5 exercises for at-home reformer Pilates Want to bring your Pilates sessions home with you? Here are five ways to bring some reformer moves into your home workouts.If reformer Pilates sounds like your kind of deal, you better be prepared to part with a pretty penny. An hour-long private lesson can set you back hundreds of dollars, while group classes are still quite pricey.
So you want to increase your arm size by next month rather than next year? Great! I want you to do a few things:
- Read or at least scan this list of eight great arm movements, many of which you’ve never tried before.
- Pick two that seem appealing. These will form part of your next scheduled arm workout.
- Hold up, you haven’t scheduled your next arm workout yet? Do that before you even read this piece.
- When the time comes to head to the gym, dial in two or three tracks guaranteed to send your intensity through the roof. Crushing your reps will feel like nothing once you start training.
- Slug down a preworkout like SuperPump 3.0 to make sure you’re ready to rock.
- Enter the gym for the best arm thrash you’ve had in months. You’ll own the weights now!
Constituting two-thirds of your upper-arm development, the triceps typically demand more volume than biceps do. In this age of rope press-downs and dumbbell kickbacks performed on Swiss Balls, many good old-fashioned triceps smashers have fallen by the wayside. Triceps typically respond well to all forms of extension exercises involving dumbbells, which allow for a greater range of motion compared to barbells.
The exercise forces you to work against gravity, as the shoulder joint stabilizes the upper arm. While it can be done with a barbell, this dumbbell version with palms facing in can isolate the triceps more effectively to build more mass.
Lying dumbbell triceps extension
Start by lying on a bench with your arms extended forward and your palms in. Slowly lower the dumbbells until they nearly touch your forehead. Pause for one second and then straighten arms and flex the triceps. It’s important here to keep the elbows in a fixed position and control each dumbbell through a full range of motion for maximum effect.
This heavy overhead extension targets an oft-neglected region of the triceps. It won’t be easy. So many people avoid doing it, and suffer incomplete development as a result.
Seated reverse-grip overhead dumbbell triceps extension
While seated, hold dumbbells with an underhand grip—as if performing a biceps curl—and extended your arms until the dumbbells are overhead. Maintaining a straight back, slowly lower the dumbbells to your upper traps until you achieve 90-degrees of flexion. After a moment’s pause, flex your triceps to raise the dumbbells back to the starting position. Be sure to keep your shoulders back and avoid letting your elbows fall forward.
Deemed potentially injurious and less beneficial than other moves, parallel bar dips have been swept under the rug. However, when correctly performed, they can stack more mass on the back of your arms due to their ability to overload all three triceps heads. To perform this move safely and correctly, hang between two parallel bars and use your triceps to push up until the arms are almost straight (not to complete lockout). Slowly lower your body, keeping your elbows tucked in to your sides and legs behind your body, until the upper arms run parallel with the floor. You know you’re on the right track when you form a 90-degree angle between the upper arms and forearms.
Parallel bar triceps dips
The high visibility of impressive biceps commands respect and conveys a respectable degree of upper-body power. Although they are beauties to be admired, the volume of work is often overstated. Because they already receive indirect tension from other upper body training, 2-3 movements per session for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps each is ample for maximal recruitment. Add these three rather obscure movements to have your biceps reaching new developmental “peaks.”
The biceps ladder is a great movement for extending the time under tension while enabling maximal contractibility of both biceps heads. It also emphasizes the negative part of each rep to promote more muscle micro trauma (and subsequent growth) compared to other movements.
This movement is best performed on a power rack or a Smith machine. Set bar at a level low enough for you to fully extend the arms, with your back just clear of the floor. Begin by grasping the bar with an underhand grip, arms fully stretched; then contract your biceps while curling your upper body to the bar until it touches your forehead. Squeeze hard at the top, and then slowly lower back down to starting position. After completing as many reps as possible from this position, raise the bar a notch and immediately complete another set to failure. Continue in this fashion until you reach the farthest notch.
Concentration curls have always been a favorite of people pining for that coveted biceps peak. The cables will allow more tension to be placed on the biceps long head and recruit a greater number of muscle fibers as a result.
Seated cable concentration curl
Start by attaching a single handle to a seated row cable. Position yourself seated and facing the machine, then rest the back of your upper arm on your knee and curl weight until the palm almost touches the front deltoid of the working arm. Remember to squeeze and slowly extend your arm to the starting position.
6 Spider curl (AKA: the Larry Scott curl)
The spider curl is so named after the eight-legged bench it was originally performed on. It was popularized by the first-ever Mr. Olympia winner, Larry Scott, who rocked unmatched biceps. The movement helps to lengthen the long head to promote greater fullness while building the short head to create more biceps width.
Now comes the fun part! Lean forward on a vertical preacher bench with the triceps pressed flat against the front padding and arms fully extended, thus achieving a nice stretch. Now raise weight to shoulder height by squeezing the biceps and repeat. Simple yet effective!
Aside from titanic triceps and biceps, no other muscle grouping is as routinely displayed as the forearms. Comprising many individual muscles, the forearms are notoriously a stubborn group of muscles to train. Given their involvement in almost all exercises, they need both volume and massive weights to be properly hit. The exercises featured below will have yours larger and more impressive in no time.
Isometric training (static contractions held for 10 seconds or longer) is an effective way to build muscle endurance and provides one hell of a mean burn. When the forearms are subjected to such a stimulus, the results can be truly spectacular. The plate pinch-hold is a classic and easy to perform.
Grasp two weight plates of the same size and resistance at arm’s length, between your thumb and fingers. Extend toward the floor and hold for at least 30 seconds, then switch to opposite side. Flatter plates can be difficult to grip so it’s worth experimenting with flat plates or hollowed-out plates.
“The forearms are notoriously stubborn to train. They need both volume and massive weights to be properly hit.
The bulk of forearm mass can be found in the flexor muscles situated on the underside of this grouping. Rather than hitting them with variants of the underhand wrist curl, change up your flexor training with behind the back overhand curls. This seldom-performed exercise will pump your forearms to great effect and gains.
Hold a dumbbell with an overhand grip and fully extend your arm to the back of your body a little wider than shoulder width. Keep your arms steady and curl the weight toward your forearm flexor; squeeze hard at the top. Slowly lower and repeat.
Mixing it up for further arm mass gains
If your goal is Hulk-like hypertrophy, the right combination of exercises for the greatest growth stimulus is the key. Remember that all arm movements will build mass, but it is the training style, rep range, and volume of weight lifted that will help determine growth. Try incorporating the above exercises into your arms regimen or even increasing your training volume by adding an exercise to your current routine. Then improved size and shape will be yours forthwith!
- Stoppani, J. Climb the Ladder for Bigger Biceps. Muscle & Fitness [Online] http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/arms-exercises/climb-ladder-bigger-biceps retrieved on 22.4.14
Recommended For You
Get your guns! Take a page out of Biggie’s book and learn how he prepares his biceps and triceps for an important contest. Here’s to volume!
Forget small-arms fire. It’s time to turn your guns into cannons. Alex Carneiro’s video workout will help you build bulging biceps and horseshoe triceps.
NPC competitor Josh Halladay is on a quest for his pro card in 2014. Here’s the off-season arms workout that he’ll use to add serious muscle to his arms!
Edgar ArtigaWORKOUT BY: Luis Buron, Spartan SGX Coach In this workout we’re simulating a Reebok Spartan Race. The mix of running in place and stepups imitate running and climbing uneven terrain and the moves mimic Spartan Race obstacles (as noted in parentheses). The workout finishes with Spartan signature penalty, burpees, and we go for 2 min.
What do you get if you mix giant ropes, friendly competition and a heart-pumping workout? Answer: Whipped!
It’s easy to get bored of treadmills, cross-trainers and slogging it out on your own in the gym. So a class that mixes effective results, competition and a fresh element is a welcome relief to an already busy day. Using battle ropes, that are more tug of war than skip in the park, Whipped!, is an exciting new circuit class at high-end London gym Equinox, bringing together the best elements of high intensity circuits, ramping up your cardio capacity while blasting fat (yey!) and using a great range of equipment.
The HIIT class is designed to get your heart rate soaring to burn fat while sculpting you from head to toe in the most time-efficient way. Our instructor Rory explained that, unlike steady state workouts, intense bursts of exercise help put your fat loss in the fast lane. Sounds good, right? So if you want to change your body for the better, the Whipped! class is the perfect place to start.
You work to your body’s maximum capacity in 30 seconds, doing as many reps, using good form, as you can and then have a quick rest. The circuit is cleverly designed so you work a different muscle group with each exercise, and simultaneously push your fitness to its limit.
Rory led a dynamic warm-up involving a quick jog around the room, followed by exercises like high knees and jumping jacks.
We were then paired up and allocated a fitness station. As usual in circuits, each pair circled the room in a clockwise direction, performing high-octane exercises at each station for 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise. By the end of the class, we’d visited each station four times.
My partner and I began in plank position on our forearms, pushing up onto our hands. The aim was to do these plank transfers as many times as possible within 30 seconds.
Next, we moved to the battle ropes, which posed the biggest challenge of all the exercises. Holding a rope in each hand, we slammed them to the ground, making small rippling waves, and swung them from side to side.
This was followed by a whole host of exhausting moves, from V-sits holding a 3kg dumbbell to barbell rows while wobbling on a BOSU ball. The class ended with another speedy jog around the room, followed by a series of stretches to ease our shaking muscles.
If you’re bored of the same old workouts, this class is brilliant. Yes, it’s punishing, but the fact that the HIIT exercises are short and sharp is a big draw. Our trainer was a great motivator and helped spur us on – even when our arms felt like they were about to fall off! There’s no denying the class is challenging but it’s also fun and there’s no risk of getting bored. We’ll be back!
AT A GLANCE
What’s the concept? A high-intensity 45-minute circuit using battle ropes, the ViPR, BOSU balls and hand weights.
How much is it? The class is only open to members of Equinox. Monthly membership is £180.
Where can I get more info? Visit equinox.com/clubs/Kensington.
Difficulty? Whipped! is aimed at all fitness levels, but steel your nerves for
a tough session!
Strength progression is all about how much weight you can lift, over a certain number of reps or sets, here's how to measure your progression. What is it? Tracking strength progression is vital to any resistance based program, with muscles needing to be consistently challenged in order to fortify the neural connections and muscular adaptions
Name: Lee Boyce
Occupation: Owner of Boyce Training Systems.
Hit the health club on any given Monday, and you might think there’s an audition in progress for a new episode of “Maury Povich” about the bench press and the men who love it. After all, what better way could there be to start the week than getting under a loaded barbell and pushing it for all you’re worth?
Well, I can think of a couple, but that’s for another article. Look, I understand the allure of the bench press. It’s the ultimate glamour movement in the gym for men, and it’s also a great movement for upper-body size and strength.
The problem is that most people gauge their success only by benching as much weight as possible, and they disregard the crucial setup process and downplay the importance of form to perform the lift correctly. This ends up creating a lot more ex-benchers than strong benchers.
Don’t let your favorite lift beat you down. Use these tried and true techniques to skyrocket your bench and blast off to new levels of mass and strength!
Lee Boyce On Proper Bench Press Technique
Watch The Video – 04:43
Upper back exercises are crucial for making the bench press pain-free, stable, and strong. As I mentioned in the video above, the bench press places stress on the shoulder blades and four rotator cuff muscles that originate on the scapula. Having the ability to keep the scapular muscles nice and tight is a key to stability for any pushing movement.
I program my back workouts before my chest workouts whenever I’m isolating specific body parts. This ensures that the back muscles get sore, tight, and are limited in range of motion and flexibility to help fix the shoulder blades on chest day. On a full-body workout, I pull before I push.
Make sure the following exercises are included in your back training day to really build scapular stability and strength:
If building big bench is important for you, you need to get scientific about it. Break down your lift and figure out where you’re weakest, and then focus on turning that weakness into a strength.
Barbell Bench Press
In most cases, a lifter going for a max-effort rep hits a wall or reaches a sticking point around the halfway point coming off the chest. If this is you, it means you lack lockout strength. Luckily, there are many great exercises to help you improve this sticking point.
Use a barbell or two dumbbells and lay flat on the floor with the weight in the bench press bottom position. The elbows will be on the floor and the weight around six inches off the chest.
Keep your upper back tight and shoulders retracted. Breathe in, drive the weight up to full-extension at the arm, and keep the legs held together and straight on the ground. Pause at the bottom of each rep. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps.
Set up a bench inside a squat rack to create a bench press station. Position the safety pins 4-6 inches above your chest. Lay the bar on the pins and position your body under it. Assume your preferred bench press grip and drive the bar to the top position.
After lockout, lower the bar quickly to the pins. This exercise allows you to focus on max effort. Due to the lack of eccentric control, you’ll have more juice in the tank to lift.
Give yourself a couple seconds between reps to get tight and reset your body. Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 3-6 reps.
Attaching chains to the bench press makes the load heavier as you progress through the concentric portion of a rep. It’s a great way to make your triceps do more work during lockout.
In rare circumstances, the sticking point happens at the bottom of the lift, which indicates that chest and shoulder strength is a weak link from a biomechanical perspective. Implementing starting strength exercises can help exponentially with this issue.
Bent over barbell row
Starting Strength Exercises
On the bench press, lower the weight slowly and pause for at least one second on the chest. Remember to stay tight during the rep without slackening your grip or exhaling. You won’t be able to lift as much weight as usual with this method, so lower the weight to 80 percent of the normal amount you can lift for reps.
This exercise cuts off the stretch reflex so you can’t use momentum at the bottom of the lift. Momentum tricks your chest into thinking that it’s performing well, when in reality, it’s nothing more than kinetic force that propels the weight out of the hole.
Pause reps are a staple in competitive powerlifting routines everywhere.
One and a half reps are my favorite way to improve chest activity in a bench press. Ensure that you’re set up correctly and lower the bar to your chest like normal.
Press the bar off the chest to the halfway point, where you have a 90-degree angle at the elbow. Lower the bar to the chest again and drive the bar to the top for one rep. Repeat for 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.
The science behind this madness is simple: For every rep of 1.5s, you’re doing 2 reps with just the chest and 1 rep with the triceps at lockout. At the end of a set, your chest will have done twice as much work than your triceps.
Like most physical activities, if you want to improve at something, you must practice it. Building a stronger bench press happens in part from benching frequently. Make like the Bulgarians and up your weekly volume—without going overboard, of course!
Boyce Post-Workout Burnout! Bench Press 225×15
Watch The Video – 01:11
Post-workout burnout sets are money when it comes to adding benching volume. At the end of every isolation workout, do a couple quick warm-up bench press sets and then perform a burnout set with 60 percent of your max. Rep it out until failure for one big set.
Here’s a video of me doing a post-workout burnout set after a long Olympic lifting workout. My max is around 345 pounds, so 225 pounds is about 65 percent of my max.
Recommended For You
Strength coaches Tony Gentilcore, Dean Somerset, Lee Boyce, and Todd Bumgardner offer their best deadlifting cues. Rip the barbell from the ground!
Thinking about abandoning your fitness goals? Strength coaches Tony Gentilcore, Dean Somerset, Lee Boyce, and Todd Bumgardner can help you train hard and heavy for life.
Lunges are vastly underutilized strength training weapons capable of producing big gains. Harness their advantages to strengthen your quads, glutes, and hamstrings!
Most of us are plagued by dreaded cellulite, but before you pack away those shorts or dresses, we’ve got the latest science-backed solutions that could help. Here, sports scientist Ross Edgley rounds them up so you can win the war on cellulite if you’re one of the 87 per cent of women in the UK affected by the orange peel effect.
What is cellulite?
Cellulite is basically a term used to describe the dimpled and uneven appearance of skin caused by fat deposits that are just below the surface of the skin. Although scientists don’t know exactly what causes it, it’s believed to be related to the body’s inability to get rid of toxins, fat and fluid which becomes trapped under the skin and cause fibrous tissue to become hard, which is responsible for producing the dreaded dimpling effect. So what methods can you use to combat it?
Roll with it
Try moving on a foam roller and stretching more often to loosen your muscle fascia. This is the tight, interwoven fibres of the muscles and when loosened up it allows nutrient-rich blood to circulate through those fibres, which not only helps rid the body of toxins but also increases the resting metabolic rate and breaks up fatty tissues.
Eat and drink away cellulite
Eating more brightly coloured fruits such a papaya and mango has been shown to help prevent and reduce tissue damage due to the high content of antioxidants. Also, berries that are darker in colour such as blueberries and blackberries also help boost the antioxidant level in the body and stimulate the production of collagen, which may lessen the appearance of cellulite. One of the quickest ways to smooth out the appearance of your skin is to amp up collagen production with sulfur-packed foods, including cucumbers, black olives and celery. Vegetables that are rich in vitamin A may also aid in boosting collagen production in the human body, so incorporate more cantaloupe, raw carrots and sweet potatoes into your weekly food plan. There are endless ways you can eat yourself smooth!
Although green tea has not yet been specifically tested as a treatment for cellulite it has received a lot of recognition as being a possible treatment for obesity. Whilst losing fat won’t completely solve cellulite, it’s been shown to help, according to research conducted at the Laboratoires Arkopharma in France. Try sipping on 2-3 cups a day (but avoid it too close to bedtime due to the caffeine content). Green tea has a distinct bitterness to it, so for those who don’t enjoy the taste, try The Protein Works Green Tea Ultra capsules (£10.49, theproteinworks.com)
Increase your heart rate
One of the simplest ways to combat cellulite is to stimulate the lymphatic system. This is because the lymphatic system serves as a drainage system to rid the body of toxins and if running efficiently prevents the fibrous tissue under the skin from hardening and therefore causing the dreaded dimpled cellulite effect. So how do you stimulate your lymphatic system? Get exercising and breathing heavier. It really is that simple since studies show exercise can increase lymph activity by 10 to 30 times its activity at rest. Another good reason to get moving! Check out our cellulite workout to get going.
Fight it with fat
Lastly, science shows eating fat could help with cellulite. Yes, really. But not just any fat – a special kind of fatty acid known as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) that’s found in beef. Most notably, in a study conducted in Beverly Hills, California (and published in the Advances in Therapy Journal by Dr Lawrence Birnbaum) 60 females were given CLA for 60 days and ‘in as many as 75% of the women, the appearance of the skin improved significantly, and thigh circumference was reduced by an average of 0.88 inch.’ For an easy CLA hit, try the capsule form (£7.99, theproteinworks.com)
For more information from sports scientist Ross Edgley visit www.rossedgley.com
Want to read more about getting rid of cellulite and burning fat? Subscribe to Women’s Fitness. We’ll give you 3 issues for £1.
Just about every Muscle & Fitness reader knows that tobuild cannonball delts, you need to start with heavy presses followed by an isolation exercise for each of the three deltoid heads. Astute readers even cycle the order in which they train each deltoid head from one workout to the next, knowing that the move that comes first will be trained harder as energy levels and focus are higher earlier in the workout.This workout takes that training philosophy one step further for hardcore gains. After a pair ofcompound moves, you’’ll do two shoulder exercises back-to-back for the targeted deltoid head (Shoulder Workout No. 1focuses on the front head,Workout No. 2the middle andWorkout No.
Name: Danny Kavadlo
From: New York, NY
Occupation: Trainer, author, progressive calisthenics specialist
Just about everyone I know who’s ever trained seriously, in almost any discipline, has focused in on their abs at one point or another. I know I have. There’s no denying that abs are a core (pun intended) component of perceived physical perfection, so it’s pointless to resist. Almost every magazine cover, advertisement, and billboard shows images of chiseled abs. “Ideal” waistlines have gone in and out over the years, but as a culture, we continue to celebrate abs more than ever.
Beyond that, abdominal training is simply important to all types of athletes. You use your abs every time you lift, twist, or even stand up. A powerful set of abs, along with a strong, balanced physique are big parts of the formula for overall physical health. And to everyone who says “visible abs aren’t necessarily strong abs,” I answer: That may be true, but I can still recognize a strong set when I see one.
Still, as this site and many others are happy to point out for you, you can’t train your way out of a poor diet. While there is an extraordinary amount of conflicting “expert” testimony when it comes to proper nutrition, there are tried-and-true techniques that millions of abs—sixes of millions of them, in fact—can agree on. They might blow your mind or they might be old news, but listen up either way. If you’re not following them, then it probably shows.
1 Fire It Up
First things first: You need to be aware of what you eat. The best way to do this is to prepare as many of your own meals as possible. When you cook for yourself, you can stay on top of exactly what every single ingredient is, and how much you use in preparation. The more knowledge and power you have the better.
When consuming foods made by others, you don’t know much for certain, and particularly when you dine out. Many times, even when prepared by “healthy” restaurants, meals are often served in oversized proportions and laden with gratuitous amounts of empty calories and chemicals. I’ve seen salads and sides that boast more than 1,000 calories per serving. No one will get abs eating like that on a regular basis.
2 Go Green
A lot of folks think I eat nothing but pull-up bars and tattoo ink. They’d be surprised to see how many leafy greens I consume on a daily basis. Everyone knows that green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, nutrients, calcium, and dietary fiber, but many don’t realize what a large role eating foods like spinach, kale and broccoli can have in sculpting amazing abs.
“People who have problems with self-control and portion size can’t go wrong when it comes to greens, which can be consumed virtually whenever you want.”
Greens, along with most vegetables, are extremely low in caloric intake. People who have problems with self-control and portion size can’t go wrong when it comes to greens, which can be consumed virtually whenever you want. Load two thirds of your dinner plate with veggies, and you’ll fill up with quality nutrition and decrease the temptation to make sketchier choices.
3 Avoid Processed Sugar
If you consume extra sugar and don’t metabolize it quickly, it will be stored as fat. Many of us, men in particular, tend to store this fat on our bellies. Clearly, a diet high in sugar will hinder you on your quest to a six-pack.
Processed sugar is among your abs’ greatest foes. By this, I am not just referring to white table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, but to just about any product where everything has been removed but the sugar. This includes “raw” and “natural” sugars, not to mention many other misleadingly labeled sweeteners on the market, including such as “nectars,” “syrups,” and “cane juice.”
The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables do not fall into this category; they have never been processed and are un-stripped of their natural fiber. They therefore metabolize slowly over time. An apple is not only sweet, it’s filling and free of processed sugar, making it a great snack for ultimate abs.
4 Drink More Water
One of the worst things about sugar is that it’s added to virtually everything. While it’s obvious that beverages like cocktails and soda will stand in the way of the quest for abs, many well-intentioned individuals still drink their sugar unknowingly in the form of flavored waters, sweetened iced teas, fruit juices, coffee drinks, and other treats. These products should be consumed minimally, if at all.
“Water improves metabolic rate and digestion, which helps you get leaner.”
Make it a habit to look at ingredients and nutritional information and take nothing for granted. Drinks are not always what they seem! A glass of orange juice has more than 100 calories and 20 grams of sugar. Water has none. The importance of taking in adequate H2O cannot be overstated.
Water also improves metabolic rate and digestion, which helps you get leaner. It hydrates and moisturizes, increasing your skin’s suppleness and enhancing your abs’ appearance. Furthermore, water removes toxins and reduces aches and pains, helping you train harder and recover faster.
5 Eat Less
There are many paths one can take in the quest toward ultimate abs. Lots of diets and eating styles have the potential to help you get lean, and I’m not here to tell you why one is better than another. But here’s a thought: Although there is no single weight-loss method universally proven to work perfectly for everyone in all situations, simply eating less comes close!
Having a ripped six pack requires having low body fat: 10 percent or less for men as a general standard, and 20 percent or less for women. A number like that simply is not attained without good old-fashioned restraint. Assuming you’re like most of us, if you want to show off that hard-earned definition, you will simply have to eat less. There is no way around it.
6 Live Life
Practicing restraint is one thing. Subjecting yourself to deprivation is another. The line between them is one you have to find for yourself, but a system that leaves you constantly wanting more will inevitably leave you dissatisfied. Long-term deprivation can lead to a backlash of bad habits, and usually counter-productive. I think it’s best to have a healthful, holistic approach to training and life. Look at the big picture. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and with the right mindset, you can do so and have your abs, too.
“Each one of us is a product of our own day-to-day habits. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is no reason you can’t indulge occasionally.”
Each one of us is a product of our own day-to-day habits. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is no reason you can’t indulge occasionally. This principle is true for desserts, “cheat” meals if you’re inclined to call them that, and even Thanksgiving dinners. They’re all fine because they’re occasional. Just make sure to be honest and hold yourself accountable; it’s not a “cheat” if you do it every day.
If you have good eating habits, there’s almost nothing you’ll have to avoid 100 percent of the time. This will leave you and your six-pack abs free to live happily ever after together. Keep the dream alive!
Recommended For You
Who cares how big your forearms are if they can’t get the job done? Build strength you can use with these five grip-building techniques!
All too often, life won’t wait for you to finish your 12-week program. Keep strong wherever you go with these resourceful full-body lifts!
A stacked gym with every fitness tool known to man looks cool, but how much of it are you really going to use? Keep these three fundamentals at home, and rest easy knowing you can get strong no matter what!
There are tonnes of ways to get pumped using exercise, a HIIT class with booming music that shakes the floor, sprinting your morning run because your so pumped because your earphones are so loud they’re practically bursting your ear drums, or signing up for another spin class knowing full well that the instructor will be screaming at you the whole time. But, it’s important to make sure you’re getting a healthy balance of exercise and rest or relaxation to achieve good health – that’s why we love methods that combine the two.
If you thought ‘inner energy’ was all about sitting on a yoga mat in the lotus position while chanting ‘om’, then think again. Those familiar with the Chinese martial art tai chi may have come across qigong before. Sometimes known by its full name of taiji qigong, it consists of 18 exercises that are used to promote the body’s natural healing energy to reduce stress levels and increase your quality of life.
How does it work?
Focusing on postures and breathing, qigong is aimed at improving physical and mental health. ‘The exercises can help to promote the body’s natural healing energy, reduce stress and create a feeling of wellbeing,’ explains Ronnie Robinson the director of Taiji Europa, (taiji-europa.eu).
If you know a little about acupuncture, you may be familiar with the Chinese theory of internal energy pathways, or meridians, through which ‘qi’ or ‘chi’ – energy – flows through. ‘Each meridian connects to different internal organs and ensures a healthy energy flow to the connected organ,’ Ronnie explains. ‘When the chi flow is regular the body will remain healthy. However, if there are blockages in this energy flow, problems can result.’
The theory goes that ailments occur because there is disruption to the energy flow in the meridian associated with that particular area. The disruption can be due to stress, poor eating habits, or even being too hot or too cold, creating a build-up which energy can’t freely flow through. Qigong helps to clear these blockages so energy can flow through the meridians with as little disruption as possible.
How to do it
The movements are simple, slow and gentle, yet effective in restoring energy. The body is kept in alignment throughout, and breathing is soft and natural. You may not get your heart racing in qigong, but you’ll certainly benefit physically. ‘Think about the natural movements of animals,’ says Ronnie, ‘like how birds take off and fly. They don’t carry the stresses and strains in their bodies that we humans do. Try to emulate the smooth, easy, natural movements that you see in the rest of nature.’
Want to give qigong a go? Perform each move 8-10 times one after another to create a flowing routine. It’s ideal performed in the morning for a gentle start to the day, or a good option if you need to unwind after work.
Beihui: A pressure point at the central part of the top of the head
Dantian: A pressure point just in front of your tummy
Laogong: A pressure point on the centre of the palm of the hd
Zusanli: A pressure point a few inches below the outside of the knee
Top tips for qigong
Listen to your breath Adopt a soft, natural breathing during the movements.
Be aware of your body Although aches and pains are sometimes normal, don’t overdo it. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
‘Sink’ your weight and ‘lighten’ your upper body Establish a connection with the ground by imagining your weight dropping deep into the earth while your upper body floats upwards. In reality, your upper body may be heavy with tension while you find it hard to keep your feet firmly on the ground.
Maintain alignment Keep a natural arch in your back and neutral spine, the way we’ve evolved.
Focus and intent Connect with all the movements you’re making and the directions you’re going.
Be natural Think of the movements you see taking place in nature and try to follow suit.