February 29, 2012
Let’s be honest: We all want the most “bang for our buck,” especially when it comes to working out.
While research continues to emerge supporting the effectiveness of many different training styles (many of which help to elicit great results in a short period of time), it is important to focus on proper mechanics and training protocols in order to safely and effectively engage in some of these popular fitness trends.
Here are fixes for three popular workout trends so you can ensure you're getting the most out of your workout — without injury.
As boot camps and sports conditioning style classes continue to grow in popularity, plyometric exercises have become a staple in many workouts. From depth jumps, to multidirectional drills, to cone jumps, these exercises incorporate quick, powerful movements designed to work up a serious sweat. However, since plyometric exercises are designed to increase muscular power and explosiveness, appropriate strength, flexibility and postural mechanics are necessary in order to avoid injury.
Fix: Learning how to land correctly is one of the most important skills you need to learn to reduce the risk of injury. And learn this before you move into full jumps and hops. Avoid landing on the heel or ball of the foot since this action can increase impacting forces. Instead, focus on landing softly on the mid-foot and then roll forward to push off the ball of the foot – avoiding excessive side-to-side motion at the knee in the process. To further reduce the risk of injury, be sure to complete a dynamic warm-up before performing plyometric exercises.
With research confirming that kettlebell workouts are an extremely effective form of training that can be performed in a relatively short period of time, many people have gravitated toward it without a thorough understanding of the proper mechanics, which are so critical for both safety and effectiveness. One such common exercise, the kettlebell single arm swing, is often performed incorrectly because it is mistakenly perceived as a shoulder exercise.
Fix: When performing the kettlebell single arm swing, avoid lifting with your back or your shoulders – like in many kettlebell exercises, the hips should always drive the movement exercises. To execute this movement correctly, brace your core (contracting your abdominal muscles) and hinge at your hips. As you exhale, initiate an explosive upward movement to swing the kettlebell upward coming to a standing position. The momentum generated through the lower body should allow the arm to become parallel with the floor with neutral alignment maintained through the wrists. Having trouble? If you find you are unable to achieve the desired arm position, attempt to generate more power from the lower body by thrusting harder with your gluteal (butt) muscles from the lowered position.
3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
From popular fitness DVDs to group fitness classes to personal training sessions, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is being used by athletes and everyday exercise enthusiasts alike to add new challenge and variety to workouts. HIIT is a cardiorespiratory training technique that increases the overall intensity of a workout by alternating between brief speed and recovery intervals to maximize your training sessions in a short amount of time. This is great since lack of time is one of the most commonly cited reasons why people don’t exercise regularly. Aside from being time-efficient, HIIT has been shown to increase aerobic and anaerobic fitness, decrease body fat percentage, and burn some serious calories. However, one of the most important components of HIIT is the active recovery intervals, which are often overlooked or aren’t very active.
Fix: While there isn’t one single best way to structure sessions, when getting started with HIIT after completing a five minute warm-up, begin with a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of speed intervals to active recovery intervals. This means one minute of speed work to every two or three minutes of active recovery. Avoid the temptation to shorten the recovery intervals, or to let the recovery periods be less than active. These recover intervals are when the body produces more energy for the next bout of high-intensity exercise and also removes metabolic waste from the muscles. Remember, active recovery periods should always be as long – if not longer – than the high-intensity intervals. And in terms of perceived exertion, high-intensity intervals should be about a seven or higher (on a scale of 0-10) while active recovery intervals should be at about a four or five.
When starting any new for of exercise, it's always a good idea to work with a certified personal trainer to ensure you are exercising safely and effectively, and making the most out of your time at the gym.
Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYTContributor
Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT is assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College. As a leading fitness expert, writer and educator Jessica is a regular contributor to numerous publications, including Shape and Oprah.com. She holds a B.S. in physical education teacher education from Coastal Carolina University and M.S. in physical education from Canisius College. She is a certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as well as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) through Yoga Alliance and trained stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga instructor. Prior to teaching at Miramar, Jessica worked full-time ACE, serving in a number of key roles including exercise physiologist, certification director and senior health and fitness editor. Her past work also includes serving as aquatics director at Conway Medical Wellness and Fitness Center and designing health and physical education curriculum for grades K-12. Full Bio Jessica Matthews »