You're Doing It Wrong...Maybe
It is no secret that the squat is one of the best lower body exercises around that targets those hips, buns and thighs that are troublesome spots for many women. While this exercise for women can really help you tone and sculpt those areas, it also very easy to perform this fatburner improperly thereby diminishing the power it packs and risking injury. Fear not friends! We have put together 7 tips on proper squat technique for women to ensure that you get the most out of your squat every time.
1) Proper Squat Technique: Hip Hinge
When most people try to squat, the knees protrude far over the toes, the rear end goes straight down, and the heels come off the floor. This happens because proper squat technique requires some hip flexibility, proper balance, and a “hip hinge”. Each time you squat you should hinge your hips so that your rear end moves backwards during the downward phase of the squat, your knees will no longer protrude well over your toes (if you are tall, this may happen, but make sure it does not put pressure on your knees). Finally, the pressure of the squat will be on your heels instead of your toes and you will be able to get more depth to your squat.
2) Proper Squat Technique: Straight Head Position
One major mistake people make when they squat is rounding their necks, or looking down at the ground. The spinal alignment is automatically thrown off, which makes the squat a very dangerous exercise, especially if you are using a lot of weight. Sometimes we can pick a spot on the wall that’s in line with the eyes as I standing straight, then as you squat down, keep the eyes on that spot. The head is automatically in the correct position.
3) Proper Squat Technique: Chest Out/Shoulders Back
A key theme with the squat is to make sure your spine is in proper alignment. By keeping your shoulder back and your chest out, your lower back will most likely have the correct natural curve. If you instead round your shoulders and sink your chest in, your spinal alignment will be thrown off.
4) Proper Squat Technique: Slightly Arched Lower Back
As you can see in the picture below the bottom of the spine (known as the lumbar spine) has a slight arch. You should keep your lower back flat, to slightly arched as you squat. Hyperextending your lower back by arching too much, or rounding your back can put significant pressure on the intervertebral discs, which are soft gel like cushions that protect each vertebrae. If the disc ruptures because of too much pressure, a portion of the spinal disc pushes outside its normal boundary, which is called a herniated disc and may require surgery to repair. Not enough emphasis can be made to make sure your lower back is flat to slightly arched throughout the entire squat movement.
5) Proper Squat Technique: Athletic Stance, Toes Pointed Out
Use an athletic stance for the squat so that your knees are slightly bent, feet are firmly planted on the ground, and toes pointed outwards slightly, which helps with stabilization. The wider you put your feet, the more it works your glutes and hamstring (back of the leg), and the easier it will be to stabilize. The closer in you put your feet, the more your quadriceps will be emphasized (the front of the leg). One common mistake when people use too much weight is that one, or both knees will cave in towards their center. Make sure to keep your knees out and choose weight that is appropriate for your level.
6) Proper Squat Technique: Exhale Up/Inhale Down
Breathing is very important for squatting in particular because it is a challenging exercise. Improper breathing can make you light headed, or nauseous, and in extreme cases, some people even black out. As you are lowering yourself, remember to take a deep breath in, then as you are pushing up, breathe out forcefully. Always keep this breathing pattern. Towards the last few reps, you may consider taking a few extra breaths at the top of the squat position as you are standing for some extra energy.
7) Proper Squat Technique: Depth of the Squat
The depth of the squat primarily depends on your hip flexibility. If your hips are very flexible, then you may be able to squat “below parallel” (hamstrings are below parallel with the floor) and if you have poor hip flexibility, then you will be “above parallel”. In general, try to shoot for your hamstrings about parallel with the floor, which deeply engages your thighs, hips, and glutes. If you can go lower than parallel that’s fine, just make sure you don’t experience any pain in your knees, or lower back, and always keep your lower back flat, to slightly arched.
A couple other tips to keep in mind is as you are practicing proper squat technique for women is to look at the profile of the squat as you are standing sideways towards the mirror. You may also consider videotaping your form as well.
Need More Help?
Just ask us. We would be delight to answer your exercise questions! Just drop a comment in the box or if you would prefer a more private approach, just click that big orange button.
Adapted from an article which originally appeared on builtlean.com.
Add a little spice to your life!
Zesty dish = slimmer waist? Adding herbs and spices to a reduced-fat meal can make it just as appetizing as the real thing, says a new study from the University of Colorado.
People ate same-sized portions of regular (650 calories), reduced-fat (395 calories), and reduced-fat with spices (including onion, oregano, and paprika) meals of meatloaf, vegetables, and pasta. The eaters then rated the dishes for likability. The results: When made with spices, the reduced-fat meatloaf and vegetables scored higher than the regular versions, suggesting that spicing up food could make up for missing fat.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you don't have to suffer through plain skinless chicken or naked nuked broccoli, says Virginia-based registered dietitian Jill Weisenberger, author of Diabetes Weight Loss. Instead, try these three spices and cook up healthy meals with big flavor.
Known for its blood sugar-lowering properties, cinnamon doesn’t just spruce up sweet stuff like oatmeal and rice pudding. Try it in savory dishes, too: Sprinkle the spice on baked acorn squash or roasted carrots, or add a half-teaspoon to a stew of chicken, rice, and tomatoes, Weisenberger says.
2. Chipotle pepper:
Stir ¼-teaspoon of ground chipotle pepper into bean dips, guacamole, or mashed cauliflower, suggests Rochelle Sirota, a registered dietitian in New York City.
Place four whole cloves in a vegetable steamer basket along with greens like kale, chard, broccoli rabe, or collard greens. As the greens steam, they’ll be infused with delicious garlic-y taste, says Sirota.
Want more helpful nutrition tips and tricks to help speed your weight loss efforts?
We invite you to join us on Wednesday, January 8 or Saturday, January 18 for a free informational seminar packed with all kinds of things you need to know to fire up your metabolism and get the body that you want now. It's your turn to ask our experts: Dr. Lucky Bennett, creator of our nationally recognized Nutritional Coaching for Women program and the Director of Fitness at The Women's Club, Natalia Schifini. If you are a woman living in the Northern Virginia are you should miss this opportunity to get help figuring out what works for a woman's body and finally reaching your fitness and weight loss goals! More information...
Walk It Out!
The pushup walkout is a functional exercise commonly used to challenge the whole body. When equipment is not available, it is great one to challenge the body without any machines or dumbbells and it can also be done in a fairly small space. The pushup walkout is a great exercise to increase core strength, upper body strength, as well as stretching, and it can be modified depending on the different fitness levels and why we have selected it for this month edition of Essential Exercises for Women.
How It's Done:
The walkout exercise begins by having the individual standing with feet shoulder width apart (a). Bend over so that your hands hit the floor (b), bend at the knees if needed. Then walk your hands out as far as possible keeping a stable back and not hyper extending (c). Walk the hands back toward the feet and return to standing position (e and f)). Progress the exercise by walking hands out further as well as walking hands side to side, adding a bit more challenge to both your core and upper body. *See below for figure d modification.
Photo via Women's Health Magazine
Things to remember:
The pushup walkout exercise can also be done as a warm up, always making sure that the knees are slightly bent, as you go down the first few times (at least). Straighten the knees only if your level of flexibility allows you to do so, and once you have done a few repetitions to loosen up the lower back and hamstring muscles.
Make sure you continue breathing through the exercise and move at a pace that is comfortable to your body, increasing the number of repetitions to increase the challenge level. You will usually “feel the exercise” with at least 10 repetitions, or even less depending on your level of overall fitness and stretching.
*Challenge: The walkout exercise can also be finished with a push up at the end (d), either with straight legs on the floor, or by placing your knees down on the floor to have more core support and less challenge.
Watch the video...
As we roll into fall, the last thing on your mind might be wearing your sunglasses. Even when the sun's strength fades as far as the air temperature is concerned, you still need to protect you eyes from the harmful effects of it's rays.
Any health savvy person knows by now that one of the best ways to protect your body from harmful UV rays is to slather on the SPF -- but you might be forgetting one important part: your eyes.
"Obviously you can't put sunscreen on them," says Anne Sumers, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology who is in private practice in Ridgewood, New Jersey. "[Sunglasses are] the only way to protect your eyes."
Exposing your peepers to the sun could trigger a host of serious health problems, including painful sunburns and cataracts. What's worse, buying sunglasses can be a complicated, cryptic process (what do those labels mean, anyhow?). So we asked Sumers and William Brown, O.D., Ph.D., of the department of ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic, to help us break down what's happening to the naked eye when it's exposed to the sun -- and exactly how to choose the right sunglasses to protect it.
Infographic by Jan Diehm for the Huffington Post.
Both experts caution that wearing sunglasses is particularly important for kids, who still have a whole lifetime of UV exposure ahead of them. Plus, even more UV light reaches children's retinas compared to older people, according to Brown.
It's also important to note that this graphic looks at how the sun affects eye health, not indoor tanning booths -- these beds can produce UV levels up to 100 times of that of the sun. They're best avoided (for reasons beyond eye health), but if you're going to use them it's imperative to sport protective goggles (closing your eyes won't do the trick).
And no matter how good your eye protection, never look directly into the sun, especially during an eclipse. "It's much the same effect as taking a magnifying lens and focusing the sun onto a piece of paper," Brown says. "You can actually set the paper on fire."
Article by Laura Schoker, "What You Don't Know About Your Sunglasses May Hurt You," originally appeared in The Huffington Post
Raising the Bar on Shoulder Exercises for Women
Nothing makes a tank top or little black dress look better then having a great set of sculpted shoulders. In this month's edition of Essential Exercises for Women we chose this terrifc shoulder-shaper which uses the body bar to help you get those toned, sexy deltoids rockin'!
Rotator Curl with the Body Bar
1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, gripping center of bar with left hand, arms
by sides, palms facing in. Posture counts, be sure that you are standing tall, lifting
through your ribcage!
2. Bend left elbow 90 degrees so that forearm is at waist level and bar is
perpendicular to floor.
3. Keeping elbow bent by ribs, rotate left forearm out to left side.
4. Return forearm to forward position to complete 1 rep.
5. Perform 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions on each side.
Note: Start with a light bar, perhaps a 4 lb. bar. This shoulder exercise for women can also be done with a dumbbell. If the 4 lb. bar is too heavy, try a lighter dumbbell.
10 more shoulder exercises for women
The Trust Report
Mom On-the-Go = Mom In the Know
Emily Stone knows a ton about being a busy mom with lots of challenges to maintaining her fitness and wellness routine. Since so many of our readers find themselves in the same boat with plenty of things pulling them in all different directions, we have invited her to share some personal advice with you on how she keeps herself going throughout the day and how you can boost your metabolism. Enjoy!
Boosting Metabolism and Energy Throughout the Day
When I get to the afternoon, sometimes I want to get the license plate of the Mack truck that ran over me. Often it’s just burnout from the day. But when I’m struggling to get myself going from the morning onward, there are a few things I like to do that help me out. These tips boost my metabolism and energy so that I’m still kicking when school’s out.
Did you know that adults who get less than seven hours of sleep each night do not do as well on complex mental tasks? We need more sleep. But as a mom, it’s so hard for me to get a good night’s sleep. There’s the repeated begging for an extra story or song in the evening, and the 3 a.m. nightmare. I’ve had to prioritize my life around getting enough sleep. I usually get 9-10 hours from the time the last kid goes to bed and the first one waking up. I aim to spend 8-9 of that time sleeping, and 30-60 minutes getting ready. If I can’t get quality sleep, at least I can usually get quantity sleep. And I’ve found that the more I sleep, the more active I am and the more I can accomplish during the day.
My metabolism is slower than a tortoise. My best defense against this is to exercise. The cool part is that it stretches me out and gives me a ton of energy, too. Sometimes I sneak in a run after walking the kids to school. Otherwise, I work out at home. I can wake up 10-15 minutes early and do some interval training for a high-powered workout in hardly any time at all.
Skipping breakfast is a terrible idea. Better to make it quick and healthy. If I plan ahead, eating before I’m out the door can be pretty easy. And no, I’m not talking about donuts and pastries. If I have five minutes to sit and eat, cottage cheese is my go-to. I get a healthy amount of fat, decent calcium, and tons of protein. If I don’t have five minutes, I love smoothies and protein shakes. I find that protein is the best source of continued energy for me throughout the day. Instead of starting the day with a coffee, I actually start my day with a whey protein shake. I personally buy my protein from Beachbody, but you can find whey protein everywhere, even at the grocery store!
Natural Energy Boost
I also try to stay away from coffee in general—too much caffeine (particularly on an empty stomach) can make me feel crazy, so I try to take other routes. Most natural supplements that are touted as alternatives to caffeine actually have caffeine in them. If I’m looking to avoid caffeine or cut it down, I load up on B vitamins and amino acids like taurine, which are both known to boost energy and metabolism. I really love the liquid B complex from GNC, you just add a few drops to a bottle of water and you’ll feel continuous energy throughout the day!
Above all, I think it’s important to periodically pull myself off the canvas and look at what I can do to feel happier. This can be as simple as getting up from my desk for a few minutes to stretch and walk around every hour. l set up some music playlists on my computer and phone that I can listen to when I’m home cleaning, out running errands or working. This makes work and chores less exhausting.
In my busy day, I could get exhausted and overwhelmed easily. But when I try to get enough sleep and exercise, eat well and relax, I find that I end the day happier and excited for what’s to come.
Article written by: Emily Stone
Ms. Stone is a full-time mom, health freak, fitness enthusiast, and wannabe chef. She is the proud momma of two girls and a loving wife. Emily is in the process of starting up her own blog, but in the mean time you can follow her at @FitMommaEm.
The opinions and advice expressed by Ms. Stone are not necessarily that of The Women's Club or it's agents.
Can You Really Achieve 'Hormonal Harmony'?
Hormonal transitions occur throughout a woman’s life. The two most dominant are puberty and Menopause! But let’s give credit where credit us due: Perimenopause is no “walk in the park” either. Regardless of where you are in the Perimenopause /Menopause continuum, the normally occurring hormonal shifts can precipitate an onset of complex physical and emotional health challenges.
Currently, there are nearly 50 million post menopausal women in the US. Are you one of them? If so, take heart. You’re in good company and probably well-versed on the symptoms most commonly experienced by your peers. However, in some ways every woman’s menopausal transition experience (this includes perimenopause) is unique. So, how is it possible for women of all ages to achieve Hormonal Harmony?
There is no “one size fits all approach” but, there are solutions for nearly every woman’s menopausal transition issues. The first step is to identify where you are in the menopausal transition continuum by answering the following questions.
Has your menstrual cycle become irregular or have you missed your period for twelve months? Do you have hot flashes? Are you fatigued? Is your sleep interrupted? Do you have difficulty getting up in the morning? Do you have night sweats, vaginal dryness, breast enlargement or tenderness before your period? Have you experienced unexplained weight gain and muscle loss even with proper diet and exercise? Are you irritable? Do you have mood swings? Do you find it hard to concentrate? Have you experienced periods of forgetfulness? Have you lost interest in sex? Have you experienced hair loss, dry skin, and brittle nails? Do you crave sweet and salty foods?
If you haven’t missed your period for twelve months, but have any of these symptoms, you may have entered the stage of perimenopause during which, the hormonal “ups and downs” and natural progression of hormonal decline gradually lead to postmenopause.
Whether you are peri or postmenopausal, you may want to learn about or confirm your understanding of the following:
- The most common hormonal imbalances and symptoms associated with each phase of the menopausal transition.
- How a menopausal transition hormonal imbalance affects the thyroid and adrenal glands and often lead to age-related chronic diseases
- How hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue can be misdiagnosed and symptoms can be mistaken for those associated with menopause
- How underlying or under-diagnosed conditions can sabotage your menopausal treatments, physical fitness program and lead to weight loss resistance
- What tests accurately diagnose underlying conditions
- How personalized wellness approaches prevent or reverse unwanted symptoms and disorders caused by menopause-related hormonal imbalances
Advances in Anti-aging medicine have made it possible for most women of all ages to overcome the challenges of a hormonal imbalance. Self empowerment encourages today’s woman to seek the answers she needs to improve her quality of life at any age. So, get the answers you’re looking for! Please join me on June 19th for an informative lecture on how you can experience “Hormonal Harmony” for life.
Article submitted by: Dr. Eva Coleman of Harmony Medica, Reston VA
Dr. Eva Coleman is a Board Certified M.D. with more than two decades of experience in Internal Medicine; specializing in prevention and treatment of Diabetes, Cardiovascular and chronic systemic diseases. She has held affiliation with INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia and completed a fellowship with the American Academy of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.
Up Against the Wall!
If you're looking for ways to keep your ab workout challenging and interesting, then you must try this month's essential exercise for women, the wall mountain climber. Much as the name would suggest, this move is like your traditional “mountain climber" only done with your feet against a wall. It is without a doubt the coolest abs exercise we've seen in a while and it can be done anywhere! While it is challenging, the mountain climber on the wall will not only fry your abs and core, but it also works your shoulders and glutes. Oh and bonus...it’ll help improve your performance at all the other exercises in your workout!
WALL MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
- Assume a pushup position with feet firmly planted on a stable wall.
- Place hands directly under shoulders. (You may place your hands slightly in front of your forehead for maximum leverage.)
- Drive heels into the wall. Bring shoulders down and back, brace through the core and squeeze the glutes.
- In a slow and controlled movement, bring one knee forward. (Make sure to push firmly through the foot that is against the wall, to maintain proper form. Do not allow your lower back to move up or down.)
- Repeat on opposite leg.
Repeat this move for 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions
Here's How It's Done
**The mountain climber with feet on the wall is an advanced exercise! If you cannot do mountain climbers on the floor, you should not attempt this exercise.**
Wanna Try It?
If you would like to modify the wall mountain climber and work up to it, consult a personal trainer . If you are living in the Northern Virginia (Chantilly, Centreville, Fairfax, Herndon) and want to find out how one of our trainers can help you learn to do this and many more moves just like it, schedule your free consultation today!
The Good, The Bad, The Whaaaaat?!
Did you know that American people overall have the highest cholesterol in the world...Pretty sobering when you look at it that way isn't it? Most people know that high cholesterol is a dangerous problem but many are not sure of the why's and the how's or what the heck is a LDL or HDL and what all of those the numbers mean. In addition, there are a lot of myths out there about the causes, symptoms and prevention of high cholesterol. The first step to fighting high cholesterol is to sift them and search out medical fact on both high and low cholesterol in order to make the best determination about what is good for you and subsequently good for your health!
Cholesterol Myth #1
You will experience high cholesterol symptoms if there's a problem.
Cholesterol Fact: Most people can't tell when their cholesterol is dangerously high.
About 20 percent of Americans have high cholesterol and don't know it. There are no real medical symptoms associated with high cholesterol. In fact, most won't find out their high cholesterol status until after they suffer a medical event like a heart attack or stroke.
If you would prefer to find out whether or not you have high cholesterol before such an event, you should begin having your high-risk cholesterol checked in your 20s and then once every five years. Your risk for high cholesterol rises with age, so men over the age of 45 and women who are 55 and over should be tested more often. Those who struggle with high cholesterol or have numbers close to the danger line should be tested more often, as well.
Cholesterol Myth #2
A prescription is the only way to lower dangerously high cholesterol.
Cholesterol Fact: Medication is one way to lower cholesterol, but you can do it without a high cholesterol prescription through dietary changes and exercise.
It is in fact recommended-as long as your cholesterol numbers are not too high-that you start fighting the dangers of high cholesterol issue by making changes to your diet and beginning to exercise regularly. If your cholesterol numbers are borderline, you may be able to avoidmedication altogether. If your high cholesterol is a
lready in a danger zone, then you may be able to stop taking your high cholesterol medication after some months of regular exercise and a healthy diet. Here a few goals that diet and exercise can help you attain:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise, even if gently, for about 30 minutes a day 5 to 6 days per week
- Cut out trans fat from your diet (hydrogenated oil)
- Reduce your saturated fats to under 7 percent of your calories
- Reduce your cholesterol intake to 200 mg per day or less
- Increase your soluble fiber intake to at least 10 gram per day
- Increase your fish intake or take omega-3 supplements each day
Cholesterol Myth #3
All cholesterol is bad cholesterol.
Cholesterol Fact: There are different kinds of cholesterol and some are not only not bad for you, but necessary for your body to function properly.
There are three different kinds of cholesterol: high density lipoproteins (HDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL), and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). HDL is good because it serves the purpose of helping your body transport waste to the liver, maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, clear extra cholesterol from the bloodstream where it otherwise would collect and block your arteries.
LDL are also responsible for carrying cholesterol from the liver to where it needs to go in the body, but it is much lighter and breaks more easily. This means that they hover in the bloodstream, often attaching to the blood vessel itself, collecting and causing a blockage that often results in a heart attack. VLDLs are even lighter than LDLs and affect the cardiovascular and circulatory systems just as negatively.
Cholesterol Myth #4
High cholesterol is only a problem for men.
Cholesterol Fact: High cholesterol is a problem for both men and women.
Estrogen is a hormone that helps monitor and maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, so women who are experiencing a regular menstrual cycle are less likely candidates for high cholesterol than are men of the same age. However, after menopause when a woman's estrogen level plummets, her chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke due to high cholesterol significantly increase. It's important that women maintain low levels of cholesterol throughout their lives to prepare for the loss of estrogen later.
Cholesterol Myth #5
You should get your first cholesterol test after the age of 45.
Cholesterol Fact: You should start getting tested for high cholesterol in your 20s.
HDL - 60+ mg/dLGetting tested for high cholesterol is easy: a blood test done after fasting called a fasting lipid profile. You can have it done in conjunction with a batch of other blood tests to simply the process. The test will show your cholesterol levels in terms of HDL, LDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol. If you have any questions about how to get a test or your test results, ask your doctor. In general, your goals should be:
- LDL - 100 mg/dL or less
- Triglycerides - 150 mg/dL or less
- Total cholesterol - 200 mg/dL or less
Don't Know Your Numbers?
If you live in Northern VA in the Chantilly area, you are in luck! We are hosting a women's wellness event on August 12 which is open to the public where cholesterol screenings will beoffered. Our screening will feature a simple "finger stick" test that will give you the results in minutes! If you are intereseted in learning where you are and what you can do to lower or even prevent high cholesterol in the future, get more details on our upcoming event.
Most people spend far more time working the muscles on the front of their bodies and little time focusing on their back. That is why we have selected the reverse fly or bent over reverse fly as this month's essential exercise for women because it focuses on this area that is so often overlooked.
We've Got Your Back
Recently, I have noticed that many of our members have exceptionally weak back muscles. An exercise that I love and do with many of my clients is the Reverse Fly. This is an exercise that is done with free weights and can be done on days you do weight training exercises.
You can do reverse flies while standing, sitting or lying down. If you are standing, spread your feet hip-width apart and lean forward at a 45-degree angle with your arms down by your legs. If you are sitting, lean forward and hold the dumbbells by your calves. If you want to lie down during the reverse fly, lie on your stomach on a flat weight bench with your arms hanging off of either side of the bench. Choose light weight to begin! It is much better to start light and increase your weight until you determine what weight is right for you!!
Standing Reverse Fly
How it's done
To do a bent over reverse fly, hold your back straight and tighten your abs. Make sure to keep your elbows slightly bent as you raise both of your arms. Arms should raise up slightly higher than your back, almost as if you are flapping imaginary wings. As you lift, pull your shoulder blades together, then lower your arms slowly back into starting position. Do 2-3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions to complete the exercise. If you find that this seems too easy, try increasing the weight of your dumbbells.
Seated Reverse Fly
Keep these points in mind...
If you have any joint, back or muscular problems, be sure to consult your medical professional before attempting reverse fly exercises. Also, if you find lifting both dumbbells at the same time to be a challenge, you can alternate your arms so only one is lifting at a time. This is called an alternating reverse fly. As always, if you need guidance with this exercise, ask a personal trainer for help!
If you live in the Northern VA area (Chantilly, Fairfax, Herndon or Centreville) we would be more than happy to assist you. Schedule a free consulation and find out how a female certified personal trainer on our staff can help you reach your fitness goals!
Main article body submitted by: Pennie Waston, Director of Personal Training at The Women's Club