Exercises To Do This Week: Strong Shoulders

The shoulders are the unloved workhorse of our upper body. We want them to look awesome, rounded, strong and straight and yet, we abuse them daily by heaping huge bags on top of them and constantly rounding them forward into a terrible slumped over position that yanks on our rotator cuff muscles. Not nice. These are also the muscles that we call upon in the longer, harder miles to initiate more movement. “Pump your arms” I shout to my runners. Well, we gotta pump them in the weight room so we can pump them when we run.

Here are three exercises that work all three heads of the shoulder (anterior, medial and posterior) and helps to shape them for all of our vanity and arm-pumping needs.

#1. Upright Row

Standing with feet hip-width and knees slightly bent, grasp the bar in an overhanded position just inside of the width of your shoulders. Draw the bar up toward (but not reaching) your chin while pulling up on your elbows so that the wrists stay straight. Give a little tug to the rear at the top of the motion and release back down til your arms are straight. Start with a 20-30 bar, 15-20 reps.

                                     

#2 Overhead Press

Grabbing the bar beyond the width of your shoulders, make sure your elbows are underneath your wrists (not your wrists and the bar in front of your elbows), press the bar up and over the top of your head. Repeat 15-20 times over 3 sets.

     

#3 Bent Over Row

Support yourself with one leg in front and one leg behind so that you can table-top yourself as far forward as possible while maintaing a flat back. Grip the bar overhand and a little wider than your shoulders. Draw the bar toward your belly button, allowing your elbows to fly to the side but keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears. Repeat 3 sets, 12-15 reps.

         

With all of these exercises, if it is your goal to make your shoulders bigger, you should gradually do a heavier weight and fewer repetitions. Conversely, if your goal is to shape the look of your existing shoulders, a lighter weight (but not lighter than 15 pounds) and fewer repetitions (no more than 20, 3 sets) is appropriate for your goals.

Regardless, by doing all three of these exercises, you isolate each individual head of your shoulder as the primary muscle of the movement, thereby giving your body a well-rounded workout. If you do the same shoulder exercise over and over, you will likely 1. fatigue that primary muscle and make yourself more susceptible to injury or 2. build up just that one area of your shoulder, giving yourself kind of a funky shape to your most noticed upper body area. We don’t want that, now do we? No, sir.

Rock these out at the gym this weekend! Doesn’t Sass look amazing doing these exercises? Thanks for modeling, lady.

Now go out and run!

Exercises To Do This Week: All About Posture

So, runners typically have terrible posture. Runners and everyone else in the world who isn’t a professional ballerina or a yogi. Yeah, so pretty much 99.9% of the world, right? We’re all together on this one! Here are two exercise that are super-helpful with maintaining good posture and helping to keep from putting stress on your lower back. Just do it!

(Three cheers for Tampa, a very cheerful fitness model :))

#1. Swimmies

The ultimate upper back exercises to strengthen your traps, rhomboids and lats. It’s also great for shoulder alignment, as all of these muscles keep your shoulders from hunching forward, a la a certain hairy primate ancestor.

-Lie flat on your stomach (on a bench, the floor or a physio ball). Hold light weights (2-5 pounders) in each hand, palms facing downward. Position your hands so that they are just south of your shoulders.

 

 

-Keeping your arms straight, swing both arms towards your hips. Bring them back up towards your shoulders, but never above your shoulders. Always aim for your shoulders to draw away from your ears. Repeat for 1 minute 3 times.

 

 

#2. Deep Push-Ups

Most of us cannot do too many deep push-ups properly on our toes, unless you are a military person, which I am not. You might think, “push-ups work the chest, how could that help with posture?” Well, it’s the extension we’re focusing on here, not the flexion. By getting low, you stretch out the chest muscles and improve your posture along the way!

-Start on your knees (feet up) with your hips slightly lower than your shoulders and your arms wider than your shoulders.

 

 

 

-Slowly lower your body towards the ground and have your chest touch the ground, not your belly. Look slightly forward at all times so as to maintain a straight back. Do 3 sets of however many you can do until your arms shake and you can no longer push up. Usually, that’s about 10-15 for someone who works out. 3-5 for someone who is new to the sport.

Keep working on that posture, friends! Good posture during the day turns into good posture when you run. Good posture when you run means no back-aches after or during your run. No back-aches during your run means no straining the back and “pulling” it. All good things, right? Right.

Be strong. Get your weight training in. Rock it out.

Now go out and run!

Exercises To Do This Week: Rock The BOSU®

Have you ever walked into a gym and seen that funny looking blue thing that should be a ball, but isn’t a full ball? It looks like a half-ball or something. It’s called a BOSU®, meaning “both sides up”. I first saw these things when I was in college and have had a love affair with them ever since (shhhh…don’t tell!)

The cool thing about these little half-ball thingys is that the possibilities are endless. Legs, abs, back, arms, stability, you name it. Anything you can do on solid ground, you can also do on a BOSU®. There are entire classes where they use only a BOSU® and some free weights. Very cool. I’m a fan, obviously, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite exercises with you.

These are advanced exercises and should be done under the supervision of a trainer or fitness professional.

#1. Jump-backs

Grab hold of both sides of the BOSU® and squat down so that your heels are off the ground. Put your weight into your hands and jump your legs back behind you into a plan position. Make sure your feet are always together.

 

 

Shoulders and hips are at the same height. Shoulders are directly over the wrists. Gaze is slightly forward or straight down. Jump back into the start position. Repeat. When you get proficient and feel comfortable with the balance of the exercise, try doing it without pausing in both directions.

Do 3 sets of 10.

 

Jump-backs work everything all at once and get your heart a-pumpin’, too. I love them as an in-between free weights exercise because they engage the core muscles so effectively without putting stress on one particular muscle group.

#2.  BOSU® Lunges with Lateral Shoulder Raises

One foot is in the middle of the flat side of the BOSU® and arms have 3-8lb. dumbbells hanging at your side. The back leg is bent at 90º (as is the front) and the back heel is (and always is) off the ground.

 

 

 

Push off the back foot and stand up straight onto the front foot, raising your arms at the same time.Lower your arms, reach back with your back leg and lower yourself to the ground by bending your standing leg (never letting your back heel touch the ground).

Do 3 sets of 15-20 on each leg.

 

Don’t try to stay up on top of the BOSU® and balance for this particular exercise, it is meant to be dynamic and constantly moving from one position back to the other is key. This is hard, but if you keep the weight mostly in the leg on top of the BOSU®, it’s a little easier to balance. The more you move, the easier it is. So, if you’ve mastered regular ‘ol lunges already, give these a try and challenge yourself. It’s great for the glutes, quads, core and shoulder/upper back area.

In other news today: It is my return to lululemon Run Club tonight. Yay! Summer school is O.V.E.R. and I am so ready to get back with the awesome uptown runners of lululemon. Come on out and join us for an all-levels 3-5 mile run in Central Park. Ladder workout tonight! Meet at either the E. 66th St. store or Lincoln Center store at 6:30 and be ready to run. See you out there.

Tell me. What exercises are you rocking in the gym these days?

Now go out and run!

(Thanks to Rainbow Bright for the awesome fitness modeling!)

 

Exercises To Do This Week: Everyone Can Do A Pull-Up

Woo-hoo! Time for some cross-training, you fabulous runners. I know, I know, you don’t wanna. But you gotta! Let’s mix it up and work it out with two total-body exercises. GET PUMPED! Disclaimer: the plyometric ski jumps are not for newbies. If you are new to exercising or strength training, master the basics from previous posts for now and move up from there! If you’re ready for the challenge (admit it, you probably are!) then check out these awesome moves. Oh, and I’m going to show you how to do a pull-up even if you can’t do a pull-up. Read on.

Ok, first I have to admit something: I can’t do an honest-to-God pull-up. Never could. Not when I was 9, not when I was 19, not when I was 29…you get the picture. And I’m not talking about those so-called pull-ups where people are swinging their legs all over the place and using momentum to heave their bodies up. I can do those (but I don’t because I am the Form Police, thanks to Obi-wan) but I could never do a proper pull-up. Wimpy? Not on your life. Anyone who calls me a wimp for that has never challenged me to a 90 minute hot vinyasa class. Or a 15K. Nor have the worked out with me. I will dominate! You will cry and apologize. End of story. At any rate, I see the benefit of the exercise and have found a modified way to do it (without swinging around like a monkey)!

Big hand to Rainbow Bright who is the fabulous model today!

1. Modified Pull-ups

    

Grab a Smith Machine and sit underneath the bar so that your arms can straighten, but your bottom only grazes the floor. Keep your hips underneath your shoulders and your rear end hanging down as you pull yourself up towards the bar. Bring your collarbone close to the bar and slowly lower yourself down. Do 10-15 reps, 3 sets. To build up to using less weight, lift one foot. Sexy shoulders, here you come!

2. Ski Jumps

    

Fine a line or place something down that you can easily jump over on the ground. Bend your knees slightly, reach your arms back and jump over your object. Land with both feet on the ground and stop for one second, stabilizing yourself. Repeat: Jump, land, stop, jump, land, stop for 20-30 seconds. Great for strengthening your quadriceps and the tendons and ligaments around your knees. When done properly, the lateral motion and force it takes to push and land forces your glutes to get involved. Gets your heart pumping, too!

The reason I like these two exercises so much is that they hit all the muscles groups at once. Pull-ups are the quintessential upper body exercise that calls upon every muscle to get involved at some point in the motion while requiring balance and stabilization in your core. Ski jumps challenge the control of the quadriceps to land without bouncing, while requiring the push of the hamstrings, glutes, and the often-forgotten calves to propel your body up and over to the other side. Oh, and you hit that core again (if you’re keeping your back straight!). I just love it.

So, next time your in the gym (today, tomorrow?) give these a shot and see how they feel. Let me know how you do! In the mean time, what are you waiting for? Go out and run!

WAIT!!! LISTEN UP, NYC READERS! (This is the corrected version: the event is on Thursday, August 11th at 6:30pm)

I almost forgot! You know how I have ulcerative colitis and how much is sucks? And remember when I met Ali who has Chron’s disease (and how much that sucks–Chron’s, not meeting Ali. Ali’s awesome!) and how she’s is running for the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation of America? Well, she’s having fundraiser on thursday, August 11th at the Upper East Side JackRabbit Sports on Lexington Ave. between 84th and 85th Streets at 6:30pm. Raffles, prizes, games, food, booze! What more could you ask for? 15% of all merchandise bought tomorrow night goes to CCFA on behalf of Ali’s fundraising efforts. So, if you think I’m awesome and my disease sucks, come on out and grab some new running shoes or a hydration belt or some Shot Bloks and support us all! Or donate to the CCFA on Ali’s website. And thanks!