Hello readers! I have been enjoying a weekend home in the Bay Area celebrating my brother’s birthday, my grandpa’s 95th birthday, belated Mother’s Day celebrations, and lots of delicious salads, sweaty workouts, and moderate runs! Unfortunately, I haven’t been taking pictures. I just completely forget. I get so caught up in enjoying what I’m doing that my camera is the last thing on my mind. Now that I’m a ‘blogger’ I know I need start making it more of a habit. I did get pictures of my delicious Whole Foods and Pacific Catch salads though! haha
As most of you already know, I’m a Monterey, CA based certified personal trainer. I appreciate that my title comes with a lot of responsibility. My clients come to me trusting that I will be able to change their bodies and do so without causing further injury or harm. Believe it or not, there are a lot of certified (and uncertified) trainers out there putting people at risk because they do not know or care enough to teach proper form. You may see a lot of this in your group fitness classes. The instructor yells “woo” to the class while pushing themselves through their own workout instead of actually teaching the class and giving their students proper form and motivational cues. I feel extremely grateful that my dance background has made me very form oriented and my barre training has taught me the importance of verbal cues as well as hands on corrections.
In addition to reducing injuries, form is also important because there are many incorrect and INEFFECTIVE ways of doing exercises. Without proper instruction, you may not be building or sculpting as effectively as you could be without proper guidance. For example, a funny story I like to tell my clients is how my mom (yes, Mom I’m calling you out again!) did not know she was supposed to squeeze her glutes on the way up from a squat. This is a woman who spent half the 80s in Jazzersize classes and stays active on a regular basis in group fitness settings. You would think at least one of her instructors would’ve told her to squeeze her bum as she straightned out of her squat, but apparently not!
To help any of you who may be in the same boat, I’m sharing my top 5 tips that your trainers may not have told you.
1. The exercise and resistance do not cause full muscle contraction, you do.
When doing any exercise you must be, one, aware of the muscles you need to activate and, two, concentrate on activating them at the correct times during the exercise. I like to call this “mind-muscle connection.” If you simply rely on the added resistance (body weight, dumbbells, cables, etc) to create results you will be in for disappointment. It is up to you to train your muscles to activate. Otherwise, you will most likely compensate with the muscles that are already the strongest instead of the correct ones. This means your weaker muscles will be left untrained and your naturally stronger muscles may feel symptoms of overtraining.
2. You can’t spot reduce, but you can build.
There is no way to train a specific spot to get smaller, this is called spot reducing, and it is a myth! However, you can build muscle in places you may want more shape – hello booty! Weight loss comes from a combination of building muscle to increase your metabolism and burning calories through cardio and diet.
3. Just because your eyes are closer to the ground in a push up, doesn’t mean the rest of your body is.
A proper push up position includes pulling in your abdominals, squeezing your glutes, slightly tucking your pelvis, and looking down at the ground about 1 to two feet in front of you. Concentrate on bending your elbows to at least 90 degrees and keeping your neck, torso, and hips in one straight line (don’t let your mid section sink or raise during the exercise). Beginners, start on your knees.
4. Maintaining a slight bend in your knees at all times will save you from so much pain later on.
Maintaining a slight bend in your knees whenever you are doing a standing exercise helps you maintain a neutral spine and alleviates strain on your knees and low back. If you lock your knees, you are more likely to over arch your back putting unnecessary pressure on your knees and low back. Try it, you’ll see how much harder it is to engage your abdominals and glutes with locked knees.
5. Your abs should be engaged 24/7, unless you are sleeping or swallowing.
You can do crunches until the cows come home, but if you don’t teach your abdominals to engage in a functional way you’re still putting yourself at risk of poor posture injuries, like low back strains, and missing out on prime toning opportunities. You need to train your transverse abdominals which are your deepest core muscles. I call these the “corset muscles” because they hold in your midsection like a girdle. Good exercises to train these muscles are bird-dog, planks, leg lifts, and balance exercises. You can also start by laying on your back, place your fingers on your low low abs, and pretend like you’re putting on a tight pair of jeans. You should feel them tighten. Eventually, you will be able to maintain their engagement throughout your whole day and see your abs get flatter and your posture improve.
Try using these tips during your next workout and check back in to let me know how it went. Subscribe to get a notification when Part II is posted!
Health and happiness,
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