Wellness

5 All Time Worst Exercises – (What to Do Instead!)

Just as there is bad nutrition and good nutrition, unhealthy habits and healthy habits, there are bad exercises and beneficial exercises.  The worst exercises are not just bad, but can be dangerous. From watching workouts in gyms to videos online, we’ve seen our share of some of the worst exercises people can dream up.  Here, we’ve picked out some of our personal all-time worst exercises to avoid in order to reduce chances of injury and instead get the results you intended.

And the Losers Are…

1.  Sit-ups:  If these aren’t on the top of every fitness professional’s “never to perform” exercise list, they should be.  We’re not talking about proper abdominal crunches, but the old military style sit-ups where you bring your upper body completely off the floor towards your knees.  Besides doing little to nothing for your core, they push your curved spine against the floor which can cause injury to your back.  And, they work your hip flexors, which, frankly…why?  Most of our hip flexors are already overworked sitting in front of computers all day.

Do this instead…Plank.  Not only do these work your abdominals, but also your back and shoulders.  Proper form includes keeping your back flat, tucking the chin slightly and tightening your abs.

2.  Side Bends with Weights:  Proper side bends for stretching are great.  But, someone, somewhere, came up with this exercise with weights that supposedly was to strengthen the oblique muscles.  However, all this exercise does is put more stress on the low spine, which again can lead to injury.  Really want to work the obliques?

Do this instead…Wood Chopper.  This works both the oblique and transverse abdominal muscles—the ones that allow you to twist, swing a bat, golf club, etc.  This also has the added benefit of working your back and shoulders.  Proper form includes tightening your abs, avoiding arching your back, and using a weight that freely allows you to perform the exercise without stress on your shoulders.

3.  Lat Pull-downs Behind the Neck:  This is a common exercise seen in gyms anywhere, and carries with it a greater potential for injury to the spine, neck and rotator cuffs.  To avoid hitting your head with the bar, you have to extend your head forward.  This puts stress on your spine.  Additionally, the exercise forces your shoulders into an angle they aren’t really built for, which can lead to tearing your rotator cuffs. 

Do this instead…Lat Pull-Down to the Chest.  This is the correct form of the exercise.  Pull the bar down in front of you towards the chest.  Proper form includes keeping your feet flat on the floor and leaning slightly back.  Be sure when you release the bar doesn’t extend beyond your reach to avoid injury to the shoulders.

4.  Hip Abductor/Adductor Machine.  This piece of equipment appears in almost every gym.  You sit down and push your thighs in and out.  Sorry, but besides looking ridiculous, this works very few muscles and is a complete waste of precious exercise time.  It also puts stress on the spine, and unnecessarily tightens the IT (iliotibial) band which can lead to pain between the hip and knee.

Do this instead…Side Lunges.  Not only do these work the major muscles of the legs, but also the hip abductors and adductors due to the side to side movement.  Proper form includes keeping your spine straight, tightening your abs and keeping the bent knee from overshooting the toe.

5.  Hurdler’s Stretch.  We still see a lot of people doing this.  One leg is stretched in front and the other bent behind, which puts the bent knee in a very awkward position.  This puts a lot of stress on the knee and can cause pain and injury.

Do these instead…Basic hamstring, quad and hip flexor stretches.   These stretches will do everything the hurdler’s stretch was trying to do without the added risk of injury.  Proper form includes:  minimizing rounding your back in a hamstring stretch so as to avoid putting stress on the spine; avoiding overstretching the quad to where it causes pain; and whether seated or standing for a hip flexor stretch, avoid arching your back.

Most, if not all of these, were made popular during the early gym days.  They are tough, and they fit into the model of “no pain, no gain.”  However, they are not very effective, and worse, they are dangerous.  People have injured themselves doing these before.  Remember – pain does not equal gain, and often will slow down progress.  The key is to work at exercise in a smart and efficient way.  Challenge yourself, instead of hurting yourself.

TV & Junk Food: Are They Related?

I don’t know, maybe I was just burned out a bit from working too hard and needed a break, but yesterday was one of those lazy days for me.  I decided enough was enough and I was just going to relax for the day.  Now we all need those relaxation days to recharge.  But, on this particular day, I was glued to the TV.  And, for some reason, I took more notice of the many food commercials that we are bombarded with. 

It Made Me Wonder if TV Led to More Eating, and Junk Food in Particular.

To be completely transparent, some of what I have to say on this subject is based on my own experience, and some on research.  First, my own experience…

What I Know to Be True for Myself

I fight my food demons like I know a lot of others do.  Growing up, there were always sugary desserts and candies on hand.  While that’s another story in itself, suffice it to say, while we had to eat dinner at the table, dessert was served later in front of the TV.  I took this same practice into adulthood for many years.  Unconsciously, I associated relaxing in front of the TV with treat time.  During my own weight loss journey, it was one of the habits I became aware of that were contributing to my overweight.  (If you want to know what I did…I slowly began substituting for a healthier snack.

Back to Those TV Commercials.

To be fair, not all those food commercials I noticed yesterday promoted bad foods.  Some were certainly healthy.  But, on seeing them, even though I wasn’t hungry, it made me want to eat.  In sight, in mind, so to speak.  So, my natural tendency was to hit the kitchen and forage for food.  That meant extra calories I was consuming, healthy food or not.

What Some Research Says

In 2018, Cancer Research UK1 [United Kingdom], conducted a survey of teens between 11 and 19 years of age to assess if there was an association between TV streaming and ads on diets.  More specifically, on junk food and sugary drink consumption.  They discovered that teens who regularly streamed shows containing ads “were more than twice as likely (139%) to drink fizzy drinks compared to someone with low advert exposure from streaming TV, and 65% more likely to eat more ready meals than those who streamed less TV.”

In another study, researchers looked into whether eating while watching TV increased the number of calories consumed relative to eating with no TV2.  The participants were women.  Interestingly, everyone ate more with TV.  If the show was a favorite, or one they were familiar with, the food intake was even greater.

I always like to leave with a bottom line.  After working with clients and my own experience, one of the ways to combat TV and food intake is to be mindful of it.  The more mindful we are of what we are doing, the more we can move to modify it in a healthier way.

1Cancer Research UK. “Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180115184342.htm.

2Braude, L., & Stevenson, R. J., 2014. Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. “Watching television while eating increases energy intake. Examining the mechanisms in female participants.” Appetite. Vol. 76, pp 9-16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.01.005.

Why Today’s Technology Is Messing With You

I don’t know about you, but growing up my mother was constantly telling me to “sit up straight,” or “stand up straight!”  Being a kid, I just assumed she thought I was purposely showing I didn’t care and was being lazy.  I mean why else was she always on me?  (That’s a rhetorical question! LOL.)

Granted, maybe we did not, nor our mothers, know at the time why having good posture was important, especially if we weren’t entering beauty pageants or impressing others with our great physique.  But, it turns out she actually might have had our backs on this one!

We’ve all heard it by now—sitting is the new smoking.  However, there is more to it than just being sedentary and out of shape leading to unwanted health problems.  In reality, something more is happening here.

Enter Today’s Technology

In today’s tech society, we spend countless hours staring down at our cell phones and peering forward at our computers.  We sit hunched over in cafes or walk through crowds with our heads down, oblivious to the heavy weight that puts on our neck and shoulders.  With time and age, we get more and more slumped over, developing what I like to call bird neck (head and neck extended forward like we are pecking at someone’s hand).

You probably thought that was simply age, right!?

Why Is This Bad…Besides the Way It Looks?

Our bodies adapt to the position(s) we constantly put it in.  This causes some muscles to be overactive and others underactive.  Because of this, we can more easily injure muscles that are weak (underactive), and feel tightness in other muscles (the overactive ones).  In the case we are talking about here, with time we begin experiencing pain in our neck, back, and shoulders.

Okay, So What Do I Do with This Information?

Besides taking more frequent breaks from staring at that computer and down at the cell phone, here are some simple exercises you can do to combat that rounded back and/or forward head (remember the bird neck).

Rounded back:

·  Bent over Rows to strengthen the back.  Yes, I said bent – but not in the slouched over sense!  Rather bent slightly forward from the hip.

·  Chest Stretch to loosen tight pectoral muscles pulling inward.

Forward head:

·  Head Retraction (keeping head level, tuck your chin which will draw head directly backwards).  You might not like the look of wrinkling under the chin, but that says you’re doing it right!

So, next time you find yourself scrolling too long through Facebook, or working too long at the computer, take a few minutes to get up and stretch out the chest and neck.  And add those back rows to your exercise routine (watching your head position).  You’ll make your mother, and your body, proud!

Decision Making = Success

Do you remember a time when you had a big decision to make and you just didn’t know what the right way to go was?  And, you just didn’t do anything and let whatever happen?

Of course, we’ve all done that before.  And in not making a decision, well, we’ve actually made one.  We’ve let fate, or whatever one might call it, make the decision for us.  In essence, we’ve given control over to someone or something else.

It’s human nature to mull over difficult decisions.  Humans want to weigh cost/benefit, even if just subconsciously.  Our expansive brain power allows us to analyze a situation and logically work out the next move, kind of like a game of chess.  This of course, is a good thing. However, sometimes it gets in the way of us taking action, any action, and just correcting it if we have to.

The most successful people, and you can name anyone from Richard Branson to Oprah Winfrey, make decisions, make them quick, and course correct if they have to.  In essence, they make a decision, then make it right, to achieve a successful outcome.

So, what’s stopping YOU from success?  What’s stopping you from getting in shape, losing weight, or simply improving your health?  Make a decision to do something, start something that will move you towards whatever goals you have.  If you want to be more fit, healthier, or lose weight, make a decision and take some action to get yourself there.

Let’s look at some tips to help with that decision making.

First, examine any excuses you might have for not taking action.  One of the most common is, no time.  Be honest with yourself.  Do you really not have the time?  Because if it’s something you really need to do than time is irrelevant.  At some point the time has to be taken to do it anyway.  Will your life be less busy in the future?  A simple tip is to start by just making a little time for what needs to be done, say 15 minutes each day, and build up from there.  Before you know it, you will have made significant progress.

The second most common reason for not taking action is no money.  Again, be honest with yourself.  Is there really no money for it?  How important is what you need to do?  If money were no object, would it be important, would you do it?  If the answer is yes, then consider these tips:

  • First, set the intent that you are going to find the money to do it. This helps shift your mindset so it is working for you, instead of against you.
  • Examine your finances to see where money may be wasted and target those dollars to help fund what you need.
  • Sell something that you no longer need or has been unused for a while to put toward it.
  • Much like the time commitment, start small. See if you can fund what you want by spreading the payments out over time.  Many businesses seem to be willing to do this more and more.  Or start your own fund to pay for it by saving your spare change.

Remember, be as creative as you like.

Second, consider the benefits of what your decision would bring over the risks of doing nothing.  Use this simple tip of making a list of the benefits of acting and the risks of inaction.  If the benefits outweigh the risks than make the decision to act—take the very first step you have to set your decision in motion.

Third, consider the future rather than your situation right now.  What would you like your future to look like?  Is the decision facing you in line with your goals for the future?  A simple tip is to write down your perfect future related to the choices in front of you.  If the decision to act on something fits into that future, say yes and take that first leap of faith.

In truth, “we rarely regret the things we did, only the things we didn’t do”.  So, start making decisions and then make them right.

Follow us on Facebook as we often put motivation tips and strategies along with great fitness and health tips.  We also offer complimentary strategy sessions to help you uncover strategies to improving your health and fitness.

Decision making is about taking action.  So…make a decision, then make it right.

Exercise and Fat Burning – Demystified (Part 2)

Exercise and Fat Burning – Demystified (Part 2)

In Part 1, we took a look at how much exercise is enough.  Take a moment to read “Exercise and Fat Burning – Demystified (Part 1)“, if you haven’t already.

Now let’s look at the last two questions, how hard do I have to work out to burn fat, and do I even have to exercise to lose weight.

How hard do I have to work out to burn fat? 

Just because you work out hard doesn’t mean you burn more fat.  And, just because you workout at a lower intensity, doesn’t mean you don’t burn fat.  In fact, have you heard you can work out at a lower intensity and burn more fat?  Confusing?  Let’s explain.

If you exercise at a low intensity level, a higher percentage of the energy expended in your body actually does comes from fat.  But, the total energy expended is low, therefore, you don’t burn that much fat.

On the flip side, if you exercise at higher intensity levels, a lower percentage of energy expended in your body comes from fat.  The higher percentage comes from carbs.  But, the total energy expended in your body is higher, therefore, combined, you burn both more fat and carbs.

So, to answer the question, you are better off working at higher intensities because your total energy expended, while low from fat, is higher from a combination of fat and carbs.

Do I even have to exercise to lose weight?

The truth is, you don’t have to exercise to lose weight.  In fact, what and how much you eat has more to do with it than exercise.  However, there is a real downside to leaving off exercise.

When weight is lost without exercise, it’s usually muscle that is lost.  And, should you gain back this weight, you’ve gained back fat.  Have you ever known someone who lost a lot of weight quickly and their skin looks saggy or they have a “sunken” look?  This is not unusual if a person loses weight quickly without exercising.  Building muscle through exercise, while dieting, decreases the potential of looking like that.

The Bottom Line…

That is, exercise will build stronger muscles, which burn more calories, even at rest.  And, you can lose weight faster by combining exercise and eating less calories, creating a bigger deficit between the calories consumed and the calories burned.

Take some action now – you’ll find more of the common myths on weight loss, and facts behind them, in our complimentary ebook “7 Myths About Weight Loss, and the Top Proven Strategies to Overcome Them!

Need help in achieving your weight loss goals?  Checkout our 21-Day Fierce & Fit Formula Program.

Exercise and Fat Burning – Demystified (Part 1)

Exercise and Fat Burning – Demystified (Part 1)

In this two part series, we’ll cover the facts behind exercise and weight loss.  We expand on these basics in our popular ebook “7 Myths About Weight Loss, and the Top Proven Strategies to Overcome Them!

How much exercise is enough?  How hard do I have to work out to burn fat?  Do I even have to exercise to lose weight? 

These are a few of the most common questions that often get asked about exercise and weight loss.  While the answers can be unique to each individual, there are enough commonalities that can get you started in the right direction if you are trying to lose weight and get in shape.  Let’s take a look.

How much exercise is enough?

This depends upon one’s particular health and fitness goals.  The amount of exercise an athlete needs to train for a particular sport or competition is going to be different than a mom with two kids trying to lose 20 pounds.  Here, we’ll address the non-athlete.

Generally speaking, to get healthier, more fit or lose weight, following the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines of “between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity per week,” is going to best answer the question.  Since this is surely one of the areas where more is better, the range of physical activity recommended, indicates that more health-related benefits are realized by increasing the amount of cardiovascular activity.  This increase should be done gradually by increasing the time, frequency, intensity, and type (variety) as one’s body adapts to the exercise.

Moderate-intensity physical activity is an activity that increases a person’s heart rate and breathing to some extent.  Brisk walking, swimming, dancing, or bicycling on a level terrain are examples.  Vigorous-intensity physical activity is an activity that greatly increases a person’s heart rate and breathing.  Jogging, swimming continuous laps, or bicycling uphill are examples.  These are aerobic activity examples.  Further down we’ll look at resistance training.

It doesn’t matter how you split the time up during the week to get in the recommended number of exercise minutes.  For example, this can be met through:

  • 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity 5 days per week or,
  • 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity 3 days per week.

And, on a given day, it can be done in one continuous session or multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes).

If all this seems a little much, consider this:

  • 3 to 4 sessions per week will still get you gains in cardiovascular capacity, and
  • A minimum of 2 days per week is needed to maintain a level of cardiovascular health.

Just as cardiovascular exercise is good for heart health, so is resistance exercise good for bone and muscle health.  (It has also shown to provide some indirect benefit to the cardiovascular system.)  As we age, it becomes even more important to maintain strength and mobility vital to performing daily functions and enjoying a quality life.

The goal of resistance exercise is to train each major muscle group 2-3 days per week, using a variety of exercises and equipment.  This can be done in the following manner:

  • 2 to 4 sets of each exercise will improve strength and power,
  • 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise will improve strength and power, while
  • 15 to 20 repetitions of each will improve muscular endurance.

For each muscle group worked, it’s important that there be at least 48 hours between resistance exercise sessions to allow your body to repair itself to prevent injury from overuse.

Much like resistance training, flexibility exercise is also important to maintaining mobility by improving the range of motion your muscles move.  To achieve this, stretching and flexibility exercises should be done 2-3 days per week.  Even doing this just a few minutes can greatly help.

Neuromotor exercise is just a fancy name for improving one’s motor skills, especially balance, agility, and coordination.  While this can be done a number of ways, some of the more popular forms are through yoga and tai chi.  This type of exercise should also be done 2-3 times per week.  Another alternative, for balance, in particular, is to do some resistance training on one leg.  This saves time, advances the exercise and combines two tasks at once.  Just make sure to start slowly.

Breaking all this down, an optimal exercise program might look like this:

  • Cardiovascular exercise 3-4 times per week; alternating days with
  • Resistance exercise 2-3 times per week; adding
  • Flexibility and neuromotor exercises 2-3 times per week into the days you do your cardio or resistance training.

When starting an exercise routine, try just 1 day of each and increase as you adapt, and most importantly, remain committed!

In Part 2, we dive into burning fat, weight loss, and some common myths around that.
Check out our 7 Myths About Weight Loss and the Top Proven Strategies to Overcome Themif you haven’t already.  To read Part 2 now, click here.