Friday, September 29, 2006

Strengthening Your Shoulders

Shoulder Press: This exercise is also known as military press. It's perfect for strengthening all the muscles (anterior, medial and posterior) around your shoulder. It can be performed in standing or seated position. Grab a pair of dumbbells or a barbell resting on top of your shoulders. Keep your head, neck, back in natural alignment. Press the weights straight upward over your head and extend your arms. Be careful not to over-extend or lock out your elbows. Then slowly lower the weights with control to the top of your shoulders again. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Lying External Rotation: This exercise is perfect for strengthening your exterior rotator cuff muscle. Lie on your side on the floor. Hold a light weight dumbbell (3 to 10 pounds) in the hand that is not against the floor. Keep your elbow at a 90-degree angle and your upper arm pressed against your body. Lower the dumbbell toward the floor in front of you and rotate upward until the back of your hand points to the ceiling. Then lower the weight back down. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dr. Phil, No More Dieting!

So much for the diet pills and promised weight loss!! "Dr. Phil" McGraw has reached a $10.5 million settlement agreement over his now discontinued Shape Up! diet plan.

The diet industry is a multi-billion dolloar business. It is filled with myths, misconceptions, catchy informercials and gimmicks. Top 10 weight-loss myths are debunked. I said it over and over again. Weight loss requires a combination of healthy lifestyle changes, disciplined exercise habit, and balanced diet and nutrition plan. Certain vitamins, minerals and supplements (for example, anti-oxidants and fatty acid oils) may be helpful if you don't take in enough from meals or have medical problems. Always consult your doctor if you have any doubts, particularly if you're under medications. Some crash diets promise to help you for the short term. But it's not healthy for your long-term overall health. Nothing is better than the safe and proven three-prong approach to successful weight loss and management.

American consumers ought to realize that if the advertizing of weight loss diet plan sounds too good to be true, it's probably so, even endorsed by celebrities. Examine the claims and disclaimers. Read the fine prints. Check the research credibility. Use your common sense. Educate youself. Ultimately it's your money and your health.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Good "Old" Days

Staying healthy and fit is a lifetime commitment. It's not something that you do one day and be done with it for the rest of your life.

Mets player Julio Franco, who just turned 48 and still is able to compete at the highest level of his sport. He is the oldest active player in the major league baseball. He hopes to continue to play until he is 50!

His devotion to a healthy diet and exercise regime earns his reputation. He is disciplined in his eating habits and workouts. Even his 20-something teammates have a hard time keeping up with him in conditioning drills.

It takes a lot work. But he thinks this is the best time of his life. It is about what you put in your body, not about the money.

My salute to a role model.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Crash Dieting?! You're Doomed to Crash.

You probably heard or overheard that some people are on diet all the time. Some look so thin but still try to starve themselves to lose weight (or fat, to be precise). It's always the 5 or 10 pounds from last Holiday or vacation. Some try one type of diet for only one day and another in the next day and complain that they don't work. They never go out of their way to exercise and change their personal lifestyle.

The weight loss industry has grown tremendously in the past ten years. Americans pour in billions of dollars every year in weight loss diet plans, diet pills, supplements and surgery. But Americans just keep getting bigger and bigger. In fact, populations in other countries are also "growing" bigger, too. If all the claims in the advertizements are true, then what goes wrong with American size? Something is missing in the big picture.

The media is brainwashing the consumers with all kinds of diet plans: low-fat, high-fat, high-protein, low-carb, high-carb, Glycemix-index, meal replacements, customized meal plan, group gathering or some of the above. You know people will try to cut corners and create their own version of diet. They'll pick what they like that is not necessarily good or suitable for them. And of course, there are other crash diets that can whack your body out of nutrition balance.

Some diets go in style for a while then some others pick up the fad. They all seem to work in the short term if you can stick to the plan. How many of you know someone that goes on a diet is able to start exercising and commit to lifestyle change for the long term? I bet, not many. Everyone wants a quick fix. I get asked all the time about losing weight. My answers always disappoint many people.

It's one of my training principles not to go on diet. There are better ways to lose fat safely, effectively and permanently. The real secrets to lose fat and build a lean body come from a naturally healthy nutrition plan and a smart, progressive training program as found in Truth about Six Pack Abs Program.

I crossed by an article about crash diets by the diet doctors. The title is very eye-catching and tempting. Yet what in the world does the powerful media want to convey this message to the readers? --- The crash diets and secrets used by the diet doctors work for them so they will work for me, too?? I know the writer talked about disclaimers that not all crash diets are created equal. Juice fasts, cabbage soup plans, and herbal fat-burning pills are still big no-no's --- to which I agree. But the writer still recommended the readers to "consider the less extreme methods used by the nation's top weight loss gurus. Their crash diet and weight maintenance secrets are safe, effective --- and sure to work for you, too." This is all wrong!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Maintain Good Form When Lifting Weight

Walking around in the gym, it's easy to spot people who are huffing, puffing and yelling while jerking off pathetic weight. Many people lift weights that are too much for their training program or workout routine. It's true that one needs to lift heavy to build muscles, but not so heavy as to sacrifice proper form and potentially lead to injuries.

Back injuries are particularly bad with a high relapse rate as they may take a long time to treat and heal. They can even create long-term problems that affect your quality of life if they’re not taken care of correctly. While some exercises for your back are available, it's the proper form to lift weight that you always should be aware of.

So why is it important to maintain good form while lifting weight?

1. Preventing injuries. One of the most important reasons for maintaining proper form is to prevent injuries. If you life a lot of weight, your muscles, joints and tendons are likely to be placed a lot of stress in awkward positions. It could potentially cause strains or tears. It is better to lighten up the weight in order to maintain proper form.

2. Targeting correct muscle. Since many weightlifting exercises are targeted toward specific muscle groups, a lack of good form can cause you to work out a completely different muscle or to strain the muscle you are targeting. Proper form helps target the correct muscle group.

3. Helping maintain proper breathing. Proper breathing is essential in resistance training exercises because it helps you generate more force and reduces the chance of heart problems or severe increases in blood pressure. When you use correct form, you will find it easier to move the air in and out of your lungs, which will also help you focus your attention on the task at hand.

4. Helping lift more weight. In order for you to lift the maximum possible weight, your muscles need to be in the ideal position to generate force. When you begin to move out of alignment, you place your muscles at unnatural angles, decreasing their functional capability. By maintaining proper form, you will be able to lift a larger amount of weight, which will translate into more visible results in a shorter period of time.

5. Reducing unnecessary stabilizing actions. When you use bad form, a number of muscles have to work overtime to stabilize your body and try to prevent an injury from occurring. All these actions eat up available energy and significantly reduce the effectiveness of your exercises. That means more work with less results.

Common Mistakes and Simple Solutions

1. Arching your back during a military press. Think of squeezing your glute muscles while you are lifting the weight over your head. This should help bring your back into alignment and prevent what is commonly called a “sway back” position.

2. Not aligning your feet over your knees during squats. This is a problem that can result in serious knee issues. A good way to prevent this is to always perform your squats in front of a mirror to ensure that you are placing your knees directly over your toes. You must only go down as far as is comfortable for you. If you try to go lower than your joints will allow you, your knees will move out of alignment.

3. Lifting your back off the bench during a bench press. Whenever you lift a large amount of weight, it is a natural action to arch your back, as it feels like it helps you generate more force. While you may feel like you’re stronger, the increased risk of injury is significant. To prevent this from occurring, think of pressing the small of your back against the bench. If you can fit more than the width of your flat hand under your back, you need to lighten the weight. In addition, it is always a good idea to use a spotter for safety precautions during this exercise.

4. Arching your back during bent-over row. Look up a bit while performing the exercise. This will help keep your neck and spine in natural alignment. Also, if you perform it in front of a mirror, you can ensure that a “hump” doesn’t form in your back. Do not "round" your back.

5. Using momentum during biceps curl. This is a very common mistake. Many people try to use the momentum generated by swaying their bodies to help hoist the weights up toward their shoulders. This creates a lot of stress on the shoulder girdle. If the weight is heavy enough, it can even knock you off balance. You will benefit more if you lift a lighter weight and isolate the bicep muscle. To reduce your chances of using momentum, perform the exercise while sitting on a bench or standing with your back against a wall.

If you have been experiencing any unusual pain lately, you might want to take a good look at your form during your weightlifting exercises. There is a good chance that you are falling out of proper alignment.

Resource: Essentials of Exercise Physiology. (2000). McArdle, W., Katch, F. & Katch, V.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Preventive and Strengthening Exercises for Your Back

Back Raise: This exercise will help strengthen all your erector spinae (lower back) muscles. They help support you while you're doing major lifts. Lie down on your stomach with your legs straight and your arms above head. Slowly lift your chest off the floor using your lower-back muscles and hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then lower slowly. Do 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Stiff-legged Deadlift: This great exercise for your back muscles also targets your hamstrings. Place a barbell or a pair of dumbbells in front of your feet. Bend at the waist (hips) and grab the weight with an overhand grip. Keep your back as naturally straight (natural spinal alignment) as possible. Avoid rounding your back by tilting your head and looking up a bit. Then contract your hamstrings and slowly move your upper body straight up to a standing position. Lower again. Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Abdominal Crunches/Curl-ups: Doing this exercise on a ball helps strength your core and helps prevent back injuries. Lie on top of an exercise ball (a.k.a. Swiss Ball, Physio Ball) with the small of your back over its center. Keep your hands near your ears and use your abdominal muscles to curl your upper body up to about 45 degrees with a smooth and slow motion by 2 to 4 seconds. Contract your abdominal muscles and hold the position for 1 to 2 seconds. Then return to the starting position slowly with control by 2 to 4 seconds. Avoid stressing your neck by tucking in your chin and looking up a bit. Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps.

Click here to see more exercises for your lower back.

The information provided here is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor or other health care professionals. Any liabilities are disclaimed for the decisions you make based on this information.

Quick Tips to Stay Fit and Healthy

Strength Training: Try doing 3 sets of 12 reps for each major muscle group one to three times a week. Adding lean muscle mass is the best way to boost your metabolism and melt the fat. Every pound of muscle burns extra calories even if you're just sitting around doing nothing.

Cardio: Mix up your cardiovascular exercises with short/hard, moderate and long/easy sessions with various activities such as walking, jogging, running, swimming, biking, dancing and kickboxing or anything you like. Even house-cleaning and mall-walking count.

Nutrition: Eat 5 to 6 small meals and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Eat a balanced proportion of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and essential fats in the three major meals while eating healthy snacks in between.

Rest: Fully rest one to two days each week from your busy workdays and hard workouts. It's not a luxury, but a necessity. We need proper rest for our body to recover and repair from daily wear and tear, mentally and physically.

Win the Holiday Party: Don't skip meals. You can actually snack a bit with protein sources before going to the party so that you feel satisfied and less likely to binge. Also control your alcohol consumption, particularly calorie-loaded beverages.

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