Push the ball out, and pull it back toward you. Do this 10 times. This inverse-crunch will have your lower back burning—and will also shred the lower section of your abs. As an alternative to the Swiss Ball Hyperextension, try this exercise to target your lower back. For increased resistance, grab a weighted plate. You may see super-fit guys and gals pulling these moves off with pound plates.
To start, stick with a pound one. You mitigate the risk on painful lower-back injury that way.
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Rest one knee on a bench, kick your other foot out to the side for stability , keep your back flat, raise the dumbbell to chest-level, and lower until your arm is entirely extended. Do 4 sets of 12—on each side. This exercise targets a variety of muscle groups. The turning motion will help you hit all the muscles in your arms—biceps, triceps, and forearms—and the raising motion shreds your shoulders. This classic move is nothing special—and if you need us to walk you through it, get thee to a trainer, stat—but there are few ways to target your biceps better than this.
To change things up, mix in a barbell to take the pressure off your stabilizers and focus directly on getting that enviable horseshoe look. With this retro move, you get two-for-one: Use smaller weights and a high number of reps to tone your arms and shoulders. Start with 20 squats try adding some weights , then 20 lunges, 20 standing calf raises, and 20 back leg lifts each side. Take about 20 seconds rest in between each set and repeat this circuit 3 times.
This exercise will target your hamstrings and gluts. Warning: be prepared to have trouble walking the next day. Planks are easy to learn, and are a safe way to reduce back aches and improve posture. Get into a push-up position, then lower your body weight onto your forearms. Keep your back completely straight, and clench your core. Try to hold four a minute, then repeat three more times. As you build strength, add 10 seconds to each set. Lie on your back, raise your legs and slowly flutter your legs up and down, keeping them straight.
You can also experiment with placing your hands under your tailbone or out on the floor at 45 degree angles, and with keeping your head flat or raising it in an almost crunch position. To do this safely, keep your lower back flat on the ground. Lie on your back, and raise your straight legs up and down. To get the best workout, do this one slowly without allowing your feet to touch the ground. Experiment with open and closed legs.
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While on your back, bring your bent knees together to your chest, then lower them back down. Experiment with your head flat on the ground and raised in a crunch position. This is almost the same as the reverse crunch, except this time, extend your legs out straight without touching the ground.
While bending your knees, bring them to your chest, then extend out again. This exercise can be done with bent or extended legs. Lie on the ground, and lay your arms extended out on either side. Lay on your front with your arms and legs extended in a Superman position, and make sure to keep your chest flat on the ground. Raise and lower your right arm and your left leg simultaneously, then alternate with the other arm and leg. With a singular focus on not breaking it, it becomes much easier to motivate yourself to do something.
Make sure the calendar is large and very visible. You should be able to see the chain at all times. If you slip up, there will be no hiding it in the bottom desk drawer under a pile of tax documents from Blue checks represent working on this article they stop when I finished. Gold checks are flossing I missed a couple on a vacation, but now floss regularly. Purple checks are journal writing. The calendar kept me motivated.
Esteemed strength coach Dan John has a less fancy way of saying that. However you think of it, keeping the chain unbroken is a huge motivator that could help you build your fitness habit. And yes, there are some specific situations in which super intense workouts are beneficial. So often I see people resolve to work out, then do ridiculously exhausting workouts that leave them barely able to move afterwards even into the next day. Is it any wonder that these people quit?
Basic psychological conditioning says that punishing things will be avoided, and workouts are no exception. You might eventually come to relish the feeling of a tough workout heavy leg days anyone? Early on, start small. One of the benefits of progressive overload is that it progresses gradually. When we make decisions, we are affected by context. That includes our environments, recent events, and our own mental states.
When you decide to skip a workout, that decision is the result, at least in part, of those factors. Why would you leave those factors up to chance? By making a precommitment, you can make your decision without being at the whim of your internal states. A precommitment is a concrete action that commits you to completing a later action. Research on precommitment shows it is a powerful tactic for self-control. Probably being tired or not wanting to get out of bed. Working out can be intimidating and tiring.
You have to get dressed, go to the gym, go to the locker room, warm-up, work out, come home, shower, and change. Call it a mini habit or a minimum viable habit , small actions can have large effects. It can be exhausting to think of all the steps involved in getting fit plus, you have to pick an actual program in the first place! But a tiny workout is easy. A mini habit cuts through all the noise and gets you to what matters most — action. He advocated going to the gym — but not working out.
Simply developing the habit of actually setting foot in the gym is enough to get most people moving. Hit your 3rd workout this week after a year of inactivity? Take a moment, even just 10 seconds, to congratulate yourself on a job well done. Take ownership of your successes. Appreciate when you do things well. Psychological research on goal setting consistently shows that goals can improve performance. I want to focus in on specific, which I think is the most important quality. But you can turn vague notions into goals so specific that they almost achieve themselves.
Not convinced? Once you have your goals, you can work on the habits and lifestyle to support them. Specific goals make your road to fitness motivation — and fitness success — easier.
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To really stay motivated, think of why your goals are important to you personally. These reasons are way more compelling. They make your goals real to you. Ideally, write them in a place where you will be able to check them or be reminded of them regularly. Now, whenever your resolve starts to waver, all you have to do is glance at your personal, written reasons for working out.
Remembering the importance of your long-term goals will keep you motivated. One of the biggest challenges we encounter when trying to change our routines is that we think big and we think optimistic. This applies to other habits too. Writing 10 pages of a novel a day is hard — what happens when work goes long one day, or you realize you left your charger somewhere? How do you overcome those challenges? The flip side is that just thinking about and acknowledging the challenges we might encounter makes it WAY easier to follow through on our habits.
Start now: what are 3 obstacles that might stop you from following through on a fitness habit? Now, what are 3 ways you might be able to address each challenge? If they did bother to set a deadline, it silently passes by. The idea of a checkpoint is simple: set a deadline for your goal, then designate several times before that deadline to check on your progress. Checkpoints provide you with a shorter-term goal to strive for. It also lets you make adjustments. Checkpoints operate as a kind of fail-safe. You can have a workout schedule.
You can have progress charts that clearly show your improvement over time. For times of especially low motivation, you need to be prepared to give yourself a jolt. It works. The flip side of how crappy you feel after skipping a workout is how exercise can make you feel great. Exercise has an immediate effect on your brain , boosting endorphins and giving you a natural high.
The long term effects of exercise are so profound that exercise is actually used to help alleviate chronic depression. So, after your next workout, write yourself a note. Tell future you how awesome it feels to be finished with a workout and be able to relax, guilt free, for the rest of the day. As a bonus, it helps to know that the endorphin high from exercise starts early in the process. At the core of cognitive dissonance theory is the idea that our beliefs can influence our behavior. Specifically, if you have beliefs that are inconsistent with your actions, you will either change your actions or your beliefs or find a way to justify the inconsistency.
What does that mean in the real world? Of those options, not working out is easier. So, start from the ground up — change your belief. Write down a list of reasons that you ARE the kind of person that can work out. These can be simple:. Keep these posted somewhere visible and start working out! With this initial push, your beliefs will start to shift.
There will be no inconsistency, and therefore no dissonance. So many people walk into the gym with no plan. But you can know better, and do better, by picking a program that you KNOW works. Stronglifts was not the first lifting program I ever followed, but when I started it I was absolutely convinced of its effectiveness. Just its about page is filled with stuff to convince you it works. Plus, Stronglifts transformations are everywhere on the internet — the system makes sure you know that you WILL stick with it if you get results.
I give a breakdown of 5 popular beginner programs here, so you can choose the best program for you. Seeing your progress is a reward in itself. More than anything else, improving feels awesome. Once you have a few weeks under your belt you should start to see benefits from tracking your progress.
If you DO have a system in place, you can:. Lots of lifters print out simple sheets or write each lift in a notebook they carry with them to the gym. Of course, Fitbit and MyFitnessPal have become enormously popular. For the technically inclined, excel spreadsheets are great, and allow you to create customized progress charts. That permanent record can keep track of both your current and historical numbers. Partnerships are mutually beneficial.
The question puts things in perspective. Reminding yourself of the importance of your workout is a good way to keep yourself going. Instead, try writing down 3 reasons your workout will help you achieve your goals. We often airily convince ourselves that we will eventually achieve our goals through some means or other.
One of the biggest challenges to regular work outs is simple: not knowing what to do! Sure, you could download a random routine from bodybuilding.
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When I was taking a class on the anatomy of the shoulder, I wound up doing dozens of extra upper body sets because it was so cool to think about how the shoulder moves. In fact, I have to stop myself from changing my routine too often — when I hear about new approaches or combinations of exercises I get excited and want to try them out. Autonomy is important in everything from business to relationships to happiness.
It can also help you be more satisfied in your workouts — and stay more consistent. So you switch. No harm done, right? But a lot of the cookie-cutter beginner programs are, well, a little boring. Say, like me, you love playing ultimate frisbee. That sounds like a fine replacement for cardio. Maybe you want to try out Zottman curls instead of barbell curls for one of your accessory lifts. Go for it! Swap out a push-up variation to work towards one-arm push-ups. Add rock climbing. Figure out how to incorporate your favorite exercises into an established and effective routine.
It syncs to my phone, has the ability to repeat events, and sends me scheduled reminders. That said, you can use any system you want!
There are dozens of examples of workout calendars on the internet — pick your favorite and make yourself a plan of action. Focusing on the short term is understandable but destructive. It makes perfect sense to focus on looking better for a wedding, or wanting to lose some weight for beach season. If you focus solely on the short term, you encourage extreme, and unhealthy, behavior. Rushing in sets you up for long term failure, and potentially injury if you jump to weights that are too heavy.
Instead, remember that slow and steady wins the race. You have an entire lifetime to be fit. Focus on your environment and long term habits, and it will happen. That said, sometimes I love me some motivational videos. Sometimes that jolt is all you need. Once, when my left hamstring snapped in half, I was debating whether or not to go to the gym. Being this overweight requires more than just not going to the gym and failing to count calories; it requires a sustained and sizable overeating habit, and usually also involves chronic lack of exercise. In many cases it can also involves psychological issues such as stress-eating or food addiction.
Most importantly, severe obesity is life-threatening. Fixing big problems requires taking massive and sustained action. Get referred to a weight loss specialist. Be brutally honest about your struggles, eating habits, level of exercise, and issues with food. Fully acknowledge your problem and the role that your diet and lifestyle has played in it, and emphasize your commitment to change.
Most importantly, do whatever the doctors tell you to. Doctors, at least in the U. The doctors may want you to take weight loss drugs, or anti-diabetic drugs. Again, do this if they tell you to, but understand that diet and exercise will still be needed to lose weight and keep it off. Those drugs have unpleasant side effects, ranging from diarrhea to rapid heart beat and hyperthermia, so your goal should always be to get to a healthy weight as soon as you safely can so you can stop taking the drugs.
Also, if you have any kind of physiological issues at all, start seeing a psychiatrist about it. Friends, relatives, colleagues- if they try to stop you from losing weight, stand your ground. Prostate cancer runs in my family- my dad has had it, two of his three brothers have had it, and their dad had it. Suppose he said that I should just love my prostate the way it is, and stop trying to change it.
And suppose further that no matter how much I argued with him, this guy never gave up, that he kept trying to get me to stop treating my cancer for months and just would. I would stop talking to that guy. I would stop being friends with him. You probably would too.
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Who wants a friend why tries to get you killed? It will have a bigger impact on your quality of life, and likely kill you sooner, than prostate cancer ever would. And anyone who tries to stop you from losing weight is at least as bad as someone who tells me not to get treated for cancer. Put yourself first, and do what you need to do for your health. Make the hard choice to cut out bad influences. Maybe you can re-connect with them after you get healthy. Some websites will tell you to never go hungry. This advice is misguided, but wrong, at least for obese people. Sorry, but you will have to put up with hunger sometimes.
While listening to your body is good in many cases, losing weight is going to require sometimes ignoring those signals, at least for a few hours. People in North Korea are starving. Exercise burns calories, obviously. And it helps you gain muscle, or at least prevent muscle loss during a deficit. Being overweight puts you at a high risk of knee and ankle injuries. With that in mind, avoid anything that will put a lot of stress on those joints, particularly high-speed movements.
Low-speed movements like leg presses and bodyweight squats are probably alright, but keep them towards the low-weight high-rep side of things. Stop doing them if they give you any joint problems at all. While free weights are generally superior to machines, you may want to focus on leg isolation machines like the leg curl, leg extension, and seated calf extension in order to avoid over-stressing those joints.
For cardio, choose low-impact stuff like swimming, rowing, cycling and stair machines. As you lose weight you can start using elliptical machines, which are lower-impact than running but still higher-impact than stair machines. Using a high incline and resistance, and lower speeds, will be helpful on any of these machines. And remember, your workouts can be imperfect, as long as your diet is good.
Vegetables are really important. And by vegetables I mean non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, squash and peppers, not starchy ones like potatoes. Vegetables have fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals that your body really needs. So eat your vegetables. The more the better, but make sure to eat them with at least two meals a day. And on the flip side, drinking more water can blunt your hunger. The average woman needs at least half a gallon of water a day, while the average man needs three quarters of a gallon. Consider those minimums; since it helps dull hunger, you should probably drink even more than that.
At the very least, drink a glass of water every two hours throughout the day, and drink a glass before- not during, but before- each meal to reduce your hunger. Stop mindless snacking right now. No more sitting in front of the TV, popping stuff into your mouth without looking at it.
While eating, slow down and focus on the experience. Try to identify all of the different flavors and textures in it. After a meal, stop and once again think about what you just ate, and what its nutritional content was. If it was a healthy meal, take a few moments to reflect on how much you enjoyed it. That means alcohol, sugared beverages, candy, donuts, and anything that might reasonably be described as junk food. Force yourself to go out for cheat meals. Just as with prepping food in bulk, the operative principle here is to make eating healthy, low-calorie food more convenient than eating unhealthy, high-calorie foods.
You probably want to both lose fat and gain muscle. But at this point, thinking about gaining muscle would be getting ahead of yourself. It is possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, but it only really makes sense to do so if you want to do both in nearly equal proportions.
If the amount of fat you want to lose is more than twice as much as the amount of muscle you want to gain, just focus on fat loss for now. Once you get down to the healthy body fat range, you can start eating more calories and adjusting your diet and exercise programming for body recomposition.
Fatlogic is a type of spurious logic that people use to excuse, justify or glorify obesity, and discourage others from losing weight. Some classic examples:. Any doctor who tells people to lose weight is a fat-shaming bully. People have a million and one of these excuses, and even if most of them sound ridiculous to you, the odds are that you make some of the less obviously stupid excuses. To be clear, fatlogic is logic that keeps people fat, not logic used by fat people.
Skinny people say dumb shit too, while some overweight people resist the urge to make excuses. The best way to shine a light on your own rationalizations is to see how silly they sound when other people make them. At this stage, your weight is a health problem that will make you sick if it goes untreated. Start timing all of your meals and snacks. Spend at least ten minutes eating every snack, and twenty minutes on every meal.
There are two proven techniques for slowing down meals, eating less, and losing more weight. First, chew your food more. Specifically, chew every bite of food twenty times. Yes, it helps a lot. Second, finish your meals in thirds, with mid-meal breaks. Eat one third of the meal, pause five minutes, at the second third, pause five minutes, then finish the meal. Start with the vegetables, then the protein, and save the most carb-heavy portion for last. Intermittent fasting has, in my opinion, developed too much of a mystique around it. All it really means is not eating for more than the usual 12 hours or so, but no more than 36 hours.
There are two types of fasting that will aid with fat loss: the morning fast and the whole-day fast. To do a whole-day fast, you can eat your last meal at any point in the evening between five and ten. For a hour fast, break your fast by eating dinner that night at the same time as the night before. The main benefit of intermittent fasting is that you eat less. For overweight people or those who have never fasted before, I recommend doing a hour fast at least once a month, and never more than once a week.
The hour fasts can be done every day if you want, but doing them just times a week will be plenty for most people. As you get leaner, find it easier to eat well, and start wanting to build muscle at the same time as you lose fat, you may want to cut back on the fasting to ensure adequate caloric intake. Find a level of fasting that works for you. It has to feel good. I tell people this a lot — go to the gym, and just sit there, and read a magazine, and then go home.
And do this every day. Just GO. Because the habit of going to the gym is more important than the work out. I worked my way up to 2 hours a day. They are my peace, my joy — I get my whole head together! I value that time more than my shower! And it really gets me together. For the first month or two, just focus on making it to the gym and having fun there. If that means sitting in the hot tub, do it.
The perfect is the enemy of the good. Build the habit of going to the gym before you worry about having the perfect program. On ALL days, eat at least 20 grams of protein with every full meal, and include protein-dense foods with at least two of those meals. What do I mean by protein-dense foods? Mainly I mean lean sources of animal protein like chicken, lean beef, fish or eggs.
Is it better than the standard American diet? Hell yes. Is it ideal? The research suggests that a mostly plant-based diet is healthier than an entirely plant-based diet. Research has shown that people who sit down all day are far more likely to suffer from obesity, high cholesterol, sleep disturbances, and heart disease. Spending more time on your feet aids in both weight loss and overall health. Start increasing the amount of time you spend on your feet every day. Take walks in the morning and evenings.
Alternate standing and sitting throughout the work day. I alternate standing and sitting while I work, I write about twice as fast when standing vs sitting. Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, every night. Chronic under-sleeping will make you less intelligent, less happy, more prone to overeating, lower your sex drive, prevent you from building muscle and increase your risk of cancer.
Sleeping less than seven hours a night substantially raises the risk of obesity. Getting at least seven hours a night will improve your hormonal balance- in particular, it will make your body produce less cortisol and more testosterone. Long flights and occasional nights out at the club notwithstanding, you need to be getting at least seven hours of sleep every single night. That means figure out what time you have to wake up the next morning, and go to bed at least seven hours before then. Also, keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
Unplug or cover up anything that emits light, install blackout curtains, and wear a sleep mask- pull out all the stops here. And by fewer, I mean cut your consumption by at least half.