Category Archives for "Fitness Training"

The latest fitness training information to keep your body in top condition

Running for Strength Athletes

Running for strength athletes

Running makes most strength athletes cringe. 

Perhaps you're the same, and hate anything that even looks like cardio.  Often, once the benefits of strength training are experienced, running and cardio training are easily forgotten, and relegated to the scrap heap of, things we shouldn't do.

But; Do you really want to be the person who lives through, "that awkward moment when you're wearing Nikes, and you can't do it"?

The reality is, the right kind of cardio including running when combined with a proper strength program, can help improve performance and results. 

It's often like there are two separate worlds, that can't co-exist.  "Running world" and "Lifting world".  I've observed that people living exclusively in either "world" have sub-optimal health and performance.

Runners who don't lift, are falling apart, even if they're still awesome runners. And lifters who don't run, have little to no endurance and are puffed out even climbing a set of stairs.

The right mix of both training modalities in a smartly constructed program will help either athlete be the healthiest version of themselves, while producing optimum performances for their chosen sport. 

And if you're simply training for appearance, the combination of running with strength training will produce the type of body that most desire.  Most are not chasing the results achieved at either end of the spectrum of running and lifting, which can be like skelator, or the Hulk. 

We just don't want that.  So find the right balance and enjoy your training, and the results that come with it.

Obviously, you can run indoors on a tread mill or outside in the fresh air.  I find mixing it up works best, so I run indoors when it's cold or rainy outside, but really enjoy outdoor runs when the weather is good.  

Running outdoors also has a different feel and impact on the body to tread mill running, so it's good to not let the body settle into a rhythm just doing one.  Repetitively training the same way can  produce less results over time as the body becomes accustomed to it, and taken to extreme can lead to over training more easily than a varied program.  

So mix it up, and enjoy yourself as well.

Spend a few minutes to read this post, and I think you'll see how giving some running and cardio a try as part of your strength program is a good idea.

running and cardio

Integrating running and cardio into your weight training routine;

The list of reasons to integrate cardio into your training program is endless, and so are the advantages of running.

Smart bodybuilders and weight training enthusiasts have been long using running to supplement their workout routine so that they can burn fat more effectively.

The main aim is to increase the daily caloric expenditure, and improve general conditioning.

Endurance type running is typically defined as the 'common jogging'. Your heart rate is in the 50% - 75% of the Max HR, your breathing rate is high but stable, leg muscle contractions are not that intense, range of motion of your muscles is limited as well.

This type of running is aerobic and it is a great tool for burning fat.

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Such endurance type running conditions your heart and increases cell capacity to absorb oxygen (VO2 Max). One problem with endurance running is that some muscle loss along with fat loss is inevitable (Yes, the body has funny ways to get on your nerves!).

Muscle loss becomes a threat especially when you hit a stage where Glycogen reserves are nearing depletion. This is the primary reason why bodybuilders who want to pack on mass try to avoid endurance runs.

In my opinion, avoiding endurance running altogether is not a good idea. It's all about how you 'manage' your workout schedule. One long distance endurance run in the range of an hour isn't going to impact your body in a negative way, given your nutrition is impeccable and your workout schedule is flawless.

Let's not forget that you're pounding iron rest of the week which means that you'll be packing on muscle mass rest of the week.

I'm not recommending marathon or half marathon runs (or God forbid, Ultra marathons)! Endurance running is a perfect example of Low Intensity Training (LIT) for Cardiovascular strength.


No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.' The human spirit is indomitable.


Sir Roger Bannister

Champion Runner

How one should incorporate LIT Cardio Training in their weight training schedule?

LIT Cardio which lasts about 30 minutes can be performed on weight training days.

A good idea is to separate your weight training session and your LIT cardio by 6 hours. I personally recommend doing Cardio in the morning while hitting the weights in the evening.

 Same day LIT Cardio shouldn't exceed the 30 minute mark and make sure you make up for the increased physical exertion via proper nutrition and rest. Same day LIT Cardio can be pursued as a means of rapidly losing weight while staying in control of your muscle mass.

If back to back LIT and weight training session seem unavoidable, try to do your LIT session after your weight training session. You don't want to feel listless once you hit the weights.

Your energy level should be optimal to lift as heavy as you can whereas a low intensity run can be performed even after a hard training session. But again, the best practice is to split them by an interval of 6 hours or you can go for LIT on alternate days if you don't aim for rapid fat loss.

running

Anaerobic running;

The second form of running is Anaerobic running.

Classic example of Anaerobic running is the 100 m sprint. Physical performance of such order demands a high volume of Oxygen which can't be supplied.

Anaerobic running can be considered as a form of 'Strength training' as the same energy and muscular system comes into play.

Therefore Anaerobic running is another great alternative to LIT.

Anaerobic running and the term HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) are often used interchangeably. A classic example of HIIT would be 'Performing a 100 m sprint, walking balk to the start line and repeating 10 times (100m X 10 sets)'.

This is known as High Intensity Interval training. The quick burst of energy associated with the 100 m sprint is High Intensity, followed by a rest interval.

This is quite similar to what you do in a particular weight training session (Rest followed by each set).

The great thing about HIIT is that it is Anaerobic and keeps your body in the anabolic state.

The risk of losing muscle mass is much less than that of LIT. For this reason, this form of running is favored by most fitness trainers whose aim is to build muscle mass.

Your HIIT can be different. You may go with 200m sprinting followed by 300 m walk or you may go with the 100m spring followed by a rest interval. The choice is yours really. Here are a few examples of HIIT that I usually recommend.

  • (100m Sprint + 400m Jog) x 10
  • (100m Sprint + 100m Walk-back) x 15
  • (200m Sprint + 300m Jog) x 10

There’s no rocket science to designing your very own interval program.

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The only thing you need to remember is that the high intensity interval needs to take your heart rate above 75% of your HR Max and the low intensity interval needs to be such that your heart rate falls back to at least 50% of your Max HR.

Usually, a good idea is to wear a device that can monitor your heart rate and time interval. A heart rate monitor along with a stop watch can do the magic.

You can even do it without these gadgets, all you need is a track (Or a well calibrated pathway) and good pair of running shoes.

The time you spend in a HIIT should be somewhat similar to the time you spend in a normal strength workout. Ideally, a 30 - 45minute HIIT workout (Including warm-up, cool-down and rest intervals) will leave you exhausted.

To sum it up, a few workout schedules have been illustrated following;

Lean Mass Gain

Day

AM

PM

Mon

LIT for 20 - 30 minutes

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Tues

Rest

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Wed

LIT for 20 - 30 minutes

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Thur

Rest

Rest

Fri

LIT for 20 - 30 minutes

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Sat

Rest

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Sun

Rest

Rest

Rapid Fat Loss

Day

AM

PM

Mon

LIT for 30 minutes

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Tues

LIT for 30 minutes

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Wed

LIT for 30 minutes

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Thur

HIIT lasting 20 - 45 minutes

Rest

Fri

LIT for 30 minutes

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Sat

LIT for 30 minutes

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Sun

Rest

Rest

1 muscle group a week split

Day

PM

Mon

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Tues

LIT for (45 - 60) minutes

Wed

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Thur

LIT for (45 - 60) minutes

Fri

Weight Training (60 - 75 minutes)

Sat

HIITfor 30 minutes

Sun

Rest

running cardio

Working with cardio alternatives

Once again, nothing is set in stone. There are many alterations you can try with your running even.

It is not necessary to stick with HIIT or LIT, be creative, go with variation and variety.

Here are a few recommendations that can ramp-up your running session:

  • Wear a weight vest to increase intensity of your running. Ankle weights can do the magic as well but vests help improve better weight distribution.
  • Go with hill running. Running on an incline is the hardest thing you can do to yourself! You may know this already if you're into hiking.
  • Trail running is another adventurous alternative. If you live in an area with many natural trails and pathways taking you into the wilderness, go with trail running.
  • Hiking! Yes, it may not sound like something a 'body sculptor' would do but hiking is a great mix of Anaerobic and aerobic cardio training. 30 - 45 minutes of a tough hiking can actually equate to 60 - 90 minutes of jogging. Just make sure you don't book a flight to the Himalayas as that would be a clear misinterpretation of what I'm trying to say!  

If you're not a big fan of running (Or its various alternatives) you can always go with alternatives.

I won't go into much details as it is beyond the scope of this post, but you can always go with alternatives such as cycling or even stair walking.

As long as your heart rate is up and the activity itself is a challenge, you're golden. But make sure that it is something that doesn't mess up your weight training schedule.

I wouldn't recommend swimming a day after you've done a killer Chest & Back routine. The same goes for other alternatives such as Yoga.

Try to do your cardio on days where you don't have a leg workout. The 'chicken-leg syndrome' is all too common in a lot of fitness trainers so it is always a good idea to pay attention to your legs as much as your upper body.

Create good working splits between your weight training and cardio days and try to make an intelligent routine.

Remember to always build progressive overload into your program so you will continually achieve gains.  Need some tips on how this works, read this post.

Don't go overboard with your creativity. You don't want to design a routine that looks like superman's work chart! Keep it simple, functional and realistic.

If you're so used to casting scornful glances at the girls on the tread mill, that you're still not convinced that this can work for you, but you think there might be something to it, I suggest you read Alex Viada's post on complete human performance, for his experience getting the training mix right. Read it here. 

Running and lifting weights are two of my favourite things in the world to do.  I'm really happy that I found and enjoy both, as it keeps my body more balanced and healthy, and I believe it stops training becoming a boring chore.  There's enough of them in all our lives already!

So I hope that if you haven't been including running in your training, I've helped inspire you to give it a go, and;

Last but not the least, stick to it!


We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.


Jessie Owens

Champion Runner

Yoga Poses; How to do Supta Baddha Konasana

Supta Baddha Konasana

Yoga Poses; How to do Supta Baddha Konasana

Supta Baddha Konasana is a deeply relaxing pose which is great to include in a yoga practice for any level

To relax the mind, body and restore the spirit, regular practice of this pose will have great benefits.

You can try doing a simple Baddha Honasana pose to start with if the reclining pose is stretching too much through the groin.

At the end of a long day, try practicing Supta Baddha Konasana, and feel the lift in your spirits.

Watch the video below as Kerri McCubben shares easy to follow instructions on how to do Supta Baddha Konasana;

Some benefits of Supta Baddha Konasana

  1. Increased energy levels
  2. Decreased heart rate
  3. Reduced fatigue 
  4. Relief of panic attacks and anxiety 
  5. Reduced tension and stress
  6. Lower blood pressure
  7. Good for conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or PMS
  8. Provides a great stretch of the groin and inner thigh muscles.

Steps

  1. Begin seated in staff pose with your legs extended in front of you. 
  2. Bend your knees, pressing the soles of your feet together and draw your heals back towards your pelvis.
  3. Lean backwards and place your elbows on the ground.
  4. Close your eyes and internalise your thoughts.
  5. Breath deeply for five long breaths, feeling your chest and ribs expand and your body relax.
  6. Role to the side and come up into a seated position.

Tips

  1. Relax your belly to allow maximum extension through your spine.
  2. Breath deeply and naturally throughout
  3. Centre your mind and focus on relaxing through your entire body.
  4. Depending on your flexibility, you may find placing a block under each knee helps to keep you relaxed without over stretching the groin. 
  5. Place a small pillow behind your neck for extra comfort.

Learning to listen to your body is an invaluable benefit of regular yoga practice, and a relaxing pose like Supta Baddha Konasana can really help with this. Feel the stillness, and focus your thoughts throughout the pose while continuing to breath deeply to expand the chest. 

Once you're comfortable try some more of these 50 beginner yoga poses, for a well rounded yoga practice. 

Sagittal Plane, Frontal Plane & Transverse Plane

sagittal plane

Do you know about the sagittal plane and the other different planes of motion your body works in every day?

These days, our life-style has changed to become busier.

Sometimes we don’t spend time to better understand or reflect on our actions, nutrition, health and fitness decisions. Including how the way we train impacts on our body over time.

We need to care for our body, this amazing machine that we use every single day, and sometimes it’s important to spend some time to know more about it!

Since, I’ve been training, I incorporate diverse exercises to work my whole body.

Different types of cardio and weights training, to keep me in good condition to operate in my every-day life.

As happens to me sometimes, I got curious enough to want to understand, what does it mean to move in a plane, and why is it important at all?

If you'd like more technical details about the anatomical planes, then you may like to read this wikipedia page. I'm going to keep things practical here for you.

Let’s talk about the different planes, so we understand more why we should do each exercise we do in our training routine.

And the importance of including different moves in your workout, that work the body in all planes, in which we usually move.

The body moves in three motions or planes known as: Sagittal, Frontal and Transverse plane

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Before we go ahead with some exercises, let’s understand each plane.

Sagittal Plane:

Movements in this plane are flexion and extension. Also up and down exercises.

Frontal Plane:

Exercises in this plane are sideways movements known as abductions and adduction.

Transverse Plane:

Movements in this plane are rotational, internal and external rotation, pronation and supination. Most sports include rotational moves.

When we don’t work our bodies in all those planes, the body will start to have an imbalance. Because we start to develop strength in some muscles leaving others out.

The muscles you leave out become weaker, and as a result your posture changes and injuries start to appear.

So, let’s mention some exercises in each plane that will help us to keep the full body in balance. You should try to incorporate some of each into your workouts to keep the body in balance.

There are many exercises in the front sagittal plane that you can include in your workout. For now I will only mention a few of the main one’s being, squats, bench press and push ups.

Squats:

squats

This is one of the compound exercises, because squats involve practically the whole body. But, the work is focused in the lower body, and the muscles with major involvement are the quadriceps, hamstring and glutes.

There are different types of squats, but I will explain the classical squat.

The start position for squats is standing. With the bar placed above the trapezes, (Shoulders, behind the neck) with your feet separated at shoulder width, and back straight.

The squat move is performed by descending as if you are going to have a seat. Without bending the back, and ensuring that the knees don’t pass in front of the tip of your feet. Your legs forming at least 90 degree angle. Also remember to keep your head straight looking up.

Remember to push your bum back first. This keeps your back in the correct position as your knees bend to lower you into the down position of the squat.

Power yourself back up, by driving down through your heels to stand up straight again.

Push ups:

push ups

I love push ups! They are a great exercise for the upper body. You will work your arms, chest and core. While you develop strength in your upper body you are also shaping your arms.

Place your hands on the floor at shoulder width. Feet on the floor, with legs extended and push your upper body until your arms are extended. Then lower back to the floor and hold for few seconds, and repeat the move.

For more variations of push ups which you can do. Check out this post 

Bench press:

bench press

This is one of the most classical exercises in any workout routine and for sure nobody forgets it.

Bench press is a compound exercise, as it involves a lot muscle of the upper body and It is great for developing great strength. Bench press not only works the pectorals, you also are working your triceps, front shoulders and back.

The starting point to do bench press is lying on the bench with your feet placed on the floor completely. Create an arch in your back, without taking your feet from the floor; the bar must be over your chest, your arms wide creating a 90 degrees angle at your elbow.

Press the bar back up until you have almost locked your elbows. Then bring the bar down until your mid-chest, and press it up again, keeping the arch in your back and keeping your butt on the bench.

We have mentioned the sagittal plane above, and a few exercises that can be done in this plane. Now let’s bring up some samples of exercises that work in the frontal plane.

Side lunges, lateral dumbbell raises and military press.

Side lunges:

side lunge

This is an exercise for the lower body, mainly targeting the glutes, quadriceps and adductors. It is an excellent exercise to start with body weight, until you get the technique down pat, and it becomes easier. Then you can step to the next level adding dumbbells or a barbell.

Here is how to do them.

Stand with your feet and knees together. Contract your core muscles and take a lateral step with one of your feet opposite to it lunging toward the floor. Make sure the other foot is stable and the knee is not passing the toe, keeping the other leg moderately straight. Keep the upper body vertical while you are lunging back to the starting point, pushing off all the weight of the other with the tension to start again.

Lateral dumbbell raises:

lateral dumbbell raise

This exercise is mainly focus in shoulders (deltoids) and it is simple to do it.

Now I will explain the way to train your shoulders with lateral raises.

Stand straight holding dumbbells in each hand with your palm facing your body. Keep your core stable by squeezing it. Then slowly raise the weights until they are parallel with your shoulders, and stop at the top for few seconds. And then slowly lower your hands down to the starting point.

Military press:

military press

It targets shoulders and triceps, although your core will be involved as well to keep the stability in your body.

Military press can be done standing up or even sitting on the bench. I prefer to do it standing up. You can use dumbbells or a barbell. Put your feet at shoulder width, hold the barbell with your arms with width of your shoulders, placing the bar on your collarbone. Then press the barbell up until your arms are fully extend over your head, keeping your torso stable and then lower it back to the initial point.

To complete all the planes, it is important to understand the transversal plane, and which exercises we can do in this plane.

As mentioned before, all movements with rotation are working on the transversal plane. Let’s point out a few of them such as right or left cross (boxing), twisting crunches with a medicine ball and wood chop exercise, with a dumbbell or cable.

Right or left cross:

right hook

To perform this exercise always keep your hands guarding your chin, while the other hand is throwing the cross.

When you are throwing the punch your hand should be extended. Your left foot is in front of your right (if you are right handed, or the reverse if you are left handed “Southpaw”). Bending both knees a bit and remaining balanced.

When you are punching your body is rotating with the power coming from the full body.

Twist crunches with a medicine ball:

russian twist

I have been doing this exercise for quite a long time, and let me tell you how good it is for your core muscles. I started with a light medicine ball and I have stepped up in weight when the exercise becomes easier. Twist crunches is also identify as the Russian twist.

To do this exercise, lying on the mat, bend your knees and crunch your core at 45-degree approximately. Hold the medicine ball and swing the ball side to side, keeping the lower body straight and only twisting the core.

Wood chops with a dumbbell or cable:

dumbbell woodchop
dumbbell woodchop up

It is manly focused on the core muscles and the oblique.

To perform wood chops you must hold the weight with both hands, bend your knees as if you were squatting. Cross the weight over your body from the left hip to the right upper body, with your lower body stable while you are doing the rotation. Repeat the same move to the other side.

Now we understand how in our every day life every move belongs to a different plane of motion, such as sagittal plane, frontal and transversal plane to have a normal function.

And also knowing all these planes of movement, we now have the understanding to perform a proper training routine. Incorporating exercises which use each one to keep all your muscles strong, prevent injuries and bad posture.

Since you are interested enough in your fitness to read this blog, you should take a few moments to complete the latest fitness quiz.

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Yoga Poses; How to do Utthita Parsvakonasana

Utthita Parsvakonasana

Yoga Poses; How to do Utthita Parsvakonasana

Utthita Parsvakonasana is a great asana to create new energy in your body.  It helps expand the ribs down both sides of your body to allow deep full breaths.

Think about when you wake up in the morning, and stretch your arms above your head with a giant yawn.  That's opening up your sides to allow air into your lungs in a similar way. 

You need to pay attention to stabalising your legs and hips when completing Utthita parsvakonasana, so that you are well balanced to achieve the fullest stretch possible right through your body to the tips of your fingers. 

One of the greatest benefits of yoga, is learning to focus your mind, and this pose is great for that.  Ensure that you are focusing on the many different parts of the pose, from your feet, through your legs and hips, your arms and head, all at the same time. This trains your mind to focus on many things simultaneously.

 Watch the following video, as Kerri McCubben shows us how to do Utthita parsvakonasana;

Some benefits of Utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose)

  1. Relieves stiffness in the back and shoulder
  2. Can relieve sciatica 
  3. Strengthens the ankles knees and legs
  4. Can help with menstrual pain
  5. Can help with lower back pain
  6. Provides a great stretch through the groin and hamstrings

Steps

  1. Come into Tadasana (mountain pose) 
  2. Bring your right leg back, while rotating both feet inwards, so that you end up almost pigeon toed
  3. Raise your arms up to shoulder height
  4. Draw your lower belly in
  5. Keep your arms and legs straight and strong, and turn your right foot out, pointing your toes to the right
  6. Bend through your right knee 
  7. Bring your right hand onto your leg and your left hand onto your hip
  8. Turn your head, taking your gaze up to the sky
  9. Place your right hand down onto the floor beside your right foot
  10. Reach your left arm up and over 
  11. Hold for five long deep breaths
  12. Release and simply come back up
  13. Repeat steps 2 through to 11, this time with the left leg / side. 
  14. Release and come back up again to finish

Tips

  1. Don't allow your body to drop or lean forward throughout the pose
  2. Keep your back foot pressed firmly into the floor
  3. Don't allow your front knee to go past your ankle. Keep it aligned with your front heel
  4. Focus on your breathing throughout

When you are completing this asana properly, with your breathing, mind and body in alignment, you will feel how yoga unites the spirit, mind and body as one. 

Utthita parsvakonasana works the whole body, so it's a good idea to complete the asana earlier in your routine, so that you can maintain good form without any fatigue having set in. 

If you'd love to get into more technical info about the extended side angle pose, then check out this Wikipedia page.

Looking for more yoga poses for your practice?  We've got 50 beginner yoga poses for you to try.

Keep practicing, and stay healthy!

Yoga Poses; How to do Parighasana – Gate Pose

beginner-yoga-poses-parighasana

Yoga Poses, how to do Parighasana

Parighasana, or gate pose is a great beginners level side bend, providing a great stretch through the side muscles and opening up the breathing, to be truly three dimensional. 

This asana is part of the yoga practice which was made popular by K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th Century, called Ashtanga vinyasa yoga. often promoted now as classical Indian yoga.

Within this practice for each asana there are three important focuses of attention. Breathing system (pranayama), posture (asana), and looking place (dristhi), which importantly cover three levels of purification; the body, nervous system and the mind.

We should be mindful and focus on these as we complete our yoga practice, to obtain the most benefits.

Parigha literally means, the bar that shuts the gate, and your body resembles that bar when doing this pose. 

Coordinating your breathing while doing Parighasana will help to cleanse your system and relax your mind, calming nerves and helping with digestion.

Watch below as Kerri McCubben provides instruction on how to do Parighasana;

Some benefits of Parighasana (gate pose)

  1. Stimulates the abdominal organs and lungs
  2. Stretches the muscles of the torso, especially side muslces
  3. Repeated practice opens up the chest and shoulders
  4. Helps with breathing, as it stretches the muscles between your ribs (intercostal muscles)
  5. Can help alleviate respiratory conditions such as asthma, allergies or colds
  6. Stretches adductor, hamstring and calf muscles
  7. Helps calm the mind, relieve stress and nerves

Steps

  1. Kneel on your mat with legs curled under
  2. Reach your right hand out to the side and take your weight on it
  3. Lift your pelvis up
  4. Extend your left leg out straight, placing your foot flat on the mat
  5. Tilt your pelvis forward drawing your lower belly in
  6. Extend your left arm up and bring it over so that you really feel the stretch through your rib muscles and down the side of your body
  7. Hold the pose for five long deep breaths
  8. Release, come down from the pose, relax and change to the other side

Tips

  1. Keep your stretched arm against your ear, and pull your shoulder blades together
  2. Look up at the sky, keeping your neck long
  3. Remember to breath deeply while you hold the pose
  4. Practice focusing the mind and feel the calming affect of the pose

Be careful when practicing Parighasana to keep your chest perpendicular with the floor and your torso straight.  Don't allow your body to twist and bend forward rather than to the side. 

For those who have had previous bad knee injuries or chronic knee problems, it's better to avoid this pose altogether.  You can do a similar side stretch while sitting on a chair instead, to achieve many of the same benefits. 

If you've mastered Parighasana, and are looking for more asana's to practice, then we've got 50 beginner yoga poses here for you to try.

Enjoy!  And remember, time spent working on yourself is always time well spent.

Yoga Poses; How to do Upavistha Konasana

Upavistha Konasana

Yoga Poses, how to do Upavistha Konasana

Upavistha Konasana looks hard doesn't it? Yoga poses come in all degrees of difficulty, and while I'm calling this a beginners pose, because it's a preparatory pose for other asana's, it is a challenging and intense stretch that will help center your mind as you release tension and embrace the pose. 

Wherever you are on your fitness journey, starting to incorporate yoga will bring benefits.  As someone who loves to run and lift, learning some of the foundational yoga poses really helps with my flexibility and lengthening muscles. 

Upavistha Konasana, or seated forward bend helps stretch the entire back, your hamstrings and inner thigh muscles

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Upavista means seated, and kona means angle in the Sanskrit language.  It's a really useful pose to use as preparation for most of the seated forward bends and twists.

Watch as Kerri McCubben of Home of Yoga New Farm demonstrates seated forward fold, below.  

Some benefits of Upavistha Konasana (seated forward fold)

  1. Stretches your adductors
  2. Stretches your hamstrings
  3. Calms your nervous system
  4. Is known to relieve sciatic pain
  5. Stimulates the abdominals
  6. Strengthens the spine
  7. The groin is released
  8. Activates your core musles

Steps

  1. Sit erect and open your legs to a 90 degree angle
  2. Point your toes up and align your knees while flexing your feet
  3. Inhale deeply and hold for a few seconds
  4. Keeping your lower back and abs supported, exhale slowly and fold forward reach your hands out to grab the outside of your feet, while you bring your chest to the floor
  5. Breath deeply while holding the pose for about a minute
  6. Exhale slowly, while gently coming back upright

Tips

  1. Remember to lengthen through your spine
  2. Make sure that your knee caps point upwards
  3. Don't allow your lower back to round
  4. Fold forward from your hips, not your waist
  5. Keep your legs engaged
  6. Move gently and at attentively and allow your mind to open up during the process
  7. Only bend forward as far as is comfortable, without experiencing any pain in your back
  8. If you have difficulty getting your chest to the floor, try lowering your forehead to the floor first, then your nose, and then your chin.  This will all help you progressively get your chest lower to the floor.
  9. If you have tight hamstrings, bend your knees slightly

Let your thoughts become calm, and really relax into this pose, as while it's a challenge, you will also feel really relaxed once you've mastered it. Centering your mind while performing Asana's helps you to get the most from your practice.

Once you've mastered Upavistha Konasana, you will be keen to keep adding new asana's to your practice, and we've given you 50 beginner yoga poses, with benefits, just for that purpose.

How to do Dandasana – staff pose

dandasana

Dandasana; Because You Need a Good Foundation.

Dandasana looks really simple, but it's important to make sure that you're doing it the right way, because it is the foundation of all seated poses. 

The name comes from sankrit, and it's meaning is; Danda "stick" Asana "posture".  Read more here.

It's so easy for your every day posture to fall into a habitual forward slump. Most of us suffer from poor posture, and staff pose helps correct that for us.

When the spine is straight and shoulder back, our breathing naturally becomes deeper and more regular. The nervous system will become relaxed and the mind and body are in greater alignment and harmony.

Regular practice of Dandasana will give you improved posture, and if you've had any discomfort sitting or standing for long periods it will help improve that as well.  So it's a great regular asana for anyone slaving in the office!

Some benefits of Dandasana (staff pose)

  • Improved posture
  • Stronger back muscles
  • Stretches the spine 
  • Stretches through the shoulders and chest
  • Can help alleviate back or sciatic pain
  • Improves core strength
  • Prevent tiredness of the feet and calf muscles
  • Helps improve digestion

Steps

  1. Sit on the floor with your back straight and extend your legs out in front of you
  2. Now place your palms next to your hips flat on the floor. 
  3. Press your glutes into the floor and point the top of your head up to the ceiling to lengthen and straighten the back. 
  4. Inhale to lengthen your spine
  5. Keep breathing normally, and hold the pose for about 5 breaths or 30 seconds.

Tips

  1. Keep you heals in line with your hips
  2. Engage the soles of your feet, by pointing your toes back towards your body
  3. Draw your thigh bones in together and down towards the floor
  4. Think about lengthening the danda (staff) spine
  5. Draw your shoulder blades back towards each other
  6. Never flatten or round the lower back

If you've got really tight hamstrings you might find Dandasana difficult to do at first.  Try it sitting with your back up against a wall, or sit on a few blankets or books to elevate you a little more.

dandasana pose

Advanced Tips

  1. Take the pose into a forward bend; Known as Pashimottanasana
  2. Try challenging yourself to hold the pose for longer, keeping your legs fully engaged.

Seated staff pose is a great asana to include as part of your regular yoga practice.  If you are looking to strengthen your core, you can even try doing it while you are sitting watching TV or reading.

For more easy foundation yoga poses check out 50 beginner yoga poses with benefits.

Leg Workouts For Women – 20 Killer Leg Workouts

leg workouts for women

Leg Workouts For Women; Will Make You Fitter, Healthier And Stronger

Leg workouts for women embraces the new intelligent research about strength training for women, because it simply works!

I think you'll agree with me, you yearn for killer legs;

I know the feeling.  It's part of the daily struggle!

​But just keep reading, and I'll show you some of the best leg workouts that will, with some consistent effort, build the legs you've been dying for.

Why not for men too?

Well, there’s lots of guys who would get great benefits from these workouts, so don’t be put off because I said, “for women”. We love you to have strong legs too, and in fact some of these workouts are extremely hard for men.

No doubt about it!​

It’s just that I don’t think enough women really focus on doing great leg workouts. We all desire great legs, but go into any gym, and you’ll find guys hitting the heavy weights for their legs, but not so many girls. Perhaps too many think that their legs will “get big”.

Let’s dich that fallacy now. Working your legs hard will produce lean muscle that makes your legs appear toned, helps reduce any cellulite problems, and gives you killer calves for those occasions when you break out the high heals.

Leg workouts are full of blood sweat and tears.

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Hopefully not too much blood, but if you’re deadlifting heavy then shins have been known to bleed. But there’s so many benefits to be gained.

Just a couple of great benefits from leg workouts for women, include;

  • Big compound moves like squats and deadlifts will actually impact your whole body, engaging muscle fibres throughout and giving you maximum gains for your time spent.
  • The largest muscles in your body are in your legs, so they are actually capable of shifting heavier weights. And that means more calories burned if you’re looking to shed some kilos as well.
  • Because you’ve engaged the largest muscles in your body, the calorie burn will continue for longer after you finish training.
  • All explosive movements in sports, require strong legs. And they’ll really help you move through your average day with greater ease as well.
  • And really importantly, a great set of toned legs are going to look great in so many different outfits.

One of the best things that you can do to keep making progress with any physical training, is to add some variety, that way your body doesn’t;

1. Get too used to the same workout, which can then fail to stimulate improvement

2. Break down from over training with the same routine

Brett Contreras;

"If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak.  Being weak is dangerous." 

So, with that in mind, I’ve gone looking for some of the best leg workouts for women to be found online. This collection includes workouts from top trainers who know how to get results. I’ve selected my favourites based on the moves included, and providing plenty of different variety to keep you interested and challenged.

Some of these leg workouts are extremely hard routines to complete, and are only for advanced lifters, but others are ​easier for beginners or intermediate.  Start where you feel comfortable, and try the more advanced routines as you advance.

So, lets get started;

Click the title of each workout, which will open the trainers full post with detailed instructions about the leg workout​.

Leg Workouts For Women

best leg exercises

Women’s health brings us this collection of seven moves, when you’re tired of lunges and squats.

The pistol squat might be a bit challenging for beginners, but persist and you’ll be cranking them out in no time.

The dumbbell split jump, or flying lunges as I like to call them, are one of my favourite exercises. It’s great for building explosive power, speed and athleticism.

leg workouts for women

The team at bodybuilding dot com are really good at showing you how to smash out some great workouts. 

Here they're making some really good points on giving some focus to your hamstrings and glutes to balance the strength with your quads.

It's great to see them expressing the same thoughts about lifting heavy, and the risk of bulky legs. "​your muscles won't change unless they have a reason to."

I'd probably do more reps and less sets in these leg workouts, so you get through the workout in less time.​  And I'm not a big fan of the common 10 rep set.

As a four time fitness model world champion, Andreia Brazier is really worth listening to. 

She has some really interesting workouts, and mixes up exercises to keep things interesting, which I love.

There's some good exercises in this workout, which you can do with body weight alone as well.  so if you don't have access to a gym or weights, these are some great options.

Leg Workouts For Women

The Lauren Gleisberg beauty and booty challenge legs and glutes weights workout focuses on engaging the glutes before completing compound movements for maximum booty building effect. 

Depending how much weight you use for the dead lifts and sumo squats, this workout can be really challenging.

Lauren clearly loves fitness, and has some great content on her blog, so it's worth a visit.​

leg workouts for women

These exercises from Spotebi are easy to complete at home, so it's a really handy workout if you don't have time to get to the gym or are travelling. 

Just slip into your favourite active wear, and give those legs a workout, wherever you are.

leg workouts for women

This is a great post, which covers some of the reasons that I mentioned above, why women should train legs hard.  

They also talk about progressive overload, which is a really important training principle if you want to make decent gains in strength and conditioning.  I've written more on that topic in this article.

​They've got three workouts, all giving you the chance to smash your leg day out, with some heavy weights.  I'd just increase the reps a lot more than they have, for the leg press.  I really believe in higher reps for leg press.  Try it, and see the results you get.

leg workouts for women

These leg exercises focus on shapely legs and a perfectly round booty.  Targeting your quads hamstrings and glutes. 

These are all great exercises in Jared's program.  I would just adjust the 10 reps to suite what you are really looking to achieve. Usually I would be doing higher reps than this.

leg workouts for women - leg press

Eric Broser has come up with a great workout, on the one machine, which really kills your quads.  

Leg Press.  Eric describes this workout as the "thigh thumper".

You can really shift a lot of weight doing leg press.  Keeping your back flat on the seat, pulling down hard and make sure that you are breathing out hard when pushing, and you'll keep your back secure and really work your quads and glutes.

​8-10 Reps is what is suggested here.  Again, I would go much higher than this, aiming for 30-50 on working sets.  

You might find it hard to walk out of the gym, but if you can get through this workout, with these higher reps, and heavy weight, then you will really feel the gains.

leg workouts for women

This is a great post, which really explains squats, and primes you for completing high reps, which I love.  

If you want to get great results from the time you spend in the gym, then you need to be prepared to put yourself through some pain.  This workout will surely do that for you, and get you the results that follow.

David Whitley has done a great job detailing this workout, and even given some tips of what you should be eating if you are doing this type of hard training. I love it. 

And for once, I don't even need to say, that I would add more reps to each set:)​

leg workouts for women - back squat

This leg workout focuses entirely on squats for a thirteen week period.  

It's a really challenging program, that should only be attempted by experienced lifters.  So if you've been training for a year or more, and feeling like you've hit a plateau, then this program could be perfect to lift your intensity and achieve those gains you're chasing.

 ​The post has been written targeting guys, so some of the body weights and weights lifted won't be relevant to women.  They do note how to calculate your starting weight for the program though, so you can follow that as a guide, and if you're going to do this program, then you should have the experience to know your strength and lifting capacity. 

If you don't know, or want to re-confirm what your starting weight should be, you can use this handy one rep max calculator.

This is the type of workout which will grow lean muscle whilst also losing body fat, so remember to fuel your body with good nutrition while you're training on this program.

This routine is written up by Mehdi, who has a great web site, if you like lifting heavy, and want increased strength that can be maintained.  I love his site, and find lots of practical advice there, so do yourself a favour and check our Mehdi's story and have a look around his site here.

If you'd like a refresher on squat technique, or even the answer to questions about squats that have been on your mind, and no one has been able to answer, I recommend taking an hour and reading Mehdi's definitive guide to squats.

leg workouts for women

As leg exercises go, squats are king, and the Russian squat routine is famous for helping increase your strength. 

This is a six week squat program following nine sessions of progressive lifting.

You can use the simple calculator included in the post by Marc, to produce a program to follow.  The just have discipline and don't miss any sessions.​

There are debates about which produces better gains, the Russian squat routine or the Smolov routine.

For me, there is no doubt that the smolov routine is harder, and also produces greater gains in strength.  But you can't do that type of program all the time, and the Russian squat routine will also keep you advancing.

​In fact, if you haven't done this type of program before, I would suggest trying this before the Smolov routine. 

Plyometric exercises are a great way to build more athletic speed and power.  And we all know that an athletic body looks great too.

You can mix these exercises in with your main leg training routine, to add variety of stimulus and a break from the intensity if you are doing one of the heavy squat programs.

For example, you can train squats early in the week, then with a day in between to recover, do a plyometric leg workout.​

Or simply include some plyometric exercises in a more general whole body routine, like the circuit that I'm doing in the video above.​

​I love doing the box jumps.  It's one of my favourite leg exercises.

leg workouts for women

Women's quads are normally stronger and more developed than the hamstring.  So we need to make sure we're putting some focus on developing strong hamstrings as well.

Apart from the athletic benefits, having well developed hamstrings will really give you nice athletic looking shapely legs.​ So what's not to like.

These routines from Bodybuilding.com focus on the stiff legged dead life, which is a great exercise to develop the hamstring.

Try any of the suggested routines.  They are all challenging, and therefore worthwhile.​

leg workouts for women - dead lifts

Dead lifts are an amazingly effective compound exercise, that will engage every muscle fiber in your body. 

They are primarily a  back and legs exercise, and really could not be overlooked in any decent strength training routine focused on legs.

The Ed Coan routine is for intermediate to advanced lifters.

You will be dead lifting once a week, for a duration of ten weeks completing this program. So you will still be able to mix in other training sessions that you would normally complete.

​Dead lifts are really hard work, but every time I complete a training cycle including dead lifts, I can really notice the increase in strength again. 

For a good critique of the Ed Coan routine, this is a really good write up which while focused on power lifting, explains this routine really well, and will give you a better understanding of what this routine is about.  go here to read.​

Dead Lifting For Beginners

While I've just thrown the Ed Coan routine at you, I thought it important here to include something on dead lifting, for less experienced lifters. 

This post from Nerdfitness explains the basics of dead lifting well, and will get you started.

And the following  great video by the Buff Dudes nails it for explaining good technique.

The only tips I would add to that are, that you should wear a weight lifting belt always while deadlifting.  It's not being weak.  It supports your lower back, and gives your abs something to push against, so you can exert more power, and lift heavier. 

While not as critical as a weight belt, I'd also suggest using lifting straps.  They really help you to grip the bar, so that it's not your grip which is the weakest link making you fail on high rep sets or with really heavy weight.  You are focusing on working your major muscles, not building a stronger hand.​

The following video by Darin Starr provides a really good explanation on how to use lifting straps.​

If you are just beginning I would suggest incorporating dead lifts on one day a week, as part of your broader overall program. ​

Start out conservatively, make sure you get the technique correct, before you start pulling too much weight, or progressing to the harder dead lift programs.​

leg workouts for women

We all know that great calves look super sexy, but do we even spend much time working on them in the gym?

Probably not.

Well, Bodybuilding.com have done a great job with this post on the best calf building workout.

If you don't want to spend so much time focusing on building great calves, I find that simply doing as many standing calf raises as I can without rest in one set, after my normal leg day workout, will really hit my calves. ​

leg workouts for women - front squat

I've already given you some killer workouts doing back squats, but writing about leg workouts wouldn't be complete without including front squats.

Front squats really work your quads, and we all know that having impressive quads will give you a great athletic look.​

​This post from Robertson Training Systems provides a really good explanation of front squatting.  They pretty much address every question that you could think of, so it's a great resource.  Read it twice, before you try front squats.

They provide some examples of simply front squat routines to get started with as well.

You ​can integrate front squats into your overall program.  For example, complete back squats on the first training day, then front squats on the third training day. 

Or, use front squats as a variant, when you've finished a heavy cycle of back squats. ​

​Again, I like to keep reps high, with decent weight, starting with a warm up set at 50% of 1RM, and then ranging between 70% to 90% of my 1 RM for working sets.

leg workouts for women

Calisthenics can be really challenging for the legs, building resilient muscles.  They can also build beautiful athletic legs.

​Think boxers, who do lots of calisthenic exercises like skipping, jumps, sprints and generally as they're moving around in the ring.  They need really resilient strong legs.  If their legs are gone, then it's usually goodnight, lights out. 

Tod Kuslikis of ​Shot of Adrenaline wrote this great post, which explains 55 different body weight exercises for legs. 

It's a great resource if you're interested in building great legs, without weights.  He's included progress charts, workouts, how to train instructions and recovery tips.

So, if you're short on time, or just don't like going to a gym, you'll find plenty of great leg exercises here to develop athletic pins.

I personally like doing pistol squats and Bulgarian spit-squats.

Tod has even written another great post on how to develop muscular legs with body weight training, including an example routine.  You can read it here.

leg workouts for women

If you thought that the best leg workouts for women would only include weight room training, then I hope you're happily proven wrong.

Body weight workouts are really convenient, as you can crank them out pretty much anywhere, and just try some of these moves, and if you didn't before, you'll realise how effective they are as well.​

Jeff Cowan of Body Weight Training Arena brings us this post with more calisthenic workouts to make your legs burn.

​There's great explanations of the different leg exercises and example routines that you can follow, or put something together that suites your time and goals.

Pilates Butt And Thigh Workout

If heaving heavy iron or holding pistol squats isn't your thing, then it doesn't mean you can't still work those legs. 

Pilates exercises can be great, even mixed in with a regular strength training program which is more focused on weights.

The following routine from Fitness Blender includes some great moves for the legs and glutes.

leg workout recovery

Whichever leg workouts for women you choose to follow, your legs will be sore.  It's important to also spend some time and proper planning on post workout recovery.

Without proper recovery, your body won't be restored enough to achieve maximum effort and results from the following workouts.

It's good practice anyway, but particularly with some of the harder workouts like Smolov or the Russian squat routine, it is a must.  Or you just won't get through the program.

This post from Onnit Acadamy includes 10 great tips for post workout recovery.

The best tip here for me is, sleep!

​Sleep is so important. It's when the body does most of it's recovery, and yet is often overlooked in our busy lives

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Make sure you get a good eight hours sleep, and feel the difference it makes.​

What's the one real secret to getting the best results from these leg workouts for women?

As with all proper training;

 progressive overload will ensure that you achieve meaningful results. ​ You can apply this principle to these workouts, by progressing from easier workouts to the more challenging ones, or working on increasing the intensity of a particular leg workout.

I hope that you enjoy trying some of these workouts, or at least enjoy the results that will come from doing them consistently.

And for some great recipes to fuel your body the right way, try some of these 31 healthy clean eating recipes. 

Let me know in the comments below, about any other good leg workouts that you like?​

Here's to, HAPPY LEG DAY!​

How To Do Push Ups, For Greater Strength

how to do push ups

How to do push ups

How to do push ups sounds like such a simple question, doesn't it?

Have you ever tried to do 100 push ups? Now that's getting a bit harder.

I think push ups competitions are great fun. But even if you don’t find doing lots of push ups fun, if you have some will power and persistence, and keep doing them, you will feel the benefits within a few weeks.

It is pretty easy to improve your strength and fitness with push ups.

Even if you can only do 5 to start with, just add one more every day, and within 20 days you will now be doing 25 in a row. Keep going and eventually you will be able to do 100, and that’s a real feat!

It’s easy to fit doing push ups into even the busiest life. Just do them every night before bed. Burn off those last calories and feel good before you sleep.

It’s better to do them at the end of the day than at the start. Some people like to do push ups as soon as they rise, but this isn’t a great idea. Your body hasn’t had a chance to warm up, and so your joints and spine could be stiff and won’t like the extra load being placed on them before they’ve had a chance to get moving more gently.

I’ve always thought push ups were great!

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When I was a kid I remember the soldiers training near home and how fit they looked. Within their exercise routines were push ups, or “lizards” as part of their routine. I remember how much admiration I had at the time for their bodies. I even tried as a kid to do push ups without success, then later on in my life my husband took me to the gym to start to get fit, and one of the exercises that I kept in mind to do was push ups.

I started to do them on my knees until they became easier, then I start to do some variations and even incorporated elements working different muscles of the body.

During the last year, I do push ups every day, usually choosing four types of them for a month with twenty reps of each type, and trust me they work your core, arms and chest very well.

If you are starting do push ups, just keep doing them until they become a habit as a part of your routine. To be honest you don’t need to go to the gym to train, you can do them anywhere and anytime. The only thing you need is your disciple, and remember consistency and discipline make the difference to achieve whatever you want in life.

So, what will how to do push ups do for your body?

Push ups are not only great to work the upper body; also they are good for abs and stability. They work your chest, arms and core.

To start to make a change in this part of your body, you must incorporate push ups as part of your workout or routine. To do these exercises it’s not necessary to have any equipment, you only need your body weight and add some variations to target different muscles, and you will be able to achieve a great workout.

Push ups are great to work the muscles in your chest, (pectorals) just with your body weight. As well push ups engage the muscles of your arms such as biceps and triceps, so including this exercise in your workouts will tone and strengthen your arms over the time.

Let’s get into the different types of push ups:

Knee push ups​

How to do push ups
Knee push ups

These are the easier starting point for people who are just incorporating this exercise in their routine. Place your knees together kneeling on the floor, as they will take all your weight when you are pushing with your arms and lifting your upper body. When you find this version of push ups easier after you have done them for a while, probably only a couple of weeks for most people, jump to the next level.

Incline push ups​

Incline push ups

This type of push ups is quite easy as well, because you don’t need a lot of strength in your upper body. Also they are perfect to go to the next level of effort. To do this exercise you will place your hands on a bench at the width of your shoulders or wider if you wish, then your feet on the ground and keep your body straight.

Standard push ups

push up

Lie on the floor facing down, open your arms till your arm is bent to 90 deg at the elbow at the level of your chest, and place your feet together while keeping your body straight. These push ups will work most in your chest and arms.

Diamond push ups

diamond push up

Spread your fingers so that your index fingers and thumbs almost touch, creating a diamond shape between your hands; they should be positioned below the centre of your chest. This will be your start position, while staying up on your toes and keeping your body straight. Diamond push ups will work principally your triceps.

Narrow push ups​

How to do push ups
Narrow push ups

The starting point of this exercise is placing your hands close to each other leaving around eight centimeters between each hand, this means they will be under your chest. Place your feet together and keep your body straight. Narrow push ups are great for triceps although they will also work chest, arms and core.

Decline push ups​

decline push ups

Find a bench or surface to place your feet, put your hands on the floor for doing push ups. The fact, that your feet are off the ground make the core unstable, thus we have to work harder to keep the core stable. The major focus of this exercise will be on the pectorals.

Wide push ups

How to do push ups
Wide push ups

Place your hands as wide as you can with your feet on the floor, your elbows are opened outward, resulting in a greater workload for your shoulders and for the muscles of your chest, because your arms as levers are wider creating a greater stretch through the pectoral muscles. This type of flexion is less challenging for some people, than variations with hands together because of the width of your hands.

T push ups

How to do push ups
T push ups

The starting point of these push ups are the same as the standard push ups with a higher degree of difficulty which includes the rotation of the trunk with an arm up at the same time forming a T with your body when you’re rotated side to side. Your core will work more here to keep the stability of your body; also the muscles working here are the pectorals and the arms.

Staggered push ups

How to do push ups
How to do push ups

As the standard push ups is the starting point one arm is close to your body the other hand is place in front of you, these are working mainly the triceps and chest muscles.

Clapping push ups

How to do push ups
Clapping push ups

This push up is known as a plyometric exercise for developing power and strength in your chest. To do it you have to push your body from the ground high enough to clap your hands, before they reach the floor again in the start position.

​Single arm ball push ups

How to do push ups
Single arm ball push ups

Place one hand on a small medicine ball and the other one on the ground. These push ups will force you to keep the stability of the core tight, and the arms while you are working your muscles of the chest, core and arms, creating strength mainly in your chest and core.

Push ups are a great work out for getting nice shape and strength in your arms, chest and core stability. You don’t need any equipment to start with, just the motivation and determination to have a healthy body with a good shape. Don’t wait any longer to get fit, the time is now and your body will be grateful with your efforts in few months’ time.

To be stronger and healthy you don’t have to visit the gym, get up and go running or walking. Complete your cardio with push ups, and you have done a full work out.

Remember to have a healthy diet as well. For some easy recipes check out my recent blog, where you will find 31 clean eating recipes, that are all easy to make and super tasty.

So, once you get really good at how to do push ups, you can contact these people and have them confirm your new world record.​  I'm not quite there yet myself!

If you're not up to a world record yet either, I'm still happy for you to share your success and progress with me in the comments below.​

Lower Ab Workouts For Women

lower ab workouts for women

Lower ab workouts for women, to flatten and tone your belly.

If you are looking for the honest truth about lower ab workouts for women, keep reading.  If you just want a quick and easy fix for a flabby belly, resulting from a soft and undisciplined lifestyle which you are not prepared to change, you'll hate this, so don't bother.

Great! You're still reading.​

Having flat abs has been touted as the universal symbol of health, sex appeal, and fitness. Although many of us dream of having a nice, toned midriff, it may take a bit more effort and sweat than many are prepared to put in, to make it a reality.

The fitness and health industry is booming in this modern age as more people are aware of the importance of a healthy diet and active life. But unfortunately that means there are also lots of people who will try to sell you on the latest gimmick or fad, which is supposed to achieve that ever elusive dream body with minimal effort, and super fast.

The reality is, all this approach will do if you fall for it, is lose you some cash and some wasted time following the latest fad.​

So, I wanted to make sure that from this post, as well as some workout tips, you also gain a better understanding about ab training, and it's role in achieving those flat toned abs we all desire.​

It won't work in isolation!​

​The term 'lower abs' is not very accurate because the muscles underneath the skin on our abdominal section covers the whole area from the upper rib cage up to the pelvis.

​There are 4 main muscles on your abdomen:

Rectus abdominis: this is the layer of muscle known as the 6 pack muscles. These muscles function to support your back while bending or picking things up

External obliques: these are the muscles on the side of your abs that help in rotating and bending sideways

​Serratus anterior: located on the side of the chest, this muscle is important for posture and shoulder health, and is used to thrust the shoulder forward when pushing something.

Transverse abdominis: this is the deepest layer of muscle that acts to stabilize the spine and prevent back pain



From this piece of information, it is clear that you don't actually need to do a separate workout for upper and lower abs, since any exercise you do will effect the whole muscle of the abdomen.

The reason why people are obsessed with lower ab workouts is because fat tends to accumulate at the lower part of the abdomen. Women often have trouble spots like this because naturally the hormone estrogen causes the body to hold on to fat in certain body parts.

Unfortunately, there is honestly no way to spot train abs separately to achieve the dream six pack

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In order to get abs, you need to reduce your overall body fat percentage by training your whole body.

Once you have reduced your body fat enough, any musculature that you have developed, which for women will take some hard work, will become more visible.  ​

This does not mean that you should just skip doing lower ab workouts entirely. Lower ab workouts are great because they will tone your belly and improve your balance. A strong core may lower your risk of suffering a back injury, in general life, or particularly while training with large compound moves like squats and dead lifts. (which are great for stimulating muscle growth and calorie burning)

​There is certainly no need for any fancy workout machines to perform ab exercises. The most important thing you need is the time and persistence to do it. In addition to that, you need to devote a complete focus while doing your workouts to achieve maximum benefit.

​According to studies, there is a connection between your mind and muscle activation especially in resistance training. Instead of mindlessly going through your workout, try to focus more on every muscle movement you're doing, as this will speed up your results for muscle gain.

​It is also beneficial to do exercises in high intensity intervals. This type of training method has been proven to show results in a short amount of time, and can easily be incorporated into lower ab workouts for women.

There are many varieties of lower ab workouts for women out there. With that being said, here are some of my favourite exercises that you can incorporate in a high intensity circuit, and do today to get started on the abs of your dreams:-

Lower ab workouts for women - high intensity circuit;

Complete the following eight exercises in a circuit, then rest for 30 seconds and start again. 

​If you haven't done much ab training before, you could start by doing each exercise for 30 seconds, and complete two circuits.  If you're already pretty fit, or as you progress, try doing four circuits, which will then still only take you 12 minutes, but will give your abs a great workout.

I usually do this type of workout at the end of my weights training, or after I've done a running or bike session, to finish off.​

Heel touches;

Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground. While exhaling, lift up your trunk, reaching sideways with one of your arms for the parallel heel. Inhale as you return to starting position. In alternate motions, keep touching your hand on your heels. This workout will tone up your external oblique muscles. Take heed to keep your legs in place and your feet firm on the ground.

lower ab workouts - heal touches

Single knee raise crunch;​

Lie down on your back with knees bent and hands placed behind your head. Raise your shoulder off the ground and bend knees to about 90 degrees. Slowly bring your right knee and left elbow together, lightly touching it. This exercise is almost like a bicycle crunch but the difference is that you're not stretching the legs out. This workout activates your rectus abdominis muscles.

lower ab workouts - elbow to knee

Reach through crunch;​

Lie down on your back with knees bent, with legs wide apart. Raise your shoulders blades off the ground with arms straight and parallel to your trunk, try to reach through between the legs. Keep your ab muscles contracted at all times.

lower ab workouts for women - crunches

Wide toe touches;

While lying down on your back, put your legs up straight against your trunk making a 90 degree angle. Spread your arms wide on your side, parallel to your body. While exhaling, slightly raise your shoulder blades from the ground while stretching your left arm to reach the left heel. As you return to your starting position, inhale. Repeat this move with the right side. Do several repetitions alternately. Remember to always keep the abs braced during this move.

lower ab workouts for women - straight leg toe touches

​Starfish crunch;

Lie down flat on your back. With your arms extended above your head and legs spread out, try to form an X on the ground with your body. While exhaling, lift one arm and the opposing leg simultaneously, touching your fingers onto your toe. Inhale and slowly lower back arms and legs to starting position. Repeat on the opposite arm and legs back to starting position. Be careful not swing the arms and legs mindlessly, but to focus on a slow, controlled motion. Be sure to contract abdominal muscles throughout this exercise.

lower ab workouts for women

​Twisting windmills;

This exercise targets your external obliques. With your back on the floor, lie down with arms extended on both sides. Raise your legs up straight against your trunk making a 90 degree angle. In a slow controlled motion, lower your legs to the left side of your body until your legs are close to the floor a few inches from your left hand. Slowly bring back to starting position. Repeat on the other side. Do several repetitions alternately.

twisting windmills

​Planks;

this exercise is a simple but very effective one. Your body stays in one position but this static form of exercise will develop your core strength. It not only trains your abs but also your shoulders, arms, and glute muscles.

​Position your hands straight under your shoulders on the ground as if you're about to do a push-up. Plant your toes on the floor and try to make sure your body is straight and stabilized. Your head should be aligned with your back. Hold the position for 30 seconds. You'll find out that as you gain more strength, you can hold a plank position for a longer period of time.

plank

​The world record for planking is 8 hours and 1 minute. (as I publish this)

To make this exercise harder, you can place a weight plate on your back to add some extra load.

lower ab workouts - plank

​Side plank;

​this exercise is another basic static exercise that helps to build your core strength. Lie on your side and place your forearm on the floor under your shoulder in perpendicular to your body. With your legs straight, your upper leg is placed directly on top of the lower leg.

​Your body is raised from the floor by straightening your waist. Hold the position and repeat on the opposite side. This may be hard for beginners, so if you have trouble doing it, modify this move by angling the body up against a wall.

​Beginners can also do another modified version of it called a bent knee side plank. In this version, the leg that is closest to the floor is bent while planking, making it easier to balance.

To make the exercise harder, try extending your arm, instead of resting on your elbow.  When you are doing the side plank this way, really focus on making sure that your body stays in a straight line from shoulders to feet. If you start sagging at the hips, your abs probably aren't strong enough for this more advanced version yet.​

side plank
side plank extended arm

​While doing all these exercises won't magically get you the perfect six pack abs you want, combined with proper training and diet, to achieve a low body fat %, it will help in sculpting and toning your body for more muscle definition.

Flat abs are the result of a healthy diet and proper training.

If you'd like some ideas for meals to include in a healthy diet, my list of 31 easy clean eating recipes might inspire you.

And for some tips on proper training check out these posts;

​It all boils down to your choices. what are you willing to sacrifice to get the abs of your dreams? Depending where you are currently in your fitness journey, it may be difficult to do a complete 180 degree change, but little steps each day and persistence will take you a long way.
























And, always make sure that you are enjoying your training. Mix it up and have fun, and it will be so much easier for you to stick to a consistent plan over time.

I'm always looking for more ideas about training, so please share any tips that you think might be useful, about lower ab workouts for women, or different ab exercises to include in a training circuit, in the comments below.​