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Quick, what is Velocity Training? Learn the Benefits and How-to

Do you think of strength training and speed training as two completely separate forms of fitness? What if there were a way to combine the best of each training method in one efficient workout? Velocity training combines both strength and speed with an emphasis on increased power. The benefits of velocity training are nearly countless and can apply to almost any population. Velocity training improves performance for athletes, with both short term gains and long term muscular activation. With body weight or light resistance, this training can be completed in your home. It provides greater functional fitness than traditional forms of strength training. So just what is velocity training and how can it be done at home?

 

What is Velocity Training?

Velocity training reduces the load you might use for simple strength training. You complete movements more quickly and with potentially greater range of motion. For example, typical strength training might perform squats with dumbbells or a heavy weight at ten reps over 60 seconds. Velocity training could reduce the load to body weight or a light weight held in front of the body. Using the same period of 60 seconds, you would complete as many reps as possible in the same 60 second time frame.

You will generate a force similar to using a higher weight at lower speeds. By increasing the speed of the movement, you will experience the use of more muscles and neural connections (beneficial for everyone from conditioned athletes to senior citizens). You will also develop greater muscular control during eccentric phase (moving with gravity) of the movement.  So understanding the concept of velocity training, what are its specific benefits?

 

What are the Benefits of Velocity Training?

Velocity training provides the potential to complete both cardiovascular and strength training simultaneously. Workouts become more efficient. You will experience both an increased calorie burn and greater muscular activation over strength training. When completed in an interval format, velocity training provides many of the same benefits as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). You can experience an increased calorie burn for the 48 hours following your workout. HIIT training also has tremendous anti-aging benefits. Senior citizens and new exercisers also experience enormous benefits from velocity training.

Increased range of motion and use of the entire body results in functional training. This improves fitness for daily activities and sports performance. The use of lighter weights (typically around 30% of maximum weights), makes velocity training safe and adaptable to home settings. Additionally, because you are using your entire body to complete most of the movements, you can experience a calorie burn that is similar to running, without the impact.

  • Time efficient workouts: Velocity training meets both your cardio and strength training requirements. You’ll burn calories at a level similar to running by using your entire body to complete movements quickly. You’ll also stimulate muscle development with traditional strength training movements.
  • Your body will get smarter. Think about slowing a barbell as it descends during a bench press. Your body will have to control both phases of the movement during velocity training. This results in greater recruitment of both your muscular and nervous system. These gains are especially beneficial if you are a new exerciser, senior citizen, or seasoned athlete looking for new gains.
  • You’ll do amazing things for your metabolism. Use velocity training for high intensity, interval style workouts without requiring impact. This approach will increase your metabolism for up to 48 hours following your workout. This also stimulates production of Human Growth Hormone, supporting your muscle growth and overall health.
  • You’ll build bone density without impact. Velocity training reduces the amount of weight required to complete strength training while maintaining or increasing the force generated. This directly stimulates the skeletal system supporting bone density.
  • You will build visible muscle. Velocity training targets the generation of forceful movements from specific muscles. These powerful movements stimulate the same muscle fibers required for sprinting and maximum effort weightlifting. This results in visible muscle growth without heavy weights.

How to Start Velocity Training at Home:

Velocity training can be completed with nearly any home exercise equipment. Kettlebells, resistance bands, dumbbells, and a box are all very useful.  Using about 30 to 35% of your maximum weight (or reducing movements to bodyweight), your goal is to complete your reps as quickly as possible, without sacrificing form or range of motion. Here is some of the best home fitness equipment for velocity training.

  • Plyobox: Think you’re pretty good at push-ups? Use a plyobox to complete your push-ups at an elevation. They will be easier so you can do more and do them more quickly. This will train your body to crank out more powerful reps on the floor. Elevated push-ups are also a great option if you struggle to complete full push-ups on the floor. Plyoboxes are also great for squat variations. Check out Bulgarian split squats or Box Squats for velocity training friendly variations of a squat.
  • Resistance bands: This may be the most versatile piece of velocity training equipment there is. Loop this onto your pull-up bar for a velocity training variation of pull-ups. Resistance bands also work well for Pallov presses, squats, bicep curls . . . you name it. Because they provide resistance during both the eccentric and concentric phases of the movements, resistance bands are a natural fit with the improved control of movement that is a benefit of velocity training.
  • Kettlebells: Use Kettlebells to complete simple swings or break Olympic lifts into Kettlebell Cleans and Snatches. Kettlebells encourage full body involvement in dynamic movements, increasing the benefits of velocity training. They are also useful for front squats and goblet squats, encouraging upright posture and proper depth.
  • Dumbbells: Dumbbells let you isolate each side of the body individually. They also allow a greater range of motion than barbell work. This enhances the muscular recruitment benefit of velocity training. Use dumbbells for bench presses, shoulder isolation work, or bicep/tricep isolation. Remember to keep your movement controlled. While you want to complete your reps quickly, the weight should be heavy enough to challenge the targeted muscle. Avoid overextending your joints or losing core engagement.

Check out the latest in functional fitness accessories!

As you can see, nearly any workout you complete in your home gym, can be reworked as a velocity training workout. Use an interval approach that aims for maximum reps in a period of 30 to 120 seconds. Alternate your work intervals with equal period of recovery. You’ll create a time efficient workout that targets both strength and cardio increasing muscle mass and metabolism in as little as 30 minutes. With so many options, which approach to velocity training will be your favorite?



About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.

 

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Why Cycling Improves So Much More than Just your Muscles

You probably noticed on our recent Technical Tuesday that cycling has huge benefits for your muscles.  Cycling hits all of your major muscle groups, especially if you zero in on cycling hacks to improve your form.  However, there’s so much more to cycling than training your muscles. Let’s celebrate National Bike to Work Day by thinking about how outdoor biking can improve our lives.  Here are some of cycling benefits that might really surprise you!

Cycling Makes Your Heart Stronger.

Even casual outdoor biking contributes to meeting weekly recommendations for aerobic exercise. To maintain heart health the CDC recommends 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week. You can easily meet that by using your bike for running errands and participating in National Bike to Work day. Of course, you can step that up with some indoor biking for even greater training benefits.

Cycling lets you Save the Planet.

Did you know that most trips in the car are within 2 miles of home? Think about the environmental impact of cycling whenever possible. You’ll not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also save on vehicle and fuel costs. The third Friday in May is National Bike to Work Day. Or you can participate in one of the many other National Bike Month events throughout May.

Cycling Builds Community.

Nearly every small town has an outdoor biking club. What a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of spring and summer scenery! By getting started on outdoor cycling, you’ll also open yourself to the on-line community of active and fun people. Think you need to be an expert to get started? You’ll probably be surprised. Many cyclists are passionate about helping beginners. Check in with your local bike shop for recommendations.

Cycling Makes You Smarter.

All that blood flow that builds your muscles? Yeah, that’s also heading right into your brain. Couple that with the zen-like immersion of time on the road and you’ll find yourself solving some of your greatest problems while getting fitter and stronger.

Cycling Is Great for Your Mental Health.

It’s no secret that exercise is good at reducing depression and anxiety. From endorphins to dopamine, physical activity does great things for our mental outlook. Did you know that outdoor biking can boost your mental health even more? Participants in outdoor exercise report greater feelings of energy, revitalization, and engagement. They also experience less tension, confusion, anger, and depression. Sounds like a winning combination. Here are a few more mental health benefits of cycling you might not have considered.

Cycling Makes You More Attractive.

We all know that confidence is appealing, right? Exercise improves the self-esteem of everyone from children to senior citizens. Not only that, but a 2012 British Heart Foundation survey found that participants ranked cyclists positively in areas ranging from intelligence to charitable involvement. Oh, and they also appreciate the benefits of well-fitting Lycra.

Cycling is For Everybody.

Cycling is forgiving on the joints. It’s also a simple and approachable way for anyone to maintain or build fitness and participate in their community. You can sign up for a road race, pedal to the farmer’s market, or seek out an outdoor biking club. Any of these options will let you experience the many benefits of outdoor biking.
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.

 

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Better Your Ride by Building a Stronger Biking Body

As we approach the outdoor biking season and the arrival of Ride Your Bike To Work Day (Friday, May 19) , it’s important to note that there are several great things you can do in the gym to better prepare your body for a great ride.

While the legs are obviously an important part of biking, let’s not forget about some of the other key muscle groups that will help you pedal better…..

Core

A strong core is key to a biker being able to handle their bike, climb hills and endure through a long ride.

Core exercises to include:  Planks, Dead Bugs, Palloff Presses

Glutes

The glutes are the powerhouse of the lower body and play an important role in biking.

Glute exercise to include: Hip Bridge, Reverse Lunges, Deadlifts

Hamstrings

Strong hamstrings will help you pedal much more efficiently…especially when you hit those hills!

Hamstring exercise to include: Stability Ball/TRX Curls, Lunges, Single Leg Deadlifts

Low Back

Long periods on a bike can be brutal on the low back.  While this area is generally covered with your core exercises, it’s always a good idea to incorporate a few things specifically for the low back.

Low back exercise to include: Kettlebell Swings, Superman’s, Deadlifts

 

About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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How To Quickly Get Your Beach Body In 8 Weeks – Weeks 7 & 8

Awesome job getting to the last 2 weeks of the Beach Body Workout! The last few weeks have been a challenge, but hopefully you are feeling and seeing the effects. . . in a positive way of course!

In weeks 7 & 8 we are adding in variety to make sure we avoid injury and don’t burn out. We will revisit some of the exercises from weeks 3 and 4 and target upper body muscle growth. This is the last push before sticking your toes in the sand and feeling the warm sunshine. You’ve been waiting for this!

 

If you need to visit the previous weeks here they are:

Weeks 1 & 2 (includes Strength Workout 1 & 2)

Weeks 3 & 4 (includes Strength Workout 3 & 4)

Weeks 5 & 6 (includes Strength Workout 5 & 6)

 

Week 7 AM PM
Monday Sprint 8; Strength Workout 1
Tuesday 25 minutes of cardio intervals at 75-85% of max heart rate 30 minutes of cardio at 75% of max heart rate, Strength Workout 2
Wednesday Sprint 8; Strength Workout 3
Thursday 30 minutes of cardio at 75% of max heart rate, Strength Workout 4
Friday 25 minutes of cardio intervals at 75-85% of max heart rate 30 minutes of cardio at 80% of max heart rate
Saturday Saturday Slammer (see above), Strength workout 3
Sunday Rest or active recovery

 

Week 8 AM PM
Monday Sprint 8; Strength Workout 5
Tuesday 25 minutes of cardio intervals at 75-85% of max heart rate 30 minutes of cardio at 75% of max heart rate, Strength Workout 6
Wednesday Sprint 8; Strength Workout 1
Thursday 30 minutes of cardio at 75% of max heart rate, Strength Workout 2
Friday 25 minutes of cardio intervals at 75-85% of max heart rate 30 minutes of cardio at 80% of max heart rate
Saturday Saturday Slammer (see above), Strength Workout 3
Sunday Enjoy the Beach!

 

Once you’ve completed the series, keep going! Don’t break the habit now! Enjoy the beach and the warm weather, but continue exercising all throughout the year. If you need more ideas visit the Johnson Fit Blog.


Why Treadmills Burn the Most Calories

Most of us appreciate that working out helps us to lose or maintain our weight.  If you’re looking to increase the calories you burn each day there’s no better workout than running on a treadmill. Burning calories during your workout comes from the amount of muscular effort you put into the movement.  Since running on a treadmill offers little room for cheating in your efforts, it’s the best way to increase the calories burned in your workouts.  Here are the reasons that treadmills burn the most calories of any exercise machine and how to maximize those benefits.

Holding your body upright

Running on a treadmill requires you to hold your body upright.  Because you’re supporting your own body weight, your body burns calories to simply hold you in an upright position.  To maximize this benefit, avoid holding the handlebar while running on your treadmill and concentrate on maintaining a strong posture in your upper body.

Core Strength.

Without the support of a machine to hold you, running on a treadmill also requires good core strength.  Core strength equals greater muscle engagement and more calories burned.  You can maximize this effect by focusing on drawing in slightly at your low belly to support your low back while running.  Adding in planks, hollow holds, and dead bugs to complement your treadmill workouts will also build core strength that will support you during your runs.

Speed.

Treadmills are a unique exercise machine because your body provides its own resistance.  The difficulty of your workout is based on speed, incline, and how you carry your body in response to those challenges.  Increasing the speed of your run results in a higher calorie burn per mile run because of the force your muscles must generate to match that pace.  You can maximize this benefit by completing speed intervals on your treadmill.  The %heart rate speed based setting on the Horizon Elite T9 is also perfect for increasing your speed over time.  Try customizing your workout to complete your run of 20-60 minutes at 80% of your maximum heart rate.  This will target your lactate threshold to allow you to work harder for longer durations.

Incline.

The incline setting on your treadmill is a powerful tool when it comes to increasing the calories you burn during your run.  Running on an incline increases the demand on your quads and glutes.  These are big muscles that burn a lot of calories, both during your run and while you recover.  Using the incline is a fun way to maximize the Calorie Goal setting on your treadmill.  Add 1 minute efforts to your workout increasing your incline to 3-5%.  While you fight to maintain the same running speed, your calorie count will climb.  You’ll also be building calorie churning muscle that will increase your post-workout metabolism.

Consider your Options:

While treadmills burn the most calories of any other exercise machine, they aren’t the perfect fit for everybody.  If you don’t enjoy running or need a lower impact option, choose a piece of equipment that will work well for your body. Using good form is the best way to get a serious calorie burn from your home workout.
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.

 

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How to do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on a Treadmill

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the top training trends in the fitness industry today. In addition to being a good challenge (the words “high intensity” in the title give that away), HIIT workouts can be quick and very effective.

While there are many ways to get in a HIIT workout (bodyweight intervals, Tabata, Boot Camp-style workouts, spin class, etc.), many may not think of using the treadmill for this type of workout. Most treadmill users do steady-state training by walking or jogging at the same speed setting or by using the same built-in workout that their treadmill offers. The body has an amazing way of adapting pretty quickly to the same type of workouts and that’s when you see the dreaded plateau set in.

The treadmill, however, can be a great tool when it comes to getting in the perfect HIIT workout.

Before we get into specific HIIT workouts utilizing the treadmill, let’s give a quick explanation of how HIIT works.

Why HIIT works: Fast-twitch muscle fibers and the “after-burn” effect

Because of the higher intensity, HIIT recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers. Fast twitch fibers are designed for anaerobic or short but powerful bursts of energy (think a track & field sprinter, a running back in football, etc.). Steady-state cardio, on the other hand, recruits slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are designed for aerobic or endurance-type activities (think long distance runners).

 

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Fast-twitch fibers need more fuel than slow-twitch fibers … this allows them to not only function properly when called into play, but also to recover properly following a workout or sporting event. If your workout targets fast-twitch fibers, you’ll burn more calories during the workout AND after the workout. This later is known as the “after-burn effect” or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, which allows your body to continue to burn calories well after your workout is over.

How to find the sweet spot for HIIT on a Treadmill

When using your treadmill for HIIT workouts, it may take a little experimenting on your part to find the right settings. Both the speed and incline settings can play important roles in designing a great HIIT workout. Try to find a setting that you can sustain for no more than one minute. For beginners or those new to HIIT training, this may be a 5mph jog with zero incline. For the more conditioned individual, it may be a 10mph run with a bit of an incline.

As you experiment, it’s important to learn what your one minute limit is. After this minute, you should feel pretty wiped-out and have a need to slow things down.

 

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Next, after going all-out for a minute (this is your work interval), go “easy” for one to two minutes (this will be your recovery interval). Again, easy depends on your fitness level … it may be a 2.5 mph walk at zero incline or a 4-5 mph light jog. After the one-two minute recovery interval, you should feel ready to go all-out again.

A good gauge when first starting out is the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE). An RPE of 1 means very easy, while an RPE of 9-10 means you’re out of breath and cannot speak. For the very fit individual, they should shoot for work intervals that get them up to that 9-10 level. For the HIIT beginner or less conditioned individual, they should shoot for an RPE of 6-7.

An all-out effort (one minute), followed by a recovery interval (one to two minutes), is one cycle. When first starting out, shoot for completing 6-8 cycles. Be sure to warm-up first for about 6-10 minutes and even include a couple of intervals below your max level to get your body acclimated.

Specific HIIT workouts you can do on the Treadmill

Here is a basic HIIT Treadmill workout that will help get you started:
1. Basic warm-up starting with a brisk walk and work your way up to a light jog – 10 minutes
2. Run at 10 mph for 30 seconds to 1 minute
3. Walk at 3.5-4 mph for 2 minutes
4. Repeat this cycle 7 more times (8 cycles total)
5. If the work interval isn’t enough of a challenge, add a slight incline to the treadmill
6. Perform a cool-down walk for 5 minutes before stretching and drinking plenty of water

 

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As you build a love-hate relationship with HIIT training, experiment a bit with building your own treadmill HIIT workouts. Here are a few that have worked well for me and /or some of my training clients:

  1. 5-min warm-up at a brisk walk pace
  2. Run 1 minute at 7mph followed by 2 minutes at 5.5mph – repeat 5 times (15 minutes)
  3. Walk 1 minute at an easy pace to recover a bit
  4. Run 30 seconds at 10-12mph followed by 1 minute at 4mph – repeat 5 times (7.5 minutes)
  5. 4-minute cool down walk

  1. 0:00-5:00: Start walking or jogging at an RPE 5, gradually increasing the incline (without increasing your speed), so that by the end of the first five minutes, you’re at an RPE 6
  2. 5:00-7:00: Increase your speed while maintaining the incline, working at an RPE 7
  3. 7:00-9:00: Increase the incline and maintain your speed, working at an RPE 8
  4. 9:00-12:00: Reduce your speed, but maintain the incline, working at an RPE 7
  5. 12:00-15:00: Increase your speed and, if you can, increase the incline. These are your last three minutes of hard work, so push it! Try to work up to an RPE 9
  6. 15:00-20:00: Gradually reduce your speed and incline — by the last minute of your routine you should be back to an RPE 4 or 5

  1. 0:00-2:00: 6mph, Incline 1%
  2. 2:00-6:00: Alternate 30 seconds at 10mph and 3% incline with 30 seconds at 4mph and 3% incline
  3. 6:00-8:00: 6 mph, Incline 1%
  4. 8:00-12:00: Alternate 30 seconds at 10mph and 4% incline with 30 seconds at 4mph and 4% incline
  5. 12:00-14:00: 6 mph, Incline 1%
  6. 14:00-18:00: Alternate 30 seconds at 10mph and 3% incline with 30 seconds at 4mph and 3% incline
  7. 18:00-20:00: 6 mph, Incline 1%
  8. 20:00-22:00: 4 mph, Incline 1%

A few final notes on HIIT training

Push yourself. With HIIT training, you get out what you put in!

Be smart and safe with your treadmill…make sure you know how to operate the treadmill, know where the emergency shut off is, don’t hold onto the handles when running.

How often? Shoot for about 2 HIIT workouts a week in addition to your other favorite fitness activities.

Many treadmills come with interval-based training pre-programmed on the console. These can be helpful when your struggling to update your speed and incline during your workout. Look for treadmills with the science-backed Sprint 8 program.

 

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About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.


Unilateral Exercise or Bilateral Exercise…Which Is Better?

We all know there are different ways to do certain exercises. We can do unilateral exercise or bilateral exercise. For instance, we can do a 1 arm dumbbell shoulder press or 2 arm shoulder press.  A single leg straight leg dead lift or a double straight leg dead lift.  A single arm dumbbell bench press or a traditional barbell bench press.  You get the idea. . .many workouts provide us an option to focus on one side at a time (unilateral exercise) or both sides (bilateral exercise).

Which is better?

The benefits of bilateral exercise include better balance (being more stable) and the ability to move more weight.  The benefits of unilateral exercises include building more stability through assisting muscles groups such as the core. As well as addressing muscle imbalances, contributing to greater energy output, improving the overall quality of your movement, and providing for a more challenging workout.

Given the benefits, it does appear that unilateral training can be a great choice.  However, they can take more time with having to train each side separately and can be quite difficult both physically and mentally.

My take….find a happy medium and incorporate both unilateral and bilateral exercises into your routine.  It will keep things fresh and allow you to have a nice mix of exercises in your fitness routine.
About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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Mother’s Day Gift Guide 2017 for Fitness Focused Moms

Does your mother live a healthy active lifestyle? Give her the perfect gift this year.

Here are five ideas, some are less than $25!

Daughter hugging her Mom on Mother's Day.
Mother's Day 2017 Gift Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother's Day Gift Guide- Gift Idea #1 - Yoga Mat

 

 

Mother's Day Gift Guide - Gift Idea #2 - Agility Ladder
Mother's Day Gift Guide - Gift Idea #3 - Foot Roller
Mother's Day Gift Guide - Gift Idea #4 - Spri Xertube

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother's Day Gift Guide - Gift Idea #5 - TRX Suspension Trainer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get one of these yoga or pilates accessories for Mom or if she’s REALLY into fitness buy her a treadmill, elliptical, or exercise bike. Some moms are also into weight training or functional fitness. We have dumbbells, kettlebells, and even a Power Pack.

Buy online or find a store near you.


Best Cycling Hacks to Burn the Most Calories

Indoor cycling burns serious calories.  If you’re looking to lose or maintain your weight, you probably already love knowing that you can have a heart pumping workout that leaves your metabolism jacked for hours, without impact on your joints.  So if a calorie churning workout is what draws you to your indoor cycling training, it makes sense to maximize efforts to increase the calorie burn.  Wondering how to do it?  Here are five hacks to make your cycling workouts more effective at burning a ton of calories.

Use your Handlebars Appropriately:

One of the biggest mistakes I see when it comes to indoor cycling is riders who lean over their handlebars rather than the pedals and saddle.  When you lean onto the handlebars, you reduce the force of your legs into the pedals, as well as the engagement of your arms and core.  In short, you compromise the use of nearly every muscle in your body, which results in a lower overall calorie output during your workout.  To use your handlebars effectively, imagine that you are pulling them back towards your body to brace your core and your lower body effectively.  If you struggle with bringing too much weight into your arms and upper body, try raising your handlebar height, allowing you to sit back closer to the saddle.

Target your Core:

Once you’ve got your handlebar position and are actively using your arms to assist your cycling efforts, your next step is to keep your core engaged.  Again, the more muscles you use in your indoor cycling workout, the greater your calorie burn will be.  Practicing core engagement during your indoor cycling training sessions will establish good cycling habits and form for outdoor cycling.  To engage your core during seated cycling workouts, imagine that you are slightly lifting your bottom away from the saddle.  This will allow you to put more force into the foot pedals and less into the seat. Engaging your core during time out of the saddle will tend to happen naturally if you are pulling away from (rather than leaning into) the handlebars.  You can enhance that further by drawing your low belly slightly in towards the spine to support your low back.

Bring in your Back(side):

Experienced cyclists know the importance of using the power from behind during tough training sessions.  A common mistake among new riders is relying heavily on the quadriceps while sacrificing engagement of the backside.  The result of this is a lazy ride that decreases efficiency in the saddle and overly relies on gravity, decreasing power out of the saddle.  During standing climbs, correct this by keeping your hips back and low (towards the saddle).  This will naturally tend to happen as you pull back on the handlebars and engage your core, but you can enhance it further by keeping your chest up and using the natural curve in your low back to keep your hips low.  Now maintain this engagement as you sit into the saddle by lowering lightly (low core engaged) and keeping your hips back so that you are sitting on the front of your sit bones.  You should immediately feel a difference as you target the muscles behind your hips, rather than simply your thighs.  This positioning is especially effective at moderate to heavy loads.

Wattage is Your New Best Friend:

Basing your cycling workouts on your wattage will give you immediate feedback on how much power your body is creating, which directly correlates to the calories you are burning.  Maintaining a challenging power output (wattage) will result in more consistent workouts and maximize your calorie burn over varying cadences (RPM’s). I like to perform a wattage check by putting a load on the bike that results in a moderate effort at 70 RPM.  After maintaining that load and cadence for a minute, increase your effort level to bring your leg speed closer to 100 RPM.  Hold that for 1 minute.  You should see your wattage (and your heart rate) soar, giving you a good idea of where your peak efforts should be during your workouts.  If your pace shoots past 110 RPM, try repeating the drill with slightly more load.  If you cannot get above 90 RPM, try repeating the drill with less load.  Remember the wattage that you see during your 1 minute effort and use it as a reference point during your workouts.

Use Pre-Programmed Workouts Intelligently:

From standard intervals to Sprint 8, to steady state aerobic training, the consoles of many exercise bikes can help you take the guesswork out of your programming, if you use them intelligently.  Keep the resistance heavy enough to force you to use your body rather than momentum to complete your workout.  Use the form cues above to ensure that you are using as much of your body as possible to increase your cycling efforts. Keep an eye on your wattage to ensure that you are not dogging the workout just to log time on your machine.

While it seems like a simple concept, remember that calories burned are the direct result of using our body.  If your primary objective is to burn a lot of calories on your exercise bike, make sure you are using your body as much as possible, while minimizing your reliance on the bike to hold you upright or create the movement. These hacks are directed at maximizing the action of your body on the indoor cycle, which will ultimately improve both your calorie burn and your indoor cycling training.

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.

 

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Are You A Gym Cheater?

We’ve all seen the guy in the gym who loads-up a barbell on the bench press, gets underneath it and as he lowers it to his chest and begins the push phase, he proceeds to arch his back and lift his butt off of the bench in an all-out battle to push that weight up off his chest.  Then you think, is he doing a bench press or a hip thrust?  Same thing with the guy doing heavy bicep curls while rocking his body back and forth to help with the momentum.

Gym cheaters!

To be fair, it’s not all their fault.  It’s natural to focus on a specific part of the body when exercising and ignore everything else that’s going on.  Some people don’t even realize how much they may be cheating on a certain exercise until someone points it out to them.  They’re simply fooled into thinking that they are stronger than they really are.

Our bodies like to cheat.  If something is hard, it wants to find a way to make it easier.

The key is to become more aware of what your body is doing.  Not only will this make your workouts much more effective, but you’ll greatly decrease your chance of injury.  Just think of how happy your back will be if you stop throwing those hips thrusts into your bench press.

About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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