Burn Mega Fat With A Stability Ball

Stability ball…Swiss ball…Yoga ball…That big round blue ball…

You can find it in every fitness center, and you can buy one for around $15-$20.  It’s become a fitness staple because of its versatility and low cost (Work your core by sitting on it while you watch TV!).  Your kids will love it too (Just don’t let them pop it!).

Do you have one, but aren’t sure what to do with it?  Check out some of my favorite stability-ball moves.  Do these as a circuit, 2-3 times.  Do 10-18 reps per exercise.  Click on each photo for a demonstration.

1. Pec Fly With Bridge

Dumbbell-Chest-Flys-on-Ball

Bonus: Keep your glutes tight throughout these movements, lifting your butt off the ball so that your torso and thighs form a straight line (not demonstrated).

2. Ball Wall Squat With Bicep Curl

Wall-Squats-with-Dumbbells-and-Ball

Bicep Curl is not demonstrated.  Perform each curl as you squat, extending your arms and legs simultaneously as you return to standing.

3. One-Legged Static Lunge with Lat Raise

single leg lunge

There is no demonstration with this photo.  Keep your front knee behind the toe and you bend it.  Bonus: Add a lat raise (not pictured), lifting your extended arms laterally to shoulder level as you bend your knee.  Perform on both legs.

4.  Push-Up

Pushups-on-the-Ball

The closer the ball is to your feet, the harder the exercise.

5. Back Extension

Back-Extension-with-Ball

5. Side Plank

Side-Plank-on-Ball

This is great especially for those who find a regular side plank too challenging.  Hold in this position for 15-30 seconds, to start.

6. Dumbell Reverse Flys

Dumbbell-Reverse-Flys-Lying-on-Ball

Begin this exercise by placing your body balanced on the Swiss ball at your core with legs straight and toes on the floor.

7.  Wheelbarrow Walk

Wheelbarrow-Walk-with-Ball

Keep your abs tight throughout this movement.

8. Swimming

Slow-Swimming-on-Ball

9. Hamstring Curl

Hamstring-Flexion-with-Ball

Begin this exercise by lying flat on your back with a Swiss ball under your heels. Place your arms straight out to your side for support.  Keep your feet flexed, digging your heels into the ball.  For more of a challenge, keep your butt off the floor.

10. Jack Knife

Jackknife-with-Ball

Demonstrations courtesy of SparkPeople.

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The Best (and Worst) Moves For Awesome Abs

truth-about-six-pack-abs-girl

Everyone pines for a six-pack.  People love to work their abs, and that’s good.  Your core is the foundation from where all your power originates.  Keep in mind that the core includes not only the abdominal muscles, but those of the back, glutes, spine, and hips (pelvic floor).  Keeping all of your core muscles strong also helps to prevent injury in athletes.

Before I continue, let me first say that you cannot spot reduce body fat on your waist, or anywhere else, for that matter.  You can strengthen your ab muscles with all of the exercises in the world, but without getting your heart-rate up through cardiovascular exercise, you won’t be able burn off the fat needed to see those strong abs you worked for.  So do your cardio!

People who want that flat tummy often gravitate toward crunches, because that’s the most well-known ab move.  However, research has shown that crunches are one of the worst ab moves in terms of how hard the obliques and rectus abdominus are worked.  The crunch only works a small part of the core, repeatedly bends the spine, and burns few calories.

The plank, a stabilizing move, works your whole core, as well as the transverse abdominus and your upper body.  It’s one of the best ab moves you can do.  What’s more, the possibilities with plank variations are endless!  Let’s first start with how to do a simple plank, because form is key:

With your forearms and toes on the floor:

plank1

  • Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
  • Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds to start.
  • Over time work up to 30, 45 or 60 seconds.  Don’t forget to breathe!

You can also do a plank with your arms fully extended, which works more of the upper body:

ICP

 

If you are a planking pro and can hold the pose for more than a couple of minutes, the simple plank is really no longer very effective for you.  It’s time to ramp it up a little!  Aside from the regular push-up, which is a great move, try one of these other variations below.  Happy planking!

Dolphin

dolphins

Plank Reach

plank reach

 

Single-Legged

0910-single-leg-plank

 

Reach & Raise

plank reach and raise

 

Lateral Walking Plank

Upper-Body-Core-Lateral-Plank-Walk

 

  • Simultaneously cross your right hand toward the left as you step your left foot out to the left. Then simultaneously step your left hand and right foot to the left, returning to the plank position. Your hands move together as your feet step apart. Take two more steps in this direction, keeping your abs pulled toward your spine and your pelvis level. This completes one rep.
  • Reverse directions, taking three steps the right.

 

Plank Up-Downs

plank up downs

 

Plank on Bosu Ball

bosu2

 

Side Plank

side plank

 

Plank Rows

plank rows

Sliding Plank

sliding-plank

 

Plank Walk-Out

 plank walkout

 

Oblique Crunch Plank

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Bonus: Jack Knife on Stability Ball

jacknife

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 Minute Get-You-Through-The-Holidays Workout

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Time is tight this month.  Fitness-wise, the key is to maintain.  Even ten to twenty minutes makes a difference, as long as you make all of the those minutes count.  Too wet and icy for a run?  All you need to do is dust off that treadmill/stationary bike/elliptical, and get moving.  I know, I know…You’re utterly bored with your treadmill/stationary bike/elliptical.  Don’t worry, this interval workout breaks it up a little and keeps things exciting.  You’ll be finished before you know it!

I’m going to use the stationary bike in this workout, but you use whatever you have at home.  At the bottom are photos of a couple of the moves.

3 minutes – low-moderate intensity warm-up on bike

2 minutes – moderate-high intensity on bike

15 push-ups

12 burpees

18 reverse plank leg lifts

2 minutes – moderate intensity on bike

1 minute – moderate-high intensity on bike

1 minute – high intensity on bike

2 minutes – moderate intensity on bike

1 minute – moderate-high intensity on bike

1 minute – high intensity on bike

15 pushups

18 squat jumps

18 dancing crabs (touch your opposite hand to foot while in crab pose.  Alternate.)

3 minutes – moderate-low intensity cooldown

Photo 1: Reverse-Plank Alternating Leg Lifts.  Just do a reverse plank without the leg lift if you need to.

Photo 2: Dancing Crab.

reverse-plank-1leg

The Do-Anywhere Workout

kickboxing-punch-girl-smaller

 

Going on vacation?  Bring this workout with you.  It can be hard to squeeze in exercise when you’re out of town, but this one is short, intense, and to the point.

You can do it pretty much anywhere–Just grab your beach towel and you’re good to go!  It’s cardio and strength rolled up into one workout, targeting your whole body while simultaneously getting the heart pumping.  Do 8-20 reps of each, depending on your fitness level, and repeat the circuit for a total of 2-3 times through.  Don’t forget to spend a few minutes warming up/cooling down.

Focus on maintenance while on vacation, trying for at least three short workouts within the span of a week (if you can do more, all the better!).  This may include a beachside jog, a visit to your hotel’s fitness center, or an intense 20-45 minute circuit workout like this one.

 

 

Burpees

With your feet together, squat down and put your hands on the ground just in front of your feet. Keep your feet together and jump them back so you land in a push-up. Bend your arms and do a single push-up. Jump your feet back in and under your body and then leap up and into the air. Land on slightly-bent legs and repeat. (modifications–No push-up, no jump)

 

burpee

 

 

 

Floor Dips

Sit on the floor with your knees bent, one foot raised, hands on the floor behind you with fingers pointing toward body. To begin, lift hips off floor.  Slowly and gently bend your elbows and lower your body close to the floor. Keep abdominal muscles tight. Extend arms through the elbows and repeat.

 

floor-dips

 

 

High Knees

:30 to :60, at a moderately high/high intensity

Stand in place with your feet hip-width apart. Drive your right knee toward your chest and quickly place it back on the ground. Follow immediately by driving your left knee toward your chest. Continue to alternate knees as quickly as you can.

 

high knees

 

 

Lunge Twists

Hold the ends of your towel.  Lunge forward and rotate your torso in the same direction as your front leg lifting your arms diagonally above your head, then stand and return to center. Perform reps, then repeat on other side.

 

lunge twist

 

 

Pistol Squats

Stand on left leg. Hold right leg out in front of you so that your heel is just off the floor.  Using leg strength and balance, lower yourself down to the floor, keeping your right heel just above the floor the entire time. Keep your hands out in front of your body to help balance.  Go down until your hamstring touches your calf. Your right heel should still be about an inch off the ground.  Then stand back up.  Perform reps, then repeat on other side. (This is a very challenging move.  Don’t go down as far, if need be.  Do as many as you can, which may only be 1 on each leg.)

 

pistol-squat

 

 

Donkey Kicks With Pushups

Get into plank, with wrists aligned under your shoulders.  Perform a push-up, then jump feet toward hands.  Kick feet into the air, and bring heels toward the butt.  Jump feet back to starting position.  Repeat.

 

push up donkey

 

 

Towel Bicep Curls

 Put the towel just right under your knee and use the towel to elevate the leg. Keep your elbows at your waist and do a bicep curl. You’re actually lifting up the leg. Go half- way down. Exhale when you come up.
Keep your elbows at your sides when you do this.  Perform reps, and repeat on other side.

towel bicep

 

Tuck Jumps

Jump up bringing your knees as high as you can.  Land softly with feet under hips.

 

tuck-jump

 

 

Plank Press-Outs With Towel

On all fours, place folded towel under feet. Draw belly button into spine to engage abs and slightly lift knees off ground (don’t let hips lift up in the air). Press out through heels, sliding legs out into a full plank position (avoid sagging or lifting hips—body should make a line from heels to head). Brace abs in tighter and slide legs back in to start position (knees still hovering).

 

Sliding-Plank

 

 

Towel Boat Pose

Put your towel around one foot as you go into a boat pose.  Hold 15-30 seconds, breathing evenly.  Switch legs and repeat.

 

boat pose towel

 

 

 

 

 

8 Monday Get-Back-On-Track Moves

equilibrium fitness

Ah, Monday.  Time to get myself back on track after a weekend of slacking, and hard-core circuit-training always does the job.  It provides me with the swift kick in the pants that I need to start my week off right.  These workouts break up my usual running/gym routine and are extremely efficient–working multiple muscle groups, strengthening and burning fat simultaneously.

Here are some of my favorite moves. See how many reps you can do in 20-30 seconds.  Do as a circuit, if you like.  Go through all moves once, rest for two minutes, then repeat.  Most of these are typically regarded as more advanced and may not be appropriate for those new to exercise. 

push&reach

Push & Reach

Start in pushup position, feet at hip width, and perform pushup.  At the top of your subsequent pushup, simultaneously extend right arm so that it’s parallel to the floor and raise left leg about eight inches, also parallel to the floor.  Hold this…

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Add Some Power to Your Push-Ups!

I love moves that mix cardio and strength conditioning, and this one has got to be near the top of the list!

Try the push-up jack.  This super-effective plyometric move gets your heart racing and works your whole body:

 

1-Start in a plank position. Your wrists, elbows, and shoulders are in one line and your core is activated so that you have a flat back, pushing through your heels to create length in your body.


2-As you take an inhalation, lower your chest towards the floor and jump your feet away from each other about two feet, like you are doing a jumping jack.


3-On your next exhalation, push your chest back up to the starting position as you engage your lower abs to hop your feet back together.

This is one repetition. See how many reps you can do in :60.  You can do it.  Really!!

The No Running, No Jumping, High Intensity Workout

So you want to slim down, but an injury or medical condition is preventing you from doing plyometrics, running or jumping.  Don’t worry!  You can still get your heart rate up and melt off unwanted fat.  Try this home workout, performing the circuit 2-3 times (Resting 1-2 minutes in between), doing 12-18 reps unless otherwise stated.  Try to do each move as fast as you can, while still maintaining good form.  You’ll need weights and a towel, and if you have them, a kettlebell and medicine ball.

 

plank walkout

Plank Walk-Out

Begin in a standing position.  Bend at the waist, keeping your knees soft.  Walk out to a full plank position and hold for 1 second.  Walk back to standing.  You can also perform this move beginning and ending in a squatting position.   Do this move quickly but still maintaining good form.

 

 

kickboxing-punch-girl-smaller

Kickboxing

Punch and/or kick for 1 minute.  Do any combination of kickboxing moves that you prefer, or just do simple alternating jabs.  You can use a punching bag and gloves, if you have them.  Perform the moves with intensity, going as quickly as you can and keeping your arms tight.

 

dumbbell-bent-over-row

Squatting Rows

Pictured is a bent over row with dumbbells.  Do this, but also add a squat simultaneously as you lift the weights.  This increases the calorie burn.  Use the heaviest weights that you can while keeping good form.  Keep your back flat.

 

 

 

elbow donkey kick plank

 

Elbow Plank Donkey Kick

Get into a lower plank position and lift one leg in the air, bending the knee.  Extend your leg upward, and return to starting position.  Switch sides.

2b-Opposite-Arm-Raise-Sweep

 

 

Dumbbell Arm Sweeps

Using light to medium weights, go into a static half-squatting position.  Alternately swing the weights front to back for 1 minute, maintaining control in the arms.

 

 

 

 

 

sliding-plank

 

 

 

Sliding Plank

Place a folded towel or floor gliders on a smooth floor.  Get into a plank position, resting your feet on the towel/gliders.  Slide your knees up toward your arms, holding for one second, then return to starting position.

 

 

 

 

kettlebell-figure-eight-exercise-525x328

 

Kettlebell/Dumbbell Standing Figure 8’s

Grab a kettlebell, or one dumbbell by the end, in one hand, and go into a static, wide, half-squat position.  Hinging slightly at the waist and keeping your back straight, bring the weight in between your legs and grab it with the other hand.  Repeat on the other side, making a figure 8 motion around your legs.  Do this as quickly as you can, keeping your knees bent and maintaining good form for 1 minute.

 

mb41_medicine_ball_workouts_figure_8_crunch3-300x200

Ball/Dumbbell Sitting Figure 8’s

  • Start sitting on the floor, knees bent, holding the ball or a light weight.  Lean back 45 degrees and then move the ball around the legs, making a figure 8.  Squeeze the stomach and breathe.  Do this as fast as you can for :30.

 

 

 

 

No Time to Work Out This Month? No Problem. Try This….

holiday-stressSweets…parties…travel…and shopping galore.

I don’t know about you, but I find December the most challenging month of the year for staying on track fitness-wise.  That’s why I focus on maintaining, rather than making any huge fitness gains during the holidays.  Keep the eating in check, but also don’t feel guilty about partaking in a little merriment.  It’s all about moderation this month.  Maintenance and moderation.

As far as exercise goes this month, hurrying through the mall to get those gifts doesn’t cut it, especially if you down a few egg nogs.  No doubt, you’ll be strapped for time these next few weeks.  No time for a lengthy gym workout or long run?  I recommend utilizing the few minutes you do have to the fullest.  That means high intensity, multi-joint exercises mixed with cardio.  Grab some weights, a band, or just use your body weight (Think push-ups, burpees, etc.) and make up a circuit that works your large muscle groups while also getting that heart rate up.  Even if it’s for just 20 minutes.  Come on, you have 20 minutes, right?  20-45 minutes, three times a week.  And the best part is, you can do that anywhere, at any time of day.

As an example, here’s an excellent workout that I posted awhile back that’s speedy, yet effective–Perfect for this time of year.  You can also check out some other similar workouts, under the “Workouts” heading on my home page.

Happy Holidays!

6 Moves…1 Fat-Torching, Full-Body Workout

If you don’t have the luxury of spending hours in the gym, here’s some good news…You don’t have to. 

Research shows that high intensity interval training burns just as much, and in some cases, more fat–in less time.

The following moves are extremely efficient–I did, and still do, workouts like this all of the time–and that’s how I lost almost 40 lbs.  Compound exercises allow you to get and keep your heart rate revved, firm up and burn mega fat all at once.

For maximum results, do 2-4 minutes of jogging, jumping jacks, jump ropes, or another high-intensity cardio exercise between each of these moves.  Perform this circuit 2-3 times, resting 1-2 minutes in between.

Squat to Overhead Press

1. Holding two light to medium dumbells at your shoulders, with your feet hip-width apart, squat and return to standing.

2. Once in standing position, extend your arms overhead and and back.

Repeat this sequence 10-15x.

squat-overhead-press

Lunge with Bicep Curl

1. Holding light to medium dumbells, extend your right leg, lunging forward.  Make sure your knee does not extend past your toe.  Simultaneously, keeping your arms close to your sides, curl them up.

2. As you return to standing, pushing off your front heel, extend your arms back to your sides.  Do this 10-12x, then repeat on the opposite leg.

dumbbell-lunge-curl

Static Wall Squat with Lateral Arm Raise

1. Lean against a wall in “chair” position with your knees bent, holding two light dumbells at your sides.  Keeping your arms fully extended, slowly raise them to shoulder level.

2. Lower your arms slowly back to starting position.  Repeat 10-15x.

wall squat lat raise

Plie Squat with Triceps Extension

1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointed outward.  Hold two light to medium dumbells behind your head with your arms bent and elbows up.  Lower into a squat position and return to standing.

2.  Once in standing position, extend your arms up over your head, making sure to keep your upper arms still, not letting them drop in front of your face.  Bend your arms again to starting position.  Repeat this sequence 10-15x.

plie triceps

Plank to Push-up

1. Assume plank position on a mat, keeping your butt down, abs tight and body straight.  Stay in this position for 10 seconds.

2. Staying in this position or moving to your knees (but keeping your butt down), perform 10 push-ups.

3. Return to plank position and repeat this sequence 2-3x.

pushup

One-Arm, One Legged Bent Over Row

1. Holding one medium to heavy dumbell in your right hand, hinge forward at the waist, keeping your abs tight, shoulders back and back straight.  Let your arm extend to the floor.  Extend your left leg behind you.

2.  Maintaining this position, bring your right arm up, raising your elbow as high as it will go, and keeping it close to your side.  Pause for a second, and return to starting position.  Repeat for 10-15 reps, then, do the same exercise on the opposite arm/leg.

One-Leg-Bend-Over-Row-WomensHealthMag_com_

Total Body Resistance Band Workout: Part II

Here’s the second half to my band workout, which I had assumed I’d have time to publish by now.  As it turns out, my lazy August is becoming quite busy!  Oh well, better late than never.  As always, do 2-3 sets of each move, preferably in a circuit format.  Mix and match these moves with Part I for a complete workout.

Now, I think I’ll grab an iced tea, go outside and force my type-A self to slow down these last few summer weeks…

band_shouldpress_squat

1. Squat to Overhead Press

Grab an exercise band with an overhand grip and stand on it with feet hip-width apart. Lower your hips until your thighs are as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Position hands at shoulder height. Push up to standing while extending your arms straight overhead. 12-18 reps.

2. Arm Sweep (not pictured)

Stand with one end of the band under one foot with the handle facing the outside.  Hold the other end in your hand (same side), arm extended to the side but not locked.  Keeping your arm extended and parallel to the floor, slowly sweep your arm to the front.  Hold for a second, then sweep back out to the side.  Adjust the tension/difficulty by where your foot is standing on the band.  12-18 reps, then repeat with the other arm.

band triceps

3.Tricep Extension

Grab one end of the resistance band with and step on the other end of the band with your same-side foot.  Pull the band up over your shoulder so that your elbow is pointed forward.  Extend your arm upward until it is in a straight line and then bring back down to your shoulder.  12-18 reps, then repeat on the other side.

band donkey kicks

4. Donkey Kick

Hold onto each end of your resistance band, and place the center of the band around the sole of the right foot. Then place your elbows and knees on the ground so your back is straight.  Hold the band firmly, draw your belly in, and extend your right leg straight out behind you. Then draw your knee forward, but don’t let it touch the ground.  15-20 reps; repeat with the left leg.

5. Elbow-Knee Oblique Crunches (not pictured)

Standing, grab the band’s handles, and then grab onto the tubing with each hand.  Hold the band overhead.  Keeping your left arm stationary, slowly lower your right arm and raise your right knee simultaneously, allowing them to touch, if possible.  Pause for one second, then return to starting position.  15-20 reps; repeat on the left side.

Band russian twist

6. Russian Twist

Sit on floor with legs extended and together, center of band wrapped around soles of feet, holding one end of band in each hand. Bend knees slightly, keeping heels on floor, and clasp hands to bring both ends of band together.  With abs engaged and back flat, lean back 45 degrees and extend arms in front of you at eye level.  Slowly bring your arms to one side, following them with your eyes.  Return to center, then repeat on the other side.  That’s one rep.  12-18 reps.

Total Body Resistance Band Workout: Part I

resistance-bandThe resistance band is an awesome tool if you have little space to work out, travel a lot, or just want some variety.  It also works your muscles differently than weights–providing resistance during the eccentric part of each exercise, rather than just the concentric portion.  I love using the band during my fitness classes because it is so versatile, and have based full classes on band exercises.

Here’s part I of a full-body band work out (Part II coming next week).  You don’t even need an anchor for any of these moves.  I’ve combined optional lower-body moves with some of the band exercises to increase the calorie burn.  Adjust the band’s resistance to your level by placing your hands closer together (or farther apart) on the band.  Perform 2-3 sets of each exercise.

band

1.  Bicep Curl (with Squat)

Place the band under your feet, hip-width apart, and hold the handles at your sides, arms slightly bent (pictured).  Bend your knees to perform a squat.  As you straighten your legs to come out of the squat, perform a bicep curl.  12-18 reps.

2.  Side-Steps OR Supine Hip Abduction

resistance band side steps

Side-Steps:

Place the band under your feet, hip-width apart, and hold the handles at your sides.  Side-step to your left, bringing your feet apart, and then back to hip width again with your right foot.  Perform 5 side-steps to your left, and then 5  to your right.  Repeat this sequence twice more.  Increase tension in the band by lifting the handles higher from the floor or bringing them together in front of you.

band supine hip abduction

Supine Hip Abduction:

(I don’t really like this photo because I hold the band with both hands closer to my chest…but this photo gives you an idea)  Lie on your back, feet extended in the air, hip-width apart.  Bring the band under your feet and hold it by the handles or rubber tubing, together at your chest.  Move your outward as far as you can, away from each other, then return to hip-width.  15-18 reps.

lat-pull-down-finishstatic-lunge-3

3. Lat Pulldown (with Static Lunge)

Grab each end of the band by the rubber tubing, arms overhead, extended but not locked.  Slowly lower your arms laterally, parallel with the floor, still extended but slightly bent. (pictured).  To add the static lunge,  get into the lunge starting position (pictured) with your arms overhead.  Keeping your feet planted, bend your knees into a lunge, while simultaneously performing the lat pulldown.  As you straighten your legs back up, bring your arms back overhead to starting position.  Repeat for 12-18 reps.

resistance-band-front-raises

band lunges

4. Anterior Raise (with Backward Lunge)

Standing, bring one foot slightly forward with your band under it.  Raise your extended arms in front of you, parallel to the floor, holding the band’s handles. (pictured) Lower. To add a backward lunge, bring your other leg back behind you simultaneously as you raise your arms forward. (This second photo does not show a full backward lunge.  You need to lower your back leg more, bending your back knee, to perform a full lunge.)  Return to standing and lower your arms. 12-18 reps.

band row

5. Standing Row

Pictured is a one-arm band row, but you can perform a two-arm row using both handles.  Stay in the pictured position, abs tight, shoulders back, back straight.   Bring your elbows up, keeping them tight at your sides, then lower.  12-18 reps.

chestpull

side lunge

6.  Arm Pull (with Side Lunge)

Begin with your arms extended, holding each end of the band by the tubing loosely in front of you.  Tighten the band by pulling each arm sideways,  keeping them extended but not locked, and parallel to the floor (pictured).  Return to starting position.  To add the side lunge, go into side-lunge position (pictured) while simultaneously performing the arm pull.  Return to standing.  Repeat on the other leg.  As you lunge, keep your knee tracking the toe.  12-18 reps.