Exercise need not be unpleasant. Exercise basically, is
any movement in excess of what you do normally at rest. This can start with a
leisurely stroll - yes, just a simple walk up the road and back again.
Mobility is the ability of the body to move its
constituent parts through the full range of movement that they were designed
for. This in essence is achieved by stretching; a full programme of stretching
routines is appended below. If you would like some advice, e mail
the Webmaster at the address indicated on the home page. Click here
for a full Anatomy Chart.
On this page we will look at the relative merits of
exercising at Home, exercising at The Gym,
using Free Weights, or using
Machines. Also here is a shortcut to exercises for:
Upper Body | Lower Body | Abdoms
| Back |
For maximum effectiveness and safety, cardiovascular exercise has specific
instructions on the frequency, duration, and intensity. These are the three
important components of cardiovascular exercise that you really need to
understand and implement in your program. In addition, your cardiovascular
program should include a warm-up, a cool-down, and stretching of the primary
muscles used in the exercise.
Warming Up and Stretching
One very common mistake is stretching before muscles are warmed-up. It is
important to stretch after your muscles are warm (after blood has circulated
through them). Never stretch a cold muscle. First warm up. A warm-up should be
done for at least 5-10 minutes at a low intensity. Usually, the warm-up is done
by doing the same activity as the cardiovascular workout but at an intensity of
50-60% of maximum heart rate (max HR). After you've warmed-up for 5-10 minutes
at a relatively low intensity, your muscles should be warm. To prevent injury
and to improve your performance, you should stretch the primary muscles used in
the warm up before proceeding to the cardiovascular exercise.
The cool down is similar to the warm-up in that it should last 5-10 minutes and
be done at a low intensity (50-60% of max HR). After you have completed your
cardiovascular exercise and cooled-down properly, it is now important that you
stretch the primary muscles being used. Warming-up, stretching, and cooling-down
are very important to every exercise session. They not only help your
performance levels and produce better results, they also drastically decrease
your risk of injury.
Frequency of Exercise
The first component of cardiovascular exercise is frequency of the exercise,
which refers to the number of exercise sessions per week. To improve both
cardiovascular fitness and to decrease body fat or maintain body fat at optimum
levels, you should exercise (cardiovascular) at least three days a week. It is
recommended three to five days a week for most cardiovascular programs. Those of
you who are very out of shape and/or who are overweight and doing weight-bearing
cardiovascular exercise such as an aerobics class or jogging, might want to have
at least 36 to 48 hours of rest between workouts to prevent an injury and to
promote adequate bone and joint stress recovery.
Duration of Exercise
The second component of cardiovascular exercise is the duration, which refers to
the time you've spent exercising. The cardiovascular session, not including the
warm-up and cool-down, should vary from 20-60 minutes to gain significant
cardio-respiratory and fat burning-benefits. Each time you do your
cardiovascular exercise, try to do at least 20 minutes or more. Of course, the
longer you go, the more calories and fat you'll "burn" and the better you'll
condition your cardiovascular system. All beginners, especially those who are
out of shape, should take a very conservative approach and train at relatively
low intensities (50-70% max HR) for 10-25 minutes. As you get in better shape,
you can gradually increase the duration of time you exercise.
It is important that you gradually increase the duration before you increase
the intensity. That is, when beginning a walking program for example, be more
concerned with increasing the number of minutes of the exercise session before
you increase the intensity, by increasing your speed or by walking hilly
Remember that cardiovascular exercise should be done a minimum of three times
a week and a minimum of 20 minutes per session. Once your muscles are warm
(after warm up) and after the cardiovascular exercise, you should stretch those
muscles used in the exercise. For example, after bicycling, stretch your
quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, hips, and low back. After doing the rowing
machine, stretch your legs, back, biceps, and shoulders. Good luck and enjoy all
the wonderful benefits of cardiovascular exercise.
Here is a handy calculator to work out calories burned while running/jogging
Fitness is a varying absolute state. Our fitness is the
measure of an individual's physical ability - now! Improving fitness is a simple
matter of increasing physical mobility in excess of that which is being done -
now! All activity burns up energy, which is measured in calories. Any increase
in activity requires a corresponding requirement for energy. Any increase in
energy output, with no increase in food input, results in weight loss. It really
is as simple as that.
Schedule your workout as you would any other
appointment. Start by determining whether you are a morning, afternoon, or
evening person. Ask yourself, "When do I have the most energy and the extra
time? When am I most likely to get my workout done?"
A full-body, beginner's workout uses your own
bodyweight or free-weights for light resistance. If you don't have a set of
free-weights, bottled water and tinned cans of foods are just as good! Keep in
mind this home-based workout can be done anywhere. The cheapest home gym
equipment is your stairs unless, of course, you live in a bungalow! You will
need to be inventive if cost is a priority. Consider this: most stairs are free,
often weather-proof, and accessible just about anywhere. You've got no more
excuses for not working out. If you belong to a health club or are planning on
joining one, your workout can go along with you. It is recommended you enlist a
friend, and alternate exercising at your home and theirs. This has the advantage
of making sure you adhere to your programme, perhaps when you think you might
like to have a day off; you tend to be good discipline imposers for each other.
The Case for Home Exercise
Convenience. For convenience, there's no place
like home. You don't have to conform to the gym's hours, travel time is tallied
in seconds, the weather is no worry, and parking is no problem. Also, you don't
have to fret over your looks unless you care what the dog thinks.
Pumped-up privacy. At home, you can avoid people
you don't know or like. Beginners, who often feel weak and awkward, may
especially crave the privacy of home. Working out with folks of the opposite sex
can also be intimidating.
No noise, no waiting: The home gym has few
distractions, such as someone else's loud music or chatter. Also, there's no
waiting in line.
Clean interior: At home, the sweat on the bench
and the germs on the bar are your own.
Low money down:
Equipping a home gym can cost relatively little if you are satisfied with the
No monthly payments: Most commercial gyms
require payment for a year or more whether you attend or not.
The Case for the Gym
Adult stimulation: Gyms and health clubs often
teem with motivated exercisers who can inspire you when you would rather loaf.
Home exercise, on the other hand, can be tedious unless you work out with a
buddy or can afford to hire a personal trainer.
Social services: The social climate of the gym
lets you meet new friends and enjoy camaraderie.
Club pros: Good gyms offer professional
supervision. (Some gyms, though, are staffed by salespeople with little exercise
background, so ask before you join.) Many gyms offer professional trainers for a
Loaded with options: Gyms have many exercise
stations, including aerobic options.
Open spaces: A home gym, however modest, may
demand more space than you have available.
Convenient locations: Membership in a gym that
is part of a chain allows the use of all branches, which means you can exercise
for free when you are out of town or across town.
The Bottom Line
If you can afford it, both options are best: Use free
weights and a bench at home when you can't get to the gym. Most people, though,
must choose between home and gym. If so, decide which advantages are most
important to you. If you lack motivation, for example, the gym might be better.
Dumbbells or 'Smart' Machines?
The Case for Free Weights
Versatility: Free weights, especially dumbbells,
offer great versatility for strength training. A dumbbell exercise can be
altered by holding the dumbbells with your palms facing forward, facing the
thighs, or facing the rear. Voilà--you have three separate exercises that work
your muscles in different ways. Machines, in contrast, are much more limited,
with most devices allowing only one exercise apiece.
Cheque-book payoff: Barbells and dumbbells are
relatively inexpensive. The expense climbs when adding benches, racks, and other
accessories, but even then, the cost is far less than the thousands of dollars
that some high-tech machines cost. Multiple-station machines designed for home
use are an option. Some cheaper machines, though, may be poor in quality, a bit
clunky, and in need of considerable upkeep.
Motivational lift: Resistance training requires
a lot of desire and motivation. Lifting a loaded barbell may offer a greater
sense of accomplishment than working against a given resistance on a machine.
A good many coaches believe that the gains derived from free weights
transfer better to sports that require strength. What helps, they say, is
that lifting heavy barbells promotes explosive bursts of power.
Strength-training machines tend to control movements and to discourage
Muscle grouping: Some barbell exercises involve
several major muscle groups at the same time, lifting a barbell from the floor
to the chest, for example, then pressing it overhead. Like explosiveness, this
also helps in transferring strength from the gym to athletes.
The Case for Machines
Safety. Machines have built-in safety features.
When you can no longer push a weight, you can slide out from under it. Free
weights can pin you when your muscles tire. Also, weights can fall off the end
of the bar and cause injury.
Hope for the clumsy: Machines remove balance as
a factor. With free weights, the novice must learn to balance the weight while
exerting force. This can be difficult and dangerous when, for example, you lift
a weight overhead or do squats.
Directed lifting: Machines ensure correct
movements for a lift, which helps prevent cheating when fatigue sets in.
Barbells, in contrast, can be swung for momentum rather than lifted slowly and
steadily, which works the muscles better. Another way to "cheat" the muscles is
to tilt forward or backward to shift stress from the targeted muscles to larger
and stronger muscles.
Focused training: Machines isolate the specific
muscles that are exercising. This is good for rehabilitating an injury or
strengthening a specific body part.
High-tech resistance: Machines can offer
high-tech options like varying resistance during the lifting motion. This can
tax muscles in ways that a traditional barbell cannot.
Quick change: Changing the resistance on a
machine simply means inserting a pin or entering a code. With free weights,
plates must be hoisted on and off the bar.
Less clutter: Machines are self-contained and
neat. There are no weights scattered about creating a hazard and an eyesore.
The Bottom Line
In general, machines may be preferable for the novice
because of their convenience, safety, and ease of operation. But cost is a
factor for home exercisers. Strength athletes prefer free weights to machines,
because they yield more sports-specific gains. Beginners may want to eventually
add some free weight exercises to their routine to cover all the basics.
YOU PAY YOUR
MONEY; YOU MAKE YOUR CHOICE! My advice is: Keep it simple!
No pain, no gain is a fallacy. Focus on good form, go
slow, and stop if it hurts. Preview
schedules for instructions on proper form and
execution of basic schedule. If there is an activity you prefer to walking, such
as cycling or swimming, feel free to replace the cardiovascular portion with the
activity of your choice. Try not to overdo it! A full-body resistance program
should be done 1 to 3 times per week and never on consecutive days. Your muscles
need adequate time to rest and recover. Cardiovascular exercise (walking,
swimming, cycling) should be done a minimum of three days a week. You have the
tools to get you going. Start today, be consistent, and you’re on your way to
health for a lifetime.
Arm curls: With feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, grasp a broom
handle or something similar and hold it in both hands with palms facing forward
and handle resting on thighs. Curl the bar up to just below chin height and
return to starting position and repeat.
Half Push-Ups: Lie face down. Place your palms
on the floor wider than shoulder width. Keep your body straight - do not stick
your bottom up in the air. Keeping your thighs on the floor, raise your body up
as far as you can comfortably, then lower yourself back down. This exercise can
be done on your knees or toes, depending how fit and strong you are.
Triceps Dips: Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair.
Place your palms on the chair on either side of you, finger tips pointing down.
Slide your buttocks off the chair and slowly lower and lift yourself with your
arms. Keep your elbows behind you, shoulders down, knees bent and hips close to
the chair. For greater intensity, extend your legs.
Upright Rowing: Use the broom handle again; position it across the thighs,
hands close together and facing inward. Raise the bar upward, keeping the elbows
higher than the bar, until the bar is almost level with the chin. Lower and
Squats: With feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, move your buttocks
behind you as if you were about to sit down in a chair. Keep your abdominal
muscles contracted and your knees over your ankles or the mid-line of your foot.
Make sure your pelvis is not leading you forward. Bend the knees until your
thighs are parallel with the floor, or a 90 degree angle at the knee, raise the
arms to the front, and return to standing
Calf Raises: Stand up straight and hold
something firm for balance. Use one or both feet. Slowly raise up on your toe
(s), lifting your heel (s) off the floor and squeezing the muscles in the calf.
Release with control.
Alternating Lunges: With feet hip-width apart,
step one leg forward and lift your back heel. Make sure your front knee remains
over the ankle as you slowly lower your back knee toward the floor, but do not
let the knee hit the floor. Push yourself back up to the starting position and
repeat with the other leg.
Leg curls: Sit in chair, grasping seat firmly
with both hands. Sit back and raise lower legs together until both legs are
nearly straight. Lower and repeat.
Abdominal or stomach:
Abdominal Exercises Page for advanced information.
Abdominal Curls (trunk curls): Lie face up with your knees bent, feet
flat on the floor, hands palm down on your thighs. Contract your abdominal
muscles and lift and lower your torso in a slow, continuous motion, until you
can look between your legs. Moving the position of the hands will increase the
difficulty. Guard against pulling on your head and neck.
Abdominal half crunch:
Lie face up with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hands palm down on
the floor. Contract your stomach muscles and roll your knees to as near your
chest as you can. Maintain balance with hands on floor.
This exercise hits the obliques, which wrap around your sides and are key to
creating a taut waistline. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the
floor, and place your left ankle on your right knee. Put your hands to the side
of your head, with your elbows pointing out. Slowly raise your right
shoulder toward your left knee, lifting your upper back and twisting slightly.
Keep your elbow in line with your ear, not in front of you. Don't pull on your
head or neck. Hold, then slowly lower. Repeat to the other side.
Seated knee lift: This exercise not only tones
your abdoms, but you can do it without getting on the floor. Sit up
straight in a firm, armless chair. Hold the chair's edges just in front of your
hips. While supporting yourself with your hands, slowly draw your knees up
toward your chest (or as far as you can comfortably raise them) while breathing
out, keeping your lower back pressed against the chair. Hold, then slowly lower.
Repeat as required.
Low Back Extensions: Lie face down with your legs extended and your arms
above your head (thumbs up). With your neck in line with the spine, slowly lift
the left arm and the right leg simultaneously, contracting the low back and
buttocks. Repeat other side. Avoid excessively arching your back.
Side to Side bending: Stand upright with arms to the side. Bend the body
to the right reaching the right hand down the right leg. When at full extent
return to the upright position and carry on bending over to the left. Repeat
slowly from side to side. Keep body straight.
Side to Side Twisting: Stand upright with hands touching shoulders. Twist
trunk to the right to full extent and try to look behind you, when at full
extent return to starting position and continue twisting through to the left.
Repeat slowly from side to side. Keep body upright and straight.
1. Big circling movements, with straight arms, slowly, both forward and
backward. 2. Alternate straight arm across chest, use other hand to ease arm
against chest. 3. Alternate forearm behind head, grasp hands and gently pull
with other hand.
Legs: 1. Standing,
pull alternate foot up behind you until heel is as close to the buttocks
as you can get it, stretching the thighs. Hold on to something firm. 2. Bend
alternate knee and put heel of other foot out in front, leg straight with toes
pulled back toward you press with hands on thigh of bent knee and sit back and
down. 3. Rest hands against a wall about head height, put one foot behind the
other with foot flat on the floor, leg straight and ease back stretching the
calf muscle. Alternate. 4. Lie on back and pull back on alternate leg at the
knee level, or put a towel over the foot and pull foot gently toward you.
Back & Side: 1. Bending and twisting from side to side, keeping body upright
with hands on hips or touching shoulders. Slowly moving through full range. 2.
Lie face down with hands under shoulders, gently and slowly push up and hollow
back, hold and return and repeat.
Clasp hands behind back and gently pull back and down while pushing the chest
out. Hold for a few seconds, return and repeat. Breathe normally
Neck: 1. Hands on hips, pull chin in, ease shoulders forward while
easing head back. 2. Bend head from side to side facing straight to the front,
stretching side of neck. 3. Turn head from side to side to look behind you,
keeping head upright.
Hip Girdle: Stand,
hands on hips, gently rotate hips pushing pelvis forward and buttocks to the
rear as you circle. Start rotating to the left and then change to the right.
Cat Arch: Kneel on floor with hands shoulder width apart on the floor. Arch
back and gently rock forward and backward.
Use your imagination and do it gently! You know it makes sense!
If you need advice in the meanwhile, e mail: