Exercise of the Week

Kettlebell Rotational Swing

Take your standard kettlebell swing and, as you can guess by the name, add a rotation into the mix.  Outside of the obvious twisting nature of the movement, the only real difference is going to be foot position.  Since you are rotating to the side each time you bring the kettlebell down, your feet are going to be closer together, almost touching.  You will have two rotating movements here.  At the hips, just as with a regular front swing, and one around the obliques, which will allow for the side to side motion.

Front View

Notice the foot position here.  My feet are much closer together, which, as mentioned, will allow for the rotation around the abs.  This will get the obliques more involved in the movement, along with the hips and glutes as with a normal kettlebell swing.

Side View

I threw the side view in just to show you that, as with the regular swing, your main focus(es) should still be the same.  Chin and chest up, eyes forward.  This will help keep your back flat and not rounded over.  Also, the main driving force should be your hips, not your legs.  Use your hip and glute muscles to swing that kettlebell back up once you bring it down.  Remember, though, especially with the twist added in, if your low back begins to tighten, use your legs a little to relieve some of the tension.

 

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Weekend Workout

This weekend all you need is a stop watch and about 15-20 minutes to push yourself.  I’ve got three exercises for you, all body weight moves.  Here they are:

  1. Pushups
  2. Situps
  3. Burpees

Here’s what you’re going to do.  Set your timer for 2 minutes.  Complete as many reps of pushups as you can in 2 minutes.  Then rest 1 minute.  Next move on to situps, as many as you can in 2, and rest for a minute.  Last, you’ve got 2 minutes of burpees.  After completing 1 full round, rest for 3-4 minutes.  Then repeat.  Keep count of how many reps you completed of each in Round 1, and try your best to match in Round 2.

WORK HARD!!!!

Healthy and Homemade

Crock Pot Taco Chilli

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 16 oz. can black beans, drained
1 16 oz. can kidney beans, drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
10 oz. package (1 1/4 cups) frozen corn kernels
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, uncooked
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Optional toppings: Additional cilantro, shredded cheese, chopped scallions, red onion, etc.

DIRECTIONS:

  • Combine ingredients 1 through 14 in a slow cooker*. Stir until combined. Place uncooked chicken on top and cover. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Thirty minutes before serving, pull chicken breasts apart with two forks. Stir and continue cooking. Top with fresh cilantro or any other desired toppings.
  • Serve with Honey Jalapeño Cornbread, if desired.

* Tip: If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can also use an oven safe, 5 1/2 quart or larger pot. Simmer at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, for 3 hours.

A Bit of a Stretch

This is what I feel like when I stretch….

This is probably what I look like when I stretch…

Let’s face it, hardly anybody likes to stretch.  In fact, most people down right hate it, and, because of that, choose to neglect it altogether.  While resistance and cardiovascular training tend to get the majority of our attention, an well-balanced, healthy lifestyle should still involved some flexibility training.  Stretching is the red-headed step-child of the fitness industry.  Although nobody really enjoys it, it’s still a part of the family and something that you can’t just ignore.

So what does stretching actually do to our bodies??  Well, here is a short list of some of the main benefits of a flexibility program.

Increased flexibility.  This one sounds like a no-brainer, I know.  But, consistently stretching has been proven to decrease range of motion restrictions that are caused by muscular tightness.  Ever bent over to pick something up and felt your hamstrings pulling off your bones???  That’s because of muscular tightness.  Having increased flexibility – not just in your hamstrings – will not only make movement easier, but allow you to move through a wider range of motion, also.

Decrease in low back pain.  One of the most problematic areas in the body is the hip/low back region, particularly for the adult population.  A lack of flexibility and/or range of motion in this area is strongly associated with pain.  Most therapeutic (and the best preventative) measures for this involve stretching programs.

Increase blood flow.  Stretching has been proven successful in increasing blood flow to the muscles being stretched.  This is beneficial for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, is can help in reducing cramps, which has long been associated with ischemia (insufficient blood flow).  It can also help with muscle recovery if done post-workout, as blood carries many of the nutrients and substances that are vital for muscle growth and recovery.

Prevention of muscle shortening.  Really, muscle shortening??  Yes, this can actually happen.  If you stay in a certain position for long enough, or if your muscle is used repetitively through a limited range of motion, it will adapt.  Generally that means shortening.  Think of your hip flexors, the group of muscles that cross over the front of the hip.  If you are in a seated position for the majority of the day, these muscles will naturally adapt and become shorter.  This could lead to pain not only in the hip flexors themselves, but in the low back as well.  And this issue leads me to my final point…

Maintain balance between muscle groups.  Imagine you’ve got a pole that’s being held up by two cables running to the ground in opposite directions.  Cable 1 is fastened to the ground pretty loosely, with just enough tension to keep the line straight.  Cable 2, however, is fastened into the ground as tight as the screws and bolts will allow.  So, which direction do you think the pole is going to lean??  Obviously, toward Cable 2.  This is the way your human body is with bones and joints.  If you have a joint/bone/area of the body in which multiple muscles are acting on it, they need to be flexible.  If you muscle or group of muscles is abnormally tight, they will disrupt the balance throughout our body.

Stretching has many, many benefits.  Only some of them are highlighted here.  Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy stretching about as much as a trip to the DMV, but I do it anyway.  I don’t do it to see how far I can reach my hands or how high I can swing my legs.  I do it because I don’t want to suffer pain and inevitable injury that accompanies a limited range of motion and flexibility.  So, do as I do… Spend about 10-15 minutes 3-4 days a week in the agony of stretching, so that you can enjoy the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of your day.

Workout of the Week

Grab yourself a couple of Kettlebells.  Keep the weight moderate, because on a couple of the exercises you will have a KB in each hand.  You will also be doing a high number of repetitions each time, so keep that in mind also.

  1. *KB Alternating Lunges – 25 Each Leg
  2. Plank Climb – 25
  3. KB Situp – 25
  4. KB Swing – 25
  5. *KB Clean and Press – 25

* Two KB’s.  One in each hand.

Complete all repetitions of one exercise before you move on to the next.  Complete 2-3 rounds.

 

 

 

Exercise of the Week

Straight Leg Deadlift

First, I must apologize for the poor video quality.  It was taken on an iPhone, and the lighting isn’t the best.  I promise I’ll do better next time.  Now, on to the exercise itself.

The Straight Leg Deadlift is a great exercise for strengthening the hamstrings and low back – an area that often gets ignored.  While it a simple exercise, technique is VERY important on this movement, not only to work the proper muscle groups, but to prevent injury, as well.  When done properly, it has great benefits.  In this video, I am using dumbbells.  You can substitute a barbell, kettlebells, or anything that is the proper weight, for that matter.

Side View

You cannot see from this angle, but my feet are set up just inside shoulder width.  I personally like a little more narrow stance on this than I do normal deadlifts.  Start with a SLIGHT bend in your knees and arms locked out at the bottom.  I realize the name of the movement is “straight leg,” but I never completely lock out my legs.  To me, it is too easy to injure yourself if your legs are completely locked out, especially if you’re not experienced in the movement.  Now, a few tips here…  As you can see here, my first movement is to push my hips backward.  Hey, just pretend you’re Miley Cyrus for a minute.  Push your hips and butt back, almost as if you’re trying to bump into something behind you.  While doing this, rotate AROUND YOUR HIPS, lowering the weight below your knees.  Make sure the rotation is at the hips here, as opposed to the knees.  Keep your back flat, and your chin up, looking a few feet in front as opposed to straight down.  Once you have lowered the weight below the knee, use your hamstrings, glutes, and back to pull the weight back up.  Make sure this movement is done SLOWLY and UNDER CONTROL.  The faster you do this exercise, the more likely you are to get injured.

Advanced

If you’ve mastered the standard version, or just looking work on a little balance, try this version.  You might want to start without any weight to get the movement down first.  Focus on the same things here: slight bend in the knee, rotation around the hips, back nice and flat, eyes up.  Try to get the back leg up to parallel with the floor.

Note:  If you cannot keep your back straight during this movement, you’re not ready for it.  If you feel your back constantly bending over in order to complete the exercise, go back to both feet on the ground.  This is an advanced version, and one that technique is even more important.  Be smart, and work up to it if you need to.

WORK HARD!!!!