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Three Tips for Tight, Toned Legs

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Summer is upon us and shorts season is here! Does that statement make you feel more nervous than excited? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

Luckily, whether you’ve got a beach vacation coming up or are going to be doing some exploring in the mountains, if you want to feel strong and confident this season, these tips for toned legs will help you get there.

Read on to learn how you can shed body fat and strengthen the muscles in your lower body to get the legs you’ve always dreamed of.

1. Incorporate Strength Training

In order to have shapely, toned legs, you need to lift weights. Strength training builds muscle, which is what helps create the appearance of curves.

To see the best results, it’s important to make sure you’re lifting heavy weights and doing compound exercises (exercises that involve more than one muscle group).

Contrary to popular belief, heavy lifting and compound exercises won’t make you look big or “bulky.” Just as fitness icon Amanda Latona if you’re unsure.

Instead of doing a million donkey kicks with three-pound ankle weights, focus on functional movements that will strengthen multiple muscles in your legs at one time. Listed below are some good examples of compound exercises to include in your lower body routine:

  • Bulgarian split squats — this exercise targets the quadriceps and hamstrings, as well as the glutes.
  • Goblet squats — these are great for the quadriceps and glutes.
  • Walking lunges — in addition to working the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, these also help strengthen the core as an added bonus.
  • Wall sits —  this static exercise is perfect for people with knee pain who want to strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings. The muscle engagement without movement strengthens the muscles without stressing the joints.
  • Deadlifts — this is one of the most functional exercises out there, as it targets all of the muscles in the lower body, as well as the lower back.
  • Single-leg deadlifts — these are great for working the lower body while also correcting muscle imbalances and improving core strength.

While you’ll see best results from lifting heavy weights, when you’re trying these exercises for the first time, it’s usually best to do them with just your own bodyweight. This will help you figure out the proper form so that you can avoid injuries.

Once you feel comfortable with your form, go ahead and add some weight to make it more challenging.  

It can be hard to figure out how much weight to use, but, generally speaking, the best approach is to choose a weight that makes the last 2-3 reps of the exercise difficult. You should still be able to perform the exercises with good form, of course, but it should still be challenging to complete the reps.

2. Add HIIT Training

While heavy lifting is essential for toned legs (and the rest of your body for that matter), it’s also important to incorporate cardiovascular exercise into your routine to help you lean out and see results faster.

While you could spend hours slogging away on the treadmill, there’s a better, more efficient way to go about getting your cardio in.

High-intensity interval training (also known as HIIT) is a type of workout that involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise (performed at 85-100 percent of your maximum heart rate) followed by longer periods of rest.

A typical HIIT workout might look something like this: Thirty seconds of sprinting followed by 60-90 seconds rest, repeated for 5-10 rounds (depending on your experience level).

This type of workout allows you to burn more calories in a shorter period of time, which is great for people who feel that their lives are too busy for long workouts.

HIIT also allows your body to burn more calories after your workout is over, and it promotes fat loss without sacrificing muscle, which can happen when you use steady-state cardio (such as treadmill walking or using the elliptical machine) as your primary form of cardio.

3. Clean Up Your Diet

While strength training is crucial for building muscle and getting the tight, toned legs you’re looking for, it’s also important to make sure your diet is on point. In addition to building muscle, you’ll also need to shed extra body fat in order to really allow those muscles to show through.

In order to reduce body fat, you’ll need to make sure you’re eating in a caloric deficit. This means that you’re consuming fewer calories than your body is burning. While you can create a calorie deficit by exercising more, that can also increase your hunger, which makes it harder for you to control cravings and may result in you overeating.

So, rather than trying to outrun (or outlift or out-HIIT) a bad diet, it’s generally better (and easier) to clean up your diet. This means getting rid of highly processed, carbohydrate- and calorie-laden treats (cookies, doughnuts, muffins, etc.). Instead, focus on eating more of the following foods:

  • High-quality protein (grass-fed beef, pastured chicken and pork, wild-caught fish, etc.)
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy fats like avocado and extra-virgin olive oil

While eating in a calorie deficit is necessary for fat loss, it’s important to make sure you’re not cutting your calories by too much. It’s generally considered unhealthy to lose more than 0.5-1 percent of total body weight each week. This means that, for a 150-pound woman, a healthy rate of weight loss would be between 0.75 and 1.5 pounds per week.

When you cut your calories too low, you risk losing muscle mass. You also can slow down your metabolism, which makes it harder for you to maintain your weight loss without continuing to eat an extremely small amount of calories. Since maintaining your weight loss will be more difficult if you take this approach, you’re also more likely to gain back the weight that you initially lost.

Final Thoughts

It takes time for your legs to tone up, so patience is a must when it comes to putting these tips into practice. But, if you’re consistent, you’ll be sure to see the results you’re after.

Fitness

GHD Machine Vs Rowing Machine – Which One Should You Use?

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GHD Machine Vs Rowing Machine - Which One Should You Use

GHD machines and rowing machines are often the most ignored pieces of equipment found in the gym. But did you know that these machines can provide a great full body workout?

The reason you don’t find many people using them is the often the lack of knowledge on how to use them, and the misunderstandings about the risk of injury.

Let’s be honest here. Many pieces of equipment are used more than the others just because of their popularity rather than superiority. Putting that aside, let’s focus on why you should be using GHD and rowing machines.

GHD Machine

GHD machine also known as the glute-hamstring developer is used to perform workouts that target glutes and hamstrings along with your core and lower back. It also trains your mind-muscle connection and ability to do high-intensity controlled movements.

GHD strengthens your overall lower body, as well as your ability to perform major compound movements like squats and deadlifts.

Many people talk about the risk of injury when using this machine, but that is true for any equipment if not used properly. In fact, if you learn to use it, it will actually save you from leg and back injuries.

The major GHD exercises you must include in your workout are:

1. The GHD Sit Up

To perform this exercise, sit on the curved seating part of the machine while keeping your feet pressing against the footplate. Make sure you don’t sit exactly on top of the curved seat. Your hips should be slightly hanging down and knees slightly bent.

Go back until your body is parallel to the ground, then come up while keeping your back straight.

2. The Glute Hamstring Raise

In this exercise, your knees are resting against the curved seat (and not on the seat) and feet locked in the ankle lock.

In starting position your body is perpendicular to the ground. Start coming down keeping your back straight and muscles squeezed. Here you are facing the ground instead of facing up as in the sit up.

When your body is parallel to the ground, come back up.

3. The Hip Extension

For hip extension, lie on the machine facing the ground. Your feet are on the footplate and your body’s midsection is resting on the curved seat.

You start the movement with your body parallel to the ground. Go down till 60 to 70-degree angle (not complete perpendicular) and then come back up, keeping your back straight and glutes squeezed.

While doing the above exercises, keep in mind that your back should be straight throughout the movement and you are performing it correctly. Take the help of a trainer if you are a beginner.

Rowing Machine

Rowing machine provides a full body workout with variations in intensity. It works both the upper body and the lower body muscle groups during the complete row movement. Again, proper form and intensity are a must to reap the most benefits and prevent injury.

It gives you a great warmup before performing high strength or high-intensity exercises. But in itself, the rowing machine can give you a complete workout if you are short of time.

Include these rowing exercises in your routine for great results:

1. Simple Rows

Simple rows are a great way to start your workout, giving you a good warmup to your overall body.

Sit on the machine with your feet on the foothold. Your knees should be bent and your back should be straight. Grab the handle with your hands.

Go back using your legs and keeping your arms straight. When your legs are fully straight, you pull the handle with your arms to your torso.

Then come forward bending your legs and straightening our arms. Repeat the movement with uniformly with moderate intensity.

2. The HIIT Rowing

Here you do the regular rowing but the intensity is very high.

Keeping the correct form is very important. Try keeping the speed as high as possible for the target amount of time. It is a great exercise to burn calories very quickly.

3. Strength Rowing

This exercise focuses on building strength and working the muscles rather than just cardio.

Here you increase the resistance and perform the movement as slow as possible keeping the correct form. Make sure the resistance is high enough that you can do around 10-15 repetitions.

For rowing machine exercises, always keep your back straight and make sure your elbows are not flaring out.

Must Read: Are You Overtraining? Ten Signs That You Need to Scale Back Your Workouts

Final Thoughts

Both the GHD machine and rowing machine are great inclusions to your workout routine. Therefore, you can’t just ignore one for the other.

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Finding the Overall Best Power Rack on Today’s Market

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What can I say, I love to work out and weightlifting is my favorite by far. I enjoy pushing my body to the limit when it comes to strength training. Over the years I have discovered that using a power rack allows me to achieve greater goals in the world of weightlifting. Often I find myself lifting weights alone where using a good quality power rack makes sense, allowing everything to flow much smoother and safer.

Power racks are great for strength training, powerlifting, exercise variety or anyone who lifts weights alone. I do my weightlifting early in the morning sometimes beginning before the sun is up. This means I am usually lifting alone. Therefore, I always do my training on a good quality power rack.

Over the years I have had the opportunity of lifting on a variety of different power racks. I am often asked which power rack is the best or which power rack has the best features. I always tell everyone there are many different brands with a wide variety of different features available. There are really too many to name all of them. So to avoid any confusion I decided to create my own summary that includes some research and my hands-on experience. This has allowed me to narrow the list down to the 3 best power racks on the market.

Body-Solid GPR378 Pro Power Rack

I discovered the Body-Solid Pro Power Rack GPR378 to be a solid structure capable of handling any workout no matter how enormous. It is a solid piece of equipment constructed of 11-Gauge steel with an electro-statically applied powder coat finish that for preventing damage such as chipping or scratches even during the most barbaric workouts. The Body Solid GPR378 is made of industrial strength steel and hardware and has all 4 sides welded construction throughout.

The GPR378 has an optional lat attachment, dip attachment and weight stack. The lat and dip attachment can both be used for a variety of different strength and bodybuilding exercises. This power rack includes an extra wide built-in chinning bar and is designed for use with all types of free weight benches.

Pros: 

  • Heavy-Duty 11-gauge steel construction
  • Large 800 lb. weight capacity
  • Extra-wide walk-in design
  • 20 adjustment levels
  • 3” x 3” vertical support columns
  • 41-inch-wide knurled chinning bar
  • Attachments for optional lat bar and dip bar
  • Attachment for optional weight stack
  • Commercial rated with lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Optional weight stack is only 210 lbs.
  • Bottom crossbar may interfere when un-racking when doing squats
  • I tried the Body-Solid Pro Power Rack GPR378 and found it to be unmatched as a solid and versatile piece of equipment for working out

Rogue R-4 Power Rack

When visiting a friend recently I had the privilege of doing an entire 2 weeks of lifting using the Rogue R-4 Power Rack. I found it to be an exceptional piece of equipment when speaking of quality and versatility. It has 2” x 3” heavy-duty 11-gauge steel uprights. The Rogue R-4 is constructed of heavy gauge American steel and hardware throughout. With the Rogue R-4 every weld and laser cut is individually checked by certified inspectors to ensure the integrity of the equipment. The entire unit has a powder coat finish to resist any chips or scratches during those intense workouts.

Pros:

  • Constructed of heavy-duty 11-gauge steel uprights
  • High-quality American made steel and hardware throughout
  • High-quality powder coat finish
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Large 43” inside rack dimension
  • Westside hole pattern
  • 2 pull up bars
  • Dip station

Cons:

  • No numbering on the adjustment holes
  • Unit requires bolting to the floor for maximum rigidity

Overall I found the Rogue R-4 to be a versatile and well-built piece of equipment for a heavy workout and definitely one of the 3 best power racks on the market.

Titan T2 Power Rack

I wanted to include the Titan T2 Power Rack in the top 3 due to its basic design and high-quality construction combination which make it really attractive to many weightlifters like myself.

The Titan T2 Power Rack has 2” x 2” steel tubes with a 700 lb. capacity. It also boasts 1” solid steel j-hooks. There is a 1-1/4” chin-up bar. A pair of lift-offs is included.

Pros:

  • 2” x 2” steel construction
  • Compact design
  • Easy assembly
  • 1” solid steel j-hooks 

Cons:

  • Not suitable for tall people

I found this to be a great power rack with plenty of quality and features for most weightlifting.

No matter what type of weightlifting you routinely do, you can find one of these 3 best power racks on the market will meet your needs.

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Five Things to Do on Your Next Rest Day to Reach Your Goals Faster

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How often do you take rest days? Do you ever find yourself afraid to take a rest day, or worried that resting will slow down — or even halt — your progress?

When I first started working out, I was convinced that rest days should be taken as sparingly as possible.

I thought that I needed to work out at least six days a week if I wanted to see any results. I didn’t actually get the results I was looking for working out this way. I just felt tired and stressed out and mentally drained.

Rest days are not just important; they’re essential for you to make progress toward your health and fitness goals. But, what you do on a rest day is just as important as what you don’t do.

Here are five things you ought to be doing on your rest days to ensure you’re seeing maximum results and getting closer to reaching your goals.

Why are Rest Days so Important?

Why do you need to take rest days? What happens when you give your body a break?

When you’re working out, you’re breaking down your muscle tissue. When you rest, your body has a chance to repair itself. During deep sleep, your body produces the bulk of its growth hormone, which is necessary for muscle repair and recovery.

Regular rest days also help you avoid injuries. When you’re regularly over-exercising, you put a lot of stress on your body and are more likely to experience overuse injuries. If you’re chronically stressed, you’re also more likely to experience other injuries like muscle strains and stress fractures.

Rest days also give you an opportunity to mentally recharge. Contrary to what fitness enthusiasts on Instagram will tell you, you need to take a break sometimes.

Burning the candle at both ends will just leave you feeling depleted and increase the likelihood that you’ll give up on your fitness goals altogether. It can also make it harder for you to see progress, which, in turn, may lead to disappointment and increase your chances of giving up on your goals.

How Many Rest Days Should You Take Per Week?

Okay, so rest days are important. But, how often do you need to be taking rest days?

As with many things health and fitness-related, the short answer is that it depends. Depends on what?

The following are some factors that influence how often you ought to be resting in between workouts:

  • Your specific fitness goals: If you’re training for a bodybuilding competition, you’re going to need to train more frequently than someone who just wants to lose a few pounds. Think about what kind of results you want to see and ask yourself how often you need to work out to — realistically — reach these goals.
  • The type of workouts you like to do: Generally, a good rule of thumb is to avoid working out the same muscle group two days in a row (at least with the same level of intensity). So, if you work your legs on Monday, you probably shouldn’t work them again until at least Wednesday.
  • The intensity of your workouts: The more intense your workouts are, the more rest days you ought to be taking. If you only do light mobility work, you can probably get away with exercising more frequently and taking fewer rest days. If you do intense weight-lifting or cardiovascular exercise, you need to rest more often.
  • Your current health status: If you’re a generally healthy person, you probably don’t need as many rest days as someone who is struggling with a chronic illness or recovering from an injury. If you fall into the latter group, excessive exercise could leave you feeling worse, rather than better.

There are many other factors that influence the number of rest days you need to take. But, taking these guidelines into account is a good starting point.

Five Things to Do on Your Next Rest Day

The following are five things you can do on your next rest day to promote recovery and help you feel more energized and ready to take on your next workout.

1. Go to Sleep

Remember, it’s when you’re sleeping that your body produces the most growth hormone. If you want your muscles to repair themselves, quality sleep is a must.

What does quality sleep look like? Sleeping all the way through the night without interruptions. Waking up after a reasonable period of time (7-9 hours) and feeling rested and ready to take on the day. Falling asleep relatively quickly without a lot of tossing and turning.

If quality sleep doesn’t come easily to you, you may need to address your sleep hygiene to ensure you’re maximizing your rest days.

2. Move

A rest day is not the same thing as a sit-on-the-couch-and-do-nothing day. While rest is important, you still need to be moving throughout the day.

Going for a walk, stretching, working on your mobility, and foam rolling are all good options that help to loosen up your muscles and minimize soreness.

Remember, rest is important, but there’s a middle ground between being totally sedentary and intense exercise. Shoot for that middle ground so you reap the benefits of movement while still giving your body a chance to recover.

3. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated helps minimize muscle soreness and cramps. It also ensures that your body is functioning optimally, which is essential for muscle repair and muscle growth.

A good rule of thumb for water consumption is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day.

I like to add lemon juice and sea salt to my water at least once per day. This helps to ensure you’re getting sufficient amounts of electrolytes, which are needed for your cells to actually absorb the water you’re drinking.

I prefer the lemon juice/sea salt combination to sports drinks like Gatorade, which are typically full of sugar or artificial sweeteners.

4. Eat Repair-Promoting Foods

What you eat on a rest day matters just as much as your activity levels. Eat foods that are known to promote muscle recovery, including the following:

  • Whole eggs: A great source of protein and minerals like iron and phosphorous.
  • Salmon: Another great protein source that’s also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which help minimize inflammation and promote cellular health.
  • Sweet potatoes: A great source of complex carbohydrates that can help replenish muscle glycogen stores and promote faster recovery.

5. Keep the Muscle-Building Signal Going

Finally, if muscle growth and increased strength are goals of yours, you may want to consider doing “trigger sessions” on your rest days.

Trigger sessions promote muscle growth by allowing you to increase the frequency of your workouts. They don’t damage the body, though, because they’re performed at a lower intensity.

If you want to work on growing your shoulders or legs, for instance, you might do a few rounds of resistance band lateral raises or bodyweight squats on your off days to keep the muscle-building signal going with promoting soreness and muscle breakdown.

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