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3 Exercises to Sculpt Your Shoulders

Exercises to Sculpt Your Shoulders

Strong shoulders not only give your upper body a sculpted, fit appearance, they also play a role in good posture. It’s important that your shoulder exercises target each of the three areas of the muscle -- the front of the shoulder (anterior deltoids), the middle of the shoulder (medial deltoids) and the back of the shoulder (posterior deltoids). These three exercises are easy to incorporate into your strength training routine for balanced shoulder workout.

Overhead Press Seated on a Stability Ball (Anterior and Medial Deltoids)

Sit on a stability ball with your feet flat on the floor. Use your core to sit up straight and maintain your balance. With a dumbbell in each hand, position your arms so that your elbows are at shoulder level and bent at 90 degrees. The dumbbells should be at about ear level. Press the dumbbells up overhead until your arms are fully extended. Return to the starting position with the dumbbells at ear level and repeat.

Front Raise (Anterior Deltoids)

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in toward you so that dumbbells rest over the front of your upper thighs. Keep the right arm straight and lift the dumbbell out in front of you, to shoulder level. Lower to the starting position and repeat with the left arm.

Seated Bent Over Raise (Posterior Deltoids)

Sit on a bench with your feet flat and your legs together. Bend forward at the waist so that your chest is almost resting on your thighs. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended towards the floor. Your palms should face in towards your ankles with a dumbbell on the outside of each foot. Keep the arms straight as you use the upper back and shoulders to raise the dumbbells out to the sides until they reach shoulder level. Lower to the starting position and repeat.

Cardio or Strength Training First?

Cardio or Strength Training First

You want to make the most of every workout, so what should you do first -- cardiovascular exercise or strength training? There are arguments and research to support both sides, leading most experts to determine that it depends both on your goals and your personal preference.

Cardiovascular Endurance

If your goal is to improve cardiovascular endurance, especially if you are training for a distance race, doing cardio exercise first may be the best choice. Starting your cardio with fresh muscles will help you push through the time or distance you need to accomplish. Glycogen stores (glucose stored in the muscles for energy) are important for longer cardio sessions. Strength training can deplete these stores making cardio more challenging.

Improving Strength

If improving strength is your top priority, it may be best to do strength training first. Gaining strength requires that the muscles are challenged close to exhaustion. Performing a lengthy cardio session before strength training may reduce your ability to push your muscles as hard as you would if they were well rested. A Finnish study found that when healthy men and women did cardio training first, it initially interfered with strength training performance. However, after 24 weeks of training, this interference was less notable and both groups had similar gains in muscle size and strength. So if you absolutely love doing cardio first, this likely won’t hinder your ability to gain strength over time.

Weight Loss

If weight loss is your goal, recommendations are mixed. Cardiovascular exercises use large muscle groups for longer periods, which results in greater calorie burn than most strength training sessions. By doing cardio first, you may have more energy to push harder and exercise longer leading to more calories burned for weight loss. Some experts argue that when you do strength training first, the body relies on fat for energy during the cardio session, making it a better method for weight loss. It comes down to picking the combination you like best and one that you will stick with long term.

Choosing What Is Best for You

There are pros and cons to each exercise order, but the benefit is that you have freedom to structure your workout based on your preferences without negatively influencing your long term results. Here are a few things to consider when deciding if you should step on the treadmill or pick up the dumbbell the next time you hit the gym:

  • Do what you like the least first. If you love your time on the elliptical, but feel less enthusiastic about lifting weights, it may be easy to find an excuse to leave the gym once your cardio is done. Lift weights first and you will have it out of the way so you can thoroughly enjoy your cardio session.
  • Save time by making cardio your warm-up. All workouts should start with a 5 to 10 minute warm-up to prepare the muscles for activity. If you start with strength training, it’s best to hop on the treadmill or the bike to get warmed up. If you do your cardio first, it can take the place of your warm-up and save you valuable minutes of exercise time.
  • Separate your workouts for safety. Regardless of whether you choose cardio or strength training first, your muscles will be fatigued when you move on to the next type of exercise. Fatigue can result in poor form that leads to injury. If your strength sessions are intense and your cardio sessions lengthy, consider doing these workouts on separate days.

Family Outdoor Activities that Blast Calories

Family Outdoor Activities that Blast Calories

Gather the family and get fit together. Enjoy beautiful weather by heading outside for some of these family-friendly activities that also burn calories for a great workout.

An afternoon at home

Hula hoop: Even if you have a hard time keeping the hoop around your hips, you can still burn calories trying. Set up a fun competition and time each family member to see who is the hula hoop champion. 60 minutes of hula hooping burns 405 calories.*

Hopscotch: Grab the sidewalk chalk and create your own hopscotch course on the driveway. It will keep the whole family entertained and active for the afternoon. 60 minutes of hopscotch burns 319 calories.

Planting and weeding the garden: Not only does growing a family garden keep you active, it is educational and supplies nutritious, fresh food. 60 minutes of planting and weeding the garden will burn 278 calories.

In the park

Trac ball and frisbee: Whether it’s a game of disc golf, playing fetch with the dog, or playing catch with the family, the park is a great place to spread out and get moving. Outdoor game sets are inexpensive and they can become a regular part of your active family time each week. 60 minutes of tossing around a frisbee will burn 159 calories.

Rollerblading: Strap on a set of wheels, find a smooth path, and start rolling. Rollerblading or skating provides a great cardiovascular workout. 60 minutes of rollerblading blasts 877 calories!

Hiking: Pack some water and binoculars and head out on some easy trails with the family. The slight inclines and rougher terrain will burn more calories than pavement walking, and you’ll have the opportunity to see some wildlife. 60 minutes of hiking with up to a 9 pound pack burns 478 calories.

On an active vacation

Horseback riding: Saddle up and spend some time with animals while you explore nature. Even though you are being transported down the trail, horseback riding uses core and lower body muscles while burning calories. 60 minutes of riding will burn 239 calories.

Canoeing: Get out on the water and explore the lake in a canoe. Pick up the pace and have a family race to make it an even better workout. 60 minutes of moderate canoeing (4 to 5.9 mph) burns 478 calories.

Rock climbing: See nature from a new perspective and set out for a beginner rock climb that the whole family can handle. Once you reach the summit, take in the views and enjoy a healthy picnic lunch. 60 minutes of rock climbing at a low difficulty level will burn 393 calories.

*All calorie estimates are based on a 150-pound female.

8 Reasons to Register for a Fitness Event

Register for a Fitness Event

Whether it’s a run, hike, triathlon, or adventure race, now is the time to make the commitment and start your training plan. If you are unsure if this type fitness is right for you, here are a few of the many benefits of participating in an organized event.

Positive peer pressure

Training groups provide a motivating support system that will keep you on track. Some fitness events have existing groups that you can join, or consider creating your own. Meeting up at least once per week for a long run or ride will motivate you to keep improving your fitness level so you can accomplish the planned distance with the group.

Exercise with purpose

Heading to the gym day in and day out with a general goal of getting fit or losing weight can quickly become boring. Choosing an event with a timeline and following a training plan makes exercise more interesting. Training for a fitness event gives you a preset goal to focus on for each workout, and throughout the weeks of your training program.

Challenge your fitness

Training isn’t easy, but the challenges will help you reach a fitness level that you may have once thought was impossible. With the right training plan, you will quickly see changes in your endurance and strength, which will serve as an effective source of motivation.

Improve self-esteem

Competing in an event helps you realize that achieving this goal is up to no one else but you. As you draw on inner strength to get through, your toughness will surprise you. Nothing beats that invigorating feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line. It’s a feeling of perseverance and success that you can apply to all aspects of your life.

Step towards a long-term goal

Fitness events can serve as valuable stepping stones to get you to more challenging long-term goals. For example, if you’d like to run or walk a half marathon someday, it’s wise to start with shorter races -- both to gradually increase your endurance and to become familiar with how you handle a race environment.

Support a cause

Many fitness events use registration fees to support charities, or they provide opportunities for you to raise money through your training and completion. Knowing that your hard work will benefit someone in need gives you even more motivation to accomplish your goal.

Meet new fitness friends

Surprising things can happen as you wait at the start line or along the course of a race. Friendly conversations can lead to meeting new friends with similar interests in fitness. You may discover a training group to join for your next event, or find the perfect workout partner.

Motivate others

Your healthy choices influence the people around you. You never know how you may affect a friend or loved one who watches as you commit to your plan and finally cross the finish line. You have the opportunity to motivate others to develop healthier habits.

What to Expect at Your First Yoga Class

What to Expect at Your First Yoga Class

Yoga reduces stress, improves strength, and increases flexibility. Don't let fear or uncertainty discourage you from giving it a try. Knowing how to prepare and what to expect at your first class will ease your mind and increase the enjoyment of adding something new to your routine.

A welcoming environment

Select a beginner class and take comfort in the accepting and non-judgemental environment. Yoga requires internal mental and physical focus. No one is watching or judging you. Everyone is working to improve their own practice. Leave any self-conscious thoughts behind and enjoy your session.

Activity tailored to your fitness level

Yoga is about easing yourself into poses without stressing the muscles and joints. Poses can be modified to meet your strength and flexibility level, and the benefit of attending a studio class is that the instructor can help you do this. You should feel a small amount of tension as you challenge your flexibility, but this should never be confused with pain. If any pose is too much for you, follow the instructor’s direction to relax in child’s pose or a similar position.

Peace and quiet

Yoga classes provide a break from the radio, televisions, and sounds of cardio machines and clanging dumbbells. Don’t let the silence stress you out. Enjoy the break from conversation and constant noise. While yoga is quiet, remember that smiles, giggles, and even applause are welcome in most classes. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Equipment you will need

Many studios provide yoga mats to first time attendees, but there may be a fee. Considering that yoga mats cost about $15, having one of your own is worth the investment. If you don’t turn out to be a long-term yoga fan, they can be used for all kinds of floor exercises at home. You might also want to take along a bottle of water and a hand towel to wipe your face or to use as extra support under your knees.

Dress for comfort and movement

Baggy clothes aren’t ideal for yoga because they slide, shift and get in the way. Wear the most form fitting and flexible clothing you feel comfortable in whether it is a tee, tank, shorts, or pants. You will heat up quickly so if you start with long sleeves wear a layer underneath so you can remove the outer layer once you warm up. No socks are needed as they will prevent your feet from gripping the mat. Wear slip-on shoes that are easy to remove.

Up close and personal

Classes can get crowded so be prepared to line up next to your fellow classmate. If this makes you uncomfortable, choose a class that has a cap on attendance or one provided at a less popular time. Also, expect the instructor to touch you and help move your body into the proper position. Always speak up if you are uncomfortable or if they are asking you to reach beyond your limits of flexibility. If an instructor does correct your form, resist the urge to feel criticized. You are not being judged. He or she is helping you to practice safely.

No pressure to participate

Don’t let common yoga practices like chants and audible heavy breathing surprise you. It can take some getting used to when you are new to yoga. You shouldn’t feel pressured to participate, but consider stepping out of your comfort zone and join in. If you decide it’s not a good fit for you, simply perform the pose quietly. - Calorie counting made easy
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