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The Best Way To Flatten and Tone Your Abs

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You don’t need to spend $1 million on tummy trimming equipment or secrets. Read on for flatter, toner abs.

There’s no shortage of ab exercise machines, fitness exercise programs that target the midsection, or late-night infomercials about toning and trimming the tummy. There are plenty of people ready and willing to tell you how to lose belly fat in exchange for your credit card number. The cold, hard truth is that you don’t need a special ab exercise machine (even if it does look and feel as comfortable as a hammock), and there’s no one magical ab workout that will suddenly accomplish what your half-hearted attempts at diet and exercise haven’t in the past. There are three keys to flat-ab success, and you can have them right here for the price of your time.

Step One: Get Your Cardio

Cardio equipment is useful for HIIT workouts or for longer duration, less intense workouts to burn belly fat.

Any fitness exercise program worth its salt includes aerobic exercise. That’s because getting your heart rate up and expending energy burns fat and calories. The goal is to burn more calories than you take in so that your body is forced to use up stored fat, including the flab affectionately known as your “love handles.” Military.com recommends doing cardio four to five times a week, for 20 to 45 minutes a shot. You know the drill: any activity that increases your heart rate such as biking, running, aerobics classes or working out on the treadmill or elliptical trainer. More is not necessarily better when it comes to duration or level of vigor. IDEA Health and Fitness Association recommends two different approaches to maximize fat loss overall as part of a plan to lose belly fat:

  • short, dynamic workouts, such as 30 minute HIIT sessions
  • long bike rides or similar activities of 90 minutes to 2 hours during which your heart rate hits and maintains about 65 to 70 percent max HR

Step Two: Work Those Abs

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Skip the fad workout gadgets — the best ab exercises don’t use equipment.
Image by XpeSports/Flickr

There is no such thing as spot-reducing, but it is useful to perform abdominal exercises to strengthen and tone your core. Toned ab muscles give your midsection the flat look you desire–especially after you start losing the layer of fat located over your abs–and, when you work to develop those muscles, you can even get a six pack going if that’s what you want. The really terrific thing about ab workouts is that the best ab exercises without equipment are essentially the best ab exercises, period. Over the past few years, planks have become the ab workout darlings of many personal trainers, but the American Council on Exercise says that jacks, mountain climbers, and even side planks are more effective for working your abs from top to bottom and side to side. ACE actually did a study on ab exercises and found the most effective ones to be the bicycle maneuver and the captain’s chair (leg lifts). They’re both effective for working the obliques as well as the main ab muscles that run along the front of your torso.

In your impatience to lose belly fat and flatten your tummy, don’t work your abs every day. Your abdominals are just like every other muscle in your body, and they need recovery time between workouts. That doesn’t mean you can’t do ab exercises more than once a week. Just be sure to allow 48 to 72 hours between workouts.

Step Three: Get a Grip on Your Diet

Healthy food for trimming your tummy can be tasty — and you can still eat a few treats, but in MODERATION.

Ack. There’s that four letter word. Again! Unfortunately, you cannot eat trash and expect to have a trim tummy. Remember the saying: what you eat in private, you wear in public — right around your middle. No one is saying you can’t eat food you like, just think “moderation.” That means limiting sweets and fried foods, choosing naturally low-fat cheeses over the creamy fat-filled ones, eating ample fresh veggies and fruits, and opting for lean meats instead of fatty ones. TargitFit’s never-fail extreme weight loss diet recommends cutting out soda altogether, but if you can’t go cold-turkey on the cola, cut back until you’re off it entirely. Drink water instead as part of ensuring you get enough H20 each day. Try eating five smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. If you get a grip on your diet and include both cardio and ab exercises in your routine, you’ll be sportin’ that six pack in no time.

How to Lose Weight: Breaking Through Those Pesky Plateaus

It happens to everyone: you start a fitness and weight loss regimen, you start seeing results and feeling good about yourself and your progress…then you hit a plateau. That’s when your enthusiasm and motivation will take a dive and, if you don’t find a way to break through that plateau, you may be tempted to bag it.

The first thing you can do is to expect the plateaus and let go of ideas of rapid weight loss. You’ll go through periods of quick weight loss and periods when it seems like you’re not making any progress at all. Don’t be surprised or bummed out by that. If you expect it, and you have a few weight loss tips for plateaus in your bag of tricks, you’ll be more inclined to stick with your original weight loss plan, work past the plateau and start a new cycle of losing weight and building muscle.

Change Up Your Workout

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Try a different workout or form of resistance to break through plateaus.

Weight-loss plateaus hit when your body predictably adjusts to your routine of physical activity. Military Fitness recommends changing up your workout when this happens. Don’t fight it. You may be comfortable with your workout and know it by heart, but the familiarity is what’s causing you to plateau. Drop some of your usual exercises and replace them with different ones that still work the same muscles. ExRx.net has a comprehensive exercise directory that cross-references exercises by muscle groups, but the site also has a search option that lets you search by muscle or exercise.

Also, consider changing the time of day you work out if possible, or even the equipment you use. If you typically gravitate to the free weights, give the cable machines or resistance bands a try for a few weeks. Additionally, a plateau can be an indication that it’s time to increase the amount you’re lifting. Don’t be afraid to add some weight to your workouts to increase muscle mass and build strength, as well as kick-start your weight loss program again.

Fine-Tune Your Cardio

Take your cardio outdoors or even use a different piece of equipment to get your metabolism into fat-burning mode again.

Some people avoid cardio and some do it instead of resistance training, but it’s important that cardio and resistance training are both included in your weight loss plan. If aerobic exercise isn’t included in your workout, add it. If you already do cardio, add another day and increase the amount of time you’re spending on it. Mike Mahler recommends increasing your cardio workouts by 5 to 10 minutes at a time to find your cardio sweet-spot. That can be anywhere from 30 – 45 minutes per session, but it shouldn’t exceed 60 minutes. Also, change the type of aerobic exercise you’re doing. Ditch the treadmill or stationary bike for awhile and give the elliptical a try. Attend a class at your health club or, if the weather is nice, go for a run outdoors. Maybe even give HIIT a try. Anything to shock your body back into weight-loss mode.

Make Your Diet a Moving Target

Don’t overdo on the calorie deficit. Instead, change how and when you eat.

If making changes to your resistance training and cardio workouts aren’t giving you the weight loss results you want to see, it may be your diet that needs tweaking. You may be eating too close to bedtime, so try to start eating earlier, giving yourself four or more hours between your last meal of the day and the time you hit the hay. You can also break it up so that you’re eating smaller meals more often, five to six times a day. You can use the Harris-Benedict equation found on Medical News Today to determine how many calories you should be getting each day. Keep in mind that, if you don’t get enough calories, your body will start conserving them and shut down your weight loss plan. Instead of creating an extreme calorie deficit to induce rapid weight loss, concentrate on the foods you eat, making sure you eat enough protein, and change up your carb count a few days each week. ShapeFit recommends lowering your carbs one or two days in a row, then increasing back up for two to three days. It’s called carb-cycling, and the erratic amounts will keep your metabolism on its toes and in fat-burning mode.

Listen to Your Body

Without enough rest, your body wants to conserve fat and calories instead of burning them.
Image by Alexandra E Rust/Flickr

Hitting a plateau in your weight loss program is a huge signal from your body that you need to pay attention to if you want to continue losing weight. The best advice is to listen to your body and understand what it’s telling you. If you feel fatigued and worn out, you could easily burn out if you aren’t getting enough rest. If you’ve been at it 6 or 7 days a week non-stop since the beginning of the year, taking a week off will do you more good than  harm. When you are in full workout mode, take care to get adequate hours of sleep each night and do your body the favor of taking 1 to 3 days off each week. Giving your body enough rest and nutrition and keeping it guessing with changes to your workout will help bust through those plateaus and have you on the quick weight loss track again in no time.

Autumn Is An Awesome Time To Focus On Fitness

This week, TargitFit is pleased to offer advice on using fall to kick-start your fitness and weight loss plans courtesy of guest blogger, Helen Sanders:

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The dragon you’ll be fighting this fall is the urge to ignore your workouts until after the holidays.
Image by OnTheWeb/Flickr

Winter is coming, as Jon Snow is always telling anybody who will listen in Game of Thrones. Fortunately, in the real world, we don’t have to worry about dragons, ice kings or the imminent invasion of the White Walkers. Our main enemy, at least to our fitness levels and our health, can be the impending holiday season that comes with winter.

Healthy eating is often tossed aside during the holidays. Christmas and Thanksgiving usually include gut-busting turkey dinners and endless holiday parties. It can also be harder to motivate yourself to work out once the summer shorts and tank tops have been tucked away in your wardrobe for yet another year.

However, instead of being a time for winding down, fall can be the ideal time to get proactive and kick-start your fitness regime before the holidays even start. Weather conditions in the fall can be much more comfortable than the snow, rain, and ice of winter. Plus, there’s the added bonus that the gym will not be full of the post-Xmas part-timers when you visit in the off-peak fall season. So Why wait until January to make a resolution to get in shape? There’s no time better than now!

Get Out and Enjoy the Scenic Outdoors

In many parts of the U.S., fall is the most beautiful time of the year. A stunning array of autumnal colors make this an ideal time to go for a run, bike ride or even a brisk walk. Use the parks and countryside to your advantage for your fitness routine and enjoy this wonderful time of year while getting fit.

The change in season also brings about a change in climate, with temperatures often cooling down rapidly from the summer highs. Exercise can often be more enjoyable when you are sweating less but don’t have to layer up just yet. As it gets cooler, investing in breathable, moisture-wicking clothing can prevent having to peel the layers off as your blood gets pumping.

Experts in kinesiology have found that weather conditions can encourage or deter physical activity. Bad weather can actually be a barrier to physical activity, but exercising and being outdoors in nature have also been found to boost your mood. If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re more likely to stick with your fitness plan.

Take Advantage of Lower Prices

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Autumn is often the best time to find a bike on sale – and a new bike is a great motivator to exercise.

With fewer people trying for that beach body and most new year’s resolutions forgotten, fall is a quieter period for many gyms. Fall can be the perfect time to take advantage of the discounts and incentives offered by many gyms to attract new members. If you prefer a traditional gym workout, now could be the ideal time to join before the colder winter months see a gym membership rush.

Fall could also be the ideal opportunity to save money on that new bike you may have been eyeing all summer. Mountain Bike World Magazine says fall is often the best time to buy a new bike. Many bike manufacturers bring out their new models in September and will heavily discount the previous year’s models to clear them. 

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A stroll through the local farmers market is exercise in itself. Plus, you’ll go home with loads of fresh, healthy food.

Enjoy the Harvests of Fall

A healthy diet is an important part of any fitness plan. With autumn comes a wide variety of fresh seasonal produce full of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed to fuel your body as you workout. A hike or bike ride could include a trip to the local farmers market to sample the fall harvest. You could also save money by buying local fresh produce at this time of year.

New Season, New Schedule

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Fall is the perfect time to enroll in a class you’ve always wanted to try. Image by John Seb Barber/Flickr

The kids going back to school after the long summer holidays can leave many of us with free time to fill. This provides the perfect chance to try that new gym or take up a new hobby which may help with fitness plans. Maybe a salsa dance class or a martial arts course can help revive your workout sessions.

Fall can also be a time when the TV schedules feature a return of many of your favorite shows. Try doing a few ab crunches or lunges while catching up on Life With the Kardashians or tuning in for the new Will and Grace.

After a long, hot summer, fall can be the best season to kickstart your fitness regime. By starting your plan early you will be free to enjoy the holiday season with fewer feelings of guilt. A little extra work now means not having to worry about a few extra calories here and there throughout the holidays plus, you can look stunning in that little black dress when the Christmas party season starts.

 

Helen Sanders is chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. We pride ourselves on making sure our actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.

Losing Weight is Easier When You Put Your Mind to It

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You’ve gotten used to eating on the go and super-sizing that order–but it’s undermining your attempts to lose weight

We’re all guilty of it. Everyone stops for fast food at least once in awhile, and who hasn’t at one time or another crammed a cheeseburger down their cake-hole in a frenzy while maneuvering through lunchtime traffic? Or plowed through a full dinner plate in record time and piled the second helping high because you still felt hungry? Even if you work out religiously and are *fairly* good at watching what you eat, your eating habits could be what’s undermining your ability to lose weight.

In a fast-paced world of fast food that’s readily supersized, it’s easy to fall into a routine of wolfing your food and eating too much of it. Brian Wasink, author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” says that people make approximately 250 food-related decisions each day, but few of them can explain their motivations behind those choices. That’s because eating has become automated, something we do when we’re hungry (of course), when we’re stressed, when we’re in social situations and, sometimes, just because it’s time to eat.

Deciding to eat on purpose and with purpose is one of the most important weight loss tips you can put into action. Mindful Eating didn’t start out as a diet and exercise plan, but instead began as a Buddist mindfulness exercise. For those who have given it a sincere try, though, being attentive when eating has turned out to be one of the best weight loss programs they’ve participated in.

How It Works

Mindful eating starts during meal preparation.

The truth is that most people know how to plan a healthy diet; they just don’t do it. The really cool thing about eating mindfully and with purpose is that it’s not all centered on denying yourself favorite foods or measuring out portions. Mindful Eating starts with preparing the food. Some people take it to the extreme of growing their own fruits and vegetables and keeping chickens and goats or cows so that they can start meditating on the food they eat before and during the preparation process. If you want to go to those levels, feel free, but you don’t have to be a farmer to improve your eating habits and lose weight.

Those who visit the local grocery to buy food can begin their mindful eating weight loss plan by paying focused attention to the steps they take in preparing any of the food they eat. Notice textures, be aware of sounds and smells and take care in dishing food up for serving, even if you’re eating lunch alone at your desk.

When it comes to the actual eating part, take a few pointers from the pros. And, no, we’re not talking Buddhist monks. Many medical and scientific professionals have become interested in Mindful Eating after seeing studies such as the one published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What intrigued doctors, dieticians and the like was that the study found that eating slower by increasing the number of times mouthfuls were chewed reduced the amount subjects ate. To be more aware while you eat, the University of Health Services at Berkeley says to avoid multitasking with food. If you don’t have time to take a full hour for lunch, at least give yourself the 15 minutes it takes to eat a snack for sustenance and give that snack 100 percent of your attention while you’re eating it. The attention factor is actually the central theme in any Mindful Eating advice. Pay attention to what you’re eating and truly enjoy it, chewing slowly, anywhere from 30 to 50 times per mouthful. Don’t get hung up on the number, though. If the food in your mouth has been pulverized and mostly swallowed, there’s no need to continue chomping air to get in your 50 chews. Do make sure, though, that your mouth is empty before taking another bite.

savoring food

Remember what it was like to eat something really good when you were a kid? Savor your food like that.
Image by James Emery/Flickr

Take smaller bites, too, concentrating on measuring out your spoon or forkfuls as they come from the plate or bowl. Or break off small chunks of bread, cake, or a protein bar before unhurriedly placing them in your mouth. Almost every expert on eating mindfully recommends trying to schedule at least one meal a week that’s without distractions from television or your mobile phone and even advise you abstain from reading during the meal so you can immerse yourself fully in your food.

Why It Works

Even when you know how to do something, it always helps to know why it works. In the case of eating mindfully, it works as a weight loss plan mostly because it gives your body time to communicate. Web MD says that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that you are full. That’s why it’s easy to overeat to the point of discomfort if you’re famished. Eating slowly allows you time to recognize when you’re full, but you’ll also feel full longer.  Additionally, taking the time to chew your food is healthier for you. According to the Institute of Food Technologies, food (specifically almonds in one study) that is chewed 40 times is better absorbed and utilized by the body. What’s more, a study published on PLOS.org found that slow eating and increased chewing prevents diabetes.

Since you’ll eat less when you eat slowly, you can have your cake and eat it, too!

So there it is: the diet and weight loss plan you’ve been looking for. The one that doesn’t tell you to stop eating the things you love or to cut out entire food groups. The advice is simple and worth following if it means you can have your cake and eat it, too. So, here is the official challenge to do your own research and see how Mindful Eating affects you. When you take the time to eat mindfully, you’ll eat less, feel more satisfied for longer and will actually enjoy your food. How awesome would it be to gain a healthy relationship with food and lose weight at the same time?

Ask the Expert: What are the Best Fat-Busting, Muscle Building Supplements?

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You don’t have to fill your shopping cart with product. Just a few key supplements will help you build muscle and burn fat. Image by Noodles and Beef/Flickr

As a gym owner, personal trainer and former body builder, the question I get asked almost as much as, “How can I lose weight fast?” is, “What are the best muscle building and/or weight loss supplements?” With shelves upon shelves of different supplements that each supposedly serve a unique purpose, the confusion and apprehension is understandable. After all, if it truly takes all of those supplements to reach your weight loss and muscle building goals, you’ll be in bankruptcy pretty quick.

The good news is that you don’t need all those supplements. While some do have positive effects, most are unnecessary if you’re not out to compete in a bodybuilding competition. There are a handful of muscle building supplements that you absolutely should be taking on a regular basis. You’ll notice that not many are necessarily considered to be weight loss supplements. However, by virtue of helping increase your muscle mass, they are fat-busters. Experts such as the American Council on Exercise tells us that building and maintaining muscle burns more calories than a soft, sedentary body does. That’s why, even though the following supplements are mostly considered to be muscle building supplements, they’re also effective weight loss supplements, helping you to achieve two goals at once.

Good Ol’ Protein

Protein is an essential ingredient for building lean muscle tissue.

At the top of the list of the best supplements for women and men alike is every dieter and body builder’s best friend: protein. It’s a vital element for building muscle tissue. If you’ve been protein shopping, you already know that there are a number of different types and sources of protein, including powders made from egg whites as well as whey. Whey is one of the best forms of protein, as it’s easily absorbed by the body, even more readily than food sources such as fish or chicken. If you’re the type who wants to cover your bases and benefit from several types of protein, Beverly International’s Ultimate Muscle Protein (UMP) is your dream protein. In addition to whey, it contains egg white and casein, which is ultra-useful in the repair stage of muscle building.

Creatine Supplements Enhance Anabolic Results

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Creatine can help increase muscle mass, improve endurance and ease post-workout soreness.

Creatine supplements are helpful for improved muscle and strength gains and busting through plateaus. According to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, creatine supplements increased IGF-I (insulin-like growth factor-1) which is essential for the repair and building of muscle tissue. You may have heard of side effects associated with the use of creatine, but if you stick to the recommended cycling and servings, you should do fine. Also, because creatine works partially by drawing water into the muscle cells, you’ll want to ensure you’re drinking plenty of water to avoid muscle cramping and other symptoms of dehydration.

Muscle-Metabolized Aminos

L-Leucine is just one of the BCAAs that metabolize in your muscle tissue, and provide strength and recovery assistance. Image by Benjah-bmm27 (Own work) [Public domain]/Wikimedia Commons

Whether or not you’re familiar with all nine essential amino acids, you should familiarize yourself with the three known as the Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs):

  • L-IsoLeucine
  • L-Leucine
  • L-Valine

These are the ones that are metabolized in the muscles, instead of in the liver like the rest of the aminos. BCAAs are awesome because they support energy levels, strength and recovery. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that supplementing BCAAs reduces fatigue during workouts and also increases fat oxidation — yep, that’s fat-burning to you and me. More good news for those taking UMP: this “ultimate” muscle building supplement also contains the three BCAAs in addition to L-Arginine and L-Glutamine.

Take Your Viteys

A quality multivitamin with minerals will provide nutrients that your diet doesn’t. Image by Matt Reinbold

Even with the best intentions, your diet will fail in providing you the complete nutrition you need to build lean muscle to burn fat. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition revealed that, even when careful attention was paid to improving nutritional intake, most (up to 90 percent!) failed to provide 100 percent of recommended micronutrients. A quality multivitamin that also contains minerals is the answer. Vitamins provide energy and give your body what it needs to build and repair muscles. I’ve you’ve plateaued and have been dragging, the lack of a quality multivitamin could be the reason. It will fill in the blanks left by your diet to help you get through your workouts, building lean muscle and burning fat.

Still, your diet does play an important part in your health and fitness goals. Taking vitamins and protein doesn’t mean you can slack off on eating right. Making healthy choices when you eat, drinking plenty of water and including these few supplements will get you over the hump, off the plateau and back on track to building muscle and reducing body fat.

–Matt

Dear Diary…The Benefits of Keeping a Food Journal

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Food journals have shown to provide significant help for people who have trouble losing weight.
Image by Pw95/Flickr

In this age of social media and publishing every random thought that occurs, you’d think that keeping a food diary would be easy. But if that were true, then so many people wouldn’t still be fighting the battle to lose weight. Maybe you’ve heard the advice before—that keeping a journal to track your food intake can be beneficial, and maybe you rolled your eyes. Possibly you thought it was a good idea but just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. Well, it’s time to take this weight loss secret seriously. A study published by Kaiser Permanente revealed that keeping a journal on food intake can double weight loss, and the more detailed the diary is, the more weight that will likely come off.

What’s more, listening to and understanding your body is so important in general, but especially when you’re trying to lose weight. Health says that keeping a food journal will shine a light on issues such as why you eat when you’re not hungry, how who you’re eating with may affect your meals, and can even identify foods you may be allergic to or that have negative effects on your health.  Armed with that kind of insight, you’ll be more in touch with your body and its relationship with food, and will be able to fine-tune your eating habits to reach your goals. So grab a notebook and a pen and start writing to lose weight.

The Magic Of Writing

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Unless you write down everything you consume, you may not have an accurate picture of how much you’re eating–or even whether you’re eating healthy.

One reason food journals can be so successful is that they track the amount of food you eat to give you an accurate picture of what you’re actually eating. Kristin Kirkpatrick, a Registered Dietician, says that clients routinely tell her that they hardly eat at all, yet still can’t seem to lose weight. One of the first things she does is have them start keeping a food diary, and they’re always surprised at how much they really do consume.

That’s because many people have gotten used to eating on the run, so they subconsciously dismiss any food not eaten at the dining room table. Another trick of the mind is that they don’t see the “little” calories adding up: a handful of chips here, half a sandwich there, several spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s illicitly scarfed down in the middle of the night (if you don’t eat it from a dish, it doesn’t count, right?). It all does add up, though, and writing it down makes you accountable, putting you face-to-face with the truth of how much you’re really eating.

How To Keep a Food Diary

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Yep, keep track of everything you drink, too.
Image by Fredrik Rubensson/Flickr

Keeping a food journal is about more than writing down what you eat. According to Organic Authority, in addition to writing down the time of day you’re eating and exactly how much of each item you’re eating, there are other important issues that need to be kept track of that relate to the food part of the log. Every time you eat, you should record your hunger level, the reason you’re eating (stress? it’s noon? I’m bored? everyone else is doing it?), how long it takes you to eat, and reactions, such as whether the food affects your mood or makes you feel contented, happy, hyper, nauseated, tired, or irritable.

Periodic summaries are essential, too. Do it daily, do it weekly, or do it monthly, but the summaries will centralize the data on the food you’re eating and give you the clearest picture of your diet. What’s more, summarizing reveals patterns in your health, moods, and eating habits, and identifying those can do more than help you lose weight. That information can end up being vital for improving your general health.

Get In the Habit and Don’t Stop

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After a few months of keeping a food diary, you might be surprised at how motivating it can be.

However you choose to record your experience with food, make a commitment to do it consistently for at least 90 days. By then, the habit should be ingrained enough that you won’t have trouble keeping it up if you want to or haven’t reached your goal yet and need to keep journaling. You’ll be surprised at the picture the diary will paint over those 3 months and may be even more surprised at the incentive you get from reviewing it.

Finding the Best Health Club For You

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With cooler seasons just around the corner, days of outdoor exercise are numbered.
Image by Raquel Baranow/Flickr

Not to bum anyone out, but summer is drawing to a close. If you took your workout outdoors last spring and haven’t stepped foot inside a gym ever since, now is a good time to find a health club so your fitness routine can smoothly continue on after the weather takes a turn. Since a combination of strength training and cardio exercise is the best way to lose weight, a gym or health club will have the equipment you need as well as the professionals who can help get you on the right track. If you live in a small town, you may not have many choices, if any. People who live in larger cities, though, often have several different gyms and health clubs to choose from, and that’s where another problem arises. You may get stuck at choosing a gym, or might choose one that’s not right for you. Either way, your resolve to exercise to lose weight will dissolve, and you’ll be back at square one. Consider the important issues when choosing a health club to ensure it is the ideal choice, one that will drive you to reach your weight loss and fitness goals.

Location and Hours

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If the gym’s hours don’t match your schedule, you’ll never workout. Image by Edward Webb/Flickr

IDEA Health and Fitness reports that inconvenience is the number one reason people leave a health club. By not looking at the location and the hours of business to determine how conveniently a club will fit into your lifestyle, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Even so, though you may be more likely to use a nearby health club frequently, it will be of no use to you if it isn’t open during hours when you have time to exercise. Many clubs have extended hours and are open early mornings and late evenings. Additionally, 24-hour clubs are more popular and available than ever. Whatever your schedule and your preference, find a gym that doesn’t take you out of your normal way and is open when you can work a workout into your schedule.

Gym or a Club?

An old-school gym won’t satisfy those who crave pampering and amenities.
Image by Alka Pool/Flickr

You can eliminate a handful of choices if you know what you’re looking for in a fitness facility. Are you super-serious about your workout, and know the value of old-school iron and well-built fitness equipment? Or is a plush locker room, flat-screen TVs on all the cardio equipment and mint-infused cooling towels important to you? There’s nothing wrong with either scenario, unless you pick a facility that doesn’t fit with your preferences. A no-frills, down-to-earth gym will give you at least the basics you need by way of weight and cardio equipment and is the perfect choice for the person who just wants to hit it and quit it. A health club should be the choice for those who enjoy amenities and the social aspect of working out.

The Bottom Line Is the Bottom Line

Affordability is one of the most important elements in choosing a gym or health club.

Though the economy is getting back on track, many people find that they still don’t have an excess of disposable income to spend on “luxuries.” While the argument over whether a health club membership is a luxury or a necessity is a topic for an entirely different blog, the fact remains that finding an affordable place to work out is essential. The American Council on Exercise points out that there are as many different payment options as there are health clubs. Some charge initiation fees as well as monthly fees; some require up-front payment for at least a year at a time; others allow you to pay month-to-month and don’t lock you into a contract. While a lot of people believe that signing a contract will motivate them to exercise regularly, the reality is that many who sign one end up spending money and not working out. Sign that contract if it truly will motivate you, but also consider whether you can afford the monthly payments along with the initiation fee. If not, you may be surprised to find that many clubs that don’t require contracts have low, affordable monthly rates.

Is a Club Right for You?

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Some would rather invest in home gym fitness equipment instead of joining a health club.

Harvard Health‘s checklist for choosing a club asks first if joining a club is even the right option for you. While there are many benefits to signing on with a gym or health club, it does you no good if you don’t use it. Whatever the reason, whether there’s no fitness facilities nearby, none of them are open during hours that match your schedule or you simply feel more comfortable working out in private instead of in front of God and everybody, you don’t have to give up on your goals to lose weight and get fit. You only need a few pieces of quality equipment to put together an effective home gym to get a gym-quality workout. Well, that — and the dedication to use it.

Just How Important Is Building Leg Muscles?

Male or female–everyone benefits from strong leg muscles.
Image by Sabre Blade/Flickr

It’s not an uncommon sight: a dedicated weight lifter or fitness enthusiast who religiously works his upper body and completely ignores his leg muscles. Typically it’s because building a big barrel of a chest, massive shoulders and impressive, big “guns” are the priority. Men aren’t the only ones guilty of neglecting the muscles of the leg. Many times women become too sensitive about the size of their thighs and glutes so they concentrate on reducing their legs instead of focusing on how to build up leg muscle. There are important reasons for working your legs, though, and not all of them are geared toward bodybuilding. Everyone of all genders and ages can benefit from strong leg muscles.

The Fat Burning Factor

Leg muscle mass helps keep your entire body trim.

You already know that maintaining muscle helps with burning fat for healthy weight loss. It stands to reason that the more muscle weight you put on, the easier it will be to take fat weight off and keep it off. You leg muscles are the largest muscle group you have, taking up the entire lower half of your body. Building lower and upper leg muscles will go a long way in increasing your overall muscle mass for increased fat burning potential.

Keeping You Mobile

Strong leg muscles keep you on the go and make it possible to do everyday things like climb stairs and get you from point A to point B.

It’s easy to take your leg muscles for granted, but just try to get through one day without using your leg muscles and you’ll recognize the essential role they play in keeping you agile and mobile. The importance of agility and mobility are obvious for athletes, both professional and weekend warriors, but these elements increase in importance as people age. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology concluded that leg extension strength in older adults is associated with the ability to keep balance and prevent falling. Additionally, the medical information website Patient says that problems with balance and gait are directly related to muscle weakness, both in the upper leg muscles, such as the quadriceps and abductors, and in the lower legs where calf muscles affect foot flexion.

Symmetry: It’s Not Just for Bodybuilders Anymore

Weak leg muscles are weak links in your body’s muscle chain.

It’s no secret that symmetry is as important to bodybuilders as muscle building. According to Bodybuilding.com, an evenly developed body has no noticeable weak points and simply looks better. Aside from the appealing physical appearance, symmetry in your muscles can help reduce the chances of injury. The muscles of your body are all connected, and the ones that aren’t connected directly are linked together through other muscles. They all team up to get you around and allow you to do what you do. However, if one section of the team is weaker than others, it can’t perform properly, resulting in injury whether you’re working out or just performing simple, daily tasks. Former endurance athlete Mark Sisson explains that having weak hamstrings, for example, may result in torn cartilage, bad knees, an abnormal inward curving of the spine, or all three.

How to Strengthen Leg Muscles

In the simplest terms, the answer to how to build up leg muscles and strength is to work them — but work all of them. There are different schools of thought on whether you can or should work upper and lower body on the same day, but ExRx.net recommends dedicating one entire workout day to your leg muscles. Do exercises such as

 

  • squats
  • lunges
  • calf raises
  • leg curls and extensions
  • hip adductors and abductors
  • hip flexions

Two to three sets of each exercise will challenge your leg muscles to start growing in strength and size. Those strong muscles will pay you back for the effort by helping keep you lean, reducing your chances of an injury and keeping you on your feet and on the go.

3 Simple Things You Need To Build the Best Home Gym

If you’ve been thinking about joining a gym, there are plenty out there. Statista reports that there are over 36,500 health clubs in the U.S. open and ready to help people reach their goals. On the other hand, tt’s understandable if you don’t join one. Maybe you don’t live near one of those thousands of facilities; maybe you don’t want to sign a contract to get affordable rates; or maybe the hours of business don’t sync up with your schedule. Those excuses don’t mean that you can’t get fit. With a few pieces of equipment, you can have 24-hour access to the best home gym on the planet.

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Kettlebells give you more options than simple dumbbells.

Kettlebells: Valuable Versatility
Kettlebells aren’t new in the world of workouts, but they’ve made a comeback in popularity. According to Fitness, the equipment’s versatility makes kettlebells trainer favorites, allowing them to add useful moves such as swings to strength training regimens. You’ll only need three kettlebells to start. In his book “The Ultimate Kettlebells Workbook,” Dave Randolph advises that you get one lighter-weight kettlebell for pressing overhead, on heavier-weight for lower body work and one that falls in between the two for dynamic exercises. You won’t have to buy additional kettlebells until you’re ready to move up in weight.

 

Cardio is Crucial for the Best Home Gyms

Get your cardio on a treadmill, elliptical, or rowing machine - or get a special stand that turns a regular bike into a stationary bike with the twist of a couple of screws.

Get your cardio on a treadmill, elliptical, or rowing machine – or get a special stand that turns a regular bike into a stationary bike with the twist of a couple of screws.

You need cardio options along with resistance to create the best home gym, but you don’t have to invest thousands in club-quality equipment to get a decent aerobic workout. Exercise trainer stands are an affordable way to turn a street bike into a stationary one for effective indoor cardio workouts. Quality stands have dials that adjust tension on the rear wheel so, much like in Spin class, you can simulate going up and down hills. Human Kinetics recommends using an old bike if this is the cardio route you favor. That’s because the stand holds your bike stationary and prevents it from moving freely. This puts a great deal of pressure on the frame and may end up impairing how it handles if you try to ride it outdoors again.

The Benefits of Bands

Bands are a safe form of resistance plus they provide a refreshing change from traditional weights.

Bands are a safe form of resistance plus they provide a refreshing change from traditional weights.

Resistance bands are some of the best pieces of equipment for home gyms, according to WebMD. Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., says that bands supply linear variable resistance (LVR), a condition in which resistance increases as you work through the motion of an exercise, and that’s great for building muscle. You may have seen guys at the gym attaching chains to free weights to generate LVR, but you won’t need chains if you equip your home gym with a TargitFit Trainer. It uses resistance bands to perform over 115 gym-quality exercises, earning it the title of the best home gym. Skeptical? In Roy M. Wallack’s LA Times article comparing portable exercise equipment, TargitFit was the only piece that garnered no “dislikes” and was described as having the “closest real-gym feel.”

So, what are you waiting for? Get started building the best home gym right in your own home today!

Targit In Your Toolbox

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Expand your workout options. Make sure you have more than one type of resistance training tool in your fitness toolbox.

No matter what your goals are, you need to build muscle as well as get your cardiovascular system in shape. WebMD advises that building lean muscle via resistance training is vital for getting in shape because it helps burn fat for weight loss and helps keep it off. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends both resistance training and aerobic activity on a weekly basis in their Physical Activity Guidelines. The aerobic part is easy enough to solve, as you really don’t need any unusual or special equipment to get your heart rate up. Hop on your bike, take a jog around the neighborhood or jump rope for awhile — it’s all good. For building muscle, though, it’s useful to have more than one tool in your fitness toolbox.

Open Your Mind to Options

Some people are die-hard free weight lifters. They don’t consider it a serious workout unless they’re using the dumbbells or any equipment that incorporates weight plates. There’s nothing wrong with that while you’re young, but as you get older your body doesn’t recover as quickly as it used to. Plus, lifting heavy weights is hard on your joints and tendons in general but, as you age, it’s natural for cartilage to deteriorate, according to Healthline, making heavy weight lifting difficult and even risky. That’s not to say that you should give up free weights entirely. Many experts from personal trainers to physical therapists to doctors advocate using bands in conjunction with free weights for effective strength training programs.

The benefits of resistance bands increase the effectiveness of your workout. Image by Dave Crosby/Flickr

Advice like that from experts is what makes the TargitFit Trainer a valuable piece of equipment for your fitness toolbox. It uses bands for resistance, eliminating the load placed on your joints while still giving you a challenging workout. If you’re one of the intractable free weight enthusiasts, open your mind a little to discover the benefits of bands as resistance. Colorado State University lists a whole slew of them including but not limited to

  • constant tension that isn’t subject to gravity
  • momentum is eliminated, which encourages proper form and prevents “cheating”
  • activates core muscles to improve posture and torso stabilization
  • greater range of motion for increased effectiveness of resistance, resulting in more muscle fibers recruited for greater muscle strength

Additionally, the American College of Sports Medicine says that resistance bands are useful for athletes of all fitness levels, from beginners to advanced.

Injuries Last a Lifetime

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Bench presses with resistance bands won’t aggravate your shoulder joints.

Injuries never go away. Your body may heal, but you’ll likely never be the same after your knee blows out or you injure your rotator cuff. Band-based resistance is a valuable training tool for anyone, but those who have an injury, currently or one in the past, will find that the non-load type of resistance bands offer are easier on their injured limbs and/or joints. It’s the reason why resistance bands are used in physical therapy and injury rehab. If squats bother your knees or bench pressing irritates your shoulder, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that you can do both pain-free with equipment like the TargitFit Trainer. The resistance is challenging, yet won’t inflict damage or cause further injury, so you’ll be able to keep working out. Also, you’ll recover — from your workouts and your injury — more effectively.

Resistance Training for the Young ‘Uns

kid workout

Kids as young as 7 can safely workout on the TargitFit Trainer.

Another case for adding TargitFit to your toolbox is that it can safely be used by anyone of any age or fitness level. Though a study published in Sports Health concluded that strength training is beneficial for children as young as 7 years, the Mayo Clinic points out that lifting too heavy and using inappropriate equipment contribute to injuries, such as bone plate fractures and lower back, joint and tendon damage. The Mayo Clinic and the Sports Health study agree that resistance bands and tubing are the answer. Bands are viable and safe alternatives for weight lifting for kids, and using them is a terrific way to introduce children to strength training. It allows them to learn proper form to prepare them to lift free weights when they get older.

Multiple Uses, Never-Ending Benefits

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Portable, easy to store and safe — TargitFit is a valuable addition to your fitness toolbox.

As stated before, you should have more than one resistance tool in your fitness toolbox. Most experts agree that giving yourself options benefits you in multiple ways. Having access to a tool such as the TargitFit Trainer increases your chances of working out consistently, because you’ll have access to it when the gym is closed or overcrowded, when you’re on vacation or when you just don’t feel like leaving the house. You can use it without concern that it will aggravate old or new injuries. It’s useful as a transition tool, from young to old. It takes the place of free weight accessories such as chains for linear variable resistance but isn’t as bothersome to store and transport. Also, working out with TargitFit is a refreshing change of pace when you get bored with your workout routine. The health and fitness benefits of the TargitFit Trainer are reason enough to try it. The sheer convenience and effectiveness will make you a believer.