Monday, July 1, 2019

Best Body Weight Exercises for Lean Muscle and Performance


Are you looking for a way to build lean muscle tissue without getting bulky? Want to lose body fat and get lean? Do you prefer avoiding the gym and exercising in the comfort of your own home? Calisthenics workouts may be your answer. Often called body weight exercise, calisthenics is the foundation for modern day exercise. Let’s take a look at what calisthenics workouts are, their benefits, and how you can apply them to your own workout program.

What are Calisthenics?


Calisthenics are the basics of muscle and strength building. You use your own body weight as the resistance instead of the barbells and dumbbells you’d find in a traditional weight lifting workout. An example of a calisthenics or body weight exercise is a push-up. During a push-up, there are no weights involved. You are pushing your own bodyweight from the floor to a raised position.

Benefits of Calisthenics


Despite the absence of weight plates, body weight exercises are extremely effective at promoting a number of incredible benefits including fat burning and lean muscle building.

Lean Muscle Growth
·      The most obvious benefit of body weight exercises is lean muscle mass. No, you won’t bulk up like Mr. Olympia but you can build some serious lean and sculpted muscle with calisthenics. Studies show that strength training in the form of body weight exercises can vastly improve lean tissue mass. (1)

Fat Loss
·      Strength training in general promotes fat loss but body weight exercises offer a unique opportunity to vary intensity. Higher intensity calisthenics such as high intensity interval training workouts have been shown to dramatically increase fat burning during and for hours after the workout finishes. (2)

Cardiovascular Health
·      One of the most preventable diseases in the United States is cardiovascular disease. Caused primarily due to poor exercise and nutritional choices, cardiovascular disease is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control. Body weight exercises are an excellent way to fight back against the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Studies show that engaging in a consistent body weight exercise program can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular issues. (3)

Mood Booster
·      If you’re feeling blue, calisthenics workouts are a natural anti-depressant. When you perform body weight exercises, your body naturally releases several feed good hormones including serotonin. Studies show that regular exercise is a crucial part of treatment plans for those suffering from mood disorders. (4)

Sleep Better
·      If you’re having trouble sleeping, try body weight exercises. Studies show that when you regularly work out, you support healthy sleeping patterns. This promotes a healthy cycle of more sleep and better hormone health. Do some push-ups to get better shut-eye! (5)

Ideal for Special Populations
·      Body weight exercises are safe and ideal for those populations of people that may be at a higher risk for injury. The elderly and those going through rehabilitation will benefit greatly from taking it slow with calisthenics workouts. Teens interested in getting started with exercise will be able to form a solid fitness foundation with calisthenics workouts.

Convenient
·      Lastly, body weight exercises are extremely convenient. You don’t need to buy a gym membership or special equipment. You only need access to a local park or a small space at home. No need to worry about traffic, bad weather, or rude people. Put on some good music at home and get started exercising.


Calisthenics vs. Weight Training


One of the most popular questions that I receive from my clients is whether calisthenics workouts are better than weight training. The answer isn’t a yes or no response. Both body weight exercises and weight training exercises play an important role in helping you achieve optimal health along with any specific fitness goals you may have.

Both forms of training share the same benefits but let’s take a look at the pros and cons of calisthenics and weight training so you can see how the two naturally complement one another.

Calisthenics Pros

·      No cost
·      Convenient
·      Safe
·      Ideal for beginners

Calisthenics Cons

·      May be limited to exercises based on space and lack of equipment at home
·      Not ideal for size gains
·      Can get boring if you don’t have a pull-up bar or a bench

Weight Training Pros

·      Ideal for building large muscle mass
·      Weights provide hundreds of options

Weight Training Cons

·      Not cost effective
·      Weights may present a danger for injury
·      Weight exercises are not always easy to master and can result in improper form and strain

Despite the disadvantages of both body weight exercises and weight training, the two are necessary in a complete and effective fitness program. I’ll talk more about the progression of calisthenics workouts below but first, let’s provide you with the best body weight exercises workout.



Best Calisthenics Workout


Below is a circuit workout that will target all major muscle groups. Perform four sets of the following exercises and repetitions:

·      16 Push-ups
·      7-9 Dips

·      25 Squats

·      7-9 Pull-ups


Do not rest until you’ve completed all repetitions of all exercises. Once you finish the first set, rest for 2 to 3 minutes then begin again. Remember you have to complete this list four times!

Progressions for Calisthenics Workouts


If you’re just starting out or trying to get back into serious weight lifting, calisthenics workouts should be step one. As I mentioned above, they are safe and allow you to strengthen all major muscle groups before applying external force from dumbbells and barbells.

If you jump into a weight training program with a poor working relationship between major muscle groups, you’re putting yourself at a higher risk for over compensation and injury.

I recommend starting with body weight exercise workouts then after two or three months, moving your way into basic and foundational weight training workouts.

Conclusion


Do you use body weight exercises? What is your favorite? What benefits have you noticed since you began using calisthenics workouts? Tell me in the comments below!

References


1. Yamauchi J, Nakayama S, Ishii N. Effects of bodyweight-based exercise training on muscle functions of leg multi-joint movement in elderly individuals. Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2009 Sep;9(3):262-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0594.2009.00530.x.

2. Boutcher SH. High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. Journal of Obesity. 2011;2011:868305. doi:10.1155/2011/868305.

3. Wong PC, Chia MY, Tsou IY, Wansaicheong GK, Tan B, Wang JC, Tan J, Kim CG, Boh G, Lim D. Effects of a 12-week exercise training programme on aerobic fitness, body composition, blood lipids and C-reactive protein in adolescents with obesity. Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2008 Apr;37(4):286-93.

4. Craft LL, Perna FM. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2004;6(3):104-111.


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5. Kline CE. The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. American journal of lifestyle medicine. 2014;8(6):375-379. doi:10.1177/1559827614544437.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Maximize Performance and Recovery with AMP and Hemp Balm


There are so many recovery and performance-focused lotions on the fitness market that it quickly became overwhelming when I was trying to pick one. My focus is on science; I want to see that whatever product I’m buying has scientific backing to its name. What’s more, I needed something that was ideal for my goals and lifestyle. For example, I am a big proponent of using organic and responsibly-sourced products. I try to steer clear of anything synthetic if I can help it.

After a ton of research, I finally found two fitness lotions that I have made a part of my daily routine for optimal performance and fast recovery: AMP and Hemp Balm.

What is AMP?

AMPis a sports-focused lotion that is unique in two key ways: First, it has been the subject of multiple independent studies, proving all of the benefits that it claims to have. I’ll talk more about these studies below.

Second, AMP uses a compound called bicarb, the foundation behind its usefulness. When you are pushing yourself in the weight room, on a bike, or on the track, your muscles begin to produce acids that build up and negatively impact performance. Bicarb has been shown to neutralize these acids, promoting the following benefits:

Benefits of AMP

Decreases Muscular Fatigue:I’ve often used lotions to help me recover such as the classic menthol-based cream, but I’ve never found one that was able to help me inside the weight room. AMP has been shown to increase the amount of work you can do while exercising. Studiesshow that it increases intervals completed to exhaustion or muscle failure by up to 25%. This means more repetitions, sets, and volume, and overall better results. 
Reduces Muscle Soreness:AMP has also been shown to decrease muscle sorenessby up to 53%. Delayed-onset muscle soreness can hamper your performance or keep you out of the gym altogether. Being able to decrease soreness enough to get back to training can help you achieve results faster. Personally, I prefer using AMP before and during my workouts. I save the post-workout recovery for Hemp Balm (more on that below).

Improves Overall Performance: Regardless of your sport or activity, performance is everything if you want to improve. AMP has been shown to increase lactate levelsto help fuel muscles by up to 11%. When you exercise, your body begins to build up a compound called lactic acid. At a low to moderate intensity, the body is able to efficiently remove the lactic acid that builds up. But when you exercise at a higher intensity, you produce more lactic acid than the body can remove, resulting in higher levels of lactate in the blood. Lactate has been shown to be a direct energy source for muscle tissue and AMP supports the increase in lactate levels.

What is Hemp Balm?


Hemp Balmis a full spectrum CBD hemp-based lotion that contains no THC. I’m a huge fan of Hemp Balm because it’s sourced exclusively from organically grown hemp, so you don’t have to worry about pesticides. As far as quality, it’s cold-pressed, which helps to preserve the active phytonutrients at their strongest levels. It’s a bit different from AMP in that it is a balm, not a lotion. Both rub into the skin very easily, but a balm is in solidified form.

Benefits of Hemp Balm

Reduces Inflammation:CBD-based products have been getting a lot of attention during the last few years because of their ability to reduce inflammation. One studyfound that CBD lotion helped to alleviate inflammation, arthritis, and pain-related behaviors in rats. Since it’s super concentrated, Hemp Balm has an immediate effect on inflammation post-workout.

Promotes Relaxation: Hemp Balm is an excellent and natural way to promote relaxation. Remember, there’s no THC in this product so you don’t have to worry. The CBD contained within Hemp Balm has been shown to dramatically help those with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in alleviating feelings of anxiety.

Improves Sleep: Continuing with the point above, Hemp Balm is the perfect way to help you get to sleep without a prescription, which is my favorite time to use it. Studiesshow that using CBD-based products have helped those with insomnia return to a normal sleeping schedule. 

My Experience with AMP and Hemp Balm


I use AMP and Hemp Balm as a part of my normal workout schedule. I will use AMP first, always before a workout. If I’m feeling like I need a boost or if my muscles are sorer than usual, I’ll put on more about halfway through my workout. The lotion itself goes on very smooth. AMP doesn’t leave that greasy feeling that I used to get with other lotions. The smell is pleasant; it doesn’t have that over powering or synthetic odor.

With that said, I use AMP pre and intra-workout because of the effect it has on my performance. I notice that I don’t tire as quickly, I’m able to perform more repetitions, and most importantly, I can push harder for those last few repetitions to complete muscle failure. If I haven’t been recovering as well as I normally do, AMP helps to alleviate my muscle soreness during workouts.

Once my workout is finished and I want to focus on recovery and eliminating soreness, I’ll turn to Hemp Balm. Right before I go to bed, I will apply the Hemp Balm to sore places with a focus on the muscle groups I worked that day. It helps me relax and I find that I sleep much better once I use it. When I wake in the morning, my soreness feels dull at the most and it’s gone at best. 

That’s not to say you can’t use AMP as a part of your post-workout recovery routine. In fact, that’s what it’s made for. It’s just I find I get recover better by using AMP early in the day and Hemp Balm at night.

Have Any Questions About AMP and Hemp Balm?


Considering using these products in your performance and recovery routine? Want to know more about AMP and Hemp Balm? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Resistance Bands


Dumbbells and barbells might get the spotlight when it comes to popular fitness equipment, but resistance bands should not be taken lightly. This tough piece of rubber can be made a part of any serious workout regardless of your fitness goals. In fact, resistance bands are particularly useful for fat loss, muscle toning, and making your current exercise routine much more difficult.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of resistance bands, how to use them, and a workout to get you started today.

Benefits of Resistance Bands


Before we jump into how to use resistance bands, let’s talk about why they are a worthwhile investment.

Cost-Effective: For those looking to build a gym on a budget, resistance bands are one of the best investments that you can make. You can easily find an entire set for twenty dollars, but if you want stretch your money further, better brands typically cost around seven to ten dollars per band. The cost isn’t staggering, and the bands will last you many years, not a few months.

Take Them Anywhere: Resistance bands are the most portable piece of fitness equipment that can also help you sculpt your physique. You can literally put your gym in your purse. Since they were made to take a beating, you’ll find that resistance bands can be squashed into any suitcase or bookbag. That means you can continue exercising when you’re traveling for business or pleasure.

Increase Intensity of Normal Exercises: One of my favorite uses for resistance bands involves making traditional exercises more challenging. I do this in one of two ways: First, I use a resistance band during basic compound movements such as bodyweight squats or push-ups. The other way to use resistance bands to upgrade your workout is to attach them to a barbell or dumbbell so that you have an insane eccentric (lowering) pull from the bands. You’ll see this in the workout below when we combine a kettlebell and resistance band.

Ideal for Beginners / Rehabilitation:If you’re new to fitness or if you have to relearn what your body once knew, resistance bands are an excellent option. They are comfortable to use, unlike dumbbells or barbells, which can leave marks and bruises. You can easily select the resistance band that matches your physical ability as you move through foundational exercises.

Lowest Risk of Injury: Continuing with the point above, resistance bands offer the lowest risk of injury compared to all other pieces of fitness equipment. This is important if you’re new to fitness, going through rehabilitation, or elderly with medical restrictions. 

How to Use a Resistance Band



Ready to buy your first set of resistance bands? As soon as you open the box for your bands, you might be a bit confused as to how to use them. Here are the basic instructions for the two most common types of resistance bands: with and without a handle.

Band Only Instructions:


Bands without a handle will look like a big rubber circle. Don’t be intimidated by it. Think of the circle as two points: Point A or the bottom of the band and Point B or the top of the band. Depending on the exercise, you’ll step onto the middle of the band (Point A) or you may attach the band to a chair or other form of support. Point B would be where you put your hands. Let’s use the bodyweight squat as an example:

·      Step into the middle of the band. (Point A)
·      Make sure that your feet are shoulder width apart.
·      Grab on to the top of the band with both hands. (Point B)
·      Extend your hands and the band overhead.
·      Bend at the knees and drive your hips back as you squat down.
·      You’ll feel tension throughout your legs.
·      Pause once your thighs come to parallel or just below parallel.
·      Slowly stand back up, making sure that your hands stay in the air.

Band with Handles Instructions: 


Resistance bands with handles might feel a lot more familiar, especially if you have experience with dumbbells. The same idea applies here in that the middle of the band is Point A, but the individual handles would be Point B. Let’s use another exercise as an example. Here’s the resistance band curl:

·      Hold each handle in one hand.
·      Step on to the middle of the band with both feet.
·      Your feet can be close together but not touching.
·      Keep your arms at your side with your upper arm tight against your ribs.
·      Bend at the elbow and feel the tension in the band.
·      Without moving your upper arm from your side, curl the handle up towards your shoulder.
·      You’ll feel the tension in your bicep muscles.
·      Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting position.

Resistance Band Brand: My Recommendation


If you’re feeling confident about using resistance bands and you’re ready to go shopping, I recommend XD resistance bandsfor your first pair. I’ve been using the XD brand for years and if I have to replace a band, they will be my first choice. Here’s why I love this set of resistance bands: 

Insane Resistance:The XD brand has a variety of resistance bands that range from twenty pounds of resistance all the way to 150 pounds! That’s more than most commercial gyms have on their dumbbell rack. Don’t worry: These aren’t the only numbers. No matter your experience and physical ability, you’ll find a band that’s right for you. 

Super Durable: Despite going through hundreds of client sessions – not to mention my own workouts – my XD resistance bands are still going strong. These things are built tough as nails. I’ve even used them outside in local parks when the weather allows and they still aren’t showing any signs of wear.

Available in Short Length: XD is the only brand of resistance bands that I’ve found that offers shorter length bands. A shorter length band is going to be a life saver for shorter people. Or if you prefer that insane tension without having to wrap up your band, the shorter span is for you.

Resistance Band Workouts


You’ve armed yourself with a sturdy pair of resistance bands, and now all you need is a workout to accompany them. For each of the following exercises, perform between four to six sets of 15 repetitions. Do this workout three or four times per week.



Wrap the middle of your resistance band around a sturdy form of support such as a pole. Take a shoulder-width grip on your band. Stand tall with a tight core and a neutral gaze. Pull the band in towards your chest. Pause for a moment then pull the band apart, increasing the tension in your chest, shoulders, and arms. Bring your hands together and return to the starting position.





Wrap the middle of your resistance band around a sturdy form of support such as a pole. On the ground, turn so that you are held up by your left forearm and left foot. Take the handle of the band in your right hand just above your head. Focusing the tension in your lats, pull the band down and back. Pause and contract the back muscles before slowly extending the band overhead again. Once you finish your 15 repetitions, switch sides so that you are balancing yourself on the right forearm and right foot.





Step into the middle of the band, making sure that your feet are shoulder width apart. Grab on to the top of the band with both hands and extend overhead. Bend at the knees and drive your hips back as you squat down. You’ll feel tension throughout your legs. Pause once your thighs come to parallel or just below parallel. Slowly stand back up and as your knees start to straighten, turn towards the left side. Push your hands in the air then repeat. Alternate the direction upon standing up moving from the left side to center to the right side and back again.





Attach the top of your band to the handle of a kettlebell. Step into the middle of the band, making sure to move your feet to shoulder width and toes pointed out. Stand tall with a tight core. Grab on to the top of the kettlebell with both hands and slowly lift it up towards your shoulders. Pause at the top then slowly lower the kettlebell down, fighting against the eccentric pull from the bands. (This one is going to burn!)


Do You Have Experience with Resistance Bands?


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Do you use resistance bands as a part of your workout? If so, what benefits have you noticed? Are you new to resistance bands? What questions do you have that I can answer so you can get started? Let me know in the comments below!