The gym can be a bit overwhelming. Between rush hours, grunting men and too many options, it can take a bit to get into the swing of things. While it’s always good to switch up your routine and try something different, everyone has one machine they just can’t seem to master. Read below to see what our Twitter followers admit to skipping below.
@MsPumpnRun: I used to say the StepMill, but after some quality time we are great friends now!
@runjamiereilly: The pull-up bar! I want to do an unassisted pull-up, or two or three even!
@AubreyTweets: Probably the odd folding weighted ab crunch machines, and I’m a trainer! I mean really, how do you fold like that?
@kelceyz: The StairMaster. I can only last about five minutes on that thing!
Want to step up and try something new? This guide will help you make the most of the gym machines without embarrassing yourself.
Now tell us: What machine intimidates you at the gym?
Last week I got the chance to enlighten my mind and my feet while testing New Balance’s latest walking shoe (featured in our 2012 FITNESS Sneaker Guide!) with a tour of the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. While I enjoyed soaking in the art, my feet were pretty pleased as well. The 895 SuperFresh/SuperLight collection is made with REVLite cushioning technology in the midsole. That paired with an egg crate-like design on the outsole makes slipping on these sneaks feel like a tiny massage for your toes.
As a special bonus, New Balance Fitness Ambassador Holly Perkins led our walking tour and shared six exercises every woman should be doing. Since only a few of these make a regular appearance in my gym routine, I shared them below so you can add the moves you are missing.
1. Sumo squat: Start with feet wider than shoulders width apart, toes pointed out and knees over toes. Sink into a deep squat, thighs parallel to the ground and your back straight. Push off with your heels, squeezing your glutes and inner thighs back into starting position. Try 3 reps of 10.
2. Single leg deadlift: Balancing on right leg with left leg slightly behind you and off the ground, reach down and touch the ground with your fingers. Return to starting position and repeat. Try 3 reps of 10 for each leg.
3. Calf raises: Holding onto a chair or other steady surface, raise your heels until you are on your tiptoes. Balance weight at the balls of your feet and pause. Lower slowly and repeat. Try 3 reps of 15.
Watch this video and try to keep your jaw off the floor! Claudi and Giuliano Stroe, ages 5 and 7, might just be the strongest grade school kids we’ve ever seen. While we feel accomplished if we can knock out a few standard pull-ups, these two adorable boys from Romania are completing the so-called “human flag” (picture them hanging horizontally from a floor-to-ceiling bar) and doing a pull-up motion from that position.
Like this 10-year-old bodybuilder we told you about last summer, this pair trains…and they train hard. They began exercising when they were 2 and now hit the weights with their dad for two hours every morning.
Which brings us to today’s hot topic discussion: Do you think that it’s healthy and inspiring for these kids to start so young? We’ve all seen the startling childhood obesity statistics, and these kids are certainly not following that trend. But there is something to be said about letting active kids be kids (not mini-adults) with their jump rope rhymes, Capture the Flag games and bike rides—away from the gym.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Now tell us: Do you find these fit kids to be motivational wellness all-stars or do you think it’s too much too soon?
- Are you tough enough? One TV anchor takes on a fitness class that rivals the strong man competitions. — Today Show
- “Whole Paycheck” may be a misnomer. One woman proves that you can eat well and eat frugally at the popular grocery chain. — Diets in Review
- Do you phone it in at the gym? Three reasons to unplug. — FitSugar
- Serve up a heart-smart breakfast for your Valentine to show them how much you care! — Eating Bird Food
- If you find yourself skipping workouts without a second thought, try one of these seven ways to keep yourself accountable. — A Healthy, Happier Bear
- Because one can never have too much workout music…one blogger’s favorite songs for the gym—both classic and contemporary! — Carrots ‘N’ Cake
- Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells at sides
- Lower into a squat keeping weight on heels, then return to standing while curling arms to shoulders, palms facing in, then pushing dumbbells into an overhead press, palms facing forward
- Lower arms back to sides and repeat sequence for one minute
- Stand with right leg elevated behind you on a step bench or stair and left leg about three feet in front of the surface, holding dumbbells at sides
- Slowly lower until left knee is at nearly 90 degrees, with knee behind toes
- Hold for one count, return to balancing weight on left leg and repeat for 30 seconds
- Switch sides and repeat split squats with right leg in front for 30 seconds
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at sides
- Lunge backward with right leg until right knee is about one inch above the ground (Keep torso perpendicular to floor and weight distributed evenly between legs. Align front knee over front ankle, keeping weight in heels rather than toes.)
- Lunge backward with left leg, and alternate sides for 30 seconds
- Hold with right foot in back position of the lunge and raise/lower lunge without moving feet for 15 seconds
- Switch so left foot is in back position of the lunge and raise/lower lunge without moving feet for final 15 seconds
- Ta-ta, tater tots! School lunches are getting a nutrition upgrade. Can we have a tray? — USA Today
- “You sure are strong…for a girl.” How would you react to that statement? — The Great Fitness Experiment
- Yes, you can create a colorful, flavorful, produce-packed meal in the middle of winter! — Iowa Girl Eats
- From being more grateful to eating with chopsticks, here are 89 easy ways to improve your health from the inside out. — Greatist
- Tempted by a big batch of cookies fresh from the oven? Try this smart portion-control trick to plan ahead and save calories. — Snack Girl
- Learn how to bust through a weight-loss plateau and burn more fat 24/7. — Diets in Review
This week’s fit links from around the web:
We’ve been thinking a lot about our backsides the past few months here at FITNESS, as our team put together part one of our “Body Lab” to help you get a butt that defies gravity (see the February issue for more!).
While we work hard in the gym to sculpt a better behind, we don’t complain when we get a little help from a particularly flattering pair of pants. The minute we slipped on the GapFit gFast Color Binding Leggings ($60, gap.com), we fell in love with their comfy fit and cute colors. And after testing them out in a strength class at DavidBartonGym to celebrate GapFit’s new line, we knew they would be mainstays in our workout wardrobes. The fabric is just thick enough for cool morning runs, but doesn’t feel too heavy for the gym.
If you’re feeling a bit timid about rocking these leggings, add these three moves from DavidBartonGym trainer Meka to your workout three times each week, and soon you’ll be loving your rear view!
You’ll need: 5- to 8-pound dumbbells
Front squat and press
Reverse into stationary lunge
Now tell us: Which of your body parts do you love the most and why?
This week’s fit links from around the web:
January’s Top Workout DVD: Sexy Abs with Kelly Rowland & Jeanette Jenkins
Best for: Those thinking ahead about (and seeking amazing abs in) their spring break bikinis; anyone with aches and pains in their lower back.
Why it’s a star: Celebrity trainer Jeanette Jenkins and her crew, including Kelly Rowland, Grammy winning R&B singer and judge on The X Factor in the UK, teach you fun and challenging exercises that will leave your ab muscles burning. You’ve seen some of these moves before (bicycle crunches, roll-ups and planks), but the nonstop pace, focus on lower back pain-prevention and the sprinkling of innovative exercises makes this DVD worth an encore in your sweat schedule. You’ll feel the burn throughout your core the next day!
Bonus: You can join the #SexyAbsChallenge on Twitter with @KELLYROWLAND and @JeanetteJenkins now for five weeks of healthy tips, meals and motivation as Kelly gets ready for the Grammy Awards in February. She’s nominated for her song “Motivation!”
Where to get it: $19.95, thehollywoodtrainer.com
More from FITNESS: Look like Brooke—our January cover girl—with this total-body strength routine!
SparkPeople.com’s resident trainer and fitness expert, Nicole Nichols, offers up some advice for one of the most frequently asked questions as people start working out more in the new year. For more cardio and strengthening help from Nicole, check out her new DVD, 28 Day Boot Camp with Coach Nicole.
Question: How much weight should I lift during strength training?
Answer: We are all at different strength levels and the muscles throughout your body vary in strength, too. So while 10 pounds might be the ideal weight for you to lift during biceps curls, you could struggle with that weight during lateral raises…or leg press it all day as if it were a bag of feathers. So keep in mind that the amount of weight you lift during one exercise could be too light or too heavy for another. That said, you’ll probably need to experiment with a variety of weights to find the appropriate level for each exercise you do. Working out at a gym makes that easy, but doing so at home will take a little more space and investment.
I think it’s a good idea to have at least two, and ideally three sets of dumbbells at home: a light, medium and heavier set, which is defined by your own fitness level. That could be 2, 5, and 7 pounds for one person, or 5, 10 and 15 pounds for another. Personally, I keep 6, 10 and 20 pound weights at home, which allow me to do a variety of workouts and exercises safely and effectively.
So how much should you lift? Here are the 5 guidelines you need to follow to select the proper weight for strength training.
- Aim low. The safest and most effective thing to do if you are a beginner is to master your exercises with little to no added weight. This allows you to focus intensely on proper form.
- Go slow. If you have to move at jackrabbit speed or harness momentum to lift the weight, it is too heavy. Period. The proper weight will allow you to move in a slow, controlled manner.
- Never sacrifice form for function. You might want to fast track your results by picking a heavy weight, but lifting more weight should never trump doing it correctly. If you can’t do the exercise properly, then the added weight is not doing you any favors and may actually increase your risk for serious injury.
- Count your reps. In general, you are lifting the right amount of weight when you can perform 8-15 repetitions in excellent form. Once you get strong enough to do more than 15 repetitions more easily, it’s probably time to increase the weight again.
- Work to fatigue. This is the #1 key to selecting the proper weight. The weight you lift should not only meet the guidelines for form above, but should also challenge your muscles! The only way strength training is really going to benefit you is for you to overload your muscles—that means working them to fatigue. The weight you select should be challenging enough to fatigue your muscles within 8-15 repetitions.
More from SparkPeople
- 31 Real-World Tips to Reach Your Resolution
- 8 Fitness Trends and Predictions for 2012
- Get a Free Personalized Weight Loss Plan
For most of us, winter is a time to hole up in the gym, trading in our favorite trails for the treadmill. For Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter, it’s prime time to amp up her training routine. We got the chance to chat with Teter about her workouts in both seasons, her favorite moves to nail, and more. Read on and get inspired to hit the slopes this season!
Tell us about your training routines during in season and off?
My workouts during the off-season consist of slack lining (a variation of tight rope walking, with the rope being more slack than pulled tight), surfing, jumping on the trampoline and biking. Slack lining is insanely good for balancing skills, working your core, and mental strength. I love it because you can set it up anywhere, even between two trees. I usually warm up on the slack line and then do 360s, walk backwards, and 180-degree jumps.
Once the summer is over I snowboard pretty much every day, on top of traveling. I recently started to practice Ashtanga yoga, so I’ll incorporate that into my workouts during the winter as well.
Halloween is traditionally celebrated with more sweet treats than sweat sessions. The biggest workout many of us get on October 31 is from walking the kids from door to door in their cute costumes to trick-or-treat! But why not squeeze in a little strength training before you steal a few M&Ms or pieces of candy corn from the stash? (Hey, even Joy Bauer says it’s OK to splurge on five fun-sized items!)
New York Sports Clubs (NYSC) is offering a “Carve Your Body Pumpkin Workout” class to help Halloween revelers find a healthy way to enjoy the day. Members and non-members are welcome to attend a free holiday-themed class at the NYSC location on 41st Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan tomorrow or Monday at 2 p.m.
But if you’re not in the area, simply grab one of your uncarved pumpkins (or feel free to substitute a medicine ball for the pumpkin to do any of these moves year-round) and try this circuit at home.
- Lurking Lunges: Stand in a split stance with right leg in front, left leg in back. Holding a pumpkin, extend arms in front of you. Bend knees and lower into a lunge, keeping front knee behind the toe. At the bottom of the move, rotate core 90 degrees to the right and then 90 degrees to the left. Do 20 reps.
- Tombstone Twist: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and pumpkin in hands. Extend arms so pumpkin is at chest height. Rotate arms from and upper body from side to side, pivoting your opposite foot for more range of motion. Do 20 reps.
- Creepy Crunches: Lie on your back with hands holding a pumpkin over your chest, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor about two feet apart. Lift legs vertically, toes pointing toward the ceiling. Lift your shoulder blades off the ground and extend pumpkin vertically toward toes. Do 20 reps.
- Repeat circuit of lunges, twists and crunches twice more.
Now tell us: Do you plan to exercise on Halloween?