Category Archives: Tips & Advice

5 Home Items That You Can Use As Exercise Gear

1: HAND TOWEL
Try using small hand towels in place of gliders (sliders) on a hardwood or tile surface, they can add some instability to the move, making it more difficult.

Move 1: Towel Reverse Lunge

Start standing straight up with your feet at about hip-width distance. Place a towel underneath your right foot.
Keeping your left leg rooted, begin to slowly bend at the knee and bring the hips back.
Slide your right toes along the ground, extending your right leg behind you.
Lower your body until your left leg reaches about a 90-degree angle.
Then, with most of your weight in your left leg and glute, glide your right leg back to the starting position.
This move requires a lot of strength and stability, so don’t be discouraged if it’s too challenging! Feel free to hold a chair to improve your balance.

Move 2: Towel Hamstring Curl

Begin lying flat on the ground with your arms at your sides. Put a towel under your feet and place your feet flat on the ground with knees bent.
Come into a glute bridge, raising your hips up to the ceiling, while keeping your shoulder blades, arms and head on the floor.
Gliding along the floor, extend your legs out in front of you until they’re as straight as possible. As you extend, try your best to maintain the glute bridge position, keeping your hips off the ground.
Then, use your hamstrings to curl the towel back to the starting position.
Extend your legs as far as you can to keep good form and comfortably bring them back toward the body.

2: HEAVY BACKPACK
Find yourself a backpack and fill it up with random weighted items, could be old textbooks, heavy water bottles, heavy fruits or veg.

Move 1: Backpack Back Squat

Put the backpack on, tightening the straps so that it sits on the upper part of your back and stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
With your hands straight out in front of you, shoot your hips back and begin to bend at the knees.
Keep your back flat and squat down until your thighs are about parallel to the ground.
Press through your heels and push your hips forward to return to standing.
If you want to get an even deeper squat, you can elevate your heels with two books about the same size.

Move 2: Backpack Bent-Over Rows

Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, grab each end of the heavy backpack with your hands.
Shoot your hips back and with a flat back, bend your knees slightly and hinge forward.
Holding this bent-over position, extend your arms, holding the backpack.
On an exhale, row the back pack toward your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Then, bring the backpack back down.

3: CASE OF WATER
If you have a case of water bottles, they make an excellent heavy load for front squats and front-loaded lunges. If you don’t have a case handy, you can also fill a suitcase with heavy objects.

Move 1: Water Case Front Squats

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Grab the case of water and hold it across your chest at shoulder height, bending at the elbows.
Shoot your hips back and bend your knees. Keeping your back flat and chest up and out, squat toward the ground until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
Then, exhale and press through your heels to return to standing.

Move 2: Front-Loaded Forward Lunges

Stand with feet at shoulder-width apart. Grab the case of water and hold it across your chest at shoulder height, bending at the elbows.
Root your right foot into the ground and step forward with your left, leaving a few feet of space between your feet.
Simultaneously bend your right and left knee until your front knee comes to 90 degrees and the back knee hovers just above the ground.
On an exhale, return to standing and bring the legs back together.
Repeat on the other leg.
If front lunges feel too challenging, swap for a reverse lunge, which are generally easier to perform and safer on sensitive knees.

4: CANS OF FOOD

Move 1: Food Can Biceps Curls

Begin standing up straight with a can in each hand.
With palms facing away from your body, curl the cans up toward your shoulders.
As you curl, keep your elbows close to your sides.
Once the cans are at shoulder height, squeeze the biceps.
Then, slowly bring the cans back down to the starting position.

Move 2: Food Can Triceps Extensions

Begin standing with a can in each hand.
Raise the cans straight over your head and bring them together.
Keeping your elbows fixed, lower the cans behind your head, bending your elbows.
Then, extend the cans straight back overhead.

5: SOFA

Move 1: Bulgarian Split Squats

Begin standing three feet away from the sofa, feet at hip-width distance.
Face away from the sofa and raise your foot up onto the sofa, toes curled underneath your foot.
Keeping your weight in your left leg, bend your left knee to 90 degrees.
At the same time, bend your back leg until it hovers just above the ground.
On an exhale, straighten your legs to return to standing.

Move 2: Incline Push-Up

Begin in a high-plank on the sofa or chair, hands on the seat in line with your shoulders. Keep your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle from your ribs and lower toward the sofa or chair until your chest touches the cushion.
On an exhale, press into the sofa/chair and return to the high plank.

How HIIT Works?

How HIIT works?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts can use any type of exercise, from cardio machines to bodyweight to free weights, so you can customise your workout to your own needs.

Here’s how HIIT works: you alternate fast, intense periods of exercise with bouts of light activity or complete rest. While it takes less time than aerobic workouts, HIIT can be just as effective for reshaping your body and it can be a lot more fun and challenging.

HIIT may be the perfect kind of cardio for people who can’t (or won’t) run anymore, as well as those who don’t have access to a gym. HIIT can be tailored to your experience level and the equipment you have available and works great for home training.

With HIIT you work hard to get your heart rate up, then take it easy to recover. The set is then repeated for between 3-6 rounds.

Because HIIT workouts are so intense, you can’t perform them for long, so work intervals are usually between 20-45 secs, with similar rest intervals, depending on how hard the work bouts are and the whole workout typically lasts 20 minutes or less.

HIIT workouts may not last long, but they can burn more calories per minute of exercise than aerobic training does, making it the better cardio option when you’re short on time.

The other big benefit of HIIT is the effect it has on your metabolism. Like weight training, HIIT increases post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This is usually a two-hour period after an exercise session where the body is restoring itself to pre-exercise levels and therefore uses more energy. In other words, HIIT still burns calories and fat even when your session is over and you’re recovering after the workout. You don’t get this same effect with aerobic training.

How Many Times Per Week Should You Do HIIT Workouts?

As with lifting weights, HIIT is stressful to the body and requires recovery time, so the recommendation is two or three HIIT sessions per week, done either on the same day that you work with weights (preferably right afterwards) or on days in between.

For the best balance of exercise you should also try to fit some long-duration aerobic training into your week if you can. Steady-state cardio builds an aerobic base that your body can use to fuel all its other activities, and it’s good for your heart, as well as burning extra calories.

All You Need For Home Workouts

Home workout kit

It’s much easier than you think to set up home workouts.

All you need is a few meters of space and some basic equipment.

You can build up your home exercise equipment stash with just a few key pieces of equipment that aren’t expensive to buy and they’ll give you loads of different exercise possibilities. These 5 pieces of workout equipment will equip you for pretty much any home workouts.

1: Mat
Get yourself a mat to workout on, makes it a lot more comfortable for any floor exercises and it’s easy to wipe down after you’ve finished an intense session.

2: Resistance Bands
They’re an inexpensive option that can be easily stored and can go with you just about anywhere. You can opt for a package that includes a variety of bands in different sizes and resistance levels.

You can use the bands for glute and hamstring work, and strengthen your upper body. Longer bands are great for upright rows, overhead presses, biceps curls or lateral raises.

3: Dumbbells
Definitely worth investing in a few sets of dumbbells for strength training. Like resistance bands, dumbbells are a versatile, easy-to-use piece of equipment that can be added to just about any exercise for some muscle-building, which is beneficial to everyone regardless of your goals and level of fitness.

I would suggest starting with 3kg, 4kg, or 5kg for ladies and 4kg or 5kg upwards for men, depending on your strength and fitness?

4: Kettlebells
Kettlebells can be used for strength, muscle building, balance improvements and increases in core strength, as well as boosting your aerobic capacity.

8kg is a good starting weight for ladies, then move up to 10kg. Men should start with a 12kg or 14kg, then move up to 16kg.

5: Sliders
Sliders are great for full-body workouts, especially your abs. If you’re having trouble visualising this piece of equipment, they’re two small disks (or you could just use towels) you can place under your feet or hands to glide smoothly on the floor.

Like resistance bands, sliders are a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment, can be easily stored and offer a big variety of exercise options.

10 Spices & Herbs That Improve Your Health & Weight Loss

Spices and herbs can make the most bland and boring foods taste great.  It’s one of the best ways to enjoy foods that may be nutritious, but not so palette friendly.

Not only does it make your food taste better, but it can also help improve your overall health and enhance weight loss.

Here are 10 spices & herbs that make your food tastier while boosting your health and increasing your fat burn:

  1. Cayenne pepper adds spice to the dish, and boosts your metabolism to increase the amount of fat your body burns and improves blood flow.  This allows essential hormones and vital nutrients to be delivered throughout the body more efficiently, so your body can function better.
  2. Black pepper is similar to cayenne pepper, it helps boost your metabolism and improve digestion for effective weight loss.  It’s also shown to have anti-cancer properties, according to a study published in the January 2013 issue of the “Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry”.
  3. Ginger helps to improve digestion and suppress your appetite.  It also heats up your body which increases metabolism to help burn more calories.  Ginger also helps to remove toxins from your body, which is beneficial for weight loss since toxins are often stored within fat cells.
  4. Ginseng can boost your energy levels and speed up your metabolism.  This is a great spice to use if you’re trying increase your energy level and is why it’s often used in energy drinks.
  5. Chamomile tea is a nice way to relax at the end of the day, especially because it helps to reduce stress levels.  Drinking this tea has been shown to help minimize emotional eating at night to prevent weight gain and help you sleep better.  It has anti-inflammatory properties to help fight inflammation which is the root cause of many serious diseases and it’s high in antioxidants to help protect your body from age-accelerating free radicals.
  6. Cumin is a often combined with other spices to enhance the flavour of spicy foods, commonly used in Mexican, Indian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. It’s known to help boost your immune system, lower cholesterol and has a potent anti-oxidative effects to protect your body from harmful cell damaging molecules.  It’s also thought to help increase your energy levels, so you can be more active throughout the day, allowing you to burn more calories.
  7. Turmeric helps boost liver functions and balances your hormones, which in turn prevent cravings that can be brought on by hormonal imbalance.  Turmeric is also a potent antioxidant to help maintain your youthful qualities like healthy skin, better vision and strong joints.  It enhances your immune function, liver health and digestive system.  It also helps stabilize blood sugar levels which lowers insulin and helps minimizes fat storage.
  8. Cinnamon is a sweeter spice that can be added to many dishes, and it helps with weight loss because it boosts your metabolism.  Cinnamon has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, so your body can more effectively manage blood sugar levels and avoid weight gain.
  9. Mustard is another weight loss booster, because it’s packed with B-complex vitamins like folates, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin which increases your metabolism.  In fact, some researchers have suggested that a 25% increase in metabolic rate can be achieved from one teaspoon of mustard.  It’s also high in selenium and magnesium, providing your body with anti-inflammatory properties to fight off disease and it’s a great source of antioxidants that help fight cell damaging free radicals.
  10. Cardamom is a sweet spice often used in Indian dishes.  It promotes healthy digestion and increases your metabolism to help enhance weight loss.  It’s also been shown to lower blood pressure, treat mouth ulcers, and even help with depression.  It has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties to help fight inflammation and help slow the aging process as well.

Next time you prepare a dish, make sure to include one or more of these herbs and spices.  They not only make your food tastier, but it’s been shown to help improve your overall health, help slow the aging process and boost your metabolism to help you lose weight more effectively.

 

Ab Strengthening Exercises Are Better Than Situps!

Here’s why…

Most traditional ab exercises like sit-ups and crunches involve rounding and/or flexion of the spine, which is not functional, which means that it’s not the way your body was meant to naturally move.

Think about it, what movement in your daily activity requires you to round or flex your spine?

Walking, running, and even when you sit, your back is generally straight (or should be, anyway!).  And when you have to bend down to pick something up off the floor, you’d bend from your knees and flex from your hips, but your spine is supposed to stay straight.

Excessive rounding or flexing of the spine is not only non-functional, but can also cause back injuries.  Your back was simply not designed for it.  The function of your abdominal muscles or “core” is to protect your spine from excessive flexion, extension, and rotation.  Basically, the job of your core is to keep your spine as rigid as possible at all costs.

If you want to functionally strengthen your abs, it’s best to choose exercises that stimulate your abs to have to brace and protect your spine from moving.  One very effective example is the suitcase squat.  You carry a weight only in one hand (just like carrying a suitcase, hence the name) and perform a full squat.  Since you’ll be lopsided, your abdominal muscles have to work harder to keep your spine from bending over to one side.

This is a great core stimulating, functional, full-body exercise that works your entire body.  So instead of doing crunches or sit-ups next time, try the suitcase squats.  You’ll not only burn more calories with this full-body exercise, but you’ll strengthen your abs the way they were designed to function—to protect your spine.

Why Are My Joints Cracking and Popping?

Do your knees, shoulders or back start to get a little tight? Or when you move a certain way, do you hear pops and cracks from your joints?

Sometimes these sounds mean nothing, but when joint pops and crackles are accompanied by pain or swelling, it might mean something else entirely.

Why Joints Snap, Crackle and Pop

The most common joints that make sounds include the knees, ankles, knuckles, neck, hips and back and there are a few different reasons why. In order for your joints to move smoothly, your body creates a fluid that acts as a lubricant and allows your joints to move in multiple directions and rotate.

It’s called synovial fluid, and its job is to reduce friction between your cartilage and joints during any type of movement. Synovial fluid contains a mix of gases, and when a joint snaps or pops, the gases in the fluid are released and bubbles form — and that’s what causes those sounds you hear.

But that’s not all: Sometimes when a joint moves, the tendon that surrounds it may move out of place, and when that tendon shifts back into place, you’ll hear a snapping or cracking sound. If you suffer from arthritis, sounds coming from arthritic joints are often caused by the loss of cartilage, causing a roughness on the joint surface.

Can You Avoid Joint Snaps and Pops?

Depending on whether or not there’s an underlying condition, it’s best to work on improving mobility of the joints that are responsible for the snapping and popping sounds and to ensure all muscles are being used equally.

If you’ve been hearing a popping sound from your knees the muscles surrounding your knees may be tight, causing the tendons to become overstretched and pop back into place. You should incorporate exercises and stretches into your routine that will help strengthen all muscles in that area as well as other muscles that affect knee mobility and strength, including your hip flexors and IT bands.

Is It Harmful?

Yes and no. Sometimes the cracking of joints is a sign of arthritis and/or early degeneration of the joint surface.

How do you know? A clear sign that something more serious is going on within your joints is any pain, swelling, limited mobility or warmth near the area that’s cracking or popping.

Listen to Your Body

Whether you’re going for a run, lifting weights or simply walking around the office, it’s important to listen to what your body is telling you. If at any time joint noises are accompanied by pain, make an appointment with a doctor and get it checked out before it gets a chance to worsen.

3 Important Fat-Loss Questions

Fat loss is often the number one priority for many people who are trying to get in shape, but there’s a lot of confusion on exactly how to ditch that excess flab.

Here are three common fat-loss questions

1. Do I Have to Exercise to Lose Weight?

When it comes to fat loss, regardless of the type of diet you choose, calories matter – and you need to be in a calorie deficit. Burning off more calories than you take in is the cornerstone of any effective fat-loss program.

Exercise is also essential to any fat-loss program because exercise makes creating the necessary deficit easier. Theoretically, you need to create a 500 calorie per day deficit in order to lose one pound of fat per week. To accomplish this, you could cut 500 calories from your diet or you could add four exercise sessions that each burned 500 calories and then you’d just need to cut about 215 calories (the equivalent of one cup of cooked rice) per day from your diet.

As your diet progresses and you need to create a greater and greater deficit in order to keep the fat coming off, exercise becomes an even more essential tool. Exercise helps make sure that you can create the calorie deficit needed without starving yourself and forcing your body to harvest its own calorie burning resources, like muscle.

2. Does the Type of Exercise Matter?

The number of calories you burn each day consists of your base metabolic rate plus the calories you burn from daily activity and this depends on the amount of metabolically active tissue you have (the amount of stuff you have in your body that actively burns calories).

A great way to achieve this is to build (or at least protect) the muscles we have in order to maximize the number of calories we are burning each day.

A 1999 study from Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise found that when people were put on a low-calorie diet 31 percent of the weight they lost was muscle. Other participants were put on a diet combined with cardio or endurance exercise. The addition of exercise allowed this group to hold onto a little more muscle but in the end, 22 percent of their weight loss was still muscle. But the addition of weight training proved to have a profound muscle sparing effect as the final group that added weight training held onto the most muscle and only 3 percent of their weight loss was muscle.

Exercise, and specifically weight training, allows you to hold onto more muscle while dieting, thus allowing you to burn more calories.

3. What Is the Best Combination of Diet and Exercise?

We’ve established that exercise, specifically resistance training, is needed to create the easiest calorie deficits while also protecting calorie burning muscle tissue. But does weight training pair with a particular diet work better than others?

Yes.

The pairing of weight training with a low carbohydrate diet is the best way to lose the most amount of fat for your efforts. A University of Connecticut study compared low-fat diets against low carbohydrate diets when combined with weight training. After 12 weeks, the low-fat team lost an average of 7.7 pounds of body fat, but the carbohydrate team torched an average of 17 pounds.

By combining a low carbohydrate diet with 3-4 days a week of weight training, you are going to be able to elicit the greatest amount of fat loss possible while also minimizing the loss of your calorie-burning muscles.

The Benefits Of Full Body Workouts

It’s time to ditch your old-school workouts and reap the rewards of a full-body workout.  Full body workout routines will have you building muscle and burning fat in much less time.

Here’s how they work…

More than likely, you’re used to seeing people perform isolated exercises that only work one muscle at a time. Not only are these body-builder style workout routines outdated, they’re so inefficient that you’ll have to put in A LOT of hours at the gym to get great results.

Luckily there’s a much faster, more efficient way to sculpt your body, getting you lean toned all over. Full-body workouts are made up of compound exercises (a.k.a full-body exercises).  These compound movements are sometimes referred to as “multi-joint” exercises because you’re using more than one joint while performing the exercise, improving your exercise efficiency by working entire muscle groups, not just one muscle at a time.

Here are just some of the benefits of full body workout routines:

  • Maximizes Your Fat Burning Potential– With full body workouts, you won’t just burn calories during your workout session,  you’ll continue to burn calories all day long—up to 48 hours afterwards! This effect is known as “EPOC” (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption) and is also called the “afterburn”.  Basically, your body goes into an energy deficit that requires more energy to be restored—and that mean more fat burning!
  • Train Less, Lose More– Working more muscles at one time means you’ll be working out at a higher intensity since more energy will be required.  So yes, you’ll be working out harder, but you’ll get out of the gym faster.  With full body workouts you’ll be working out smarter, not longer.
  • Promotes Muscular Balance & Reduces Risk of Injury– Full body exercises are functional, meaning you exercise the way your body really moves.  For example, squatting, bending over, pressing overhead are all movements we do in our everyday lives, so it makes sense to incorporate these “functional” exercises into your workouts in order to make you stronger and move better.  Working your full body this way promotes muscular symmetry, getting you strong and lean in all the right places.  Isolated exercises on the other hand can cause a muscular imbalance – and that can lead to injuries.
  • Works Your Core– Full body exercises are the real “ab” exercises.  They recruit all your stabilizer muscles to really tighten and tone your midsection including your upper and lower abdominals, and your obliques.  To top it off, full body exercises burn more fat than crunches, which means you’ll be revealing your abs sooner.
  • No Fancy Equipment Required– If you want to get lean and defined all you need are free weights.  Free weights are great because unlike machines, they don’t restrict your range of motion.  So whether you work out at a gym or at home, dumbbells or barbells (or both), and a pull up bar are all you need for a full-body fat blasting workout.
  • Great For All Ages and Fitness Levels –  Young or old, beginner or athlete, full body workouts are great for anyone who wants to improve their physique or even athletic performance.  Just be sure you learn to train with good form before increasing the amount of weights you lift.  And of course, you should always check with your doctor before starting any fitness regimen.

9 Foods To Avoid That Are High In Sugar

If you are trying to be healthy, lean and fit, you need to reduce your sugar intake. Sugar is the biggest culprit when it comes to weight gain, because of the high calorie content and the impact that sweets have on insulin (fat storing hormone) and blood sugar levels.

Sugar is also known to increase your aging process and promote inflammation in your body which has been associated with countless numbers of serious health problems including health disease, cancer and metabolic disorders.

Here is a list of so-called “healthy foods” that are laden with sugar:

  1. Low Fat Foods – The low-fat diet craze hit in the 1990s, and as a result there have been an increasing number of low-fat products. The problem is that when the fat is removed from the food, it usually doesn’t taste that great, so food manufacturers adjusted by adding more sugar. If you are buying anything with “low fat” on the label, then it’s almost guaranteed to have higher sugar content. In terms of health, it is better to choose natural ingredients with the full fat content, instead of low fat products.
  2. Breakfast Foods –Most commercial breakfast foods are filled with sugar. Even cereals that are labeled as “healthy” are usually sugar in disguise.
  3. Ketchup and Tomato Sauce – The problem is that most tomato-based foods are filled with sugar. In one tablespoon of ketchup, you are getting a full teaspoon of sugar and most people eat between three and four tablespoons at a time, which means they are getting three to four teaspoons of sugar.
  4. Salad Dressing – Many types of salad dressing contain high fructose corn syrup or some sort of sweetener. Instead of buying store-bought dressing, try making your own with avocado oil, vinegar, and fresh herbs. If you choose to buy store-bought dressing, always read the label first. Vinaigrette based dressings are usually lower in sugar than most of the other options.
  5. Meat Flavoring – We love adding flavour to our meat through condiments such as barbeque sauce and marinades, but most of these sauces have a lot of sugar added, sometimes as hidden ingredients. In fact, it is common for marinades and barbeque sauce to have high fructose corn syrup as the main ingredient!
  6. Granola Bars – Even though they might seem healthy, granola bars are usually loaded with sugar. Even protein bars with granolas, that are marketed as healthy will have added sugar in order to improve flavour. Look for common ingredients such as evaporated cane juice, brown sugar, agave, and honey, which are all sugar in disguise.
  7. Yogurt – Often considered a health food, yogurt is a big culprit for deceptive ingredients. Some types of yogurt actually have more sugar in a single serving than the amount of sugar that is in a serving of ice cream. Instead of flavoured yogurt, choose plain yogurt and mix in your own fruit instead.
  8. Coffee Drinks – Drinking sugared coffee will spike your blood sugar first thing in the morning, and set you up for a sugar crash later in the day. Order your coffee black or lattes without any sugar.
  9. Fast Food Sandwiches – When you’re in a rush, and you have to get a bite to eat, it might seem like a good idea to grab a sandwich to-go with all of the toppings, but there are many ingredients that go into fast food sandwiches that contain sugar. Often, sugar is baked into the bread, added into the meat, and the sauces are loaded with sugar.
The more processed the food is, the more likely that it will have sugar added in.  If you must have processed foods, make it a habit to read the labels on everything that you eat, so that you know each ingredient in the package.

But the best way to solve this dilemma is to eat only real whole foods.

Bad Fitness Habits To Change

Check out these 14 bad habits you should avoid to get better and faster fitness results.

1: STICK WITH THE PROGRAMME

Being an exercise enthusiast is one thing, but jumping from trend to trend could mean you never stick with anything long enough to see results. If you’ve found a new activity or class you love, make a commitment to be consistent with it for at least eight weeks to give it time to take effect.

2: FAILING TO PLAN OUT YOUR WORKOUTS

Too much of one type of exercise, whether it’s weight training, yoga or boxing, can cause overuse injuries and a plateau. When this happens the body adapts to the stimulus and fails to make any further exercise gains. So instead of guessing which workout you’ll do each day, take five minutes to write out your plans for the week.

3: ZONING OUT DURING YOUR WORKOUTS

It’s one thing to stay inspired with a great workout music mix, but if you are totally distracted during your sweat sessions, you may not be making the most of your workout time. Whether you are distracted by your phone or thoughts of your to-do list, not paying attention could limit the effectiveness and actually increase your risk of injury during your workouts.

4: NOT PUSHING HARD ENOUGH (OR PUSHING TOO HARD)

When it comes to the overall intensity of your workout sessions, strive to hit a level that’s “just right” for you. Keeping your intensity too low all the time may not be enough of a stimulus to produce results, while too much intensity can lead to overtraining. The key to success is finding the right balance of both. A good rule of thumb is to work to almost your max at least two or three workouts per week.

5: HOLDING YOUR BREATH

Exercisers who lift heavy weights or are focusing intently on grasping a new movement commonly hold their breath. Breathing properly during your workouts not only helps keep your blood pressure under control, it may also make you stronger. Try exhaling during the most challenging part of your movement — when you are lifting, not lowering, the weight. Breathing properly during your workouts could mean the difference between not finishing a set and powering through that final rep.

6: SKIPPING OUT ON COOLING DOWN OR STRETCHING

If you are guilty of wrapping up your gym session and skipping out on a cool down or stretch, you could be missing out. In addition to gradually lowering your heart rate, the cool down phase of your workout is the best time to perform static stretches since the muscles are properly warmed and therefore more pliable. Stretching performed after exercise helps to improve flexibility, posture and can also help to reduce stress.

7: DOING TOO MANY ISOLATION EXERCISES

A lot of bodybuilders focus on using one part of the body at a time with muscle isolation exercises, but the body is designed to move and use multiple muscles at the same time. The body performs five basic movement patterns: the squat, lunge, pushing, pulling and rotation. Focusing your workout program around these movement patterns, versus single muscle group exercises like biceps curls can help improve overall muscular development and burn calories more efficiently, leading to quicker results.

8: STRETCHING TO WARM UP

Static stretching, holding a stretch in one position without movement, before exercise can be dangerous. Stretching muscles when they are not completely warmed up could not only lead to muscle strains and pulls, it could also limit your performance during your workout. Your best bet is an active, dynamic warm up, which is a safer, more effective way to prepare the body for activity. Movements such as doing a short series of arm circles, leg swings, squats and star jumps before a workout helps to increase body temperature, enhance joint flexibility and increase muscle elasticity.

9: EATING WHAT & WHEN?

Your overall fitness is greatly affected by both what you eat and when you eat. Did you know that consuming a healthy snack could actually help you to perform better? Studies have shown that consuming carbohydrates before doing resistance training can actually help prolong a workout and refueling post-workout helps improve muscular strength, endurance and aids in recovery too.

10: CUTTING OUT CARBS COMPLETELY

Many exercisers and dieters think that restricting carbohydrates is the best and fastest way to lose weight. The truth is, carbohydrates are needed for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, as the body uses muscle glycogen as a primary fuel source when you work out. While it may be a good idea to eliminate unhealthy sources of carbohydrates, such as refined sugars and heavily processed foods, cutting all carbs could have a noticeable, negative effect on your workouts.

11: FORGETTING TO FOCUS ON TECHNIQUE

When it comes to exercise, quality is much more important than quantity! The best way to make the most of your workouts (especially with new activities), is to schedule a session or take a class with a qualified fitness professional and take the time to learn the proper form and technique. Better to do less reps with top technique!

12: AVOIDING HEAVY WEIGHTS (FOR FEAR OF BULKING UP)

If you’ve been steering clear of lifting heavy weights for fear of bulking up, you could be falling short of your goals. This is one of the primary reasons women fail to achieve their fitness goals and their best bodies as they simply do not have high enough testosterone levels to achieve a significant amount of muscle building. Building lean muscle by lifting weight that is heavy enough to make those last few reps hard to do without losing form is essential for weight maintenance — especially as we age and lose muscle year after year. The more muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate, which means you’ll burn more calories even at rest.

13: LIFTING WEIGHTS THAT ARE TOO HEAVY

Many men lift weights that are simply too heavy for them to handle safely. Training with a weight that is too heavy means you’ll have to use more momentum to lift it and actually decreases your muscles. That will not only dramatically decrease your results, it will also greatly increase the chance of injury. You’ll get more out of it by slightly reducing your load, focusing on your form and slowing down your movement.

14: EXERCISING DEHYDRATED

Several studies have shown that even mild dehydration, a water loss of about 2 percent, can negatively affect exercise performance, which is why it’s so crucial to make sure you are properly hydrated before and during your sweat sessions.