Lunges – Are All Created Equal?

If you’re in the market to strengthen and sculpt your lower body, while also functionally preparing to tackle the activities of everyday life—like walking and climbing up stairs— with greater ease, the lunge should be an essential part of your workout routine. This no-equipment required move can be performed in a number of different ways, including moving forward or backwards. And, while stepping in one direction or the other might not seem to make that much of a difference, the truth is there’s more than meets the eye. Top personal trainers weigh in to break down the advantages and disadvantages of both the forward lunge and the reverse lunge so you can determine which option may best suit your current fitness needs.

The Forward Lunge Lowdown
This tried-and-true move has long been a workout staple and for good reason. A  research study by the American Council on Exercise found the forward lunge to be one of the most effective exercises for eliciting a high level of muscle activity in the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and hamstrings—significantly more than other common lower-body exercises like the body-weight squat. In addition to being highly effective the forward lunge is also quite functional, as this movement closely mimics our walking pattern. Because our brains are accustomed to putting one foot in front of the other, the forward lunge helps to reinforce the gait pattern in a way that challenges balance and the muscles of the lower extremities, explains Sabrena Merrill, exercise scientist and ACE Master Trainer based out of Kansas City, Mo.
This added challenge, however, can have implications for the knee joint. Jonathan Ross, award-winning ACE-certified Personal Trainer  and author of Abs Revealed, shares that this version of the movement can be thought of as an acceleration lunge, because the body is moving forward and then backward. This results in a greater challenge, because the body is being propelled forward through space and returning from the bottom of the movement requires enough force to successfully return the body to the starting position. “The increase in challenge can make this lunge a problem for people with any knee pathology, because  a higher amount of force and/or more range of motion is required to perform it properly.”

The Reverse Lunge Lowdown
This twist on the lunge offers the body an opportunity to move in a direction that most of us rarely go. While stepping backwards can offer a new challenge because it is not a normal repetitive movement most of us use, Merrill shares however that it can provide slightly less challenge to balance. This is because the center of gravity always remains between the two feet. “For the forward lunge, the center of gravity moves forward of the body during the forward stepping motion, so the reverse lunge may be an option for people who have problems with balance.” Part of the ease in performing this movement compared to the forward lunge is that the body is moving up and down and not through space, adds Ross. This makes it more of a deceleration lunge because you are moving up and down as one leg steps backward out of the way. “The strictly vertical nature of the movement requires less force than a forward lunge, which allows for an opportunity to train the muscles of the stance leg with less stress on the joints.” International fitness educator and Senior Manager of Training and Development for TRX Dan Mc Donogh adds that this variation on the lunge can be a suitable option for individuals with knee issues, as well as for those lacking hip mobility.

The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, the lunge—however you choose to perform it—should be a staple in your workout routine because of its emphasis on hip mobility and the translation to movement patterns in everyday life. In addition to providing great strengthening benefits for the muscles of the lower body, both the forward and reverse lunge require a significant amount of core control and engagement. “Both types of lunges, when performed correctly, require one hip to flex and the other to extend, while also controlling the pelvis through proper core activation,” says Merrill. “The hip abdominal and lower-back muscles must work in a synchronized fashion to control the tilting of the pelvis.”

Give This Lunge a Try
For a greater focus on technique and comfort when performing the lunge, you should add the bottom-up lunge to your exercise arsenal. This movement allows you to learn proper movement first without the need to pick up and put down a foot during the movement, as required by both the forward and reverse lunge. To perform this static movement, begin with the right foot forward and left foot back, with the left knee resting on a balance pad or BOSU® Balance Trainer directly under the left hip. Keep the spine straight as you create the upward movement by pushing the right foot into the ground and straightening the right leg using the hamstrings and inner-thigh muscles. Reverse the movement by slowly lowering the left knee back down to the pad or BOSU® with control, using the muscles of the right leg. Alternate legs.

Researched By :
Kátia C. Rowlands – PLETT PILATES ; SPINNING & FITNESS STUDIO – 082 513 4256 •

How Slow Can You Go?

Avoid the one big mistake cyclists make when it’s time for recovery.

Time off from cycling can be a good thing. One critical training principle is that of overload and recovery. For a system to grow stronger, it must be stressed and then allowed time to rebuild. This is the reason for recovery periods between hard efforts during interval workouts. From there, the principle expands to include rest days during hard training weeks, a recovery week within a month of training and, finally, a several-week-long hiatus after a season.

But what about recovery on a grander scale? The concept of a grand recovery period has implications for all athletes. Amateur racers and recreational cyclists frequently participate in events for several years and then turn to other pursuits and interests. Maybe you were a Cat 3 or an avid century rider five years ago, but your bike has been collecting dust or you’ve resigned yourself to just a weekend spin to stay moderately fit. It’s not too late for a comeback.

Regardless of where you are in the process, there’s one aspect of training that trips up cyclists more than any other: recovery rides. The concept is ridiculously simple: Take a very easy spin on your bike. To be honest, there’s little scientific evidence that recovery rides are any more beneficial—physiologically—than sitting on your couch. The same can be said for massage, but athletes and coaches swear by both as ways to enhance between-workout recovery. Both help athletes feel fresher and looser for their next hard training session. And there’s a clear psychological benefit to that.

Though it sounds simple, many athletes ruin their training by going too hard. To be effective, your easy ride must do no harm. Only by spinning at a very low intensity will you reap the psychological benefits.

Ease Off the Gas Pedal
So how do you properly execute a recovery ride? Start out easy. Once you’re at a nice, relaxed pace, take your speed down another notch. You can’t go too easy, but it’s easy to go too hard. Think of it as taking the bike for a walk: You shouldn’t be working any harder than you would during a stroll to the coffee shop. Your power output should be 30 to 50 percent of your maximum sustainable power output, and your heart rate should not go above 70 percent of your maximum sustainable heart rate. Keep your cadence at about 90 rpm—at low speeds and in low gears, this will seem brisk—and ride for 30 to 60 minutes. A power-meter graph from a recovery ride should show a low and relatively consistent power output, a relatively high cadence and little else.

Researched By :
Kátia C. Rowlands – PLETT PILATES ; SPINNING & FITNESS STUDIO – 082 513 4256 •

Training by Repetitions, Time, and Distance: What’s Best?

You probably have likely noticed how some workouts give a specific number of reps to do for each exercise while other routines say to do an exercise for a set amount of time. This also applies to runners—you’re either counting miles or minutes. Each strategy is a good one, but one may be better for you. Use this guide to help determine which you should be doing.

Strength Training by Time
When a workout prescribes to do as many reps as possible in a set amount of time, concentrate on your form to ensure each rep is performed correctly so that, in turn, you get the most from your workout. Using a stopwatch can also boost your confidence since you don’t have to worry that you won’t be able to perform the recommended repetitions. Even if you can only complete one rep in the allotted time, that’s a starting point. This strategy is particularly good if you work out with a partner. Often one person can feel inadequate or that she or he is holding back the other if they struggle to do 8 jump squats while their workout mate breezes through them. Forgetting the reps allows you both to push yourselves at your own levels and still get the benefits of a gym buddy.

Strength Training by Repetitions
Most sports training is repetition-based, which allows athletes—and everyday men and women—to peak, maintain a peak performance, and then de-condition as you increase or decrease the reps and weight used for each move. This also helps avoid burnout and overtraining because you’re more in-tune to working from where you left off and keeping yourself at a pace that’s working toward an overall goal. Lastly, having a tangible goal for each exercise, such as 10 pushups, lets you to see where you stand and gives you a feeling of accomplishment.

Cardio by Time
Most of us don’t have a lot of time to work out, so training for time may be the best solution when you’re trying to fit fitness into your day. Plus you don’t have to try to calculate distance when running outdoors—using your watch as your guide is a no-brainer.

Cardio by Distance
Whether it is biking to the last telephone poll on your block or kicking it the last half-mile of your run, if you focus on time-based runs or cardio workouts, you may not push yourself to your maximum potential. In my experience, individuals are more willing to challenge themselves to, say, complete 3 miles as fast as they can, whereas they’ll take a 30-minute run at a leisurely pace. Plus when you know the finish line is nearing, you tend to get tunnel vision and forget how tired you may be.

The Bottom Line
Each method can help you lose weight, build strength, become faster, and meet just about any fitness goal. I recommend mixing it up and personally do so depending on how much time I have: If I’m squeezing it in, I focus on time. If I have a free afternoon, I’ll count my reps. Just remember to stay consistent, keep good form, and change it up so as not to reach a plateau. And have fun. Thinking too much about how you are going to work out may make you feel like it’s a job—and fitness should be fun.

Researched By :
Kátia C. Rowlands – PLETT PILATES ; SPINNING & FITNESS STUDIO – 082 513 4256 •


9 Tips to Perfect Your Walking Form


Good posture will make it easier to go the distance. Here are some posture pointers for stronger striding during your next walk.

Tip #1: Stand up tall. Imagine that a wire attached to the crown of your head is gently pulling you upward. Walking erect will keep you moving at a brisker pace.

Tip #2: Keep your eyes on the horizon. This will help you to stand taller and avoid stress on your neck and low back.

Tip #3: Lift your chest and tighten your abs. Using muscles in the front of your body to straighten up will take pressure off your back.

Tip #4: Bend your arms. You’ll be able to swing your arms faster, which helps increase your speed. It also prevents swelling caused from blood pooling in your hands as you walk longer distances.

Tip #5: Relax your shoulders. Your arms will swing more freely, and you’ll avoid upper back and neck tension.

Tip #6: Maintain a neutral pelvis. Don’t tuck your tailbone under or over arch your back.

Tip #7: Keep your front leg straight but not locked. You’ll have a smoother stride and be able to propel your self forward more easily.

Tip #8: Aim your knees and toes forward. Proper alignment will reduce your chances of injury.

Land on your heel. This facilitates the heel-to-toe walking motion that will carry farther and faster than if your foot slaps down on the ground with each step.

That may seem like a lot to think about, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Start from the top of the list and focus on one tip at a time. Pay attention to this area of your body at the beginning of your walk, and then periodically check about every 15 to 20 minutes (don’t constantly focus on it) to see if you’re maintaining good posture. If not, simply get back in alignment. Do this for about a week and then move onto the next tip. Some changes may happen quickly while others may take some time to become habit.

Researched By :
Kátia C. Rowlands – PLETT PILATES ; SPINNING & FITNESS STUDIO – 082 513 4256

Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups

While the pull-up has been used by everyone from middle-school gym teachers to Marine drill instructors to measure fitness, the fact is that many fit people, particularly women, can’t do even one. To perform a pull-up, you place your hands on a raised bar using an overhand grip, arms fully extended and feet off the floor. (The same exercise, performed with an underhand grip, is often called a chin-up.) Using the muscles in your arms and back, you pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. Then the body is lowered until the arms are straight, and the exercise is repeated. The Marines say a male recruit should be able to do at least 3 pull-ups or chin-ups, but women are not required to do them. In school, 14-year-old boys can earn the highest award on the government’s physical fitness test by doing 10 pull-ups or chin-ups: for 14-year-old girls, it’s 2.

To find out just how meaningful a fitness measure the pull-up really is, exercise researchers from the University of Dayton found 17 normal-weight women who could not do a single overhand pull-up. Three days a week for three months, the women focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and the latissimus dorsi — the large back muscle that is activated during the exercise. They lifted weights and used an incline to practice a modified pull-up, raising themselves up to a bar, over and over, in hopes of strengthening the muscles they would use to perform the real thing. They also focused on aerobic training to lower body fat.

By the end of the training program, the women had increased their upper-body strength by 36 percent and lowered their body fat by 2 percent. But on test day, the researchers were stunned when only 4 of the 17 women succeeded in performing a single pull-up.

“We honestly thought we could get everyone to do one,” said Paul Vanderburgh, a professor of exercise physiology and associate provost and dean at the University of Dayton, and an author of the study. But Vanderburgh said the study and other research has shown that performing a pull-up requires more than simple upper-body strength. Men and women who can do them tend to have a combination of strength, low body fat and shorter stature. During training, because women have lower levels of testosterone, they typically develop less muscle than men, Vanderburg h explained. In addition, they can’t lose as much fat. Men can conceivably get to 4 percent body fat; women typically bottom out at more than 10 percent.

So no matter how fit they are, women typically fare worse on pull-up tests. But Vanderburgh notes that some men struggle, too, particularly those who are taller or bigger generally or have long arms. This is related to an interesting phenomenon: if you compare a smaller athlete to an athlete who has the same exact build but is 30 percent bigger, the bigger athlete will be only about 20 percent stronger, even though he has to carry about 30 percent more weight.

“We’re a combination of levers; that’s how we move,” Vanderburgh said. “Generally speaking, the longer the limb, the more of a disadvantage in being able to do a pull-up. I look at a volleyball player and wouldn’t expect her to be able to do a pull-up, but I know she’s fit.”
Researched By :
Kátia C. Rowlands – PLETT PILATES ; SPINNING & FITNESS STUDIO – 082 513 4256 •


Why Women Can



Ligaments and Tendons: What’s the Diff?

People often talk about tendons and ligaments as if they are the same thing, but these two types of soft tissue actually perform different functions for the body.
A tendon connects muscle to bone. These tough, yet flexible, bands of fibrous tissue attach to the skeletal muscles that move your bones. Tendons essentially enable one to move since they act as intermediaries between the muscles creating the motion of the bones.Untitled-1
I’d say the most famous tendon is the Achilles tendon which connects the muscles of your calf to your heel. Also, if you watch the tops of your hands while you type, you can see your tendons at work. Pretty cool, huh?
So what’s a ligament? If you want to know then read more
Ligaments are similar to tendons, but they connect bone to bone and help to stabilize joints. They are composed mostly of long, stringy collagen fibers creating short bands of tough fibrous connective tissue.
Ligaments are slightly elastic, so they can be stretched to gradually lengthen increasing flexibility. Athletes and dancers stretch their ligaments to make their joints more supple, and to prevent injury.
Here’s a cool fact: The term double-jointed refers to people who have more elastic ligaments.
You might have heard of some of the ligaments found in the knee since they often tear, especially the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) when skiing. In fact four ligaments connect the tibia (shin bone) to the femur (thigh bone) to provide structure for the knee.
Ligaments v Tendon Injuries
How do you know if you have damaged your ligament or your tendon?
Well to be honest the reason there is such a confusing overlap of what is what and where, is because the two are very alike. The simplest way to put it is that tendons attach muscle to bone and ligaments attach bone to bone. Sounds simple enough right? Well, the problem most people have is distinguishing between a ligament injury and a tendon injury due to their symptoms being very alike. So in order to understand them a little better know how to treat the things, we need to delve a little deeper…
Another reason these two get so mixed up is that both tendons and ligaments are made up of this connective tissue stuff called collagen fibres. However how this collagen is formed together is very different in each. In a tendon the fibres are parallel, allowing for more elasticity which if you think about the way muscles work and the amount of movement involved, this makes them more suited to connecting the muscle to the bone. The fibres in ligaments however criss-cross to keep the ligament stable and ultimately to support, stabilise and strengthen the bone joints.
Ligament Injuries Although ligaments are strong and rigid by nature, strains and sudden forces can cause them to rupture and tear which is a common sports injury. Damage is caused when the fibres become torn and the severity depends on the extent to which they have torn and the pain experienced as a result. Because of the lack of blood supply to the tissue, sometimes tears become permanent which can end in their removal. Also, if a ligament is stretched past a certain point, it can result in the ligament never returning to its original state.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears are the most common sport-related injury to the ligament. The ACL is found in the knee and is crucial for stability and therefore if torn, surgery may be required to correct the injury. The symptoms of an ACL injury are the feeling of your leg ‘giving-way’ followed by pain and swelling in the knee. Like with any potential ligament injury, If you feel you may have torn or damaged your ACL, it is crucial that you visit your doctor to confirm the injury and to rule out any other problems. Sometimes tears to the ACL do not always require surgical treatment however an untreated injury may result in further damage. These injuries are common in athletes, especially in sports such as football, rugby, hockey and basketball due to the high level of strain put on the knee through pivoting and lateral or twisting movements in the legs . These injuries can be prevented or treated with knee braces and supports.
Tendon Injuries Like with ligaments, tendons if over strained can become damaged and even snap. A partially torn tendon can cause swelling and discomfort but can be healed over time whereas a clean break in a tendon can cause a complete loss of movement and may result in permanent damage. The best treatment for an injured tendon would be to initially use an ice pack to reduce the swelling whilst keeping the injured area elevated. More serious damage or tears may require a splint in order to aid the healing process and as always that trusty taping and strapping can help with stabilising the area. In order to prevent damage to tendons, supports and braces can be used in order to give support to a vulnerable area as well as offering relief from an ongoing injury.
One of the most common tendon injuries in athletes is damage to the Achilles Tendon which connects the heel to the muscle in your lower leg and is caused by over strain or improper footwear. In order to prevent injury to this area, is to ensure that you warm up sufficiently before any vigorous sporting activity and also wearing supports which are specifically designed for that area.
Tendonitis is also a common injury in which involves the inflammation and swelling of a tendon resulting in pain and stiffness. This type of injury again can be caused through over straining of the tendon through sport and physical activity. Although an MRI or X-ray can confirm swelling of the tendon, a doctor can usually diagnose tendonitis without. Again, at the first signs of an inflamed tendon, an ice pack should be used to reduce the swelling and all physical activity should be stopped. Taking anti inflammatories can also help take any swelling down as well as offer some pain relief.
Researched By : Kátia C. Rowlands – Pilates Instructor & Personal Trainer – 082 513 4256



Outdoor hiking has a myriad of benefits for both the body and the mind. Hiking is inexpensive and easy to start, so you can participate no matter how fit you currently are. Most people live within driving distance of wonderful hiking spots and discovering these places is a good way of getting to know an area. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of hiking.
Outdoor Hiking Promotes Mental Health
Hiking is much more varied than many other types of exercise, particularly those undertaken in a gym. Not only can your workout be different each time, depending on the trail you take, but the landscape will also change, if only from the seasons. Hiking outdoors can help you to maintain your motivation for exercise by making it more interesting. Hiking can also be as social as you like. You might feel embarrassed about exercising on the streets or in a gym when you’re first starting out, and hiking on an isolated trail will decrease the chances of feeling like people are judging you (although you should always tell someone where you are going for safety’s sake). Alternatively, hiking with a group or a friend can feel more like entertainment than exercise, and campsites are often very friendly places where it is possible to meet new people.
Exercise is a very good stress reliever in any form, including hiking, and can also reduce insomnia, leading to better mental health. Hiking outdoors will help you feel closer to nature and natural rhythms, which may increase your happiness and help you feel more fulfilled. A difficult hike, for example, up a hill or mountain, can also help you feel like you’ve achieved something more tangible than completing a fitness circuit at the gym.
Outdoor Hiking Promotes Physical Health
Hiking is a great exercise because it is easy to adjust to any level of fitness. Outdoor hiking can be on a level, well maintained path, or up a pathless mountain. This makes it excellent for people who are hoping to improve their fitness, as they can simply take more and more difficult hikes. Losing weight is another benefit of hiking. This is particularly true of hiking uphill, as this can burn similar amounts of calories to jogging. Exercise can help reduce insulin resistance in both the short and long term.
As hiking puts pressure on your bones, it encourages healthy bone structure and reduces the chances of osteoporosis. Being exposed to sunshine will also increase your levels of vitamin D. Hiking is a cardiovascular activity, depending on how hard you push yourself during a hike, and thus has benefits for your cardiovascular system, such as reducing the chances of heart disease, and increasing your overall fitness. Hiking is excellent for muscle tone, particularly cross country hiking, as your body and legs have to compensate for the rough terrain by working harder.
Hiking is a wonderful activity that is easy to start and continue, due to its varied and customizable nature. Outdoor hiking can help you to lose weight, clear and ease your mind and build a healthier body.
RESEARCHED BY : KÁTIA C. ROWLANDS – Pilates Instructor & Personal Trainer – 082 513 4256513 4256•