Archive

Category Archives for "Lower Body, Quads, Thighs, Legs, Hips"
17

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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?

17

3 Tips for Preventing Shin Splints

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:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW89wDktKCk[/youtube]

 

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.

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28

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 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. 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!

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. Party on with protected and braced knees!

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

Disclosure: BetterBraces. com has compensated us for the links in this post. The opinions and suggestions are entirely ours, however. Tricky knees are all yours though, if you insist.

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.

4

4 More Useless Exercises

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Okay, we took a bit of ribbing about our previous post of useless exercises, as in “Hey, I used to do that one too. Thanks a lot for the reminder!” That encouraged us so much that we moved with no forwarding address. But before we packed up our mats, weights and “no pain, no gain” mantras, we filmed a few more “lovelies” for you. And don’t do these exercises, unless you are auditioning for “Dancing with the Dorks.” If that’s the case, do all four in high heels. Men too!

Donkey kick

Donkey kicks are great exercise - for donkeys!

 

 

 

 

Quick quiz: What works your pecs (the chest) better, a push-up or the standing elbow squeeze? Sadly, we used to believe these might help. I think genetics and push-ups might have had more of an effect on the ol’ bust-a-roos! And nursing the evil spawn children!

This next hip-aching move was probably created by an overzealous instructor who saw a dog pissing on a hydrant. There’s no other explanation. Pain, lack of results and research kind of debunked this one too! And you’ve gotta ask yourself – um, do I ever need this particular move in real life?

Hee-haw hee-haw. Donkey kicks for the ass..inine. There are many other exercises out there that are great for the glutes (booty of perfection), but this ain’t one of ’em! We secretly call this one Donkey Spine Thrasher. Oh, yeah, we kicked some … donkey!

Do you know what ballistic stretching is? Neither did we. Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, snap. You wouldn’t do this type of stretch-release-stretch-release with a rubber band, so why subject your hamstrings (or any muscle) to it? Here’s a quick quote from one of our favorite, extra-clever research colleagues, Dr. Len Kravitz of U of New Mexico, Albuquerque: “Ballistic stretching involves a bouncy approach to reach the target muscle’s motion endpoint. A concern with ballistic stretching is that it is often performed in a jerky, bobbing fashion that may produce undesirable tension or trauma to the stretched muscle and associated connective tissues. It may produce a potent stretch reflex that will oppose the muscle lengthening.”

Okay, admit it, are any of these still in your workout regimen? Can you dump it now? Can you dump it now? How ’bout now?

Call me to share your useless exercises

You're doing WHAT exercise?

Photo credits: Creative Commons (pmarkham)

6

Inner Thigh Exercises to Rock Your Jeans

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Can you recommend exercises to tone and lose weight in my inner thighs? I’m getting tired of ruining perfectly good jeans and shorts because of the wear in the fabric. I have an exercise ball hiding somewhere in my condo if that helps.
Susan, Milford, CT

yay for exercise balls

An exercise ball in every household!

Alexandra: Hi Susan!  Because we are saddened by your fashion mishaps, we want to help you! It’s great that you own an exercise ball, because we love them. Stability balls offer great options no matter what you want to work. The exercises you’re about to see in the video are good for strengthening your inner thighs, but if you also wish to lose the extra adipose tissue (er, that’s fat) sitting on top of and inside your muscles, you will have to do cardio–as in “move more.”

Kymberly: You can do cardio with the ball. Heck, you can fly across the country and take Alexandra’s cardio ball class if you are feeling spunky. Or just do whatever type of movement  you enjoy: Dancing in the Dark, Shakin’ Your Groove Thing, Running on Empty and  such like and so on. A fitness colleague of ours has some fun warm-up moves on the ball in this article, so take a quick look. Between the cardio on the ball and the inner thigh exercise options from our video, you will achieve the status of Your Royal Inner tHighness AND you will live to donate your jeans and shorts intact to your adoring subjects! (See photo above if you don’t believe us)

Photo credit: Creative Commons:  infomatique

4

Wrong & Right Way to Do a Squat

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Squats are an excellent way to work the booty…and quads and hamstrings! Lower body magic move alert!

Fitness Squats

Even in French, there's a wrong & right way to perform squats!

The problem is that most people do them wrong, then wonder why their backs or knees hurt. So Kymberly put on her booty boots, Alexandra put on her best “squint into the sun” face, and we decided to show you both the wrong and right way to do a squat. Come on now, do them with us! Even better, practice sideways to the mirror to check your form.

Well, are you and your now-perfect squat form ready for some boot-scootin’ boogie?

Photo credit: Creative Commons-Sanchom