From the Trainer

Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Let’s Turn That Keg Into A Six Pack

By Ryan Unverzagt Welcome back to another edition of From the Trainer. It’s that time of year when we need to start trimming down before swimsuit season hits and focus on transforming that keg into the six-pack we always dreamed of! This month’s exercise is a Sit-Up with a twist using a decline bench. It targets the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, internal/external obliques, and transverse abdominis) and also works the hip flexor muscles including the rectus femoris of the quadriceps. This is another great body-weight exercise that you can add to your abdominal repertoire. The advantages of using a bench is the ability to adjust the decline angle to your fitness level and securing your lower legs and feet for a more effective sit-up. A flat bench is for the beginners and an increased angle is for the seasoned vets. Before you begin, adjust the bench to your comfort level. After that, climb on and secure your lower legs and feet into the position shown in figure 1. Notice how my hips and knees are bent while my feet are anchored behind the top pad. Ab benches will vary in design, but the better ones will allow you to secure the feet and lower legs and position the knees above hip level (as in these pictures). This position will help protect the lower back and spine from extreme shear forces during the sit-up. When the hips are flexed, the less your hip flexors are involved, which means the abs do the grunt work. For the start, place your hands on the back of your head with the elbows bent, but avoid interlocking the fingers. You do not want to pull on the back of the head during this exercise because your neck will not appreciate the strain. Contract those abdominal…

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Spring Is In The Air!

By Ryan Unverzagt April is one of my favorite months because the weather is making a turn for the better (my birthday is in April too!) and if you like the warmer weather, chances are you will be spending much more time outside, which means less time at the health club; but don’t let your fitness routine melt away like the winter snow! If you are a weekend warrior who loves to compete in various sports throughout the year, or just an “Ordinary Joe” who’s looking for something new, you should consider adding plyometrics to your exercise program. Plyometrics is a form of jump training that has been proven to increase the muscle’s ability to produce power. Why is this important? An increase in power results in an increase in speed, strength, or a combo of the two, which means you will have an advantage over your competition and be lighter on your feet. Another benefit of plyometric training is it can be performed outside with minimal equipment needed. There are a few things to remember before even trying plyometric exercises – age, strength, body weight, previous injuries and training experience. Because of the intense nature of plyometrics, the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) recommends a lower-body strength prerequisite before starting any jump training. A person must be strong enough to free-weight squat at least 1.5 times their own body weight. For example, a 180 lb person must be able to squat a minimum of 270 lbs! Don’t worry; you will need about six months of progressive resistance training to reach this strength guideline. The minimum age requirement depends on the physical and mental maturity level of the adolescent. Please check with your family physician to help determine if your child is physically ready to start with basic plyometric…

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Take a Dip!

By Ryan Unverzagt Welcome to another edition of From the Trainer! This month’s exercise is the Parallel Bar Dip. As I have mentioned in previous columns, body weight training can be just as effective as using dumbbells and weight plates for resistance. The dip is as “old school” as jumping jacks, sit-ups, pushups, and chin-ups. Several versions of the dips exercise include seated on a machine, triceps dips off the edge of a bench or chair, or utilizing weight plates for added resistance by either using a belt with a chain or on the lap using two flat benches. With the parallel bar dips, the bars should be about shoulder-width apart. This width will target the lower chest, front of the shoulders, and the triceps. The narrower the width, the more triceps and shoulders are involved. Ideally, the bar height will allow you to lower your body so that the elbows are at 90 degrees without your feet touching the floor. If not, just bend the knees so that your feet are behind you. I like to cross the lower legs, but this is not necessary. Most parallel bars are part of a station that you can perform multiple body-weight exercises that include parallel “steps” that help you get set for the start without having to jump up into position. At the top, your arms are straight supporting your body weight through the hands. As you lower yourself, lean forward to make the chest muscles perform most of the work. The shoulder blades should come together as the elbows reaches 90 degrees. Push yourself back to the top without pausing at the bottom. Going down should be a little slower pace than pushing up. Try two sets of 10 reps initially, and then add either another set or more reps….

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Sweetheart Workouts

By Ryan Unverzagt I will admit that sometimes exercise can be boring, but working out with a friend is always better. As in years past, since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I would like to share a few “Sweetheart” exercises designed to keep you and your significant other from falling out of love with working out. Medicine Ball (MB) Sit-Ups: This exercise is done with both people on the floor. Sit facing each other with your knees bent about 45 degrees. Then interlock your feet behind each others lower leg. There are many variations to this exercise, but start in the upright or top position of the sit-up. You can hold a medicine ball at chest level. Both you and your partner lower yourselves to the mat until the upper back touches, and then perform a sit-up toward your partner. Hand the MB off to your partner at the top of the sit-up. Keep exchanging the MB until you have completed at least 15 reps. Partner Leg Pushdowns: If you want to turn up the intensity in your workout, try this ab exercise. Lie on your back with your legs straight, hips bent to 90 degrees, and the bottoms of your feet toward the ceiling. Your partner will stand with his or her feet at your shoulders and beside your head. First, grab your partner by the ankles so you have some leverage when performing this exercise. Next, have your partner push your feet or lower legs away from them and towards the floor. Your job is to tighten up the abs and hip flexors to resist the pushing forces and keep the back of your heels from touching the floor. You also want to keep the legs straight and bring your feet back toward your partner during…

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Get SMART!

By Ryan Unverzagt Get SMART! It’s time to start putting those New Year’s fitness resolutions to work again. If you were lucky enough to receive a “fitness gift” as I recommended in my last article, now is the perfect time to put it to good use. Did you know fifty percent of people who decide to start exercising will drop out within the first six months? Why does this happen? Because it does take a little effort and worth-while time to develop a habit. I have a few ideas that can set you up for success this year. Use the SMART Principle to set Goals: (Specific- Measurable- Attainable- Realistic- Time oriented) When setting your goals, be sure to consider all five of these principles, especially the time oriented one. If you don’t nail down a time frame, you are not holding yourself accountable and that’s when your exercise routine begins to fade away. Keep an Exercise Journal: Writing down every workout may seem like a lot of work, but it will pay off in the long run. This provides a visual so you can actually look back at all the hard work you put in and bring you a sense of pride and accomplishment. Your journal should include specific things such as your goals, the time and date of the workout, list of exercises or lifts, amount of weight used, sets, repetitions, duration and intensity of your workouts, as well as how you felt that day. Another great asset of keeping an exercise journal is that you can track your progress (or lack of progress) to help you stay on track of your goals. You may discover that a change is warranted if you are not progressing toward your goal and that’s ok. Expect Bumps in the Road: Nobody is…

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Gifts for Your Health!!

By Ryan Unverzagt Gifts for Your Health!! It is “that time of year” and it sure feels like it snuck up on me way too fast. I’m still recovering from pulling together my kids late summer birthday parties! But….here it is, December, that time for finding that perfect gift for the holidays. If you are one of those people who struggle to think of gift ideas, you might want to consider something fitness-related. In this covid-era, being vaccinated is the smart thing to do but also maintaining good health helps stave off many seasonal ills. Each year I try to compile a list of gifts that won’t break the bank but will let your loved ones know you care about their health. Here are a few things that I recommend: Heart Rate Monitor: This is a tool that I think everyone should own. Heart rate monitor prices can vary anywhere from $30 to well over $300 depending upon the brand and type. The best thing about having one is that it will track the intensity of your workout no matter where you exercise! You don’t need to rely on a cardio machine at the health club to check your heart rate. It’s also easier than stopping in the middle of your workout to feel your pulse and count while watching the clock. Exercise Ball: (A.K.A. Fit Ball, Swiss Ball, or Stability Ball) I’m talking about the big ball you can sit on at the office or perform multiple exercises for the “core”. However, you can do much more than abdominal exercises with a Fit Ball such as squats, stationary lunges and pushups. Every ball should have an exercise sheet included to show you how to use them. They also come in different sizes and colors, so which one should you…

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Get Ready for the Holidays!!

By Ryan Unverzagt Get Ready for the Holidays!! The holidays have arrived in quick fashion and for many of us it’s probably one of the busiest times of the year. Whether you’ve made travel plans to see family and friends, trying to find that perfect Christmas gift or attending multiple holiday parties, this time of year is fun, but can also be stressful. As we get wrapped up in the holiday madness, it’s easy to let your fitness routine slide, which can mean unwanted weight gain. However, there are a few simple things you can do to avoid the extra pounds. Choose Snacks and Drinks Wisely at Holiday Parties: Holiday parties are a great way to unwind, but they can also set us up for easy weight gain. You want to try to limit sweets, juices, and alcohol. Instead, opt for tea, coffee, and water. If you choose to drink alcohol, stick with the light beer. You should stay away from high-fat meats and cheeses such as salami, mini-dogs, and cheddar and jack cheeses. Look to eat turkey breast, ham, low-fat cheeses like mozzarella, Swiss, or provolone instead. Always fill your plate with plenty of fruit and vegetables and eat them first! Stay Active: This might be the most difficult task to achieve, especially when the weather is bad. If you can’t make it to the gym for a workout, there are some activities you can try at home. Hold a contest between family and friends to find out who can perform the most sit-ups, pushups, crunches, squats or jumping jacks (Do this only before eating, of course). Walk up and down the stairs during the commercial breaks of your favorite TV show. If the weather is nice, go for an afternoon walk or bike ride around the neighborhood. Don’t…

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Exercising in Intervals

By Ryan Unverzagt Exercising in Intervals If you seem to be stuck in the same old cardio routine, you might want to try interval training. This type of cardio training involves alternating bouts of high and low intensity exercise. Interval training can accomplish many things. The first benefit of interval training is that you can finish a greater amount of work (calorie burn) that is normally not possible with continuous exercise. You will be able to burn more calories in the same amount of time when compared to traditional (same-intensity) cardio. The second benefit of interval training includes improvements in your lactate threshold or your body’s ability to clear lactate from the bloodstream. Lactate (lactic acid) is what causes muscular fatigue, interferes with muscle contraction, and often times makes you feel ill. By elevating lactic acid levels, you are challenging your body to manage lactate more efficiently. Eventually, you will be able to handle more intense exercise. Interval training can be performed many ways. It can involve short periods of high intensity exercise (2-5 minutes at 80-90% Heart Rate Max) with longer periods of lesser intensities (6-10 minutes at 40-60% Heart Rate Max). For example, you can try running faster than your normal pace (2-5mph) for 2-5 minutes, and then slow it down to slightly less than your normal speed. Interval training can also involve even higher intensity exercise (90-100% HR Max) for 10-15 seconds with “active recovery” between bouts. An example of this on a stationary bike would require pedaling at a higher resistance level (say 18) for 10-15 seconds, and then returning to a much easier resistance level (4) with a slow pedaling pace for 45-50 seconds. Interval training can also include performing two different modes of cardio exercise such as treadmill running for the high intensity and…

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Back to Exercise Reality!

From the Trainer By Ryan Unverzagt Back to Exercise Reality! Today’s lifestyle seems busier than it was this time last year now that we are able to return to work, are taking our kids to school and headed to many activities we couldn’t participate in last year due to the pandemic. You might find yourself saying, “I don’t have enough time to exercise.” But the reality is everyone has 24 hours in a day, and it’s just a matter of prioritizing your schedule to fit in some daily exercise. I know that getting to the health club is half the battle, but wouldn’t it be nice to know what to do when you finally get there? As a result, you need to find ways to help maximize your time at the gym. There are a few ideas I would like to share to help get you going. Develop a plan of action: Your individual goals will determine a plan of action. Since the majority of us are seeking to lose weight, try to burn at least 500 calories per day through cardiovascular exercise (i.e. treadmill, bike, rower, or elliptical machine) at least five days a week. Two of those days, you should add 10 to 12 resistance training exercises that work the entire body. Perform two sets of 15 to 20 repetitions for each exercise. This will help increase your total energy expenditure. Superset your exercises: Pair up two exercises that work opposing muscle groups. Perform these back-to-back without rest in between. For example, the bench press could be followed by lat pull-down. By doing this, your chest and triceps (bench press) will be getting a break while you’re working your back and biceps (lat pull-down). This will eliminate the time spent resting between sets that work the same muscle…

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Cable Woodchopper

By Ryan Unverzagt Summer is cruising by so I hope you have taken full advantage of it so far. This month’s exercise is the Cable Woodchopper. Two different versions exist. The handle can be on a high pulley to finish low or, in this case, start low and finish high. More resistance will be needed for the high-low chop and less for the low-high. I am using a single grip rotating handle attached to the end of the cable, however, I use both hands (right is over the left) to grab the handle. The start position is shown in figure 1. Take a quarter-squat stance with the feet wider than shoulder-width. You should be far enough away from the weight stack such that the weights do not touch each other. Keep both arms straight and the hands about knee high. The pictures show me starting on the lower left side rotating and extending up high to the right for the finish. This should be one continuous, smooth motion as you pull the handle in a diagonal line, rotating the torso, extending out of the quarter squat with a slight rotation of the hips. Keeping your arms straight and the handle away from your body during this exercise will effectively engage the core muscles. Try ten reps from left to right and then switch to the other side without resting. The resistance should be light if you are trying this for the first time. Do not attempt a one- repetition max because of the spinal rotation factor. You can incorporate the low-to-high version of the cable woodchopper into a warm-up routine or utilize it in an abdominal workout. Either way, this is an excellent exercise for all the major muscle groups and a great way to increase the heart rate too!…

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