Power breathing

When you breathe deeply, you refresh your mind and improve your lung function.

Think of a time when you felt anxious and stressed. Stress is impossible to avoid; bills, job demands or challenging relationships all contribute to taxing your nervous system. But the easiest and quickest way to calm your mind is to simply breathe in and out.

When you breathe deeply, you refresh your mind and improve your lung function. The simple act of inhaling and exhaling decreases the sympathetic nervous system response and leaves you feeling more relaxed.

Worry and stressful situations can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that make the heart pound and muscles tense, known as “fight or flight.” The National Cancer Institute describes it as a group of changes that occur in the body to help a person fight or take flight in stressful or dangerous situations. This is the body’s way of helping to protect itself from possible harm. During fight or flight, certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, are released into the blood. This causes an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Other changes include an increase in blood sugar, alertness, muscle tension and sweating.

Fight or flight served us well on the savannah, but on a daily basis we can’t be continually running from tigers. The simple act of breathing with focused intent can help you relax and feel better.

At rest we only use about 20% of our lung capacity and barely utilize the muscles of our breathe. The American Lung Association indicates that when the diaphragm is not working at full capacity, the body starts to use other muscles in the back, neck and chest for breathing. This means that there is less reserve for exercise and activity, and lower available oxygen levels.

So, how do you take a deep breath?

Although many people feel a deep breath comes solely from expansion of the chest, chest breathing (in of itself) is not the best way to take a deep breath. To get a full deep breath, learn how to breathe from the diaphragm while simultaneously expanding the chest.

Yoga teaches that by breathing this way: a vertical extension, a horizontal expansion and a circumferential extension of the rib cage, chest and lungs shows that the lungs are being filed to their maximum capacity.

Breath is life. Yoga teaches that breathing is a prayer of gratitude we offer to life itself. B.K.S Iyengar, one of the most influential yoga teachers in America, compares leaves moving in the wind to how our mind moves with our breath. When your breath is regulated, there is a neutralizing effect on the mind. Activating the deep breath will decrease your parasympathetic nervous system and leave you feeling more relaxed and in control of your emotions.

It’s not only yogis who know the benefits of remaining calm and focused by practicing breathing. Navy SEALS use controlled breathing techniques in their military training programs as a valuable tool for their soldiers. Facing crisis, high pressure and uncertain circumstances, one of techniques the SEALS use is easy to learn and powerful, called box breathing.

Box Breathing

Sometimes referred to as square breathing, box breathing is a practical technique to start with. You can practice it anywhere and at any time; however, it’s best to sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor, or lying down, to learn. Try to tune out extraneous sounds, as you close your eyes and listen to your breath. Notice the natural rhythm of your breathing for a few cycles. Now you are ready to begin your box breathing.

  1. Breathe out slowly, releasing all the air from your lungs.
  2. Breathe in through your nose as you slowly count to four in your head. Be conscious of how the air fills your lungs and stomach.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of four.
  4. Exhale for another count of four.
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 for three to four rounds.

For visualization, while you are box breathing, imagine as though the box is being traced by a colored crayon or imaginary marker. For each of the four lines you draw, switch colors of the box’s outline. For meditation, you can add an affirmation, such as “I am relaxed,” as you breath by syncing it with your breath, rather than counting.

Continue practicing your breathing technique whenever you think of it. Your breath is always with you, as is life itself. 

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru-power-breathing/article_936765b2-d77c-11ec-bc26-ff6932a5d3ee.html

Ankle flexibility for better balance and sports

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The feet and ankles support and cushion the entire weight of the body and are crucial to keep your body balanced. Anyone that has to be on his or her feet all day knows that they bear a lot of pressure while standing. The foot includes 26 bones and 33 joints, all helping you simply stay upright. Added to that are 12 muscles involved in movement of the foot, plus to 19 intrinsic muscles, which support the arches and toes. One of the most important functions of your feet is that stress is distributed correctly though these structures and upwards throughout the entire body.

When it comes to better sports performance—and all weight-bearing activities such as walking and running—you can’t talk about the feet without including the ankles and lower legs. Two big muscles on the back of the leg, the gastrocnemius and soleus, provide movement, and are often tight or stiff. Both of these muscles attach to the heel via the Achilles tendon. These muscles play a big role when you flex your ankles. A limited range of motion in your ankles can affect your sports performance, balance and good squatting and lunge form.

The ankles have to bend. Dorsiflexion involves being able to bring the lower leg over the foot. It occurs anytime your foot hits the ground. If you were lucky enough to watch the Beijing Winter Olympics, consider a figure skater performing loops and axels or an alpine skier’s competing in the slalom or giant slalom events—all demonstrated stunning foot and ankle mobility and function.

Touch the wall test

Touch the wall test

A simple and objective way to see if you ankles aren’t tight is to do the “touch the wall” test.

Find a wall and place a ruler or measuring tape out from the baseboard. Place your foot at approximately 5 or 5.5 inches away from the wall. Be sure to have your foot straight. Keep your heel down as you try to touch the wall with your knee. If you can easily tap the wall, you have good ankle mobility. If you cannot, repeat this movement slowly for 15-20 times. Check your range after you include the following two stretches.

High-step ankle stretch

Place your foot on a high chair or gym box. Be sure to have the foot in neutral alignment. Slowly flex the knee forward to increase the stretch. You should feel it in your ankles and calf. (This is a more advanced stretch.) Repeat 10-12 reps.

BOSU Calf Stretch

This is an incredibly effective gastrocnemius and soleus stretch taught by Justin Price, one of the top musculoskeletal assessment and corrective exercise experts in the world. Stand on the round side on a BOSU ball with one leg in front of the other. (Place the BOSU against a wall for safety.) Push the heel of the back foot down into the BOSU, as you stand erect. Keep the heel down and rotate the back leg outward. Hold for a few seconds. Next, bend the knee of the back leg and rotate the leg inward (heel is still down). Perform 6–10 repetitions on both sides.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru-ankle-flexibility-for-better-balance-and-sports/article_5451e3a4-ab01-11ec-b25d-f733ba813780.html

Add power to your workouts

Consider plyometrics for improved performance

  • Even if you visit your gym frequently, plyometric moves might be new to you. If you want to improve your overall fitness and burn calories, look to plyometric exercises for improved performance and power.

Power is the ability to produce large amounts of force quickly.

For every sport, unless you’re an equestrian athlete, or kayaker, your skill starts by your feet pushing into the ground or firm object that returns force back through you.

Plyometric is a quick powerful movement involving pre-stretching that activates the stretch shortening cycle. Plyometric exercises are also referred to as reactive training. The ultimate goal of reactive training is to increase the reaction time of the rate of force production. An explosive tennis serve, better basketball, golf swing, or a faster running gait are all examples of sports in which you could benefit from this type of training. It can also enhance how you react to ground surfaces throughout the day in simple daily activities. Quickly responding to an unexpected change, like ice, when stepping off a curb or rapidly changing direction when walking your dog on a leash are both examples of daily encounters when you’ll want to have better reaction time.

We all need vigorous levels of physical activity to maximize bone mass throughout our lives. Incorporating plyometric exercises is also extremely valuable in post-rehab and for a safe return to play.

Plyometrics, in its purest form, are meant to be all-out, quality efforts in each repetition of an exercise. Although commonly thought of as only muscular activity, the nervous system is intrinsically linked. The exercises heighten the excitability of the nervous system for improved reactive ability of the neuromuscular system, a benefit for both pro athletes and the rest of us.

Before incorporating plyometric exercises into your training, it is important to have good flexibility, motor control, core strength, and balance capabilities. If you can’t do it slowly, you can’t do it fast!

Be proficient in exercises such as step-ups and different kinds of squats before practicing, and start with plyometric exercises that are low intensity. Bounding or footwork patterns are a good place to start. Like hopscotch, they are fun and challenging.

Before any kind of jump, know that landing strategies are crucial. You should land in a partial squat. A partial squat is a position with feet shoulder-width apart and the bodyweight centered over a stable base of support. Bearing weight symmetrically, a stable base of support means that the trunk is relatively upright over the legs (or leg) with slight flexion of the ankle, knee, and hips.

The exercise selection is vast, as you would start with moves that are easy to complex, stable to unstable, body weight to loaded, to activity specific.

Plyometric training isn’t only limited to lower body training. Moves such as wall throws plyometric push-ups, or jump-squat with a chest pass are other examples.

Photos in article below~

As published in The Idaho Mountain Express- Fitness Guru

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru-add-power-to-your-workouts/article_5f9b3a20-52b5-11ec-b485-87eadcee070c.html

To sleep better, add Yoga Nidre to your nighttime routine

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Yoga Nidre, a meditation technique, is a proven antidote to help with anxiety and sleep

We need sleep and it’s best in moderation, like most things in life. According to studies recently published in the journal Brain, there is a middle range to keep the brain sharp over time, and most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night. The study shows that too little or too much sleep is associated with worse cognitive performance. Good sleep improves your brain function, immune system, mood, and health. Sleep is so important for our overall health that having just one night of sleep loss can significantly impair your daily functioning. More than one-third of U.S. adults sleep fewer than six hours per night. So what really keeps you up at night, and how can you make sleep a priority?

Sleep can be so elusive some nights. Worrying, tension, cluttered thoughts, family concerns, and work-life balance dilemmas can keep us up, although we crave sleep.

Caffeine, bright lights, and room temperature

• For most people, the sleep signal happens after 12-16 hours of being awake. A chemical called adenosine accumulates in the brain during the day. Caffeine, however, blocks and inactivates adenosine receptors, and tricks you into feeling alert. Coffee in foods such as dark chocolate and ice cream, as well as some medications, are also sources of caffeine.

• A laptop screen, smartphone or tablet has a very real impact on your melatonin release, interfering with your natural ability to wind down from a busy day.

• Try turning off half of the lights in your home in the last two hours before bed, and keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.

  • A colder bedroom helps the body’s core temperature drop by 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring a better nights’ sleep.

Let tension go with Yoga Nidre

When you’re trying to sleep, our bodies can be holding tension that we are not even aware of. Yoga Nidre, a meditation technique, is a proven antidote to help with anxiety and sleep. The roots of Yoga Nidre go back thousands of years, but many of today’s yoga leaders have adapted the teachings to make them more accessible to Westerners.

Seated meditation isn’t for everybody, as it is difficult to try to clear your mind and bring your focus back to your breath. Because Yoga Nidre is always guided, it promotes deep rest and relaxation. It can be as short as 10 minutes, or as long as an hour. The focus is to cultivate multiple levels of well-being.

Use a meditation app such as Insight Timer or Calm. Once you find a sleep meditation that appeals to you, and because it is guided, you’ll need headphones. ( Be sure you don’t start scrolling ! ) Lie and rest comfortably in your bed. You are encouraged to move around and get as comfortable as you can as you begin.

While you practice Yoga Nidre, you’re often asked to choose a samskara. Yoga teaches that samskara is the sum total of all our actions that conditions us to believe in a certain way, a habit or thought that is ingrained in us. It can be something positive that you’d like to work on. Through your meditation, you can create this belief to help you live less out of habit and more out of a desire to grow as a person. Ultimately you’ll drift off to sleep.

Sleep, you deserve it.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_e605884e-3ccc-11ec-93f0-5f914f01f24d.html

Fitness Guru- How to build muscle and lose fat at the same time

The best way to keep your fat cells a healthy normal size is to do a resistance training program at least three times a week.

Like it not, we’re stuck with 25-35 billion fat cells, for life. Our immune system breaks down around 10% of fat cells every year, but otherwise all our fat cells are busy expanding and shrinking in size during weight gain and loss. We need fat, as without it, we would freeze. Fat cells are also our fuel tanks, holding on to fatty molecules called lipids, and releasing them as a source of energy for the body. Fat also cushions our vital organs, stores crucial supplies of certain vitamins, and helps us have a functioning immune system. 

If you struggle with fat, turning to “gut-busting” diets and fat-burning supplements won’t “burn” fat. Fat cells don’t go away, as they are stored properly in fat cell layers under the skin. Where they are not intended to be is around organs, like the kidneys or heart, or even inside organs.

The best way to keep your fat cells a healthy normal size, and your body weight under control, is to do a resistance training program at least three times a week. Building more skeletal muscle mass and losing fat mass is one of the main reasons athletes and avid exercisers lift weights.

Within a resistance-training program, intensities, volume, and exercise selection all stimulate muscle growth. Your baseline body composition also factors in to the rate of muscle gain and fat loss.

In the first few weeks of training, newcomers to weight lifting see changes and definition in their biceps and butts. New research shows that trained individuals, not just beginners, can continue to build muscle and lose fat at the same time with two key factors: progressive resistance training and evidence-based nutrition strategies.

Mix it up

Recent studies published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal show that trained individuals can get stronger whether you train two days a week or four. In another study, there was no difference in training frequency of three times a week versus six times a week. Using a volume matched power-lifting program, both groups similarly gained a significant amount of fat-free mass and lost fat mass. It was noted that participants didn’t alter their normal nutrition habits for these particular studies.

A little more protein

Typically, to improve athletic performance it’s common practice to eat less for fat loss, and eat more to maximize muscle mass. But studies show that your post workout snack could be key to improve body composition. The authors of the resistance training studies found that approximately 70% of the subjects improved their body composition with a high-protein diet.

In one study, female collegiate volleyball players, all receiving guidance from a sports nutrition/registered dietician, added 25 grams of whey protein immediately after each power-oriented, full-body workout or a strength workout. Whether working to maximize power output, or participating in workouts specifically for strength, all athletes in each group gained muscle and lost fat. Although approaches to diet can vary with each person, the authors noted that a moderate protein intake and a more balanced nutritional approach came out at the top of the list to keep those fat cells where they need to be, no more, no less.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Exercise Specialist (TBBM-CES) Follow her at www.conniearonosn.com and Instagram@conniearon

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru-how-to-build-muscle-and-lose-fat-at-the-same-time/article_bf38694e-27a4-11ec-8266-b7268e71e762.html

The magic of muscle and bone mass and brain health

Lifting weights is key to retaining lean muscle mass and keeping your weight down.
Photo-Metro Creative Connection

Hands down, the biggest reason people hire a personal trainer is that they want to be stronger and healthier. To achieve that goal, throughout a lifetime, it is essential that we maintain a vigorous level of physical activity to not only age well and be healthy, but also to keep our bones strong.

Lifting weights, or resistance training, is the key to retaining lean muscle mass and keeping your weight down. Around the time you turn 30, you start to lose as much as 3% to 5% of muscle mass per decade. The rate of decline of an inactive 80-year-old could be as much as 30%.

In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend two or more days per week of moderate-to high-intensity resistance training, using all major muscle groups. Use it or lose is correct, as keeping your muscles strong and flexible after 30 prevents scarpenia, a condition characterized by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. Scarpenia is a natural part of aging, but muscle loss is largely accelerated by inactivity. For many, as we get older, we tend to move less.

The ACSM’s Physical Activity & Bone Health position stand is a recommendation that adults maintain a relatively high level of weight-bearing physical activity, with no upper age limit. Activities like plyometrics—jumping jacks, for example—and high-intensity resistance training are beneficial ways to increase bone mass, as well as to preserve skeletal integrity and improving balance to prevent falls. Kids that are involved in gymnastics and sports that involve jumping, like soccer and basketball, have a great strength advantage in later life, as their bone mass is maintained into adulthood, the report notes.

The main concept of resistance training is to produce changes that result in various strength adaptations. The 80-year-old mentioned? One set of arm curls, to overload his or her biceps, can result in strength gains in the arm muscles lasting as long as a month! While my job as a trainer is to set up great programs for individuals, consider ways you can start to train, if you haven’t already, with a simple home setup, including weights, elastic bands, medicine balls, or a TRX.

Remember when?

There is good reason to stick with your routine. Physical activity is a powerful intervention to reduce anxiety and depression during a pandemic. Those of us who stayed or became active during pandemic lockdowns were less likely to experience subjective memory decline. A recent study in Preventative Medicine looked at the effect of physical activity on subjective memory decline before and during social distancing. One in three participants experienced feelings of memory decline when socially distanced, however the active participants did not.

Muscles knock back inflammation

Besides brain health, regular exercise promotes a healthy immune system. Muscles that you use doing squats, arm curls or running down a trail have an innate ability to reduce inflammation. Lately, scientists studied lab-grown engineered human muscles to examine the role of a pro-inflammatory molecule, interferon gamma, which breaks down muscle. Typically, chronic inflammatory diseases break down muscle. The lead author of the study, Zhaowei Chen, a postdoctoral researcher in biomedical engineering, found that when exercising, the muscle cells themselves are a powerful shield and can directly counter interferon gamma, the pro-inflammatory molecule, as well as protecting other tissues and cells.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_b2d26462-11af-11ec-b04a-23ef35ce0778.html

Fix your low back pain with better body mechanics

Too much sitting is hard on our bodies and can add to the prevalence of low back pain. Twenty-six bones make up the spinal column with three gentle curves from top to bottom. For many with low back pain, the cumulative effects of constant or repeated small stresses over time, like sitting, result in back pain. Too much sitting, combined with faulty posture, can flatten these curves over time. The spine is designed to function best as a weight-bearing structure, with the lumbar curve in a neutral position. Sitting rounded, or slumped in a seat, multiplies damaging pressure on lower back discs and soft tissues. Another concern is that prolonged sitting chronically shortens the hip flexors. Once again, too much sitting, prevalent in our modern age, has other drawbacks and can cause secondary health concerns, such as high blood pressure and increased risk for diseases like diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disorders.

The good news is that low back pain can dissipate. Body composition, strength of the core musculature and faulty movement patterns are all potential cause of low back pain. Most back pain is easy to reverse; the secret is addressing common musculature imbalances. Too much sway or arch in the lower back, too much bending, weak or overstretched muscles, or poor posture are contributing factors that can be corrected to ensure a healthy back.

If you are in pain, but not dealing with diagnosed or undiagnosed medical issues, nerve impingement, or traumatic injury, you fall into the category of mechanical low-back pain.

Faulty Movement Patterns

The easiest way to fix your own pain is to correct faulty body mechanics. We know we shouldn’t bend wrong, but we do. We bend over wrong picking up laundry, petting the dog, making the bed, or looking at a phone. We work over our desks, drive and ride bent forward every day. Look around the gym and it’s a minefield of bent backs. You’ll see people lifting weights bent over, and bend over wrong to place them back on racks.

Integrated Core

The spine is at its strongest, most resilient and most supported position when it is in a state of muscular and skeletal balance, and in a neutral position.

The abdominal brace is an important way to use the core to find neutral position. Bracing, says Dr. Stuart McGill, a leading spine researcher, is a different concept than that of simply holding in your stomach, or “pulling your belly to your spine.” Rather, it’s mild contraction of the abdominal muscles, as though you are preparing for a punch in the mid-section. In his book “Back Mechanic,” he asks his back patients to gradually adjust the amount of contraction to find the optimal stiffness, much like how a dimmer switch gradually adjusts light in a room. Whether you are sitting, walking, or are a high-performance athlete, all movement is orchestrated from this fine-tuned control of the core.

Next time you pick up a package, try to brace your core, hip hinge, and use your gluteus muscles, which help extend the hips to assist in standing up, sparing the lower back from over-use.

Self-Test

Here’s a simple test to see if you have neutral spine alignment, or back sway. Stand barefoot with your back to the wall, with heels, butt and shoulders against the wall. Then try to place one hand, palm down, behind your lower back. If the space is up to and in-line with your second knuckle, you have neutral pelvis. Normally the pelvis is rotated approximately 10 degrees. But if the space is large enough for your whole hand, you have a deviation, an anterior tilt of the pelvis called lumbar lordosis. Tilt the pelvis posteriorly by bringing the front of your waistband up to learn neutral, engaging the core.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Movement Specialist (TBBM-CES) Visit her at www.conniearonson.com and

Instagram @conniearon

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_9e3c776e-e5b7-11eb-a0ba-5730f013cbf7.html

Three exercises to keep your shoulders healthy

Fitness guru

All -star pitcher Pedro Martinez was one of the lucky players to return to the major leagues after a complete rotator cuff tear, typically a season-ending injury. The rotator cuff is made up of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Over time, damage to the rotator cuff can become significant because of the stress placed on these structures.

You don’t have to be a world-class pitcher to have shoulder problems. Ideally, we want our shoulders open and back. The shoulder girdle is unique in that it has few joints, but many muscles that attach to the upper back, as well as the chest and arms. The upper back region is important in shoulder health, as the lower trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff muscles stabilize and retract the shoulder blades.

To understand how the upper back coordinates with the shoulder, notice if you raise your shoulder when moving your arm. Notice if you tighten or raise your shoulders to turn your head to look over your shoulder when driving.

Professional baseball players have to manipulate their bodies in an incredibly complicated way to throw at astounding speeds. On the mound, pitchers have to work with asymmetries in the body, using one side of the body for many, many repetitions. Their training must involve unwinding the damage caused by this imbalance and make both sides of the body function well. For the rest of us, at play and during the day, we can train and be aware of symmetry in our upper backs and shoulders.

Her are three exercises for proper functioning of the upper back and shoulders.

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W Stretch || Photos by Connie Aronson

1.    W Stretch. Stand up, with your core engaged. Pull the shoulders down and back. Externally rotate and fully extend the arms. You should feel it in the chest and front of the shoulder. The W stretch strengthens the rhomboids, traps and external rotators of the shoulder and arm. Hold 20-30 seconds, 2-3 times per day.

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2.    A’s on the ball. Lie on your chest on a ball, legs straight with feet firmly on the floor. The arms are straight and close to the body, resembling the letter “A.” Raise and lower the arms, externally rotating the arms from the shoulder so that the thumbs point out and up. Throughout the exercise, keep shoulder blades down and back, chin gently pushed back. Ten reps.

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3.    T’s on the ball. Lie on your chest on a ball, legs straight with feet firmly on the floor. Raise the arms to form a T position, palms down, then lower arms. Throughout the exercise, keep shoulder blades down and back, chin gently pushed back. Ten reps.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Exercise Specialist (TBM-CES) Visit her at www.conniearonson.comand Instagram@conniearon

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_9606c44c-cfae-11eb-8de5-cbf3271af76c.html

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Photos by Connie Aronson

The bicycle twist is a core move for the morning

Clients often tell me about their morning sequence to start their days, and I’m always proud that they take care of themselves. A morning core program can help maintain low back health, improve neuromuscular control, spinal stability, movement pattern efficiency, and injury prevention. But any ab or core exercise you choose needs to be effective, and not potentially lead to lower back pain.

A morning program is ideal for two reasons. First it’s typically the time in which your body is stiff, cold and most prone to injury. Having a routine prior to your busy day is like doing a pre-workout warm-up: It helps to increase soft-tissue blood-flow, warmth and pliability, facilitates neurological awareness and helps develop a psychological readiness for the day ahead. Second, a morning routine gives us another chance to make our habits stick, and if you miss doing it, you have another opportunity to do it later in the day.

The Bicycle Twist is a big external oblique winner.  

If you need a little help in choosing where to start, add Bicycle Twist to your routine, one of the best core exercises. Compared to a crunch, electromyography ( EMG ) shows that this exercise is 9 % more effective at targeting the rectus abdominis and 310 % more effective at targeting the external obliques.

It’s an ab exercise that many people know, also known in Pilates as Criss-Cross, and a go-to in yoga class.

Let’s include a brief anatomical overview of the ab muscles that this exercise targets. Four abdominal muscles hold the contents of the abdomen in place; the rectus abdominis, aka “six-pack”, which stabilize the pelvis and rib cage with respect to each other, transverse abdonimis, a deeper muscle that maintains intra-abdominal pressure, and is not involved in movements of the trunk, and the external and internal obliques that work together to help decelerate the spine as it arches backwards, rotates, and side bends. The external and internal obliques store potential energy, as in a follow-through in a golf swing.

The Most Common Mistake 

The Bicycle Twist targets the abs, yet most people do it wrong, and use the hip flexors. Stop using your hip flexors! They are typically stronger than the abs in trunk flexing movements; hip flexors bring the legs and trunk toward each other. Beyond 30 degrees, in the Bicycle Twist, crunches, or sit-ups, the powerful hip flexors begin to take charge of the movement. In real life, they are more likely to be strong, as you use them to create energy to help swing your leg forward in walking and running.  

Pilates mat exercise studies using EMG found that the hip flexors in Criss- Cross work at an intensity of 41 %. In other words, when you bring your knee towards your torso, the Criss-Cross, or Bicycle Twist becomes an ineffective exercise for the abdominals. The goal of ab training is to maximize the involvement of the abdominals, and minimize the hip flexors. 

Getting it right 

Keep your knees at 90 degrees, instead of flexing the hip to pull your knee in toward your elbow. This will give the back extra support and help target the obliques. 

Connie Aronson is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Exercise Specialist (TBBM-CES )  Visit her at www.conniearonson.com and  Instagram@conniearon

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_a62eb6d4-61a6-11eb-bcfb-3f5fb75e1f4c.html

Build core power and stability with the Farmer’s Walk

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The Farmer’s Walk is a great whole-body exercise.

Core stability is imperative for all facets of movement and performance, whether you’re a skier or skater.

As a new ski season kicks off, core strength can be a great asset to ski at a higher intensity, for a longer duration and with less fatigue. When you hit the terrain, you’ll want to have good core stability to not only turn well, but also handle different and varied snow conditions with ease. It’s not too late to add a great whole-body exercise called Farmer’s Walk—a walk with a weight—to your training program.  

Walking or any lower body movement where you carry or “load” yourself with a weight for a predetermined distance or time challenges the entire kinetic chain of the body and targets the deep stabilizing muscles of the core.

What is core stability?

The definition of core stability is your ability to maintain your posture and balance while moving your extremities. Sound a lot like skiing?

The core musculature has a unique function. Throughout the day, if you’re active, the core muscles act to stiffen the torso and function primarily to prevent motion. A strong core allows the strength to radiate out peripherally to the rest of the body.

Core stability is imperative for all facets of movement and performance, whether you’re a skier or skater. The Farmer’s Walk is a great whole-body exercise. The exercise targets the abdominals, and provides peak activation of all the muscles that support the spine, the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and cervical spine muscles during the walk. You’ll hit all the core muscles of the trunk and pelvic stability muscles, as well as the hips.

Together, these numerous and multi-jointed muscles are known as the lumbo-pelvic hip complex.

You can think of Farmer’s Walk as a vertical plank, a move that challenges the lumbo-pelvic hip complex. There are several variations of loaded carries, and here are two variations that will strengthen your core as well as challenge the body’s stabilizing system.

Unilateral Farmer’s Walk

Unilateral training exposes any asymmetries in the body. Noticeably, walking with a single weight provides a greater spine load than if the load were split between two hands. (For beginners, you might want to experiment with carrying a weight in each hand.) Carrying one weight targets the lateral spine muscles, called quadratus lumborum, and the lateral abdominal wall, which have an important role in that they stiffen the pelvis to prevent it from bending to the side of the leg swing.  The unilateral Farmer’s Walk also enhances the rotational demand to the core as the body now has to control the added stress in order to maintain dynamic balance.

 Choose weights that are challenging yet appropriate for your fitness level.

•    Squat down and grasp a weight in one hand. Maintain a braced core, and return to a stand-tall position.

•    Take slow and controlled steps forward for 30 seconds. Alternate sides.

Unilateral Farmer’s Walk

Unilateral Waiter’s Walk

An added benefit to this move is that it helps strengthen the muscles around the shoulder, referred to as glenohumeral stability, a term used to describe how the arm bone sits well into the shoulder and upper back muscles. Here’s how it’s done.  

•    Grab a weight in one hand and return to a stand-tall position.

•    Extend arm up overhead.

•    Keep a tight grip on the weight and take slow controlled steps forward for 30 seconds. Alternate sides.

Unilateral Waiter’s Walk

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/ski-fitness/article_9112101c-2db6-11eb-9a56-e30f89e1d500.html