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XSport Fitness: Strawberry Lane

XSport Fitness: Strawberry Lane We offer quality educational programs, state-of-the-art equipment, personal trainers, professional staff committed to help our members reach their goals.

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What Is a Crossover Running Plank?In Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," the Red Queen admonishes Alice that sh...
08/08/2016

What Is a Crossover Running Plank?

In Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," the Red Queen admonishes Alice that she must run as fast as possible to remain in the same place. While Carroll's world was fictional, running in place is an excellent exercise in reality. Running in place while in a plank position is a twist to the otherwise stationary exercise, transforming it into a cardio activity that also offers strength-training benefits.

Standard Running Plank
As you'd expect, the running plank begins from a plank position. Place your palms on the floor with your arms extended and your hands below your shoulders, or a bit forward. Straighten your body and balance on your hands and toes. Begin the exercise by tightening your core and moving your right knee forward until it's below the middle of your torso. Reverse your leg positioning, advancing your left knee below your chest while simultaneously thrusting your right foot back as far as you can. Continue to alternate leg positions while keeping your hands fixed in place.

Advance to the Crossover Plank
Begin the crossover version from the plank position, but instead of driving your knees straight forward, cross them over. Drive your right knee forward toward your left arm and then bring it back as your left knee moves toward your right arm. At the peak position, your lead shin should be roughly parallel with the floor and your lead foot should be in the air. Keep your hips as stable as possible throughout the exercise; don't let them bounce too far up or down. To perform the exercise as part of a cardio circuit, do as many repetitions as you can in 30 seconds. Otherwise, perform eight repetitions in each of one to two sets for both legs.

Running Plank Benefits
Running planks in general offer an effective cardio workout and you'll gain greater benefits by moving your legs as quickly as possible. Running planks target your abs but also work your hip and thigh muscles. Crossover planks add some emphasis to the oblique muscles on the sides of your abdomen, thanks to the twisting movements of the exercise.

Performance Tips
Balance your weight between your feet with each stride if you do standard running planks. If you can't do standard running planks, elevate your hands by setting them on a raised platform. Place your hands on a stability ball to add a balance challenge, which helps strengthen your core even more. To make the crossover plank more of a strength-training exercise, do "slow motion" running planks. Move your rear leg forward slowly, then pause for about two seconds after your knee advances as far as possible. Repeat with the other leg. Perform six to seven reps with each leg.

Do Dumbbell Pullovers Really Build the Chest?Due to confusion regarding which major muscle group the dumbbell pullover p...
08/04/2016

Do Dumbbell Pullovers Really Build the Chest?

Due to confusion regarding which major muscle group the dumbbell pullover primarily works, the exercise is often incorporated into both chest and back workouts. While both the chest and back muscles are recruited during the exercise, the chest takes on the greatest percentage of the load. Therefore, if you’re interested in building the chest, the dumbbell pullover is a quality exercise to include in your training.

Get the Technique
The pullover is performed with a single dumbbell. Grip the dumbbell’s stem with both hands and lie perpendicular on a flat bench so that your scapulas are resting on the bench. With your feet flat on the floor, lift your hips so that you create a straight line through your thighs and torso. Begin with the dumbbell held over your chest with your arms fully extended. Keep your elbows primarily straight as you lower the dumbbell behind your head. Continue until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and then extend your shoulders to bring the dumbbell back to the starting position.

Chest Moves
The largest muscle in the chest is the pectoralis major and it’s primarily responsible for shoulder transverse adduction, which means it squeezes your arms together towards the center line of your body, like it does during the bench press. However, the pectoralis major also performs shoulder extension, which means it moves your upper arms down and back behind you. During a dumbbell pullover, as you lift the weight from behind your head to back over your chest, your shoulders are extending due to the contribution from your chest muscle.

Back Contributions
The reason that lifters are often confused about whether the chest or back is the primary muscle recruited during the dumbbell pullover is because the latissimus dorsi, which is the largest muscle in the back, also performs shoulder extension. While not the primary muscles involved, the lats are recruited during the dumbbell pullover. However, a 2001 study published by the "Journal of Applied Biomechanics" analyzed muscular activity of the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi during the pullover and found that the chest muscle is activated significantly more than the back.

Chest Builder
In order for dumbbell pullovers to help you build mass in your chest, you’ve got to perform them at an appropriate frequency, volume and intensity. Incorporate the exercise into your chest workout, consisting of two to three additional chest exercises. Complete that workout two days per week while allowing two days of rest in between. Perform four to six sets of six to 12 reps, with about three minutes in between sets. Select a dumbbell that makes completing six to 12 reps challenging. Warm up beforehand and recruit a friend to act as a spotter while you’re performing the exercise.

Effective Stationary Bike WorkoutsExercising on a stationary bike is an effective way to improve your health and fitness...
08/01/2016

Effective Stationary Bike Workouts

Exercising on a stationary bike is an effective way to improve your health and fitness. Riding a stationary bike is safer and more convenient than riding outdoors, and it's less stressful on your joints than some other forms of cardio. To get the most out of your stationary bike workouts, vary the intensity and duration of your workouts and keep track of your effort by monitoring your heart rate.

Measure Your Effort
Tracking your heart rate helps you determine whether you're working hard enough to get an effective workout. It also allows you to monitor your fitness and train with an overall purpose. You can measure your heart rate either by manually taking your pulse for six seconds and then multiplying that number by 10, or by using a heart rate monitor. To train by heart rate, you first need to estimate your maximum heart rate, or MHR. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends using the formula 220 minus your age to estimate your MHR. Once you determine this number, you can set up appropriate heart rate targets for your bike workouts so that your time in the saddle translates into an effective workout.

High Intensity Intervals
Interval training is an effective way to burn calories and improve your maximum performance and speed. Interval training involves alternating bursts of speed and power with periods of recovery. According to the website Polar Smart Coaching, when performing intervals, beginners should work at 80 to 90 percent of their MHR during the hard portions, whereas experienced exercisers should work at 90 to 100 percent of their MHR. One example of an interval workout on the bike is to warm up for five minutes at 50 to 65 percent MHR, perform five sets of two minute intervals followed by two minutes of recovery and then cool down for five minutes at 50 to 65 percent MHR.

Power Up Hills
Climbing hills improves your lactate threshold and increases your leg strength and power. You can simulate hills on a stationary bike by using a high resistance and slower cadence. To build strength on hills, Spinning.com suggests working at 75 to 85 percent of your MHR and pedaling at 60 to 80 revolutions per minute. An example of a hill workout for a stationary bike is to first warm up for five to 10 minutes at 50 to 65 percent of your MHR. Next, increase the resistance on the bike so that you are pedaling at 80 rpm in your target heart rate zone. Hold this effort for five minutes. Increase the resistance again so that you are pedaling at 70 rpm in your target heart rate zone and hold this effort for five minutes. Increase the resistance a third time so that you are pedaling at 60 rpm in your target heart rate zone and hold this effort for an additional five minutes. Finally, cool down for five minutes by reducing the resistance to your starting level and allowing your heart rate to drop to 50 to 65 percent of your MHR.

Build Endurance
Bike workouts focused on building endurance improve your aerobic capacity and make your body more efficient at metabolizing fat. Endurance workouts should be performed at 65 to 75 percent of your MHR. The length of your endurance workouts should be longer than your other weekly bike workouts. Aim for at least 60 minutes of continuous riding in your endurance heart rate training zone. If that is above your current fitness level, begin with 30 to 45 minutes of continuous riding and increase the length of your workout by five minutes each week until you reach an hour or longer.

Pedal Safely
Always consult with your doctor before beginning a stationary bike exercise program. To avoid injury, be sure that your stationary bike is properly set up for your bodily dimensions. According to Spinning.com, the height of the seat should be set so that your knee has a 25- to 35-degree bend at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and the handlebars should be at a height that is comfortable and avoids strain on your back and neck. Seek out a fitness professional if you need help with your bike adjustments. If you find the saddle to be uncomfortable, consider purchasing cycling shorts which will increase your comfort by providing extra padding.

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Falls Church, VA
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