Dr. Phil Shares: How to Avoid 10 of the Most Common Workout Mistakes

How to Avoid 10 of the Most Common Workout Mistakes

Designer water bottles. Pre- and post-workout supplements. Two-hundred-dollar shoes!

When you’re new to exercise, sometimes the hardest part isn’t the workout itself—it’s all the details around it. So many ways to go astray.

That’s why we asked six fitness and nutrition experts for their tips to avoid some of the most common workout mistakes. From what you should be eating before a workout to what you should be wearing, dodging these fitness fails won’t just make you look like a pro, it’ll make your workout routine more effective, too.

1. Wearing the Wrong Shoes

“There are different shoe types for a reason. Tennis demands a lot of side-to-side movement, running on a trail requires [enhanced stability and grip], and you’ll probably be doing some vertical jumping when you play basketball. If you’re wearing training shoes with little to no support when you’re running around a tennis court, you’re more likely to get an injury in your foot or ankle. Getting the right type of shoe for your sport will help you stay with it for much longer.”Alicia Clinton, Ohio-based ACE personal trainer and Pilates instructor

2. Wearing the Wrong Clothes

This tip is my own, as it’s one workout mistake I learned the hard way. Wearing baggy cotton T-shirts and sweats seems like a great idea (you get to hide your body, and hey, they’re comfy!), but there’s a reason everyone else in yoga class is wearing technical fabrics: cotton holds sweat close to your body. Technical fabrics wick it away.

You don’t have to buy anything that’s form-fitting or expensive, but wearing clothes made from technical fabrics engineered for exercise instead of pajamas or old sweats will help you be more comfortable. And, if you feel good, you’ll be more likely to stick with your workout routine.

3. Pushing Your Body Past It’s Limits

This one sounds like a big “duh,” but it’s surprising how many people get into a gym for the first time in months (or years) and attack the cardio machines or weight rack like their hiatus never happened

Take a knee, champ.

“When you’re just beginning a workout routine, it’s important to know that your body needs time to adjust to your new activity level. With time, our bodies can become quite well-adapted (to any routine), but the key for long-term success—physically and mentally—is to start small and work toward your goal. Injuries can happen if you go all out right away, which in turn can lead to feelings of frustration that don’t help your cause.” —Clinton

4. Not Hydrating Properly

Everyone knows they’re supposed to stay hydrated. But a lot of people don’t know how to do it right.

A good way to gauge how much water you need is by weighing yourself. Check your weight before and after you work out, and replace that loss. So if you weighed 150 before you started your CORE DE FORCE workout, and you weigh 149 afterwards, drink 16 ounces of water. For endurance athletes or during extreme exercise of 30 minutes or more when you’re sweating a lot, use that same fluid requirement but include electrolytes—the best is a low-sugar option like Beachbody Hydrate.

“If you’re doing something like a 30-minute walk, you don’t need any of this. If you go on a 30-minute run [or do an intense 30-minute workout], you might need that extra hydration. And if you’re taking a 105-degree hot yoga class, you need to replenish fluids and electrolytes.” Paige Benté, MS, RD, nutrition manager at Beachbody

5. Not Timing Your Workouts with Your Eating Habits

Would you take your car out on a long road trip without first filling up the tank? Of course you would! That’s why you have to bum everybody out 20 minutes after leaving by pulling over to stop at Gas-N-Cigs. In the gym, this is just as big of a choke.

“You want to make sure you have enough fuel to support your workout. At least an hour before, have a small snack with easy-to-digest carbs. When in doubt, reach for a piece of fruit or veggies and hummus—something that will sit light in your stomach.” Olivia Wagner, Chicago-based RDN, LDN, personal trainer and certified health coach

And don’t forget to eat after your workout, too. You need to give your muscles the nutrients they need to grow and repair, and if you’re doing endurance work, you also need to replenish your glycogen stores.

How to Avoid 10 of the Most Common Workout Mistakes

6. Ignoring the Importance of Diet in General

You’ve likely heard the adage “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” It’s true, so heed the advice to avoid one of the most common workout mistakes. If your eating habits aren’t aligned with your fitness goals, you’ll never hit them. Step one in upgrading your diet is to reduce your consumption of added sugar (according to the government’s new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, such foods should comprise no more than 10 percent of your diet).

“Many active people eat too many carbs—especially simple carbs like sugar—and don’t pay nearly enough attention to fat and protein. Make sure every meal contains a balance of protein, fat, and fiber. Neglecting these suggestions will yield poor blood sugar control, higher insulin levels, increased fat storage, and decreased fat burning.”- Bob Seebohar, M.S., R.D., CSSD, C.S.C.S., a sport dietitian and owner and founder of eNRG Performance

Want to make things easy on yourself? Beachbody’s Portion Fix containers make it simple to figure out how much you should eat of different food types, helping you to consume just the right amount of protein, veggies, carbs, and more, depending on your body type and goals.

7. Only Focusing on the Muscles You Can See

In the pursuit of head turning muscles, many people focus only on those they can see in the mirror—pecs, shoulders, arms, and abs. Since most people are already “anterior dominant”—meaning they more frequently use the muscles on the front of their bodies—such one-sided training often worsens existing postural and performance issues.

“Overemphasizing the front side of your body can lead to muscular imbalances, a hunched posture, and an increased risk of injury.” – Yunus Barisik, C.S.C.S., author of the blog, Next Level Athletics

To balance your upper body, perform two pulling exercises (chin-up, row) for every pushing exercise, such as the overhead press or bench press. To balance your lower body, perform two sets of hamstring-dominant exercises, like the deadlift or kettlebell swing, for every set of a quad-dominant exercise, like the squat or lunge. After a few months (read: once your posture and musculature balance out), you can switch to one-to-one ratios, says Barisik.

8. Skipping the Warm-Up and Cool-Down

It’s great that you’re excited to get to your workout, but a warm-up shouldn’t be optional. Before you jump into beast mode, take a few minutes to get your body ready for an intense workout with an active warm-up that includes dynamic (movement based) stretching, which can help improve performance and prevent injury.

Once you finish the final rep at the end of your workout, cool down with a few minutes of stretching, foam rolling, or both. “Warming up before a workout will help your muscles be ready to work harder and faster, and getting stretches in after a workout as you cool down will help accelerate recovery.” — Clinton

9. Skipping Recovery Days

If you think recovery days are only for the weak, think again. They’re actually a crucial part any fitness regime.

“Our bodies, like our minds, need rest. Just like we go to sleep every night, we need time to relax our bodies. Exercise is stressful, and if we don’t allow ourselves to recover—no matter how well we’re eating or exercising—we’re not going to get stronger.” —Wagner

“Muscles don’t grow during workouts, they grow between them. That’s one of the primary reasons why recovery days are just as important as workout days–the latter provides the stimulus for growth, and the former provides the opportunity for it to happen. Also, if you never give your body sufficient time to recover, not only will your workout performance suffer, but you’ll also shortchange your results and increase your odds of injury.” – Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S, senior fitness and nutrition content manager at Beachbody

10. Doing the Same Workout All the Time

After searching tirelessly for a mode of exercise you actually enjoy, it can be a relief to finally find the right one. But beware! Comfort can be the enemy of progress. Doing the same exact workout all the time, whether that’s running the same route at the same pace or always going to the same yoga class, doesn’t give your body the variety it needs to change and improve. You need to incorporate periodization (strategic variation) into your training plan to keep your results coming.

“The reason why most people see their results stagnate is that they do the same one or two workouts day after day, week after week, month after month, and even year after year. That’s why Beachbody programs include multiple different workouts, and don’t last longer than 90 minutes.” – Thieme

In search of a workout that can help you reach your goals and lead to your dream results? Head over to Beachbody On Demand for tons of options, including everything from sweat-inducing HIIT workouts to low-impact yoga classes to muscle-building strength programs.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: How to Get Better at Push-Ups

How to Get Better at Push-Ups

In theory, push-ups seem simple enough – lower your body to the ground, then push it back up. Easy!

But we all know that’s far from the truth. Especially if you’re not naturally blessed with the strength to do strict-form push-ups, it can seem nearly impossible to do this move with perfect form.

Thankfully, there are a few exercises you can do to get better at push-ups.

What Muscles Do Push-ups Work?

It’s well worth your while to learn to master this move, even if it seems a little out of reach at first. That’s because the benefits of push-ups are numerous.

Push-ups work many key muscles of the upper body, including the arms, pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders), the triceps, and also the core.

Because of this, the push-up is an evergreen fitness movement that’s done everywhere from the gym to the army barracks, and it’s not going away any time soon.

If you’re struggling to even do a single push-up, all hope is not lost. With some time, effort, and a little creativity, you can push your way to success.

Follow the guide below to kick your push-up strength up to the next level, whether you’re a beginner or you just want to improve and build more strength.

How to Do a Push-Up

Before you can get better at push-ups, you first have to know how to do a proper strict form push-up (that’s just a normal push-up).

Follow these cues to learn how to do a push-up with perfect form:

• Your feet should be together and your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width.

• Throughout the movement, your head and hips should be in alignment with your spine, and your body should form a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Clench your glutes and brace your core to lock your body into position.

• When you lower yourself down, keep your elbows tucked close to your body. They should form a 45-degree angle to your torso when viewed from above.

• In the lowest position of the move, your chest should be about a few inches from the floor.

• As you come up, your shoulders and torso shouldn’t twist, and the weight of your upper body should be evenly distributed between your two hands.

Once you’ve perfected the proper push-up form, the next step is to figure out what your push-up level is.

Drop down and knock out as many reps as you can using the proper form, then use your “max reps” score to determine your level.

Can’t do any? No problem – start at level one which is the first section below.

Managed to do a few? That’s great! You’ll find the most use out of the exercises described in levels two and three.

Feel like you could do an endless number of push-ups? Check out level four for some push-up variations that are sure to challenge you.

You don’t need to do push-ups every day to get results–start by performing these of these variations a few times a week on nonconsecutive days to help you get better at push-ups. Good luck!

How to Get Better at Push-Ups

If you can’t do any push-ups, try incline push-ups and push-up static holds

If you can’t do a single strict-form pushup, try the move with your hands elevated at least 12 inches on a sturdy bench, box, or table.

These are known as incline push-ups, and they’re a great type of push up for beginners. The higher the surface, the easier the move.

You can even do them with your hands braced against a wall. Perform three sets, resting a minute between sets. When you can do three sets of 10 reps at a given height, lower your hands and repeat the process.

How to Get Better at Push-Ups - Hands Elevated

Next, practice the straight-arm plank: After your workout, hold the top position of the pushup with perfect form as long as you can.

Work up to holding it for 30 seconds to one minute.

How to Get Better at Push-Ups - Plank

Once you can do three or more push-ups with your hands on the floor level and you can hold a straight-arm plank for at least 30 seconds, it’s time to move on to the next level.

If you can do three to six push-ups, try low-rep sets and negative reps

You’re getting stronger! Here’s what you should do to keep improving. On workout days, drop and bang out a few push-ups, stopping a couple of reps shy of your max (which might mean just doing one push-up each “set”).

Do this up to a dozen times, either in straight-set fashion (resting 30-60 seconds between sets), throughout your workout or during the day at random intervals.

On those same days, practice negative reps: Take 10 to 20 seconds to lower yourself from the top position of the movement to the floor, using perfect form.

Drop all the way down to the floor, come back up to the plank position, and repeat, for a total of three slow reps.

How to Get Better at Push-Ups - Negative Reps

If you can do seven to 10 push-ups, try low-to-mid reps

Your push-up skills are getting impressive! What’s likely holding you back from higher numbers now is the “sticking point” at the bottom of the movement.

To fix it, do three sets of regular pushups, stopping a rep or two shy of failure.

Then do a set of low-to-mid reps, where you go repeatedly from the lowest position (chest a few inches from the floor) to the midpoint (chest halfway between the floor and the top of the position), again stopping a few reps shy of failure.

How to Get Better at Push-Ups - Low to Mid Reps

If you can do 15 or more push-ups, try decline push-ups, banded push-ups, spiderman push-ups, and plyo push-ups

You’re a pro! But that doesn’t mean you should abandon this great move. Now it means that you should try to master different types of push-ups instead of just strict form.

Continue to improve and challenge yourself with these four push-up variations.

Feet-elevated push-up: Perform a push-up with your feet raised on a box, bench, or short table). The higher the surface, the more difficult the move. These are called decline push-ups.

How to Get Better at Push-Ups - Feet Elevated

Banded push-up: perform a push-up holding the ends of an exercise band, with the elastic looped across your back for added resistance.

How to Get Better at Push-Ups - Banded

Spiderman push-up: starting in a plank position, swing your right leg out sideways to bring your right knee to your right elbow as you bend your arms down so your chest is within a few inches of the floor.

Push back up as you return to the starting plank position and repeat with your left leg. Continue alternating.

How to Get Better at Push-Ups - Spiderman

Plyo push-up: keeping your elbows tucked, lower your torso until your chest is within a few inches of the floor.

Then, push up with enough force for your hands to leave the ground while keeping your body straight. Land softly, and transition immediately into your next rep.

How to Get Better at Push-Ups - Plyo

 

 

How to Get Better at Push-Ups

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: What Is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?

Ask the Expert: What Is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?

You’ve likely heard this advice countless times in one form or another, but that doesn’t make it any less true: The best time of day to exercise is when you have the most energy and motivation — in short, when you’re most likely to do it.

Sure, there are studies that extol the benefits of exercising at specific times (more on that in a bit), but as long as you’re smart about how you exercise, any kind of workout (cardio, HIIT, weightlifting, etc.) can be performed at any time of day and produce results.

In fact, scheduling your workout for the time of day that works best for you will almost always produce the most dramatic results, because it increases your odds of maximizing the most important workout variable of all: exercise adherence. Simply put, the more consistently you work out, the more likely you are to see results.

That said, if you’re flexible and don’t have a preferred workout time, you can potentially achieve your goals faster by scheduling your workouts strategically.

Potential benefits of morning workouts: Greater weight loss through improved fat burning.
Potential benefits of afternoon/evening workouts: Improved aerobic performance and faster strength gains.

When Is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?

The best time to work out is when you WILL work out. That might seem obvious, but the significance of that advice can’t be overstated. Why? Because workout consistency is the most important variable of all when it comes to achieving any fitness goal.

That means that if you’re a night owl, work out at night. Morning person? Work out first thing in the morning… you get my drift. Any time you’re in the mood to really “Bring It” will work because, by far, the biggest physiological changes happen to your body when you push yourself further than you’ve pushed yourself before. There’s a reason the P90X mantra is “Bring It”: The closer you get to putting in 100 percent effort, the more you force your body into an adaptive state, which is exactly where it needs to be in order to change.

While temporal “nitpicking” can help make your fitness journey easier — lifting weights in the evening might be slightly more beneficial for building strength than doing so in the morning, for example — it can also work against you if you get too wrapped up in it. Exercise and healthy eating will always trump all other advice. I’ve seen every excuse in the book, including: “I missed my optimal window for training so I skipped today’s workout.” Don’t let this happen. Unless you’re injured, sick, or overtrained, exercising is better than not exercising, so always schedule your workout when you have the best chance of getting it done.

But if you enjoy nitpicking, and have a flexible schedule and no preference for AM or PM workouts, read on for the three best times to work out, depending on your goal

1. When your glycogen stores are full

Best for: Boosting aerobic performance, especially endurance
Best time: Late morning, afternoon, and early evening

Your body can push itself longer and harder aerobically if you begin your workout with a full tank of muscle and liver glycogen, which is the stored form of your body’s primary fuel, glucose.

Glycogen is replenished by carbohydrates, and is extinguished very quickly through exercise, brain activity, and most other tasks. This means it fluctuates throughout the day and is always highest in the hours after you digest a meal containing carbohydrates. As a result — and depending on your eating schedule — your body is probably primed for peak exercise in the late morning, afternoon, or early evening.

At night, your body can store glycogen, meaning that it’s possible to wake up and train in the morning before you’ve eaten and still have enough energy to get through a workout, but that is a theoretical scenario. Most of us, especially when we’re training hard and not eating a ton, will burn through glycogen recovering from the prior day’s activities.

The result is that those early morning workouts can lead to something called “the bonk,” which is what happens when your body runs out of glycogen. Essentially, you lose the ability to push your aerobic envelope, and you feel like you’ve hit a wall.

Bonking is not one of those “good pain” times, but it’s inevitable that it will happen to you at some point. When it does, don’t try to push through. Instead, cut your losses and get on the recovery program by eating, resting, and then reevaluating your eating schedule and/or choice of workout times.

If exercising when your glycogen stores are low (e.g., in the morning) is the only time of day available, you can fix the situation nutritionally. Eat a half (or even a whole) banana, or have a cup of watered down juice before you work out. That will boost the levels of glucose in your blood, so you won’t have to tap into your glycogen stores as much. Alternatively, you can try to top off those stores by adding an extra serving of complex carbohydrates to your evening meal. If neither strategy works (you’ll know if it doesn’t — bonking isn’t subtle), it means you’re on a nutritional edge and you aren’t eating enough total daily calories to recover from your workouts. It’s time to reevaluate your daily caloric intake.

2. When your stomach is empty

Best for: Burning fat and losing weight
Best time: Morning

In the morning, before you’ve eaten, your body is more likely to tap fat stores for energy during aerobic workouts, and you can train your body to become more efficient at doing so, which is cool. You’re also “burning fat,” which sounds even cooler. While fantastic in theory, it’s not so fun in practice if you force your body into a situation where you bonk.

You won’t bonk, however, unless you’re training at a very high intensity or running or cycling for a very long distance. This means low-intensity workouts can have added benefits if done in the morning on an empty stomach. This is why in programs like P90X Doubles, we scheduled the lowest-intensity workout of the day for the morning.

In the case of P90X Doubles, however, that lower-intensity morning workout is a strength session, and thus requires additional nutritional steps to optimize recovery. The reason is that your body doesn’t store protein, so if you strength train before you “breakfast,” you’ll put your body into a catabolic (breakdown) state, which, as you might imagine, is less than optimal for building muscle. Fortunately, it’s easy to reverse the situation: have a protein shake, like Beachbody Performance Recover, or a protein-rich meal within a half hour of completing your workout.

Here are two more weight-loss advantages of an AM workout: It can decrease your appetite and inspire you to be more physically active throughout the day, according to a study at Brigham Young University in Utah. What’s more, sweating early in the day can improve the duration and quality of your sleep later on, according to researchers at Appalachian State University. That’s important because adequate sleep (more than 8 hours a night) is associated with greater fat loss if you’re trying to slim down.

3. When your body temperature peaks

Best for: Building strength
Best time: Late afternoon/evening

Your body temperature drops while you sleep, which is one reason you might wake up stiff and lacking flexibility. The discs between your vertebrae also fill with fluid as you slumber, making them more susceptible to injury first thing in the morning. Either way, it’s best to wait at least an hour after waking before you start pumping iron or doing exercises that require you to flex your spine (e.g., crunches), especially if you suffer from back pain. And if you can wait to work out until later in the day, all the better.

Here’s why: Your body temperature climbs throughout the day, peaking between 4:00 and 6:00 PM. As it rises, so too does muscle strength and power, according to a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. What’s more, Scottish researchers report that exercise-induced increases in testosterone production are greatest in the late afternoon and early evening.

In sum, if you’re looking to maximize strength gains, it’s best to schedule your workout for after work, or even during your lunch hour, rather than trying to cram it in before you leave for the office. But there’s always a “but,” and in this case, it has to do with a principle known as “temporal specificity,” which states that your body will adapt to be strongest at the time of day during which you normally train. So while you might initially benefit from late afternoon strength workouts, you’re better off scheduling those workouts for (you guessed it) whenever they’re most convenient for you.

Is It OK to Exercise Before Bed?

Unless it is really the only time you will work out or the only time you feel the best, you should probably avoid it. The reason is that working out directly before bed can affect your sleep.

Most people have a hard time getting to sleep after a workout because exercise can throw off your melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, among other things. This isn’t ideal because sleep is very important for recovery. It’s when your body naturally produces most of its own performance-enhancing drugs in the form of hormones. If possible, eliminate anything that hurts your ability to sleep.

Exercise also requires a lot of nutrients, which are further depleted at night. If you’re on a strict diet, perhaps trying to lose weight, you run further risk by training and then not eating to recover from the workout prior to bed. If you’re on a low-calorie diet and plan to train hard at night, you should follow your workout with a nutritional recovery strategy, such as Beachbody Performance Recharge or a small meal before going to sleep.

I’m not the norm, so I’ll play the counterpoint to my point as I can fall asleep (and often sleep much better) immediately after a very hard workout. If you’re like me, there’s nothing wrong with training at night. Just follow nutritional protocols that don’t leave you depleted and starving when you wake up. I’ve done this and it can be so severe that you wake up in the middle of the night, a common issue with bodybuilders and fitness trainers getting ready for competition. This is not ideal as it means your body is essentially bonking during sleep. And while that’s okay if your goal is to pose in front of a crowd with absurdly low body fat, like a bodybuilder, it’s also a sign of starvation and, if done too long, will cause your body to begin to shut down its metabolic processes.

The bottom line is that everyone’s body responds differently. We all need to exercise and most of us can eat better. In between are a lot of individual variables. When it comes to getting your best possible workout, psychology often trumps physiology. Exercise when you can and pay close attention to your performance. Then choose your preferred workout time based on your results. It’s really that simple.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: 13 Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Weightlifting Program

13 Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Weightlifting Program

Weightlifting is straightforward in theory (you just, erm…lift weights, right?). But it’s a bit more complicated in practice. As a beginner to weightlifting, it’s confusing (not to mention intimidating) to figure out which muscles to target, how much to lift, and how often to work out. How are you supposed to know where to even begin with finding a good weightlifting program?

Although it might seem daunting at first, the benefits of lifting weights far outweigh any hurdles you might have to getting started. William P. Kelley, C.S.C.S, ATC, says some major benefits of weightlifting include improved strength, bone density, and heart health. Studies even suggest that it can help keep your brain sharp, as well as increase energy levels and decrease stress.

Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody’s senior manager of fitness and nutrition content, notes that lifting weights is also an effective way to lose weight: “Weightlifting can help you lose fat faster than steady state cardio because it keeps your metabolism elevated for longer post workout,” he explains. “The result is that it helps you burn more total calories.”

But before you get to enjoy all the benefits of lifting weights, you first have to get started. The first step? Creating smart goals.

What Are Your Weightlifting Goals?

“Goal-setting is critical to guiding your weightlifting path,” Kelley says. Before you even choose a weightlifting program, consider what you want to get out of it. Are you training for a specific event, for general health, or with aesthetics in mind? Do you want to lose weight, build strength, pack on muscle, or achieve a combination of any or all three of those goals?

“Each objective requires a different strategy, and by identifying your goal or goals, you can identify the most effective training program to achieve it,” Thieme says. The tips below will help you do that.

If you need some extra guidance to help you get started, check out Beachbody On Demand’s weightlifting programs, like Body Beast (which focuses on muscle building) and A Week of Hard Labor (an intense, five-day weightlifting routine). Both programs can help you achieve the lean, muscular physique you’ve always dreamed of building. (See the results for yourself!)

13 Common Questions About Starting a Weightlifting Program

These 13 questions and answers will give you the information you need to start lifting weights, including basic training tips and mistakes to avoid.

1. What equipment do I need for a weightlifting program?

If you’re starting an at-home weightlifting program, dumbbells are a necessity — but having just a single pair may not cut it.

Thieme says you need different weights to effectively challenge different muscle groups. Your legs should be able to handle heavier weights than your triceps, for example. That’s why he recommends investing in a pair of selectorized (AKA adjustable) dumbbells (like this set of Bowflex dumbbells). “A single pair of dumbbells can replace an entire dumbbell rack, saving you hundreds of dollars—not to mention lots of floor space,” he says.

A bench is another useful piece of equipment for developing overall strength and power, Kelly says, although you could get by without one if you’re short on space.

Weightlifting program - equiptment

2. How much weight should I lift?

“You should always lift the heaviest amount of weight that allows you to complete all of your reps and sets for all of the exercises in your workout,” Thieme says.

If you can’t maintain proper form for the last several reps of an exercise, go lighter. If you can breeze through your reps with the last few feeling as comfortable as the first few, go heavier. The key to achieving muscle growth is to find your sweet spot, which in this case means a weight that challenges you without forcing you to sacrifice good form.

3. How many reps and sets should I do for each weightlifting exercise?

First, consider your weightlifting goals. “If you want increased strength, you should do from two to six reps per set. For hypertrophy [muscle growth] do eight to 12 reps. And for endurance, do 15 to 20 reps,” Kelley says.

As for sets, Thieme says it’s important to do multiple sets of each exercise, no matter your goal. Three sets per exercise is generally a good number, but don’t lock yourself into that. As long as you’re doing at least two and not more than five or six, you’re good. And if you want to increase your strength, build bigger muscles, and improve your muscular endurance, regularly vary the number of reps and sets you do.

“Optimal muscle growth occurs when you target both of the major muscle fiber types—I and II—and the best way achieve that is by lifting across the entire rep spectrum,” says Thieme. “Incorporate both heavy weight/low rep sets and light weight/high rep sets in your training program.”

4. Should I focus on one or two body parts a day, or do full-body workouts every time?

Both are effective strategies for packing on muscle. “The key is to work each body part or muscle group at least twice a week,” says Thieme, who suggests alternating between the two training strategies. “Do split training for two or three months, and then do total body training for two or three months.”

Your schedule is also a determining factor, Kelley notes. “If you can only work out two to three times per week, then a total body lifting program may be more efficient,” he says.

5. How many days per week should I lift weights?

How often you lift weights comes down to your goals and schedule as well, Kelley says. (Doe we sound like a broken record yet?)

“The ratio of exercise to recovery days that maximizes results and minimizes injury and overtraining risks depends largely on your current fitness level and the type, intensity, and duration of your workouts,” Thieme says. He recommends lifting a minimum of two days a week a maximum of six days.

6. Do I need to take rest days during a weightlifting program?

Yes! Giving yourself a day off from training is crucial to your weightlifting success. “Lifting days are where you [purposefully] damage muscle tissue,” Kelley says, while “rest/recovery days are when muscles repair and rebuild.” Both days are needed to become stronger.

If you don’t give yourself sufficient recovery time, you’ll sabotage your workout performance and hinder your results. “Training adaptations don’t happen during workouts, they happen between them, making recovery days just as important as training days,” says Thieme. “What people often forget is that, when it comes to exercise, more isn’t always better. You have to give your body the time it needs to respond to the training stimulus that each workout provides.”

How often you should take a recovery day depends on your fitness level, primary exercise type and intensity, age, and sleep habits, but a good rule of thumb is to take one or two rest/recovery days a week.

If you feel energized on your designated rest days, Kelley recommends active recovery activities, which facilitate blood flow to your muscles without overloading them. Yoga and light cardio (e.g., an easy jog, leisurely bike ride, or short hike) are good options. Also, don’t limit warm-up and cool-down activities to warm-ups and cool-downs. Perform dynamic stretching and foam rolling every day, regardless of whether or not you’re working out.

Weightlifting program - working out

7. How do I avoid a muscle-building plateau?

There are numerous factors that contribute to muscle growth, but the key to achieving consistent gains is to regularly increase the challenge to your muscles, Kelley says. “By increasing the stress on a muscle through a principle called ‘progressive overload,’ you illicit changes in that muscle, including greater size, greater contraction force, and improved motor recruitment,” he explains.

Lifting progressively heavier weights isn’t the only way to do that. “Other ways to achieve progressive overload include decreasing the rest periods between sets, performing more complex exercise variations, and switching up the exercises you do,” says Thieme. “Even changing up your grip (e.g., from underhand to neutral) can increase the challenge to your muscles and trigger fresh growth.”

8. Can I do my weightlifting program and still do cardio and other workouts?

The short answer: yes. But you need to be strategic about it. “If your focus is weightlifting, then you should use cardio as a form of ‘active recovery,’” says Thieme.

If you do a heavy weightlifting session one day, and then go for an easy run the next, you can actually enhance your recovery (and results) from the weightlifting session by boosting blood flow—and the vital nutrient delivery and waste removal services it provides. “But a heavy weightlifting workout followed by a long, hard run or HIIT session the next day can do more harm than good,” says Thieme.

If you don’t allow your body sufficient time to recover between intense workouts, the only thing you’ll achieve is an increased risk of burnout and injury.

9. Will weightlifting make me bulky?

Lifting weights can cause men to become bulky if they focus solely and intensely on bodybuilding or pure strength training, Thieme explains, but this is rarely the case for women. Why? Genetics.

Men typically have a higher percentage of type II muscle fibers, which are bigger and have a higher growth potential than type I fibers. Plus, men produce more testosterone, which is critical for muscle building. “Women do not produce testosterone at high enough levels naturally to get bulky,” Kelley says, even if they’re lifting heavy amounts of weight. That said, a woman can still increase her muscle size through weightlifting if that’s her goal. “Studies also show that while most women can’t build as much muscle as most men, they can achieve similar increases in strength,” says Thieme.

10. How do I make sure I’m lifting with proper form?

Practicing correct weightlifting form is key to preventing injury and getting the results you want. The best way to guarantee good form? “Utilize a fitness professional [like a trainer] until you feel safe and confident in the staple lifts of your program,” Kelley says.

If you’re working out on Beachbody On Demand, pay attention to the trainers as they explain the correct starting stance, movement pattern, and key form points for each exercise, as well as which muscles to engage during the moves. Having a friend observe you can also help you keep your form on point.

Weightlifting program - proper form

11. How long should I follow a weightlifting program?

In general, Kelley recommends maintaining a specific weightlifting program for three to five weeks before you mix it up. “This gives the muscles time to adapt and grow in the current program; then, just as they acclimate, you tweak the program slightly to keep progressing,” he explains.

Perhaps more important than the timeline, however, is paying attention to the way your routine makes you feel. “If you haven’t increased the weight you’re lifting after a few weeks, or if you’ve noticed a significant drop in your motivation, it’s time to switch things up,” Thieme says.

Of course, if you follow a professionally designed program, like you’ll find on Beachbody On Demand, knowing when to switch things up isn’t even a concern. “Such variation is built into the program, eliminating the stress and guesswork for you,” says Thieme.

12. What should I eat before and after a workout to maximize my performance?

Before a weightlifting workout, focus on carbs, which will help top off your energy stores. The key is to choose something that you can digest before you start exercising. A piece of fruit is a good choice if you have 30 minutes or less until you work out. If your workout is still an hour out, our go-to recommendation is a piece of whole grain toast with nut butter.

Post-workout, the most important factor is protein, which can help facilitate muscle growth and speed recovery, Thieme says. Aim for 20 grams of fast-absorbing protein (like whey) within 30 minutes of exercising. A protein supplement such as Beachbody Performance Recover makes that easy.

13. How do I know if my weightlifting program is working?

To get the most accurate and objective measure of progress, Kelley suggests recording your workouts and tracking the numbers. “If you can increase the weight you lift by five percent—or the number of reps you perform at the same weight by two reps—each week (or two), you know you are increasing strength in that specific move and group of muscles,” he explains.

Other signs your weightlifting program is working include increased appetite and physical changes like fat loss, increases in muscle size, and greater muscle definition. You can track this data by recording it in a journal or taking before and after pictures. If you don’t see signs of progress within four to six weeks of starting your weightlifting program, you may need to reassess your workout routine to see what’s going wrong.

BY:

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: 5 Tips To Avoid Muscle Soreness

5 Tips To Avoid Muscle Soreness

One of the most enduring myths in fitness is that soreness is a sign of a good workout—an indication that you not only crushed it, but that your body is also transforming as a result. The reality, however, is that soreness and workout quality are largely unrelated. Indeed, it likely just means that you pushed yourself a little too hard, or that you’re trying something new.

Of course, that reality also makes exercised induced muscle soreness incredibly normal and exceedingly common. Nearly everyone will experience it at some point on their fitness journey, and many people find it invigorating as long as it doesn’t become debilitating.

That’s where the tips in this article come in. We can’t guarantee that they’ll allow you to avoid the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) monster altogether, but they can help you ditch the “no pain, no gain” mantra for good.

What Is Muscle Soreness?

Intense exercise can cause micro-tears in your muscle tissue, and that leads to delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. This typically develops 12 to 24 hours after a tough workout, and can linger two or three days. The most common symptoms of DOMS include slight swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the affected joints, and increased tenderness and reduced strength in the affected muscles.

How to Prevent Muscle Soreness:

1. Pick the correct workout program

The more you push yourself, the greater your chances of getting sore. The right program—or a trainer/coach—will ease you into exercise at a pace that your body can handle. But, you know, whatever works for your psyche is probably what you’re going to choose. And that’s okay. Just be honest with yourself, and follow the rules below if you know you’re biting off a little more than you can chew.

How to Prevent (and Relieve) Muscle Soreness

2. Start SLOW

It’s very tempting to begin an exercise program with a lot of enthusiasm, but try your best to go at a reasonable pace. If you’ve never exercised before, or if it has been a long time since you have, go much easier than you feel you are capable of on day one, and ramp things up based on how you feel after each successive workout. If you’re not sore, go a little harder the next day. If you’re a little sore, take it down a notch. If you’re very sore, then there are some steps you can take to mitigate the soreness.

If you’ve been exercising, but it’s been more than a week since you last worked out, follow the same pattern but go harder based on how fit you are. A good example to use here would be to start with about half of the workout (e.g., the warm-up, cool down, and one round of exercises). When you have a better fitness base, you can advance a little faster than if you were starting from square one. In general, take about a week to get back to giving 100 percent effort. This is also the example you want to use if you’ve been training and have taken some time off.

If you’ve been exercising, but are starting a new program, base how hard you push yourself on how much advancement there is in your program. For example, if you’ve been doing INSANITY and you’re moving into INSANITY: THE ASYLUM or P90X, you can probably give it your 100 percent (although you might want to be cautious about how much weight you begin with). But if you’re coming into one of those programs from something like 22 Minute Hard Corps or FOCUS T25, you’ll want to back off a bit from what you could achieve on those first few days. Whenever your program makes a big jump in workout duration, intensity, or training style (e.g., from all cardio to all weight training or even a combination of the two)– you’ll want to hold back a bit.

3. Minimize eccentric motion

Concentric movement is the contraction of a muscle, and eccentric movement is the lengthening of it. DOMS is is most closely associated with the latter, so if you can limit it, you might also be able to limit post-workout soreness.

If you’re doing a biceps curl, you can slow down the lifting phase of the movement while speeding up the lowering phase, for example. If you’re doing plyometric (i.e., jumping) exercises, you can jump onto a stable surface (e.g., a box or bench) and then step down instead of jumping up and down on the floor.

A lot of very popular exercise programs actually target jumping and eccentric movements. That’s because they’re highly effective tools for building power and athleticism—if your body is fit enough to handle them, which it never will be unless you proceed slowly (see tip #2) and carefully.

4. Hydrate

Dehydration plays a huge role in muscle soreness. Most people are chronically dehydrated. You can actually get sore even if you don’t exercise simply by being dehydrated. And adding exercise increases your water needs. A lot.

How much water you need varies depending on your activity level, lifestyle, where you live, etc., but an easy way to gauge it is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces each day. But that’s before you account for exercise. For each hour you work out, you should add another 32 ounces (on average). This, too, varies based on the individual, heat, humidity, exercise intensity, and so forth. But you get the idea—you need a lot of water for optimal performance.

How to Prevent (and Relieve) Muscle Soreness

Water isn’t the only factor in hydration. Electrolytes are also sweated out when you exercise and must be replaced. If you’re training less than hour per day, you probably don’t need to worry about them unless your diet is very low in sodium. But if you are working up a sweat for an hour or more, it’s a good idea to supplement with something like Beachbody Performance Hydrate, which can help to maximize fluid absorption with an optimal balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes to replace what your body loses during intense exercise.

Drinking too much water can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, in which your electrolyte levels drop to dangerously low levels. While potentially deadly, it’s also very hard for normal humans to get in everyday circumstances. That’s because you would have to drink excessive amounts of water, have very little salt, and sweat profusely for a long time. So while it’s a very real danger for, say, athletes competing in Ironman triathlons, it’s not a relevant concern for most of us.

5. Feed your muscles

Unlike fats and carbs, protein isn’t stored by the body, so if you haven’t had a protein-rich meal within a few hours of working out, have a protein shake afterwards. Doing so will ensure two things: First, that the balance of muscle breakdown and growth is shifted heavily toward the latter, and second, that your muscles have all the nutrients they need to optimize their repair and growth processes.

If your shaker bottle is filled with Beachbody Performance Recover, you get another advantage: Pomegranate extract, which a study at the University of Austin, in Texas, found to reduce exercise induced muscle soreness by an average of 25 percent. And if you also consume a serving of Beachbody Performance Recharge, our overnight protein supplement, before bed, you’ll double down on soreness-fighting phytonutrients with a dose of tart cherry extract.

What Happens If You Do Get Sore?

No matter how diligent we are, we all seem to mess this up, somehow, sometimes. Depending upon how much you skewed it, you can be back at full strength within a few days. Occasionally, you’ll go way beyond what you should have done. In such cases, you can be out up to a couple of weeks. When this happens, there are a few steps you can take to reduce muscle soreness. Stretching and massaging your muscles are two ways to get on the fast track to recovery. Check out our other tips to help you relieve sore muscles and get back to your workouts feeling better than ever.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: 7 Back Stretches to Help Ease Pain and Increase Mobility

7 Back Stretches to Help Ease Pain and Increase Mobility

Do you want to lose weight, build muscle, or feel more fit? Join Beachbody On Demand, and get access to Beachbody’s world-famous programs, including 21 Day FIX®, CORE DE FORCE®, and P90X®. Don’t miss out on your chance for amazing results. Sign up today!

You don’t realize it, but every day, your back takes a beating.

Whether you spend your day on your feet or on your seat, the muscles from the base of your skull to your tailbone, and from armpit to armpit, get in on the action, keeping you upright, pulling objects toward you, and supporting and moving your shoulder blades as you reach, stretch, and extend your arms. Only when you’re lying flat do all of these muscles get to relax completely.

Is it any wonder your back feels like 20 miles of bad road at the end of a day?

Never fear: The seven back stretches below will not only help you free your flip side, they’ll also help restore proper posture and range of motion. That will make day-to-day activities like sitting and reaching easier and more comfortable.

How to Safely Stretch Your Middle, Lower, and Upper Back

The muscles of the back support and articulate the spine, so you need to exercise some caution when stretching them. Furthermore, the shoulder joint, for all its mobility (more on that later), has a downside, says Beachbody fitness expert Cody Braun: “It’s susceptible to injury.”

So think of stretching not just as lengthening muscles but as learning new ranges in your joints. “Lengthening a muscle takes time,” says Braun. “Some people force mobility by applying extreme tension against the muscle, but this will only lead to pain.”

For especially tight areas, use a foam roller or lacrosse ball to soften the tissue first, then choose a move or two from the list of back stretches below and work on increasing your range of motion — gradually. “This recipe, over time, paired with improved daily posture and movement patterns, will help you move better,” says Braun.

7 Back Stretches for Muscle Pain and Mobility

Ease your way into improved flexibility and range of motion throughout your spine with one or more of these back stretches pulled from Beachbody On Demand.

Seated twist

Benefits: Increases rotational mobility along the spine, stretching muscles throughout the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions.

Appears in: 3 Week Yoga Retreat – Week 1, Day 2: Stretch

How to do it:

  • Sit cross-legged, left leg in front of your right.
  • Sit up tall, lengthening your back and pulling your shoulders back slightly.
  • Place your right hand on your left knee, and the fingertips of your left hand on the floor behind you.
  • Continuing to lengthen your spine upward, look over your left shoulder, twisting to your left as far as possible.
  • Breathe deeply, attempting to rotate farther to the left with each exhale.
  • Hold for 20–30 seconds, and repeat on the other side, switching the cross of your legs.

Hand clasp stretch

Benefits: Stretches the lats and trapezius.

Appears in: CORE DE FORCE – MMA Shred

How to do it:

  • Stand upright, with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended forward.
  • Rotate your palms outward so your thumbs point toward the floor.
  • Cross one forearm over the other and bring your palms together.
  • Breathing deeply, round your back forward, reaching your arms forward as far as possible.
  • Hold the stretch for 20–30 seconds.

3-way back stretch

Benefits: Stretches the lats and the muscles surrounding the rib cage.

Appears in: P90X3 – Total Synergistics

How to do it:

  • Stand upright, with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended overhead.
  • Interlace your fingers, and flip your hands so your palms face the ceiling. Hold for 5–10 seconds.
  • Maintaining the positioning of your arms and hands, bend to your right and hold for 5–10 seconds, repeating the move to your left.
  • Returning to an upright position, maintain the position of your arms and hands, and round your back forward until your arms are parallel with the floor, holding for 5–10 seconds.

Bench lat stretch

Benefits: Stretches the lats and helps with overhead shoulder mobility.

Appears in: Body Beast – Build: Back & Bis

How to do it:

  • Stand beside an incline bench or other sturdy, chest-high object with your feet wider than hip distance, and place your right elbow on top of the back support.
  • Placing your right hand behind your head, slowly lower your body toward the floor, until you feel a deep stretch along your right side.
  • Hold for 20–30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Stability ball lat stretch

Benefits: Stretches the lats and muscles in the shoulder through contraction and relaxation, while improving mobility in the overhead position.

Appears in: P90X2 – P.A.P. Upper

How to do it:

  • From a kneeling position, place the backs of your hands on top of a stability ball (or chair), with your arms extended and your head in a neutral position.
  • Keeping your back flat and your arms straight, lower your chest toward the floor, and sink into the stretch, while pressing the backs of your hands into the ball. Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Remaining in the stretched position, release the downward tension on the ball for 5 seconds, and try to sink deeper into the stretch.

Revolved chair

Benefits: Promotes rotational mobility along the spine, stretching the middle- and lower-back muscles.

Appears in: Beachbody Yoga Studio – Get Centered with Elise

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet together, palms pressed together in front of your chest, elbows out.
  • Keeping your back flat and your knees together, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your hips are around knee level.
  • With your back still flat and your elbows wide, twist your upper body to the left, placing the back of your right elbow against the outside of your left knee.
  • Hold for a five-count, then repeat on the other side.

Supine twist

Benefits: Improves rotational mobility of the spine, and stretches muscles all along the upper and lower back, as well as the hips.

Appears in: 21 Day Fix – Yoga Fix

  • Lie on your back, with your arms extended out to your sides and your palms down, bringing your knees toward your chest.
  • Keeping both shoulders on the floor, slowly turn your head to the right and lower your knees toward the floor to your left (if you feel a deep stretch in this position, stop here).
  • For a deeper stretch, extend your left leg downward, place your left hand on the outside of your right knee and breathe deeply, pressing your right knee toward the floor.
  • Hold whichever version of the stretch is appropriate for 20–30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Why Back Muscles Get Tight

“Your shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the body,” says Braun. As kids, we took advantage of that range of motion, climbing trees, traversing monkey bars, and throwing objects of all kinds, which helped our shoulders — and the back muscles that support and control them — stay mobile and healthy.

But the average adult’s habitual range of motion is much less varied. Most of us spend our days at a desk, says Braun, which keeps the lats in a perpetually shortened position. We rarely twist, or reach behind us.

Desk sitting has consequences for other back muscles as well. The upper fibers of the trapezius — which extends from the sides of your neck to your shoulders — become overactive, causing the shoulders to shrug slightly, and making the muscles feel tender to the touch.

Simultaneously, slouching causes the upper back to round forward, creating a hunched appearance — a position you may be holding right now. As your head angles downward, the muscles in the middle of your back have to work harder than usual to support it — which explains the chronic upper-back, neck, and shoulder tightness experienced by many desk sitters. The result leaves your neck sore and your chest muscles tight from constant contraction, further perpetuating the problem.

Primary Muscles of the Back

At first glance, the back looks like a morass of musculature, with fibers and Latin names running every which way. For stretching purposes, think of the back muscles as four major groups: the trapezius, the rhomboids, the latissimus dorsi, and the erector spinae.

Back muscles - back stretchesTrapezius

Starting at the top of your neck, your traps are formed by the kite-shaped muscles that extend from the base of your skull to just above your lower back, with points extending to your shoulder blades on either side. Their job: to move the shoulder blades upward, downward, and together, and to aid in turning and tilting the head.

Rhomboids

Working downward, the scapular stabilizers are a series of small muscles connecting the shoulder blades to numerous points along the torso. Their primary job is to prevent undue movement in the shoulder blades while you throw, pull, and push. They include:

Rhomboids major and minorwhich run from the inner edge of your scapula to your spine

Levator scapulae on the sides of your neck, which help the upper traps lift the shoulders

Serratus anteriorwhich pulls the shoulder blades forward, as when a boxer goes for a knockout punch (which is why it’s often referred to as the boxer’s muscle).

Latissimus dorsi

The largest muscles of the back are the lats, the flat, winglike slabs at either side of your back that run from your hips and sacrum to your underarms, and attach at your upper arms. They’re responsible for pulling your arms down and behind you, and rotating your upper arms inward.

Erector spinae

This is the group of garden hose-like muscles that flank your spine from your neck all the way down to your sacrum. They keep you upright, extending and stabilizing your spine when you bend to your sides, look upward, turn your head, or peel off the floor from your belly. There are three major erector muscles, each a different length: (from the spine outward) the spinalisthe longissimusand the iliocostalis.

BY:

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: 7 Exercises You Want To Avoid

7 Exercises You Should Never Do Again

The next time you go to the gym, take a look around: you’ll probably see all kinds of exercises, some good and some not-so-good.

The unfortunate truth is that not all exercises are created equal. Some are incredibly effective at building muscle and melting fat; others are ineffective and can even do more harm than good. (Worse, the bad ones are sometimes very popular.)

Read on for our list of the worst exercises — the ones you should avoid at all costs. If you currently have them in your exercise routine, try our alternatives, which are far more effective and take your body to the next level.

1. SITUPS AND CRUNCHES

Situps and crunches are as old-school as it gets: You see them in PE class, boot camps and military training around the world. But get ready for some big news because these tummy exercises aren’t effective or good for you.

Your core — which consists of your rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques, transverse abdominis, pelvic floor, etc. — is designed to help your body stabilize and brace against twisting and bending (not generate it).

Situps and crunches, however, eliminate the bracing and put your body into bad positions: You pull your neck forward, round your shoulders, flex your spine and put a lot of stress on your lower back. (It also goes without saying that you should avoid the situp machine too for those reasons.)

Instead, choose ab exercises that help you maintain a good posture throughout the exercise. If you want to take your core strength to the next level and get washboard abs, try our super effective 14-day plank challenge: It uses many different variations to blast your midsection from different angles to test your muscles (and your mind).

2. SMITH MACHINE EXERCISES

With the exception of the inverted row, avoid all exercises on the Smith machine. It seems safe because the bar has a lock that activates when you let go, but it puts your body in unnatural positions because the bar only moves in a straight, rigid line, which is not how you move in real life.

Also, because the bar follows a straight path, you don’t get to improve your stability or balance and you won’t get the same muscle gains you’d like. Researchers found that free-weight squats and free-weight bench presses activated more muscles than doing the same exercise on a Smith machine.

Stick to the free-weight version of your exercise: barbell squat, dumbbell bench press, etc. You’ll get more overall benefits and build more muscle and strength.

3. SEATED TWIST MACHINE

Remember what we said about how the core is supposed to move? Well, the vertebrae of your spine at your lower back can only twist 13 degrees in each direction, which is tinier than one hour on a clock. But the seated twist machines actually crank your body well beyond that range-of-motion.

If you want to improve your rotational strength, try the kneeling Palloff press. Get on both knees and set a cable handle to chest height. Facing perpendicular to the cable, bring the handle to your chest, and push it straight forward. Do it facing both ways. You have to brace your trunk to resist twisting and turning, which fires your core and keeps your spine in a safe position.

4. SUPERMANS

You might see these done in gyms or even physical therapy centers in an effort to “strengthen” your lower back. But the problem is it cranks your lower back into hyperextension while putting tremendous load and compression onto your lumbar spine. (Most people have a lower back that’s already too extended, which creates something called “lordosis.”)

Substitute supermans with another exercise if it’s a part of your current fitness program. Instead of directly targeting your lower back, focus on strengthening your entire trunk — back, abs, obliques, etc. — with core exercises where you maintain great posture throughout.

Try the single-arm farmers carry: Grab a heavy dumbbell in one hand, keep your chest up and shoulder blades squeezed, then walk. Maintain a neutral lower back and don’t arch excessively.

5. BACK EXTENSIONS

The back extension machine tries to strengthen your lower back by repeatedly flexing and extending it, which can cause problems. Worse, a lot of people hold a weight plate behind their head or at their chest, which further increases the stress on your spine.


READ MORE > 10 ESSENTIAL BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES 


6. UPRIGHT ROW

This popular exercise targets your shoulders and traps. Unfortunately, it’s one of the worst exercises you can do for your shoulders because it impinges your shoulder joints. The upright row actually forces you to internally rotate your shoulders and pull a heavy weight while in a poor position, which can lead to all kinds of problems.

Instead, to build strong and wide shoulders, replace upright rows with the dumbbell overhead press. It targets your upper body without adding unnecessary (and impinging) stress to your shoulder joint.

7. BEHIND-THE-NECK LAT PULLDOWNS OR BEHIND-THE-NECK PRESSES

Avoid any upper-body exercise where you pull or push from behind your neck because it puts tremendous strain on your shoulders. In a behind-the-neck position, your shoulders are almost at their maximal limit on extension in those positions — throwing weight on top of it just adds more strain to a fragile area.

Always do lat pulldowns, chin-ups, pullups, etc. toward your collar bones; if you’re going to press a weight overhead, start with the barbell at your collar bone or use dumbbells or kettlebells.

by Anthony J. Yeung

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: The Best Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss, Strength, and Stamina

The Best Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss, Strength, and Stamina

To many people looking to lose weight, cardio exercise means running… and that’s it. So if you don’t like rapidly planting one foot in front of the other for miles at a stretch, chances are you don’t do it. Or you give it half effort on the rare occasion you do lace up your sneakers.

But there are plenty of other ways to get your cardio on, most of which can help you boost heart health, build muscle and strength, and reach or maintain your goal weight — it all depends on how you do them. Following is everything you need to know about cardio exercises for weight loss, strength, and endurance.

What Is Cardio Exercise?

Although we think of “cardio” as activities like running, cycling, and swimming, cardiorespiratory exercise is anything that elevates the heart rate and challenges the body to deliver oxygen to working muscles, explains Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., an ACE-certified personal trainer and host of the All About Fitness podcast.

“The cardiac system pumps blood around the body, and the respiratory system draws oxygen in and around the body. Any exercise that engages these systems and keeps them going is cardiorespiratory,” he says.

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Activity

Two more terms that get thrown around along with cardio are “aerobic” and “anaerobic.” These designations refer to how much oxygen is used to produce energy for the task at hand. While each energy system is always in use to some extent, the intensity of activity determines which form of fuel is utilized more.

Aerobic exercise relies primarily on oxygen to produce energy, and is performed at low or moderate intensity for an extended period of time (more than 2 minutes or so) due to the length of time necessary to produce that energy.

Examples: marathon running, swimming, road cycling, etc.

Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, does not emphasize oxygen as its main source of energy, relying more on ready glycogen and phosphocreatine. Anaerobic activity is performed in bursts (up to 2 minutes or so) at high intensities.

Example: sprinting, weightlifting, and high-intensity intervals

The anaerobic threshold — at which you cross over from aerobic into anaerobic activity — varies from person to person, but generally starts around 80 percent of your max heart rate, says Beachbody fitness expert Cody Braun. Here’s a formula that can help you determine your max heart rate.

    220, minus your age = your age-adjusted max HR

For example, if you’re 30 years old, your age-adjusted maximum heart rate is 220, minus 30 years = 190 bpm. From there, calculate appropriate percentages of that number to determine your target zones.

In this case, 80 percent (the anaerobic threshold) is about 152 beats per minute. You can use a heart rate monitor to track your BPMs during exercise to make sure you’re adequately challenging yourself relative to your objectives.

The Talk Test

If you prefer an even simpler way of tracking your effort, there’s the talk test. Can you carry on a conversation? If not, you’re doing anaerobic work.

“Your body needs to expire (exhale) carbon dioxide to metabolize glycogen,” McCall explains. “So the pace of your breathing picks up and you lose the ability to talk.”

RPE

Another way to gauge the intensity of activity is the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) — basically, how hard you feel like you’re working. The RPE scale runs from six to 20, which roughly corresponds with your heart rate divided by 10.

At rest, your RPE is six. Light activity lands you at 11, hard work gets you up to 15, and all-out maximal exertion takes you up to 20.

Benefits of Cardio Exercise

Like all exercise, cardiorespiratory workouts offer a slew of perks. “Cardio improves circulation of blood and oxygen, allows you to exert yourself longer without being fatigued, helps make the heart more efficient, burns off calories, helps you sleep, gives you more energy, and reduces stress,” says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of sport science at Huntingdon College.

Cardio can even help you become stronger. “Enhancing aerobic capacity can improve blood, oxygen, and nutrient flow to working muscles, and help with recovery between sets of resistance-training exercises,” McCall says.

Cardio for Weight Loss

Of course, chief among the benefits of cardio for many people is weight loss. Research has long found that both endurance and interval training improve body compositiondecrease waist circumference, and lead to similar amounts of weight loss.

However, high-intensity exercise has been found to trump aerobic exercise at decreasing body fat, owing primarily to the afterburn effect of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Where steady-state (low to moderate intensity) activity may burn more calories during its typically longer durations, high-intensity exercise keeps your metabolism elevated long after a workout, in some cases up to 72 hours. That means more calories burned overall.

And since interval training takes less time to get the same results, many prefer it. In a small study published in 2016, a group of sedentary men was split into two groups who exercised three times a week for three months: one did moderate-intensity cycling for 45 minutes, while the other alternated three 20-second cycle sprints with low-intensity pedaling for 10 minutes.

At the end of the experiment, both groups lost about 2 percent of their body fat. But the second group worked for one-fifth as much time as the first. “With HIIT, you are utilizing all your systems efficiently — you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck in the shortest time,” Braun says.

How Much Cardio Should You Do?

Man cycling hard | Cardio exercises for weight loss

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends adults get at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity cardio, or 60 minutes of high-intensity cardio each week for general fitness. That works out to 30 minutes five days a week, or 20 minutes three days a week, respectively.

But you can split up time within the day, too. For instance, 15 minutes of jump rope in the morning, and 15 minutes of soccer with your kids in the afternoon. Just be sure to push yourself (and pay attention to your heart rate) if you’re aiming for more vigorous cardio.

If you’re newer to cardio, McCall suggests setting a small, realistic goal, such as 15 minutes, three times a week. “If you’re successful at achieving this, that will encourage you to add more,” he says.

From there, add five to 10 percent more cardio each week. So, 15 minutes becomes 17 minutes, and then 20 minutes, etc. You can add five to 10 percent more mileage if you prefer to use distance as your measurement.

It’s OK to do some form of cardio every day, as long as you’re not doing super intense workouts daily. If you put in a hard day, make the one that follows an active recovery day with a walk or perhaps yoga. “Exercise is a stress, and your body needs days to recover and heal itself,” Braun says.

For those who favor a combination strength-and-cardio workout, Braun recommends doing strength first. “The body likes to use carbs before fat for energy,” he explains. “Strength training uses glycogen for energy. Once those stores are depleted, your body will turn to fat deposits during lower-intensity cardio.” Further, if you do high-intensity cardio first, you may not have the strength to give weightlifting your all, and your form might suffer.

Types of Cardio Training

The method by which you perform cardio is as important to your goals as the exercises themselves. The following strategies alter variables like tempo, rest, and even activity.

Endurance training

This is steady-state cardio, wherein you maintain roughly the same pace throughout a workout. You can do this with any of the cardio exercises listed below. You’ll burn calories and train your body to consume oxygen more efficiently, but you won’t build much strength, and you’re likely to lose some muscle.
Best for: Muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance

Interval training

As mentioned above, alternating between periods of high-intensity bursts (such as sprinting) and lower-intensity rest or recovery (such as jogging or walking) will burn more calories in less time. It also generally burns more fat overall, improves anaerobic capacity, and helps your body recover quicker.
Best for: Muscular development, cardiorespiratory capacity, fat loss

Low-intensity interval training

HIIT isn’t the only way to get your intervals on. “Doing lower-intensity exercise for one to two minutes at time uses the aerobic energy pathways without creating excessive fatigue,” McCall explains. He recommends exerting at a 5 to 7 (on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the hardest) with a 2-to-1 work-to-recovery ratio. So go 2 minutes at a level 7, then 1 minute at a level 4, for example.
Best for: Cardiovascular endurance

Circuit training

This type of total-body workout involves performing a number of different exercises in succession (a circuit) with minimal rest in between. It typically involves combining cardio and strength training, though Olson notes it isn’t optimal for either. For weight loss, however, it can be quite effective. Alternate between exercises such as squat lunges, burpees, medicine ball passes, and mountain climbers for 30 to 60 seconds each, then rest a minute between rounds.
Best for: Muscular development, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory capacity, fat loss

Fartleks

This funny Swedish term is is a great way to break up the monotony of regimented intervals, McCall says. Work at a high intensity for some distance (say, eight lightposts away) or time (until the second verse of the song you’re listening to). Then go at an easy effort until you recover. Continue this pattern for different distances or times for your entire workout.
Best for: Muscular development, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory capacity, fat loss

Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss, Strength, and Endurance

You now know what cardio is and how it’s applied — here are the cardio exercises to try.

running swimming cycling jumping hiking | cardio exercises

Running

Easy to do most anywhere and fairly cheap, running offers a slew of benefits, like strengthening bones and enhancing joint health. However, “the repetitive impact can cause lower-extremity overuse injuries if you don’t vary it with other forms of exercise,” Olson says. To help avoid injury, make sure you’re running with proper form.

Cycling

Easier on your joints than running, biking challenges your body to effectively deliver oxygen to muscles, which it offers a greater likelihood for growth.

Swimming

Another great option if you have joint issues, swimming is a total-body workout. But you do need a place to swim — and to know how to properly swim — to reap all of its benefits. Once you do, check out these tips to improve your freestyle stroke.

Rowing

Crew teams are in top shape because rowing is a great total-body cardio and muscular workout. It’s also low-impact, sparing shock to joints.

Plyometrics

This kind of exercise most often refers to jump training, and can burn many calories as you increase your explosive power. Naturally, though, good form is a must for this high-impact activity, or you increase the risk of injury. “You need to have the best movement mechanics to do plyometric training,” Braun says.

Dancing

Who says cardio can’t be fun? Whether you prefer moving to pop musiccountry music, or something in between, dancing is a great way to improve aerobic — and even anaerobic — capacity.

Jumping rope

Cheap, portable, and easy to do pretty much anywhere, jumping rope builds aerobic and anaerobic endurance, and may help improve coordination, balance, and bone mineral density, research shows. It’s best to wear the right shoes and jump on a forgiving surface such as a wood floor, Olson says. And if you have tight calves, stretch them before and after.

Hiking

“Consistent hiking for two to four hours at a time uses the aerobic energy system, which can help increase the utilization of fat for energy,” McCall says, and that can lead to weight loss. Hiking is also easier on your joints than running, plus you’re spending time in nature, which has been shown to improve mood among other benefits.

Calisthenics

Old-school bodyweight exercises like squats and pushups are a great way to get your heart pumping and build muscular endurance. “The more muscles used, the more oxygen required, and the more calories burned,” McCall says. Try jumping jacks, high knees, ice skaters, mountain climbers, and burpees.

Sports

Games like softball, basketball, and soccer offer more than friendly competition. “Each sport has different benefits for your body, from the fuel system you use to skills required of your body and mind,” Braun says. “The movements required in different sports help teach coordination while keeping cardio fun and interactive.”

Cardio Is Way More Than Running

You can get the benefits of cardio in many more ways than simply running. Whether you swim, dance, or do Beachbody workouts at home, be sure to do more than one thing.

“Your body is capable of a lot of things. For general health and fitness, encompass all of it,” Braun says. Do endurance as well as interval workouts, in all forms of cardio, to lose weight, improve overall fitness, and reduce your risk of injury.

BY:

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: Top 8 Gluteal Stretches for Buttock Pain

8 of the Best Glute Stretches for Buttock Pain

Tight glutes: in theory, we want them. We spend hours squatting and lunging to get a taut, lifted booty. But a rear that actually feels tight is, well…a pain in the butt. A sore buttocks makes it tough to sit, stand, and walk. It leaves you hobbling like a cowboy, searching for the best glute stretches to ease discomfort so you can go down stairs like a normal person, not a rodeo star.

Why are my glutes tight?

When it comes to buttock pain, intense lower body exercise can cause soreness in the gluteus maximus muscle. But daily activities tend to cause soreness in a different (and probably lesser-known) butt muscle, explains Beachbody expert Cody Braun. “The issue is often in the piriformis muscle (located deep underneath the glute muscles), which helps to externally rotate the femur and aids in abduction when the hip is flexed (drawing the leg away from the body’s midline),” he says. When this muscle becomes tight – whether from sitting too much or from a challenging leg workout – piriformis stretches can help restore the muscle to its full, functional length, help relieve butt pain, and restore hip mobility.

Mobility vs. flexibility

While often used interchangeably, “flexibility” and “mobility” are a different concepts. So if you think you want flexible glutes, you might actually need mobile hips – and vice versa. “Mobility refers to the degree and quality in which you actively move your joints through their full ranges of motion,” Braun explains. For example, someone with full ankle and hip mobility can easily move in and out of a full squat position, while a person with poor mobility may struggle or make compensations in other areas of the body.

Flexibility is usually expressed by the ability to completely lengthen your muscle,” Braun says. When a gymnast drops into the splits? That’s flexibility. And you can bet that she’s spent hours of her life holding static stretches. Both concepts are important when it comes to stretching your glutes, which is why the following glute stretches can help you achieve better hip mobility and flexibility.

8 Glute Stretches to Relieve Buttock Pain

Don’t let a sore buttocks get you down: here’s how to stretch your glutes (and relieve piriformis soreness), so you can walk, run, and move about your day with ease.

1. Seated Leg Cradle

Appears in: Beachbody Yoga Studio – Hip Opening Flow with Faith

This seated glute stretch will help alleviate sore glutes, no matter how tight they are from the previous day’s training. There are a few variations of this stretch, depending on how much flexibility and mobility you have in your glutes and hips.

  • Start in a seated position with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Draw your right knee toward your chest and cradle the lower leg by placing the right knee in the crook of the right elbow and the sole of the right foot in the crook of the left elbow.
  • Flex your right foot and keep your spine straight and your chest lifted as you gently rock your leg from left to right. You should feel this in your right hip and glute area.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before releasing your leg and repeating the stretch on the opposite side.
  • You can modify the intensity of the stretch by holding your knee and foot with your hands or scooping both elbows under your calf muscle and drawing your leg toward your chest

2. Cradle Knee Hug, Prayer Hands

Appears in: FOCUS: T25 – Stretch

In addition to providing a deep stretch for the glutes, piriformis, and hips, this two-part standing glute stretch will challenge your balance and build strength in the standing leg.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your right knee so you can hold the lower part of your right leg: hold your right knee with your right hand and the outer part of your right foot with your left hand. Keep your back tall.
  • Hold the balance for two to three breaths.
  • Next, place your right ankle just above your left knee as you slowly bend your left leg, hinging at your hips as you lower your butt. Press the palms of your hands together in a prayer position. Press your right knee down toward the ground to intensify the stretch.
  • Hold this position, then return to a standing position and switching legs.

3. Pigeon

Appears in: Jericho’s BOD Exclusives – Half and Half

One of the best glute and piriformis stretches for runners, yogis, and desk jockeys alike, pigeon help to open your hips in a calm, restful position. This is most comfortable to do on a cushiony surface, like a yoga mat.

  • Begin in a downward-facing dog position. Lower your hips as you draw your right knee toward your chest and, with your knee bent, place your thigh and shin in front of you on the mat. Depending on your level of flexibility, you can keep your right foot close to your left hip or bring your shin forward so that it’s parallel to the front edge of your mat.
  • Make sure both hips are facing forward and your back leg is engaged (you can keep it straight or bend your knee, creating a 90-degree angle).
  • Leading with your chest, lean forward until you feel a stretch in your glutes and hip area. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Return to downward-facing dog and repeat the stretch with your left leg

4. Figure 4 thread the needle

Appears in: Beachbody Yoga Studio – Strong but Simple Flow with Vytas

If tight hips are really limiting your mobility, this move may be a more accessible option than other glute stretches. Place your hands under the hamstring for a lighter stretch until your can work your way up to the more challenging option of placing the hands on your knee.

  • Lie on your back with the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee, keeping your right foot flexed.
  • Draw your left knee toward your chest and, reaching your right hand through your legs, interlace your fingers just below your left knee (under your left hamstring for a less intense stretch).
  • Use your arms to pull your knee toward your chest until you feel a stretch in your right hip and glute area, and hold.
  • Release the stretch and repeat on the left side.

5. Seated figure 4

Appears in: A Little Obsessed –AAA

A simple but effective seated glute stretch, the seated figure 4 targets the glutes and piriformis. It’s easy to make this stretch more or less intense, depending on how close you bring your chest to your legs.

  • Sit with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Lean back slightly and place your hands on the floor behind your hips to provide support and balance.
  • Lift your right leg and place your right ankle just above your left knee.
  • Press your hands into the floor to bring your chest toward your knees until you feel a stretch in your right hip and glutes, and hold.
  • Release the stretch and repeat on the opposite side.

6. Prone happy cow

Appears in: 21 Day Fix Extreme –Yoga

This yoga pose might look advanced, but it’s fairly easy to get into, and it does wonders for easing tension on both glute muscles at the same time.

  • Lie on your back and draw your knees toward your chest.
  • Cross your right knee over your left and grab hold of your heels: your right hand should be holding your left heel, and your left hand should be holding your right heel.
  • Pull your heels toward you until you feel a stretch in your hip and glute area, and hold.
  • Release and repeat the stretch with the opposite leg crossed on top.

7. Cow face

Appears in: TurboFire – Stretch 40

A favorite glute stretch for yoga devotees, this seated glute stretch can help ease lower back pain while it opens the hips.

  • Starting in a seated position, bend your left leg so that your left foot comes to the right side of your hips and that your knee is facing forward.
  • Cross your right leg over the left so that your knees are stacked on top of each other with your right foot coming to the left side of your hips. Sit up straight and make sure both glutes are firmly planted on the floor.
  • With a flat back, lean forward until you feel a stretch in your glutes, and hold.
  • Sit up and repeat, switching the position of your legs.

8. Seated figure 4 fold

Appears in: P90X3 – Yoga

Done properly, this classic seated glute stretch will also relax tense hamstrings. For the best results, be sure to hinge at your hips and avoid rounding the back.

  • Start in a seated, straight-leg position. Bend your right leg and cross your right ankle over the left thigh, creating a figure four position with your legs.
  • Keep your glutes firmly planted on the ground as you hinge at the hips and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your left hamstring and glutes. Be sure to lead with your chest and keep your back flat.
  • Hold, and then sit up and switch legs to repeat on the opposite side.

Glute Anatomy 101

You’ve probably heard the name “gluteus maximus” before (how else are you supposed to tactfully reference the butt?), but chances are the medius and minimus parts of your buttocks aren’t as familiar. And as for the troublesome piriformis muscle? That might as well have sounded like a magical spell up until now. Here’s a breakdown of the gluteal muscle anatomy, so you know exactly what makes your rear end so bootylicious.

Gluteus Maximus

When we talk booty, we’re usually referring to the gluteus maximus – it’s the a huge powerhouse and an attention-getter. It’s not only your most sizable gluteal muscle, but it’s also one of the biggest muscle in the human body. And, because it’s located close to the body’s surface, it’s responsible for the butt’s rounded shape and prominent appearance.

The gluteus maximus originates from the hip bone, and tailbone, and connects to the femur (thigh bone) and iliotibial (IT) band. It’s main job is extension, but it also aids in lateral rotation: walking, sprinting, climbing stairs, ice skating – that’s all the gluteus maximus.

Gluteus Medius

Located on the upper, outer section of your rear, the gluteus medius is tasked with abducting (lifting to the side) and rotating the leg. It also works to stabilize your pelvis while you walk or run; any dysfunction or weakness in the gluteus medius can lead to issues with your gait (how you walk and run) and problematic movement compensations.

Shaped like a fan, the gluteus medius originates at the hip bone and connects to the upper portion of the femur.

Gluteus Minimus

Like the gluteus medius, the gluteus minimus plays a role in stabilizing the pelvis and rotating the leg. It’s smallest of the three glute muscles, originating from the hip bone and connecting to the top of the femur.

Piriformis

The piriformis is considered a “deep” gluteal muscle. Located under the gluteus minimus and within close proximity of the sciatic nerve, the band-like piriformis originates at the sacrum and connects to the top of the femur. It also aids in lower limb abduction when the hip is flexed and lateral rotation.

Why Should You Stretch Your Glutes?

Between sitting at a desk all day, sitting in your car during rush hour traffic, and sitting on your couch during a binge of Stranger Things, what is a butt to do with the massive amounts of inactivity throughout the day? One way to counteract it is by exercising (try these butt exercises, for example). You should also incorporate butt stretches into any workout that uses the lower limbs, as they can help prevent injury, reduce soreness, and prepare the glute muscles for activity.

When Should You Do Glute Stretches?

Other than the obvious, “whenever your butt hurts,” there are a few guidelines to follow when it comes to stretching your glutes. This mainly is because that there are two kinds of stretches: dynamic (moving) and static (not moving). Both are important – it just comes down to the timing.

Dynamic stretches are best to do before a workout, as they get the muscles ready for work by contracting and stretching in order to activate the nervous system, increase blood flow, and warm up the body. They involve movement and they cycle the joints through their full range of motion. Arm circles, leg swings, and walking lunges are examples of common dynamic stretches.

On the other hand, static stretches tell your body that it’s time to relax and recover. They involve bringing a muscle to its point of tension, holding for 30 seconds, and releasing (think: bending over to grab hold of your toes). “After exercise, you want to stretch the muscle to help the recovery process,” Braun says, as it helps to relax the muscle. Static stretching is particularly important when it comes to that troublesome piriformis muscle. “Piriformis stretches should be used to restore the full functional length, which, in return, will help with hip mobility,” Braun says.

Dr. Phil Shares: 8 Yoga Poses for Stronger Knees

8 Yoga Poses for Stronger Knees

Yoga can be daunting for those with knee problems. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of us, myself included. Below are the yoga poses I used to strengthen my knee after surgery.

Three years into my yoga career, I suffered a meniscus tear. Physical therapy, ice, and painkillers were not enough to ward off surgery. I had to go under the knife.

My bones and tendons blocked the doctors from seeing the exact location of the tear in ultrasounds, so exploratory surgery had to be performed before the surgeon could fix the problem. By the time they were done, my leg looked like it had been beaten with a meat tenderizer and my muscles and soft tissue were in a sorry state. Giving up my career as a yoga instructor was not an option for me, so I took the time to learn how to protect my knee by strengthening the muscles that support it.

Here are the exact yoga moves I practiced to strengthen and stretch my knees. However, make sure to always seek advice from your physician before beginning any exercise or rehabilitation regimen, especially if you have any unique or special medical conditions related to your knees.

 

5 Yoga Poses for Stronger Knees:

1. Supported Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

This pose will strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and abductors. It also increases blood flow to the lower region of the body, which can help with fluidity of movement. Chair pose is typically practiced away from the wall, but that may require more strength than your knees are able to handle at the moment, so use the support of a wall if you need it. Place your feet hip distance apart. Lean your back up against a wall and slide down until your knees and ankles are parallel with each other. You can place your hands on your thighs or reach the arms towards the ceiling. Hold the pose for a few breaths then slide back up. Repeat several times. As your legs get stronger, increase the number of breaths you hold the pose.

Yoga for the Knees Chair Pose

2. Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandasana)

Bridge pose is a yoga asana that helps properly align your knees while strengthening your back, glutes, and hamstrings. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and walk your feet toward your bottom until you can just touch your heels with your fingertips. Step your feet out hip distance apart and place a block horizontally on the floor between your feet. This will help keep everything in place. Press into all four corners of the feet, the inside and outside edges as well as the heel and the balls. Draw your navel in toward your spine and press your lower back into the ground. Tuck your tailbone in and lift your bottom from the ground. Lift as high as you can without compromising your form (your knees should remain hip distance apart and parallel with the ankles). To get an added stretch in the chest, you can roll your shoulders under your body and interlace your fingers underneath you. Hold this pose for a few breaths then release the upper back first, then mid back, then finally lower your lower back and tailbone to the floor. Repeat a few times.

Yoga for the Knees Bridge Pose

3. Supported Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

Balancing poses can be very beneficial when it comes to building the muscles that help the knee. However, if your knee is currently inflamed, you want to avoid anything that will put this much weight on the joint. By using the support of a block, you can work on strengthening the muscles in this pose and stretching the hamstrings without putting stress on your knee. The first time you do this pose, use an empty wall and a block for support. Stand with your back to the wall and rotate your right foot so that the outside edge of the foot is parallel with the wall. Place the block in your right hand, bend your right knee, and shift your weight so you’re balancing on the right leg. Set the block on the floor a few inches in front of your right foot and press your right hand into it to help straight the right arm and leg. Rotate the left side of your body upward so that your back is either in alignment with the wall behind you or leaning on it. Your left leg should be lifted and parallel with the floor. Your left arm should create a straight line with the right arm. Hold for a few breaths and increase the amount of breaths as you get stronger.

Yoga for the Knees Half Moon Pose

4. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Mountain pose will teach you proper alignment that may help ward off new knee injuries and help you become aware of the muscles you need to engage to protect the knee. To get into the pose, stand with your feet hip distance apart, lift all your toes up, spread them wide, and then rest them back down on the floor. Press into the floor with all four corners of the feet to evenly distribute the weight of the body. As you press into your feet, engage your calf muscles. Engage the quadriceps and internally rotate your inner thighs to widen your sits bones. Tuck your tailbone in, and engage the glutes. Tighten your abs. Pull your shoulders back and down. Make sure your shoulders are stacked over your hips and ankles. Lift your chin and pull it back slightly so it is parallel with the floor. Relax the muscles in your face. Take several deep breaths and notice the muscles you have engaged to create proper posture. Hold this pose for approximately 10 breaths.

Yoga for the Knees Mountain Pose

5. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

A common problem with those who suffer from knee injuries or weakness is a strong vastus lateralis (the outer part of your quadriceps) and a much weaker, underused vastus medialis (the inner part of your quadriceps). Trikonasana is a pose that will strengthen the muscles that support the inner quad. Step your feet out in a wide stance so your left foot is parallel with the back of your mat and your right foot is turned out at a 90 degree angle, parallel with the inside horizontal edge of the mat. Bend your right knee so it lines up with the ankle and hip. Press into both feet and straighten the right leg, engaging the inner part of your quad and thigh. When this muscle is engaged, you will notice it is impossible to lock your knee. However, when you disengage the muscle, it will hyperextend and lock (you should avoid this). Reach your right arm straight down and rotate upward with the left side of your body. Line up your arms so they’re in a straight line and keep your core engaged. For support, you can place your right hand on a block, but be sure to keep the core engaged as you reach up to the sky with the left side of your body. Hold for a few breaths, disengage, and then repeat.

Yoga for the Knees Triangle Pose

3 Yoga Poses to Stretch The Knees:

It’s important to not only strengthen the knees but also to stretch them. You can make knee injuries worse if the muscles are so tight that they decrease movement fluidity. Here are 3 poses that stretch the knees and the supporting muscles without causing pain. Again keep in mind that each person is different and very few injuries are exactly the same, so make sure to seek advice from your physician before beginning.

1. Wide-Angled Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)

Many of the poses that stretch your legs and hips tend to torque the knee in a way that can be quite painful for those who have knee weakness and pain. Konasana is a great pose that will stretch out the whole back of the body as well as the hips, inner thighs, and groin. To get into this pose, straddle your legs out in the widest stance you can comfortably place them. Flex your feet to activate the leg muscles. Place your hands on the ground forward in front of you and slowly walk them forward until you feel the stretch. Keep your spine straight and elongated throughout the stretch. If you find that your spine creates a C shape when you start to fold, place a blanket under the sits bones to lift yourself slightly off the floor. Hold this pose for 8 to 10 breaths. Follow it up by pulling the legs together and the knees into the chest.

Yoga for the Knees Seated Wide Angle Forward Bend

2. Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Lotus is a common pose that that is held at the beginning and end of each yoga class and can be a real pain in the knee. So, instead of sitting with both feet in the crooks of your thighs, simply cross your legs and gently place one in front of the other. Keep in mind that the deeper the bend in the knee the higher the chance of pain, so you may not have a perfect crossed leg look. That’s okay. You also have the option of sitting on a blanket to make the pose more comfortable and placing blocks on either side of the knees. This pose will stretch your knees and ankles. Sit up tall and breathe deeply for about 8 to 10 breaths, increasing the amount of breaths as you feel more flexible over time.

Yoga for the Knees easy pose

3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

This is a gentle knee stretch that can be intensified the closer you can move your bottom toward your heels. Props are necessary for those with tight, sore knees. Start on your hands and knees (with a blanket under the knees for protection). In the full, unmodified, pose you’d have your feet together with your toes untucked, knees separated so the belly can rest between the thighs, bottom sitting on the heels, and forehead on the mat with the arms extended out. Modify as you need. Consider decreasing the degree to which you part your knees. Use blankets behind the knees or on the heels. This pose can be held for 8 to 10 breaths and then increased slowly as you become more flexible.

Yoga for the Knees Childs Pose

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph