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What Is My Core, Exactly?

Posted: 02/13/2014

What are the muscles in my core?  Just my abs, right?  WRONG!  There are many muscles included in the true core besides the abs!  Learn what they are and some exercises that you can do to strengthen them!

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Lose Your Fear of Lifting

Posted: 04/25/2011

Lose Your Fear of Lifting
Just because you're not vying for 20-inch biceps or thunderously strong thighs like the muscle heads in the gym doesn't mean you should shun the weight room. Lifting weights gives you an edge over belly fat, stress, heart disease, and cancer.
Here are 11 reasons you shouldn't live another day without hitting the weights:
1. You'll lose 40 percent more fat.
If you think cardio is the key to blasting belly fat, keep reading: When Penn State researchers put dieters into three groups—no exercise, aerobic exercise only, or aerobic exercise and weight training—they all lost around 21 pounds, but the lifters shed six more pounds of fat than those who didn't pump iron. Why? The lifters' loss was almost pure fat; the others lost fat and muscle.  Other research on dieters who don't lift shows that, on average, 75 percent of their weight loss is from fat, while 25 percent is from muscle. Muscle loss may drop your scale weight, but it doesn't improve your reflection in the mirror and it makes you more likely to gain back the flab you lost. However, if you weight train as you diet, you'll protect your hard-earned muscle and burn more fat.
2. Your clothes will fit better.
Research shows that between the ages of 30 and 50, you'll likely lose 10 percent of your body's total muscle. Worse yet, it's likely to be replaced by fat over time, says a study. And that increases your waist size, because one pound of fat takes up 18 percent more space than one pound of muscle.
3. You'll burn more calories.
Lifting increases the number of calories you burn while your butt is parked on the couch. That's because after each strength workout, your muscles need energy to repair their fibers. In fact, researchers found that when people did a total-body workout with just three big-muscle moves, their metabolisms were raised for 39 hours afterward. They also burned a greater percentage of calories from fat compared with those who didn't lift.
4. Your diet will improve.
Exercise helps your brain stick to a diet plan. University of Pittsburgh researchers studied 169 overweight adults and found that those who didn't follow a three-hours-a-week training regimen ate more than their allotted 1,500 calories a day. The reverse was also true— sneaking snacks sabotaged their workouts. The study authors say both diet and exercise likely remind you to stay on track, aiding your weight-loss goals.
5. You'll handle stress better.
Break a sweat in the weight room and you'll stay cool under pressure. Scientists determined that the fittest people exhibited lower levels of stress hormones than those who were the least fit. Another study found that after a stressful situation, the blood pressure levels of people with the most muscle returned to normal faster than the levels of those with the least muscle.
6. You'll be happier.
Yoga isn't the only Zen-inducing kind of exercise. Researchers found that people who performed three weight workouts a week for six months significantly improved their scores on measures of anger and overall mood.
7. You'll build stronger bones.
As you age, bone mass goes to pot, which increases your likelihood of one day suffering a debilitating fracture. The good news: A study found that 16 weeks of resistance training increased hip bone density and elevated blood levels of osteocalcin—a marker of bone growth—by 19 percent.
8. You'll get into shape faster.
The term cardio shouldn't describe only aerobic exercise: A study found that circuit training with weights raises your heart rate 15 beats per minute higher than if you ran at 60 to 70 percent of your max heart rate. This approach strengthens muscles and provides cardiovascular benefits similar to those of aerobic exercise— so you save time without sacrificing results.
9. Your heart will be healthier.
Researchers at the University of Michigan found that people who did three total-body weight workouts a week for two months decreased their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by an average of eight points. That's enough to reduce the risk of a stroke by 40 percent and the chance of a heart attack by 15 percent.
10. You'll be way more productive.
Lifting could result in a raise (or at least a pat on the back from your boss). Researchers found that workers were 15 percent more productive on days they exercised compared with days they didn't. So on days you work out, you can (theoretically) finish in eight hours what would normally take nine hours and 12 minutes. Or you'd still work for nine hours but get more done, leaving you feeling less stressed and happier with your job—another perk reported on days workers exercised.
11. You'll live longer.
University of South Carolina researchers determined that total-body strength is linked to lower risks of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Similarly, other scientists found that being strong during middle age is associated with "exceptional survival," defined as living to the age of 85 without developing a major disease.
Beat High Blood Pressure!
Along with exercising and losing weight, revamping your diet can help you get your blood pressure under control.  To lower your numbers, you’ll want to give these food groups a starring role in your meals and snacks:  
  • Vegetables, Fruits, and Legumes—A high intake of plant foods is definitively linked to lower incidence of high blood pressure.  Produce contributes fiber, potassium, and magnesium, three nutrients that have been associated with lower blood pressure. 
  • Whole Grains—A 2009 study showed that men with the highest intake of whole grains had about a 20% lower risk of developing high blood pressure compared to men with the lowest intake of whole grains.  Similar results have been found in women. 
  • Low-Fat Dairy—A diet that includes 2 to 3 daily servings of low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, has been shown to aid in blood pressure control.  Researchers aren’t yet sure what ingredients in dairy foods are responsible for the benefit—it may be the calcium or vitamin D, the milk proteins, or some combination of these ingredients. 
  • Lean Proteins—For overall heart health, choose proteins that are low in saturated fat, such as fish and shellfish, skinless poultry, lean meat, and egg whites.  In addition, go out of your way to add more vegetarian proteins—including beans, lentils, and soy foods like tofu and edamame—to your meals.  Some research shows that plant proteins are more beneficial for lowering blood pressure than animal proteins. 
  • Healthy Fats—Substituting some of the carbohydrate—particularly refined carbs like white bread, white pasta, and sweets—in the diet for heart-healthy fats has been shown to reduce blood pressure.  The best sources of quality fats are nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish (like salmon and sardines), and olive and canola oil.
Low-Fat Soy Muffins
  • 1 cup soy flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup Stevia baking blend
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup protein powder of choice
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or other low-fat variety of your choice)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together first 6 ingredients.
  3. In another bowl, mix together banana, applesauce and almond milk.
  4.  Add banana mixture to flour mixture and stir until well combined, but do not over mix.
  5. Spoon mixture into a muffin tin sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes. Allow muffins to cool before serving.
Calories: 250 or 2.5 food weights, Total Fats: 3 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 40 mg, Sodium: 55 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 27 g, Dietary Fiber: 4 g, Sugars: 9 g, Protein: 27 g, Iron: 2 mg
Weighted Ball Crunch
Target Muscle: rectus abdominis
Set Up: Lie on stability ball holding a medicine ball or dumbbell with your arms above your head and close to your ears [A].
Action: Contract your abs and exhale while moving into a sit-up position, keeping the weight above your head [B]. Inhale while returning to the start position and repeat.
Set Up: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart and extend your arms above your head (with or without a weight).
Action: Exhale while slowly lifting your shoulders off the floor. Inhale while returning to the start position and repeat.
Do three sets of 15 reps. Feature
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