The Steadward Centre Logo

Fitness Tips from The Steadward Centre
for Personal & Physical Achievement

Links to Section Headings Description
General tips on exercise, lifestyle, and starting to be active
Tips on training for endurance, stamina, weight loss and health benefits
Tips on improving muscular strength and endurance
Tips on improving flexibility and stretching technique
Tips on issues specifically relating to high performance training and sport performance
Adapting equipment and exercise technique to meet a wide variety of abilities
Adapting equipment and exercise technique to meet a wide variety of abilities
Contact Information

NOTE: Most of the information on this page is intended for anyone to use. It is not written specifically for persons with a disability, and is intended to be inclusive in nature to anyone regardless of ability level.

Getting Started - Basic Information

GOALS

Know your goals and develop a plan of action. Talking with a fitness professional about your goals can help you learn specific exercises that are going to help you achieve your goals. This takes a lot of guess work out of training and you can get right down to business. Knowing what you want to achieve (realistically) and how to achieve it puts you on the right track from the beginning.

SPECIFICITY

The fitness principle of specificity applies to using exercises or types of exercises specific to your fitness goals. If you want to improve your endurance you must perform regular cardiovascular exercise. Performing heavy squats is not going to improve your cardiovascular system. Specificity applies to strengthening specific muscle groups also. To strengthen your legs you must exercise them. Exercises like squats and leg press work the muscle in the legs. Biceps curls will not strengthen your legs.

PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD

Progressive Overload is important to improve your conditioning safely. Beginning at an exercise intensity you know you can complete when starting a fitness program will ensure not too great of a shock to the body will incur. Gradually but consistently increasing the difficulty of your workouts will slightly overload the muscles and enable them to adapt to the new amount of work and become more fit. To progressively overload strength exercises one can add more weight, reps, or sets. To progressively overload the cardiovascular system one can increase the time exercising, the resistance (stationary equipment), or the pace or intensity of the workout.

REGULARITY

The training principle of regularity is very important for seeing results in your exercise program. Training on a regular basis allows the body to adjust to the stresses being placed on it from working out and causes improvements. A good guideline to use is 3 times a week (per type of exercise, ie. strength training, cardiovascular training, etc.) to maintain and 4 to 5 times a week to see improvements. Remember to progressively overload the body, do not start with 6 workouts a week. Starting a program by performing too much work can cause extreme soreness and even injury. Work up to 5 days a week over a period of weeks.

VARIETY

"Variety is the spice of life", it is also the key to successfully adhering to a fitness program over a long period of time. There are two reasons why variety can help you stick to an exercise program:

  1. Variety can battle boredom. Performing different types of exercises or even variations of the same exercise can make the workouts from becoming monotonous over a long period of time. Becoming bored is a major factor for people quitting their exercise program.
  2. Variety can help you keep fit through an injury. Try as many activities as possible and find out how many activities you enjoy. The more the better. When you become injured you may have to discontinue your regular workouts. This forces a lot of people to stop exercising entirely. Once you stop it can be difficult to begin again. If you enjoy many activities there is a good chance you will find one that will not aggravate your injury. Swimming and cycling are two relatively safe types of exercises.

Adding variety to your workout does not mean changing your workout every day. Be somewhat consistent on a day do day basis. You may find it helpful to change your activities every 6 - 8 weeks.

Have fun, keep fit, and enjoy as many activities as possible.

THE F.I.T.T. PRINCIPLE

The F.I.T.T. principle helps you monitor the intensity of your workout and make sure your exercises are related to your goals:

  • FREQUENCY - The amount of training you are performing in a given time period (weeks or months are the most common).
    Example: Performing 2 to 3 strength workouts per week and 3 to 4 aerobic workouts per week are good general guidelines.
  • INTENSITY - The amount of work you are performing in a workout is the intensity of your workout. Depending on your goals your intensity may vary a lot.
    Example: Your heart rate dictates how hard you are working aerobically. To burn fat you should work out at a slightly less intense level than a pure cardiovascular improvement workout (the heart rate should be slightly lower during exercise).
    Strength training intensity depends on your goals. If you want to build large strong muscles train with heavier weights and fewer repetitions. For endurance and toning train with lighter weights and more repetitions.
  • TIME - The length of your workout will depend on your goals. For the general fitness enthusiast who is not training for a specific sport or performance standard strength training for an hour to and hour an a. half is plenty. Not much muscle gain is made after approximately the 90 minute point in a workout. For cardiovascular training not more than a maximum of 40 minutes is needed unless you are training for an event that requires endurance beyond this point.
  • TYPE - This principle relates to the principle of specificity. You must perform activities that relate to your goals to achieve your goals. To improve your cardiovascular system you must perform some type of aerobic workout. The same applies to muscular strength or endurance training. The exercises must be specific to your goals. 

OVERTRAINING

Exercise is a essential part of a health lifestyle, but too much of a good thing can be harmful. In this article I will discuss the possible sources of overtraining, common symptoms, and some strategies to avoid overtraining.

Overtraining occurs from simply training too hard or too often. You must work hard to see improvements. The body also needs time to rest and recover, without this recovery time improvements will not occur as rapidly. Training the same muscle group or energy system too often without adequate recovery stresses the specific area too much and does not allow that area time to prepare for the next barrage of a workout. Poor nutrition can also play a role in overtraining. The body needs nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, to replenish those used up during exercise. If they are not provided the body can't replenish them and you can enter the next workout not fully prepared to do so.

There are some very clear and easy to spot signs of overtraining if you are looking in the right places. Decreased performance is a major symptom of overtraining. The body is not recovering fully. Tiredness, lack of energy, sore muscles, and chronic injuries are also common signs of overtraining. Disturbances in sleep, decreased ability to handle stressful situations, and lack of appetite can also occur because of overtraining.

The best way to combat overtraining is adequate rest and variety in your exercise schedule. Do not work the same muscles in the same way every workout. Vary things some, split your body into muscle groups and work a different set of muscle groups each workout. This provides more rest for the muscles between workouts. Vary your intensity as well, don't work all out every day. Work in a few lighter days now and then to give your muscles a bit of a break. Adequate rest can come in the form of taking a day or two off from exercise completely or trying a different mode of exercise that does not stress areas of the body which may be overtrained, this is known as active rest.

The biggest things to remember are to pay attention to your body, keep variety as part of your workout, have nagging or persistent soreness looked at, don't let things go too long.

Have fun and keep fit!

THERE IS MORE TO IMPROVING YOUR FITNESS THAN EXERCISE ALONE

Exercising on a regular basis is important for maintaining or improving you fitness. All to often diet and lifestyle are overlooked as being important variables in determining just how much improvement you make. Proper nutrition keeps extra high fat and empty calorie foods to a minimum while providing the energy needed for the body to work hard and make improvements. Lifestyle relates to the amount of stress in you life, the amount of rest you get on a regular basis, if you smoke, and if you drink are among many factors that affect your everyday life. Smoking, drinking, being stressed, and not getting enough rest can all decrease your performance in any activity you partake in and the amount of gains you make during your rest days. Talk to a physical activity professional, your doctor, or a registered dietician to find more information about how diet and lifestyle affects your health and fitness.

WHY EXERCISE?

Simply put, it's good for you. There are many more benefits to exercise than detriments. Feeling good, having more energy, increasing your physical health, and improving your performance in day to day activities are some of the more important benefits.

It is true exercise can cause an increased risk of injury. Depending on the type of exercise you choose the risk may be very high or almost nonexistent. Performing the activities correctly, building your fitness levels up progressively, and performing a proper warm up actually reduces the risk of injury in daily activity and exercise.

The benefits of increasing your physical condition greatly outnumber the risks of not doing so!

IS TECHNIQUE REALLY IMPORTANT?

You bet it is. When training with weights technique can make the difference between injury and steady gains. Improper technique can place the joints in the body in awkward positions. A normally strong area of the body may be subject to injury when a person's poor technique does not allow their supporting muscles and connective tissue to take the brunt of the load. A joint is injured when stress is placed on the joint and not the muscles surrounding the joint. An example of this is performing bench press. If you push the bar straight up from your chest in a slight arc to finish the movement over your mouth you are keeping the joints in line with the weight being lifted. The muscles are able to use their leverage to lift the weight. If you push the bar up from your chest and it arc the other way so the movement ends over your solar plexus you are placing great stress on the shoulders because the chest and arms are pushing away from their proper biomechanic position. The smaller muscles and connective tissue in the shoulder are forced to help balance the weight and keep it from falling on you. It is too much stress for the smaller muscles. An injury will occur.

In short make sure your form is correct. Consult a professional is you are uncertain about how to perform certain exercises. It can make the difference between being able to work consistently and always being plagued by injuries.

PRESSED FOR TIME?

Not having enough time to exercise regularly is the biggest excuse for not working out consistently. This can be a real problem. I do not know many people who can dedicate two hours a day to work out. Well unless they are competitive bodybuilders they shouldn't be spending two hours a day in the gym.

I know a lot of people who do not feel they have worked out unless they are totally drained and have spent tons of time in the weight room. This is simply wrong. Effective workouts are short (40 - 50 min.), target the areas you wish to work, and leave you with the feeling of accomplishing something.

For an example, take a person who wishes to increase their strength and muscle size while working 8 to 5 and having some kind of family life. Some sacrifice has to be made. This may be training in the morning, at lunch or right after work. Once the commitment is made, look at exercises that are effective and target the major muscles.

Aerobic training should be kept under 30 min. A 30 minute workout is plenty to burn body fat for weight loss or to target cardiovascular improvement. When dealing with cardiovascular improvement you will find the workouts getting easier as your endurance system adapts. Change the intensity to increase the workout instead of increasing the time. 3 to 5 days per week for cardiovascular training is recommended depending on your goals.

Look at splitting up your weight and cardiovascular workouts to keep time down. Alternating days during the week and performing both types of exercises on Saturday will keep the workout time down.

MAKE A COMMITMENT, DEVELOP A PLAN, AND NOTICE THE BENEFITS.

BEATING THE COLD

If you live in Alberta you know how much winter and cold can disrupt your regular routine if you exercise solely outdoors in the summer. Winter is the perfect time to try some new activities and types of exercise. Use this disruption in your regular workout to work on fitness areas that may lag behind other areas of fitness with your regular workouts.

 Here are a few suggestions to help guide you to new exercises:

  1. Home Workouts - Offers a great way to keep in shape and not have to battle inaccessible sidewalks to do so. You may not want to exercise solely at home, but a couple times a week takes some of the frustration out of traveling for every single workout.
  2. Recreation Programs - Get involved in an activity you have been wanting to try and haven't yet. Look at different community centres and your community league to see what they offer for activity programs.
  3. Outdoor Exercise - It may seem crazy, but some people like to exercise outside in the winter. As long as you take the necessary precautions and prepare properly you may enjoy it. There are a lot of outdoor activities involving downhill or cross country skiing, plus sledge hockey and tobogganing. Generally outdoor activity tends to be a little more physically demanding so it is not for everyone.
  4. Group Activity - Get a bunch of people together and start an exercise group. It can be fun, done in your home or out, and there are no registration costs.

Find some new activities to try and you will find your exercise program broadening and becoming more interesting. If you are interested in a home program contact a fitness professional to help establish a solid base to the program if you are not comfortable doing it yourself.

HAVE FUN AND SEEK NEW ACTIVITIES

WINTER EXERCISES

Oh winter is coming again. The time of year many people make like bears and keep curled up inside for six months or so. Cold weather and less daylight tend to put some people right off track as far as exercising goes. This winter does not have to be the same. The following tips may help you find an activity you enjoy and can carry on with throughout the winter months.

Two main classes of activity in the winter are indoor and outdoor. Indoor activity usually revolves around a fitness centre of some kind. Swimming, weight training, or stationary aerobic activities are all good ways to stay in shape over the winter. The winter months are the time a lot of clubs and groups start up after a summer off. Activities such as dancing, or aerobics may be just what you are looking for.

Outdoor activity can be very enjoyable and offer outdoor exercise when most activity is held indoors. Standard winter activities include skiing (downhill or cross country) and skating. There are some different winter activities that people may be interested in. Snowshoeing and tobogganing are great activities that involve the whole family.

Contact your local community league or the parks and recreation department of your city for more information. Usually there are specific groups or organizations for different activities as well.

Remember, have fun, try something new, and be healthy.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SUMMER

Bust out of your regular routine. Summer is the perfect time to broaden the types of activity you try.

Over the winter a lot of people stick to the same workout. Go to the gym three times a week, use the bike or the treadmill, do some weight exercises, stretch out, and go home. Throw in the odd weekend of skiing and there is your winter exercise log.

Summer is a great time to try new exercises and activities to break out of the rut and make exercise as fun as possible. Take a few minutes and make a list of the types of activities you either enjoy or would like to try. Try and make it part of your exercise routine to try something different every two weeks.

Some great summer activities that come to mind include, hiking, canoeing, rollerblading, plyometrics (using gravity and your body weight for resistance), and Frisbee.

Shake up your fitness routine this summer. Good luck and remember to slap on the sun screen.

EXERCISE INSIDE THE WEIGHT ROOM

Indoor weight training and cardiovascular training are two of the best ways to keep fit and healthy, especially if you live in a cold winter climate. To get the most out of your workout there is a few things you should keep in mind: 

  1. Never sacrifice proper form for more weight. When your form deteriorates you are not working the muscle properly and with added weight your chance of injury skyrockets.
  2. If you would like more aerobic time than the limits set by your fitness centre, try circuit training. Circuit training involves performing a pre-set circuit of high rep-low weight exercises with no rest in between. This type of weight training keeps your heart rate up and also builds muscular strength and endurance.
  3. Always take your own water bottle or use a fountain with good water pressure. Never share a water bottle for hygiene reasons.
  4. If you sweat heavily on the benches or equipment be courteous and wipe them off when finished. Placing a towel on the bench before you start helps too.
  5. If you are pressed for time try working out at a non-peak time. 6-8 am and 4-6 pm are usually very busy. Lunch hour tends to be busy as well.
  6. Obey gym policies and etiquette. The rules are in place to help people progress through their workouts smoothly and efficiently.
  7. Look for a gym with knowledgeable staff. Staff who have educational as well as practical background in training can help a lot.

Keep training through those long winter months.

EXERCISE OUTSIDE THE WEIGHT ROOM

Having a narrow view of what exercising means and what effective exercises are can limit your ability to stay fit and healthy. I know of a lot of people who think they must be in the gym to work out effectively. This is just not true. Make your workout as fun as possible. To some people going to the gym is just plain hard work. You definitely have to work to keep in shape, but try and make it as enjoyable as possible. Here are some recommendations: 

  1. Get outside as much as possible when the weather permits.
  2. Try and organize a group of people to play a game or go for a walk to stay active.
  3. Stretching can be easily done while watching TV.
  4. Unless your goal is huge mass and strength you can do most of your strength training at home. Use tubing, or Velcro weights which are fairly inexpensive.
  5. Become active in a community program to maintain your fitness, some good ideas are, Tai Kwon Do, Tai Chi, Dancing, and Community League sports.

KEEP FIT, STAY ACTIVE, AND HAVE FUN!!!

MOTIVATION AND EXERCISE

Staying motivated and consistent in your workouts is a huge portion of making gains and seeing improvement.  Everyone at one time or another has been at home getting ready to go work out and just not felt like doing it.  For some reason their workout does not appeal to them for that particular day.  If these feelings persist over a period of time a motivation problem could be the cause.

Being motivated is a multi-sided issue.  Many things contribute to comprise motivation including, positive self talk, overtraining, and stress.

  1. Positive self talk reinforces confidence, negative self talk shatters confidence and decreases motivation.  If you think you can't do something, or are particularly bad at an activity you motivation to participate in that activity are going to be quite low.  Keep
  2. Overtraining can decrease motivation also.  The body is constantly tired and you aren't able to perform at the same level in your workout so you don't look forward to going to the gym as much.  A well timed rest can relieve this condition.
  3. Stress is the third area that ruins motivation.  If you have 47 other things on your mind and they all need to be done right now you can't concentrate on making your workout as beneficial as possible, you may feel like you have too much to do to even set foot in the gym.

Be positive, focused, and open to variety and you will find it keeps your workout fresh and exciting.

EXERCISING IN A GROUP

Most people enjoy being with other people, this is a part of human nature. Exercising in a group is a great way to meet people and have more fun with your workouts.

There are many community groups that offer group exercise programs. Check out your local community league, YMCA, or any organization for specific groups of people like your local Canadian Paraplegic Association or Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association.

If you can't find exactly what you are looking for start your own group. Organizing a walking or wheeling outing with friends, or placing an ad in your local grocery store bulletin board for find people with similar interests are just two of the many ways to find interested people to exercise with.

Good luck, have fun, and be active.

HAVE FUN WHILE YOU EXERCISE

I usually end my fitness tips with some comment about “having fun while you exercise”.  This little tidbit of information is not
just try and convince anyone who reads these tips that I try and think positive.  It really does make exercise more enjoyable.

The idea of having fun seems simple enough, but the concept seems to elude some people.  I know quite a few people who enter their workout with the mind set that they are going to attack exercise and really punish their bodies.  Being focused and working hard is important, but you should really enjoy the activity you choose.

Here are some reasons why you should enjoy your workout:

  1. If you enjoy the activity you will not quite so readily.
  2. Your exercise routine will be more consistent.
  3. The benefits of exercise will be seen much sooner because of a consistent exercise regime.

It is fine and dandy to try and tell people to enjoy exercising, but how do you enjoy exercise?  Here are some tips to help:

  1. Exercise with friends.  Having someone to talk to can really make a difference.
  2. Organize a group of people of approximately the same fitness level to go walking or wheeling a couple times a week.  This incorporates being with friends and decreases feelings of self consciousness that can accompany exercising around people who are much more fit.
  3. Involve your children.
  4. Work out at a community centre which offers a variety of equipment and people using the equipment.

Hopefully these tips help you enjoy your workouts a little more.

And remember “HAVE FUN OUT THERE!!!”

BE FIT FOR LIFE

Exercise on a regular basis has many benefits. Many studies have shown that exercising at a moderate intensity over a long period of time can greatly reduce the risk of health problem usually associated with aging.

Regular activity reduces blood pressure, body fat, resting heart rate, and stress among other benefits. Exercise also increases the capacity of the heart and lungs to do work, and help maintain muscle and bone mass over a period of years.

Exercise is a broad term describing many types of movements. Generally activity falls into three categories:

  1. Cardiovascular fitness - repetitive movements that raise the heart rate and blood pressure. This type of exercise is the most effective for improving endurance, losing weight, and producing the most health related benefits.
  2. Musculoskeletal fitness - any movement that requires the muscles to work against a resistance. Depending on the intensity of this type of activity the muscles will increase in size and strength, or improve their endurance to perform a movement many times. The resistance used comes in many forms, weight machines, tubing, Velcro weights, free weights, or body weight are the most common types. This type of exercise is characterized by utilizing specific muscles to perform specific movements.
  3. Flexibility - moving a joint through its range of motion. Tightness in the muscles can limit the amount of movement in a joint the muscles are attached to. Stretching increases flexibility if it is performed consistently and controlled.

Before beginning an exercise program there are a few things to consider to make sure your experiences are positive and do not cause any adverse effects:

  1. If you have any chronic or recurring ailments (arthritis, old sports, injuries, muscle or joint pain) it is recommended to see your physician first to receive more information on what might aggravate the problem. Having an exercise professional help to set up an activity program for you can eliminate some problems with trying exercises that aggravate the injured areas.
  2. If you are over the age of 40, are pregnant, or for any other reason have some concerns about exercising, a visit to your doctor is strongly recommended.
  3. Have an idea of your goals and activity preferences before seeking help, this can give an exercise professional more information to work with and provide an even more specific service to you.

Remember to have fun and enjoy the activity you take part in.

Cardio Training

CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE GUIDELINES

Cardiovascular exercise is the single most important type of exercise for increasing and maintaining your health. Cardiovascular exercise puts controlled stress on the heart, lungs, and circulatory system to provide the body with oxygen and energy to exercise.

There are some guidelines to keep in mind for cardiovascular exercise: 

  1. Begin slowly and build up gradually. Do not begin by trying a workout you are not sure you can complete. Begin easy and work into exercise.
  2. Monitor your heart rate to make sure you are in the training zone for the type of benefits you want. These zones are:
  3. % or max HR Level
    50 - 60% Beginner
    60 - 75% Fat burning efficiency
    75 - 90% Higher intensity endurance training.
  4. Warm up and cool down when exercising. Warming up can prevent an injury during the workout. Cooling down can prevent or lessen muscular soreness after a workout.
  5. Try and avoid continuous high impact activity. Running on concrete, or high impact aerobics performed continuously can cause stress related injuries that otherwise can be avoided by running on grass, lowering the aerobics impact level, and varying your activities.
  6. Set up a regular schedule and be consistent about maintaining it. Begin with three days a week and increase to four or five as your fitness improves.
  7. Be aware of overuse or stress related injuries and be very conscious of how your body feels. A lot of overuse injuries can be prevented by varying your activity and keeping the stress off the same muscles and bones all the time.

Have fun, stay fit and healthy, and ask a fitness professional for more information about cardiovascular training because having a strong knowledge base is a good start to anything, including exercise.

Strength Training

STRENGTH TRAINING SAFETY

For muscular strength train slowly and in full control for as large a range of motion as can be safely completed. It is true that sometimes speed in weight training is beneficial. This usually only applies to elite athletes or someone training for a specific sport. If the actions they must perform are quick in nature, training at a higher speed will help. For the average person who is training for health benefits slow strength training is the best because it works your muscles through a full range without building up momentum and decreases the chances of joint injury.

STRENGTH EXERCISES - SOME THINGS TO REMEMBER

To keep strength exercises as safe and effective as possible there are some general guidelines to use. These suggestions apply to any form of strength training using resistance:

  1. Exhale while lifting a weight, inhale while lowering it.
  2. Perform the whole movement slowly and in control. A good guideline to use is two seconds to fully flex a joint and two seconds to extend it again.
  3. If you are not sure about proper technique ask someone who is very familiar with the exercise.
  4. For standing exercises keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder width to offer a good base of support.
  5. While performing an exercise you are familiar with if you can not complete the technique properly the weight is probably too heavy.

There are many technique points related to each exercise you perform, the list here is for general safety and should be applied to any exercise to perform.

SMALL MUSCLE GROUPS THAT REQUIRE ATTENTION

When training people tend to exercise the larger muscle groups. This is great for beginning to work out. By exercising the larger muscles you are strengthening a large percentage of the body with only a few exercises. The smaller muscle groups receive some exercise acting to support the movements of larger muscles (ex. The shoulder muscles support and stabilize the arm in a bench press which targets the larger chest muscles).

As your fitness level increases you may wish to add exercises for smaller more specific areas of the body. This can make your program more well rounded and decrease the chance of injury to the smaller weaker muscles in the body.

Some examples of smaller groups that greatly benefit from their own exercises are:

  1. Hip Flexors - These muscles help lift the leg in walking and running.
  2. Front of the Shin - These small muscles aid in lifting the toes and preventing the front of the foot from dragging during walking.
  3. Wrist Flexors/Extensors - Strength in the wrist is vital for using your arms to perform exercises for larger muscles.
  4. Rear Shoulder - Shoulder stability is very important to prevent injuries. This muscle also helps in shoulder position for posture.

Consult an exercise professional to find out specific exercises to work these areas of the body.

TERRIFIC TUBING

Surgical tubing has been around for many years in the medical industry. One area in which it is very useful is resistance training in an exercise program. Surgical tubing is an economical, easy to use piece of equipment for exercise. The rest of the article will cover how tubing works in an exercise program, when it can be most useful in exercise, and how to find it.

Tubing has elastic properties that allows it to stretch as you pull on it. As the tubing stretches it provides resistance against the muscles that a person uses to pull on the tubing. Anchoring the tubing to something solid can allow you to work one arm or leg at a time. Putting the tubing behind your back or looped around something solid and handing on to both ends allows you to exercise both sides of the body simultaneously. Many pushing and pulling actions can be done with tubing to exercise the major muscle groups.

Tubing can offer a wide variety of resistance which makes it perfect for someone starting a fitness program or looking for exercises to add to a rehabilitation program. Tubing can be the perfect way to begin exercising at home to prepare yourself for a more intense fitness program. Depending on your fitness level sometimes using exercise machines can be a little too much to begin with. Tubing provides a wide range of resistance. Shortening your grips from each end puts more stretch in the tube and increases the resistance.

Tubing is very inexpensive and easy to come by. Most medical supply stores or health care merchants carry tubing. A quick look in the Yellow Pages can show the closest vendor.

Contact an exercise professional or physiotherapist for tubing exercises to get you started.

Flexibility Training

FLEXIBILITY - WHY STRETCH?

Flexibility exercises are overlooked by many people as being an important part of their exercise program. Stretching exercises done properly increases your flexibility and allows a greater range of motion around joints in the body. Here are some specific benefits from a regular stretching program:

  1. Stretching as part of your warm up decreases the chance of injury to the muscles by helping the muscles become more elastic and increase their ability to change shape.
  2. Stretching in your warm up also helps increase the blood supply to the muscles being stretched which can be very important of energy during your workout.
  3. Stretching after your workout can help relax tight fatigued muscles. Decreasing the tension in the mescals can help with stiffness that sets in after a workout.
  4. Stretching after a workout will give the greatest increases in flexibility as well. The muscles are thoroughly warm and are able to stretch farther than when they are cold. This increase in flexibility aids in making the body more moveable and resistant to muscle pulls and strains.

Here is the proper way to incorporate stretching into your workout:

  1. Warm up with 5 minutes of light general aerobic activity.
  2. Stretch all the major muscles in your body. Pay special attention to the specific areas being used in your workout.
  3. When your workout is finished use light movement and stretches as a cool down. Again stretch every major muscle group with special attention on the muscles that were used in the workout.

Remember two final things, do not bounce while stretching and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds in a stretched position to gain the benefits.

PROPER STRETCHING TECHNIQUE

When performing a stretching routine there are a few guidelines that can help obtain the maximum benefit from regular flexibility exercises:

  1. Move slowly into and out of each stretch.  Stretch to the point of feeling it pull, but stop before it becomes painful.
  2. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds (count to 30 after you have reached the stretching point).
  3. Never bounce while stretching. Bouncing can injure your muscles and connective tissue. Bouncing actually decreases your flexibility because you force the muscle to contract and become shorter.
  4. Breathe slowly and evenly while performing stretching exercises
  5. Repeat each stretch 3 times to increase flexibility.
  6. Repeat each stretch 2 times to maintain flexibility.
  7. Stretching everyday allows the greatest increase in flexibility.

Athletic Training

New tips soon

Specific Training

WRIST AND FOREARM TRAINING

Wrist and forearm strength and stability is important for daily activity.  The wrists and hands are used in most activities for gripping or manipulating objects.  Keeping this area strong and flexible also decreases the risk of overuse injuries from repetitive hand movements like typing, writing, or continuously lifting or moving objects.

The following paragraphs will outline a couple of stretches and strength exercises to increase flexibility and strength of the wrist and hand:

Stretches

  1. Wrist Flexion - Place one forearm on the arm of a chair palm down and with your wrist and hand hanging over the end of the arm.  Use the other hand to push down on the back of the hand.  A light stretch should be felt in the back of the wrist up the back of the forearm toward the elbow.
  2. Wrist Extension - Place the forearm in the same position as wrist flexion.  Use the other hand to push up on the palm of the first hand.  A stretch should be felt in the on the inside of the forearm.
  3. Lateral Movement - Place your hand palm down on a table.  The heel of hand will be the pivot point.  The fingers should just brush lightly against the table.  Begin with your hand and wrist in a straight line.  Slowly move the hand to the left as far as possible, return to the starting position and move the hand to the right.  Try to concentrate all the movement at the wrist.  The forearm should remain in a straight position throughout the whole movement.

Strength Exercises

  1. Wrist Curls - Sit in a chair with your forearms on your knees.  The hands should be palm up with the wrists hanging over the knees to allow wrist movement.  Dumbbells or barbells work well to add resistance.  Start with the wrists extended and the finders lower than the wrist.  Slowly flex the wrists up as far as possible without lifting the forearms off the thighs.
  2. Reverse Wrist Curls - Start in the same position except the arms should be rotated palm down.  Begin with the wrists flexed so the fingers are hanging down.  Slowly extend the wrist until the hands move upward as far as possible without lifting the forearms off the thighs.
  3. Grip Strength - Any rubber ball that fits easily in the hand and allows quite a bit of finger movement when squeezing is appropriate.  When squeezing the ball make sure the wrist remains in a stable neutral position.  One way to keep the wrist straight is to place the hand and forearm on a table (palm up) while you perform the squeezing exercise.

Try these simple exercises in the gym or at home to increase wrist strength and flexibility.  Have fun out there.

TRUNK TRAINING

One area of the body that is vital to keep strong and injury free is the trunk.  The muscles of the abdomen and lower back are key in supporting the back and upper body in everyday movements.

Strong trunk muscles improve posture, decrease day to day low back pain, and keep us from injuring ourselves with any lifting or twisting movements.

Because the lower back muscles are constantly at work in balancing our upper body and supporting our spine it is important to train them more from an endurance point of view rather than for power or strength.  The muscles of the trunk are relatively small and training them with too much weight can cause injury quite easily.

Here are some suggested exercises for the abdominal and lower back areas:

  1. Crunches - Lie on a mat with your feet flat on the mat and your knees bent to 90 degrees.  Place your arms at your sides, across your stomach, or across your chest.  Tighten your abs and slowly curl your shoulders toward your thighs.  Curl up until your upper back and shoulder blades are off the mat, but your lower back remains on the mat.
  2. Reverse Crunches - Lie in the same position as crunches, but place your hands at your sides.  Tighten your abs and curl your knees up toward your chest.  The rear end should lift off the mat, but the lower back should remain on the mat.  Slowly lower your knees, but keep the feet from touching the mat.  During the curling up motion the bend in the knees should not change.
  3. Back Extensions - Lie on a mat on your stomach with a rolled up towel or some other small pad under your waist.  In this position your rear end is slightly higher than your waist and toes.  Tighten your lower back and raise your shoulders off the mat about three inches.  After a brief pause lower back to the mat and repeat.
  4. Good Mornings - Stand with your feet hip width apart, the knees slightly bent, and hold a broom stick across your shoulders.  Keep the back straight and slowly bend forward at the waist until the back is just about parallel with the floor.  To keep your balance you will have to shift your rear end backward slightly.  Straighten up by lifting the head slightly and follow with the rest of the back.
  5. Seated Twists - Sit in a chair with a broom stick across your shoulders.  Slowly twist to one side and then the other.  The trunk should rotate, but the hips and knees should remain pointing straight forward.  The shoulders should remain level during the movement, make sure you are not dipping your shoulders as you rotate.

As mentioned above, endurance is key for the trunk muscles. Perform these exercises for three sets of ten to begin.  As this gets easier add repetitions, not weight.  Increase the exercise to three sets of 15, 20, 25 etc until you can perform three sets of 40 to 50 repetitions.  At this point you can add a fourth set and drop back to 20 - 25 repetitions and build up again.

Try these exercises to improve trunk strength and endurance. Remember to have fun!

TRAINING THE LOWER LEG MUSCLES

The muscles in the lower leg (shin and calf) provide a lot of support and stability for everyday activities. These muscles provide balance while walking and move the foot up, down, and rotate it from side to side. There are a few basic exercises to do which can help strengthen these valuable support muscles:

Calf - The calf is comprised of two large muscles which move the foot away from the knee when they flex (plantar flexion). The calf muscles are used to push the body forward when walking, or to raise up on one's toes among other things. The following exercises strengthen the calf.

  1. Calf Raises - Stand on a low bench or the bottom step of a stair case with your heels hanging off. Slowly push your toes into the step and raise your heels up as high as possible, slowly lower the heels and repeat.
  2. Seated Calf Raises - Place the balls of your feet on the foot plate. Ensure the knee pad fits firmly over the thighs. Push your toes into the plate and lift your heel as high as possible, slowly lower and repeat.
  3. Tubing Calf Press - Sit in a chair with one leg extended and only the heel touching the ground. Loop a piece of surgical tubing around the ball of the foot of the extended leg. Grasp the loose end of the tubing. Push the toes forward as far as possible. Slowly return to the start position and repeat. The tubing can be shortened or lengthened with your grip on the loose end to increase or decrease the resistance.

Shin - The shin is composed of many small muscles that control the toes and ankle movements. Strengthening this area can improve balance because these muscles are responsible for many small corrective movements in ankle position while standing and walking. The following are some exercises to strengthen the muscles of the shin.

  1. Toe Raises - Sit with your feet flat on the floor. Place a Velcro wrist weight over each foot. Slowly lift the toes while the heel remains on the floor.
  2. Inversion / Eversion - Sit in a chair with both legs flat on the floor. Try and rotate your ankles inward so the soles of the feet are facing outward. Return to the start position and rotate the ankles outward so the soles of the feet face inward. Try and do the exercise without moving the knees. Resistance can be added by anchoring a piece of surgical tubing to something and looping the loose end around your foot just in front of the ankle.

These exercises can help increase ankle stability and the chance of twisting or spraining your ankle. The exercises should be accompanied by regular stretching of the area.

Adapted Technique

New tips soon

Contact the Trainer

Kate Zmurchyk is the Manager, Fitness & Lifestyle Programs at The Steadward Centre.  Kate encourages questions, and tries to answer personally or post a new tip where appropriate.  He can be reached through any of the following contact methods:

E-mail: info@steadwardcentre.org 
Telephone: +1-780-492-9236
Telefax: +1-780-492-7161
Mail: The Steadward Centre
W1-67 Van Vliet Centre, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2H9
All materials copyright: The Steadward Centre, 2000, 2001.

Problems with or questions about the site? Contact the Webmaster.

These pages are located on the University of Alberta's Faculty of Physical Education & Recreation's Web Server.

Alberta Sport, Recreation, Parks & Wildlife Foundation Logo

A Beneficiary of Lottery Fund Proceeds, through the Alberta Sport, Recreation, Parks & Wildlife Foundation

W1-67 Van Vliet Centre
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T6G 2H9
Telephone: 780-492-3182
Telefax: 780-492-7161
E-mail: info@steadwardcentre.org