Wonder Fitness: Petoskey

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Dance Exercise Class Ideas

If you're looking for a tough cardio workout, a dance exercise class can deliver. The movements are sometimes challenging to learn, but the demands can also be part of the fun. If you're thinking about starting a dance class, there are a number of different ideas to consider.

Zumba is a popular dance exercise class that can push you to your limits and was founded in 2001. In a Zumba class, you workout to Latin-themed music and learn steps to dance moves like salsa and reggaeton. It is an interval-type of workout that switches between slower dance movements and faster moves. According to MayoClinic.com, some people prefer Zumba for its fun factor, which makes them want to come back.

Batuka is a high-energy dance workout class with South American roots. The classes combine dance and martial arts moves, giving you a chance to work out all your major muscle groups. The class also has a mental health component that emphasizes positive thinking. The dance moves, which originate from Brazilian batucada, a samba-like dance form performed to lively group percussion, really get the heart pumping.

Belly Dancing
Belly dancing workouts can be done either as a belly dancing exercise class offered at a gym or at a belly dancing studio. Classes can be taken by advanced students or even people with no previous dance experience. Beginners learn basic movements, such as hip circles, shoulder and hip shimmies, figure-eights, undulation and snake arms. The classes are a complete cardio workout and can help participants lose weight, flatten their abs, tone muscles, achieve better balance and even improve their moods.

Hip Hop
Hip hop is another high-energy dance class that will draw a fitness crowd. The classes are typically offered at both beginner and advanced levels. You'll learn combinations of movements and dance routines set to upbeat music. The majority of the class is spent learning a routine, while you spend the last 10 minutes or so performing the choreography as a group. Music generally includes not only hip hop, but also club and pop music.


What Kind of Tennis Racquet Should A Beginner Use?

Learning to play tennis comes more easily when you use the right racket. To determine the type of beginner racket to play with, several factors should be taken into consideration. Finding the best racket can be a trial and error process -- you may have to test drive a few demos first. With the right racket you'll jump to the next skill level in no time.

Racket Head Size
Until beginners develop solid, grooved strokes, their shots aren't consistent, and many of them are hit off center. It's because of this that a racket with a larger head, referred to as an oversize racket, provides a good choice for a beginner. The main benefit of a larger head is it has a bigger sweet spot. This is the spot on the hitting surface where the strings provide the most amount of power with the least amount of effort. When the ball is hit in the sweet spot, the shot feels solid with no vibrations -- "sweet." Beginners who mish*t the ball can still have a pretty good shot when playing with an oversize racket.

Length Choice
Rackets vary in length from 27 inches to 29 inches. The advantages of playing with a longer racket are you have more reach and leverage. More reach is helpful especially when you're being stretched wide to hit a well-angled shot. The extra leverage helps you hit your serves and overheads with more power. Longer rackets, though, are harder to control and require good hand-eye coordination and timing. Tennis newbies tend to have a harder time controlling and wielding longer rackets. Because of this, they should use a 27-inch racket -- learn the strokes and establish a solid game before playing with a longer racket.

Beginners should use the correct grip size to fit their hand. This is important to ensure a firm enough hold of your racket without risking injuries. A grip too small requires your hand and forearm muscles to work harder. Squeezing a small grip over the course of a long match can cause hand cramps. A grip that is too big makes it harder to snap your wrist when serving, which results in a weaker serve. To find the correct grip size, take a ruler and measure from the middle line in the palm of your hand to the end of your ring finger.

Stiff Rackets
If you're a beginner with not a lot of strength and you have a slow swing speed, a stiff racket is a good choice because it does some of the work for you. With a weak, slow swing, it's harder to generate power behind your shots. A stiff racket frame doesn't bend much when you hit the ball, which helps return more energy and power back to the ball.

Flexible Rackets
If you're a strong beginner with a fast swing speed, you'll find a flexible racket a good choice. With plenty of power, a strong beginner doesn’t need the racket to do the work but does need a racket that offers more control. A flexible racket bends more at impact and absorbs more of the energy, which helps with control -- keeping the ball from sailing long.


Standing Toe-Touch Exercises

Whether it's wise to do standing toe-touches is a matter of some debate. Advocates claim that hinging forward from your hips and reaching for your toes can lead to greater flexibility and enhance body awareness. On the flip side, standing toe-touches can result in excessive strain and injury in the areas you're trying to stretch. Consider both sides of the story before adding this controversial exercise to your fitness routine.

Good News
When performed properly, standing toe touches train you to relax and release tension from your neck, back and the backs of your legs, which can lead to flexibility gains along your spine and in yours hips and hamstrings. In turn, increased posterior flexibility allows for greater freedom of movement for daily and sports-related activities. Because reaching for your toes requires a smooth, rhythmic weight shift, toe touches also contribute to better body awareness, coordination and balance. If you take a progressive approach to toe touches -- slowly and gradually increasing range of motion -- you can train your neurological system to avoid "putting on the brakes," according to physical therapist and strength coach Gray Cook. Cook writes that toe-touch exercise progressions can improve motor control, a concept that involves timing, stabilization and coordination.

Bad News
Naysayers argue toe touches can result in excessive strain on the spine and over-stretching of the lumbar and knee ligaments, especially if you approach the exercise too aggressively. When you're in the bent-over straight-leg position, your knees can hyperextend, which can result in injury to the connective tissue and permanent knee dysfunction. On the up-phase of the exercise -- when you return your torso to an upright position -- your lower back must support the entire weight of your upper body. This puts undue pressure on your lumbar spine, which can result in damage to the lumbar discs.

Keep It Safe
If you want to benefit from standing toe touches while minimizing risk, avoid bouncing the stretch. Instead, hinge forward carefully, hold the stretch briefly and return to an upright position. Repeat 10 to 12 times. To prevent hyperextension of the knees and possible ligament damage, Cook recommends standing with the feet together while gripping a rolled-up towel with your inner thighs. Keeping the stomach muscles engaged at all times helps brace the lower back and should reduce stress to your spine and back muscles. Cook suggests using a slightly raised platform -- such as a board or heavy book -- and working through several progressions. Phase one involves resting the balls of your feet on the platform when you hinge forward; for phase two, your heels are on the platform and your toes remain on the floor.

Alternate Route
If your primary goal is to lengthen and loosen the backs of your thighs, play it safe by using alternative exercises. To stretch your hamstrings from a standing position, stand facing a stable surface, such as a bench, chair or low wall. Keeping your lower back and both legs relatively straight, prop one heel on the surface and hinge forward slightly from your hips. When you feel light tension behind your working thigh, hold the position for up to 30 seconds, breathing normally. Repeat up to four times and switch legs. Other suitable substitutes include the seated toe touch, the modified hurdler and the supine straight-leg lift.


Push Ups for Strength Training

Pushups can develop strength and tone in your upper body if you complete them often enough and use proper technique. They’re appropriate for all levels, as you can modify them to increase or decrease their difficulty. You can also make adjustments to your hand and feet position to place focus on particular muscle groups.

Pushup Technique
Pushups are safe as long as you perform them the right way. Set your hands on the floor so that they’re slightly wider than your shoulders and your fingers are pointed directly ahead. Your hands should be in line with your chest. Lift up onto your hands and feet and contract your core to hold your torso and thighs in a straight line. Lower your body toward the floor by bending your elbows. Your elbows will flare slightly out to your sides. Continue until they bend just beyond 90 degrees and then extend them fully to return to starting position. Move right into the next repetition.

The largest muscle in your chest, which is the pectoralis major, is the primary muscle targeted during pushups. Your chest muscle squeezes your arms together towards your centerline. The deltoids, or shoulders, contribute by flexing your shoulders. Your triceps, at the back of your arms, extend your elbow joints. Your abdominals and obliques contract to hold your torso straight. If you bring your hands in to a more narrow position so that they’re shoulder-width apart, there’s a greater degree of shoulder flexion and elbow extension, so your shoulders and triceps have to work harder. If you set your feet atop an elevated surface, such as a step, the upper portion of your chest is targeted.

Building Strength
If you’re interested in building strength, you should begin your pushup training program by measuring your current strength levels. Complete as many pushups as you can without pausing and while using correct technique. To build strength, complete your pushup workout two to three days per week. Complete three to four sets of as many repetitions as you can. Change up your hand placement throughout your workout so that you adequately overload your chest, shoulders and triceps. Perform the test again six weeks later to see your improvements.

If you’re unable to perform the traditional pushup, you can perform the modified version of the exercise. Instead of placing the weight onto your feet, do the exercise from your knees. Your torso and thighs should still create a straight line. If you’re looking to increase the challenge of the pushup, have a partner hold a weighted plate onto your back while you perform repetitions. To build explosive strength, incorporate clap pushups, which force you to explode up from the floor so that your hands leave the floor and clap before they land again.


Forearm Soreness and Kettlebell Swings

Incorporating kettlebell swings in your workout routine will help you build strength and incinerate body fat. However, the problem with the cannonball-shaped weight is that many do the exercise with an improper form. The center of mass on a kettlebell extends beyond your hands, which is ideal for a swinging motion. The downside of that is it can swing onto your forearms -- when performed incorrectly -- and this can lead to soreness. Having the right technique will help eliminate most of the risk factors associated with the kettlebell swing.

Swinging Without the Muscle Aches
The kettlebell swing is an effective workout but it can have a painful learning curve. The heavy impact of the weight striking your forearm causes soreness, bruising and pain on your wrist. You can focus on improving your technique and avoid hitting your lower arm by wearing a forearm shield. The shield has padding to absorb the impact of the kettlebell on your forearm. You can purchase a forearm shield in any sports store or fitness center. It is not to be mistaken with the forearm shield used for kickboxing, which is much thicker and larger.

Swing For The Fences: Perfecting Form
Performing the kettlebell swing with two arms gives you a higher degree of control. With an overhand grip, grab hold of a kettlebell with both hands and position your feet slight wider than shoulder-width apart. Drive your hips backward, squat down and extend your arms so that your shoulders are positioned over the kettlebell.
Drive your hips forward and extend your legs and upper body to raise the kettlebell upward. Keep your arms fully extended throughout the swing and let the kettlebell come back down between your legs. Continue this motion until the kettlebell is swinging to a height above your head. Stop the exercise by allowing the kettlebell to swing forward without extending your hips and knees. When the swing slows down, place the kettlebell on the floor.

Building Forearms of Steel
Your forearms and wrist are supporting muscles in the exercise. If the muscles are not developed enough to withstand the weight of the swing, you will experience muscle soreness -- even if you swing with perfect form. Strengthen your wrist flexors by performing wrist curls and squeezing hand grips. Target your forearm muscles with hammer curls and barbell reverse curls. These two exercises target your brachioradialis muscle in your upper-outer forearms. This muscle is one of the stabilizers for the kettlebell swing.

Terminating Forearm Soreness
A warm up, such as a five-minute moderate jog can improve your forearm muscle endurance and flexibility. Absent a warm-up session, your muscles and joints are stiff and tight when you begin your exercise, which increases your likelihood of sore muscles. Less is more when it comes to growing your muscles. Give your muscles time to recover and develop between workout sessions. Do strength-training exercises no more than three times a week on non-consecutive days. Overtraining is a common cause of sore muscles.


Exercises for a Larger Butt & Flat Stomach

Exercise can go a long way, both in building mass in certain areas and in reducing fat all over the body. While removing fat from one area of the body isn't possible, you can design a routine of exercises for a larger butt and flat stomach. To get a larger butt, you will need to focus on mass-building resistance training exercises in the hips. For a flatter stomach, engage in cardio exercises to burn off excess fat.

Maximize Your Gluteus Maximus
The gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in your behind; to enhance its size means to enhance the overall size of your butt. Focus on resistance training exercises that target the gluteus maximus, such as deadlifts, leg presses, single-leg squats, step-downs, reverse hyperextensions and lunges. Start with a weight you feel comfortable with and gradually increase the weight for each exercise every couple weeks or so, when you feel that the exercise has become easy. Perform each exercise for a total of 10 reps, three sets each. Rest a few minutes between exercises.

Giving Credit to the Assistants
Though working on the gluteus maximus is perhaps the fastest way to increase the size of your posterior, working on the other muscles in your butt can help give your behind a rounder and larger appearance. Engage in exercises that target those muscles assisting your gluteus maximus -- muscles such as the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and tensor fasciae latae. Such exercises include leg raises, sit-ups, hip abductions, scissor kicks and wheel rollouts. Again, perform these exercises in three sets of 10 reps with time to rest between exercises.

Burning the Jelly off Your Belly
The key to a flat stomach isn’t targeting your stomach. Instead, burn fat off your entire body, which will also lead to fat loss in the stomach region. The most efficient way to do this is to engage in low-intensity cardio. Performing at least 40 minutes of cardio at a low intensity, at around 65 percent of your max heart rate, causes your body to switch from burning glycogen stored in your muscles to burning fat stored all over your body, according to the journal “The Physician and Sportsmedicine.” Choose any cardio exercises that you feel you can continue for at least 40 minutes, anything ranging from running on the treadmill and cycling on the stationary bike to a kettlebell or swimming workout.

Don’t Have Time for All That
If your schedule is too full to fit in 40-minute cardio sessions in addition to your needed resistance training, consider HIIT. High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is cardio for cheaters. For HIIT, you perform your chosen cardio at both low-intensity and high-intensity, switching every 30 seconds. A HIIT workout need not last more than 15 minutes and still burns fat effectively. You can do this with any cardio exercise you would use for a low-intensity workout. For example, a swimming HIIT routine might be switching between a low-intensity frog stroke to an all-out freestyle swim. Other HIIT routine examples are switching between jogging and sprinting on the treadmill, switching between slow rope jumping and burpees and switching between light shadowboxing to heavy-bag punching.



Petoskey, MI
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