Selecting Home Exercise Equipment

The current economic reports show that home fitness products are a booming business and this is reflected in the many new home exercise products flooding the market. Exercising at home is convenient and even 63% of people who belong to fitness clubs also use home equipment.

Perhaps you are considering setting up a home workout areas in your home. There is a wide selection of equipment out there, some excellent and some very poorly made. Home fitness equipment can be one of the most enjoyable purchases you will every make, or it can be an unused dust collector. Exercise equipment is a major investment that should be researched and planned to make sure you get the best value.

Try to buy your exercise equipment from a specialty fitness retailer or exercise equipment dealer, not a department store or general sporting goods store. Fitness equipment stores are more likely to have sales staff who understand exercise and can answer questions and demonstrate the proper use of equipment. Equipment stores will also offer the home versions of brand equipment found in fitness clubs, which is better quality than department store brands. Also, in an exercise based store, the equipment will be displayed on the floor, not on shelves, making it easier to try out the equipment.

An additional suggestion for individuals who like to look for great prices with online shopping:  Go try out the exercise equipment first, decide what you like, and then hunt for that great price online.

Many people face a challenge when deciding which fitness product is the right one for them. Because there is so much exercise equipment on the market you need to assess your priorities. Personal home fitness areas should include a cardiovascular and a strength component. The specific pieces chosen must be based on the anatomy, interests, and fitness level of the user.

In general you should know the following about yourself and each machine you examine before your buy:

  • Your fitness needs
  • Your budget
  • Your available space
  • The product features, including safety
  • Warranty and serviceability
  • The comparison with similar products.

What fitness activities do you enjoy?
What are your fitness goals?
Who else will use the equipment?
The equipment you buy should be compatible with activities you and other users enjoy and the level of fitness you want to achieve.

How much space is available? Is it a separate room or shared space. Measure the size of the exercise area, including ceiling height, before you shop for equipment.
Choose exercise equipment that will fit in the space your home can provide, so that your workouts will be safe and effective.

When preparing to make an exercise equipment purchase, take the time to try out a variety of pieces, ask a lot of questions, expect correct answers, and choose the machine that suits you best. Dress comfortably in loose clothes and sneakers so you can really use the equipment. Try the equipment out – play with it. Make sure you understand how to use it and what it will and won’t do before deciding on a purchase. Compare different models of the item. Assess the fit, feel and features of the equipment. Always try it out before you buy it. This is the big advantage to the exercise equipment specialty store over the department stores. If the store won’t let you try out the machines for as long as you need to, go somewhere else.

With cardiovascular equipment, test it for the kind of resistance it provides. Resistance is built into the equipment to make exercise harder or easier. Belts, chains, wind resistance, hydraulic pistons, and computers are the most common forms of resistance, and each kind has a different feel. Try out several kinds to see which you like best.

When testing exercise equipment check it for smooth movement, comfort, stability, safety, and funny noises or vibrations. The machine should not wiggle, sway or rock when used. Make sure that the bodily movements are correct and safe. Check to see if the equipment is adjustable, comfortable, easy to learn and designed in a user friendly way. Find out if advertising claims are backed up by research or objective consumer publications. Select equipment that enhances user safety, and avoid any piece with obvious flaws or weaknesses that increase the chances of injury

When deciding if a piece of exercise equipment is a good price, consider what may involve a lower pricing. Is it manufactured off shore or domestic? Are the components cheaper with a less rigorous design and assembly, or is it better engineering that allows less costly assembly. For the higher priced products, are the features better, providing longer durability, better performance, and less service? What is the warranty and can it be repaired locally?

Here is some information about the most common types of cardiovascular equipment:

Treadmills are the most popular piece of aerobic equipment for the home exerciser. Treadmills take the aerobic conditioning of walking, jogging, or running activities indoors, providing a safe place to exercise and avoid bad weather and pollution. Look for a treadmill with smooth action, a steady pace, monitoring systems, and incline settings. Make sure the treadmill is motorized, not manual. Check out any electronic display, emergency stop, railings, side runners, and elevation adjustment. Quality models range from $1500 and up. Make sure any treadmill you consider is built to withstand a load many times your body weight and that local customer service is available.

Elliptical trainers offer a comfortable, non-impact exercise activity that almost anyone can do. The movement is horizontally oval. You can adjust the intensity or keep the movement easy for the very sedentary. It is currently popular second to the treadmill.

Stationary bikes are widely used home exercise equipment. They offer a non-impact cardiovascular workout and are great for the overweight or sedentary person just starting to exercise. The legs and hips are the major muscles used. When riding it, a good stationary bike should perform smoothly and feel solid. Many bikes come with monitors that record elapsed time, speed, distance covered, a calorie counter, and pulse meter. A basic, high quality exercise bike costs $500-1000, while the electronic or computer controlled bikes cost from $1200 – 4000.

Recumbent cycles have their pedals in front, rather than underneath the rider. They have some advantages over conventional exercise bikes with a chair-style seat that gives a lot of back support and minimizes the stress on the knees. Recumbent cycles work the buttocks and upper hamstrings, as well as the abdominal muscles.

Step machines were very popular in the past and exercisers who enjoy intense workouts still like them. Steppers give a good workout aerobically, strengthen and build the lower body muscles, and are low impact. The step machine works the buttocks more than other machines. It must be used properly or back injury could result. You must have the strength and stamina to stand upright while climbing because bending and leaning on the railing causes undue stress on the back

Cross country ski machines can provide a full body workout for cardiovascular and muscle endurance, however, they are the hardest machine to learn to use. They use nearly all the major muscles in the arms, legs, abdominal muscles, chest and shoulders, and can give an intense workout. These take some practice to use well and are best for people who already exercise and want a challenge. The model you choose should feel smooth with a gliding motion.

People with limited spaces may like owning a rower, because it can fold and be stored in a corner. It uses the upper and lower body, and is an aerobic exercise, not a muscle builder. It is important to learn proper form and technique to avoid back strain.

Many people want to supplement their home aerobic fitness equipment with resistance equipment, so that they can get a balanced fitness program. Careful selection of the right equipment will help make exercise successful. There are more than a few types of home resistance equipment on the market. The two most widely recognized kinds of weight equipment are home gyms or multi-stations and free weights. Free weights require greater instruction and supervision for proper use, and are more likely to cause injury. The multi-station machines with captured weight stacks are easier to learn and safer to use.

An exerciser who enjoys working with free weights can purchase an adjustable weight set for under $150, and a good stable adjustable bench can be had for under $300. The inexpensive home benches with lots of extras may not be good buys due to lack of quality construction.

Home gyms or multi-stations are a major purchase, and the quality of the machine has a direct correlation to its durability. A quality unit with a single weight stack and no cable changes needed between exercises costs between $1000 and $2000. Top brands look and feel like quality units, with clean welds, smooth movement, and tight upholstery. These weight stack machines are nearly maintenance free.

The multi-function home strength units with lots of parts and low prices often require bothersome changes of the pieces between exercises. Many cheap machines are anatomically incorrect and can cause injury.

Just as with cardiovascular equipment, take the time to try out various weight training equipment before you purchase it. Spend enough time trying the piece to know if you would really be comfortable and enjoy using the equipment before you buy it.

Once you have made your purchases, protect your investment and follow the manufacturers’ maintenance suggestions. Remember that the most important consideration in buying exercise equipment is your personal preference. The quality of your commitment to training will provide the best results and you must enjoy the equipment you buy enough to use it regularly.



  • Get new shoes regularly. If you exercise daily, you may need new ones every 3-6 months.
  • Go to a good store with knowledgeable salespeople.
  • Shop at the end of the day, foot size increases throughout the day.
  • Try on shoes wearing socks.
  • Use socks that fit properly.
  • Focus on features you need.
  • Always measure both feet.
  • Buy shoes made for the activity you will be performing.
  • Buy shoes fit for the arch of your foot.
  • Lace shoes properly while trying them on.
  • There should be @ � inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • Width of the shoe should match the widest part of the foot.
  • Shoe should be snug, not tight.
  • Try shoe on standing on a hard surface.
  • Do not buy the cheapest shoe; you get what you pay for.
  • There is no “break in” period; a proper shoe will fit well the first day.

Before you buy, try to bend it. The shoe should bend where the foot bends; at the ball. If it bends at mid-foot it will offer little support. It shouldn’t bend too easily or be too stiff. Also, hold the heel and try to move the rigid section at the back of the shoe; it should not move from side to side.

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What Is Pilates?

Many exercise enthusiasts have had a chance to try exercise inspired by Joseph Pilates, and a growing number of instructors are learning how to teach it.

Over 75 years ago, Joseph Pilates developed a method of body conditioning. He studied yoga, Zen, and the exercise philosophies of the ancient Greeks and Romans, then developed a fitness program that strengthened his rather sickly body. Over the years, he developed his fitness programs further and began designing special equipment on which to perform some of the exercises.

In the 1920’s the dancers incorporated Joseph Pilates techniques into both modern dance and classical training, and until the last decade it has been an exercise method used almost exclusively by dancers and as a method of physical therapy.

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There are many different names for this method, as the name “Pilates” is copyrighted. However the different companies who train instructors for this method have similarities. The technique has two modalities:

1) Floor or mat work
2) Equipment exercises using the Universal Reformer, the Trapeze Table, and other supplemental pieces which were originated by Joseph Pilates.

Mat work is taught in groups or individually. The exercises focus on pelvic stabilization and abdominal control, as well as joint mobility, flexibility, and strengthening of the arms and legs. Proper breathing control is essential to the technique. Mat work prepares the exerciser for movements done on the equipment. Most exercise videos that feature a “Pilates” type conditioning are mat work.

Equipment or Machine work is learned one-on-one. The Universal Reformer looks like a bed frame with a sliding carriage on springs. The spring tension determines the amount of resistance. Exercises done on the Reformer are in supine, kneeling, sitting and standing positions, sliding the carriage against resistance by pushing or pulling.

The Trapeze Table looks like a 4-poster bed with springs, trapezes, bars and straps, allowing a variety of exercises to be done.

This method of exercise is good for total body conditioning, injury prevention, and injury rehabilitation. Instructors and trainers who are interested in offering this method of exercise should seek out specialized certification.

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Water Workouts

The world of water fitness: Some people still believe that “aqua aerobics” is for older women who don’t want much of a workout. The fact is that water provides resistance to body movement, support of body weight and a wonderful freshness that combines for workouts as hard or as easy as the participant desires. Water fitness includes cardiovascular conditioning, strength training and flexibility. You don’t have to know how to swim to take a water fitness class.

The environment of water is less stressful on both body and mind. The moves are practically non-impact. The pace is slower, which produces a more playful atmosphere. The participants feel free to smile, laugh and have a good time while training their bodies.

There are many forms of water fitness classes: Water walking, water jogging, choreographed aerobics, toning, deep water conditioning. Personal trainers are beginning to workout some of their clients in the pool. Injury rehabilitation for both the general population and athletes is common. Many athletes believe they recover and train better in the water. Even Mind/Body workouts are being conducted in water, including some massage techniques.

A very important point about water fitness is that it is a totally different discipline than land exercise. Land exercise is based on gravity and water fitness is based on buoyancy. Water provides 12 times more resistance than air. Water displaces 90% of the body’s weight.

Water fitness

When doing land exercise, monitoring the heart rate with the pulse is important. In the water, oxygen consumption is the important factor. Oxygen consumption is the process that burns fat and calories. Heart rates are 13-15% lower in the water than on land due to heat, gravity, compression, water pressure and what is called the dive reflex. Studies have shown that despite lower heart rates, water fitness provides fine improvements in cardiovascular fitness and fat loss.

The Laws of Motion are different in water and an understanding of them is necessary for effective workouts. The Law of Inertia states that a body in motion tends to stay in motion; a body at rest tends to stay at rest UNTIL acted on by an outside force. Changing the direction of the movements frequently is difficult in the water and provides resistance. Breaking inertia uses a lot of energy.

The Law of Acceleration states that the speed of the moving body is proportional to its mass and the force applied to it. In the water the exercisers push off the pool bottom with their feet and use forceful, controlled arm movements. You don’t need fast movements in the water.

The Law of Action/Reaction states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In water the hands move opposite the direction of the intended foot motion.

The Law of Leverage means it is more work to raise an extended limb than a bent one. For an effective workout, exercisers can pull their straight arms and legs through the water continuously, like long levers. For maximum resistance, they use cupped hands with the fingers slightly apart, since large flat surfaces will intensify the workload.

Properly applying these principles makes water fitness possible. Muscle toning becomes very safe and effective. Muscles work in synchronized pairs; one primary mover and one opposing muscle. Water allows efficient training of both muscles in the pairs. Buoyancy cushions impact moves and helps prevent the strain, injury and reinjury of muscles. In water, abdominal and back muscles are contracting isometrically and continuously for much of the workout to maintain proper body position and alignment. The whole body tones with ease.

An element that helps make water fitness so much fun and effective is the equipment that can be used for flotation and resistance. Buoyancy belts and kickboards keep exercisers afloat in deeper water. Styrofoam dumbbells, hand paddles, beach balls and the Water Woggle (a long thin styrofoam tube) are some of the resistance “toys.” Even aerobic steps are available for water workouts.

After reading how much fun water fitness is I hope you find an opportunity to try it. Exercisers benefit when they learn a variety of workout activities and add new dimensions to their programs.



  1. As with any excercise, consult a physician first when possible and definitely when there are risk factors involved such as heart disease, diabetes, recent surgeries, etc.
  2. Proper depth is chest high or slightly below. Any deeper can cause more buoyancy and loss of balance and form and any lower causes more impact on the joints.
  3. Land in as natural a foot position as possible, not on toes, which is very common in water aerobics. This over stresses the calf muscles.
  4. Form is very important. You can stress a joint or the back when form is lost due to the added resistance of the water (12 times more resistance than air).
  5. Abdominal muscles should always be tight. Think of the pulling in technique “navel to spine”. This activates the transverse abdominal muscle and helps to hold in the ‘gut’.
  6. Due to the low impact on the joints (only 10-25% of body weight when chest high or slightly below) water aerobics can be done almost everyday. As with any exercise, we should always have a designated day of rest to allow our bodies time off.
  7. Hot spas can be helpful with tight sore muscles, however they should be avoided after workouts until the individual has sufficiently cooled down. They will keep the core body temperature raised and can be harmful to those with high blood pressure. Pregnant women should not use dry saunas of hot spas as this will also elevate the core body temperature and can do damage to the baby.

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Cross Training for Total Fitness

Many exercisers seem to be lost in their fitness programs, wandering around without seeing much progress, and soon they give up. Most often they are involved in a single activity exercise routine. Cross-training is an approach to exercise that can keep a person motivated, fit, and injury-free.

There is no single activity that will produce total fitness. There are so many elements to being fit. Cross-training means participating in a number of physical activities combined in a meaningful way to achieve an individual’s fitness goals. A well designed program will balance muscles and joints, resulting in good posture. The muscles used the most for one activity can rest while another exercise routine is done the next day. This offers protection from injury. When an exerciser is injured, cross-training provides alternate activity which will minimize fitness losses during recovery.

Cross-training offers a process of fitness that is quite motivational. The activities can be selected to achieve desired results, by following these basic principles:

  • Challenge the heart and lungs by working aerobically
  • Increase the body’s flexibility
  • Strengthen the muscles

Every exerciser can find a blend of activities that is enjoyable to do and makes one feel good about oneself. Variety in exercise activity relieves boredom. Cross-training offers new challenges and you use your muscles in new ways.

Besides trying various sports and recreational exercises, formal exercise routines can mix group or aerobic classes with cardiovascular machines. Upper and lower body exercises should be included during a week of activity, perhaps alternating between machines and free weights.

Total Fitness

As exercisers become more involved with cross-training, the psychological elements of fitness become more pronounced. Self accomplishment replaces unnecessary training competition that could lead to injury. Exercisers who cross-train are more accepting of other peoples’ programs, realizing that there are many ways to achieve fitness. Cross-trainers are also more creative.

If you want to “open the windows” of your exercise routine, consider developing a cross-training program that is individualized to meet your particular needs. Cross-training can be used by all kinds of exercisers. The basic goals for planning a program should include aerobic fitness, upper and lower body strength, and flexibility. Start planning a cross-training program by asking yourself the following questions.

  • How many times weekly do you do aerobic exercise and how long does the exercise session last?
  • How many times a week do you do resistance or strengthening exercises?
  • How often do you stretch your muscles? What sports or other physical activities do you do regularly?
  • Do you want to increase the number of exercise sessions per week or the amount of time they last?
  • List the aerobic/cardiovascular, strength training, flexibility, or sport activities would you like to do that you have never done or have not done in a long time.

If you notice that your weekly exercise sessions repeat the same activities and exercises each session you are a candidate for cross-training. If you do the same aerobic exercise each session, such as running, select a second form of aerobic exercise, such as cycling, using a step machine, or a fitness kickboxing class, and plan to try this alternative exercise one time a week. If you enjoy it, you can continue to use it as part of your fitness routine.

If you always use the same resistance machines and the same exercises each time you strength train, consider learning a few new exercises with free weights or machines you don’t currently use and alternate them into your routine.

If you do a few token stretches after your exercise session, consider trying a yoga or stretching class once a week or use a flexibility video tape at home one or two mornings or evenings per week.

Want to add a sport to your fitness schedule? Try some recreational volleyball with friends on the weekend or practice your golf swing!

As with any new activity, start a cross-training program slowly and increase your participation in new activities gradually. If you need the advice of a good personal trainer to help you set up a program, hire one.

One of the best ways to make fitness fun is with variety. Cross-training is the exercise spice that will keep you moving for a long time!



Interval training alternates periods of work and rest by varying the intensity of exercise throughout the session. Higher intensity work periods are alternated with lower intensity periods. Examples of this are alternating running and walking; alternating aerobic step training with jump roping.

Some benefits of Interval Training are:

  • Increased enjoyment of exercise through variety
  • More total work in a short period of time
  • Enhanced utilization of fats and carbohydrates
  • Efficient stimulation of muscle fibers
  • Improved anaerobic and aerobic power and capacity
  • Possibly fewer injuries due to variations in workout intensity
  • Increased exercise adherence
  • Enhanced sports performance

The work/rest intervals can be programmed in time increments based on the exerciser’s fitness level. During the high intensity training, the goal is to reach overload for a short period of time, then continue moving at a lower intensity during the rest interval.

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Functional Fitness

Who is fitness for? The media depicts fitness as being for the young and beautiful, as if you need to already be fit and well muscled before you can exercise. This view many seem to have about exercise may account for why the American College of Sports Medicine estimates that about 80% of the population is sedentary or inactive. But are there really that many people who do absolutely nothing related to physical activity? The activities that are used to judge the percentage of inactive people seem to be the planned, structured activity we know as intentional exercise. But is traditional exercise activity the only acceptable way to improve health and fitness?

Years ago there were no intentional exercise programs. Physical activity was a natural part of life and practically everyone participated in enough movement to condition the cardiovascular system and muscles. Our modern labor saving devices and the television set have robbed many people of movement time, but it is quite possible that many people who are included in the inactive population really do participate in many of life’s activities that require physical movement. They just are not doing them at a fitness facility or as an “exercise routine.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of people suffering from chronic diseases that are related to a sedentary lifestyle. Many more are aware of the possible risks and know that they need to get more activity than they are currently doing. Most people would like to enjoy moving their bodies in recreation or task related pursuits without experiencing discomfort. If that were possible, maybe it would be possible for exercise to be fun for individuals who find no enjoyment in moving their bodies.

The true goal of fitness is to improve the health of individuals and the community. The fitness industry is just beginning to play a credible, integral role in health-care reform, including the way it serves the sedentary and/or aging population.

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The term functional fitness is applied to simple exercise plan that are designed to improve health, increase the ability to perform the activities of daily living, enhance the quality of life and prolong physical independence. Functional fitness helps people reach goals such as reduced blood pressure, increased range of body motion, and improved self-esteem. For sedentary individuals achievable benefits from a functional fitness program includes the ability to get up from a sofa, to carry suitcases on vacation, to climb stairs, and to reduce the pain experienced from life’s movements.

Functional fitness is everyday training for health, good posture and muscle balance. The purpose of functional fitness is to train muscles to perform their specific functions in daily activities at peak performance. A functional fitness plan includes cardiovascular and strength training to maintain a healthy body. A well designed functional fitness plan can compliment the activities that a person already is doing in life, and does not require joining a workout facility.

Some of the needs a functional fitness program would address are:

  • Neutralize repetitive stresses that may cause long-term injury. The joints of the shoulders and knees most often injured. Functional movements strengthen these weakness’ and improve joint stability.
  • Aid in improvement of poor daily posture with specific exercises to correct posture for sitting, standing, and bending.

Functional exercise does not stop with training individual muscles. It also trains the muscles to work together in an orchestrated way to produce comfortable movement.

Other considerations in functional fitness are individual priorities and time management. Most people shun exercise because of the amount of time they think it takes. Functional fitness programs do not waste time on exercises that are not needed. Besides some specific exercises performed to improve the specific needs, most of the exercise in a functional fitness program is moderate intensity physical activity accumulated during the day, such as walking instead of driving, physical activity instead of TV, and household tasks done with a minimum of labor-saving devices.

It is easy to see that functional fitness is a balanced strategy based on individual lifestyle and basic health maintenance. Daily movement (exercise) is important. View it as prevention and compare it to your visits to the dentist and doctor for regular checkups.

Wellness, health and fitness are related. They are not a place, such as a gym. They are a state of mind and body regardless of where the individual pursues it. I do believe that many of those who are termed as inactive by exercise authorities are actually people with activities, who are very interested in wellness. However, in terms of fitness skills, they are beginners. Many people say they want to exercise, but they do not know how to begin or where to start. A functional fitness plan may be the answer.

Most beginners appreciate a good teacher. They want someone who understands their position and needs as a beginner. A good teacher will understand the learning process that all beginners go through. Good teachers will emphasize that changing old habits for the sake of better health is reachable. Positive changes are possible with desire, attitude and education. A functional fitness program is one of the easiest to learn and add to your lifestyle.

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Reviewing the Benefits of Personal Training

In my years of working as a fitness and lifestyle consultant, personal training has been a major part. Personal training is just that, one teacher for one student. Let’s review why personal training works so well for helping people get fitness and wellness results.

Personal fitness training works for some people when the other methods (going to the gym, going to group classes, working out at home alone) have failed. There are several reasons for this. The main reason is the motivation factor. The trainer devotes full attention to the client during the workout and encourages the best effort. There is a feeling of being monitored by the trainer, as the workout routine is carefully recorded and progress is noted. It is harder to make an excuse to miss a workout to a teacher.

The exercise program is designed for the client’s individual needs. In a trainer designed routine the exercise selection is specific and produces individual results. The trainer sees only the client doing the exercises and can quickly correct improper form. A personal trainer is often able to give help with other needed changes, such as nutrition or smoking cessation. These kinds of needs are just as important as the physical activity.

Paying for a personal trainer is often a motivator in itself. Most people do not want to waste their exercise dollar and will work harder in the program.

The best trainers can offer clients efficient workouts that get results by following specific procedures. New programs start with an evaluation of the individual with a health history, wellness priorities, goals, and a fitness assessment. The health history screens for medical problems and for the need to see a doctor before beginning an exercise program. It also alerts the trainer to physical conditions that may need special exercises, such as bad knees, a back injury, diabetes, and etc.

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Wellness priorities evaluate if physical and fitness needs are really the issue. Occasionally the individual really needs to focus on other aspect of wellness: emotional, social, occupational, spiritual, or intellectual. In these cases it is more important for the client to do just that and plan on a future big change in their physical activities. The fitness priority must be there for the training to be most effective.

Fitness assessment is a battery of activities that determines physical strengths and weaknesses. These evaluate body composition, cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and endurance, and flexibility. From all the information collected goals are set. The question, “What does the client really want to achieve?” is answered. Long-term and short-term goals are set in realistic, reachable steps.

The trainer now can design the fitness program around the results of the evaluations. The exercise routines are designed especially for the individual client, and take into account any special areas of concern, like joint problems. Most trainers help motivate their clients with a tracking system of records and charts that records the progress made. Regular repeated fitness testing demonstrates improvement is helpful in the readjustment of the program.

Personal trainers spend much time improving the quality of the workouts people have been doing. Clients are taught to use proper technique in each exercise to reduce stress on joints and lessen the chance of injury. There are several common mistakes trainers find people doing when they first begin working a program together:

  1. Doing too much cardiovascular exercise and not realizing that resistance training will enhance the body composition changes that are desired.
  2. Not doing enough weight training to improve muscle tone and postural problems.
  3. Improper exercise form; doing cardiovascular and weight training exercises incorrectly. This produces ineffective results and increases the chance of injury.
  4. Incorrect amount of weight. Many men tend to use too much weight and sacrifice proper form. Many women do not use heavy enough weight and fail to see the maximum results in body composition and muscle tone.
  5. Working the wrong body parts. There is a tendency to focus too much on the muscles that are naturally strong, and not focus enough on the weaker muscle groups.
  6. Nutrition problems. Many women do not eat enough food (or the best food) to support maximum health and body composition changes.
  7. Motivation. Many people motivate themselves in a negative way, thinking awful things about themselves. A good personal trainer will look for the positive experience and motivation.

It is definitely worth the time spent with a good personal trainer if you want to improve your fitness level. How do you know you have a good one? A good trainer is educated and intelligent. They are certified by at least one nationally recognized fitness organization, and many have degrees in health and fitness related fields. In other words, a good personal trainer is a professional. It is important to check the credentials of anyone you are thinking of hiring as a personal trainer.

Look for a personal trainer who is a good listener and communicates clearly, encouraging and answering your questions. The trainer should be interested in your fitness preference and help you set safe and realistic goals.

Working out with a personal trainer may motivate you to push for maximum results, and accomplish more in one hour than if you were working out on your own. Everybody needs a coach at one time or another, and personal trainers are a great way to improve your fitness program.

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Calorie Burning & Exercise

Many people use cardiovascular exercise equipment to burn calories. A question they often have is “What type of exercise equipment burns the most calories?”

Infomercials and ads for exercise machines make claims of exceptional calorie burning. Are these claims all true?

At rest the body uses energy to maintain the functions of all body cells. Energy demanding functions form the basal metabolic rate, which varies from person to person, roughly 800 to 1500 calories daily. Exercise adds to the energy the body uses. Research conducted in the past 10 years demonstrates that exercise increases in caloric expenditure is mostly from the contraction of skeletal muscle (body movements of the arms or legs).

The body uses oxygen and produces carbon dioxide during calorie consumption. Most of the nutrient sources for movement are from carbohydrate and fat. The amount of carbohydrate and fat used during energy metabolism can be measured from the respiratory exchange ratio of carbon dioxide to oxygen consumption. The best measure of a change in metabolism during exercise is oxygen consumption. This can be determined by a formula based on the heart rate during exercise.

To burn more calories during exercise, a person must increase the oxygen consumption. Many exercise machines are sold on the basis that they will burn more calories than other kinds of equipment. When different types of equipment is tested keeping the heart rate at the same intensity on each piece of equipment, the results are somewhat different than many equipment manufacturers would have you believe.

In comparisons of equipment using 1) upper body only, 2) lower body only, and 3) upper and lower body combined, the lower body only equipment produces a higher oxygen consumption, therefore a greater calorie expenditure, than the upper and lower combined equipment and the upper body only equipment.

With upper and lower body combined exercise, blood cannot be pumped fast enough to adequately spread through both the lower and upper body muscles. The smaller muscle mass in the upper body causes a slower return flow of blood to the heart than large muscles do, and upper body exercise increases blood pressure because of greater resistance to blood flow. The result is that maximal oxygen consumption is somewhat lower for combined upper and lower body combined exercise than for lower body exercise alone.

The key to a lifetime of health and fitness benefits from regular cardiovascular exercise is to find activities that are enjoyable and will be done on a regular basis.




Fat cells. Millions of them make up your body fat. Each fat cell is a spherical sac filled with a droplet of oil. The size of your fat cells is relative to the balance of calorie intake and output. (What you eat vs. your activity level)

A high fat diet supplies fat cells with what is needed to grow bigger. Fat molecules are absorbed from the blood stream and stored in fat cells.

To reduce the amount of fat stored in the fat cells, it must be released into the blood and used as fuel. Regular exercise and a moderate to low fat diet help to trigger the release of stored fat. Regular exercise stimulates fat metabolism and teaches your body how to be an efficient fat burner rather than a fat storer.



Cellulite has no cure. Cellulite is made up of individual pockets of fat cells separated by fibrous bands. Exercise can help graw a little fat out of each posket, but cellulite will not melt away as promised by the advertisements for creams, rollers, and other gadgets.



  1. Increase cardiorespiratory fitness
  2. Increase the amount of active muscle mass
  3. Prolong the duration of cardiovascular exercise
  4. Exercise at a heart rate intensity that is challenging but maintainable
  5. There are genetic factors that determine the fuel utilization during exercise (choose your parents wisely!)
  6. Older exercisers may need to work at a lower intensity and prolong the duration to maximize calorie consumption.



One of the main activities that can be seen at any gym or health club is people doing countless amounts of sit-ups and crunches. They believe this will give them the “model look” washboard abs, they have all taken this myth as the truth, the myth that these exercises will give them this look. The reason a person does not have “shredded” abs, or a “six-pack” is because of the fat covering those muscles (oh yes, they are there, everyone has them) and sit-ups do not burn fat, they work the muscle. Often working out these muscles to extremes causes the stomach to look even bigger. The best way to stay lean and get rid of the fat layer covering your beautiful abs is to get plenty of fat burning cardiovascular exercise and eat slightly less calories than you actually use.

So, if diet and fat burning exercise is the key to showing off the “six-pack”, why should we develop our abdominal muscles, some may ask. The answer is function. Without developing these muscles your whole body can be weakened. They are a very important part of doing any movement with your body. Without them, you would not even be able to stand up! In the end, everyone wants to have well developed abs they can show off. So, work out the muscles, eat a lean, low fat diet, and get out there and make yourself sweat.

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Cardiovascular Fitness

Today’s modern technology has produced an increase in chronic conditions related to the lack of physical activity. These conditions include hypertension, heart disease, low back pain, and obesity. These diseases are termed hypokinetic diseases; “hypo” meaning low or little, and “kinetic” meaning motion.

The cardiorespiratory system functions in a cyclical pattern. Oxygen is taken into the lungs where it is picked up by the blood and pumped through the heart, which sends it into the body organs and tissues. Individual cells extract the oxygen from the blood and use it to convert energy for their functions.

cardiorespiratory system

Cardiovascular fitness occurs not only in the heart itself, but also at the cellular level, increasing the cells’ capacities to use the provided oxygen. Aerobic exercise uses oxygen to supply energy to the cells, and thus conditions them in a sense. Aerobic exercise benefits participants in the following ways:

    1. Higher maximal oxygen uptake. The amount of oxygen the body can use during activity increases, producing greater duration and less fatigue during exercise.
    2. Increase in the oxygen carrying capacity of the heart as the red blood cell count increases.
    3. Decrease in the resting heart rate/Increase in the cardiac muscle strength. The heart produces more forceful contractions which causes more blood to be pumped with each beat.
    4. Lower heart rate at given workloads causes a greater efficiency in the cardiorespiratory system.
    5. Increase in the number and size of mitochondria produces a greater potential to provide energy for muscular work.
    6. Increased number of functional capillaries means more gas exchange is possible with a delayed onset of fatigue during exercise.


  • Faster recovery time after exercise.


  1. Lower blood pressure and blood lipids decreases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
  2. Increases in the fat-burning enzymes will increase the ability to lose body fat.

Many people participate in various forms of cardiovascular exercise. Some of these routines are effective and some could use improvement. In order to receive all of the benefits aerobic exercise can provide, it’s important to understand how to make the most of an exercise routine.

An exerciser, or an instructor who teaches exercisers, wants to know three things:


  • Where is the exerciser at now (starting point)
  • Where does the exerciser want to go (fitness goal)
  • How will the exerciser get there (successful changes)


To determine where the exerciser is starting from an easy fitness assessment can be performed. There are many “fitness tests” that can be performed for cardiorespiratory fitness. After performing the fitness assessment, the exerciser can decide how much improvement he or she wants to make, which is the fitness goal. Then an exercise routine is set up that will help the exerciser reach that goal. After several weeks of performing the routine, the fitness assessment is repeated to see if the goal has been reached, which is the successful change!

The easiest cardiorespiratory fitness assessment that I know of is to measure a one mile “track” then see how fast the exerciser can walk (or run) it. After the walk or run is completed, you can measure the heart rate for one minute. Record both the one minute heart rate and the time it took to walk or run the course. Determine how many fewer heart beats the exerciser would like to strive for (3-5 is a realistic goal) or how much faster the exerciser would like to walk or run. Plan a regular workout schedule that keeps the exerciser working at his or her target heart rate. Then after several weeks of regular exercise, repeat the one mile walk or run and record the scores, noting the improvement.

As a reminder, here is an equation for calculating the target heart rate for the exercise sessions:

Maximum Heart Rate (220 – your age) x Percent of Intensity desired (60 – 85%) x 1.15 = Target Heart Rate

These same assessment and program ideas can be applied to any activity you participate in. As I said, there are many fitness assessments and program designs that can be used.



  • Walk, don’t ride. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator to burn approximately 1 calorie per 5 stairs.
  • Stand more often – Got a desk job? Stand 5 minutes every 1/2 – 1 hour of sitting.
  • Deliver messages in person – get up fromyour desk and walk to your co-worker’s desk instead of using the phone or e-mail.
  • Walk for lunch. Eat an easy, fast lunch, then hit the streets.
  • Walk the shopping mall. Do this low cost, safe energetic form of window shopping for 30 minutes regularly.
  • Park at the far end of the parking lot and walk briskly to the store.
  • At least once a week, take a peaceful walk in pleasant surroundings. It’s a positive way to relieve stress.

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Why Weight?

Weight Training – Resistance Training – Strength Training

Whatever your call the anaerobic exercise that builds muscle strength and endurance, it is a key component in a balanced fitness program. This fact is known and acknowledged by a growing number of exercisers, but some are still resistant to the idea of resistance training. There are even some “aerobics” instructors who do not see the need to include serious resistance exercises in their classes.

I think weight training should be viewed as the foundation for teaching the body to move, which is kinestetic learning. A positive, informed approach to weight training teaches the exerciser basic movement principles that can be applied to other exercise forms. For the instructor, knowledge about weight training includes learning anatomy, kinesiology, and exercise science, all of which is critical to effective teaching.

Resistance Training

I realize that I may be “preaching to the choir,” but I am going to review the benefits of weight training and dispell a few misconceptions, and perhaps some who read this article will become believers.

Weight training can contribute to physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual development, affecting the “whole person.”

  • Physical: Lifetime activity including weight training will help maintain fitness levels, improve body composition, and strengthen the body, protecting it from injury during activity (even normal, every day activity)
  • Mental: As a person learns how to weight train he or she is also learning fitness design and the proper way to plan a workout routine and schedule. Also much is learned about anatomy, muscle function, and exercise science.
  • Social: Weight training can be a solitary activity or one can exercise with a partner or friends. Fitness is a positive activity to include in relationships.
  • Emotional: Weight training helps relieve stress, frustration, and anger. Pumping iron helps use up the hormones produced from a hard day at work. The person’s self esteem increases as the body gains strength and fitness, contributing to positive emotional stability and self image.
  • Spiritual: Exercise helps a person become more resilient, find an inner calm and accept the situations life presents.

Since weight training is primarily a physical activity, the contributions to physical development include:

  • Increases in muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone strength
  • Increases in muscle size and density
  • Increases in muscle tone
  • Improved appearance
  • Improved posture
  • Increases in flexibility
  • Increases in the body’s metabolism
  • Improved joint stability
  • Increased muscle endurance
  • Increased power

There are a number of misconceptions about weight training that warrant further discussion of the benefits of weight training.

“Weight training doesn’t help develop overall fitness”

Weight training is an important part of overall fitness. Cardiovascular and flexibility must be trained, too. It is desirable and possible to develop a training program that will include all aspects of overall fitness.

“Muscle turns to fat when a person stops training and I don’t want that to happen, so I won’t even start weight training.”

Muscle tissue and fat cells are two different tissues. One does NOT become the other. When weight training is stopped, the muscles will atrophy (shrink) and due to a decreased metabolism or increased calorie consumption, fat cells will multiply. This results in a body composition ratio that is to the individuals disadvantage; he or she gains fat.

“Weight training will make me muscle-bound”

Properly designed programs will increase the joint range of motion and flexibility because opposing muscle groups will be worked through full extension and flexion. Inactive and imbalanced programs decrease mobility. The answer: Find an instructor who is qualified to design a sensible program and teach you proper training techniques.

“Weight training is unhealthy for my heart”

Weight training can increase the size and strength of the heart, making it healthier.

“Weight training is too stressful on my joints.”

Proper form and technique will not stress joints; it will strengthen them. Exercises should be performed in a controlled and smooth manner, with proper posture and stabilization. A good instructor will always stress proper posture, stabilization, and movement speed during the exercise.

“If I lift weights, I could get a hernia.”

The risk is small IF the proper technique is learned and used. Correct training involves proper breathing, exhaling on the exertion, and correct lifting mechanics. Respecting the amount of weight you can safely lift is also important. Good instructors insist that their clients rely on proper form and technique rather than just trying to lift very heavy weights.

“Weight training takes too much time”

Weight training can produce effective results in as little as 15-20 minute sessions done 2-3 times a week. Resistance athletes train much harder and longer, but it isn’t necessary for the average exerciser.

“Weight training will make a woman look like a man.”

Weight training will shape a woman’s muscles while retaining the female shape. Very few women have the genetics or hormones to build huge muscles. Even those who do have to workout very hard to build that amount of muscle. The hormonal balance is what causes the secondary sex characteristics, not exercise.

“Weight training will help me spot-reduce.”

Spot reduction for fat loss is a fallacy. Fat is burned from the entire body, not just one area. However, muscle tone can occur to individual muscles, which will show when there is no excess body fat covering them. Weight training raises the metabolism and helps fat loss because toned muscles burn energy all the time, even at rest. A good method of losing body fat combines weight training, aerobic exercise, and good eating habits.

“Weight training will hamper my athletic performance”

Weight training will improve athletic performance. Muscle contractions that are strong will increase speed and power. Look at the records being broken this year in baseball. Those athletes train with weights!

“If I lift weights, I will become more uncoordinated.”

In the long run, weight training should improve coordination. There is some neuromuscular adjustment to an increase in strength, which can affect athletes. However, athletes do their hard weight training in the off season and do a maintenance program during competition, which allows for peak performance and timing.

“The sports I play provide all the muscle conditioning I need”

Sport activities seldom provide a balance in the frequency, intensity, and time needed to produce fitness changes. Weight training produces faster results and helps prepare the body to participate in sports. Many personal trainers specialize in helping both professional and recreational athletes condition themselves for both fitness and the sports they play.

“I am too old for weight training”

Healthy people of any age can benefit from and individualized weight training program. Research shows that gains in strength and muscle mass can occur at any age.

“Weight training is a waste of time and energy”

Weight training can add years to your life and give your more energy than every before.

Now that I have converted the nonbelievers to the beliefs of weight training, what should they do? Find a qualified personal trainer or instructor who can teach you the best tachniques of weight training and get you started on a simple program. Take the time to really learn the techniques that will give you the best results in the safest way, then stick to your new exercise habit!

The believers in weight training, who do it regularly, should evaluate the quality of their program design, making sure it is balanced and safe. Constantly seek to improve you form and technique, not just increasing the amount of weight you lift.

Fitness professionals have probably heard most of the misconceptions before. Think of ways that you can help counter these myths and benefit more people. Evaluate you own techniques and teaching methods, placing safety and effectivness ahead of complicated routines. If you are one of those instructors who only gives a token nod to adding weight training in an aerobic class, increase your knowledge about weight training design and start offering your students a complete exercise experience!

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Weight Training Basics

People of all ages who begin an exercise program usually include some form of resistance training in their routine. Lifting weights has lost its “Muscle Beach” image and is established as a mainstream fitness activity.

Resistance training improves two basic fitness components: muscular strength and muscular endurance. Muscular strength is the maximal amount of force a muscle can generate. Muscular endurance is the ability to sustain repeated muscle contractions. For the most effective improvement in muscular endurance, strength training and aerobic activity are necessary.

Strength training produces many benefits:

  1. It increases muscle mass, bone mass and the strength of the connective tissue, helping to prevent injuries.
  2. It increases the metabolic rate since muscle tissue is active and requires calories for energy.
  3. It improves physical ability and athletic performance.
  4. It improves self-confidence.

One of the most desirable results from resistance training is the change in body composition. Exercise programs that are called Bodysculpting or Body Building reflect the fact that weight training changes the shape of the body. It has been well established by numerous studies, including one I did myself several years ago, that the most successful long-term weight loss programs include resistance training. Aerobic activity does burn calories, but does nothing to increase the amount of lean body tissue. Strength or resistance training is a high calorie-burning activity and since muscle tissue burns energy even at rest, more calories are used by a body that has an increase of lean tissue (muscle).

strength programs

Individuals who are just beginning their fitness programs may wonder how to include resistance training in the most effective way. The American College of Sports Medicine has set minimum recommendations for strength programs:

  • Frequency – Minimum of twice per week
  • Sets – Minimum of one per muscle group
  • Repetitions – 8-12 repetitions per set

Frequency is the number of times the training routine is performed each week. In studies, different groups of people who trained 2, 3, or 4 days per week all made excellent strength gains. For the new exerciser, 20 minutes of strength training exercises 2 days a week will improve muscular fitness.

The term “sets” refers to lifting a resistance a certain number of times before resting. Strength improvements can be made with 1, 2, 3, or more sets. The number of sets performed for each exercise is a personal preference. People with strict time limitations can train with single sets of each exercise and see improvements in muscle strength.

Repetitions are the number of times you lift a weight in each set. This depends on the amount of resistance used. The amount of weight lifted should be heavy enough to produce fatigue in the muscle by the last few repetitions. In general, 12 repetitions in each set will give good results.

As you go through your strength routine, work the large muscle groups, such as the chest and back, first, then work the smaller muscles, such as the biceps.

The speed that you move the resistance is very important. Strength training should be done with carefully controlled movements to prevent injury. You will see faster and better results if you lift the weight slowly in both directions. It is true that fast movements permit the use of heavier resistance, but because of the principle of momentum, fast moves require less muscular effort. So it’s better to put your “poundage ego” in a drawer and aim for quality lifting speed.

Rest is part of your resistance training program. If you are doing 2 or more sets of each exercise, rest long enough to feel recovered, but move quickly enough between sets to sustain some intensity. Rest from resistance exercise at least one day between workouts to allow sufficient recovery. Remember that resistance training is very productive and motivating, but overdoing is can lead to injuries.

Resistance machine exercises are best for beginners. They keep the body stable during the movement, allowing more controlled motion. They are effective, easy to use and safer than free weights.

Free weights are effective, but require more instruction and practice to get the technique correct. Balance is critical when lifting free weights. The skills developed can be applied to daily work tasks and sports specific actions.

Whether you choose to use machines or free weights, lift through the entire range of motion. With your breathing, exhale during the active motion and inhale when returning to the starting position.

Your goal should be a gradual progression in your program. Seriously consider using a qualified fitness instructor or personal trainer to help you plan your program and teach you proper techniques. Your enjoyment of exercise will increase and you will see great results!

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