How to Become More Flexible

The focus on flexibility often gets overshadowed by the desire for increased strength or improved endurance when it comes to our fitness routines. However, flexibility is a key part of a comprehensive workout regimen, which makes it important for us to have a better range of motion.

Flexibility helps decrease the chance of injuries, while increasing muscle strength and balance. It can also aid in improved posture, lengthened muscles for a leaner look, and in some cases, it can enhance athletic performances.

Flexibility is not only important for our workout routines. Elasticity declines as we age, so the incorporation of these types of exercises and movements are valuable for our day-to-day activities as well.

According to JustStand.org, studies have shown we sit an average of 7.7 hours a day! Sitting for such long periods of time can easily cause our muscles to tighten up and eventually cause long-term pain and discomfort. Even if we don’t always have time for the gym, there are ways to become more flexible.

Say “Yes” to Yoga or Pilates

Want a way to improve flexibility while also focusing on your mind-body connection? Incorporate yoga or Pilates into your weekly routine for a well-rounded workout that focuses on all parts of the body. Mindful breathing and holding poses for longer periods of time contribute to a stronger sense of balance and flexibility. Over time, you will see the difference in how you look and feel the difference in how you move.

Don’t Skip Stretching

Do you stretch as often as you should? Our bodies can benefit when we start and end our workouts with stretching, but too often it’s skipped. Not only does stretching help keep our bodies limber, it just feels great, too.

There are both dynamic and static stretches you can do pre- or post-workout, but also several you can perform while sitting at a desk or on the couch. The upper body often becomes strained and stiff by constant hunching or slouched posture throughout the day. One easy, go-to stretch is to lace your hands behind your head and pull back gently to release your back and shoulder muscles.

Keep Moving

Dynamic stretching, such as windmill exercises, walking lunges, or jumping jacks, are basic movements meant to keep our muscles engaged and warm up our bodies for a workout. Another way to stay active is to take a 10-minute break every few hours to walk around the block and loosen up the limbs. Finally, simply standing rather than sitting immediately improves posture and helps burn extra calories.

These are three of the many ways to achieve greater flexibility and prevent muscles and joints from becoming too stiff from lack of activity. You may notice there will be days your flexibility will be better than others, which is perfectly normal. Don’t overdo it and risk the possibility of an injury.

Find what works best for you. Listen to your body and know your limits as you strive to meet your fitness goals and keep your body in healthy shape.

7 Workout Motivation Tips

For many fitness fanatics, daily workouts are as necessary as brushing their teeth or taking a shower. It’s a healthy habit that’s become part of their everyday routine. Whether exercise gets their day off to a good start, makes them feel more energetic, or is a way to alleviate stress, they require little motivation to get in a regular workout.

However, there are those who require a bit more inspiration in order to stick with their fitness plan. If you fall into this second category, don’t worry; you’re not alone. Everyone experiences times when an extra boost is necessary to power through and stay on a healthy track.

We understand self-motivation doesn’t always come easy, so we’re delivering 7 helpful tips to keep the momentum going.

  1. Pick an empowering playlist. Music can set the mood for our workouts. Choose songs that energize you and push you to work out a few, additional minutes or go the literal extra mile. Alternatively, if you need to wind down, select relaxing tunes while you soak up your time of self-care.
  1. Set fitness goals. When you have something to aim for, it can make each workout more worthwhile. Goals can be long-term like focusing on improved health or a lifestyle change. Or, it can be more specific and short-term, such as completing a 5K or dropping a pant size or two.
  1. Create accountability. A workout partner or trainer can be a powerful “tool” to stay the course with your exercise habits. Schedule gym dates with friends or get moving outdoors with a hike or bike ride. If you have someone counting on you to make a workout happen, it can create a greater sense of urgency and commitment to follow through as planned.
  1. Get out of a rut. Too often we quit our regular workouts because we’re burned out by the treadmill or don’t like the monotony of our routine. In order to shake things up, try new classes on a rotating basis or challenge yourself with added weights or repetitions. Small changes are an easy way to add a boost of motivation and sidestep boredom.
  1. Get back on the bandwagon. Maybe it’s been a few weeks (or months) since you’ve worked out and you feel like it’s too big of a hurdle to overcome and start again. The first step is often the hardest, but you’ll soon be back in the swing of things, if you set realistic expectations. Don’t go full throttle all at once. Ease into exercise one step at a time, maybe 10 minutes to start, and build from there.
  1. Schedule it. It’s easy to fill our schedules full of activities but forget to add in a workout. By making an “appointment,” we are purposefully creating time to focus on our fitness. Even on hectic days, 15 or 20 minutes of exercise will do the trick and make you feel so much better.
  1. Update your workout wardrobe. It might not be an incentive for everyone, but a new pair of sneakers or gym outfit may be just the inspiration needed to look and feel good while at the gym. Celebrate milestones with small rewards like these to help keep your health in check and exercise a regular part of your lifestyle.

The Five Best Bicep Workouts

When it comes to building eye-popping arms, it is important not to neglect the biceps. The biceps allow you to flex your elbow; they’re not the biggest arm muscles but they can be built up to look incredible. Try these five bicep workouts and in no time, you’ll be eager to show off your guns.

Try starting with three sets of five reps; if you’re trying to build mass, heavier weights and fewer reps is recommended. For endurance, lower the weight and increase the reps. It’s not necessary to do all of the exercises at once; feel free to incorporate as few or as many as you like into your weightlifting routine.

Barbell Curl

Barbell Curl

The barbell curl is one of the most widely-practiced bicep exercises — and for good reason. It is effective and simple to perform. What’s more, when performed properly, the barbell curl achieves noticeable results. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold the barbell with an underhand grip. Curl the barbell up and then lower it to complete one rep. Just be careful not to give in to momentum; barbell curls should be done slowly for maximum effect.

Hammer Curl

Hammer Curl

The hammer curl is another highly effective bicep exercise; this seated lift works the brachialis and engages the elbow flexors. Try doing this exercise on a preacher bench to maximize its effects and prevent unintentional “cheating.” Holding dumbbells in the neutral or hammer position while bent slightly forward, raise them to your shoulders then lower them slowly to complete one rep.

Incline Barbell Curl

Incline Barbell

Another great exercise for building the biceps is the incline curl. As its name suggests, this exercise is done on an incline bench. Experiment with different incline levels to see what works best for you. Holding a dumbbell in each hand while seated on the incline bench, perform “classic curls,” raising and lowering the dumbbells slowly.

Standing Cable Curl

Standing Cable Curl

The cable is one of your best friends when it comes to building bigger biceps. Cable curls not only work every inch of the biceps but also the surrounding muscles. The reason this standing exercise is so effective is because it takes serious effort to stabilize your movements when curling the cable, as opposed to a barbell or dumbbell. This exercise can be done with both arms at once, or one arm at a time. The cable curl is performed much like a traditional standing bicep curl — the only major difference is the cable itself.

Seated Concentration Curl

Seated Concentration Curl

The seated concentration curl is ideal for finishing your biceps workout — momentum is minimized to ensure the biceps receive a maximum workout. Sit on a bench with legs apart; holding a dumbbell, bend forward slightly so that the upper arm is touching the upper thigh. From this position, perform dumbbell curls. The slower you curl, the more effectively the muscles will be worked.

All of the above exercises can be performed several times per week as part of a strength training routine. To maximize results, mix up cardio and strength training sessions three to five times weekly. While it’s tempting to work out every day, give your body at least one day each week to recover.

The Seven Best Compound Lifts for Maximum Size

Compound lifts engage multiple joints and work multiple muscles; these strength-building exercises are ideal for gaining maximum mass. Another benefit of compound lifts is that they reduce the need for isolation exercises. When it comes to the amount of weight and number of reps, it’s better to perform fewer reps at a heavier weight than vice versa — try starting with four sets of five reps and work up from there.

Try these seven effective compound lifts during your next sweat session:

Bench Press

Bench Press

The bench press is a tried-and-true compound lift that works not only the chest muscles but also the shoulders, triceps, and back.

To perform this lift, start face-up on a flat bench. Your back should be gently arched and feet should be flat on the floor. Using an overhand grip, hold the barbell and lower it to chest level; hands should be placed shoulder-width apart. To complete the exercise, raise the barbell back up to the starting position.

Deadlift

Deadlift

Deadlifts work the back, abs and legs; muscles engaged include but aren’t limited to the lats, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

To do a deadlift, stand with feet shoulder-width apart and bend the knees until you reach the barbell. Grasp the bar with one overhand and one underhand grip; inhale and lift the bar until knees are straight. Contract the back while lifting; exhale, then lower the bar gently to the ground.

Full Squat

Full Leg Squats

Full squats work multiple muscles including the quads, glutes, adductors, and hamstrings. The posterior and abdominals are also engaged during this exercise.

Start by sliding under the barbell; it should be positioned right above the shoulders. With the back gently arched, grasp the bar and remove it from the weight stand. While bending forward from the hips, perform the squatting motion – bending the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. To complete the exercise, straighten your legs and return to the starting position.

Clean and Press

Clean and Press

The clean and press works a number of muscles from the triceps and biceps to the glutes and calves.

For this exercise, the barbell should be on the floor. To perform this lift, squat and grab the barbell with a pronated grip. You’ll be lifting the bar to the upper thighs, right under the chin, then overhead. The movement is done with energy; once the bar is over your head, lower it slowly back down to the tops of the thighs then squat, lowering the bar to the floor.

Bent Over Row

Bent Over Row

The bent over row works multiple muscles which include but aren’t limited to the lats, posterior deltoid, erector spinae, and rectus abdominis.

This lift begins with the barbell on the floor. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, with hands shoulder-width apart. Slightly arch the back, bending about 45 degrees. Upon inhaling, lift the bar to the upper abs; to complete this lift, gently lower the bar back down to the floor.

Military Press

Military Press

The military press is excellent for the muscle groups of the arms and shoulders; muscles worked include the delts, pecs, and triceps.

This lift is performed from a seated position. Hold the bar at chest level using an overhand grip, then extend the bar over your head. To complete the exercise, lower the bar to the starting position.

Pull-Up

Pull Ups

The humble — yet highly effective — pull-up is a classic exercise that doesn’t require any barbells because it utilizes your body weight. This exercise builds the muscles of the arms and shoulders, including the lats, rhomboid major and minor, and biceps, to name just three.

You can use an overhand or underhand grip when doing a pull-up. Position hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart on the pull-up bar, then pull your body up until your chest is at bar level. Complete the exercise by lowering yourself to the starting position.