Be Well: Planks Rows

DSC_0674I'm back with workout photos! I may have had to dodge a couple of gym employees and a few yoga aficionados to get them, but I got them. Sharing workouts with you guys is one of my absolute favorite parts about this blog, so I'm happy to be back in the workout picture groove!

Today I'm demonstrating plank rows, one of my favorite total-body exercises. This exercise uses the row fundamentals I discussed in this post and combines them with a plank in order to give your abs and your back a fantastic workout.

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Per the usual, in this workout you need to be sure to challenge yourself with the weight you choose. You can do this workout with 10 lbs., easily. I used 12.5 lb. free weights for this demonstration, but I use 15 lbs. when I'm in the gym.

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Also per the usual, you want to focus on keeping a flat back in this exercise. No hunching or rounding because 1) that's cheating and 2) you don't want to risk hurting yourself.

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Start in a plank position, hands grasping your weights and arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your back should be flat, your neck and head should be in alignment with your back, and your feet should be slightly wider than they typically are when you are in a pushup position in order to enhance stability.

Pick up your left-side weight and send your elbow towards the ceiling. While you do this try to pinch your shoulder blades together and try to not shift your hips to one side. Also, try your hardest not to hinge at the waist and send your hips towards the ceiling. You want to maintain as close to the perfect plank position as possible when you are doing the row in order to give your abs a good dynamic workout.

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Return your left-side weight to the ground.

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Pick up the right-side weight, and try to maintain all the good fundamentals we talked about for the left side.

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Return to your plank position and repeat 10 times on each side for one set. If 10 reps is to easy, try for more sets! Also, if you want to up the difficulty, add a pushup between every row. That will have you sweating in no time.

DSC_0660And finally, be proud that you're lifting weights and making yourself a healthier person!

Sometimes I worry that the exercises I profile on this blog are too basic, too obvious, too well-known by everyone to warrant a step-by-step pictorial explanation here. But then I pick up Shape magazine and read that The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that only 6.3% of women lift weights. SIX POINT THREE. Now, this was only a blurb in a magazine, and I can't comment on the statistical rigor of the study (although I wish I could, that stuff is very interesting to me), but if I sit down and think about my friends and their workout routines, I know that 6.3% can't be too far off. And that is terrifying. I think this country is doing its women a huge disservice by letting them think that strength training (with heavy weights!) isn't important - not only are 93.7% of women missing out on a great way to burn more calories and control their weight, but they are standing by while their skeletons become brittle, which can lead to a world of problems in older age. If you are reading this and you currently do not strength train, I really hope this can serve in some small way as a wake-up call: your body deserves better. And you are not off the hook if you are lifting 5 lbs. or less when you go to the gym: I am sure I will say this in the future, but 5 lbs. is basically within the margin of error from zero lbs. Next time you're at the gym, pick up a heavy weight - 10 lbs., 20 lbs., 50 lbs. You can do it, you WILL NOT bulk up, and your body will be so much better for it.

That's my soapbox, and I probably won't be coming off of it for a long while - I hope you still like me! Have a great Wednesday.

Be Well: Dumbbell Snatch

This week's workout features my little sister Hannah, who is undoubtedly the fittest girl I know. Hannah was a swimmer and a cheerleader in high school, and now that she's in college she focuses her infinite energy on Crossfit. I asked her to share a great full-body exercise with us, and the dumbbell snatch was her #1 recommendation. This one-stop shop move requires coordination of your legs, arms, back, abs, and glutes, and will have you sweating after your first rep. Try it with a light weight to get the motion down and then switch to a heavy weight when you're ready to throw yourself into the exercise (Hannah is lifting 40 lbs. in these pictures, I would recommend lifting no less than 20 lbs.). Without further ado, here's Hannah!

DSC_8950How ridiculously cute is this girl?

Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, knees bent, with the weight on the ground in front of you. DSC_8988

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Your back should be flat. Say it with me - your back needs to be flat. This exercise is all about lifting with your legs, arms, and abs. Do not lift with your back.

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Power through your legs and pull the weight off the ground.

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As the weight rises above hip level, jump slightly to get your bodyweight under the weight, therefore making it easier to press overhead.

DSC_8960_2At the top of the exercise, your legs and arms should be straight, with the weight extended all the way over your head. Lower the weight to the ground and repeat ten times on each side.

I hope everyone is keeping up with their workout resolutions! I'll be back again next Wednesday for more simple ways for you to incorporate weight lifting into your fitness routine. Have a great day!

Be Well: Adventures with Crossfit

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For over a year now, my two youngest siblings have been very into Crossfit. Despite the fact that I write about weight lifting every week, I hadn't given Crossfit a shot myself until Thanksgiving break, when my siblings and my sister's friend Anjelica let me join in on their workout. I could only lift the bar, but it was a lot of fun (in a kind of painful way).

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Deadlifts - I knew how to do those!

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My sister is stronger than yours.

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My brother is also stronger than yours. These two are really good at push-presses.

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And despite being tiny, Anjelica is stronger than me.

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DSC_7149I'm pretty sure this face is the definition of intensity.

Working out with these three really inspired me to improve my strength. Hopefully you'll be seeing me lifting more than the bar in the New Year!

Have you guys tried Crossfit before?

Be Well: Squats to Press

Today I am very excited to begin combining weight lifting concepts that I've already discussed on this blog. Here I'm featuring a combination of squats and bicep curls to shoulder presses. This is such a fantastic way to work your entire body while keeping your heart rate up - you should try it!

Start with feet shoulder-width apart, weights at your side.

Squat by sending your hips back, keeping your back flat, and your chest up.

Squat down as far as you can.

Once you're standing again, start your bicep curl.

At the top of your bicep curl, open your elbows out to make a goalpost shape with your arms.

Press to full extension. Don't forget to keep your abs tight - it will improve your form throughout the entire exercise.

End in the same position you started in. Repeat this move for two minutes and add it to your normal workout for a full-body strengthening experience!

As I was walking home tonight, admiring all of the Christmas decorations that are going up around my neighborhood, I started thinking about when the last Christmas season ended. I distinctly remember packing up our ornaments and throwing away our tree while lamenting that the next Christmas season was so far away. And yet here it is, back again - where did that year go? I think that's how you know that it was a particularly happy year - you're so happy to look back on what you've done, and yet you're so sad that it's already over. With the new Christmas season upon us, I'm hoping that when Christmas 2013 rolls around, I'm equally as amazed by how recent Christmas 2012 felt.

Have a great day.