The BEST exercise to increase total core strength safely and effectively is a plank. Planks are a simple exercise for women and can be done virtually anywhere. They are a very safe, and can even be done during late pregnancy. Planks are done for time, so it is very easy to see increases in strength... and better yet, strength improves quickly! Once you can complete 3 sets of 1 minute planks in perfect form, there are countless ways to make them more challenging and fun.
Here is what to do...
Lay on the floor on your tummy, plant elbows firmly and directly below shoulders, plant toes firmly on the floor, contract your core muscles to lift your body off the floor- start your timer. You should be in a perfectly straight line from your ankles to your head, try to keep your neck relaxed, and draw your shoulder blades down your back. Hold this form as long as you can, the second your butt sags or raises STOP-- and stop your timer. Try to complete 3 sets of 30-60 second planks at least four days a week. Remember your goal is to reach 3 sets of 1 minute planks... You will improve very quickly with this exercise, so keep pushing your time up gradually!
One of the best exercises for women to improve posture is rows. There are many variations of rows that can be done at home or at the gym including upright rows, compound rows, and bent-over rows. The rowing motion targets the rhomboid major and minor muscles that are responsible for keeping the shoulder blades (scapulae) retracted which keeps the upper back from rounding. Maintaining strength in these muscles is very important for moms, especially those with babies. Breastfeeding and cradling a baby both encourage shoulder rounding which can lead to back pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain. Rows are the best exercise to strengthen the back and combat shoulder rounding in a balanced way. All women's fitness routines, regardless of their 'mommy status', should include rows to maintain strength of important posture muscles, decrease the likelihood of neck pain, and prevent unsightly humps in the upper back.
Here is what to do...
Complete 3 sets of 12-18 reps of a row exercise, two or three days per week. To determine the appropriate weight for yourself remember that the last 3-5 reps should be difficult to complete in each set... start at a lower weight, and raise it until you find the right weight. (Many women underestimate their strength, make sure to push yourself a bit, you will not see any strength gains if the weight is too light!) If you are including upright rows, or compound rows here are a few very important tips for injury prevention: for perfect form- try to pull your shoulder blades down and back into your back pockets, do not lean back more than 15 degrees, and never strain to finish a set.
#3: Bicep Curl & Press
It's no surprise to many mamas out there, but you need very strong arms to be carting kids around all day. One of the best ways to ensure safety for yourself and your kids while lifting them is to make sure you are strong enough to do it! The motion of lifting babies or children up off the ground involves many muscle groups, a few that need to be strengthened in most women are the biceps and the deltoids. Combining the movement of a bicep curl with an overhead press is the best way to strengthen the arms for the motion of lifting kids. Combo moves are great to add to a women's fitness routine because they are more complicated movements for the body to complete and result in increased heart rate and calorie burn.
Here is what to do...
Complete 3 sets of 12-18 reps of biceps curl & press, two or three days per week. (To determine the appropriate weight for yourself remember that the last 3-5 reps should be difficult to complete in each set... start at a lower weight, and raise it until you find the right weight.)
Find a set of dumbbells that you can complete a few reps of overhead presses with. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, hold dumbbells in both hands with palms facing forward, tighten your core, complete biceps curls by moving your forearm until your hands are near your shoulders, then rotate weights so that palms face forward again, and compete an overhead press by pushing weights up over your head until arms are straight, slowly lower weights to the starting position, and repeat.
Toned buns are on the to-do list for many women and need to be moved to the top of the list for many mamas! Strong butt muscles are essential for performing daily tasks safely such as lifting kids, carrying groceries, climbing stairs, moving furniture, etc. Women's fitness routines should include lifts to target these muscles. Most people are familiar with the popular lifting mantra "lift with your legs", but many people have no idea how actually do it! The saying is a bit of a misnomer, in actuality, you lift with your butt and your legs. Think about the example of standing and lifting a child up on to your hip, there is a correct and an incorrect way to do it...
Incorrect: bend forward from the waist, grab the child, use your back to pull your upper body back to an upright position.
Correct: squat down so you are closer to the ground, grab the child, use your legs to push your body up to a standing position.
This simple mistake is the cause of countless at-home injuries everyday. The incorrect way uses mainly low back muscles and forces your low back into weighted extension that is very bad for your back (*remember this is a chiropractor writing this article! ) The correct way of lifting puts most of the weight on the butt and legs, for most women these are the strongest muscles of the body! Why not let them do all the work? Whether you are carrying kids, moving boxes or furniture, or hauling groceries it is imperative that you have correct lifting form EVERY TIME!
The best way to strengthen the lower body muscles used for lifting kids, etc. is squats. Squats mimic the movements of proper lifting form so they are a perfect choice to add to a women's exercise regimen. They target the gluteus maximus, but still work the smaller, deeper gluteal muscles too. Squats are easy fitness for women because they can be done anywhere!
Here is what to do...
Complete 3 sets of 20-25 squats two or three days per week. Add hand weights as your three sets get too easy.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width (like 1-2"), point your toes forward, keep your chest up and find a point in front of you to focus on, begin squatting down by pushing your butt back and bending your knees at the same time, the goal is to get your thighs parallel to the ground, then use your muscles to push you back up to standing position.
INJURY PREVENTION TIPS: Visualization- think about sitting down in a chair that is a bit too far behind you, so you really have to stick your butt out to prevent falling. You should ALWAYS BE ABLE TO SEE YOUR TOES, if not you are doing it wrong! Keep all of your weight on your heels. Keep your core tight to protect your lower back.
Fitness for women gets complicated when those ladies are moms too. Moms are always running out of time to get things done, especially things for themselves. Mamas must remember that taking care of your body will directly benefit your children. They will model what you do, if you make exercise a priority for yourself, you are much more likely to raise healthy, active children. So, no Mommy Guilt OK? Even for avid gym mamas, getting more than 30 minutes in is challenging at times. Moms need a cardio workout that will maximize the time they have to dedicate. This is why we recommend interval training for every mom! Intervals provide an amazing workout in a short amount of time and can be modified for any fitness level. They consist of varying speeds to challenge your system, but also provide a recovery period so you don't burn out. Interval training challenges the cardiovascular system to increase lung capacity, improve the function of the heart, burn calories, and more. Not to mention give you some killer tone in your legs! You can complete an interval workout on a treadmill, on the trail, or just around your neighborhood. Perfect for beginners as well as those with fitness experience.
Here is what to do...
There are countless ways to do an interval workout, this is only one example... stay connected with us, there will be more to come!
If you are a beginner: Choose a walking pace that is comfortable, but pushing you a bit, complete a proper 5 minute warm up at this pace then some dynamic stretching. Start your timer and increase your speed to a slow jog for 2 minutes. Then slow to your walking pace for 1 minute to recover. Continue to repeat for 7-10 sets (21-30min.).
If you are experienced: Choose a jogging pace that is comfortable, but pushing you a bit, complete a proper 5 minute warm up at this pace then some dynamic stretching. Start your timer and increase your speed to a fast jog/slow sprint for 2 minutes (a pace that will push you). Then slow your run to a jog for 1 minute to recover. Continue to repeat for 10 sets (30 min.).
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