Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 8 of 10

SINGLE LEG SHOULDER PRESS! This is the eighth of ten exercises in the functional fitness series. This exercise targets the shoulder muscles while enhancing core stability and simultaneously challenging your balance.

HOW TO: Stand on your left leg. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palms facing forward and keep your core tight and spine neutral as you raise it straight above your head. Slowly lower your right arm down so that your right elbow and forearm form a 90-degree angle (pictured below). shoulder pressRepeat the movement for 8 to 12 reps and then perform the shoulder press while holding the dumbbell in your left hand. Now balance on your right foot, holding the dumbbell in your right hand, press up for 8 to 12 repetitions; then repeat holding the dumbbell in your left hand for the same about of repetitions.

dumbbell-single-leg-shoulder-press-

Note: Choose and use a dumbbell weight which you can press up at least 8 times with one arm.

HOW TO PROGRESS: 1. Hold dumbbells in both hands, balanced on one leg, press both arms above shoulders for 8 to 12 repetitions. Switch to balance on your other leg, repeat repetitions.
2. Hold dumbbells in both hands, balanced on one let, alternatively press one arm at a time above shoulders for 8 to 12 repetitions. Switch to balance on your other leg, repeat repetitions.

Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 7 of 10

HIP BRIDGES! This is the seventh exercise of ten in the functional fitness series. This move targets the glutes and the core (abdominals and spine) and promotes hip flexibility and strength in the hamstrings and hip adductors.

HOW TO PERFORM:

  • Lie on your back.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, with your knees bent.
  • Contract your abs and your glutes.
  • Exhale and lift your hips off the floor until your body is a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  • Hold this position for a two count and lower hips back to the floor.
  • You may perform the bridge as a continuous movement, or hold the pose for extended periods of five seconds or more.
  • Remember to keep breathing normally if you hold the pose for an extended period.
hip bridge

Basic Hip Bridge

HOW TO PROGRESS: There are several variations that will challenge and activate additional muscle groups in your legs, hips and lower back. Progress to any of the following only after you can perform 1 – 2 sets of 8 to  12 repetitions of the basic hip bridge without hamstring cramping or lower back strain.

  • Single leg hip bridge. After you lift your hips off the floor, extend one leg into the air. Or start this hip lift with one leg on the floor and one leg extended. You may perform this pose as a continuous movement for a count of two, or hold the pose for five seconds or more.
single leg hip bridge

Single leg hip bridge

  • Perform a basic hip bridge with your feet above floor level (on a chair or bench) or on an unstable surface like a stability ball.

 

glute bridge on ball

Hip Bridge on Ball

Functional exercise number 8 of 10 will be posted by December 9th.

Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 5 of 10

JUMPING JACKS! This is the fifth exercise of ten in the functional fitness series, and it is the first exercise in the group so far which provides an opportunity to train the cardio-respiratory system while also challenging your functional balance and coordination. The shoulders, core, hips, legs and ankles are all activated during a jumping jack maneuver.

This old-fashioned, body weight exercise is considered a high impact maneuver when executed in its traditional form. The hops made out to the side may create too much impact stress for individuals with joint pain or instability in their knees, hips, or ankles. Shoulder joints will also be used to a full range of motion (overhead), so again, moderate your moves if you have known weakness or pain in these areas. A modified jumping jack (described below) may be performed and will give you similar fitness benefits while keeping your joints happy.

HOW TO PERFORM:

  • Stand with your feet together and your hands down by your side.
  • Engage your stomach muscles, then
  • In one motion jump your feet out to the side and raise your arms above your head.
  • Immediately reverse that motion by jumping back to the starting position.
  • Perform as many repetitions as you can (10-100) while maintaining good form.
Jumping-Jacks

Jumping Jack


MODIFIED SIDE JACKS: 

  • Stand with your feet together and your hands down by your side.
  • Engage your stomach muscles, then
  • In one motion move one foot out to the side and raise your arms above your head.
  • Immediately reverse that motion by returning your arms and leg to the starting position.
  • In the next motion, move the other foot out to the side and raise your arms above your head.
  • Perform as many repetitions as you can (10-100) while maintaining good form.

jumping jack modified

TO PROGRESS: Once you are able to perform 2 to 5 sets of  10 repetitions of jumping jacks, you may want to add small jump rope type hops and / or skipping moves to the jumping portion of your functional fitness routine. All of these exercises will help increase your leg strength, stamina, balance and coordination. Functional fitness exercise 6 of 10 will be posted before the Thanksgiving holiday. Cheers!

Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 4 of 10

WALKOUTS! This is the fourth exercise of ten in the functional fitness series and as such it is a true body weight exercise. The walkout will use every major joint in the body when executed to completion. It is for this reason that it has a prominent place in the top ten daily exercises.

The Walkout

How To Perform: Before engaging in the actual walkout exercise you may want to perform some lower body exercises to warm up your legs and back before beginning the walkout. Once you are warmed up, perform a few toe touch repetitions (step B) to realize a nice stretch in your legs and back.

If you are still working on upper body strength and not sure whether you can perform the entire exercise with good form, then only perform steps A through C of the walkout for the first week or two before walking yourself out (and back) to the high plank position. You may bend your knees during the beginning of the walkout phase to assist your hands reaching the floor without over-stretching your hamstrings.

Perform three to ten walkouts each day, paying special attention to your form throughout the exercise. When you reach the end of the walkout (step D), make sure your shoulder and wrists are aligned (one above the other), and engage your core (no sagging or hiking at the hips) so your body forms a straight line from shoulders to toes. Hold this position for a count of three to five seconds, then walk yourself back to a standing position. Perform up to 10 repetitions.

Little by little one walks far. ~ Peruvian Proverb

How To Progress: As you gain upper body strength and core stamina, you can progress this exercise by adding some pushups at step D,  before walking yourself back to the standing position. Additionally, you may challenge your core strength by walking your hands out a couple inches past your shoulders and a little wider than shoulder width apart (pictured below). Hold this new position for three to five seconds in good form, then walk your hands back toward your feet to the standing position.

The Walkout Progressed

The Walkout Progressed

Perform these purposeful exercises faithfully everyday, and your strength and flexibility will improve before your very eyes. Functional fitness exercise 5 of 10 will be posted within the next few days. Keep moving!

 

Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 3 of 10

PLANKS! This is the third exercise of ten in the functional fitness series and is probably one of the best exercises for building core strength. The purpose of my writing about these ten exercises is to post in a permanent place those movements which adults of most any fitness level can perform every single day so as to achieve or maintain their fitness which will support their activities of daily living.

Initially, the plank exercise may create a bit of a challenge for adults who find it difficult to get down onto the floor. If you cannot get down to the floor and safely back up again, it is wise to perform the first two functional exercises from this series, squats and pushups (wall and counter versions) until sufficient body strength is developed to get up and down from ground level.

The plank is an isometric (static, non-moving core exercisewhich also strengthens the shoulders, glutes and hamstrings. This exercise also has an important role in improving one’s posture and balance. The ‘low’ plank (pictured below) is performed by hovering one’s body above the floor, balanced only on forearms and toes, forming a straight line from shoulders to heels. In this position, the abdominals will be engaged (braced) together with the gluteal and thigh muscles while simultaneously continuing to breathe normally. Work up your first hold time to 30 seconds. Add another 1 or 2 sets of 30-second holds as you build up your strength.

plank1 (2)

How To Progress: As you improve your strength, you’ll want to progress and vary your planking routine. Progress from a forearm plank to a straight arm (high) plank. Once you can hold a high plank for 2 or 3 sets of 30-second holds, you can add side planks (pictured below) to your repertoire. Performing variations to the basic plank (front, side) will quickly enhance your core strength and stability and it will also improve and challenge the surrounding (secondary or synergistic and stabilizing) muscles throughout your back and shoulders.

side plank on knees

Functional fitness exercise number 4 of 10 will be posted mid-week.

Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 1 of 10

SQUATS! This move is at the top of my list because it accomplishes so much for us by targeting the major (largest) muscles of the lower body together with multiple joints (hips, knees, ankles). The core (abdominals, spine and obliques) is also activated and as such this exercise helps enhance balance.

How To: The basic squat begins by standing tall with your feet hip-width distance apart, shoulders relaxed and head held high. Look straight ahead to keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine. Hold your arms straight out in front of you (this is best if you need extra balance) or place your hands on your hips. When you’re ready, keep your core tight and maintain a neutral spine as you slowly squat down (as if you were about to sit in a chair behind you). Be sure to keep your heels firmly planted on the ground and to keep your torso upright. Pause for a beat before slowly returning to the starting position. Repeat for 8 to 12 repetitions.

body-weight-squat

Add 1 or 2 repetitions to your daily squat routine; when you can complete 3 sets of  squats (12 repetitions each set), then you are ready to add some variation to your routine. I’ll list a few options below.

  • Prisoner Squat (with hands held behind head)
  • Plié squat
  • Curtsy squat
  • Squat jump
  • Squat jack
  • Squat with side kick
  • Split squat (also known as a lunge)

If you would like explanations or pictures for the squat variations, just attach your comments or questions to this post. Functional fitness exercise number 2 of 10 will be posted soon…in the meantime, keeping squatting!

Fit for Life…A Functional Exercise Plan (A Series of 10)

In recent years, ‘functional fitness’ has become a buzz word in the fitness industry to sell and package a wide array of exercise programs to potential training clients. Whether sports specific or generalized training is sold, functional fitness terminology is used so frequently that it often means different things to different populations.

For purposes of my Fit for Life Series, I define functional fitness (exercise) as a strength training plan which involves performing work against resistance (preferably body weight resistance) in such a manner that the improvements in strength directly enhance the performance of movements found in those activities of daily living. Yet, before I continue with a discussion of functional fitness, I would first like to define the dual components of fitness.

The health related  components of fitness measure an individual’s cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition (% fat vs. lean tissue). The skill related components of fitness rate an individual’s agility, coordination, balance, power, reaction time and speed.

Used in this context, a functional, Fit for Life, exercise plan would train your body for life, rather than for a specific sport or for a certain aesthetic appearance. This type of training is especially helpful for older adults because it addresses muscle imbalances and asymmetries, and it addresses improvements (strength, flexibility) for the ways we move  throughout our daily activities.

There are five basic movement patterns that we use in everyday life:

1. Bend-and-lift movements. In the gym we call it squatting, in everyday life it’s getting in and out of a chair or squatting down to lift a bag of groceries from the floor. Bend and lift movements require strength in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, but also plenty of stability in the core, and flexibility in the knees and ankles.

2. Single-leg movements. You’ll often train single leg movements in the gym with a variety of lunging movements. In real life, single-leg movements are called for when you walk, when you climb or descend stairs, or when you bend and reach forward on one leg to get something from the floor. Like the bend-and-lift movements, single-leg movements require combined strength, stability and flexibility with an added element of balance over a changing center of gravity.

3. Pushing movements. Pushing movements typically involve your upper body pushing forward (opening a store door) pushing overhead (putting an object on a high shelf) or pushing to the side (lifting your torso from a side-lying position). In your workout you can train for pushing movements with pushups, overhead presses or side planks.

4. Pulling movements. Pulling movements in your activities of daily living might include pulling the car door shut, pulling the sheets down from the top shelf of the linen closet, or pulling your suitcase off the floor. In your workouts you’ll train for pulling movements by developing core stability, strength in your back and shoulders, stability in your shoulder blades and flexibility in your shoulders.

5. Rotational movements. Your thoracic spine rotates with every step you take and any time you swing a golf club or tennis racket. Any time you reach across your body or twist through the spine, you’re engaging in a rotational movement. This complex movement pattern requires a great deal of core stability and strength to support the spine during the rotational motion.

Over the next few weeks, I will post ten articles. Each article will fully describe and illustrate the activities I believe are the best exercises to perform each day to improve fitness and function for life.

My next blog entry will describe the basic squat exercise with options for various progressions as improvements in strength are realized. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and these training tips with you, my blog reader in the days ahead; I invite your comments and questions should you desire to engage in a conversation on this topic.