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All About Planks:  Are Planks a Good Ab Exercise?

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Oct 25, 2022 10:49:48 AM

 

Chances are you have heard of the plank exercise.  If you train with me, you know that I like them (because you are probably doing at least one in every workout session) and if you look at my Instagram, you’ll see I have a picture of me planking at just about any vacation spot we have visited.  So why do I like a plank so much? It’s a great way to strengthen many muscles in your body, focusing on your entire core which includes your abdominals (abs).  No equipment is required, and it can be done anywhere, anytime!  I’ll share here the basics of planks and hopefully by the end of reading this you will be a fan too!   

 

What is a plank?  A basic plank is an isometric hold of the abdominals that strengthens your entire core and works your shoulders as well.  It involves maintaining a difficult position in which one’s body weight is held up by the hands (high plank) or forearms (low plank), elbows and toes for an extended period of time. It works many muscle groups; it is low impact and there is a version right for just about every fitness level.  Also, it can be safer for your spine than crunches if you have disc issues.   

 

Whether you want to have a six-pack or improve your balance, there are many reasons to strengthen your stomach muscles and the other muscles around your mid-section that make up your core. Having a strong core will help with your balance, your posture, reduce the risk of injuries, supports your spine, and can even reduce back pain!  Your core muscles power all our day-to-day movements.  Having a strong core will help you move safely and more easily.   Please note that exercises that work your abs and other core muscles will strengthen the muscles but will not spot reduce body fat from that area.  You also need good nutrition, full body strength training and cardiovascular exercise (cardio) to lose weight.  If you have extra around your middle, check out my post with 5 tips to lose belly fat.   

 

When performing any type of plank or other core exercise, it is important to remember to engage your core.  To engage your core, your abs should be tight and pulling in, but you should be able to breathe and move normally.   It is NOT sucking in your stomach and holding your breath.  You can practice engaging your core at any time by feeling your ribs expand to the sides while you inhale, then as you exhale contract and visualize zipping up your abs, thinking about pulling your navel up and in toward your spine.  Keep breathing normally while you continue to hold your abs in.   

How to do a High Plank - Lie face down with legs extended and hands flat directly under shoulders.  Feet should be hip-width apart, and hands should be shoulder-width apart. Contract your abs, then tuck your toes to lift your body and straighten your arms.  You should be in a straight line from head to heels.  Hold for 30 seconds.   

 

How to do a Low Plank - Lie face down with legs extended and elbows bent and directly under shoulders; place your hands flat. Feet should be hip-width apart, and elbows should be shoulder-width apart. Contract your abs, then tuck your toes to lift your body (forearms remain on the ground); you should be in a straight line from head to heels.  Hold for 30 seconds.   

 

Never hold the plank longer than you can with good form.  How do you know if your form is faltering?  If you are holding a plank and feel it in your lower back and/or arms only you should take a break.  You should feel your abs, glutes and front of legs working primarily when performing a plank with good form.  Always stop if you feel it in your lower back.   

 

While the classic high or low plank are great go-to exercises, planks can also be modified and movement added to suit your fitness level and to focus on what muscle groups you want to work.  Increasing the length of time you hold the plank pose is the basic way to maximize the exercise and keep gaining strength. Start with a 15- to 30-second hold and increase your time from there.  If that feels like too much, bring your knees to the floor instead of your toes.  Keep a straight spine from the top of your head to your knees, your pelvis neutral and in line with the rest of your body.  Come up onto your toes as you get stronger.   

 

Research doesn’t show benefits from holding a plank longer than 2 minutes.  A goal of reaching a 2-minute plank can be motivating to work toward or you can incorporate multiple 10-20 second holds as part of your workout or throughout your day.  Even better is to add a variety of movements from a plank position into your routine as you get stronger.  The intensity of a plank can be varied greatly by the choice of your plank type.   

 

A side plank is a variation that focuses on your side (your oblique muscles) and helps to stabilize the spine from side to side.   

 

How to do a Side Plank- Lie down on your side, leaning on one hand or elbow, your chest facing out instead of toward the floor. Make sure your hand or elbow is aligned with your shoulder. And don’t let your hips sink—keep them in line with your head and feet. Lift your hips off the ground and raise the top arm straight up to the sky. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds, then lower the hips back down. To increase the difficulty, lift your top leg as high as possible. 

 

Plank jacks add movement to the plank which challenges your core even more. 

 

How to do a Plank Jack – Start in a high plank position, then jump your legs out and in.  If this is too difficult, step your feet out and in.  Keep the rest of your body as still as possible while moving your legs and feet.   

 

Adding instability to your plank can increase the challenge as well. 

 

How to do a Stability Ball Plank - This can be done either with the forearms on the ball and feet on the floor or the tops of the shins or feet on the ball and hands or forearms on the floor.  Follow the directions for a regular plank with the change of either your arms or feet on the ball.   

 

 

 

To build core strength and spine stability, do planks two to three times a week.  Focus on holding the plank only as long as you can do so without arching your lower back and keeping good form.  Working up to holding a plank for 30 – 60 seconds is a great foundation of strength in your core.  As you get stronger, add plank variations to keep progressing and improving your strength.  A stronger core will increase your athletic performance and function for everyday tasks. 

 

Follow LivRite on Instagram for exercise ideas and more information on planks! 

Beginner's Guide to Cardio Machines

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Sep 20, 2022 11:08:35 AM

When you think of exercise, cardio exercise is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Cardio, short for cardiovascular, is a workout for your cardiovascular system which includes your heart and lungs. It is a key to living a longer and healthier life.

 

Just a few of the benefits of cardio exercise:

 

  • Lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer
  • Increases endurance for daily activities
  • Reduces pain and stiffness
  • Manage high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves mood and lowers risk of depression

 

Also called aerobic exercise, a cardio workout is any activity that elevates your heart rate and gets you breathing harder. No matter your level of fitness, there is a type of cardio exercise for you. Low intensity activities like going for a walk, moderate intensity activities like Zumba and other aerobic dance classes or high intensity exercises like running or plyometrics all count as cardio exercise. Some prefer to use machines to get their cardio workout done. Every LivRite Fitness location has many cardio machines for you to use.

 

All the cardio equipment is equipped with heart rate grips. When you grip the silver sensors on the handlebars of the machine, it will estimate your current heart rate. Both hands must grip the bars for your heart rate to register. It takes 5 consecutive heart beats for your heart rate to register. When gripping the pulse handlebars, do not grip tightly. Keep a loose hold. Please note: these heart rate monitors are just estimates and not 100% accurate. If you feel faint, stop exercising immediately.

 

All the cardio machines have a quick start option, a manual workout option, various level-based programs, as well as a fitness test.

 

To Quick Start on Any of the Matrix Cardio Machines at LivRite:

 

For a quick start, press the GO button and the machine will enter a manual mode of operation. All energy expenditure values will be calculated using the default weight measurement. Please note for the bike and ellipticals you should start pedaling before you are able to press GO.

 

Using the quick start function and then manually adjusting your speed as you go is a great way to start on any piece of cardio equipment. If you’d like to enter information to get a better estimate of your calorie burn and to set up your intensity level before you start, use the manual workout mode.

 

Manual is a workout setting that allows you to manually adjust the resistance levels at any time. The manual workout also contains a setup screen which allows you to input your weight to help calculate a more accurate caloric burn rate (though it is still an estimate).

 

To Start a Manual Workout on any of the Matrix Cardio Machines at LivRite:

 

1) Choose MANUAL by selecting the manual workout button and press ENTER.

2) Enter the desired intensity level using the ARROW KEYS or NUMBER KEYPAD and press ENTER.

3) Enter the desired time using the ARROW KEYS or the NUMBER KEYPAD and press ENTER.

4) Enter your weight (your weight is used to calculate the caloric expenditure value-providing an accurate weight helps to ensure a more accurate caloric expenditure estimate) using the ARROW KEYS or the NUMBER KEYPAD and press ENTER.

5) Press GO to begin the workout.

 

Each piece of equipment has level-based workout programs. These programs will automatically make changes to the machine to change the intensity level of your workout. You can select the level of the program as well as the length of time for the workout, but the machine will do the rest.

 

Some of the level-based programs include (please note – not all the machines have the same programs and this is not a complete list):

 

            - Rolling Hills is a level-based workout that automatically adjusts the intensity level to simulate walking, biking or running up hills. This program is on the treadmill, bike and elliptical.

 

            - Interval Training is a level-based workout that automatically adjusts the intensity in a series of low- to high-intensity levels. This program is on the bike and elliptical.

 

            - Fat Burn is a level-based workout that is designed to help burn fat through various resistance changes. This program is on all the cardio equipment.

 

            - Heart Rate allows you to program your desired heart rate zone and the machine will automatically adjust the level based upon your heart rate at that moment. You must continually hold onto the contact heart rate grips for this workout. This program is on all the cardio equipment.

 

            - Constant Watts - This program allows you to vary your cadence, RPM (rotations per minute) or SPM (steps per minute) (this depends on what machine you are on) and the machine’s resistance will adjust accordingly to your selected goal. This program is on the bike, elliptical and climbmill.

 

-Glute Training is a program on the elliptical that will increase your range of motion to target the thighs and glutes. You will be asked to enter in a minimum resistance level and maximum resistance level. The maximum resistance is applied at your peaks and the minimum resistance is applied in the valleys. Choose levels that are appropriate for you. A good starting point is a minimum resistance level of 1 and a maximum resistance level of 8.

 

To Start a Level-Based Workout:

 

1) Choose the workout you would like to start by pressing the button next to it on the control panel.

2) Follow the prompts to select your desired workout length, enter your weight and any other data that program may require such as level or maximum resistance.  

 

A basic breakdown of each of the main types of cardio equipment:

 

Treadmill – Stand with your feet on the belt and press GO for a quick start or select manual or a level-based training workout. The console will show a short countdown before the belt starts to slowly move. While walking or running, your feet should be in the center of the belt so that your hands can swing naturally and without contacting the front handlebars.

 

Try not to support too much of your upper body on the handles; you might feel like you're still doing work, but your workout will be much less intense and you'll burn fewer calories.

 

Climbmill - This set of steps is sometimes referred to as a stepper or a stair master. Stand directly behind the Climbmill. Grasp either the upper or lower handlebars and step onto the Climbmill until you are within comfortable reach of the console and remote handlebar controls.

 

The Climbmill has a special option to complete two fitness tests like what firefighters use in their training. Select Training Workout on the Climbmill and follow the prompts to either do the WFI (Wellness Fitness Initiative) protocol or the CPAT (The Candidate Physical Ability Test). The WFI test is a series of intervals lasting a maximum of 16 minutes, where the speed is increased every minute until your target heart rate is exceeded for 15 seconds. This test is used by firefighters to evaluate aerobic fitness capacity. The CPAT is a minimum requirement for a new firefighter. Firefighter recruits do this test with a 50-pound weight vest and an additional 25-pound weight (to simulate the breathing apparatus and hose bundles they carry during a fire). During the CPAT you must maintain 60 SPM (steps per minute) for 3 minutes.

 

Elliptical – The elliptical is a great low impact cardio option because you can use both your arms and legs for a more intense full body workout. To get on the elliptical, stand behind it and hold both rear arm rests for support then place your foot on the lowest foot pedal and push the pedal down into the lowest position before stepping onto the foot pedal. When the pedals rest, place your other foot on the opposite pedal.   Start pedaling and press Go for a quick start or select manual or a level-based workout program to begin.

 

Having your foot in the most forward position on the pedal increases your step height, which will create a feeling similar to a step machine. Placing your foot toward the back of the foot pedal decreases your step height and creates more of a gliding feel, like a walk or a run. Always make sure your entire foot is secured on the pad of the foot pedal.

 

To focus on a lower body workout, hold the stationary handlebars only. For a full body workout and a more challenging cardio workout, push and pull continuously on the dual action arms while pedaling.

 

Bike – We have two types of stationary bikes, recumbent and upright.

 

To determine proper seat position, sit on the seat and position the ball of your foot on the center of the pedal. Your knee should bend slightly at the furthest pedal position. You should be able to pedal without locking your knees or shifting your weight from side to side.

 

Start pedaling and press Go for a quick start or select manual or a level-based workout program to begin.

 

To start, beginners should aim for three to four cardio workouts a week for 20 to 40 minutes each session. Over time, your goal is to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommends 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise.

 

You can choose the type of cardio machine you’d like to use. The best one is the one you will use on a consistent basis! Anything that gets your heart rate up above your resting rate for at least 10 minutes at a time is a good starting place.

 

Don’t be intimidated to try each or any machine! The control panel will walk you through the steps to set up a program if you’d like or just press GO to manually control the intensity throughout your workout. If you have any questions, please ask a LivRite team member!

 

 

All About Abs

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Aug 19, 2022 11:34:35 AM

Many people want to work their abdominal muscles (abs) to get a toned stomach or a defined six pack.  It is important to work these muscles but not just for looks.  Having strong abs (along with the other muscles that make up your core) will help with your balance, your posture, reduce the risk of injuries and can reduce back pain!  It is important to keep our core strong since it is the basis of almost every movement we make in our day to day lives.   

A quick look at what makes up your ab muscles which are a big part of your core.  Everyone has four layers of abs.  The deepest layer is called the transversus abdominis (TVA).  The TVA wraps around your waist to connect the ribcage to the pelvis.  On top of the TVA are the internal and external obliques which criss-cross your torso.  Finally, the top layer is your rectus abdominis which are the muscles that form the frequently mentioned six-pack.  When all four of these ab muscles are braced together, working with the muscles that line your spine, you have what is called an engaged core.  Your core also includes your glute muscles and adductor muscles in your hips along with your lower back and abs.   

 

When you are performing most exercises, especially those that focus on the ab muscles, it is important to engage your core.  You may have heard fitness instructors cue you to engage your core or to tighten your abs.  Engaging your core during your workout helps reduce the risk of injury, especially injuries of the lower back.  For example, think about when completing standing shoulder presses.  As your shoulders get tired you may start arching your lower back which puts a dangerous strain on your spine and the muscles around it.  By zipping up your abs and squeezing your glutes, your spine is more protected, and you can move your shoulders through a safer range of motion.  Also, engaging your core ensures your ab muscles are doing the work instead of recruiting other muscles to take over so you will get the most out of your ab exercises.   

 

So how do you engage your core?  Your abs should be tight and pulling in, but you should be able to breathe and move normally.   It is NOT sucking in your stomach and holding your breath.  You can practice engaging your core at any time by feeling your ribs expand to the sides while you inhale, then as you exhale contract and visualize zipping up your abs, thinking about pulling your navel up and in toward your spine.  Keep breathing normally while you continue to hold your abs in.   

 

Whether you want to have a six-pack or improve your balance, there are many reasons to strengthen your stomach muscles and the other muscles around your mid-section that make up your core.  Your core muscles are used in just about every movement you make so it is important to keep them strong.  Keep in mind, doing core and specific ab exercises will strengthen the muscles but won’t spot reduce fat from that area.  You can’t control where you lose fat. If you are looking to lose fat from your stomach, check out my post with 5 tips to lose belly fat.   

 

The Workout

 

Here are two three-move workouts for your abs.  These are exercises you can do at home or at the gym.    One circuit works your abs while standing, the other circuit is done while lying on a mat.  You can do one or the other or both circuits for a real ab burner! 

 

Start with 10-12 reps of each exercise.  Rest for a minute then repeat all three exercises two more times. 
 

 

Mat Circuit 

 

Straight Leg Bicycle Crunches 

Lie on your back with your legs straight out. Interlace your fingers behind your head, gently resting your head on your fingers. Keep your elbows point out to the sides and try to relax your neck. 

Lift your shoulders off the floor. Twist your upper body to the right as you lift your right leg.  Your left leg will stay extended hovering just above the floor. 

Return to starting position and repeat alternating sides. 

Deadbug

 Performed correctly, the dead bug encourages the deep, stabilizing muscles of your low back, abdominals, and hips to engage, preventing your back from twisting or arching during the exercise.  

Lie on the mat with your arms extended straight over your chest so they form a perpendicular angle with your torso. Bend your hips and knees 90-degrees, lifting your feet from the ground. Your torso and thighs should form a right angle, as should your thighs and shins. This is the starting position 

Engage your core, maintaining contact between your lower back and the mat. You want to make sure your spine maintains this steady and neutral position throughout the exercise. 

Keep your right arm and left leg exactly where they are, then slowly reach your left arm backward, over your head and toward the floor as you simultaneously extend your right knee and hip, reaching your right heel toward the floor. Move slowly and steadily, breathing in as you perform the extensions, avoiding any twisting or movement of your hips and abs. Stop the movement just before your arm and leg touch the ground. 

Reverse the movement and return your left arm and right leg to their starting positions. Move slowly and steadily, exhaling as you go. 

Perform the same movements to the opposite sides, this time keeping your left arm and right leg steady as you extend your right arm and left leg. 

Do the same number of repetitions on each side. 

 

Roll Up (or crunch) & Two Cross Punches 

Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. 

Brace your abs, exhale, and sit up (or lift your shoulder blades up) and punch across your body. 

Return to start and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

 

Standing Circuit 

Many people are looking to do standing ab work. Maybe it is low back pain or knee pain that prevent you from getting up off the floor.  Or perhaps you are just looking for a change! No matter what the reason is, standing ab exercises can be just as effective as those done lying on the mat. 

Standing Oblique Burner 


Stand with feet a little wider than hip distance apart, knees bent and hands held behind the back of your head. 

Bend to the right reaching right hand toward floor behind your leg. Keep spine long. 

Return to center and repeat on the left side. 

Continue switching for desired number of repetitions. 

Toy Soldiers  


Keep your back and knees straight.  

Flex your toes as you lift your leg straight out in front of you. Reach your arm forward and try to let your toes touch your hand.  

Continue switching for desired number of repetitions. 

 

Steam Engines 


 

Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands behind your head with elbows in line with your shoulders.  

Raise your left knee up, simultaneously bring your right elbow toward your knee. Try to touch your elbow to your knee without bending over at your waist.  

Reverse the movement and repeat with opposite leg and arm. 

Be sure to follow @livriteindy on Instagram to see the videos for these exercises along with other helpful tips and workout ideas! 

 

To find more great ab exercises visit our exercise library .

5 Common Gym Mistakes That Could Keep You from Your Goals

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Jun 30, 2022 3:05:44 PM

 

As a trainer, I encourage people to work out in any way that will keep exercise in their life consistently.  Some exercise is better than no exercise and I’m not too much of a stickler about the exact process, as long as it is done safely and is a regular part of a person’s life.  However, you may have a clear goal when you are in the gym and are working toward that aim.  Whether it is to build muscle or lose weight or something else, you want to see progress.  There could be multiple ways to get to your goal, but there are some common mistakes that happen in the gym that could prevent you from moving forward and achieving your goal.   

 

1. Not Having a Plan 

I heard recently that going into the gym without a plan is like shopping at the grocery store without a list.  As I mentioned already, any exercise is beneficial.  However, if you want to reach a certain goal, it is essential to have a training plan.  A personal trainer will create a plan and program specifically for you, your fitness level, and your goal.  They will make sure you get the maximum efficiency out of your workout plan and that it will progress you toward your aim.  First together you will define your goal and then create a plan to achieve it.  The plan for gaining strength may be something like a full body strength routine 3 non-consecutive days a week.  Then the program will detail the exercises to be performed those days along with how many repetitions (reps) and sets of those exercises to do.   

 

You’ll never hit a target if you don’t aim at it. 

 

2. Bad Form 

Performing an exercise incorrectly could mean not reaping the benefits of that exercise, or worse, it could lead to injury.  The challenge is knowing if your form while performing an exercise is good or knowing if you are using a machine correctly.  When starting out, you may not know the proper form and then when you do know how the exercise should look when done correctly, it can be hard to see your own form.  (This is why there are mirrors in the gym!) This is another instance when having a trainer could help.  They will ensure you are executing the exercise properly.  A knowledgeable workout buddy can also help here.   

 

Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it. – William Penn 

 

3. Lack of Intensity 

There are days when I’m not feeling it and my workout isn’t that intense.  I don’t push myself as hard as I could go.  We are all going to have days when we don’t feel 100% and we do what we can based on how we feel that day.  However, if you are phoning in your workout every time, you probably won’t achieve your goal.   

 

The appropriate intensity level of your workout is based on your goal and your fitness level.  In general, your intensity should be at a moderate or vigorous level for maximum benefit.  To tell if you are at a moderate exercise intensity- check your breathing.  Moderate activity feels somewhat hard, and you are breathing faster but you are not out of breath.  You can carry on a conversation, but you can’t sing.  Moderate intensity means your heart rate is 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.   Vigorous exercise intensity feels challenging – your breathing is deep and rapid, and you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath.  Vigorous intensity means your heart rate is 70% to about 85% of your maximum heart rate.  For weight loss, the more intense or longer your activity, the more calories you burn.  For strength training, using heavy enough weights to tire your muscles after each set is the necessary intensity to reap all the benefits of resistance training (along with good form).   

 

Push yourself in your workouts but keep in mind the balance of high intensity and overdoing it.  Overdoing it can increase your risk of soreness, injury, and overtraining.  When new or returning to exercise after some time off, start at a light intensity and gradually build up to a moderate or vigorous intensity. If you are not feeling any exertion and your heart rate is less than 50% of your maximum heart rate, it may be time to pick up the pace.  If your heart rate is over 85% of your maximum heart rate or you feel like you can’t catch your breath, dial back your intensity. 

 

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. 

 

4. Doing The Same Workout for Too Long or Always Doing Something Different

If you aren’t progressing in your workout, you most likely won’t see any change.  There are many ways to progress your workout and it should be done when your body has adapted to your current training program.  For example, if you started walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes at 3mph for 3 days a week and after doing that for 4 weeks it is starting to feel easier, it is time to progress by either adding time to your workout or going faster.  Another example, if you have been using 5-pound dumbbells for bicep curls for the same number of reps for as long as you can remember, it is time to increase your weight or increase the number of reps you do.   

 

On the flip side, always changing up your workout isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if you are training for something specific, it may not get you there.  Sticking to your workout plan for 4-6 weeks will allow time for your body to adapt to it.  It should start to feel a little easier after a few weeks (because you are getting stronger!).  That’s when it is time to make changes to your plan to progress your training.   

 

“The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.” – Marvin Phillips 

 

5. Inadequate Rest in Between Workouts or Exercises

 Rest is an important part of any fitness plan.  Without adequate rest in between workouts your muscles don’t have the opportunity to repair from the training.  Strength training creates tiny tears in your muscles.  In the 24 – 48 hours after the workout, the muscle is repairing itself and that is how it gets stronger.  Without adequate rest time in between working that muscle, you won’t see progress in your strength, and you put yourself at risk for injury.  Many training plans will split the muscle groups into different workouts on different days so you can exercise more days a week and have shorter workouts while still giving muscle groups 24-48 hours of rest in between workouts.  For example, someone may work their back and biceps on Monday then do exercises for their chest and triceps on Tuesday, so the back and biceps get a break.  It is important to be mindful of this but also of rest in general.  If you are working out most days of the week (even with the muscle split workouts) it is beneficial to have at least one true full rest day each week to give your body a break, so you are rested and ready for your next workout.   

 

Sleep is another important factor in the rest between workouts.  To get the most of your workouts (as well as other health factors), strive for quality sleep for at least 7 hours a night. 

 

Another important rest time to consider is the time you rest in between exercises during a training session.  The appropriate time to rest in between exercises depends on your goal (a trainer can help you with this).  In general, resting too long lowers the intensity of your workout.  Not resting at all in between exercises may mean you won’t do as much as you could if you took 30 second to 1-minute breaks in between circuits (3-4 exercises done back-to-back) or individual exercises.  If you are looking to build pure strength the rest time will be longer so you can lift heavy weights each set. 

 

Learn to rest, not quit. 

 

Exercise helps to prevent some chronic diseases, boosts bone strength, improves brain health, improves your mood plus even more benefits.  Ensuring you aren’t making these common mistakes will help you reap all the benefits of exercise as well as meet any goal you have set.  So, make a plan, know how to perform the exercises correctly, workout at a moderate or vigorous intensity, progress your training plan and take adequate rest.  You’ll reach your goal and be stronger and healthier!   

 

Need help reaching your fitness goals?  Contact a LivRite trainer today for a free fitness assessment!   

What is Functional Fitness?  Why You Should Try It and A Sample Workout

Posted by Jill Derryberry on May 26, 2022 8:56:39 PM

 

Have you heard the term functional fitness?  It’s a general term for training your body for everyday situations.  Conventional weight training isolates muscle groups to strengthen them one at a time.  In functional fitness, the movements are meant to teach the muscles to work together and mimic movements you do in regular life.  For example, a deadlift is a functional exercise that can help you so when in a situation like needing to lift a heavy box you can do it without an injury.  Functional exercises can increase your strength, mobility, stamina, and stability.  

 

Most of the movements considered functional training exercises are compound movements which means you bend at multiple joints and use multiple muscle groups while performing the move.  Our bodies are designed to move in multiple ways.  We’re made to push forward, pull back, hinge at the hips and bend at the knees among other movement patterns.  When you move throughout the day, you rarely use just one joint or one muscle to accomplish a movement.  Your body functions as a single unit in this type of training, just like most normal activities.  Because you are using several muscle groups at once in functional training, coordination and neuromuscular control is also improved. 

 

Functional training, like other forms of exercise, burns calories and so with proper nutrition can also create weight loss.  When performing the compound movements that are part of this type of training, your body recruits more muscle fibers which builds more lean muscle and burns more calories during the workout and after.   

 

Functional Training is for (not a complete list!): 

 

  • Carrying groceries 
  • Picking up children 
  • Lifting Packages 
  • Placing your carry-on luggage in an overhead bin on a plane. 
  • Moving furniture 

 

A bodybuilder, or anyone focusing on building muscle size, will most likely do traditional strength training that focuses on one muscle group at a time.  For example, they may break their workout routine into a split training schedule where they target specific muscles during their workout, back and biceps on one day, then the next day glutes and hamstrings, etc.  In functional training, each workout typically works your entire body.  Because it is a full body workout, it is best do perform these workouts on non-consecutive days, so your muscles have time to rest and recover before working again.  There is a time and place for all kinds of training.  Functional training is a good choice if you are looking to develop all around fitness and to help your everyday life feel easier.   

 

Benefits of Functional Fitness 

 

  1. Daily tasks feel easier!   
  1. Reduced risk of injury – Keeping up and improving your mobility and strength will help keep you from getting injured when performing daily tasks.  Training your entire body will help alleviate any muscle imbalances which also lessens your risk for injury. 
  1. Help maintain and preserve balance – Since most functional exercises utilize your core muscles, they will strengthen and improve your balance.  Having good balance is important to prevent falls. 
  1. Time-efficient – Since you are working multiple muscle groups at a time, your workouts can be shorter than working each muscle independently.   
  1. Increased athletic performance – Athletes may improve their performance by completing appropriate functional exercises for their sport.  For example, a basketball player might practice jumping side to side to improve their agility and mobility on the court.   

 

Basic Functional Training Workout 

 

Before any workout it’s a good idea to perform a dynamic warmup and stretch when you are finished.   Perform ten repetitions (reps) of each of the following exercises and repeat 2 – 4 times.  

 

Squats – Squats help many of our daily activities feel easier.  For example, squats help build our strength for getting up out of a chair.  Stand with feet shoulder width apart and toes pointed forward.  Lower your body, bending at the knees and hips like you are sitting down into a chair.  Watch that your knees don’t go too far past your toes.  Keep your heels on the ground and chest lifted.  Squeeze your glutes and return to standing.   

 

Romanian Deadlift – Deadlifts help build strength for things like moving furniture, grabbing a bag of seed or dog food or lifting a box from the floor.  Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell or a dumbbell in each hand.  Keeping your back straight, hinge at your hips and sit your hips back.  Keep the weight(s) close to your legs and lower until your back is parallel to the floor.  Squeeze your glutes as you bring your hips forward and straighten your legs to stand up.   

 

Overhead Press – An overhead press can help make placing a heavy pan on a tall shelf or performing the overhead press will not only increase your upper-body strength, but it will also strengthen your core, since you balance and stabilize yourself while standing and lifting.  Stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart.  Hold a dumbbell in each hand and hold them above your shoulders with your palms facing forward and elbows perpendicular to the floor.  Exhale and press the weights straight up above your head.  Pause, then lower the weight back down to your shoulders.   

 

Farmer’s Carry – Being able to lift and carry things is important in everyday life.  A Farmer’s Carry can help you keep doing that safely.  Hold dumbbells in your hands and walk with your arms straight down at your sides.  This will strengthen your back, arms, shoulders, core and grip.  LivRite Indy has a turf area that is the perfect length to do a Farmer’s Carry.  Start at one end walk to the end, turn around and go back.  That would be one rep.   

 

One Arm Dumbbell Rows – Rows strengthen your back muscles which is important in many day-to-day activities.  Stand to the right of a weight bench or sturdy chair, hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing in.  Place your left knee and your left hand on top of the bench or chair for support.  Let your right arm hand down and a bit forward.  Ensure your back is naturally arched and your right knee is slightly bent.  Pull your right arm up until your elbow is pointing to the ceiling, your upper arm is parallel to the floor, and your hand comes to the outside of the ribcage.  Lower the weight slowly back down.   

 

Step Ups – Being able to go up and down stairs is a necessity in our lives.  Stepping up and down off a step or a box is a great exercise.  If it is too easy, hold a dumbbell in each hand.   

 

Ramp Walk or Run – LivRite Fishers has a great outdoor ramp that is perfect for many functional exercises.  A simple (but highly effective) way to use it is to run or walk up and down the ramp.   This is a great exercise to add to the workout if you are at the Fishers location.   

 

Like with any workout routine, rest and recovery are essential in helping you see your desired results and warding off injury. Because functional training workouts are often full-body workouts, it’s a good idea to take a day off between training sessions.  Strength training like this should be done at minimum two days per week.  However, you can train this way up to four days a week if you have adequate rest in between sessions. 

 

Functional training is a fantastic way to stay fit, healthy, and strong for everyday life! 

But it isn’t the only way to workout.  Any form of strength training can help you preserve and strengthen muscles and improve bone health.  Functional exercises can be combined with other workout styles to fit a certain goal.  If you feel functional fitness isn’t for you and you prefer the machines at the gym or if functional fitness won’t get you to your goals, that’s ok, find what you like to do to keep strength training in your life and stick with it.   

 

Don’t hesitate to ask a LivRite trainer if you have any questions or would like a complimentary fitness assessment.