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Category Archives for "Lower Body, Quads, Thighs, Legs, Hips"
11

Exercises to Strengthen Your Hip Flexors: Guest Post by Tamara Grand

This is a Guest Post from Tamara Grand, our friend, colleague and personal trainer extraordinaire. Tamara lives in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her family, a ginger cat and large stash of hand-dyed yarn. She works as an online health trainer and in person group fitness instructor who specializes in the exercise and wellness needs of women over 45. 

It’s never hip to trip: exercises to strengthen your hip flexors.

Alas, unlike wine, muscular strength does not improve with age. Vino Curls w/ Tamara
From about age 30 onward, we lose strength at a rate of approximately 10% each year. Recent studies suggest that not all muscle groups are equally affected. In women, the loss of hip flexor and hip abductor strength is significantly more pronounced than that in any other muscle group.

The iliopsoas, rectus femoris and tensor fasciae latae (collectively referred to as the “hip flexors”), connect the lower spine and pelvis to the thigh bone, thereby allowing you to bend at the hip (for example, during a sit-up) and to raise and lower your legs (while standing or lying flat on your back).HipFlexion_TGrand

While often the focus of intense stretching (most of us have chronically tight hip flexors from running, cycling, driving, sitting and heck, just engaging in 21st century life), the hip flexors are rarely targeted in strength training programs.

In fact, many of the courses I’ve attended as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor have specifically discouraged the inclusion of hip flexor strengthening movements in both group fitness and on-on-one training settings – “Stretch, not strengthen” being the main take home message.

Sign up to start "youthifying" today.

Ironically, as we get older, the hip flexors are precisely the muscles we need to actively strengthen. They not only help with balance and postural stability, strong hip flexors can also keep us from tripping and falling. The stronger your hip flexors, the more likely you’ll be able to lift your leg to avoid tripping and the fewer the number of steps required to regain your balance during a fall.

As we get older, we need to actively strengthen the hip flexors for balance & postural… Click To Tweet

Join me as I demonstrate my three favorite hip flexor strengthening exercises. Add them to your current strength training program, aiming for 12 to 15 repetitions of each move per side, two to three times per week.

Strengthen your hip flexors and I guarantee, the only trips you’ll be taking will be to warm, sunny climes!

Strong hip flexors can keep us from tripping and falling. Click To Tweet

Don’t forget to stretch when you’re done! Alexandra and Kymberly will be happy to show you the right and wrong way to perform a hip flexor stretch.

Tamara believes that exercise and healthy eating need to be part of everyone’s life and aims to inspire and motivate others by showing them that if she can do it, anyone can. She blogs about fitness, food, family and fiber (knitting fiber, that is) at fitknitchick.com and is always thrilled when you comment on her posts. Please follow her on Twitter @fitknitchick_1.

Photo Credits: Tamara Grand

ACTION ITEM: While you’re still here, subscribe also to our site in the sidebar or pop up box. Get more exercise solutions tailored to women in the second half of life. We’ll come to you twice a week.

13

3 Exercises You Never Have to Do Again after 2012

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Build that Bust

Build that Bust

Ready to leave behind certain moves, memories, and mad moments of 2012? Want to enter 2013 with exercises that are effective and efficient? Say sayonara to the following exercises that are useless at best, injurious at worst. Yes, you have the official Fun and Fit wand wave to refrain forever from certain moves!

Unweighted Arm Circles

We confess – we used to teach air circles ourselves back in the 80s. But they don’t actually work anything effectively. The arm circling exercise really just stresses the shoulder and wrist joints. If you want to target your biceps, triceps, or forearm, you have much better options. Comment below if you want us to make videos showing you those better upper body and arm exercises.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7HQjlbFzKM&feature=share&list=PLkNW77Cz_XKGdRnYXJn9V7TfuVH-Zbs-X[/youtube]

Standing Chest Squeezes, aka “Bust Builders”

We must, we must, we must build up our bust.
For fear, for fear, we won’t fill our brassiere.
Who recognizes that ditty from grade school PE? Did you also have to chant those words while doing chest squeezes, bust builders, or whatever you called them? As an adult have you tried standing pec work with free weights in your hands to strengthen your chest? One problem: the resistance factor is all wonky so there’s no significant pectoral work. All this exercise does is stress your shoulder joint.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep7pTGJgC08&feature=share&list=PLkNW77Cz_XKGdRnYXJn9V7TfuVH-Zbs-X[/youtube]

Leg Lifts, Fire Hydrant Style

Don’t use this fire hydrant to put out any hot hiney flames! This so-called leg & butt exercise (it isn’t) is a useless exercise unless you want your hip to hurt. Mostly you are getting external hip rotation joint action, which has some value but not as a great glute move. You can do so many other, better exercises for your legs, and tush that don’t depend on low resistance, high repetition wafting through the air.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dSQubp4zB4&feature=share&list=PLkNW77Cz_XKGdRnYXJn9V7TfuVH-Zbs-X[/youtube]

Click to see more exercises that DON’T work in our YouTube Playlist: Exercise No No’s – Funny, Useless, Parodies and Otherwise

To see exercises that DO work, take a look at a few of our other YouTube Playlists:
Right and Wrong Way to do Exercises
Get Better Posture and Spinal Alignment
Healthy Aging Exercises for Women Over 45

End 2012 with action that will propel you into a more fit 2013:  Subscribe now to our YouTube channel and blog. Please also follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Click now on the icons above or below. We make it easy to share and subscribe!

11

Lunges to Shape the Tush and Lower Body: Right & Wrong Way

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Lunges are the second-most popular exercise (after squats) for toning the glutes, lower body and core, plus they’re great for improving balance. What’s not to love?

 

Did we mention no equipment is necessary, except for gravity? For all their benefits, lunges are only effective if done with good form and technique. For whatever reasons, they are hard for most people to execute properly. After 30 years of teaching lunges, we thought we’d share some of the wrong and right ways to get a leg up on your lunges!

 

 

Most common errors:
* front knee too far forward
* back knee too close to the ground
* back foot diagonal, putting it out of alignment
* upper body leaning forward
* feet too close together
* leading with toes (for moving lunges)

Correct form:
* knee, hip, toes and heel square to front (if there is knee torque, use the knee as the gauge)
* feet hip distance apart
* front knee directly above the ankle
* back knee at a 90 degree angle, several inches off the floor
* upper body lined up – head over heart over hips
* leading with heel (for moving lunges)

Don’t lurk. Don’t lurch. Lunge! While you’re at it, according to the American Council on Exercise, an excellent weight loss combination is lunges and walking uphill. Say, did we ever show you our video about uphill walking?

Which do you prefer, lunges or squats? Or lurches?

The Original Lurch – “You Rang?”

Lower your fingers over the keyboard, then lunge forward to hit “subscribe” on our YouTube channel and blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click on the icons in the right sidebar.

Picture credit:  admiller, Unofficial Addams Family site

18

Foam Rollers: They Hurt So Good

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Foam rollers are an excellent tool for a group fitness class or personal training session, both for resistance training and for myofascial release (aka muscle release). In essence, a foam roller can be used both for a workout (especially for the core), and a self-massage, using your own body weight.

Quick kinesiology lesson

Don’t worry, nothing you can’t handle. The kinetic chain is made up of the:

  • soft tissue system (muscle, tendon, ligament, and fascia)
  • neural system (nerves and CNS)
  • articular system (joints)

All of these parts make up a whole that is interdependent. For example, muscle tightness restricts the range of motion that a joint may be moved (i.e., tight hamstrings can affect hip and lower back mobility). If you’re confused, please refer to this handy chart:

Foam rollers help with tension and release

Odd as it sounds, for a muscle to gain strength, the tissue has to receive enough stress to cause micro-tears. Once that’s occurred, you can help your muscles recover by using the foam roller to break up adhesions in the muscle tissue and/or fascia. When these “trigger points” are decreased, blood flow increases, which is good!

Alexandra: I like to use the foam rollers for myofascial release with my group fitness students every so often, mostly because I always get a laugh out of their moans and groans when they discover their tight iliotibial (IT) bands.

Kymberly: I admit up front that I love foam rollers! Roll, roll, roll in zee … Hey, that really hurts so good. (Insert silent scream here as I roll out my tight hammies and upper back. Did you get the movie reference I just made two sentences ago?)

Different than Operation: Find the Iliotibial Band

My, oh My, oh Myofascial Release

Alexandra:  I was starting to think it was about time to introduce the foam roller to this quarter’s “crop” of university students when I found out about an app called Roll Release Techniques, which has 100 different videos for using the foam roller for self-massage.

 

My feeling at discovering an app that I could take onto the teaching stage with me was something like this:

Release Me, Baby!

 

This app packs in 100 videos, more than 25 different muscle groups, and demos that show up to 4 different levels for each group. The creator of the foam roller app, Dr. Ryan Emmons, is the one demonstrating the moves, and it’s simple to use and follow. Tap the muscle you want, then tap the level you want (regression, main, progression or advanced). Simple to follow along; simple to use.

As a fitness instructor who doesn’t use foam rollers enough to know all the possibilities by heart, I found the Roll Release Techniques App super handy. For a fitness enthusiast at home who wants to get some quick myofascial release, it’s also super because there’s no need to know the names or function of any muscles; you can just tap the picture of the muscle you want to work.

Usually I’m a bit snobby particular about the fitness information I’ll purchase and use, but this app totally rocked and rolled; well, it rolled! As you can see by the facial expressions on my students’ faces in these pictures, foam rollers are an effective tool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roll your fingers over your keyboard and subscribe to our YouTube channel and this blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit, especially if you like shots of Santa Barbara and nature. The icons in the right sidebar are a quick way to link to us as well.  We follow back.

Readers and Rollers: What fitness apps do you use?

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own. Alexandra used her own money to purchase this app because it was totally worth $2.99 to get all the video demos.

Photo credit: Man jumping  kreg.steppe

 

20

One-Legged Workout

Alexandra Williams, MA

Even When You Can’t do a Full-Body Workout, You can Still Do a Partial-Body Workout

As some of you may know, I had surgery on my foot last week. At my post-op visit, the doc used the word “horrific” to describe my big toe joint (bone spurs, zero cartilage, bone-on-bone) when he got in there during the surgery. When the doctor uses that kind of adjective, you kind of quickly figure out you won’t be going back to your normal routine (teaching group fitness, walking in regular shoes) early. He said it takes six full weeks for the bones to fully fuse together, and that if I put any weight at all on my big toe, the screws could snap. Ick!

I am not happy, nor am I depressed, about being out of commission for at least six weeks. It’s more like acceptance and now let’s move on to what I can do. My one request to the doc was to make it so I could still teach again. I don’t want to be limited when I’m only halfway through my life. So I’m trusting that I’ll teach by the time the Fall quarter starts at the U. Until then, I am focusing on doing as much as I safely can, especially workouts.

With that in mind, I went into the back room and pulled out my (very dusty) plates and bar. Got my cool mat that Goodness Knows Snacks gave me at the Fitness Health Bloggers conference too! This is a partial list of some of the exercises I’ve been doing. If you like them, I hope you’ll give them a try.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxoPLH8-I_U[/youtube]

Chest Presses
Single-leg Rows
Seated Bicep Curls
Supine Skull Crushers
Table-top Heel Taps
Single-leg Bridges
Single-leg Push-Ups
Single-leg Planks
Supine Leg Raises

Did you read that very short list and start thinking, “Wow, that’s it?! There are hundreds of exercises you could do”? I hope so, because that’s exactly what I figured out. I am limited by my foot, not by my imagination, determination or any of the other 229 joints (the number varies, depending on which joints you count) in my body. And a shout out to my new Twitter friend @ittuderevolution for sharing some of her favorite exercise suggestions.

When you can’t have something is when you really want it (remember your high school crushes?), so I hope that anyone and everyone who reads this and doesn’t want to work out takes a few seconds to think, “Hmm, I should do this today because I can. Tomorrow I might be wearing one of those ugly black booties.”

It’s not “All or Nothing.” It’s “All or Something or Nothing.” I’m limited, but not incapacitated. And I still have my sense of humor! Here’s to me! Now, I think I’ll go see about getting some toenail polish!

Have you ever been limited by your body? How did you respond?

7

Seuss Workout

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

A Full-Body Workout based on Dr. Seuss Quotes

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won!

Whenever you work out, you score points. Whenever you have fun you win at life! The more you work out and the more fun you have, the better your life, right?!

We were inspired by our friend Carla, who is a very dedicated Seuss follower, to make this Seussical workout as a birthday gift to her. Why? Because…

If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.

In other words, time for squats, planks and some general “Cat in the Hat” house tomfoolery! We can only say that no furniture was harmed in the making of the cardio portion of this workout!

Squats: 10 Reps using Bar & Plates
Planks: Alternate sides and slowly drag arm/ leg back in.
Follow with heel rock-back plank and single-leg plank
Cardio: Walk, Jump, Flounce & Pounce for at least 15 minutes

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOefo3A4YqE[/youtube]

 

My life is good. My life is fun. I wish this life for everyone (okay, Dr. Seuss didn’t really say this; I made it up).

What is your favorite Dr. Seuss quote? And what would your workout look like?

Illustration credit: Mamiverse.com

8

Easter Workout

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Now THAT'S a push-up!

Do you want a quick and easy way to get in some exercise this holiday weekend?

Are you pressed for time?

Good news: We have a full-body, quick workout for you that requires no equipment. Heck, you can even do it at a roadside rest stop, although you might want a towel for the push-ups!

 

 


Please note how wide Alexandra’s arms are for those push-ups. That’s to really engage the chest, and not over-emphasize the shoulders and arms. And we love full range of motion (ROM)!

If you want to know more about the wrong and right way to do a squat, or more about push-ups, check out these video posts.

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, we hope you have a lovely, healthy, fun weekend! Now Drop and Give us 30!

Which do you prefer, planks or push-ups? Boxers or briefs?

18

3 Tips for Preventing Shin Splints [Video]

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

See how painful that looks? Only your heart should look this red and throbbing!

Do you want to prevent shin splints? Apparently many of you do as “shin splints” is our site’s most popular search term. (Yeah, we peeked). Our previous post about preventing shin splints is one of our “top sellers” (except it’s free to read).

 

 

 

The 3 tips in the video below will help you prevent shin splints. You’ll see more in future posts on what to do before and  after  shin pain. For now, take a look at this short video:

 

Key for you to know is that the shin (anterior tibialis) and calf (gastrocnemius, plus five other calf muscles  work as a team. Most people shower too much attention on the calf, and neglect the shin. The calf gets big and bossy and tries to exert constant force on the little tib. This makes the shin very envious and it shows its displeasure by becoming stressed and painful. If you give the shin a bit more love (that is secret code for “more training”) it will be happy and joyous and take you all kinds of places pain-free.

Have you ever had shin splints? What did you do to recover?

Photo Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Voting for the Shorty Awards ends on 2/17. Please vote for Alexandra in the #SocialFitness category if you haven’t already. Thank you.

Nominate Alexandra Williams for a social media award in the Shorty Awards!

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29

Brace for Good News About Bad Knees

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: A while back I had knee surgery, but I still want to work out even though exercise sometimes hurts. How do I protect my knees when participating in cardio activities, fitness classes, or walking downhill? Bob, Goleta, CA

Knee Joint StrapAlexandra: Hi Bob. Would you like me to go into detail about strengthening up and stretching the muscles that support your slacker knees, including the much-forgotten VMO? No, that is not an insurance plan, that is the Vastus Medialis Obliquus, and yes, it is spelled like that. No body part with Latin in its description (that would apply to er, um, well, all of them) should have to live in pain. It’s all about balance.

Kymberly: Well, balance AND alignment.  Our advice times twins is: Strengthen your quads and glutes. Do the same for your inner thighs and hamstrings so you stay balanced muscularly. Strengthen your anterior tibialis (shins) while you’re at it. Keep your knees tracking in line with your upper leg and lower leg, No turning your feet one way when your knees are pointing in another. And no turning your knees one way when your pelvic structure dictates something different. Got a compass so you can keep up with me and your pelvic structure?

When doing movements that locomote you forward or downhill, try to keep your knee above or behind your toes. Beware of all that forward and downward motion pushing your knees too far in front of your body and past the vertical plane of your feet. Otherwise you are putting a lot of pressure on the poor little kneecaps. Translation = knee pain.

knee brace for athletesHave you checked with your doctor whether wearing a knee brace or sport wrap might help? Options range from custom made, metal, hinging knee braces to those small strap bands. Both Alexandra and I have worn knee braces after similar reconstructive surgeries that ended our soccer careers. And by “careers,” we mean “having fun on the pitch.”  Fortunately we can still teach fitness!

K: If you have a few moments, read our other posts on dealing with knee pain, knee joint problems, and knee injuries. You will get lots of good strategies and a few stories on overcoming knee issues:

Just Say No … Didn’t Work

The Knights Who Say “Knee”

Can’t Run or Jump?

Bad Knees: Step Lively Once Again

A: Why don’t you just hire a proxy to do your exercise activities? Save your knees for dancing at parties and asking forgiveness.

K: You know, I have to agree with Alexandra. Or party on with a rehab program you can buy for leeetle dollahs: Fix My Knee Pain.

Readers: If you have knee pain that affects your workouts, how do you deal with it?

Disclosure: We are affiliates for the Fix My Knee Pain program. Not because we actually earn big bucks, but because we trust, know, and use this program ourselves. While opinions and suggestions are entirely ours, tricky knees are all yours.

Photo credit: BetterBraces.com

17

Are Skechers Sketchy, Steppy, or Peppy?

Kymberly Wiliams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Who loves getting packages in the mail? We do! We do! Oooh…squeee! Free Skechers fitness shoes for us to use and review. Double ooooh, as those of you who have followed us for a while know that we are NOT fans of the rocker aspect. But we do have open minds and new closed-toed shoes to try out and report on.

Skechers Fitness Tone-Ups

Pink & Grey, just like Alexandra's Face & Hair!

We ripped open the package and found first a DVD with “Instructions.” Already we had to like that since we have unique senses of humor. The last time we got shoe instructions was when we learned shoelace tying in kindergarten. “Loop one bunny ear, then the other; send the rabbit around the hole, through the hutch, and ta dum! Shoes tied!” Aahh sweet memories of that and eating that white paste at recess after playing “cooties.”

Anyway… we decided to live life on the edge, skip the instructions and take our Skechers on all sorts of adventures to see what they could handle. Since we teach a variety of classes plus power walk almost every day, we thought our shoes should go with us.

Do Skechers make Kymberly's legs look longer? Just say "yes."

First up: Low Impact class with Kymberly and her spiffy looking Women’s SRR Pro Speed.
Report directly from Kymberly’s Skechers: “Yes, this was an excellent and comfortable experience. I made Kymberly’s feet dance and twirl in comfort and style. Do her pants make my tongue look big?”

 

 

 

 

Step, step, step to my Lou

Next up: Step class with Kymberly
Report from K’s Skechers: “Big no for this activity. Kymberly’s balance was all over the place and the up and down stepping, lateral moves, and my shoe tread combined with the step rubber did not really play well together. Our master looked styler at least (that’s what Kymberly insisted we call her or she was going to tie us in knots).”

 

Last in-class visit: Kymberly’s Strength Training Class with Tubing

Oops, we thought this was a snake.

No, I'm not being arch! Quit trying to resist!

Skechers shoes reporting directly: “Gotta say, I was comfy and foot supportive throughout. However, the tube exercisers insist on using had nowhere to fit under my rocker! That darn resistance tubing kept slipping out from underfoot as my shoe has no arch underneath to keep it in place. So, rocker type shoes and tubing are not destined to work out safely together. No way to anchor = tube snap!”

The Path to Happy Feet

Power Walking and Aerobic Moseying with Kymberly: Field report: “SUCCESS IS OURS! Being on Kymberly’s’ feet so long, I noticed she has arthritis in her big toes and a knee that has had two major surgeries. So normally long walks hurt her feet and knee. She is acutely aware of foot strike and impact issues and usually takes her shoes off the minute she gets home as her feet cramp. I overheard her tell her sister that these shoes were surprisingly the MOST comfortable ones she has walked in and that her feet felt cushioned, fully engaged in each stride, and very light and springy from start to finish! She even kept me on for hours afterwards walking around the house and generally being footloose and fancy free! Apparently I am ‘walkers’ not ‘rockers’!”

Kymberly: Bottom line, these shoes are now my favorite walking shoes. But when equipment is involved, naaah!

Alexandra’s Shoes and Reviews:

Alexandra: I got the Fitness Flex Tone-Ups, which have very little of the “rocker” tone-up aspect, which is actually why I selected that style.
Here’s what I like about them:

* very lightweight
* attractive colors
* extremely comfortable, even with my wide feet
* great breatheability (this means I don’t end up with stinky feet)

Here’s where I won’t wear them: Teaching classes. I tried them in many of my formats (step, strength, hi/low cardio, kickbox, sports training,, etc.) and they were too unstable. I get the Good Sport award for thorough testing! Here’s where I will wear them: Walking. For walking I loved them. Keep in mind that I was walking on an unstable surface, not a sidewalk.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GTh4Oeh8og[/youtube]

Readers: We know some of you love them; some hate them. What’s your experience with the shoes? Do you feel drunk without having to actually drink when wearing them?

Photo Credits: I poached the Fitness Flex shoe pic off the Skechers site by doing a screen shot. Kymberly took all the other photos.