Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hanging Knee Raise & Hanging Leg Raise

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[The video was shot outdoors. The background noise is the sound of wind blowing.]

Muscles worked: Primarily abdominals and hip flexors; also elongates and decompresses the spine; strengthens your grip.

Grip a horizontal bar that is high enough so that your feet do not touch the floor.

Knee Raise: With control, bring your knees up toward your chest. Then lower them. Do not let your body swing to gain momentum. Be smooth. Inhale and exhale with control. Do not hold your breath. Work towards 10 to 20 reps.

Leg Raise
(more difficult): With almost straight legs, bring your feet up to the bar, and with control lower them. Do not allow your body to swing for momentum. Work up to 10 to 15 reps.

Note: Most gyms have dual arm harnesses hanging from the chinning bar. If your grip is not strong enough to hold your bodyweight for an entire set, slip your arms through the harnesses and do the exercises without having to use a hand grip.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Home Gyms

Newsletter subscriber David Helms writes that 20 years ago he cancelled his gym membership for a simpler approach. The time it took him to make a round trip to the gym and wait for machines was roughly 40 minutes. So he devised a home-based program that could give him the same workout in that amount of time.

“I wanted to purchase equipment that was affordable, easy to use and took up little in terms of storage space,” he says. He settled on dumbbells and an exercise bench that he says would, in today’s dollars, cost about $250.

“I did some research,” he says, “and discovered that the dumbbell is very efficient in terms of providing a complete range of motion for any traditional weight training exercise. In addition, dumbbells give the user the ability to focus the intensity resulting in the greatest opportunity to build muscle while using the lowest possible weight.”

Helms is not alone in his conclusions about dumbbells. Bill Phillips [Body-for-Life] said that trainees looking for a minimalist approach should consider dumbbells and an exercise bench. He is also not alone in recognizing the convenience of a home gym. The great Bill Pearl started training as kid in a home gym, and as an adult he owned commercial gyms. In his book, Getting Stronger, he wrote that he would probably end his career where it began, training in a home gym. And that's where he trains now.

I certainly have nothing against commercial gyms and health clubs. That’s where I workout. The commute time from my home is 20 minutes each way. There are days when I would like to spend that 40 minutes doing something other than driving. For now, I’ll stick with the gym. Yet I know there’s a time when I’ll stop and train at home.

The main thing is, you really have to know yourself. As I wrote in my beginner’s book, training at home is like working at home. There are distractions and “to do” lists that may sabotage your workouts. But once you have gone to a gym, you are likely to follow through and workout. There are many places to exercise and many ways to exercise. Be sure you select a place that is convenient and a time when there are few interruptions.

By the way, here is the home gym equipment David Helms uses:

1) Simple adjustable bench designed for use with dumbbells
(my first bench was recently replaced)

2) 16 York 10 lb. plates

3) 4 York 5 lb. plates

4) 4 York 2.5 lb. plates

5) 2 “Star lock” bars

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Why Exercise Boosts Brainpower

Dr. Scott Small, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, led a study that demonstrated that exercise boosts brainpower by building new brain cells in a brain region linked with memory and memory loss, U.S. researchers reported on Monday. Story here.