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Make It Happen: Solutions to Common Fitness Obstacles

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Expert solutions for nagging fitness obstacles so you can finally get fitter, faster, stronger.

How to Overcome Fitness Obstacles

How to Do a Headstand in Yoga Class

Sure, headstands are killer core moves with big bragging rights, but "make certain you can pass this strength test before you try one," says Cyndi Lee, founder of Om Yoga in New York City and a FITNESS advisory board member: Aim to stay in downward dog pose -- an inverted V with your palms and feet flat on the floor and your hips lifted high -- for five minutes. Even then, follow this how-to sequence only when a teacher is on hand to supervise that you're not putting too much weight on your head and neck.

1. Facing a wall, crouch and place the crown of your head directly on a yoga mat that's flush against the wall. Clasp your fingers around the back of your head, knuckles brushing the wall and forearms slightly flared out on the mat to act as kickstands. Lift your hips and walk your feet a few steps toward your face. Bring one knee to your chest, hold for a count of five, and put it down. Repeat three times with each knee, then rest in child's pose: Kneeling on the mat, fold your torso over your thighs, stretch out your arms and lay your forehead on the mat. When you get to the point where there's zero pressure on your neck or rounding in your spine as you perform the drill, move on to step two.

2. Beginning in the same start position as in step one, lift one knee to your chest, then the other, so you're in a fetal position with both feet off the mat and your back against the wall, your body forming a little ball. Hold for a count of five, then rest in child's pose. When that becomes easy, move on to step three.

3. From the little-ball position above, slowly extend one leg up the wall, then the other. Keep your legs snugly together, just your heels touching the wall, your hamstrings and butt off the wall. Bring your shoulder blades toward each other behind you and avoid rounding your spine. As you become stronger, you can try taking one leg and then both legs away from the wall.

How to Do a Pull-Up

So you've graduated from girly push-ups to the real thing, and now you want to truly hang with the jocks. "The pull-up is challenging for both men and women because it uses more of your lats and forearms than your typically stronger biceps," says New York City-based trainer Sue Fleming, an expert with Gold's Gym Fitness Institute and creator of the Buff Fitness DVD series. Complete each move below two to three times a week until it feels easy, then progress to the next.

1. Semi-hang: Simply hang straight-armed from the pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing forward and feet just barely off the floor. Build up to where you can hold the bar for 30 seconds, then rest 60 to 90 seconds. Do three reps.

2. Flexed-arm hang: Stand on a bench so that your chin is just above the bar; grasp the bar with your palms facing forward, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, elbows bent by sides. Step off the bench and hold 30 seconds; rest 60 to 90 seconds. Do three reps. MAKE IT EASIER: Grasp the bar chin-up style, your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing you.

3. Negative pull-up: Beginning in the same start position as in move two, step off the bench and slowly lower yourself on a count of six until your arms are fully extended. Step back up on the bench; repeat. Work up to six reps.

4. Baby pull-up: Beginning in the same start position as in move two, this time step off the bench and lower your chin two inches below the bar, then pull yourself back up. Repeat once, then step back up on the bench to rest. Do four reps.

5. Assisted pull-up: Standing on the floor, have a workout buddy lift you up to the bar to get into start position and provide a boost on each upward pull. Alternatively, use the gym's assisted pull-up machine set on a weight slightly less than half your body weight (see When three or four reps becomes easy, you should be ready to fly solo. If you want to practice at home, install Everlast's Multi-Function Chin Up Bar ($40, in a sturdy door frame.

How to Touch Your Toes

Been a while, huh? Being able to inspect your pedi up close requires flexibility in the muscles and tendons of the ankle, knee, hip, and back. "Getting even 30 percent closer significantly minimizes daily stress on these joints," says Marty Jaramillo, founder and CEO of I.C.E. Sports Therapy in New York City and a FITNESS advisory board member. After your workout or a 10-minute warm-up -- stretching while warm is the key to success -- hold the following seven stretches for half a song (one and a half to two minutes) each, leaning farther into them every 10 to 15 seconds as you exhale. Stretch this way every day and within six to eight weeks, you should be nose-to-knees -- or close enough!

1. Upper-calf stretch: Stand with your arms extended and palms against a wall. Take a large step back with your left foot, heel flat on the floor, and hold for two minutes. Switch sides and repeat for one to two minutes.

2. Lower-calf stretch: From the same start position, take only half a step back with your left foot, bending both knees slightly and keeping heels flat on the floor. Hold for one to two minutes. Switch sides and repeat.

3. Hamstring stretch: Lying faceup, raise your left leg straight up. Clasp your hands behind your left thigh and pull gently toward your chest; hold. Switch sides and repeat.

4. IT band and piriformis stretch: Lie faceup with your knees bent 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor. Cross your left ankle onto your right knee, left knee bent out to the side. Clasp your hands behind your right thigh and pull gently toward your chest; hold. Switch sides and repeat.

5. Hip-flexor stretch: Standing with feet together, bend your left knee and grab your left foot behind you with your left hand, pulling the heel toward your butt; hold. Switch sides and repeat.

6. Adductor stretch: Side lunge to the left with your left leg, both feet pointing forward, and hold. Switch sides and repeat.

7. Back stretch: Kneel on the floor and sit back on your heels. Extend your arms overhead and bend forward at the hips, resting your hands on a stability ball or bench in front of you. Hold.

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jjs2125 wrote:

Perfect timing!!! I had decided that my new fitness resolution for 2012 would be to do at least one full, unassisted pull up. Had no idea how to go about doing that, but after reading this, now I have a plan to go by, and I know I can reach my goal!!!

1/24/2012 02:04:42 PM Report Abuse
shiranzohar wrote:

I use Rubberbanditz resistance bands to help me with pull-ups! They are great and they really help me complete my sets.

1/24/2012 10:05:21 AM Report Abuse
a3984502 wrote:

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11/5/2011 03:35:43 AM Report Abuse

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