Soothing Exercises for Pregnant Women

Flexible pregnant woman. Soothing exercises for pregnant women may sound like a strange concept. After all, exercise is supposed to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing, right? Fortunately, not all exercises require you to move at a marathon pace. The soothing exercises listed below are designed to ease tension and get your mind and body a bit more healthy — a perfect formula for pregnant women looking to de-stress after a day spent preparing the nursery, staring at food labels to check for the most baby-friendly ingredients, or just aching for a little relief from daily aches and pains.

A soothing exercise for the muscles: Stretching. Gentle stretches can help relieve back pain, alleviate muscle stiffness and improve range of motion (which helps ready your body for your child’s birth) — making them a simple, effective and incredibly soothing exercise for expecting moms. Just remember to stretch slowly, breath deeply and never overextend yourself. You’ll not only experience greater flexibility and less muscle stiffness, but you’ll feel soothed, calmer and better able to tackle any new surprises that come in that particular trimester! 

A soothing exercise that can be done anywhere: Controlled Breathing. Studies have shown that controlled breathing can result in a calm, meditative state and help you cope with everything from pain to fear. Controlled or patterned breathing requires slow inhaling and exhaling that follow the same rate and depth. Find a quiet spot, clear your mind, and practice this soothing exercise until you find a breathing rate that’s right for you. It’s a great exercise for pregnant women in need of some simple, soothing relaxation.

A low-impact exercises that soothes and provides excellent cardiovascular benefit: Swimming. This safe, low-impact exercise supports joints, strengthens back muscles, and improves heart health. The feeling of being suspended in water can also provide tension relief and an all-over soothing sensation. Consult with your obstetrician for proper swimming guidelines to ensure the optimum safety for you and your baby.

Burn calories while relaxing by taking a walk. Walking is more than just a way to get from point A to point B. Studies show that walking for 30 minutes a day can improve your mood, help you feel better, promote longevity, tone your major muscle groups, and combat stress — all key to a happier, healthier you during pregnancy. When beginning any new exercise regimen, it’s important to start slow. Walk at a pace that feels right for you, and then gradually increase your walking time without exceeding your comfort level. 

A soothing exercise for pregnant women that does it all: Yoga. The movements involved in yoga combine patterned breathing, stretching and slow body movements for an all-over workout that keeps you strong and limber. Yoga also alleviates stress, soothing your mind and body. Consider taking a prenatal yoga class, specifically geared to meet the needs of pregnant women.

Exercises for pregnant women need not spell discomfort or exhaustion. Use the above soothing exercises to promote good health and better overall well-being.

Sources for “Soothing Exercises for Pregnant Women:”

Originally posted 2013-11-27 13:01:14.

Activities You Should Try: Trail Running

activities-you-should-try-trail-running

If you are weary of the stuffiness and stagnation of indoor running and the inflexible discomfort of hard pavement, you might consider trail running. As a unique and memorable exercise experience, trail running affords you an exhilarating and therapeutic outlet, allowing you to view scenery, inhale fresh air, and reconnect with creation. Consider the following benefits of trail running:

Physical Benefits

Trail running challenges both the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems in unique ways. Trail surfaces are riddled with rocks and depressions, making vigilance and precision a necessity, and enhancing coordination and agility. Muscles rarely utilized must adjust to the trail, working to stabilize the body against rough landings. The body compensates for uneven surfaces by running on the balls of the feet, rather than the heel, protecting the body from unnecessary jarring.

Also of benefit are the continuous ups and downs of the trail, allowing for intermittent phases of exertion and recovery. One’s cardiovascular system is employed to a significant degree on the uphill portions of the trail, with recovery following during the downhill portion. Muscles are worked in different but equally beneficial ways. Downhill gradients work muscles eccentrically, or extend them to anticipate the shock of the landing. This does cause some immediate tearing and muscle damage, but torn muscles will ultimately be stronger upon a full recovery. Uphill portions work the muscles of the legs in a concentric manner, or contract them to create force for movement.

Psychological Benefits

Urbanization and technology have revolutionized our thinking and way of life to a disturbing degree, so why not take the opportunity to “get away from it all.” Mountain trails teem with natural life, and offer a combination of solitude and atmosphere that is noticeably dissimilar to the pressure and hubbub of urban environments. Trail running not only gives the mind the normal benefits associated with running (such as the release of endorphins) but adds to them enjoyment and invigoration gleaned from being in the natural world.

Because competitive and time-obsessed running can make running a chore rather than a desire, trail running can help a runner focus on the experiences of running that are enjoyable rather than mundane. A trail offers a constant change of scenery, various surfaces and obstacles to overcome, and a nonstop challenge. Rocks, trees, and sunshine offer a therapy all their own. With the added enjoyment that comes from being in creation, the distance and duration of the run naturally become secondary considerations, and the experience of running itself will become preeminent.

Considerations:

  • Hydration and Nutrition – Prehydration should be routine preparation for trail running. Make sure you drink plenty of water prior to hitting the trail! Also, make sure you drink plenty of water while on the trail. Depending on the outside temperature, the body may use more water than you think.
  • Equipment – If you have weak ankles, trails can be especially unforgiving. Shoes that provide extra ankle support are a necessity.

Sources:

Douglas J. Casa, PhD, ATC, FNATA, FACSM, Rebecca L. Stearns, MA, ATC, […], and Carl M. Maresh, PhD, FACSM. Influence of hydration on physiological function and performance during trail running in the heat.

Baechle, Thomas, Earle, RogerNSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training

Photo by GORE-TEX® Products 

 

Originally posted 2013-11-04 06:42:37.

All About Shin Splints

shin-splints

All About Shin Splints

Nothing scares a fitness enthusiast quite like the thought of getting injured. Due to this fear, developing shin splints is probably in the “Top Ten Things That Would Make Me Cry” list of anyone who loves engaging in physical activity. If overlooked, this nagging injury can elevate from very minor to debilitating pain in no time. Knowing how to avoid shin splints will keep you more consistent in the fitness game.

Prevention

Ben Franklin’s saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds very true when it comes to activity-related injuries. Injuries are obviously inconvenient and can set you back on the road to achieving your goals. Aside from your health, injuries will rob you of your time and money spent going to orthopedic doctors, chiropractors and/or physical therapists. Shin splints are a chronic injury as opposed to acute — this means they develop over time. Since chronic injuries are not abrupt they can always be avoided.

What are Shin Splints?

The medical name for shin splints is “medial tibial stress syndrome” — this means just to the inside of your shin bone is under too much stress, resulting in pain and inflammation. Over time the stress to the calf muscles forces it to pull away from the bone, severely aggravating the periosteum (the outermost layer of your bones).

The pathology of this injury starts with faulty biomechanics in the feet and ankles. This can be caused by genetic structural problems (flat feet), supinated feet (unusually high arches) calf tightness, or a slew of other less-than-desirable physical traits. Your feet are designed to evenly displace force, but when imbalances are present they act as roadblocks, redirecting more force toward one area. Most people develop shin splints soon after they start exercising following a break. This means the imbalances existed, but they did not notice due to a lack of physical activity.

Structural Balance

Whole body structural balance should be employed in every exercise program. This means a healthy dose of mobility, stability, flexibility and balance work should be prescribed alongside strength training. Proper biomechanics are of the utmost importance while executing exercises and stretches. Incorporating foam rolling, mobility drills and static stretching can nearly guarantee that you will stay shin splint-free. 

Foam Rolling

I could go on for days about the benefits of foam rolling (instead of listening to me rant, check out Kenny Hager’s informative foam rolling article). In regards to shin splints, balancing the tension of your lower leg muscles and other connective tissue is the most important thing. Roll each gastrocnemius – calf muscle – back and forth with as much pressure as possible without causing pain. Also roll out your anterior tibialis – the font of your calf, just outside your shin bone, and peroneal muscles – the outside of your calf. Normally 10-20 rolls per muscle is sufficient, and can be used prior to, and after strength training. The most important part of foam rolling is consistency; one bout of foam rolling will not fix your problems. It has to be a habit.

Flexibility

Tight calves are very common among the active population. Overtraining, injury and/or faulty biomechanics can all contribute to tight calves. To test your calf tightness, sit down with your legs straight out in front of you. Loop a belt or towel around the ball of your foot and pull back toward your body. Do you feel tightness of the back of your calf? If so, add this stretch to your post-exercise routine. Hold the stretch 20-30 seconds for three repetitions on each leg.

Mobility

While testing for calf flexibility some of you will not feel calf tightness; instead your ankle will feel “stuck.” This represents a lack of joint mobility (often misconstrued as muscle tightness). Limited mobility means that the small bones in your ankles are not articulating together the way they should. The half kneeling ankle mobility drill is a great start for those of you lacking mobility.

Start in the half kneeling position – on one knee with the opposite foot in front of you. Gently rock your weight forward, pushing your knee toward and past your toes. Hold a dowel directly in front of your big toe to guide your movement. Unlike static stretching, you should not hold mobility drills. Rock gently to the point of being “stuck” and then rock back to neutral. Do this 10-20 times on each ankle prior to strength training. To increase difficulty, perform this drill without shoes, making sure your arch does not collapse. An alternative is to wear minimalist shoes, which have been shown to help you disperse weight more evenly.

Sources:

Originally posted 2013-10-31 11:19:06.

Exercises You Should Try: The Seated Row with Chest Support

MVC-003S

Reasons to Try the Seated Row with Chest Support: Rowing is a physiologically intuitive motion, bringing natural and rhythmic exertion to the muscles of the upper back. While the movement properly practiced is natural and beneficial, bad habits involving poor technique can place undue stress on the lower back. As an exercise that combines this beneficial motion with a support mechanism to ensure proper form, the seated row with chest support is an exercise you should consider.  By placing very specific demands on the upper region of the human back, this exercise forces activated muscle groups to respond and strengthen, while protecting the lower region of the back against excessive strain and potential injury.  Consider some of the benefits of the chest-supported row:

Enhancing your Back’s Function

Integrating a rowing motion into your routine can improve the functioning of your back. As a rowing motion that activates the Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Rhomboid, and Posterior Deltoid, and Biceps Bracii, the seated row with chest support galvanizes the major muscle groups of the upper back. This increased workload brings about neurological and muscular changes in the aforementioned muscles, aiding muscle tone, function, size, coordination and strength. Improved function in the upper back is also helpful in the prevention of shoulder and chest injuries.

Aiding your Technique

Rounding your back during a rowing exercise places exorbitant stress on the lower back, leaving you vulnerable and prone to injury. As the name suggests, the seated row with chest support has a padded mechanism to ensure that your back remains flat during the motion. With greater ability to perform this exercise properly, you will be able to better focus on engaging the muscles of your back.

Balancing your Push-Pull Variation

Any good routine will have a balance mixture of pushing and pulling motions. Focusing on one type of movement to the exclusion of the other can result in strength inequity and greater vulnerability to injury.  As a reciprocal movement to the bench press, the seated row with chest support gives you a motion that balances your routine. If you spend a disproportionate amount of time on pushing motions, consider this exercise as a way of complementing and enhancing your exercise sessions.

 Suggestions:

  • Start Light – As with any new exercise, the body needs time to adjust to the movement. Getting the biomechanics down is not automatic, and thus requires a good amount of time and practice. Keep the movement steady and controlled, and avoid rocking. Move deliberately and gradually. Try light weight and high repetitions in your initial sessions, get the technique down, and add weight as you feel more comfortable.
  • Be Consistent – In realizing the benefit of any exercise, it is important to perform it with regularity. Your body needs time to adapt to the motion and benefit from it. If you are wondering why you are not benefitting from the exercise, set up a routine and stay with it!
  • Be Creative – You don’t need a machine or gym membership to incorporate this motion. You can replicate it easily with a slightly inclined bench and some dumbbells.

Reference: Baechle, Thomas, Earle, Roger. NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training

Originally posted 2013-10-24 13:16:50.

6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Workout

If you’re like me, you probably go through periods where you lack a certain motivation needed to exercise. You might have fallen out of the habit for a few days or maybe a few months. Whatever the case, today is a new day! Don’t feel bad about it; make the decision to jump back in the game.

Here are some ways to motivate yourself to work out:

1. Grab a friend. Accountability does wonders for maintaining a regular workout routine. You might be able to let yourself down, but letting down someone you care about by not showing up to a scheduled workout is really tough to do. The added bonus is that it makes your workout more social and fun, therefore you are even more likely to do this again.

2. Design a new fitness routine. It can be fun searching the web or magazines to find new workouts. I love trying new things and this helps keep me from getting bored. It’s also beneficial for the body to change up your routine every couple of months.  Variety wakes up muscles that might have been less active during your last routine.

3. Sign up for a race. Signing up for a race is always exciting for me and reliably motivating. I know that I will have to be able to run the distance safely and hopefully painlessly, so I need to train my body. I can’t train my body by sitting on the couch, so the knowledge that I have a race in the future helps get me out the door. (See 13.1 Reasons to Sign Up for a Half-Marathon)  

4. Lay out clothes the night before. If you are hitting the gym or the trail early in the morning, make sure you have everything ready the night before. This way your morning workouts won’t feel stressful and you can enjoy the time. If you really feel like you won’t want to get up in the morning, try wearing your workout clothes to bed. Then all you have to do is slip your shoes on!

5. Speaking of clothes…buy some new workout pieces. I know when I buy a new pair of shoes or brightly colored shorts I can’t wait to try them out. It’s also helpful to head to a gym full of people when you feel you look your best. You don’t have to spend a whole lot of money…even fun new socks can be motivating. (See Ladies’ Guide to Warm-Weather Running Clothes)

6. Picture the end results. How do you feel after a good workout? How do your clothes fit when you are staying active and taking care of yourself? I know that I have never left a workout session thinking, “Gee, I sure regret that workout.” Regular exercise does the mind and the body good!

I have to add a disclaimer here since I know that some people don’t necessarily have a healthy relationship with exercise. When I say picture the end results, I do not mean cut out some pictures of models and post them to your fridge. This does not help since each body is different so you literally will never look like that model. Our goal should be to strive for our own personal best while cutting ourselves some slack since we are human and imperfect. Remember that God loves you just the way you are and He did not make a mistake when he formed your unique body!

Let’s discuss:

What are some ways you motivate yourself to work out?

What is your favorite form of exercise?

 

Originally posted 2013-10-17 16:49:36.

Benefits of Ice Baths (Cold Water Immersion Therapy)

As a standard recovery technique used heavily by athletes the world over, the ice bath is regarded as an effective way to get the body ready for its next challenge. If you are like me, you may not be thrilled at the prospect of immersing your body in excruciatingly cold water. Wouldn’t a warm bath and a hot cup of coffee bring just as much benefit? Admittedly, it is easy to be reticent when considering the notion of generalized icing (as opposed to isolated icing – see my previous article on the Benefits of Icing). It certainly is not the most comfortable or convenient option. But the research indicates the body has a very specific response to cold water immersion and that ice baths may be beneficial.

The Body and Cold Water Immersion (CWI)

 An ice bath can help enhance the speed and comprehensiveness of your recovery. Consider the following post-workout benefits:

  • Facilitating Fluid Transport – The immediate effect of Cold Water Immersion on the body is vasoconstriction, or the shunting of blood flow from extremities to interior portions of the body. The fluid transported away from extremities includes left-over waste fluid, which left alone would fester in muscle tissue, slowing recovery and even causing muscle soreness. Immediately following Cold Water Immersion, fresh blood free of waste is circulated throughout the extremities, enhancing recovery and preventing delayed onset muscle soreness.
  • Aiding Nervous System Function – Intense physical activity disturbs the “rest and digest” component of the nervous system, also known at the Parasympathetic Nervous System. This disturbed function continues in the minutes immediately following a workout, creating an overall state of flux in the body’s systems. Studies show that Cold Water Immersion is a boon to to Parasympathetic function, acting as a kick-starter in the minutes following a workout. And since the Parasympathetic Nervous System controls the process of recovery, this speeds the body’s recuperation from intense activity.

Tips for Incorporating Cold Water Immersion (CWI)

Taking an ice bath is not something you would want to do every day, but it can be a great way to boost your readiness if you have two bouts of intense activity planned very close together. Below are some ideas for working an ice bath into your post-exercise routine.

  • Immediacy – For best results, you will want to take the bath while your body is still warm. If your body has already cooled, the benefits of CWI will be lost.
  • Brevity – While it may be uncomfortable to take an ice bath longer than 15 minutes, it can also be dangerous. Extended exposure to frigid water can increase chances of hypothermia and frostbite.

Ice baths can be helpful, depending on your fitness level and goals. It is recommended that you check with your doctor before trying this or other methods for post-workout recovery.

References: “Effect of cold water immersion on postexercise parasympathetic reactivation,” M. Buchheit , J. J. Peiffer , C. R. Abbiss , P. B. Laursen, American Journal of Physiology

Originally posted 2013-10-02 16:38:00.

5 Great Strength Training Moves for Runners

Believe it or not, training for running a race involves more than putting miles on your running shoes. Strength training is an important part of race training. Integrating strength training into your running routine will help prevent injury, build up supporting muscles, and increase speed over time.

Running activates numerous muscles throughout the body, but one of the most important areas is the “core.” The core includes the abs, back, and hips.  According to Runner’s World, core strength improves running performance and reduces risk of injury. I can personally vouch for the importance of core training too.  Last year, when I didn’t include core training in my preparation for a race,  I experienced breathing issues, as well as the much-feared “side stitch.” Avoid the mistake I made and be sure to train your core for better running performance.  

One great move to increase ab strength:

Planking. Planks can be done from the forearms or hands in a basic push-up position, as well as on each side of the body to target your obliques. Hold a front plank and side planks for 30 seconds each (or no longer than you can maintain perfect form) for severals set. Or test your strength to see how long you can hold the plank (with proper form).

Some moves to increase lower back strength:

If you’re a runner, it’s crucial that you give special attention to strengthening your lower back. I suffered a back injury a couple of years ago, which had to do with the fact that all I was doing in my training was running. Lower back pain is common today, a product of sitting in the same position for long periods at a desk, or at the opposite spectrum, from standing in the same position all day. The mild back pain caused by lack of movement can generally be relieved with strength training. (Be sure to check with your doctor if you have moderate to severe lower back pain before attempting any of these exercises.)

Bridges. Lie on your back with feet on the floor. Tighten abs and glutes to raise your body off of the floor towards the ceiling. You can do a number of reps in a rhythmic up/down motion, or hold the position for a period of time. Do 15-20 reps or one 30 second interval for a set.

Back extension. This move can be done with an exercise ball or with weights. Lie face down on an exercise ball, with hands behind your head and feet against a sturdy object (such as your couch or a wall). Squeeze your glutes and raise yourself slightly off the ball until your body forms a straight line. Hold the raised position for 30 seconds or do 10-15 repetitions for a set.

(See links below for more lower back exercises.)

Here are some moves to incorporate to develop supporting or stabilizing muscles in your legs:

You’d be surprised at how many runners neglect training their legs, since they figure they are getting their leg workout in when they run. Yet, running without strength training can cause weaknesses and imbalances in the leg muscles. When these supporting or stabilizing leg muscles are weak, incurring an injury while training or racing is more likely.

Single leg squats. This move focuses on building stability in each leg. Stand in a squat position, but place more weight on one side and only keep the toe of the other foot on the ground. Squat down, with back straight and focus on the one leg going down and up. Do 10-15 of these on each side for a set.

Dead lifts. This move simultaneously works multiple leg and core muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and back muscles. With legs slightly bent (to prevent injury) stand with feet at a hips-width apart, free weights or bar in front of you (with bar centered over the top of your feet). Keeping your back straight, bend slowly at the waist until your weights or bar come to your knees (or wherever you feel comfortable). Focus on feeling an equal stretch in your left and right hamstring. Do 15-20 reps for a set. Read this article for more on dead lifts.

You can use all of the moves in this article for a quick strength training routine to support your running, doing 2-3 sets of each. Remember, focus on form over quantity for the best results!

Questions:

Do you integrate strength training while training for a race?

Have you ever been injured while training for a race? How are you healing and/or preventing this from happening again?

Sources: Runner’s World article: Strength TrainingRunner’s World article: The Core of the MatterDiary of a Semi-Health Nut: 10 Moves for a Strong Lower Back.

Originally posted 2013-09-24 15:38:07.

Surf-Specific Strength Training

56th_2012_09_29-7Wave surfing requires a unique combination of anaerobic and aerobic strengths.  A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that the the primary activities performed by surfers can be broken down into the following percentages:

  • Aerobic Paddling – Approximately 54% of time in water
  • Anaerobic Sprint Paddling for Waves – Approximately 8% of time in water
  • Standing and Riding Waves – Approximately 4% of time in water

Correlating well with these activities, another study found that top competitive surfers had one primary strength in common: anaerobic paddling power.  While there are undoubtedly a number of others skills involved in surfing, paddling power is perhaps the most important factors for being able to catch the waves that provide the best rides.  

Once a wave is caught, however, a number of other factors come into play. The four primary athletic abilities surfers should work to improve include: 

  • Pulling power and endurance: Anaerobic rowing power is directly related to paddling power.  Improve paddling power by performing barbell rows, cable pull-downs, seated rows, and cleans. Use heavier weight to gain strength (an amount you can do about 5 sets of 5 reps with) and higher reps to build muscle and paddling endurance (for example, a weight that you can perform 4 sets of 10 with). 
  • Pushing power: Pushing power is essential for the “pop-up” phase of getting up on the board while catching a wave. Improve pop-up power by performing push-ups (especially plyometric versions like claps push-ups or using a medicine ball), bench-press, and burpees.
  • Core Strength/Balance: One you’re up on the board, turning and controlling the board requires balance and twisting at the hips; it’s all in the core.  There are a variety of ways to build core-strength.  Deadlifts and squats are two of the best core and leg strengthening exercises, but there are other-surf specific exercises that are good too.  Some surf-specific core-exercises include performing kettle-bell cleans while balancing on a Bosu ball, performing squats on a balance board, or walking a slack-line.  
  • Squat Strength: Squat strength is another important part of getting up on the board as well as controlling it once you’re riding a wave.  Squat/leg strength is closely related to core strength.  Some great exercises include squats, cleans, wall-sits, and box jumps.

Remember, surfing requires a unique set of endurance and power, so be sure to vary your workout.  Also, in all of the studies related to surf performance, overall strength wasn’t as important as relative strength.  In other words, how well you’re able to surf is directly related to your ability to effectively and quickly move your own body weight.  Weight-lifting with explosive but controlled movements will help you develop the power you need to catch waves swiftly and effectively.  

For a few examples of surf-specific exercises, check out the videos below.  Have fun!

References: Association Between Anthropometry and Upper-Body Strength Qualities With Sprint Paddling Performance in Competitive Wave Surfers; Physiological Demands of Competitive Surfing; Anaerobic and Aerobic Fitness Profiling of Competitive Surfers

Photo Credit: Andy Langeland

[ts_fab authorid=]

Originally posted 2013-09-19 14:09:43.

Weight-Lifting Exercises to Improve at Rock Climbing

Improving at any sport always makes it that much more enjoyable, and climbing’s no exception.  Of course, the best way to improve in climbing is to climb, but incorporating other workouts can speed the process along and provide a boost when stuck in a climbing plateau.  According to research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, the two athletic abilities most correlated with climbing ability are the one arm lock-out and grip strength.  There a number of weight-lifting routines that can easily and  effectively improve these two abilities (there are also some great body-weight exercises, but that’s for another post). Here’s are the best weight-lifting options for improving climbing:

Cable Lat Pull-Downs and Variations: While cable  pull-downs don’t exactly mimic the muscle movements of a pull-up (or rock climbing), it is a very similar workout that targets the same major muscle groups.  The advantage of incorporating lat pull-downs into your workout is that you can focus specifically on back and arm strength by controlling technique and weight.  While weight can be added to pull-ups, it’s easier to add more weight to cable pull-downs.  Also, by doing one-armed pull-downs, cable can make it easier to focus on building equal arm strength.  

Try doing various repetitions, such as 3 sets of 8 to build more muscle or 4 sets of 4 to build strength.  Build climbing-specific strength by adding heavy weight and pulling the bar down and holding it in the flexed-arm position at the bottom for 5-10 seconds.

Weighted Pull-Ups and Variations: Weighted pull-ups perfectly mimic the primary muscles (including those in the core) that are involved in climbing.  The increased resistance will help build strength and climbing-endurance.  Even if you can only do a few pull-ups, doing one or two pull-ups with extra weight strapped on can help provide significant strength gains.

Try the same variations used with cable pull-downs.

Weight Pinches/Holds: A pinching grip is one of the more important, climbing-specific grips.  To build pinching strength,find a weight plate that is smooth on both sides, such as a rubberized plate, and squeeze it without bending your fingers, perform 6 reps of 10sec holds.  Remember to use the heaviest weight that you can still perform this exercise.  To build palm-gripping strength for round holds, grab the bottom of a kettle-ball and perform a similar routine, cupping the weight you would when palming a basketball.  

Wrist-Curls: This is one of the classic forearm strengthening (and thus grip strengthening) exercises.  Grab a barbell with an amount of weight you can perform 4 sets of 10 with.  Sit on a bench and place your arms on your knees, with your wrists placed just past your knees, then curl the bar towards you, using only wrist movement.  

Strapless Deadlifts: Usually deadlifts are performed primarily to strengthen the body’s major muscle groups (back, core, glutes, and quads), but they can also provide one heck of a forearm workout.  To focus on exercising your forearms, lift an amount of weight that you can hold in your hands for about 10 seconds, and perform 3-4 repetitions.  To avoid injury start to lower the bar before it slips.

Strong-Grip Technique: For all of the above exercises, especially the deadlift, experiment with gripping the bar as hard as you can during the execution.  Squeezing while lifting will more fully activate the muscles involved, as well as improve grip strength and endurance.

Sources: “Prediction of Indoor Climbing in Women Rock Climbers,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning; Relationship Between Anthropometric Characteristics of Indoor Rock Climbers and Top Roped Climbing Performance,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning

[ts_fab authorid=]

Originally posted 2013-09-14 15:35:40.

Insta-Strength

building strengthIncreasing your strength can be a very long, difficult journey. Many people give up trying to increase their strength, because it can be so challenging. After initial strength gains, plateaus set in and frustration ensues (for further reading, check out Kenny Hager’s great article about busting through stubborn plateaus). Lucky for us, there are certain techniques that can be used to increase strength instantly. While they’re not guaranteed, I’ve personally had success using the following strength-increasing techniques:

  • While holding a bar or dumbbell, crush the bar with an insanely tight grip. Pavel Tsatsouline, a Russian trainer and former Soviet Special Forces trainer, teaches the value of this technique in his book “Power to the People.” Pavel explains that when you powerfully flex your fingers around a bar, the surrounding muscles are recruited more heavily than when using a light grip.
  • Begin squats by “spreading the floor.” This is an old school powerlifting technique that helped improve my squat. Spreading the floor begins after you have taken the bar off of the rack but before you begin the lift. Concentrate on planting your feet into the ground and isometrically — without movement — contract your hips as if you could move your feet out to your sides. Also tighten your glutes before beginning the lift to slightly rotate your knee caps to the outside. These movements — abduction and external rotation — are two functions of your glutes. Recruiting your glutes prior to and throughout the lift will protect your knees and allow you to lift heavier weights.
  • Learn to utilize intra-abdominal pressure. Your core is like a big coffee can — the bottom is your pelvic floor, the walls are your core muscles, and the lid is your diaphragm. When you are breathing properly your diaphragm expands downward, causing you stomach to expand. When you are bracing your core and breathing diaphragmatically, the pressure of your breath pushes outward while your muscles resist the pressure. This action causes tremendous pressure throughout your core and stabilizes your spine. Apply this to every exercise and you may see gains while protecting your spine!
  • Sometimes holding your breath is appropriate while lifting weights. When you fully exhale you lose nearly all of your intra-abdominal pressure. During difficult lifts, hold your breath during the eccentric (lengthening phase) and until you reach the sticking point. The sticking point is the most difficult part of the lift, and it will vary from person to person. Believe me, when you reach it, you will know. Once you reach the sticking point let out very small powerful breaths to propel yourself through this difficult phase. Always reserves some of your breath for stabilization purposes though! DO NOT use this technique if you have high blood pressure!
  • Improvement in life can seem near impossible at times. Whether you are trying to increase your patience, pay off debt, or break a bad habit, moving forward in life can be downright frustrating. This frustration appears in nearly every fitness program as well. Hopefully these tips can help you progress through difficult times in your fitness journey.

Sources: Pavel Tsatsouline, Power to the People; Pavel Tsatsouline: “The Evil Russian Speaks: Part 1,” accessed from http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_interviews/the_evil_russian_speaks_part_1]; Stuart McGill, Ph.D.; Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance

Originally posted 2013-09-09 12:24:01.