Are You Looking For Weight Training Basics To Get a Sculpted Body?

Form + Weight Training = Body Sculpting

Being a fitness enthusiast for God knows how many years, I get worked up when people do not employ proper form in their exercises. This article is an attempt to highlight technique. Each muscle needs to be focused on and targeted to sculpt it. I have divided this article in two parts. This one will focus on the nuances of FORM, starting with the right standing posture to weight training. Also included are :

  • Human Anatomy
  • Types of Muscle Contractions
  • Joint Movements
  • Muscle Groups
  • Basic Rules in Weight Training

The next one will detail the proper engagement of the right muscles for each type of weight training exercise. If they are combined, I doubt anyone will have the patience to absorb so much information. This is particularly useful for beginners, who may not be well-educated on the dos and don’ts of weight training. I have spoken to fitness professionals in detail to get the facts right.

Reading, absorbing and implementing what we all read on fitness are three different things. I firmly believe that in order to stay fit and in shape, we have to understand fitness and not merely follow a trainers’s instructions. Towards that, I would encourage readers that need this information, to make out a chart for themselves. Haven’t we heard that writing makes it perfect? So here, when you make your own chart, the chances of the information getting registered and recollected at a later time for implementation are much higher.

There is more to weight loss and body sculpting than merely lifting weights. There is FORM, which means employing the right technique and posture during weight training. If you have been relentlessly lifting weights for your upper body and yet there is a gap between the physique you want and your mirror image, then you better review the way you are doing weight training.

good Standing posture, mythoughtlane

Image courtesy : Pinterest

Before we go on to exercise specific muscle…….

Good posture is the body’s alignment with respect to gravity that we can never do away with. So posture is a given at every moment of our life, whether we are sitting, standing, moving or lying down. Our joints, ligaments and muscles are forever in conversation with gravity. Best not to interrupt them if you want to look good and feel good.

Try this posture test: When viewed from the side, an imaginary vertical line should pass through your earlobe, the tip of your shoulder, midway through your trunk, over the bony part of your thigh, and then through both your knee and ankle. If there is any deviation from this alignment, like if your ears are in front of your shoulders or your shoulders roll toward your chest, you are set for potential injury.

Did you know just sitting and standing in correct posture can burn a few calories? When you maintain proper posture, your muscles are being worked to maintain the alignment of the body, thereby adding to your calorie burn. Resistance exercises or weight training when carried out in proper posture are more effective in toning the body and avoiding injuries. Most injuries in the gym are caused by improper posture and bad form.

Ramona Braganza, the celebrity trainer has this to say – “Lift (weights) slower with control, connecting your mind to the move”. In fact, proper form and technique matters, in whatever you lift, at the gym, home or on your shopping sprees. Till you are sure of the form, do not increase the weight or the number of repetitions during your workouts. Breathe correctly, don’t hold your breath lifting weights. Exhale as you lift weights and inhale as you lower them.

Technique

A few things we should all know:

Learn Some Anatomy :

When you know the basic structure of bones and muscles in your body, you are able to connect each exercise move with the targeted muscles. You can then engage those muscles appropriately, thereby reaping better results.

Full body muscles human anatomy mythoughtlane

Image courtesy : Internet

Types of Muscle Contractions:

Isometric contraction

Image courtesy : Internet

Isometric contractions: when the muscle does not lengthen.

An example of this is, pushing against a wall.

Isotonic Contractions : when the muscle length changes. The shortening phase is called Concentric contraction while the lengthening is termed Eccentric contraction.

Concentric & Eccentric Contractions

Image courtesy : Internet

Joint Movements :  Muscle contractions and joint movements go in tandem. There are four important joint movements – flexion, extension, abduction and adduction (not addiction!!!!)

Flexion – when the angle at the joint is decreased, as in when you raise a dumbbell upwards.

Extension – when the angle at the joint increases, as you lower the dumbbell.

Flexion & Extension

Image : teachmeanatomy

Abduction – when you move a body part away from the middle of the body towards a side or above. Eg; when you raise leg outwards.

Adduction – when you bring the raised leg back again.

adduction-and-abduction

Image : teachmeanatomy

A peek into the muscle groups :

  1. Deltoids (shoulder) – anterior / mid / posterior
  2. Trapezius
  3. Pectorals (chest)
  4. Latissimus (back)
  5. Biceps
  6. Triceps

Rule #1: No muscle ever works in isolation. While one muscle is targeted for workout, corresponding surround muscles also get the benefit. For instance, shoulder muscles are put to work in every upper body exercise.

Rule #2: At any given point while weight training, the neck has to be neutral, not protruding, not pulled backwards. Chin to be tucked in.

Rule #3: The ideal ratio of lifting to lowering is 2:1:2:1 for beginners. Intermediate and advanced can use the 2:0:2:0.

Rule #4: Beginners should start with lighter weights till they get the form right. It is very likely for form to be compromised when beginners try to lift heavy weights.

Rule #5: Breathing is as important as proper form. Exhale when you exert (lift weights ) and inhale when you lower weights.

Rule #6: The rep math to keep in mind is to start with 10-12 repetitions per set.

My next post will contain instructions on engaging the right muscles for the targeted exercise of the upper body. Till then (which could be tomorrow), happy gymming. Season to eat and make merry of course, but if you have shopped for new clothes for Christmas and New Year’s Eve and want them to fit you well, you know what to do !!!!

Ciao!

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Why not to Bounce on Treadmill , Elliptical or Bicycle

Proper Posture + Workouts = Weight Loss 

Intro pic

Stand up straight and lose pounds ! Sit up straight and lose pounds ! Its true ! You got to believe in this happy marriage of good posture / form and weight loss. Health and fitness professionals will tell you that keeping good posture will not only strengthen your core , but will also add a small calorie burn associated with the effort to maintain the posture or position.

In fitness lingo , posture is most often referred to as FORM and form is what we will stick to. Lets look at form and cardio.

Lets leave aside the definitions for now.

Lets categorize a lil bit here. Those that love cardio exercise per se , those that know the importance of it and push themselves to do it and those that hate cardio , but yet do it because either a friend or a trainer has impressed upon them that cardio is the key to weight loss. What they havent learnt is that there is a form ( posture ) to be followed for cardio exercises just like for weight training , swimming or any other physical activity.

So these are the ones that bounce , bob up and down and swing , be it indoor or outdoor ; trust me , they look like monkeys on a machine ! I feel bad to see them doing it wrong , it bothers me no end . Either the trainer has not educated them on proper form or has given up after correcting them a few times. And they have not concerned themselves to ask , question and learn either. It’s just a blind activity for them.

You think I am obsessed with appearances only ? Nah. Not keeping proper form hurts. Injures the joints over a period of time , in some unfortunate cases , immediately.

So why not to bounce on an elliptical , treadmill or the stationary bike ?

Bouncing is letting gravity do the work for one. Is that why you are not seeing the desired results ? Fitness experts scream that heart rate is not the only indicator of how much work you are doing , but few listen. Power measurement is much better.

Work out in front of a mirror and if that’s not possible , have someone watch you for proper form and correct yourself.

Form dos for all the Three :

  • Stay tall , be it on the treadmill , elliptical or the cycling machines.
  • Stay tall , but no straight knees at any point , be it walking , running or cycling.
  • Keep your chest out , never rounded
  • Pull your shoulders back to hold yourself erect , never round them.
  • Keep your head in line with the spine. Most of the time.
  • Hold your ab muscles firm and tight at all times
  • A television in front of you kills form like nothing else , don’t make watching it the main activity.

If you bounce :

Treadmill :

Danger zone : Knees , hips and ankles.

You probably are raising your feet and knees too high and thereby creating a bobbing movement. Your knees , hips and ankles will hate you for being forced to absorb the impact when you bounce-walk or bounce-run. If you want your legs to keep you in good stead , you will need all the three joints – hips , knees and ankles , so don’t injure them. Next , nerve tissues can get compressed and fail to communicate with the brain. We don’t want pain , we don’t want mobility issues. Third , swinging your hips is for dancing when you move your entire body in a graceful stance and not while exercising on machines. Swinging while exercising can in fact rob you of the intended benefits of the particular workout , for it takes away the focus of the exertion that’s intended for a specific body part or muscle.

Guide to form on treadmill

Guide to form on treadmill

Correction :

Mind your stride : Practice maintaining a wide stride , placing each foot forward in front of the hip and not under it. Though the treadmill is stationary , we need to focus on creating a forward movement , as if progressing from the current spot.

Strike with the ball : The secret of avoiding injuries is to land on the balls of the feet and not the heels. Striking with the heels can place a lot of stress on the ankles as you will land with a mild or a strong thud depending on your pace. So land lightly , brushing the moving belt gently coupled with knees slightly bent. All this will create a smooth movement preventing a spring back action , thereby avoiding the bouncing.

Elliptical :

Danger zone : Lower back , hips , knees and ankles.

You probably are on your toes more , you are not distributing your weight on your entire feet. If feet are placed firmly with a just a slight lift at the heels , bouncing can be avoided.

You probably have set the resistance too low and the ease of the movement will allow room for bouncing. Swinging hips again a no-no. Maintaining a proper upper body posture plays an important role in avoiding injuries to the lower back.

Correction:

Foot postioning on an elliptical is of utmost importance. Place feet firmly close to the inside rim of the pedals. Avoid placing them in the center or at the extreme right.

Make sure the legs are bent slightly in order to spare your knees of any strain.

Next , hold on to the bars lightly , just enough to facilitate push and pull movement – clutching on to them will hinder your pace. Make sure hands are not above shoulder level. Avoid leaning backwards at all costs. Some trainers and cardio programs will tell you to lean back while pedaling , but do not follow that. Use only the arms and shoulders for the push and pull movements , take care not to twist your upper and mid portions of your body. Finally , set a good enough resistance to make the time you spend on the elliptical worth the effort you put in.

Targeted muscles on an elliptical

Targeted muscles on an elliptical

Just check out the number of muscles that benefit when you work out on an elliptical. So doing it right is like a whole body workout.

Cycling :

It’s easy to pedal fast indoors , the mechanics of the indoor bike is such. Fixed gear systems with weighted flywheels simplify it so much that high cadences can be reached most easily compromising form in the process and as a result cyclists bounce all over the place. Unless you become a stickler for form , reaching your fitness goals will remain a dream. Indoor cycling provides some fantastic benefits , its simple and safe , provided proper form is maintained.

Danger zone : Lower back , knees.

Sufficient resistance is the key to getting the best out of indoor cycling. You could pedal away as furiously as you fancy and bounce all over the saddle , if you don’t set the right resistance. Your heart rate may be high , but the fact is , you are being ridden by the bike instead of you riding the bike ! Just letting the legs spin as fast as you can is a waste of time and can put tremendous strain on your calf and quadricep muscles. On a spinning cycle indoors or regular bicycling outdoors , be assured of a back pain if you slouch and forget to tuck your tummy in.

Correction:

The answer to success on an indoor cycle lies in that resistance knob! And the technique !

Be in control. Seat your self with tummy tucked in and shoulders and upper back rounded just enough to reach the handl-bars comfortably , not more.

Warm up with easy resistance , work it to moderate and then on , enough to challenge you.

Concern yourself with the right form and the right resistance depending on your fitness level , let speed not be the guiding force. An upper limit could be 100 rpm , but that’s only for cyclists with a smooth pedal stroke or for those that have corrected their form already.

For best results , shift your focus from pushing downward ( that’s a natural given , we have all done that on our tricycles ) to pulling upwards pedal stroke.

If at any point you revert to bouncing , raise the resistance and reach a cadence that just about surpasses your comfort zone

Here’s to riding better !

Cycling right

Cycling right

A Tip : Cycling – Cardio For Your Butt

Cycling works wonders for hips , thighs and glutes ( indoor or outdoor ) , besides working the heart.

Here we go : Lead with your heels when you push down on the pedals i.e keep your feet parallel to the ground and not slanted. This way you engage the glutes.

Make an effort to pull up the pedal on the upward swing if your feet are strapped.

Working on the above tips ensures you give work to all muscles of the legs.

Add Isolations : Increase resistance , lift yourself off the seat and slowly pedal using only the legs. Remember no bouncing , no swaying and swinging and upper body relaxed.

I try this FORM once a weak at least and I find that I burn more calories get a good-legs-have-worked-out feeling

FORM is IMPORTANT ! And finally I am tempted to insert this little ad-video to stress on FORM FOR ALL !