5 Minute Tone Up Video

We want to bring you the best possible fitness experience, so we’re launching our new fitness video section.  Each week we’ll add a new 5 minute work out video to the blog so you can improve your fitness with a carefully balanced routine that will work your entire body.  In our 5 minute tone up video, you’ll work every single muscle group as hard as you can.

If you like our 5 minute tone up video, be sure to grab a free account at http://vytalz.com/join.php where you can find loads of workout routines and share your progress with your friends.

All you need to do for a Vytalz 5 minute workout is follow the instructions on screen and enjoy.  Make sure you have enough space to move around, and stretch out before you start to prevent any strains or other sporting injuries – the last thing you want to do is compromise your fitness regime with a pulled muscle because you didn’t warm up!

Enjoy this free 5 minute tone up video, and be sure to check back soon for more fitness tips, guides, exercise routines and weight loss information to help you hit your health and wellness goals.

 

 

How to do the Plank for Longer

The plank is a powerful exercise for developing core stability and strength.  A strong set of core muscles will help you in almost any other type of exercise including running and sport because it trains you to hold yourself in a more stable way.  You develop strength through the exercise because you are holding the muscle groups against gravity and in dynamic opposition with each other.  The plank can be difficult to do at first, but as you get into your stride, you’ll think about how to do the plank for longer in order to get more benefits.

How to do the plank for longer

How to do the plank for longer

There are two main components that impact on how to do the plank for longer.  The first is physical strength.  That part is pretty easy to train.  The more frequently you plank, the more basic strength you’ll get in your muscles, and the more physical stamina you’ll build for the exercise.

The second thing part of the question of how to do the plank for longer is the mental aspect.  This exercise HURTS.  You feel pain through your core muscle groups of abdominals and hip flexors that develops quickly and can make you quit.  Here’s our tips on how to train your mind to let you do the plank for longer:

Don’t look at your stop watch

Avoiding knowing the time lets you quit when you hit certain time milestones. Don’t look, just hold it for longer (but stop the clock when you finish so you can track your progress)

Divert your attention

If you’re not thinking about pain, you won’t allow yourself to dwell on it.  Place a book or magazine between your arms and focus on the words on the page.  You’ll have a very effective distraction.

Divert your attention 2

Listen to a piece of music.  Choose something inspiring that you enjoy, and lose yourself in it.  The average song lasts for more than 3 minutes – if you can hold it that long, you’re doing well.

Count downwards.  Slowly.

Counting down aims your attention at a specific goal (0), so you don’t have a choice about stopping.  Counting up is unlimited – you stop whenever, and make excuses that you’ve done enough.  Set your target and stick to it.  You’ll thank yourself later.

Every time you plank, you’ll get stronger.  It’s an exercise that really rewards commitment and training, and you’ll quickly feel the benefits in terms of strength, but also in terms of definition of your abs, and your waist size.

Top 5 Exercise Myths

With a subject like fitness where there are lots of “experts”, but not many experts, there will always be a lot of disagreement about what’s right and what’s wrong.  There are so many myths about exercise and fitness – what works, what doesn’t, what happens – thatit can be really confusing.

Here’s 5 of the biggest exercise myths that have definitely been debunked:

Sit-ups / Crunches Get rid of Belly Fat

They don’t.  They help to condition and tone the underlying muscles, and they may help to give you a flatter stomach through tightening the area, however they’ll have a negligible impact on any subcutaneous fat.  To get rid of that, you need to eat a more sensible diet.

Steady Cardio Work is the Best Way to lose Weight

Lots of people think that running for miles on end is the best way to lose weight.  It isn’t if you want to lose weight through running, you need to smash out sprints like they’re going out of fashion.  Fartlek Running is much more efficient at helping you burn calories than just a steady pace.

Running on a Treadmill is Safer for Your Knees than Running on a Road

Ultimately, damage to your knees when running is done by your body weight crashing down through a joint many times over a period of time.  That’s going to happen whether you’re on the road or a treadmill.

Women Build Muscle Bulk if they Lift Heavy Weights

Without taking massive amounts of testosterone and vast protein supplements, women don’t get big just by lifting weights.  This misconception often means that women use 1KG weights in the gym for resistance for fear of becoming masculine.  Don’t worry, life weights that challenge you and you’ll get a better impact.

Stretching Before a Workout Prevents Injury

Actually, if the first thing you do when you walk into a gym is some extreme stretches, things are going to get bad pretty quickly.  If anything, stretching before you work out is going to do more harm than good.  What you should be doing is:

  • Warm up
  • Stretch
  • Lift
  • Stretch
  • Cool Down

Missing out on any of those steps is what increases your risk of injury.

Any More

What are your favourite (or least favourite) fitness myths?  Tell us below.

Calculating your Maximum Heart Rate

Aerobic fitness training is more effective if you get the intensity right.  For most people, the most convenient way of measuring intensity of exercise is to use a heart rate monitor and keep their hear between certain boundaries.  Calculating your maximum heart rate throughout the exercise cycle is the key to success when you are targeting different intensity or goals.

Calculating your maximum heart rate

The simplest equation for calculating your maximum heart rate for exercise is as follows:

maxHR = 220 – age

So for a man aged 40, the maximum heart rate for exercise would be 180 BPM.

calculating your maximum heart rateWhile this gives a good estimate of the level of intensity a person can work to, this calculation doesn’t take into account any of the myriad of different factors that can impact on a person’s physical ability to work at high rates – their basic level of fitness, their weight.  Also, if you think about it, calculating your maximum heart rate based on your age in years means that it changes every year on your birthday.

While the above equation is a reasonable rule of thumb for calculating your maximum heart rate, a more representative number can be calculated as follows:

maxHR = 163 + (1.16 × age) − (0.018 × age2)

However – once again, this calculation for max HR doesn’t take into account your basic fitness levels etc – although it does provide an average Max Heart Rate for individuals that is close to the rates seen in experiments.

Measuring Maximum Heart Rate

For any individual, the most accurate way of working out what your maximum heart rate should be is to undertake a cardiac stress test.  This is a specific test in which you are connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine, and then exercise.

Your heart rate is measured throughout the session, with the impact of different intensities of work taken into account.  Because this technique is specific to you and your levels of fitness, it provides a far more accurate MaxHR than a generic calculation – although these tests are only typically conducted on people with poor cardiac health or professional athletes looking for a very narrow performance gain.

5 tips to lose 5lbs in 5 weeks

We blogged a couple of days ago about how many calories you need to use to burn 1 lb of fat, and that got us thinking about small changes we could make in our existing lifestyles to  lose 5lb in 5 weeks.

Each lb of fat is 3500 calories worth, which means that losing 5lbs means saving a total of 17,500 calories.  Given that the recommended daily intake for men is 2,500 calories, and for women 2,000 calories, the challenge of losing 5lbs in 3 weeks means using up an extra 500 calories more than you consume.  Here’s our 5 tips:

Walk More

The NHS have a 10,000 step challenge to get people to walk more.  The idea is that by targeting 10,000 steps of extra walking each day, people will burn around 300 additional calories.  You’d need to walk about 5 miles to hit the 10,000 steps target, but it’s really easy to add a couple of miles.  Wear a pedometer for a couple of days, and see how many steps you already manage.  You can burn an additional 100 calories per day simply by adding 3,000 steps – about 1.5 miles to your routine.

Cut Out the Coffee

Are you a fan of Starbucks?  Did you know that a Starbucks Latte contains 200 calories?  Opting for a regular filter coffee with skimmed milk in Starbucks rather than a Latte or other made coffee will save you around 190 calories.  For an average person who drinks a couple of coffees per week, that’s about 50 cal per day.

Swap your Chocolate

Chocolate’ great.  It’s also packed with fat and calories, and let’s be honest, you’re never going to lose weight if you’re consuming 300 calories of sugar and fat in the space of 5 minutes.

You don’t “need” chocolate bars, so drop them from your diet.  It’s easy to find a low calorie alternative, and save yourself 200 calories per day.

Laugh

Every weight loss article you will ever read tells you that laughing will help you lose weight. It’s true: laughing burns calories.  Swap out the weepie movies (and the boxes of chocolates and tissues) for a comedy DVD.  Over the course of an hour, you’ll laugh for about 10 minutes, and burn around 50 calories, as well as feeling great.

Work Out

Keep fit, lose weightHaving a 10 minute Vytalz workout each day is a great supplement to your regular routine, and is high impact enough to make a difference to your fitness.  For an average person, the 10 minute blast of exercise will burn about 100 calories.  Just the right number to bring up our magic 500 calories per day.

If you haven’t already joined Vytalz for free exercise routines, sign up today.

Calculating Your VO2 Max

While BMI Calculators are an indicator of your health, the most accurate measure of your fitness is your VO2 Max.  Calculating your VO2 Max is essentially tells you how efficiently your body is able to convert energy from food into physical movement.

A high VO2 Max is important for endurance athletes, and it is something that will develop as you train harder over time.  VO2 Max is normally represented in terms of a ratio of milli-litres of oxygen / kilogram of body weight / per minute and as such allows you to compare your results with a competitor.

There are a number of ways of calculating your VO2 Max score.  To get the most accurate possible representation, you would need to actually measure the volume of oxygen you use during a set piece of exercise which requires specialised equipment.  This isn’t always practical, however it’s reasonably straightforward to get an accurate estimate of VO2 Max using the simpler Cooper Test.

The Cooper Test

The Cooper test was developed for the US Air Force during the 1950s to measure the fitness of airmen and determine their fitness for service.

To carry out the Cooper Test, you measure the distance in metres that you can run in 12 minutes at peak effort.  The following equation is used for calculating your VO2 Max:

VO2 Max Equation

Equation to calculate VO2 Max

As an example, if you were able to run 2.5KM in a 12 minute period, the calculation for your VO2 Max would be:

(2500-505)/45 = 44.33

Your VO2 Max score is always relative to your age and gender.  For a man aged 19, 44.33 would represent a “fair” VO2 Max, while for a woman aged 40, it would be “superior”:

VO2 Max Graph for Men

VO2 Values for Men

VO2 Max for women

VO2 Values for Women

For most regular people, both the Cooper test, and the performance bands outlined above are sufficient to determine VO2 Max values with a reasonable degree of accuracy – certainly enough to be able to measure health improvements over time.  Truly elite athletes will often have performance values for VO2 max that are off the normal scales.  The cyclist Greg Lemond often performed well above a VO2 Max of 88.

We’ve developed a VO2 Max calculator that uses your Cooper test results so you can track your fitness over time. Try it out here.

Press Ups

Press ups are the staple of any fitness plan, and a great way to build strength and definition in your upper body.  Good form is important in maximising impact and there are numerous different press up variations that you can do as you develop your strength to ensure that you are continually challenged.

Muscle Groups Worked by Press Ups

Press Ups or Push Ups

Standard press ups

Depending on the technique that you use, your press ups can impact on a variety of different areas of your chest and arms.  The core areas worked in a push up routine are your triceps (the muscles at the back of your upper arms) and your pecs (the muscles across your chest). Additionally, you work out the muscles through your core back and shoulders too by holding your body straight.

Basic Form Guide for Press Ups

Regardless of the kind of push ups that you want to do and your level of fitness, you should focus on a smooth, controlled action and move slowly through the downwards phase before pushing back up hard.   Each repetition should take around 3 seconds, with 2 spent on the downward part and one on the upwards part, as this is where you expend the most energy.

At the top of the exercise, your arms should be completely straight and at the bottom of the exercise, your chest should be just about touching the floor.  Keep your back straight throughout the whole exercise, and your abdominals tight so that you give yourself the best possible form.

When you’re at the point when you cannot fully straighten your arms, try to push out one final full repetition rather than shortening the action, as this will not benefit your muscles through the full range of their movement.

The wider you spread your arms, the more emphasis you put on your chest rather than your arms.  A narrow stance will concentrate effort on your triceps, while a wider stance will apply more effort through your pecs.  Over a work-out session, you might want to use different variations to balance the areas that you work.

As you develop your fitness routines with vytalz, you’ll naturally extend the amount of time you spend on each exercise, so the number of press ups you can manage will increase.  As a rule of thumb, if you’re keeping a good steady pace and maintaining form, you’ll be doing around 10 reps in a 30 second work-out session, and 15 when you move up to 45 seconds.

Harder Press-ups

The amount of weight that you push with each press up can be controlled by your resting body position.  Novices will probably want to start on hands and knees which mean that you’re only pushing about half your body weight.

It’s also possible to do inclined press ups using the edge of a table, but make sure that the table is stable so it doesn’t flip over when you put your weight on it.

As your strength increases, you’ll have no problem doing regular press ups where your feet are on the ground and you lift a high percentage of your body weight.

Lifting your feet off the ground on a step will mean that you have to lift more weight off the ground, which means more effort, and better results.  The higher you lift your legs, the more intense you will make the exercise, but make sure that you keep things stable and comfortable, as too high an angle can be dangerous, and finishing the exercise can be trickier.

Press ups are a core part of the Vytalz Training plan.  Join now to see more.

 

Introducing the Vytalz Daily Challenge

Getting fit should be fun if you’re going to stay motivated, and friendly competition is a bit part of that.  That’s why we’re introducing a new feature to Vytalz today.  A daily fitness challenge.  Everyday, we’ll be tweeting a link to a different fitness challenge that will take you less than 5 minutes to complete.

You don’t need to create a Vytalz profile to do the daily fitness challenge, just click through to it, enter some details, and hit start, then complete the challenge.  It’s as simple as can be.

Try today’s challenge - a blast of squat thrusts that will really work your leg and butt muscles.   Once you get to the page, simply fill in your weight and click go:

The challenge will start:

Challenge Underway

When you’ve finished, you’ll get a quick bit of performance feedback:

Challenge complete

Enjoy the challenges.