Fitness Tips

What You Need To Know About Your Muscles

MUSCLES!

You have 642 of them, you use them every day, but what do you really know about them? Knowledge is power if every aspect of life and training is no different – read on!

Opposing Muscle Groups

When talking about muscles sometimes it is easiest to think of a really simple one for starters, so let’s begin with those biceps being shown off up above! When you bend your arm, your bicep contracts and your tricep does the opposite (elongates) in order to let your elbow bend.

These are called “opposing muscle groups”. Our workouts need to cover all aspects of muscle training from the composition of muscle to how they perform.

Muscle Fibers

Muscle fibers are long and cylindrical; only about the size of a strand of hair! These fibers determine how much weight you can lift and for how many reps (think a bunch of hairs tied in a ponytail make up what a muscle looks and acts like).

There are two types of muscle fibers:

Slow Twitch

Slow twitch fibers are used for aerobic exercise and are very resistant to fatigue and are good for things such as longer distance running. The downside is, they don’t move very quickly (like if you suddenly need to sprint to the finish line). You train slow twitch fibers with higher repetitions, at a slower tempo, and with short rest times.

Fast Twitch

Unlike slow twitch muscle fibers, fast twitch fire very quickly but also fatigue quickly. Fast twitch fibers are used for things like sprints and heavy lifting. You train fast twitch fibers with explosive movements like the push press, kettlebell swing, and box jumps. This type of POWER training needs more rest and recovery time.

Are We All The Same?

NO! Every person has a different percentage of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers, which is why some people tend to be naturally better at running distances than sprinting, or better at longer sets than short ones. Even within each person different muscles may be various ratios of fast and slow. For instance maybe your hamstrings are 60% slow twitch, but your biceps only 30%.

So, Why Bother Training?

You are born with a certain number of muscle fibers so you can’t increase the number of them, but you CAN increase their overall mass and strength.

Remember when we said there were TWO muscle fiber types? Well…technically that’s correct, but within “Fast Twitch” there is the potential to train for more short bursts of power or more endurance. Muscles literally change based on your activity and these hybrids will shift more toward slow or fast depending on your training. Train for your goals!

TRAINING GOAL CHEAT SHEET

Determine if your workout is designed to gain muscle size (HYPERTROPHY), strength, or power.

Hypertrophy training aims to fatigue the muscle fiber, which after proper rest will cause the muscle to grow larger. 6-12 Reps and rest 30-90 seconds. The focus is more about the process vs the actual load.

Strength (vs muscle size or power) requires a slower speed and lower reps (like 6 or less) with heavier load/weight.

Power training is similar to strength training, but speed of contraction becomes a factor as we want to generate as much power in as short a time as possible.

As you have seen this week, to get a fully balanced program to build muscle strength, size, and power takes a fine balance and a deeper understanding of how the body works. At Ellipse, you see Tabata, Declining Hypertrophy, Eccentric Training, Pause Training, and so much more. All the different formats and styles are to achieve RESULTS! If you can step through that front door and work to YOUR best, we’ve got the rest covered 😊

Get The Skinny on Healthy Fats!

Plain and simple, our bodies need dietary fat. Did you know your BRAIN is made up of nearly 60% fat? A diet too low in fat robs your brain of the materials it needs to function properly. It’s not just the essential fatty acids and omega 3’s either (fats found in food like salmon, avocados and nuts) but also some of the saturated fats which we have been told for years to avoid, including natural animal fats!

Why You Can’t Eat “Fat-Free”

Essential Vitamins

Vitamins such as A, D, E and K are not water soluble and require fat to get transported and absorbed by the body. These vitamins are crucial for brain health and many of our vital organs.

Healthy Fats keep your lungs working properly

Our lungs are coated with a substance composed almost entirely of saturated fat. Premature babies who are lacking this substance are given something called “surfactant” to keep their lungs functioning properly. Without enough saturated fat, our lungs can be compromised. Some studies are now looking at the link between the low consumption of saturated fat and Asthma as a result of the breakdown of this fatty layer.

• Healthy Fats for a Strong immune system

Saturated fats such as those found in butter and coconut oil play key roles in immune health. Loss of too much saturated fatty acids in white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. A great source of saturated fat is from animal fats like grass fed dairy and butter or fatty fish like salmon (wild is generally a better choice).

• Healthier Body Composition

One benefit of eating healthy fats is better body composition! This refers to your % of fat-weight versus % of lean-weight. Eating healthy fats help you lose body fat by improving metabolism, balancing hormones (hormones that help you feel full longer) and eliminating constant cravings.

Tips for Putting it in Action

• Fats: What and how much?

You should include healthy fats at each meal, but there is no need to pull out a measuring spoon every time you eat…a portion size of healthy fats is the size of your thumb! Nuts and seeds are a great source of fats. Certain oils are also excellent sources, like extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil.
PRO TIP: Have you tried using avocado oil spray? A great option to get the healthy fat in without overdoing it!

• Balance and Variety

Balance your diet with a variety of fat types (saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated) from high quality foods like: seeds, nuts, seafood, coconut, avocado, olives. Avoid the processed foods that contain the unhealthy fats like “Hydrogenated” fats or Trans Fats

Sugar? Starch? Carb? What’s The Difference!

Last week we talked about forms of sugar (words ending -ose) and how they are different or alike. In many cases the sugars broke down to, in at least part, glucose. Glucose is used by your muscles to perform work. Sugars are SIMPLE carbohydrates. COMPLEX carbohydrates are what we call “starches”.

Why Do I CARE??

GLYCOGEN! Glycogen is why you care.

Glycogen is one of TWO forms of energy storage in the body:

1. Glycogen stored in muscle and the liver.

2. Triglycerides (i.e. FAT) stored in adipose tissue.

So, let’s get to the point…Your body can store 1-day’s worth of glycogen. The trick is, your body will use your “one day” stores of glycogen BEFORE relying on the stored energy in your fat cells. Meaning, you MUST exercise off your daily stores before you can mobilize the energy stored in the fat cells. Keep your energy/food intake in check!

Why Complex Carbohydrates Matter

All forms of sugar, and starch, break down into glucose. Starch is a COMPLEX CARB (i.e. 3-10 sugars linked in a long COMPLEX chain) vs sugar being a SIMPLE CARB.

Starch/complex carbs break down slower than simple carbs/sugar. Since complex carbs break down slower, we stay “full” longer. Complex carb examples include peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Stick with complex carbs in your diet vs simple carbs for overall health!

Starch come in the forms of digestible and resistant starch. Digestible starch is quickly turned into fat if we don’t use it right away. Resistant starch doesn’t get digested in the small intestine like digestible starch, instead many types ferment in the large intestine and act like fiber! Resistant starches are not broken down into glucose in the stomach, so they have a lower calorie content, also improve insulin sensitivity/lower our blood sugar levels and keep us full longer (thanks to the slow digestion). Although there are various types of resistant starch, some examples are grains, seeds, legumes, potatoes and unrefined rice.

WAIT: White rice is “refined”, which means it’s been processed, and the fiber has been broken down making it a SIMPLE carb. Brown rice however is a whole grain – fiber intact – so it is a complex carb. Purchase whole grain rice!

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs??

Why are the terms “good carbs” and “bad carbs” floating out there? GOOD carbs can be considered those that not only contain energy/glucose (i.e. refined sugar) but also vitamins and minerals (i.e. vegetables – more bang for your your calorie-buck).

EXERCISE improves how our body moves sugar/glucose into our muscles, eventually causing you to require much less insulin than someone who is physically inactive.

Sugar: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It’s not hard to find SUGAR. It’s in a slew of food and drink products and most often can be found in packaged foods with ingredients ending in the letters -ose like glucose, maltose, dextrose, lactose, fructose, sucrose; it’s all sugar.

Is one better than the other? In the end, all sugars have 4 calories per gram. The differences comes down to any notable nutrients/antioxidants and HOW they affect the body/glycemic load. This week we’re looking a little deeper at what makes each type of sugar different.

Sucrose

Common table sugar (as pictured above). Sucrose contains 50% glucose and 50% fructose. We’ll break each of these down further later on. Sucrose tastes sweeter than glucose but not as sweet as fructose.

Glucose

Glucose comes from the Greek word for “sweet” and contains 1 glucose molecule. Glucose syrup is typically made from breaking down the starch in corn or wheat. Glucose syrup isn’t overly sweet and thus is typically used along with other sweeteners and helps extend the shelf life of products like ice cream [from crystalizing]. Glucose can be metabolized throughout our body, unlike fructose that can only be metabolized by the liver.

Fructose

Although FRUIT is high in fructose, it’s difficult to get excessive amounts from fruit, plus fruit is also very high in FIBER which is nature’s way of balancing it out. Eat fruit, skip the fruit juice (which takes out the fiber)!

If you are a label-reader then you surely have seen “High Fructose Corn Syrup” as a common ingredient that seems to pervade nearly every product on the shelf from ketchup to cookies to cereal. This is concerning because not only is a high intake of fructose bad for your waistline, but it can increase your risk of all sorts of diseases from heart disease to diabetes and even some types of cancer. Check out this link below for a DIY tutorial and you can see first-hand the process involved!
http://www.diyhfcs.mayaweinstein.com/

Maltose

Maltose is made of 2 glucose molecules. Maltose can be found in starchy grains, vegetables, and some fruit. When grains are sprouted in water and then dried, the enzymes in the grains release maltose. You can find it in brewing stores since it is an important part of brewing beer and whiskey. Maltose can also be sold as crystals or syrup, for baking or sweetener.

“Malted” cereals use malted grains to create the natural sweetness. The calories in maltose is equivalent to other sugars, but the potential benefit of maltose over other sugars is that it does not contain any fructose, which can be more harmful in large quantities.

Check out this video to see how malt syrup can be made!

Brown Rice Syrup

Similar to maltose, this is made by soaking, fermenting, and boiling down rice. Brown rice syrup contains 45% maltose (2 glucose molecules), 3% glucose (1 glucose molecule), and 52% maltotriose (3 glucose molecules). This actually puts the glycemic index HIGHER than table sugar. ALSO, arsenic is a toxic chemical known to be found in rice. Boiling rice down into a syrup compounds the amount of potential arsenic. Even though scientific research is limited, choosing fewer items with brown rice syrup may be in your best interest.

Molasses

This syrup is boiled down from refined raw cane sugar or sugar beet juice. The crystals from the boiling process are removed, leaving molasses.

FYI: Blackstrap molasses is when the syrup has been boiled a THIRD time. Each boiling of a sugar produces a different type of molasses. Molasses may be seen as slightly better than “table sugar” since it does contains some nutrients and antioxidants, but essentially…sugar is sugar.

Well alright, there was a lot more “Bad” and “Ugly” than there was good, but at least now you are equipped with knowledge of these different types of sugars and can prepare yourself to read those labels and make more educated decisions!

It’s ALL About CORE! 6 Things You Need To Know!

What is the purpose of the core? Oh there are many, many essential functions!

Stabilization

Maybe the most common function of the core is to take excess load off the spine and to transfer force between the upper and lower body. When you throw a ball for instance, you have your core to thank! Back pain? Check in with your core muscles! Gastrointestinal problems? Your core even plays a role in your bowel movements!

Balance

Core muscles support your skeleton for balance (and for your ability to “Catch” yourself when falling). Try to really apply your core stability (hollow body hold tension) to your strength moves; squat, deadlifts, pushups, planks, and see the difference! Especially exercises standing on one leg. Just TRY to shut off your core muscles and you are probably going down!

Rotation

Core also helps with rotation and even more often, ANTI-rotation…Refer up to stabilizing in order to resist the movement. Core stabilizers include the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis (creates pressure and provides the most stability during dynamic movements), multifidus (small muscles in your back), erector spinae (think back extensions), obliques (moving side to side and rotation), AND the diaphragm.

Posture

Weakness in the CORE can change your posture – for the worse – therefore affecting the strength of your hips and ultimately knees and/or back. For example, in an abdominal exercise such as bicycles, your pelvis should NOT be moving. If it is, then you may not ready for that move and should take a step back to keeping the hips on the ground while just lifting the opposite knee/arm without speed or momentum.

Breathing

The diaphragm is an extremely important core muscle that contracts and extends toward the abdomen when we inhale and connects to the lower six ribs of our ribcage. When you inhale, your diaphragm flattens allowing the most air into your lungs. When it contracts it pushes everything else out of the way (and when your belly expands this is called belly breathing).

Try belly breathing – lie on the floor on your back. Legs bent or extended on the ground. Take a deep breath and inhale deeply allowing your belly to rise. As you exhale every last breath, let your belly draw in toward the ground. Practice this until it becomes automatic. When you apply it to your exercises, you’ll be surprised how much more stable and effective you are!

Now What? Put This In Action!

Not sure where to start?

Step 1: Learn spinal stability and breathing properly. Back or neck still hurt during movements? Start with pelvic tilts and increase the endurance/time of the hold.

Step 2: Once mastered, start adding complexity such as increased levers (hollow body hold), followed by slow movement (deadbugs) with levers.

Step 3: Add load/complexity (i.e. hold a plank and add alternating leg lifts).

Step 4: Add rotation (i.e. Soft Toss Medicine Ball shot put throw)

Step 5: Add dynamic movement (Step back lunge with sandbag t-spine rotation)

Nutritional Yeast: What It Does For You and How to Cook With It

Nutritional Yeast 101

Nutritional yeast, “NOOCH” for short, is a deactivated yeast that. It is derived from a species of yeast know as Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is the same species that Brewer’s yeast and Baker’s yeast are derived from. They differ, HOWEVER, in that brewer’s yeast is grown only on hops and bakers yeast is active, whereas nutritional yeast can be grown on a variety of sources and it is put through a heating and drying process that renders it inactive.

Primarily, nutritional yeast is used as a supplement for those with dietary restrictions to add not only additional flavor to your meal, but also several health benefits along with it.

What’s In It?

It is dairy free, usually gluten free, low in fat and contains no sugar or soy. Nutritional yeast is an EXCELLENT source of vitamins, minerals and high-quality protein. Specifically (per 1/4 cup serving), there are only:

• 60 calories

• 8 grams of protein

• 3 grams of fiber

• Vitamin & minerals (including numerous B Vitamins, Potassium, Calcium and Iron)

Benefits

Nutritional yeast serves as a versatile source of supplementation for those in need of a little something extra in their food due to dietary restrictions.

• It is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that humans must get from food. One tablespoon contains 2 grams of protein, which makes for an easy solution for vegans needing to add protein to their meals.

• It contains many B vitamins. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 30–180% of the RDI for B vitamins and when fortified, it is especially rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

• It contains up to 30% of the RDI for trace minerals, such as zinc, selenium, manganese and molybdenum. Trace minerals are involved in gene regulation, metabolism, growth and immunity.

Potential Side Effects

While nutritional yeast is highly beneficial for most, there are some individuals for whom nutritional yeast is NOT suitable for.

Those with IBD, glaucoma, hypertension or a higher risk of gout should avoid using nutritional yeast as it may worsen their symptoms. In large doses, it can cause digestive discomfort or facial flushing due to its high fiber and niacin content, and it may also contain tyramine and MSG, which can trigger headaches in some individuals (note that MSG is only present in nutritional yeast if it has been added during processing or manufacturing). In order to avoid these side effects, you should try adding nutritional yeast into your diet by introducing it slowly and sticking to lower doses to minimize unwanted side effects.

Where Can I Find It?

You can find nutritional yeast in most grocery stores, health food shops as well as online. It comes in the form of flakes or in the form of powder and there are two types of yeast:

• Unfortified: does not contain any added vitamins or minerals. It only contains the vitamins and minerals that are naturally produced by the yeast cells as they grow.
• Fortified: contains synthetic vitamins added during the manufacturing process to boost nutrient content. If vitamins have been added to the yeast, they will be included in the ingredients list.

How To Use It

Nutritional yeast’s flavor can be described as savory, umami or cheesy. It is often used as an ingredient in creamy, dairy-free cheese substitutes and as a topper for foods such as popcorn, pasta, and French fries!

Here are a few quick examples on how to incorporate/substitute it into meals:

• On popcorn as alternative to butter/salt
• In risotto instead of parmesan cheese
• Added to creamy soups
• Added to scrambled eggs or tofu scramble
• Mixed into nut roast or stuffing
• Vegan cheese sauce (recipe here) which can be used in Vegan Mac-N-Cheese!

Taste The Rainbow: A Visual Nutrition Guide

Eating a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk for chronic disease, by ensuring you are providing your body with all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and nutrition it needs.

The different colors are made possible different phytochemicals and can be an easy way to visually see what vitamins and minerals fruits and veggies provide. If you tend to eat the same colors all the time, you are likely missing out on certain green, red, white, purple/blue, and/or yellow/orange phytonutrients.

Still Not Convinced?

Generally, when we think of eating protein it’s not a vegetable. Did you know 1 cup of broccoli has almost 6 grams of protein?!!? In addition to being a protein source, broccoli and it’s green friends offer calcium, iron, folate, and B vitamins. Folate, a B vitamin, is important to make DNA and genetic material, especially for pregnant women’s developing babies, and warding off heart disease and depression. So let’s start there shall we?

GREEN

Start by adding a serving of a nutritionally dense vegetable like kale and spinach to check that GREEN phytonutrient box. Leafy greens are generally contain omega-3 fatty acids which are important and sometimes difficult to work your diet. Vitamin K is another great reason to seek out greens.

Make it even simpler by tossing a handful of spinach in your smoothie…you won’t even taste it! I know that sounds like BS – go try it!

ORANGE/YELLOW

ORANGE/YELLOW fruits and vegetables improve your immune system and promote eye health (reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration) with their vitamin A and C. Try adding your “orange” colors like orange bell peppers, carrots, yellow summer squash, roasted winter squash and/or fruits like mandarin orange slices to your salads.

RED

Foods with RED phytochemicals have a very protective antioxidant effect. They can can ward off or inhibit tumors in our bodies. Try some red peppers, tomatoes, beets, cherries, apples, watermelon, and more!

BLUE/PURPLE

Like red fruit and vegetables, BLUE/PURPLE foods are plump with antioxidants especially anthocyanin. Berries are a powerhouse when it comes to antioxidants, helping to protect the skin, aid in cardiovascular health, and improve our memory!

Pro Tips

• When shopping, look at your cart. If you find most of your choices are the same one or two colors, swap out a few to increase the colors — and phytonutrients — in your cart.

• 1/2 cup of chopped raw vegetables or fruit makes one serving. Less dense foods, like leafy greens, take up more space, so 1 cup chopped counts as a serving.

• Think in twos when it comes to vegetable/fruit servings. Try to eat two servings in the morning, two in the afternoon, and two at night.

• We have a tremendous amount of access to fresh vegetables this time of year, but keep in mind that frozen vegetables are picked and frozen quickly, thus retaining virtually the same nutrient density as fresh – even though the flavor may be slightly affected.

6 Foods for a Higher Metabolism!

Ready to start a fire?? These foods (and drinks) will not only jumpstart your metabolism, but also offer you other great health and weight management benefits!

1. Cinnamon

Loved by most, but many don’t really know where it comes from other than maybe that it comes from a tree. Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of cinnamon trees. The inner bark is extracted and the woody parts removed. When it dries, you get that curled wood that you see sold as cinnamon sticks. Cinnamaldehyde is the active ingredient responsible for cinnamon’s ability to boost the metabolism.

In regards to body protective antioxidants, cinnamon wins by a landslide even over foods like garlic and oregano! Cinnamon helps fight insulin resistance (we need insulin to move sugar from our bloodstream to our cells…when resisted, we have too much sugar floating around) and it interferes, in a good way, with how much sugar enters our blood stream in the first place after a meal. Both HUGE factors for weight maintenance and metabolic health.

2. Green Tea

In addition to cancer fighting and anti-inflammatory properties, Green Tea can help boost your metabolism and increase your fat burning rate! It is unclear whether these benefits are attributed to caffeine alone or to Tea specifically. Studies have also shown that drinking Green Tea may improve insulin sensitivity.

Fun Fact: Oolong and Black Tea come from the same plant as Green Tea, the difference simply being how long the leaves are allowed to oxidize which turns them black (Oolong being in the middle of Green and Black Tea). While the antioxidant profile differs, generally the health benefits remain constant from Green to Black Tea.

3. Spicy Peppers

Spicy food heats you up – no doubt about that! But eating spicy peppers (or cayenne pepper) at a meal, for example, burns only about 10 extra calories. However, consuming capsaicin has been shown to reduce overall hunger throughout the day which certainly can help you adhere to your diet! It may also aid in digestive health, and in animal studies it has been shown to reduce blood pressure.

4. Coffee

Coffee can boost your metabolism up to 11% boost with its caffeine, like green tea. It seems to affect/benefit lean people most though AND if you are a regular coffee (vs occasional) drinker you may not see the same affect.

It’s not all “meh” news though…you can still have your coffee and get your protein in! Try an Iced-Mocha Coffee for the hot summer days: mix 1.5 scoops of Ellipse Chocolate Protein Powder with ½ c unsweetened almond milk. Add 1.5 cups iced coffee.

5. Spices

Kind of lumping a few things in here, but spices like ginger and turmeric can help raise your metabolism with their thermogenic effects.

Ginger can increase calorie burn by increasing blood flow and thus body temperature. Granted this increase is relatively small, it can’t hurt to add into your meal rotation. (Quick side note: Ginger can interact with certain medications like Warfarin, an anticoagulant – so refer to your doctor’s recommendation).

Grab some broccoli and sweet peppers and fresh basil at the farmer’s market for this super quick dish; Ginger Basil Chicken And Rice.

6. Coconut Oil

We’ve probably all heard that coconut oil is a good choice when it comes to oils. But why? Coconut oil offers a different effect than other oils by raising the GOOD/HDL cholesterol levels in your blood with its medium chain triglycerides and increase calories burned.

2 TBSP seems to be about the recommended amount per day to help reduce belly fat.

Muscle Prep and Recovery Basics

First off, this article is a follow-up to our Ellipse Movement Basics 101 blog post last month. If you haven’t had a chance to check that out, please do! It is one of the most informative and important articles for those of you who are working out or looking to get started.

We’ve spent a good amount of time talking about various movement patterns. To move better we also need to prepare our bodies and help them recover.

Just as important as the movement itself is getting the muscles healthy enough to progress. Foam rolling increases blood flow, increases the temperature of the muscle, and works out adhesions. After foam rolling, do your body a favor and run through some stretches/movements of areas that cause you problems or anything that a Physical Therapist or Orthopedic Doctor has told you to do.

Use the time in the gym before your workout vs just standing or sitting around waiting to begin! What are the odds that you’ll do specific stretches or movements at home or at any other time? Make it a routine and your body will thank you!

Not sure what stretches/movements will help you the most? Ask your trainer. They can not only answer your questions but likely know areas that could use some TLC based on your form throughout your sessions.

Recovery

Your recovery will also impact your movements and the ability to perform at your highest level. Make sure to get enough shut eye (7-9 hours/night), drink enough water (4-6 cups PLUS, but this varies a lot by body, temperature, and activities), and eat a balanced diet (more vegetables, more vegetables, more vegetables).

Other Tools

In addition to a foam roller, try using a tennis ball for those spots a roller just can’t hit. Need a new approach? Stand near a wall and use the tennis ball and/or foam roller in a standing position to put pressure on the right spot. Use a Theracane for more focused areas or hard to reach areas on the back. On a really sore day, ice your sore muscles for 20 minutes to speed up recovery.

Move better, recover better, and perform better!

Ellipse Basic Movements 101

There are several foundational movements that our training program is centered around here at Ellipse Fitness, and we want to take a moment to break these things down for you. It is ALWAYS most important that we clean up our movement patterns and move functionally BEFORE we consider adding heavy loads.

STRENGTH TRAINING

Packing The Shoulders

Kickboxing, presses, pushes (whether it’s push ups or even while lying down for a chest press) are all better, more stable, and safer when the shoulders are packed.

Try this when standing: push your shoulders as far down and away from your ears as you can, tucking your shoulder blades into your back pockets. Packing our shoulders is easiest to feel and perfect with a farmer’s carry. Roll them back and down as far as you can.

Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell swings are a dynamic and explosive hip hinge. There are no arm-lifts or squats in a kettlebell swing. Keep the kb swinging through upper thighs; somewhere above the knees. As it drops toward the knees the back becomes at risk and there is more squatting involved. For single arm? We are not looking for rotation, but maintaining alignment with an offset load.

Shoulder Press

A Shoulder Press and Push Press are DIFFERENT! A push press is started by a “push” from the legs; creating momentum. The point of a push press is to push past a “sticking point”.

When a shoulder press is called for, do a shoulder press…maybe just that last rep that you can’t quite complete can be assisted with a push. Shoulder press, also called an overhead press, should be completed with core engagement.

Squats

Squats are best performed when thinking about the feet first and work up. Set your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Grip the floor, putting pressure on the outside of the foot, but also driving through your big toe. Drop your torso between your hips. Come out of the squat by pushing through the outer heel, driving the knees out and tucking the tail (think pointing your belt buckle toward your chin) and breathing into your lower back.

Split Squat

Although there are similarities to a squat, a split squat requires more balance, stability, coordination, and single leg strength. Try this! Start is a kneeling position. Your legs will have two 90 degree angles. From there, stand! Come back down to just a hover or feather touch to the ground. Too intense? Stack a pad or two under your kneeling stance to reduce how deep you have to go.

Pushups

Love them or hate them, Push Ups strengthen our chest, shoulders, triceps, and core (when properly engaged). Not sure you are engaging your core during a pushup? Try a Hand-Release Push Up. Start your body on top of a stacked airex pad or two (or 3!). Hands on either side of the pad, elbows at 45 degrees.

Step ONE: LIFT the hips/engage the core. Then and only then, push through the hands to your full pushup position. Reset each time to perfect your form.

Hollow Body Hold

The hollow body hold is a foundation movement patterns from kickboxing, to squatting, to slamming balls on the floor. Knowing how to properly hold the hollow body position will stabilize your core and not only improve your performance, but also keep you much safer (especially your back) along the way! TIP: When fully contracted, your upper torso will lift upward slightly, but it’s only from the flattening of your lower back. You do not crunch. Imagine a strong, engaged position hanging from the pull up bar.

Bicycles

Start with the contraction of a hollow body and THEN begin your bicycle movement. The shoulder blade will peel off the floor. The upper body movement comes from that “peeling”, NOT the reaching of an elbow. Keep the elbows wide and drawn back. Your bicycle legs should move more like stairs than a bike.

KICKBOXING

Boxing/Guarded Stance

Start your boxing strong with a proper guarded stance. You can test your strong stance by having someone giving you a little shove from each direction…you shouldn’t tip! Try it on your friends – with a warning! Your shoulders are packed in guarded position, and hands fisted by the cheek bones.

Pivots

Pivoting in boxing is crucial from a safety standpoint! Pivot your foot so your hips are squared to the bag. Your ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder will all be in alignment and you’ll be fully facing the bag. In the end, this not only keeps you safe, but you’ll also get the full power of your hip into your punch and engage more core muscles. Make sure to come back to the guarded stance after each punch and kick!

Round Kick

A round kick starts with the upper leg elevated and the lower leg parallel to the floor; the chambered position. The foot on the floor is turned out slightly. Aim with your shin, not your toe. It’s the snap the gives the most power to the kick. A repeating roundhouse kick will demonstrate the amount of balance and control needed for a well-developed kick. Chamber your leg and fire!

Boxing Punches

You hear the cues in almost every boxing class, but have your punches improved over time? Do they feel more stable, powerful, controlled? Go for an ALMOST full extension. Tighten your fist (pretend you are actually punching someone), turn the palm of your hand down toward the floor, and strive to connect with the pointer finger and index finger.

Visualization in boxing works wonders. If there was someone in front of you and you were punching, would it be with a loose hand? You can get as much or as little as you want out of a boxing workout based on what you put into it, and we don’t mean faster speed!