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Health and fitness with Alexa Towersey

Health and fitness with Alexa Towersey We chat to September cover model, Alexa Towersey about all things fitness, health, career and self-love. Check out the exclusive cover story interview below!ON CAREERI’ve been in the health and fitness industry for over 15 years. I’ve played pretty much every sport known to man including American football, boxing, soccer, skiing and horse-riding. I completed a Bachelor of Science in biology and psychology and went on to do a post-graduate diploma in sports management and kinesiology, and then I interned with an All Blacks-endorsed Pilates studio.ON EXPERIENCESWhen I was 27 I moved to Hong Kong, where I was the senior strength and conditioning coach at a mixed martial arts (MMA) gym. I decided to get into half-Ironman events and I took two years to qualify for the world champs.

Ask The Ripped Dude: How Can I Improve My Shoulders?

QObi, my arms look great, but I have ski-slope shoulders. What do you recommend?

To build a complete physique, the sculpted sort that looks good on a magazine cover, every body part needs to hold its own—without exception.

That means giving every body part its due in the gym, even if it’s not a “glamour” body part like chest, biceps, or abs.

When I train, my objective is to work each body part a minimum of once each week and a maximum of twice each week. That same rule applies to shoulders. I always pair shoulders with a back-smashing session.

To grow big, strong shoulders, hit them with a minimum of three exercises each training session. Note the word “minimum.” If you’re strong enough, feel free to increase this to 4-5 exercises on shoulder day.

I make sure I warm up my shoulders by stretching my arms out. It’s essential to prevent injury. I start with small circles going forward for at least 30 seconds and then I reverse and go backward for 30 seconds. Then I do the same thing, only making the circles bigger.

Here’s a breakdown of two shoulder routines. I chose these exercises because collectively they work each head of the deltoid. When I mention Monday and Friday—well, that’s up to you. Just don’t train shoulders on consecutive days.

Follow this shoulder routine and they’ll grow. Trust me.

Monday

1 Dumbbell Front Raise

This isolation exercise primarily works your anterior (front) deltoid.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest your arms at your sides. Using an overhand grip, slowly raise your arms in front of you and bring the dumbbell to eye level.

Dumbbell Front Raises

Then, slowly lower the weight back down to your sides. Find yourself swinging? It’s likely that the weight you’re using is too heavy. Remember: Speed isn’t the key here. It’s all about slow, isolated exercises.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

2 Dumbbell Overhead Press

This shoulder exercise works your anterior deltoid while indirectly targeting your triceps and upper back.

Sit on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, and make sure your feet are shoulder width apart and flat on the ground. Bring your arms to shoulder level and bend at the elbows. From there, simultaneously push the dumbbells overhead and extend until they touch for a complete repetition. Lower the dumbbells back down to chest level and repeat.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

3 Barbell Upright Row

This compound exercise works the deltoids and trapezius muscles while indirectly targeting the triceps.

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell in front of you, resting it against your thighs. Pull the barbell up until it reaches the level of your clavicle.

Barbell Upright Row

At this point, your elbows should be fully pointed outward. Be sure not to swing or bounce the bar or rise to your tippy toes. Keep a steady breath, inhaling on the downward position and exhaling as you pull the bar upward.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Friday

1 Dumbbell Shoulder Shrug

This exercise works the upper trapezius muscle, helping you built titan-style traps.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip. Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart. From the starting position, squeeze together your shoulder blades while simultaneously rotating your scapula. Try to bring your shoulders to your ears (or as close as possible) while elevating your scapula.

Hold that contraction for at least two seconds before lowering your shoulders back down.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

2 Dumbbell Lateral Raise

These raises primarily work the middle head of the deltoid as well as the anterior deltoid and posterior (back) deltoid.

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart, feet firmly planted. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, and keeping a slight bend in each arm, raise your arms to shoulder height.

Slowly bring your arms down and back to your sides. Repeat.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

3 Military Press

This exercise works the entire shoulders complex, but especially the front deltoids.

Sit on a bench. With your feet firmly planted and roughly shoulder width apart, grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Extend your arms straight while lifting overhead. Try not to arch your back.

Lower the bar back down to your clavicle and repeat. Be careful not to hold your breath. Inhale while pulling down and exhale while pushing up.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Transform Your Body


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About The Author

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Being Brooke Stacey Parker – Fitness Model

Being Brooke Stacey We chat to February 2017 cover model Brooke Stacey about all things about self, body and fitness love.On self-loveSelf-love is so HUGE! It can start at a young age and grow with you or it could have never been established and you have to find it and create it. At the end of the day we all want to be loved and feel good about ourselves. It is so easy to compare our weaknesses to someone else’s strengths and feel bad about our self.

7 Exercises That You Need To Fix Right Now

We are creatures of habit. We each default to our favorite exercises, those bread and butter lifts from programs we love for as long as they keep bringing results. Familiarity just feels right. It wraps you in a secure blanket of warmth, growth, and gains. Unfortunately, that familiarity begets false confidence in your exercise technique, which could cost you even further gains.

“But, Rock Lock, I’ve improved 10 pounds over the last year!” you cry. That’s sweet. But imagine the results you could net with precise exercise form and practice. Unless you or a training buddy have an acute awareness of form, it’s possible that you may have been missing key form points. Remember that poor form calls out compensatory mechanisms while still building strength, albeit inefficiently.

Don’t fret, young Padawan. Here’s how to fix these seven key movements that you previously thought you owned.

Exercise 1

Squats have helped Mr. Olympias, World’s Strongest Men, and other athletes launch from so-so athletes to epic gladiators. There’s no reason not to reap the benefits of the almighty squat, right? But after weeks of nearly crushing yourself under the bar, your results can still end up lackluster.

Team Cellucor‘s Jen Jewell explains why.

“I see a lot of ‘newbies’ just lower their butt down really quick with their knees wobbling all over the place—over the toes or collapsing inward. I’ve even seen this with bodyweight squats! So, when I instruct new clients or am giving pointers, I tell a client to push her butt back as though she’s going to sit down in a chair. This usually helps her get into better position and keep from hobbling forward so much.

“Additionally, I encourage clients to ‘push the booty way back—as if you’re trying to knock someone out with that thing—lower, go back up, and repeat.’ Even though that might be an exaggeration of breaking at the hip, it helps clients picture it and will typically do the trick!

“I typically see people barely start to lower, call it a rep, and bounce back up. That’s not low enough! That’s not even a proper squat! To benefit from squats, you have go to at least parallel, which is the position at which your hip joint and knee joint are aligned parallel to the ground. This ensures quad burn, but also fires up the hamstrings and glutes as well.”

Squat

Exercise 2

I cringe every time I see someone fling heavy dumbbells as high as they can using their back, and then allow momentum to not only carry the weight up but send it back down with zero control. This makes back and rotator cuff injuries almost inevitable if someone continues on this self-destructive path. Thankfully, that won’t be you!

First of all, when you hold the dumbbells, they should rest at your sides instead of in front of you. This way you will be less inclined to harness a back-initiated swing to begin the exercise. Visualize generating force from only your delts as you lift the weights out to your sides with a slight bend in the elbow. Locking out the elbows places strain on the tendons in that area and can make them susceptible to injury.

To avoid unnecessary shoulder strain, stop the movement when your arms become parallel to the floor. At that point, turn the weights so your pinkies point toward the ceiling and pause for one second before slowly lowering the weight to the starting position in a controlled manner. Use a challenging weight you can control throughout the exercise to ensure you don’t cheat.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Exercise 3

The triceps rope pushdown should primarily activate your triceps and core, but this exercise is blundered and haunted by our old enemy, the lower back-generated swing monster. Time and time again, I watch people use momentum to press down heavy weights. This only hurts your elbows and yields no benefit for those muscles in the back of your arms. Again, slow, controlled movement reigns supreme here.

Take the rope and step away from the cable stack. The extra distance increases tension on the triceps more than standing next to the pulley. Keep your shoulders squared and back, chest out, and glue your elbows to your sides. By keeping your elbows tucked in, you emphasize triceps contraction rather than elbow destruction.

As you press the weight down, focusing on working the triceps muscles, spread the ends of the rope apart, and squeeze the hell out of your triceps. That squeeze and tension stimulates growth in the target area.

Afterward, let the weight slowly come back up. Right before you feel as if your elbows are about to be yanked out of place, stop, and then do another rep. This constant tension will make your triceps scream bloody murder by the end of your set.

Exercise 4

A king of the exercise world, deadlifts could well be the most basic movement—in theory. You pick up the weight, hold it, and put it down. What could go wrong? Everything. There are oh-so many instances where a deadlift can go wrong and make lifters vulnerable to injury.

“Deadlifts are often a mess all the way through,” Jewell says. “I often see people with their shoulders rolled forward and hunched over as they lower the weight. Then they lose control over their body as a whole. Having your shoulders back, lats tight, core activated, and chest up will help eliminate this hunchback stature that I see all too often in the gym!

“I see another problem with neck alignment. At the beginning of the pull, you might be tempted to look down at the weight. This puts your neck out of neutral spinal alignment, which makes you more prone to hunching your shoulders and keeps you from engaging your core. Keep your neck aligned with the rest of your spine at the start and finish of your pull.”

Exercise 5

“Although dumbbell curls are a great exercise, problems rear their ugly heads when they are performed improperly.”

You want perfectly rounded biceps like IFBB Men’s Physique Pro Craig Capurso? He’s going to let you in on the “secret” to winning the arms race.

“Although dumbbell curls are a great exercise, problems rear their ugly heads when they are performed improperly,” Capurso says. “Many people will either pick up a light weight that can be lifted a million times or a weight that’s simply too heavy. Either of these prevents people from ever performing a worthy rep. Many people start the exercise with a shoulder swing followed by a fading elbow. This movement pattern doesn’t actually involve the biceps. It basically makes the exercise one big cheat.

“The goal is to achieve a well-controlled movement that isn’t aided by the aforementioned body swing. You should feel a deep burning sensation in your biceps and a noticeable pump or swell. You should also be able to perform the recommended reps in your program. After four sets of this type of training, you’ll feel fatigued, making it difficult to even bend your arms. That’s good because you are doing it correctly and have picked proper weights.”

To mix things up and really focus on your mind-muscle connection, try hammer curls. “This is when you stand in a neutral position, with your hands at your sides and the palms facing in toward your body,” Craig says. “Notice where your elbow rests in reference to your body and actively think about maintaining this position throughout the exercise. Really think about contracting the muscle groups involved as you bring up the weight. If you feel the heat in your shoulder, elbow, or any other muscle group that shouldn’t be firing, restart the process or perhaps lower the weight.”

Exercise 6

The bench press is an excellent indicator of upper body strength. When performed correctly, it is a money exercise that builds strength, muscle size, and athletic function. Haphazard execution of the bench press can increase the risk of shoulder or pec injuries, but that can usually be rectified by going with lower weight or just doing the damn exercise the right way!

In preparing to pump out your first rep, make sure your shoulder blades are squeezed together. This will protect your shoulders and bring your chest higher so the bar doesn’t travel as far. Next, plant your feet firmly on the floor and get yourself in a stable position. Otherwise you increase the chance of getting hurt. Keep everything tight, including your shoulders and butt.

As you perform the lift, lower the bar to your nipple line and keep it there for a one-second pause. Think about pushing your chest away from the bar rather than pushing the bar away from your chest. Remember to drive your feet into the floor for force production, keeping your butt on the bench, and arching your back to transfer force to the bar. Once you press the weight up, focus on squeezing your pecs as if you were trying to crush a walnut sitting between them.

Bench Press

Exercise 7

Crunches are a perennial favorite and also one of the most poorly performed exercises in the gym. Even if you think you’re a crunch king, you might be doing them wrong and actually jeopardizing your neck health.

The first step to being a crunch master: Don’t cross your arms on your chest or clasp your hands together behind your head. Instead, lightly place your hands on the temples of your noggin and focus on keeping your elbows in line with your shoulders. Don’t bend your neck; the idea isn’t to bang your head against your crotch, but to dig your lower back into the floor and lift your shoulders about 3-4 inches off the floor.

Squeeze your abdominals and forcefully let out a big breath. Slowly drop yourself back to the floor and repeat. Now do 10 reps and let me know the difference this makes. Don’t worry, you can catch your breath—I can wait.

Do you see other poorly performed exercises at your own gym? Sound off in the comments below! Let us know if you have any favorite tips or techniques. Share with the community to help improve everyone’s form—and results!

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5 reasons to get on your bike

What’s not to love about cycling? There’s no greater pleasure than the feeling of freedom you get pedalling out on the open road. 

And let’s not forget that cycling – whether on an indoor bike in the gym or touring the streets – is the perfect way to get your exercise fix. Here are our favourite reasons to saddle up today. 

Reason 1: Stay slim
Want an awesomely fit body? Hit the spin bike! High-intensity spinning classes offer a great head-to-toe toning workout and they’re suitable for everyone – regardless of your fitness level. The interval sessions really challenge your lower body and the calorie-burning potential is pretty impressive, too. ‘The most beneficial part of spin classes is the intervals, as they challenge the body so you can get the most out of your workout,’ says Chris Foster, professional head of fitness at nuffield health (nuffieldhealth.com). Looking for a fresh alternative to your regular spin class? Check out BOOM Cycle, it’s an awesome indoor cycling class with an emphasis on fun and great music, it’s a firm team WF favourite (boomcycle.co.uk). 

Reason 2: It’s better for the environment
Nobody wants to live in a world clogged up with unhealthy carbon emissions that wreak havoc on health. So ditch your car and get on your bike instead. A study by the European Cyclists Federation found that Europe could reduce its CO2 emissions by a quarter if its population cycled as regularly as the Danes. In Denmark the average person cycles almost 600 miles annually, while the average Brit logs in a meagre 46 miles each year. 

Reason 3: See the world
Whizzing around on two wheels is the perfect workout to take you away from home and out exploring new places. ‘Cycling lets you see the world – whether you want to hit the MTB trails or head out for a ride on the road. You can travel to places that you didn’t even realise existed and appreciate buildings and views that you have only ever bypassed in the car,’ enthuses Wiesia Kuczaj, cyclist and Sigma Sport Team MuleBar Girl (mulebar.com).

Reason 4: Add years to your life
Turn your commute into your workout and not only will you save money, you could also lengthen your lifespan. A 20-year study by Copenhagen’s Bispebjerg University Hospital found that women who cycled every day at a vigorous pace lived on average 3.9 years longer than slow cyclists. So get pedalling hard, people!

Reason 5: Improve joint health
The low-impact nature of cycling makes it an accessible sport for those who are at risk of joint injury and also enables them to increase the volume and intensity of their riding at a faster pace. ‘Consequently, cycling may help you to reach your health and fitness goals more quickly than is possible in more technical and/or weight bearing sports, such as running,’ explains performance coach James Hewitt (jameshewitt.net).

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