exercises

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Cool exercise: the weighted roll-out

Monday, July 27th, 2009

This exercise works a number of muscles, including both the upper and lower abdominals, the lower back and the triceps.

To perform this exercise you will need a small barbell or a dumbbell set with the nuts loosened a bit so that the weight plates move freely. Then it’s simply a matter of:

  1. standing on your knees,
  2. putting both hands on to the barbell or dumbbells,
  3. keeping your elbows locked, and
  4. pushing forwards, letting yourself roll forward until you can’t go any further.

Finally, reverse the movement until you are back where you started.

Here’s a video I found that illustrates the exercise quite well. It’s a lot harder than it looks!

You can add a weight plate on your back as you do this to increase resistance.

My experience with BodyCombat

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

BodyCombatLast night my girlfriend got me to go along to her gym to attend her beloved BodyCombat class. This is a group exercise class where everyone is in a big room watching an instructor who is up on a podium. We basically copy the moves she does in time to fast-paced music.

While essentially an aerobics class, BodyCombat is loosely based on martial arts moves. It borrows some things from Karate, boxing, Taekwondo, Tai Chi and Muay Thai. It was developed by Les Mills International.

This was actually my first time doing any kind of aerobics class, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The class was mostly made up of women with two other men besides myself. The instructor was bubbly and friendly and didn’t really pick on people who had their form wrong (thankfully). The music and her microphone were really loud, and the echo in the room made it difficult to understand what she was saying at times, but it wasn’t that important as we basically just had to copy what she was doing.

The session lasted for an hour. It was close to non-stop but we did have four or five breaks (that could probably be better called ‘lulls’). We would grab a drink then go back to our spots as she explained what we were going to do next. They were probably about 10-20 seconds long.

The only thing I needed to bring was a water bottle and a towel. We didn’t use any equipment except for a mat (supplied there) near the end for push-up-like exercises. The towel was used to put over the mat for hygeine reasons, although not everyone did this.

Some of the exercises we did were punches (jabs, hooks, uppercuts), blocks, kicks (font, side, back, jump), kneeing, elbowing, running on the spot and around the room and push-ups. Some of the combinations were a little tricky at first but generally weren’t too bad.

Today I feel sore behind my shoulders but am otherwise fine. I think I was more concerned about not making a fool of myself than pushing my body’s limits.

In summary, the class was a highly effective cardiovascular workout with fun exercises and motivating music.

Cool exercise: the reverse crunch

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

In order to turn a paunch into a six-pack, the main thing you need is weight loss. However, coming in at number two are the abdominal strengthening exercises.

The most common of these are sit-ups and crunches. Unfortunately sit-ups are bad for a whole host of reasons (back problems, neck problems, not effectively isolating the abs, largely missing the lower abs). Crunches are good because they avoid the back and neck problems of sit-ups, but they still really only work out the upper abdominal muscles.

For a while my main abdonimal exercise had been crunches, holding a 5kg weight plate behind my head. This added resistance so I could do fewer, harder reps, which is better for building muscle. I could certainly feel the burn in my upper abs but my lower abs were getting off scot-free.

I found what I was after was the reverse crunch. You basically lie on the floor and stablise yourself by holding on to some weights with your hands, bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor, then use your abs to lift your legs and lower back up so your knees are near your head, then go back down again. The best place I have found describing it with a demo video and a good explanation of the advantages and common mistakes is at stronglifts.com.

The biggest thing to watch out for is using your hips too much. These need to be used as little as possible.

After doing it the first time, my abs were wrecked. I had never felt burn in my lower abs before, so it was awesome. I highly recommend anyone doing sit-ups switch to reverse crunches if possible (or at least just crunches). It will save your back, posture and be a better use of your time.