Category Archives for Expert Advice

How to Use a Rowing Machine the Right Way

The rowing machine isn’t as popular as it’s cousins in the gym; the treadmill or the elliptical. It can, however, provide a deep and fulfilling exercise routine.There are many benefits of using the rowing machine, you’ll be able to burn fat away while building up muscle strength. It’s also low impact and doesn’t put body weight on your extremities if you’re in recovery.

Used properly, the rowing machine can build muscle on the legs, the glutes, the arms, the chest, and the core. Used improperly, and it can bring muscle pain and back strain, but that can easily be avoided.

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Let’s learn how to use this machine so you don’t end up causing pain and damage to your body.

Learning the Numbers

Most modern rowing machines are infinitely customizable and have a range of settings that can be overwhelming if you’re new to this machine. The basics are strokes (measured per minute), calories burned, kilometers traveled, or a split of those measurements.

You can learn to track those measurements to help you plan your improvements. Those numbers can also be used to help set workouts where you have to row a certain distance or maintain a certain stroke rate for a length of time.

Getting Set Up

Because you’re going to be moving around on the machine, it’s best to wear close-fitting clothing so nothing gets caught or trapped in the mechanism.  When you sit on the seat, strap in your feet so that they are securely fastened and you can pull on them without risking losing your grip on the pedals.

Pull your knees in and fully extend your arms to grasp the handle of the machine. Your back should be flat throughout this range of motion, and your core should be completely engaged as well. At the moment, you’re sitting in the position that rowers call the Catch. It’s that moment on the boat when the paddle ‘catches’ in the water and your body is poised to pull.

The Movement in Rowing Machine

In rowing, there are 4 positions to help you think about each section of your motion. There’s the Catch, the Drive, the Finish, and the Recovery. You already know the Catch.

The Drive is when your body explosively pushes back against the pedals and your arms pull the bar into your chest as you drive backward and sit up. Keeping a straight back throughout the motion and your body comes upright, your arms start the pulling motion.

 

Now, you’re in the position known as the Finish. You should have an engaged core, a straight back and be in an upright position with your legs locked. You finish the pulling motion, ending with the handle right up against your lower chest. Try not to flare to your elbows out but keep them reined in close to your body.

Lastly, move into the Recovery position. First, your arms straighten back into the first position, you hinge forward at the hips and your body leans forward, back straight as always. Your legs pull into your chest as you come forward to a full and tight crunch at the front.

If you can think about keeping the order correct, you’re already ahead of 95% of everybody out there. Most people draw their arms in too soon, or they don’t keep their back straight and core engaged. This can lead to excessive strain and back problems if continued.

Even if your first rowing movements are slowed and methodical, this order will help keep you safe and your workout will pack a more powerful punch for you.

5 Post Workout Stretches and Exercises to Ease Up Muscle tension

One of the most important parts of your workout is the end. And it’s a shame that most people don’t give it as much credit as is due. The post-workout routine should be as planned, as carefully exercised, and as closely monitored and measured as any other exercise you do in the actual workout.

Your body has just taken a beating and is depleted and in stress mode. You need to perform some post-workout stretches and movements to release the tension in your muscles. Too much tension or an imbalance on the strain of the muscles can lead to knots and radiating pain throughout the body.

Many people actually get confused thinking that stretches should only be done pre-workout. They’re actually just as beneficial for your post-workout routine as well.

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Try these simple movements to increase your flexibility, improve your circulation, prevent pain, and elevate your energy levels.

Forward Bend

Sit on the floor with your legs together and stretched out in front of you. This will pull and stretch your hamstrings to help them retain their elasticity. Reach out as far as you can with your legs straight on the floor and try to touch your toes if you can. If you’re flexible enough, you can also bend forward at the hip and lower your torso onto your legs to help further the stretch.

You’ve probably engaged your hamstrings with heavy lifting and cardio movements. Try to help them remain flexible or you could have a strain in the morning afterward.

The Runner’s Lunge

While you’re still focused on the leg, stand up and find a wall you can use. Put both hands on the wall and take a step back with one leg. Put both heels down on the ground, stretching your calves and hamstrings as you lean into the stretch.

This movement just builds on your previous step and starts to engage your calf muscles which could be a source of bad cramping if you leave it tight.

Lower-Back Stretch

Take the time to care for your back, which has been put under some strain from your movements. Lie on your back on the ground and slowly bring your knees up together, grasping them in your arms. Hug your knees tight into your body, focusing on the stretch in your lower back.

Alternatively, you could do this by kneeling on the ground and bringing your torso down to the ground, hands and arms flat on the ground behind you with your head down.

Chest and Shoulder Stretch

Stand upright and keep your shoulders square. Find a pole or a doorway, and put one hand on it. With your right hand on the door, turn to your left to slowly stretch out the muscles in your shoulder and chest. Hold for a period and then repeat on the other side.

Help the muscles in your chest rebuild some circulation and movement after heavy lifting exercises and push-ups.

Abdomen and Arm Stretch

Lie flat on the floor on your stomach. Have your hands in the pushup position at your sides and your toes pointed together behind you. Lift up your body, keeping your legs straight and your toes pointed. Look upwards and stretch your arms and torso with this movement. You should feel a gentle pulling in your abs and arms together.

Simple movements like this help to stabilize your body, bringing it back to a place of peace, and reenergizing your body after a strenuous workout. Don’t ignore this step and your body will thank you well after your routines are done.

5 Post-Workout Drinks to Recover Faster and Build More Muscle

After your intense workout, you have a small window of opportunity to effectively refuel your body. Studies have shown that there is a 45-minute timeframe when your body can effectively absorb nutrients like carbohydrates and proteins.

You could use this time to get a high protein meal, or try and cook up a delicious dish of the carbohydrates and sugars that your body is craving.

A better solution would be to grab a power-packed post-workout drink that gives your body a quick intake of those nutrients. A post-workout drink could be the key to getting past the next plateau of your workout schedule.

Try one of these delicious post-workout drinks to revitalize your body.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

Right after your workout, your body is looking for fuel to break down into the building blocks it needs to build up tissue. Try this powerful smoothie with a burst of flavor and a punch of protein.

Add 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder, 1 cup of water or unsweetened almond milk, ice, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. Throw in ½ cup of cottage cheese and blend together until smooth.

This drink gives you 40 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbohydrates in one gulp.

Banana Nut Blend

Bananas are a great source of potassium that keeps your muscles from cramping and helps your sensory system communicate better. Use a banana in this recipe for those benefits plus a flavor-enhancer.

Add 1 banana, 1 teaspoon of organic honey, 1/4 cup rolled oats, ½ cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and ice. Blend until smooth.

This drink will give your body a hit of 15 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbs. Your body needs the carbs to build up energy reserves and so that it doesn’t break down muscle tissue for that energy.

Nutty Nectar

Nuts are your best friend after a workout because of how much protein and good natural fats they contain. They are rich in the sorts of nutrients you need for quick recovery.

1 scoop of a protein powder of your choice (chocolate, vanilla…etc.)

To this, add a handful of walnuts, a handful of raw almonds, 1/3 cup of cottage cheese, water and ice. You could even add a couple spoonsful of ground flaxseed for an added protein boost. Blend until smooth.

Berry Blast Protein Smoothie

Berries are a super food that tastes great and are easy to add to anything you’re already eating. Throwing in berries just makes sense for an after-exercise drink that will swiftly restore your energy levels. The berries also add glycogen to your blood which is an added bonus.

Add 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder, 1 cup of almond or low-fat milk, ½ a frozen banana and 1 cup of frozen berries. Blend until smooth and add water if needed.

The frozen banana and berries give this a rich and thick texture that feels great after a hard session at the gym.

Chocolate Milk

You shouldn’t use chocolate milk as your go-to drink every time, but as a reward for a particularly grueling session, it’s an excellent post-workout drink. It also gives you the bonus of restoring your glycogen levels and hitting you with fast-absorbing whey proteins. It will rehydrate you as well as any other drink, but it’s best used in moderation, and not as a daily recovery system.

So, there you have it. There are some quick and simple drinks that help boost your immune system, build up your muscle, drive up your energy levels, and push you on the way to a speedy recovery. Plan your diet regime after doing post workout and you’ll see faster results every time.

Heavy Weights vs. Higher Reps: What Works Better for a Shredded Body? Backed by Science

If you always wanted to lose weight and gain muscle, there are countless ways to get that toned physique, but there are even more people advising the best way to achieve it.

No matter what you hear, it’s always going to come down to: do you lift heavier weights or do more reps?

Currently, the thought is that more reps of a lower weight will tone your body, giving you that long, lean look that many crave. Women especially love to buy into the hype that 35 reps of a 5 lb. free-weight will tone their arms without building muscle mass.

Women especially love to buy into the hype that 35 reps of a 5 lb. free-weight will tone their arms without building muscle mass.

The other side of the coin is those who want to build muscle mass. They think that fewer reps of an extremely heavy weight will build up greater mass and look bigger on their bodies.

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So, if the goal is to get that shredded, tight body with well-defined muscles, what approach should you take?

Let’s look at the science.

To start, we need to first understand what it takes to get that shredded body. It’s really a combination of two elements. You need to build up your muscles and have a substantial fat loss program in place.

So, we need to look at how the weights vs. reps battle play out on both of these elements.

Muscle Growth

It’s thought that if your goal is to build muscle mass, the optimal rep ratio is to lift a set of 6-12 reps at 60-80% of your maximum weight level. It seems that the magic number is to keep the reps under 15 per set with at least a 2-minute rest in between.

That thought hasn’t been conclusive by any means. The reality is that a recent study was conducted on athletes who were split into two groups. The first group performed lower reps of a heavy weight while the second worked on higher reps of lower weights.

In both cases, the muscle proteins were used as a way to determine muscle growth. Neither way proved to be more effective than the other.

A major factor in building up muscle mass is diet and calorie consumption. In other words, you could lift heavy weights, and if you’re not eating enough calories, you’ll never put on an ounce of muscle mass.

Fat Loss

It’s well-known that weight lifting can achieve the goal of fat loss when combined with good diet control, but does lifting fewer reps have an effect on fat loss? Do heavier weights bulk your body up, as some would lead you to believe?

There’s reason to be uncertain.

In another study, two groups of dieters were given two different exercise programs. In one program, the participants were asked to simply lift heavy weights in cooperation with their diets.

In the other group, they performed lower rep exercise and more cardio work. In both cases, the groups lost weight, although the weight lifters lost fat while the cardio group lost both fat and muscle mass.

Weights vs. Reps: The Conclusion

So, what’s all that have to say about your goal of getting shredded? You’re best to consider a goal of moderating fat loss with muscle gain. The sweet spot of bodybuilders and top athletes focuses on doing 6-12 reps of a weight of 60-70% of their maximum weight.

This way, they can build endurance, develop defined muscles and lose the fat exclusively from their bodies.

There is no hard and fast rule concerning this dilemma, but for optimal results, a combination of two should see you define your muscles and make them pop from your body.