Whether toning your body or losing weight, working target areas such as your stomach; or whether you just want to beef yourself up from calves to deltoids, gaining muscle mass is an exercise in caution.
For any muscle group workout, your pose, form and moves require mastery in order to avoid injury: hyperextensions, torn muscles, herniated discs in your back...
The intelligent athlete avoids ineffective effort – Anonymous
It is not uncommon to see people at the gym mistreat or abuse their body through ignorance of exercise science.
You will find them at the doctor's office too, after such a session.
All of those motivated individuals, actively working toward what they hope will be muscle mass increase! Who forget to warm up, who jump right into the most strenuous isometrics – plank, anyone? Who stretch further than they are conditioned to...
All those hopefuls who are in fact racing toward a lumbar injury!
That is why it is vital to undergo a fitness assessment before beginning any training regimen. Ideally, anyone at beginner's level of fitness would engage in a personal training program, at least at the outset.
Developing your musculature has little to do with the ability to lift laden barbells. A physical training program should condition your entire body, from your pectorals to your legs.
Why, you ask?
Imagine a ripped torso and fine glutes atop spindly chicken legs.
In this article we've put together all of the best counsel from Superprof fitness trainers in one handy guide for you to follow.
Read on to learn the proper way to build your muscles and tone your body.
Focus on the Dorsals
The latest statistics show that gym membership is up 44% even though fewer people actually go to the gym.
Wearable devices function as virtual personal trainers, meaning that, nationally, more UK athletes are running, swimming and biking to get fit.
This functional training should go hand in hand with building muscle mass.
Why Tone the Dorsals?
Along with proper nutrition, body sculpting – a toned, fit figure, is essential to a positive self-image.
Feeling good about yourself leads to better physical and mental health.
Besides, engaging in physical activity can help prevent cardiovascular disease.
An essential part of health maintenance would undoubtedly be developing and strengthening your back muscles.
Back pain sufferers will attest that every movement involves your back, from cervical to lumbar vertebrae and every muscle in between.
They will further tell you that injuring your back will lead to loss of sleep, nerve compression and its associated pain; reduced flexibility or, even worse: loss of mobility.
And, of course, all of the stress and anxiety that comes from lowered productivity at work – possibly resulting in loss of income.
Thus it is imperative to have a strong back. You can work yours by developing these seven muscles:
- lattimus dorsi – lats
- spinalis sets – muscles along vertebrae
- teres minor and major
Working your lats permits more efficient breathing, and works with the trapezoids to maintain erect posture.
Any corrective exercise that strengthens your back will improve mobility and even your sense of well-being.
Strength and conditioning of your thoracic muscles permits greater air intake and oxygen flow to every muscle through capillary action, giving you more energy.
Another benefit of strong muscles in your back: preventing lumbar injuries/pain – the number one complaint of back pain sufferers.
Precautions to Take while Exercising:
- keep your back straight
- bend at the knee to pick something up, rather than at the waist
- warm up prior to exercising: ride a bike, do some aerobics, maybe even jump rope
- avoid hyper-extension
- do not stretch/reach further than your body is currently capable of
- breathe out through your mouth, pushing with your stomach muscles
- protect your lower back at all times, even while walking!
- do cool-down stretches after every workout
Six Recommended Exercises to Strengthen Back Muscles
- the low pulley draft
- pull-ups (also known as chin-ups)
- dumbbell shrugs
- pelvic lifts and planking – lumbar strengtheners
- rowing machines – standup and sitting models
- back pulldown
Working your back muscles will make it easier to tone and flatten your stomach, reinforce connective tissues like ligaments and tendons, extender muscles around your spinal column, and will help stabilise groin and pelvic muscles.
Get the best fitness classes near me on Superprof.
Work Your Abs Smarter, Not Harder
The weekend gym enthusiast says: “Nothing to working your abs! Sit-ups are all you need.” - wrong!
The resolution-buster says: “I was a proper pig this holiday season! I need to lose my belly fat.” - wrong again!
The wishful thinker says: “I would love to have titanium abs instead of this swinging gut...” - wrong for the third time!
Personal fitness training is a whole-body experience that can target specific areas, not the wish for a specific area to appear fit at the expense of your overall well-being.
Let Us Delve Again into Exercise Science
Before working your abs, you should know what muscles to target. They are the transverse and rectus abdominis, and internal and external obliques.
To get the desired abs effect, namely: that six-pak everyone so covets, the most important advice any fitness trainer could give is to work within your physical capabilities.
A certified fitness professional would first gauge the strength of your abdominals with three tests:
- the Shirado-Ito pose – a modified crunch position where your thighs are perpendicular to the floor
- the Sorensen test, otherwise known as the extensor muscles test
The last is meant for beginner level; those who are just starting out on their fitness trek.
The modified crunch is for intermediate level; those who have already attained a measure of health and fitness.
The Sorensen is generally incorporated into workout routines for the most developed athletes; those at competition level or who play sports professionally.
The biomechanics of abdominal muscles does not permit to work them any which way.
Anyone certified in exercise physiology will be quick to tell you that building stomach muscles requires a great deal of caution, endurance, and incremental work.
A personal trainer would impress these four rules for working abs during circuit training:
- Do not brace your feet, especially if you are doing sit-ups with legs extended.
- Do not lace your fingers at the nape of your neck.
- The preferable form is to place fists behind your ears
- Do not relax stomach muscles during reps; always flex and stretch them
- beware of spine curvature; always pull shoulders back for proper posture.
Stomach muscles are so vital that one could almost say: flex your little finger and your abs will twinge.
Of course, that is an exaggeration, but the hyperbole shows how important it is to work your abs every day.
Please shelve for now your dream of being really cut, unless your personal trainer has already certified you at intermediary fitness level or higher.
Instead, try these low-impact exercises:
- Before getting out of bed, do a few sit-ups with legs extended and knees firmly together.
- Before going to bed, stretch your torso from side to side, 5 or 10 times per rep, and hold the pose for thirty seconds each side before finishing
- laying flat on your back, breathe deeply and then expel the air, using your stomach muscles to force it all out.
- Keep tension on your stomach muscles while you walk or jog.
One final piece of advice: ask your fitness education specialist to demonstrate proper breathing techniques.
How to Develop Firm Thighs
Is your back nice and loose; your stomach good and tight?
Let's move on down to your legs, now.
Cellulite is the number one ruiner of toned thighs
To vanquish it, you don't need any particular fitness program or even strength training.
Sometimes, a few sessions on an elliptical will do...
Continuing education in personal fitness indicates that sculpting and toning your thighs can be done at home or in a gym: an aerobic workout or simply kicking a bag, fueled by adrenaline, will work.
The first step in a good thigh workout is warm-ups!
The long thigh muscles need good blood flow and stretching before working them to avoid any injury such as avulsion or tears.
Sports medicine experts aver that the greatest cause of muscle damage occurs when there is too large a temperature difference between the quads and hamstrings.
A certified personal trainer would advocate conditioning the tissue with a warm up routine prior to working those muscles.
And, while doing squats to work your quadriceps, you would be working your glutes, too!
To prepare your thigh muscles for intensive exercise, you could:
- do a few short-stride laps
- raise your heel to your glutes – at least, as close as possible, and hold
- alternate those with other leg stretches, including flexing your abductor muscles
At the risk of being monotonous, let us remind you of what any fitness industry expert would tell you:
Keep your back straight, posture firm and head raised, as though looking toward the horizon.
Again, Superprof fitness trainers pitch in to compile this non-exhaustive list of exercises they would recommend to their in-home clients and those at the gym:
- the deadlift
- resistance training
Besides these, there are plenty of other strength training exercises to sculpt sexy thighs!
How About Those Hamstrings?
Often neglected, frequently overlooked: anyone working out without an online personal trainer seldom considers that muscle group.
Kinesiology experts are adamant that they must be worked at least as well as the quadriceps because hamstrings are vital to proper knee function and leg movement.
Picture tight glutes and jiggly legs: doesn't that make you want to get your personal trainer certification, just so you can balance that look?
Any training program that works only particular aspects of the body while disregarding others dangerous.
A V-shaped upper body carried on rickety legs could actually cause a handicap.
Why would anyone practice bodybuilding and neglect to cultivate the ability to scoop a set of dumbbell off the floor?
Every health fitness specialist will tell you that you must absolutely work your hamstrings because they are tied into hip and knee movement and flexibility.
Supple hamstrings guarantee mobility and pliability, even for senior fitness!
To incorporate healthy hamstrings into your fitness goals, you only need to work them, much as you would your quads.
That suggests learning good stretching and flexing techniques from your fitness instructor.
As a bonus for your leg workout routine, our fitness training experts recommend including the following into your training sessions.
Place one foot on a chair, the other stays flat on the floor with knee slightly bent. Slowly bend your torso forward.
You should feel a pull in the back of the standing leg.
Change sides, and do again.
This exercise program is most beneficial if done without strain, several reps at a time.
Another excellent exercise targeted to that area is called the hurdler's stretch.
In spite of all your motivation, when you first start your health and fitness regimen, it may well feel like torture.
Not to worry: anyone engaged in personal training will assure you that feeling will pass, especially if you have a mate to train with and motivate you.
Whether you are a part of a group fitness initiative or individualized personal training sessions, you are sure to become healthier by incorporating these training techniques into your workouts:
- the glute-ham raise
- squats with (or without) dumbbells
- the deadlift with straight legs
- leg curls
- thigh presses
- pelvic lifts
You need the knowledge of sound nutritional practices, too! Don't forget about eating right...
If your exercise programs – in the gym, at home or both, include these moves, you are sure to achieve your goals of toning and sculpting your body! Search Superprof for a "personal trainer near me" now.