Category Archives: Workouts

Move Like Jagger: 3 Dance-Inspired Exercises for Cardio & Strength

betty_640px

Betty Cunningham

Cardio Dance, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to improve your cardiovascular endurance while simultaneously working multiple muscle groups and keeping your body and mind constantly challenged. Dancing improves your brainpower, your outlook and your overall fitness level.

The constant flow of mood-improving chemicals released in a dance class means that “getting your groove on” can elevate your mental state and slay depression. Dancing also gives the memory and coordination areas of the brain a real workout leading to stronger synapses and toned up grey matter.

Also, incorporated into Dance Fit and Zumba are plyometric exercises that train your body anaerobically, working the fast muscle twitch fibers and therefore improving muscular strength.  In my classes we work aerobically to improve cardio endurance and anaerobically to improve muscular strength. Plyometrics improve your bone density too!

You don’t have to be able to move like Jagger to reap the health benefits of dancing. The more time you spend on the dance floor, front row or back row, the more time you’re training your brain to send out those endorphins! So what are waiting for — let’s dance!

All of these exercises are generally incorporated into a cardio dance work out and can be performed as a group one after the other. Repeat the group for three sets of each exercise.

Exercise 1: Plié Heel Clicks

plie heel kicks

This exercise is a plyometric explosive movement that works the inner and outer thigh muscles, the quadriceps and glutes and of course sends your heart rate through the roof!

  • Starting Position: Stand with your feet spaced slightly wider than shoulder width with your toes pointing slightly outwards. Lower yourself into a sitting position. Your thighs should be as parallel to the floor as you can manage.
  • Push off the balls of your feet, jump and bring your heels together while airborne. 
  • Ending Position: Land softly on the balls of your feet lowering the heels to the ground

Complete 3 sets of 8.

Exercise 2: Standing Leg Lifts

standing leg lifts

Standing leg lifts work your inner thighs, (adductors), core and the supporting quadriceps. This exercise also strengthens and lengthens the hamstring.

  • Starting Position: Stand with one knee slightly bent and the other leg extended in front of you, pointing the toe. Rotate the toe slightly out and hold the extended leg at least two inches off the floor.
  • Slowly lift the leg to your maximum height and then lower the leg with control to the ground without letting the lifting leg touch the ground.
  • You can add small hand weights to engage the upper body.

Complete 8 lifts on the right leg and 8 lifts on the left leg. Repeat 3 times.

Exercise 3: Mini Ball Thigh Burner

miniball thigh burner

This exercise strengthens the quadriceps and engages the core and the glutes.

  • Starting Position: Place a miniball high between the inner thighs. Stand beside a bar or wall and place one hand on the bar/wall for support. Raise your heels as high as possible off the ground and stand on your toes with feet about 4 inches apart.
  • Slowly lower your body down, keeping the tailbone tucked under until your thighs are parallel to the gound. Slowly raise up to starting position and keep squeezing the ball.

Complete 3 sets of 8.

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The Magical Tibetan Twist

by Cary Fyfe

by Cary Fyfe

As we move more deeply into November, and closer to — ready for this? — The Holidays!! — I want to share my yoga “go-to” with you. This magical move is for those moments when, in one minute, your head is spinning wildly off of your body, and in the very next, you fall asleep while standing in line at the post office, still holding on to your packages. This move is called a “Tibetan Twist”, and it reconnects my body and mind every single time that I do it.

How-To:

Twist_w-1 Twist_w-2 Twist_w-3

So here we go…stand up, feet hip-distance apart, lift your arms straight out to the sides, to shoulder height (like you’re pretending to be a bird, one that could fly to Grandma’s house and not have to ride in the car with the kids for 5 hours), and:

  • twist right, twist left
  • inhale right, exhale left, breathe in and out, through your nose
  • twist 21 times on each side, and you will soon love yourself and your life again.

Benefits

If anxiety is poking at you, twist and breathe slowly, for calming. If lethargy is plaguing you, move more quickly, for energy. And if you’ve had too much pecan pie and dressing, twist away and your full belly will thank you. You can do this anywhere — yes, people will stare, but we are entering the Season of Wonder, so who cares? Just put the packages down first, twist and breathe away, and the wonderers will wish they knew what you knew. And now, I’ll leave you with a fun-fact: the magic of 21 times has another story, and there are 4 other exercises in the Tibetan series, but I will stop here and say — a little pre-Christmas gift from me to you — the next time you see Amy Younkman, ask her to tell you more because she is a “Tibetan Five” expert! Happy Travels, Happy Feasting and Happy Twisting!

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3-Step Full-Body Resistance Band Workout

Resistance bands are an easy and convenient way to get a great full-body workout whether you’re in the gym, outdoors, at home or traveling.  iGnite founder Neissa shares her favorite resistance band exercises that work your body from head to toe.

Complete 3 rounds of these 3 exercises for a challenging full-body workout:

ResistanceBandWorkout-011. Chest Press with Stationary lunge
(10 each leg)

  • Equipment: use a heavier resistance band for this exercise and others that work the chest and back
  • Muscles Worked: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, chest, core
  • Difficulty Adjustment: Adjust your resistance level by widening or shortening your stance, stepping forward or backward.
  • Form: Keep your knee and ankle in alignment and arms at 90 degrees. Inhale down, exhale as you extend.

 

2. Squat + Standing Row
(set of 10-15 reps)

      • Equipment: Use a heavier resistance band for this exercise and others that work the chest and back
      • Muscles Worked: quads, glutes & hamstrings, lats & rhomboids (all back), biceps, core
      • Form: Pull with palms facing up, elbows in against your sides, and squeezing the shoulder blades together
      • Difficulty adjustment: Adjust the resistance level of your row by stepping forward or backwards

 

3. Squat with Shoulder Press and Optional Jump

  • Equipment: Use a lighter resistance band so that you can fully extend the arms overhead while standing on the bands
  • Muscles Worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings, shoulders, core and cardio
  • Form: Sit back in your squat like you are sitting in a chair with chest up and looking straight ahead
  • Difficulty adjustment: Increase the amount of cardio work by including a jump after alternating squats

 

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Master the Pull-Up in 5 Steps

Think pull-ups are out of reach? Not true! Follow this 5-step progression & CONQUER them!

5-Step Progression Summary:

Stage 1: Low bar

Stage 1

Find a low bar 3-4 feet off the ground and slide your body carefully underneath it. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, keeping the core tight and the body straight (no sagging). Keeping your shoulders away from the ears, engage your back muscles as you pull your chest up to the bar. Be sure to lower slowly to engage the back muscles.

Work up to completing 10-15 reps comfortably before moving onto the next progression.

Stage 2: Heel assistance on stool/bench

pullupprogression_2 pullupprogression_2.1

At a low standing bar, place a stool/box/bench about one foot in front of the bar. Grab the bar with your arms a little wider than shoulder width apart and with your thumbs underneath.  Place the bench where when hanging from the bar your knees will be at 90 degrees, and place your heels on the bench.

Slowly pull your chin up over the bar, pushing through the heels for assistance.  Lower slowly down to engage the back muscles.

Master 10-15 of these before moving on.

Stage 3: Toe assistance on stool/bench

 pullupprogression_3 pullupprogression_3.1

Place your chair/bench 12 inches behind the bar, and hang down from the bar so that your knees are at a 90 degree angle and your toes are resting on the bench. Pull yourself up using your toes for assistance.

Start with 5 reps and work up to 10 of these.  

Stage 4: Low bar jump & slowly lower

pullupprogression_4 pullupprogression_4.1 

At the same low standing bar (or at a high bar with a stool), jump up over the bar and slowly lower down. Work up to 10 of these.

Focus on engaging your back muscles as you slowly lower down, keeping your shoulders away from your ears.

Stage 5: Full Pull-up!

pullupprogression_5 pullupprogression_5.1 

Standing at the high pull-up bar with the grip wider than your shoulders, engage the core — don’t let the legs swing — and engage your back and pull your chin up over the bar.

Do not lean your head back and strain your neck, instead, pull with your back muscles as hard as you can to get your chin up over the bar.

You were not put on this earth to fit in, you were born to stand out!

You can do it!

 

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5 Tips for Proper Running Technique

iGnite instructor and running expert Alli Phillips shares her top 5 tips for proper running form and technique to improve running efficiency and speed, prevent common running injuries, and allow runners to enjoy this most elemental, fundamental, and wonderful exercise for a lifetime.  Running with better form will make you more efficient and faster; and vice versa, running faster makes you more efficient and improves form.

1. Upper body alignment

  • Stay in a stacked vertical plank: head in alignment with shoulders, ribs and hips.
  • Strong core: all runners should have a strong core to support that vertical plank, so be sure to include some good core strengthening exercises into your running routine
  • Relax the shoulders

2. Lower body position

  • Pelvis under ribs: keep hips neutrally aligned under the ribs. Think of your pelvis like a bucket, not tipping it one way or another, hold it steady under your vertical plank.
  • Strong glutes: be sure to incorporate glute-strengthening exercises like squats, lunges & step-ups in your running routine because strong hips & glutes will help maintain that neutral pelvis
  • Keep  soft, slightly bent knees through all points in your run, keeping your knee like a loaded spring. This reduces the impact on your joints.
  • Feet under the hips

3.  Foot placement or strike

  • You want to the foot to land right under the hip when you’re running
  • Forefoot takes the weight

4. Forward lean

  • When you run, you want a slightly forward lean with your full body
  • Lean & drive from your hips (or your center of mass)
  • Maintain neutral connected plank position as you lean forward

5.  Cadence

  • Fast Turnover: to go faster, simply increase the rate of your step — don’t widen your stride
  • Quick light steps

DRILL: Sub-Max Sprints
Complete this drill after a 10 minute warm-up. This drill will teach your body how to maintain proper running form at a higher cadence/speed.

  1. Run in place 5-10 seconds focusing on body position and high cadence/turnover
  2. Lean or “fall forward” and run fast for 20-60 seconds or until your cadence slows and/or form is lost

Repeat 3-10 times based on your level of fitness.

 

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Our Favorite Exercises: The Plank Spiderman Squat

Video not working? Watch it here on YouTube

Molly Daniels

Molly Daniels

The Plank Spiderman Squat is one of my favorite exercises because it works your core, your chest and your back, while also being a great cardio exercise.

Important notes on form (see video for demonstration):

  • In your plank, be sure to keep your shoulders directly above your wrists and your chest between your hands
  • Look slightly in front of you at the end of your mat

Modified version (see video for demonstration) :

  • Instead of tapping each foot on the ground by your hands, bring the knee to meet the elbow on each side, then step the feet in and out of your squat one at a time

 

Complete 3 sets of 5, with a 30 second rest between each set.

 

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The Pilates “Fab 5” Stomach Series

by Amy Younkman

by Amy Younkman

The Pilates “Fab 5” is a popular sequence of mat exercises that are some of the best ab exercises of all times. They are challenging, especially when you flow from one into the next. You can modify them by not lowering your legs as much and/or keeping your head down if your neck feels strained.

1. Single Leg Stretch

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent in table top position. Let your abdominal muscles drop down toward the mat as you lengthen your spine, curl your chin into your chest and use your abs to curl your upper body off the mat to the base of your shoulder blades (in a “c-curve”). With shoulder blades lifted off the ground, keep your eyes on your belly button — this keeps your neck from becoming fatigued.
  • Inhale and extend your left leg long as you hug your right knee in towards your chest. Exhale and switch legs keeping both legs along the mid-line and your pelvis and hips stable.
  • Complete 5 – 10 reps on each side.

2. Double Leg Stretch

  • Squeeze your bent knees into your chest as you curl up using your abs, not your neck.
  • Inhale and stretch your legs and arms long, keeping your arms alongside your ears. Sweep the arms around and hug your knees on the exhale, making sure the torso remains stable with no movement.
  • Repeat 5 – 10 times.

3. Single Straight Leg Stretch (Scissors)

  • Curl up into your C-Curve and stretch your right extended leg towards your face as you lengthen your left leg, hovering above the mat. Hold the extended right leg either behind the thigh, shin or ankle, but not at the knee. Inhale and pulse the leg towards you two times, then exhale and switch legs. Think precision as you scissor the legs in opposition. Keep your eyes on your belly button to keep the neck from straining.
  • Complete 5 – 10 reps on each side.

4. Double Straight Leg Lower/Lift

  • Extend both legs towards the ceiling, squeezing the heels, sit bones and inner thighs together as you externally rotate the legs in the “Pilates V” stance. With hands behind the head and elbows wide, lengthen the back of your neck and curl up into your C-Curve with shoulder blades cresting the mat.
  • Inhale and lower both legs only as far as you can control the lower back staying on the mat. Exhale as you draw your legs up, keeping the work in the lower abs and not the hip flexors. Soften the knees if you feel your hip flexors firing.
  • Repeat 5 – 10 times.

5. Criss Cross

  • Bring your legs into table top position as your hands come behind the head. Lengthen the back of your neck as you curl up into your C-Curve, elbows wide. Inhale here, then exhale as you extend your left leg long along your mat and curl your ribcage to the right. The elbows stay wide as you bring your left armpit toward your right knee. Inhale, return to center, then exhale and switch sides, keeping hips and pelvis steady and anchored to the mat.
  • Complete 5 – 10 reps on each side.

Join Amy weekly:
Power Pilates | Wednesdays 8:30am
Vinyasa Yoga | Fridays 8:30am

 

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5-Step Glutes & Core Medicine Ball Workout

Or, for a written version of this workout:

Complete 20 reps of each of these 5 exercises, resting 20-30 seconds between each exercise. Repeat the circuit 2-3 times, according to your ability level.

1. Wall Sit with a Ball Raise

  • With a 6 pound medicine ball (or whatever weight is comfortable for you), sit against a wall in a deep, wide squat. Keep the toes facing forward with your weight in your heels, and engage your core very tightly so that if someone were to punch you in the stomach it would be firm. Firm up your core so there is no arch in your back and raise the ball up against the wall and then down between your legs. Keep your legs wide enough so that the ball can come down between your knees.
  • Complete 20 ball raises.

2. Ab Toss

  • Facing the wall, sit down on a mat with your legs out in front of you and upper body leaned back at a slight angle and hold the medicine ball at your chest.  If you have a weaker back, sit straighter up. Legs are slightly bent and soft, or if it doesn’t bother your hip flexors, more straightened out.
  • Next, throw the ball straight against the wall in a chest pass, absorbing to catch it in a fluid motion — no stopping and then throwing.
  • Complete 20 throws.

3. Basic Glute Raise on the Ball

  • Lie down on your back, placing your heels on top of the medicine ball with your knees fist-width distance apart. Place your arms by your sides and keep your shoulders pulled down away from your ears.
  • Lift your glutes high up and down for 20 reps at a steady pace, inhaling down, exhaling up.
  • To increase the difficulty level, extend one leg upwards and complete the glute raises on a single leg.

4. Russian Twist

  • Sitting on a mat parallel to the wall, place your legs out in front of you with soft knees and lean your upper body  back at a slight angle, holding the medicine ball at your chest.  Twist to the side away from the wall with the ball, engaging your core, and without tapping the ground with the ball in a healthy and safe twist.
  • Next twist back towards the wall and throw the medicine ball against the wall  in one fluid motion.  Catch and absorb the ball and twist again. Inhale on the catch, exhale on the throw. Be sure to do this all in one fluid motion, not stopping between catches and throws.
  • Complete 20 on each side.

5. Prone Superman (or “Barking Dog”)

  • Lie on your stomach a few feet from the wall with the medicine ball and lift your legs and upper body off the ground.
  • Roll/throw the ball hard along the ground against the wall and catch it as it comes back at you. Complete 20 throws.
  • Rest the neck afterwards by turning the head side to side.
  • *If you have a bad lower back, be careful with this exercise — you may want to skip it. Alternate exercise:  Perform a basic back extension, keeping the legs on the ground and raising and lowering the upper body off the ground.

 

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Heart Opening Yoga Sequence

Video not showing up? Watch it here on YouTube
A written version of this yoga sequence is below.

by Meg O’Connell

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and I often get caught up in all of the festivities of the holiday, especially with children. It is also wonderful, while celebrating all of this love, to take the time to love on yourself. With all of the emotional events that we experience and witness, we close off part of our emotional capacity to ourselves and to others. We physically let go of our posture and emotionally feel tapped out. So, take a little time to focus on yourself. When you take the time to nurture yourself, you will feel more love in the world for yourself and for your loved ones. Feel your capacity to love grow!

Enjoy this short Heart Opening Sequence:

  1. Chest Opening with the Breath
    You can take this seated in Easy Pose or in Mountain Pose. Interlace your fingers at your heart center and inhale.  As you exhale, extend the arms forward and reach through your palms, letting the upper back round. Stay in the position for your next inhale, then with your exhale, separate your hands and reach the elbows back behind you. Then repeat this 3-5 times.
  2. Threading the Needle Twist
    Come onto your hands and knees, with the knees being just slightly wider than the hips. With your inhale, extend you right arm up to the ceiling and with your exhale, thread the arm back under the left. Repeat this 4 times and then switch to the left side.
  3. Supported Side Arm with bound ankle
    Still on your hands and knees (bring the knees right back under the hips), extend your right leg back, you can keep this foot on the ground or lift it. Float your left foot slightly out and inhale the right arm up to the ceiling, opening the chest and hips. Once you have your balance, bring your right hand to your right foot and press the foot into the hand, spiraling the chest open. Stay for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the left.
  4. Down Dog with bent knees
    Instead of working with the hamstrings, really focus on the chest. Keep the knees bent and really draw the chest back to the thighs. You can sway, twist —  whatever feels best to you. Take 5 breaths.
  5. Warrior 2 with bound hands
    Bring your right foot through into a lunge and pivot your left foot to the ground. Draw energy into the legs and then lift the hands and open the arms into Warrior 2. The chest and hips are now open to the right. Make sure there is life in the left foot. Bring your hands behind the back and interlace the fingers. Take a full breath in and fold at the hip to the inside of the right knee. Press the back of the hands up to the ceiling and let the head go. Try to keep the spin long. Stay for 5 Breaths. Transition back into your lunge and step back into your down dog. Repeat with your left leg.
  6. Cobra into Childs Pose
    From Down dog, lower your knees back to the ground. With your inhale, bring the hips forward, lowering them towards the ground and bringing your shoulders over your palms. The elbows might stay bent or straighten depending on your back and how it feels. With your exhale, draw the hips back to the heels. With your inhale bring the hips forward and open back up into Cobra, then exhale into child’s pose. Take this movement 3-5 times and then rest back into child’s pose. Bring your arms down to your side and take 3 breaths into the back of the heart. Feel your chest and belly expand against your thighs.
  7. Supported Spinal Savasana
    Take a blanket or towel and fold it so that it is long and skinny. Bring one end to the base of your spine. With the soles of the feet on the ground, roll the spine down along the roll. Let the shoulders roll over each side and the head should be supported by the blanket as well, so you might need a second blanket or block. Let the arms rest to the side or extend them over your head and then bend the elbows, resting the back of the forearm and hand on the ground. You can extend the legs if that is comfortable for you and let the toes fall open. Stay for 3-5 minutes, or as long as you want!

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5 Step, Full-Body Medicine Ball Workout

Video not showing up? Watch it here on YouTube
Like this video on our Facebook page by Jan. 31, 2014 & be entered to win a FREE Dynamax medicine ball (a >$75 retail value)!

This 5-step full-body workout created by iGnite founder Neissa Springmann uses only a medicine ball.  Complete the 5-exercise series 2-3 times (depending on your fitness level), resting 20-30 seconds between each exercise.  Feel free to use a lower weight medicine ball that is appropriate for your personal strength level.

If you prefer written instructions to watching a video, we’ve written up the entire workout for you here:

First, be sure to warm up for 3-5 minutes. Good warm up options are:

  • brisk power walk
  • jumping jacks
  • march in place

Exercise 1: Overhead Knee Tap

  • Reach high above your head with the medicine ball, engaging the glutes and the core, and lift one knee and bring the medicine ball down to tap the knee.  Then lift the ball back up above your head and place the foot back on the ground.  Stay tall and be sure not to round your back.
  • For those with sensitive shoulders:  hold the medicine ball in front of you and bring your knees up to touch the medicine ball.
  • Continue alternating legs and complete 20 reps.

~ Rest 20-30 seconds ~

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 1.40.55 PMExercise 2: Squat to Chest Pass

  • Stand a 4-5 feet away from a wall or column (adjust distance according to your comfort level). Holding the medicine ball, squat down with your weight in your heels so that your glutes and quads are activated, pulling in your belly button.  On your way back up to standing, toss the ball against the wall straight in front of you with power so that it bounces back straight to you.  Absorb the ball as you catch it while squatting back down.
  • Complete 20 reps.

~ Rest 20-30 seconds ~

Exercise 3: Jumping Jack to Military Press

  • Starting with holding the medicine ball at your chest, complete a jumping jack, pressing the ball above your head each time you jump your legs out.
  • Low-impact version: Instead of jumping legs out and in, simply alternate stepping legs out and in while pressing the ball above your head.
  • If you have sensitive shoulders: hold the medicine ball at your chest while completing the jumping jack.
  • Complete 20 reps.

 ~ Rest 20-30 seconds ~

Exercise 4: Sumo Squat to High Toss

  • Step your legs out into a wide “sumo squat,” pointing your toes out away from your body at  a 45 degree angle.  Squat nice and deep, and as you rise back up, toss the ball as high as you can against the wall.  As soon as the ball comes back to you, squat and absorb the catch.   If necessary, slow down the exercise to maintain good form.
  • Complete 20 reps.

 ~ Rest 20-30 seconds ~

Exercise 5: Kneeling Overhead Tricep Toss

  • On your knees and relatively close to a wall, firm your glutes and tighten your core by pulling in your belly button. Lift the ball above your head and bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle, keeping the elbows pulled in close to your ears.  Toss the ball against the wall and catch it, keeping your lower body and core still and activated.
  • Complete 20 reps.

 

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