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5 exercises (using a ball) to strengthen your core

I love the summer. Summer holidays, eating ice cream, sunbathing, eating ice cream… And this summer we really were spoilt. It was glorious. Unfortunately, like for so many of us, it impacted my waistline in a less than glorious way!

So I got together with fellow home specialist Personal Trainer, *Becki (Happy Healthy Fitness) to pick five of our favourite core exercises to help re-tone my abs and get me back in athletic shape. Once we selected them we realised we could make all of them even ‘better’ with one simple addition… A ball.

But before we reveal our favourites, we must first answer one burning question;

Why do we need a strong core?

Stabilization. The primary function of your core is stability. Every time we move, our muscles contract to keep us balanced. A stronger core generally translates to having better balance and movement potential.

Having a strong core isn’t the same as having a 6 pack. Yes, if you have a 6 pack you will likely have a strong core, but more importantly you have a low enough body fat percentage to display said muscles. You don’t have to have a ‘6 pack’ to have a strong core. Focusing on crunches or sit ups won’t do much for reducing waistline fat, but core exercises will certainly help increase strength and endurance, in order, to perform other fat burning exercises more effectively to reduce body fat percentage. If you want to improve your 10k time, strengthening your core has proven positive effects. So, for me (and you), having a strong core is of paramount importance to get trim in time for all the Xmas trimmings.

To improve core strength and function we must challenge it across different planes of movement; twisting, forward and back, side to side. How do we do this? Grab a friend and a ball and try these 5 exercises.

Why use a ball?
Twisting

Twisting helps recruit more than just the rectus abdominus. Internal and external obliques are largely ignored when doing standard crunches. Incorporating twisting into your ab workout helps bring the obliques into play.

Static Holds

Performing a static exercise, like the plank, is a fantastic exercise for stabilization. It forces multiple muscles (including the deep lying transverse abdominus, multifidus and pelvic floor) to contract at the same time and stay contracted. This increases muscle time under tension, helping increase muscle strength and endurance. Bringing a ball into the action adds an extra challenge for your muscles to maintain their contraction whilst supporting muscles flex and relax.

Fun

Doing sit ups is boring! Playing catch is more fun. It can also add another competitive element; see how many catches you can do in a minute / test which fails first, your core or your catch.

Hand eye coordination

I’m a huge advocate for functional training. Real world training. Training to be healthy and fit, rather than just to ‘look’ good.

Being athletic > being aesthetic.

Being able to throw, catch and react to movements are some of the basic building blocks for a number of sports. Having good hand eye coordination is essential for almost every sporting activity.

Can do it anywhere

If you’ve got children, chances are you’ve got a ball. If you don’t, it’s not hard to get yourself a ball. You don’t need to wrestle traffic and get to the gym. You don’t even need a garden (maybe don’t play catch near to that priceless antique that’s always placed dangerously close to the edge of a shelf though). Any space over 2x3m will do the trick.

 

*Becki is available for at home personal training in Solihull and surrounding areas. Click here to check out her PT profile.

5 ways to stay motivated and hit your New Year fitness resolutions

  1. Walk before you can run

New Year, New You? Sound familiar? January is the time of year to dust off the gym wear and embrace the pain as your skin cries tears of sweat. Time to train… Full steam ahead. Right? Wrong! If you’re new to exercise or even just getting back into it after an extended break, it’s so important to remember to walk before you can run. Sometimes literally.

Let’s take running as an example. Running is great. I was county champion as a kid. Ran almost every day. I’d run 10 miles in an hour on a Sunday morning. At 32 years old, I’m not a kid anymore. If I went out on a 10-mile run at that pace this Sunday (well I wouldn’t be able to, but assume I give it a good bash) I wouldn’t be able to walk on Monday, and I’m a Personal Trainer who makes a living exercising and running with clients regularly.

Knowing your limits is different to not pushing yourself. Pushing too hard too soon is a sure-fire way to get injured. It’s also a great way to suffer from severe DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Hobbling around for days, all stiff and sore isn’t fun, and will inevitably impact your future motivation to train.

If we stick with the example of running, and you are a complete beginner, don’t be too proud to start off by combining walking and running in intervals. Interval training is a brilliant way of maximising your effort in a manageable way. Try running for a minute or two, walking for a minute or two. As you progress, either increase the speed, increase the time of each interval or increase the number of runs you do – or all three!

  1. Don’t ignore nutrition

A common mistake people make when resolving to shed the Xmas weight is to simply focus on exercise. It’s fantastic to (re?) introduce exercise into your lifestyle. But, it’s sadly not the only point of focus. Eating right is just as important – if not more so! You can exercise as much as you want, but if you eat rubbish all day long, it probably won’t get you much further than feeling like your exercise efforts are in vain.

Simply reverting back to pre-Xmas eating habits is an OK start (we all overindulge at Xmas and need to be reigned back in) assuming your aspirations end at returning to ‘normal’. If you have ambitions to go further, you need to put a stronger focus on the quality of food you’re putting into your body.

I’m not going to go into details about calorie counting – mainly because I don’t believe in it. It’s certainly not without merit, but in my experience, calorie counters focus too much on the calories in their food, rather than the quality of their food. For example, you might be limiting yourself to 1500 calories a day and think you are going great guns. But, if those calories are made up of microwave meals (and the like) I’m afraid you’re sadly mistaken. Fill your plate with vegetables and good quality, fresh, home-cooked food and you can relax your grip on the calorie counter and achieve even better results! Of course, I’m not saying if you cook it fresh you can eat as much as you want. I am, however, saying that it’s much healthier to fill up on vitamin packed vegetables than Chicago Town pizza.

The other point I want to make about nutrition is to not get down on yourself if you do ‘slip up’ or enjoy the occasional ‘treat’. Enjoying a treat is an important part of being fit and healthy. It’s a reward for all the hard work you are putting in. Being healthy is about living a healthy lifestyle. The key word here being lifestyle. If you enjoy chocolate- it’s entirely unreasonable to expect to cut it out of your life for good. Life should be enjoyed, and if you enjoy chocolate, you should be free to enjoy chocolate guilt free. Just consider moderation. A chocolate bar every day is unlikely to be reasonably considered as moderation. Enjoying a mars bar on a Friday night after a long hard week at work is much more deserving and justifiable. It’s about making sensible decisions based on the lifestyle you want.

  1. Focus on lifestyle and goals

We explored lifestyle briefly with nutrition in #2. Working out what sort of lifestyle you want to live is essential to deducing realistic short term and long-term goals. Claiming to want six pack abs, without a willingness to curb Friday nights drinking 10 pints of beer, is setting yourself up for failure. Much like planning to run a marathon doing only one training run a week is. Sure, we all know the fitness anomaly on Instagram or at work who’s ‘naturally athletic’ and ‘can do the bare minimum’ and still succeed. Unfortunately, those people are either lying or they really are the exception that proves the rule. If you are reading this blog, my dear friend, I’m afraid you probably aren’t one of them. And that’s absolutely, not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing. It’s a great thing. It means, you must work for your success, and when you achieve it, it will be that much more satisfying!

When setting a long-term goal, I like to split it up into numerous shorter-term goals. For example, if you can do one full press up and you want to do 50 – that’s a long-term goal. It’s not something you will achieve overnight. Start by aiming for five. Then 10. Etc etc. Losing weight works on the same principle. Let’s say you want to lose two stone. That’s 28 pounds. You aren’t going to do that in a month. Seven pounds a week every week for four weeks is incredibly unrealistic (unless you’re on ‘The Biggest Loser’ and have more than two stone to lose – and even the it’s a phenomenal achievement). Expecting to lose incredible numbers like that because you’ve seen someone else in T.V land is setting yourself up for failure and a sure-fire way of losing motivation quickly. General guidelines to healthy weight loss suggest aiming for two pounds a week. It might not sound like a lot (and yes of course you can do better), but two pounds a week, every week, will mean you’ve achieved your goal in 14 weeks. That’s just three months. From now, that’s basically Easter. I’m sure I’ve already seen Easter eggs in shops so it it’ll come around quick. Quick like a bunny you might say (if you’re like me and make terrible attempts at humour). In this case, your short-term goals are two pounds a week, with your long-term goal being two stone by Easter. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time focused – now that’s SMART!

  1. Make a plan

I love it when a plan comes together!

Planning your workouts and even writing a food diary is a great way to help maintain motivation and keep you on the success trail. We are all busy people. Whether it’s work, kids, or the incessant need to play ‘Football Manager 2018’, we all have constraints on our time. Creating a plan (and sticking to it) helps us navigate our way through the week to help keep us on track to achieve our goals. Sure, things crop up from time to time and said plan might need to be adjusted here and there, but as long as the results stay the same, flexibility isn’t a problem. When working out a plan, focus on what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by – and be sure to take into account your lifestyle (yes yes I know I’m all about lifestyle). If you plan of doing two-hour long workouts a week, but you work long days Monday to Friday, squeezing in sessions during the week might be unrealistic. Try doing them on the weekend. If that’s not an option, maybe you need to split the workouts into 30-minute sessions instead? However you want to play it, study your diary and make it work the way it best suits you. If you struggle to find time to cook every evening, have you considered pre-preparing food on another day and utilizing your freezer? It’s not just a place to show off where you’ve been on holiday.

  1. Hire a PT

If you want to ensure results, and avoid plateauing – hire a quality Personal Trainer. A good quality Personal Trainer will guide you through everything you need to help you achieve your goals. They will motivate you, teach you, and keep you accountable, to ensure you stay on the right track.

Do you need a Personal Trainer? Absolutely not. It is entirely possible to stay motivated and achieve results by yourself.

Should you hire a Personal Trainer? Absolutely you should. Put simply, everyone can benefit from professional assistance. Professional athletes have coaches. Usain Bolt didn’t train himself, he had a whole team he worked with to make sure he stayed on top. If the great Usain Bolt acknowledges the importance of working with a coach then, with all due respect, you probably should too!

Conveniently, I know a number of top quality Personal Trainers who come to your house or local park…Personal Training

The ‘Don’t Put Your Feet Up, Get Your Knees Up’ 20 minute HIIT Workout

Want to get your sweat on, but only got 15-20 minutes? A lot of people would claim defeat for the day and try again tomorrow. A lot of people would do that. You don’t have to one of them. Tomorrow never comes. Don’t use time (or lack thereof) as an excuse. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 20 minutes.

To achieve an effective workout in 20 minutes you need to abide to 1 rule – don’t waste time. That means no checking your phone, no toilet breaks, no distractions of any kind. It’s 20 minutes of pure unadulterated exercise. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Get it done.

And it couldn’t be simpler. 2 exercises. Performed back to back to back, until all the designated reps are finished.

  • High Knees
  • Mountain Climbers

Begin with 100 reps of each exercise. Take a 10-20 second recovery break. Then drop down to 90 reps each. Continue reducing reps by 10 each time until 0. That’s it. Simplicity thy name is [insert a more humorous or intelligent name for workout than the one I came up with here – outside of the allotted workout time of course].

Great fat burner, great cardio (without having to brave the winter cold), great ‘fun’…

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5 exercises you can do using a broom

Life on the road as a Personal Trainer can be tough; Unsociable working hours, traffic jams, favourite Little Mix song coming on the radio just as I pull up to a clients house so I miss it. It’s a journey fraught with obstacles, challenges and sacrifices. You might say it’s a job with 99 problems. Thankfully delivering home based personal training isn’t one.

Bringing a top class personal training to a client in the comfort of their own home is easy! It lends itself perfectly to creative trainers who don’t want to do basic, train by the numbers, workouts. Going to the gym is boring. Using the same equipment in the same ways, only changing orders of exercises or repetitions. Kill me now! Rather, drop me off at a clients house with nothing but a smile and a perfectly healthy appreciation for the lyrical genius of Katy Perry, and I’m right in my wheel house.

Why?

Because a good workout can be fun. It can be challenging. And most importantly it can be achievable for anyone, at anytime, in any place, with anything.

I got together with another Solihull Personal Trainer, Rajena (RK Fitness) to show you 5 awesome exercises YOU can do, at home, with something my wife insists is commonly used in housework (whatever that is!).

Here’s 5 exercises you can do with a broom. It’s broomercise (patent pending)…

Achieve A Knockout Body

You don’t have to be built like Rocky Balboa to enjoy the benefits of boxing training. Whilst I don’t have a favourite type of training (as I’m a firm believer that variety is the spice of life), boxing is definitely in the top 3.

Why Boxing?

Continue reading “Achieve A Knockout Body”

Speed and agility: Improve your fitness

What do you picture when you think of fitness? 6 pack abs, muscles for days, protein shakes and heavy weights? Maybe. In fact I bet those images are right up there for most people. The aesthetics of fitness seems to have taken presidence over the reality of fitness. Looking like a greek god or goddess is the measuring stick. That’s great for aspiring bodybuilders and people who live in the gym. Unrealistic and disheartening for the rest of us.

Continue reading “Speed and agility: Improve your fitness”

‘Back To School’ ‘Back To Training’ Bodyweight Circuit

Let’s take a moment to fully appreciate the significance of this week. Take a breath and compose yourself.  School starts back again this week! Yeeeesssss… finally! I can hear a mixture of euphoria and mass sighs of relief. Yes yes I know you love your kids and all the time you spend together is precious. But, 6 weeks plus is a long time hearing “I’m bored”, “What’s for lunch”, “What’s for dinner”, “I’m hungry”. True I don’t have children yet, so my understanding of their behaviour is based largely on animal planet and viewing them as pack animals that need to be taken care of until the day they grow up, overthrow the alpha, start their own pack, and the process repeats. Anyway, schools back and life returns to it’s status quo (along with vengence seeking rush hour traffic). And as the kids return to school, so too must you return to fitness and exercise. No longer are holidays and kids activities excuses to slack off or avoid your workout. It’s time to look after yourselves again. And Jordan Burns PT has just the circuit to get you back into the swing of things.

Continue reading “‘Back To School’ ‘Back To Training’ Bodyweight Circuit”

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Beginner Bodyweight Circuit: Off The Sofa Fitness

Everyone has to start somewhere. Every professional was once an amateur. Every expert once a beginner. Clichés for sure, but that doesn’t make them any less true. I think they’re particularly pertinent when considering exercise. I often hear words like; “I’d love to start running, but I’m rubbish”. The majority of us like to do things we’re good at and find it demotivating if we aren’t perfect first time. When it comes to exercise- leave your ego at the door. It really doesn’t matter what level you perceive yourself to be; expert, beginner or anything inbetween. Work to YOUR ability. Push yourself as hard as YOU can. Achieve results for you. We all start somewhere. This could be your start line…

What you need: Continue reading “Beginner Bodyweight Circuit: Off The Sofa Fitness”

What’s the best exercise?

I’m often asked the question; what’s the best exercise? Simple question on the surface. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straightforward and actually requires counter questions before it can even be discussed. Questions like;

What do you want to achieve?

How often do you want to train?

Do you have any physical/ mental/ social/ environmental/ financial restrictions?

Do you prefer training alone or with other people?

Continue reading “What’s the best exercise?”

Fire up your workout with this warm up

You’re in the zone for a great workout. Having spent 30 minutes selecting the perfect combination of upbeat tunes to keep your motivation levels sufficiently high, you’re ready. Ready to sweat like a champion. Ready to show your body who’s boss and push the limits of physical endurance to a whole new level. “Watch out [insert name of super fit celebrity you idolise – The Rock?!] I’m coming for you” you enthusiastically proclaim. Time to make this workout your b*tch.

Continue reading “Fire up your workout with this warm up”

Why training with a friend is a great idea

  • I enjoy working out. In fact I love it. The rush of endorphins, the sense of achievement, the increased energy it gives me, the list is almost endless. But that doesn’t mean I always have fun working out. Going out for a jog on a cold wet evening isn’t fun. Running around playing football with friends, even on a cold wet evening, on the other hand – yes please. Exercising with friends can be a great way of merging calorie burning and socialising into a gloriously healthy lifestyle.

Continue reading “Why training with a friend is a great idea”

Pack a workout into your summer holiday

Exercises
EASY demonstrated by Hudsons Core Fitness – Upright Rows / Supported Squat Thrusts / Elevated Knee Push Ups / Lunges / Reverse Ab Crunches
HARD demonstrated by LaW Personal Training – Frontal Raises / Advanced Squat Thrusts / Decline Push Ups / Overhead Lunges / Double Leg Raises

Summer is here! Yay that glorious time of year when the sun hides from the onslaught of school free kids and the only way to find it is to get on a plane and journey to exotic lands. You’ve starved yourself for the last 2 weeks preparing your beach bod and it’s time to show the world (and facebook) how great you look in your swimwear. You’ve worked hard, you deserve a break. You deserve to relax by the pool, to drink cocktails in the moonlight and to speak extra slow, shouted English so the bar staff can understand your order. You deserve it, you’re earned this break. But, that doesn’t mean you have to take a step back from your fitness goals. Not at all in fact.

I recently met up with our Solihull based personal trainer, Dan Hudson (Hudsons Core Fitness) and we devised this simple and effective holiday workout for those spare 15 minutes you have a day to help keep your fitness regime ticking over while away. We call it the suitcase hotel workout (name subject to change if we can think of something better). All you need is a suitcase and a small area of space -like your hotel room.

The workout is made up of 5 exercises. Complete 5 reps of each exercise back to back, take 30 seconds recovery and repeat 4-5 times. You will notice on the video that we have provided ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ options. Pick the appropriate exercise for your ability level (mix and match if necessary). And the best part is, as the holiday progresses it gets increasingly easier! Does the suitcase get lighter, or do you get stronger? Stronger obviously says the glass half full advocates.

Interested in training with our Birmingham and Solihull home training specialist Personal Trainers, Darran and Dan, click here

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