose a frequently flyer mile card that will earn you miles for an airline that flys where you most often like to go on vacation, then use your card for as many expenses that you can!  Just be sure to pay it off every month; you won’t be saving any money if you have to pay interest on payments you didn’t have cash for!  If you own your own business or work for an employer that reimburses you for expenses, then you mileage points will add up even faster.

These tips have helped us save a ton of money during or travels and allowed us to go on more vacations than we would’ve been able to otherwise.  If you have any tips for vacationing on a budget that I missed, please share them in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: Andy Langeland

Originally posted 2013-06-08 17:54:38.

Harness the Power of the Squat!

squatweightsIf you’re not squatting, either your bodyweight or free weights, you should be!  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or woman, elderly or young, squats are one of the single most effective workouts for activating the major muscle groups, developing core strength, burning calories, building bone density, and promoting flexibility.  If you’re new to squatting, then start out by squatting your bodyweight for a couple of weeks, doing 3 sets of 20 squats everyday.  Then, depending on your health and fitness level, try squatting with a large staff or an olympic bar without any extra weights on loaded.  If you’re a more advanced weekend warrior or athlete and squats aren’t in your current workout repertoire, then it’s time to add them!  There’s no faster or more effective way to improve your athleticism and strength.

Squats activate the body’s central nervous system and promote a muscle building, restorative state. Squats build the muscles of the buttocks, hips, thighs, trunk, lower back, shoulders, and arms.  They also help strengthen ligaments and tendons in the legs. People often worry about injuring their knees by performing squats, but when performed correctly, squats will actually strengthen the knees and protect them from future injuries.

Free Weight  Squat Technique: 

  • Be sure to use a squat rack that will catch your weights in the event that they are too heavy to lift back up
  • Load the olympic weight bar low on your upper back, with your hands gripping the bar about shoulder width apart
  • With the proper technique there’s no need to use a bar pad
  •  The bar will rest somewhere just above your shoulder blades
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and be sure that the bar is centered and balanced.
  • After un-racking the weight, take a couple step BACKWARDS (dont’ load the weight so that you are walking forward)
  • You’re back will be straight but leaning slightly forward as you squat
  • Go down until your hip joints are just below your knees, then rapidly stand up
  • Look forward
  • Don’t lock your knees

For a great explanation of how to squat, watch the video below by StrongLifts:

 

 

Originally posted 2013-06-08 00:42:44.