The extent of common knowledge and what people actually know often surprises me.
I guess techniques and types of exercises have been drilled into my head for so long that it might seem like common knowledge, and I assumed everyone knew what I consider to be the basics of exercise. But, as I recently learned, that is not quite the case. Not that I consider myself an expert by any means, but I want to share what I do know to as many people as I can.
Here are a few things I think everyone should know about exercise:
- Using a stability ball in your abdominal workout helps to alleviate lower-back pain and target your core muscles. As I’ve mentioned before, any time you add balance to an exercise it is intensifies that exercise by engaging your core.
- Any time you do ab work, you should complement it with a lower-back exercise. Just like when you work on your triceps, you should do the bicep machine as well to balance your workout and avoid straining your muscles. (These machines are usually located nearby in gyms for this reason.)
- Cardio/Aerobic routines should last about 30 minutes to have an effect. Whether you run, walk, elliptical, dance, swim or climb, any activity that gets your heart-rate up will speed up metabolism and help you lose weight. It also improves your overall health by working your cardio-vascular system and strengthening your heart, lungs and increasing bone density. Most recommend at least 3 days of cardio (any activity where heart rate is elevated) for at least 30 minutes a week for a healthy lifestyle. (The American College of Sports Medicine recommends anywhere from 3-5 days of 30-60 minutes worth)
- Alternate exercises from upper body to lower body during your workout. Switching from one area of the body to another is considered to be more effective than spending one day on all arms and one day on all legs. This is because going from an arm exercise to a leg exercise increases blood flow from one area of the body to the other.
- Warm up with cardio before strength training to prepare your muscles for a work out. A New York Times Article offers some suggestions:
- “Most experts advise starting your warm-up jog at about 40 percent of your maximum heart rate (a very easy pace) and progressing to about 60 percent. The aerobic warm-up should take only 5 to 10 minutes, with a 5-minute recovery. (Sprinters require longer warm-ups, because the loads exerted on their muscles are so extreme.)”
- STRETCH. Do so after a workout to increase flexibility, improve range of motion in your joints to prevent injury, and improve circulation. (The above article also mentions something about dynamic stretching, something I have not heard phrased this way but will look into!)
- Don’t focus solely on target areas. Full body workouts and exercises are more important than working only one area of the body. Many exercises have secondary benefits to other muscles of the body and are more effective for weight loss and health than singling out one muscle. You should aim to strengthen your whole body, not just your “problem area.”