Should You Be Doing Ball Slams in Your Workouts?

Exercises like ball slams can be a great way to get fit while blowing off some steam — but some experts think the aggro move is just a dangerous waste of time and energy.

Harley Pasternak, a celebrity trainer to the likes of Adam Levine, isn’t a fan of ball slams. In a recent Instagram post, the trainer shared a video of a woman performing the movement, only to have the ball bounce back up and smash her in the face after slamming off the floor.

There are many exercises that have become popular in the fitness world that are neither useful or safe. The ball slam is without a doubt one of them. If you love this exercise, why? #dumbexercises #exercise

A post shared by Harley Pasternak MSc (@harleypasternak) on

“There are many exercises that have become popular in the fitness world that are neither useful or safe,” he captioned the post. “The ball slam is without a doubt one of them. If you love this exercise, why? #dumbexercises”

I was surprised to see Pasternak call out the ball slam in such a harsh way. Eric Salvador, CPT, head trainer at Fhitting Room in New York City, disagrees with him. “These exercises are functional movements and great for strengthening the body as a whole,” Salvador told MensHealth.com. “Throwing/slamming and lifting things from the ground to the overhead position are common everyday movements.”

Plus, Salvador said, the exercise can build strength and power in your abdominal, core, and back muscles, while also improving hand-eye coordination and building cardiorespiratory endurance.

When I contacted Pasternak to find out more about his feelings on ball slams, he didn’t budge his stance. “I think the way that most people do the exercise… is useless,” he said. “The number one reason people exercise is to change the way they look. The ball slam is primarily a performance-based exercise, [and] while I do think it might have a place in preparing athlete performance, I can think of plenty [of] other exercises that are more useful to train the muscles involved in a safer, more focused manner.”

The main beef Pasternak has centers on how people actually do the move. “The majority of people I see who do this exercise do it with incorrect technique and often compromise the health of their lower backs and upper shoulder muscles,” he said.

Salvador admitted that those injuries typically occur when people have poor lifting mechanics and attempt to power through the slams — like when someone uses their back to lift from the ground instead of their legs.

Pasternak also took issue with the equipment used to perform a ball slam, noting that most facilities — including Fhitting Room — instruct people to use medicine balls, not slam balls made specifically for the exercise.

Pasternak is not a fan of springy med balls, like this one.
Getty ImagesNeustockimages

The main difference is that slam balls are filled with sand that shifts constantly while you train with it (making it harder to grab, hold, or throw), while medicine balls, well, don’t. Medicine balls are often made out of springy rubber composite materials, so they’re easier to bounce. You’re not necessarily working as hard, and the ball could potentially spring back up and slam you in the face if your hand-eye coordination isn’t on point.

But Salvador argues that the Dynamax medicine balls he uses for the exercise, which are softer and larger in circumference, are helpful because they can be used in a variety of movements and range from 8 to 20 lbs.

Plus, depending on how hard you slam it, the ball may or may not bounce back up — meaning you either have to squat down to pick it up, or you have to work on your hand-eye coordination to snatch it on the return. Is that potentially dangerous? If you use bad form, sure — but it’s also an opportunity to grow stronger once you can perform the exercise properly.

How to Actually Do Ball Slams Safely

So, if you’re in the pro-ball slam camp, you need to incorporate the exercise into a routine safely. First, focus on technique. Here’s how Salvador says to do a ball slam correctly:

Make sure to choose your weight wisely. The most common mistake Salvador said he sees is over-eager slammers using a ball that’s too heavy. If you’re new to the exercise, opt for a lighter weight until you’re confident your form is on point, then build back up. Start by adding 3 sets of 5 slams to your workouts, then ramp up your reps as you master the movement.

Newbies should also look for a sand-filled slam ball or a medicine ball that won’t bounce back, like this Star Wars-themed Slam Ball from Onnit, so you can work on your reaction time separately. That way you can combine the two aspects of the exercise when you feel comfortable in both arenas, without risking your face to the wrath of an overly-bouncy ball.

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WATCH: Malaika Arora gives us motivation to hit the gym in this workout video

Malaika Arora was recently seen undertaking an intense Pilates and stretching session on a challenging contraption. The video shared by her trainer, Namrata Purohit, on her Instagram page is #fitnessgoals.

When it comes to her fitness regime, there is no challenge big enough for Malaika Arora. The grace and finesse that she brings to her workouts are quite similar to her exotic dance moves. Recently, her fitness trainer, Namrata Purohit, shared a video of the 44-year-old on her Instagram page, where the latter was seen stretching and strengthening on a challenging contraption.

With the clean cuts and controlled motions of a gymnast, the fitness enthusiast was seen combining her Pilates workout with anti-gravity exercises.

Watch the video here.

ALSO READ | Malaika Arora’s trainer gives a peek inside her Pilates sessions; we couldn’t have been more inspired

While including this exercise in your fitness regime can be quite challenging, you can build up to it by doing basic stretching exercises. Here are some benefits of the same.

* It lengthens tight muscles, making them loose and correcting posture.

* It enables flexibility by improving your range of motion. This makes the joints more flexible and reduces the likelihood of injuries.

* Stretching relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. The longer you work out, the more energy you burn and this increases your endurance and stamina.

* Stretching before and after a workout gives your muscles time to relax. Increases in blood flow increase nutrient supply to the muscles and relieve soreness in the muscles after a workout.

* Stretching can help prevent the hardening of arteries, helping avoid heart diseases.

Motivated to hit the gym yet? Let us know in the comments below.

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I Tried a Naked Yoga Class—and Actually Loved How It Made Me Feel

I’ve done a lot of strange things in the name of journalistic intrigue—run-commute for two weeks, become a morning person, brush my teeth with charcoal, put my Tinder profile in the hands of a sexologist. So when I recently announced to a table of 12 over sushi that I’d be taking a coed naked yoga class, the crowd was less than surprised that I’d sign up for something so, well, out there.

But the truth is, I didn’t sign up for naked yoga because an editor suggested it. I signed up for naked yoga because I wanted to be the type of person who signs up for naked yoga.

My dinnermates chirped about who they thought that type of person would be: “A bunch of hippy-dippy liberals with bushes!” said one friend. “Big dicks. Only dudes with big dicks would take naked yoga,” said another.

I pictured something a little less Woodstock and a little more empowering. I signed up anticipating free-spirited, bold urbanites who didn’t let anything hold them back–not their free-flying bits, not the wafting stank of crotch sweat, and definitely not a broken heart!

See, my confidence had taken a mega-hit after getting broken up with earlier this summer. While journaling and stacks on stacks on stacks of self-help books were serviceable, naked yoga seemed to promise immediate gratification. “Ready to open the door to self-kindness and healing?” the website of Naked in Motion asks. “We offer you the opportunity to shed your clothing, and along with it, judgments about your appearance, limiting personal beliefs, and critical self-talk.”

Um, hell yeah! I thought when I read the class description. Ready to embrace my inner so-over-my-ex goddess, I reserved my mat.

But in the two hours leading up to the class, excitement and self-congratulations at my own daring were replaced with fear and self-annoyance: What the F had I gotten myself into?

I messaged my gym-mates and texted my nudist-beach-loving buds.

Dude… should I have gotten a wax?

I packed turquoise underwear, is that embarrassing? Should I have packed black, instead?

WTF do you wear to arrive to a naked yoga class? I’m wearing a black dress and a jean-jacket–does that sound too try-hard?

Their responses were mostly the same: “OMG, I can’t believe you’re doing this. Let me know how it goes.” At 6:50 p.m. sharp, when the doors to class would open, I got in the elevator that led me up 11 flights with a middle-aged man in khakis.

When I got into the space, I realized my expectations had been a little off. Instead of immediately stripping when I got in the door, I gave Willow, the founder of Naked in Motion, my name, and joined my classmates who sat fully clothed and crossed-legged in neat rows facing the windows.

Instead of confident goddesses in Beyoncé-inspired flower crowns like I’d expected, there were two women and 20 or so men wearing everything from linen pants and T-shirts to workout gear to full-on business suits (like, with a tie!).

I sat on my mat and considered leaving. Around me, people made small talk while I thought about crying as I realized men in their late 40s and 50s would be seeing me naked. But I knew I’d be upset with myself if I wussed out now.

Willow (and the instructor she was training) started by telling us about the studio’s boundaries and rules: no cruising, no body compliments or comments, no touching without consent, no staring. She also explained what to do if you got an erection (take child’s pose) and reiterated a rule which I’d read online: Women and transgender folks had the option to keep their underwear on.

After the rules were read, we got to the naked part. I regretted wearing a dress; I’d be completely bare in a single swoop. I stalled by taking off my jewelry (which, BTW, totally unnecessary), braiding my hair, and unbuckling my sandals. I tossed aside my jean jacket and glanced around the room, realizing I was the only person still clothed. Off came the dress, then my bra. I decided to keep my underwear on, in all its turquoise glory. The whole thing was remarkably un-sexy and, truthfully, felt a bit like disrobing for a gynecological exam.

Then, we got moving. Through the slow, core-focused flow, my thoughts weren’t focused on the way my boobs hung, the slight smell of sweat, or the fact that there were two dozen dangling penises around me. Instead, I did what I do during CrossFit: I turned my attention to my muscles. I focused on activating my core, glutes, and hip flexors with each twist and bend, and I made sure to breathe.

As a retired rugby player turned CrossFit athlete, the definition of my shoulders and arms is pretty noticeable. At least twice a day a barista, a passerby, or coworker will compliment or mention how swole I am or how strong I look. I’m used to people staring at my body when I’m in clothes.

But in class, not once did I feel sexualized by the men (or women) around me, not once did I catch a stranger glancing at my nipple piercing, peering at my rear, or taking inventory of my muscular physique. And I freaking loved it. When your very presence and body has the tendency to garner attention, getting none felt pretty damn incredible. Here, I wasn’t the CrossFitting writer or the bulky girl who orders iced coffee. I was just another body doing yoga.

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During warrior pose, I screwed my heels into the floor, opened my chest, and felt like a bold badass. During forward fold, I felt the stretch in my hamstrings and closed my eyes, oblivious to the rows of exposed assholes in front of me. During pigeon pose (which truthfully was the pose that made me thankful I’d kept my bottoms on), I leaned into the stretch, feeling uniquely one with this (male-dominant) group of uninhibited strangers around me.

After we said Namaste, some stayed nude and chatted, some opted for just their briefs, while others (like me) got dressed quickly. But the buzz was the same. All around me folks said how free they felt, how unembarrassed.

Sure, from a practical standpoint it’s easier to move without clothes; that’s why my CrossFit uniform is booty shorts and a sports bra, after all. But that’s not really what Naked in Motion is about. In some ways, naked yoga is exactly what it sounds like: a 100% in-the-buff yoga experience. But it’s also so much more than that. It’s this super-empowering mix of power and vulnerability, fear and courage.

Am I permanently more confident and less heartbroken than I was before the class? No. But taking a coed naked yoga class isn’t something I would have done a few months ago. I’m proud of myself for getting so far outside my comfort zone. Nine out of 10 times, I’d probably choose sushi dinner with friends over naked yoga, but the next time I start to miss that “just another body in a room” feeling, you can bet I’ll be back on the mat.

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This 4-Week Workout Program Builds Muscle at Any Age

If you’re over 40, sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle, is starting to shrink your biceps, and your VO2 max is in decline. Oh, and you want to spend more time with your family. More than ever, you need a muscle-building approach that utilizes new science but doesn’t trap you in the gym for hours.

You get that with MA40, Men’s Health’s new workout video. Designed by Activlab trainer David Jack, who’s 45 but can still do handstands with ease (that’s him showing off above), MA40 is designed for busy 40-plus guys looking to get in peak shape.

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But you don’t have to be a Gen Xer to love it: Jack teaches you to twist and rotate, not just lift weights. Men of all ages will handle resistance from new stances, building next-level balance and core stability. You’ll add muscle, strength, and athleticism with Jack’s mobility flows, push-pull supersets, and no-rest circuits.

Power through this workout three times a week for four weeks for flexibility and a shredded core. You’ll feel younger, too!

1. Warmup

Bear Hold Mobility Flow

Ben Goldstein



4 minutes

Move through each of these steps, working to be as smooth and controlled as possible. Hold each position long enough to inhale and exhale once. Repeat the entire sequence as many times as you can in 4 minutes, being careful not to rush through any motion.

2. Back Strength Superset

Do 3 rounds of this circuit. Rest as needed so you can stay relaxed; you shouldn’t feel wiped out when you’re done.

Seated Band Row

Ben Goldstein

8 to 10 reps

Sit on the ground with your legs straight. A medium-heavy band should be around your heels, its handles in your hands. Keep your chest up and tighten your core. Look straight ahead. This is the start. Pull the handles toward your rib cage, focusing on pulling with the muscles in your back, not just your biceps. Hold for a moment, then return to the start. Do 8 to 10 reps.

Bear Plank Sit-Through

Ben Goldstein

8 reps

Start in bear-plank position: hands below your shoulders, knees below your hips, shins parallel to the ground. Lift your left hand off the ground, bringing it toward the left side of your rib cage. As you do this, lift your right leg and rotate your torso so it faces your left side. Tap your right foot on the ground, return to the start, and repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep; do 8.

3. Pull and Press Series

Set a timer for 8 minutes. Superset the two exercises for as many rounds as you can in that time. Focus on form during each exercise; take a few moments to gather yourself and recover between supersets if needed.

Split Stance Alternating Row

Ben Goldstein

12 reps

Stand holding medium-weight dumbbells, with your right foot in front of your left. Hinge forward slightly at your hips; let the dumbbells hang naturally as you do. This is the starting position. Without turning your torso, row the left dumbbell toward your left hip; pause, then return to the starting position. Repeat on the right side. That’s 1 rep; do 12.

Dumbbell Rotational Overhead Press

Ben Goldstein

12 reps

Stand holding a medium-weight dumbbell at your shoulders, hands gripping the weights, not the handle. Your knees should be slightly bent and your core tight. Press the dumbbell upward as you rotate your torso to the right; you’ll need to turn your hips to do so. Return to the starting position, pause, then repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep; do 12.

4. Biceps and Core

Work through 3 rounds of this final finishing circuit, doing each exercise for the required time. Aim to do as many reps as possible, but don’t sacrifice form.

Alternating Dumbbell Curl

Ben Goldstein

20 seconds

Stand holding medium-weight dumbbells, palms facing your thighs, knees slightly bent. Curl the right dumbbell up and toward your right shoulder, rotating your palm toward your shoulder as you do. Pause, then lower the dumbbell. Repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep; do reps for 20 seconds.

Bicycle Crunch

Ben Goldstein

30 seconds

Lie on your back, legs in the air, shins parallel to the ground. Lift your shoulder blades slightly, and keep your hands behind your head. This is the start. Tuck your right knee in and bring your left elbow to touch it. Hold, return to the start, then repeat on the other side. Do reps for 30 seconds.

Resistance Band Hammer Curl

Ben Goldstein

20 seconds

Stand on a medium-weight resistance band, grasping its ends, and tighten your core. Keeping your palms facing your torso, curl the band upward. Stop once your elbows start coming forward; return to the start. Do this for 20 seconds; start with quick reps, slowing down as you start to fatigue.

5. Cooldown

4 minutes+

Take at least 4 minutes to cool down, lightly stretching your arms and back. Start by standing straight then folding at your waist and touching your toes. Stand back up and reach your arms overhead, then bend your elbows. Grab your right elbow with your left hand and gently pull your right arm toward your head, feeling a stretch in your triceps; repeat on the other side. Repeat the entire sequence several times.

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Is It OK to Wear Multiple Fitness Brands at the Same Time?

Eric Rosati/Men's Health

Welcome to Don’t Be That Guy, where we answer all of your most pressing, weirdly specific questions about what type of behavior is — and isn’t — OK at the gym.

A few weeks ago, my brother called with a question that he clearly believed to be of the utmost urgency. “What’s the protocol for mixing and matching activewear?” he asked. “Is it OK to wear multiple fitness brands at once?”

Almost immediately, I responded with a horrified, “No!” But truth be told, it was a pretty visceral reaction. I couldn’t quite explain it, but something about pairing a swoosh-emblazoned Nike shirt with Adidas’ signature striped sweats seemed…well…wrong.

On the other hand, I’ve always felt that rocking the same brand from head to toe has always felt like the epitome of cool. When I’m wearing, say, Adidas from head-to-toe, I feel totally put-together, which makes me feel like I can conquer any obstacle and do absolutely anything — and when I’m hyping myself up to log some miles or hit the weights, I need every ounce of confidence that you can get.

I’m not the only person who feels this way. When I informally polled my friends, many of them said that not only did they vastly prefer repping an individual brand at the gym, but they felt weird mixing and matching brands. Like me, their reasoning wasn’t really rooted in solid logic. Some explained that they were “just following the rules” — though they weren’t quite sure who came up with those rules in the first place.

So is it actually a faux pas to mix and match Under Armor compression leggings with a Reebok shirt? Or is that just the uber-effective fitness apparel marketing machine at work? And, perhaps most importantly: where does the idea that we had to be “loyal” to one brand come from in the first place?

We know for a fact that what we wear to the gym plays a role in how we feel about working out. According to a recent survey of 2,000 gym-goers, 58% said that putting on workout gear is the ultimate source of motivation, and 85% reported that having “cool-looking” gym clothes gave them more confidence to get off the couch.

Although the research is mixed on whether or not what you wear to the gym can actually boost your performance, that confidence boost is invaluable. And for many people who are serious about fitness, this can translate into the feeling that our confidence is highest when we’re decked out in our favorite brand head-to-toe.

“There’s a tendency for brand loyalty, but it’s not universal,” says Daniel Freedman, co-CEO of fitness startup BurnAlong. “It depends on the engagement of the gym-goer. People put on personas when they work out, and their uniform parallels that.” On some level, we clearly believe that if we can look like Nike Master Trainers head-to-toe, maybe we can perform like one, too — and this manifests itself in what’s known in the marketing world as “brand loyalty.”

Nike

Extreme brand loyalty is usually the result of two factors. The first and most obvious factor is the customer’s satisfaction with the company’s products. The second, more amorphous factor is that the customer identifies with the company’s values and image.

That’s especially the case if that brand-consumer relationship started at a young age and was continually reinforced over time, says Vassilis Dalakas, professor of marketing at California State University San Marcos.

“People who were kids or teens when Nike introduced Michael Jordan and ‘Just Do It’ are more likely to embrace Nike as a brand that you use to push yourself and to overcome challenges,” says Dalakas. “As a result, they stay loyal to it, [despite having] other options.”

“I love my Americanos, but they don’t make me feel like Serena Williams. Wearing whatever Serena Williams is wearing makes me feel like Serena Williams.”

Mike Turner, the founder of the Atlanta-based gym Unity Fitness, can attest to this firsthand. “Growing up as an avid football and basketball player, everything had to be Nike,” he told me. “That was the case for all of my friends who played the same sports. At the time, all we saw on TV was Nike, because nearly all of the prestigious football and basketball teams had Nike sponsorships.” Decades of being subjected to brands’ multimillion dollar marketing campaigns has led us all to become brand snobs, whether we realize it or not.

That’s especially true for fitness brands, who rely on celebrities like Jordan to help sell products, explains Matt Johnson, associate dean and professor of psychology at Hult International Business School in San Francisco. “Athletic and fitness wear companies are unique in the degree to which they utilize and rely on athlete endorsements,” he said. “These celebrities and icons effectively personify the brand and galvanize their following.”

If a brand has made all the right marketing choices and sponsorship deals, the payoff can be immense, both literally (the global market for sports and fitness clothing is projected to reach $231.7 billion by 2024, according to Global Industry Analysts, Inc.) and figuratively.

That’s why brands like Nike and Adidas foster a different kind of brand loyalty than one might have for, say, Target or Starbucks. I love my Americanos, but they don’t make me feel like Serena Williams. Wearing whatever Serena Williams is wearing, however, makes me feel like Serena Williams.

It might sound weird to use words like “relationship” or “loyalty” in relation to something like a multibillion-dollar corporation. But it actually makes perfect sense, says Dalakas: “Why we become loyal to a brand is quite similar to why we become loyal to a person,” Dalakas says. “It comes down mostly to trust.”

Take, for example, Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear brand well-known for its progressive politics and environmental activism. The California-based outfitter has about 3.5 million followers on Instagram, in large part, Dalakas speculates, because “wearing that brand communicates to others that you agree with and support these practices because you have similar values.”

In other words, rocking a Patagonia fleece with your Patagonia board shorts isn’t just an expression of how much you like the product. It’s an expression of how you see yourself — or, perhaps more accurately, how you want the rest of the world to see you.

The frequently open High Sierra weather window. Photo: Tad McCrea

A post shared by Patagonia (@patagonia) on

The frequently open High Sierra weather window. Photo: Tad McCrea

A post shared by Patagonia (@patagonia) on

Of course, none of this necessarily means that rocking one brand consistently looks particularly good. Wearing head-to-toe swooshes or stripes is probably overkill, says Chad Moeller, a Wisconsin-based personal trainer.

“If you are branded from head to toe, you could come across a little too strong,” Moeller told me. “You will lose some of your personal identity. A brand should complement your personal identity, not overpower it.”

So the next time you’re contemplating your #GymFit, just remember that it all comes down this: While it may feel strange for the Type As of the world (and/or anyone who’s been subject to decades of targeted branding), it’s totally fine to mix swooshes and stripes and whatever other logo you desire.

But at the same time, if you find it tough to stray from a certain brand of running shoes, or a specific type of moisture-wicking fabric, that makes sense too. Because brands like Nike, Adidas, and Patagonia haven’t just built a customer base — they’ve built a tribe. And if you’ve found your tribe, why would you ever leave it?

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[UPDATED] Fertility App Blamed for 37 Accidental Pregnancies Is Now FDA-Approved

After 37 women who allegedly relied on the European Union-certified fertility app Natural Cycles as a non-hormonal method of birth control ended up with unwanted pregnancies in the last quarter of 2017, according to the Swedish news agency SVT, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the marketing of this app as a method of contraception, according to an August 10 press release.

The app, which is available on Google Play and Apple’s App store, has more than 500,000 users in 161 countries, according to data from Natural Cycles. Its technology relies on inputing daily body-temperature readings from a thermometer to predict a user’s ovulation, since body temperature rises slightly when your ovaries release an egg. Its algorithm also accounts for cycle irregularities and sperm survival rates, while an optional ovulation test detects the hormones released one to two days before ovulation.

In theory, if you avoid unprotected sex for about five days before ovulation and about two days after, you can avoid getting pregnant, according to Planned Parenthood. The healthcare provider estimates tracking fertility using body temperature, changes in cervical mucus, or by estimating dates of ovulation based on when you’re expecting your period (i.e., Fertility Awareness Methods or FAMs) can prevent pregnancy 76 to 88 percent of the time. By comparison, when used perfectly, which isn’t always realistic IRL, condoms are 98 percent effective; IUDs are 99 percent effective; and birth control pills are 99 percent effective, according to Planned Parenthood.

The makers of Natural Cycles claim the app prevents unwanted pregnancy just 93 percent of the time, which could be why 37 reported app users got pregnant and sought an abortion between September and December 2017 at Södersjukhuset Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, according to SVT.

“Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly,” said Terri Cornelison, M.D., Ph.D., assistant director for the health of women in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health in a statement. “But women should know that no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”

In a January 2018 statement, a Natural Cycles spokesperson expressed the same sentiment: “No contraception is 100 percent effective, and unwanted pregnancies is an unfortunate risk with any contraception… As our user base increases, so will the amount of unintended pregnancies coming from Natural Cycles app users, which is an inevitable reality.”

To increase the effectiveness of any FAM, Planned Parenthood recommends combing methods by, for instance, monitoring your cervical mucus in addition to using a temperature-tracking app such as Natural Cycles. At the end of the day, FAMs still don’t work as well as other types of birth control—something to keep in mind when deciding how to best protect yourself.

Update 8/14: This post has been updated to reflect the FDA’s approval of Natural Cycles.

Follow Elizabeth on Instagram and Twitter.

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The 9 Best Ab Exercises, According to Women Who Love Their Strong Cores

Sure, “a sculpted stomach” or “six-pack abs” are common goals. But the fact is, a strong core—the muscles that make up everything from the tops of the shoulders to the bottom of the pelvis—is much more important than simply having visible definition. (In fact, it’s entirely possible to have a very strong core, without those six-pack lines, due to things like body fat percentage, genetics, eating habits, or where you are in your menstrual cycle).

“A strong core is a balanced one, where low abs, upper abs, obliques, and your back muscles all work together to provide stability, safe movement patterns, and strength,” explains certified personal trainer Cameron Norsworthy, trainer at Equinox and Yoga Room NYC. “Having a strong core means that you can support your daily life (in and outside of the gym) with confidence and comfort, and without pain or risk of injury,” adds Rachel Turner, founder of Strong Chicks Rock.

So what does it take to build a strong core, exactly? Below, Norsworthy, Turner, and seven other women–some who work out for a living (because why wouldn’t you get the scoop from a pro?) and some who don’t–share their go-to core-building moves.

Hollow Hold Kettlebell or Dumbbell Press

“I’m a full-time Strongman competitor and part-time rugby player, so for me having a strong core is all about stability. My go-to move for core strength is something called Hollow Hold Straight Out. When you’re ready to begin, lie on your back and squeeze everything tight. Press your lower back into the ground, and slightly lift your legs and upper back so that your shoulder blades are off the floor. From there, engage your abs and use one arm to press a five- to 10-pound dumbbell or kettlebell away from you for about five to eight reps, then switch arms. This core movement will help develop overall core strength and, more importantly, stability.”

—Summer Barnes, Strongman competitor and rugby player

Hip Thrusts

Tiny dancer. Big city. 📸: @martsromero

A post shared by Adele J-G (@adelejackson26) on

“Having a strong core is everything. Forget aesthetics, forget having a six pack. The core is called a ‘core’ for a reason: It’s the center of all movement. As a CrossFit coach, I ask my athletes, ‘How can you be strong and secure in any movement if your foundation is weak?’ The answer: Best to get the building blocks in place! One of my favorite exercises for core strength is the Hip Thrust. To do it, lie flat on your back, bend your knees at a 90-degree angle with your feet on the floor, then thrust your hips off the floor and push your heels into the ground. Then, lower back down. That’s one rep. To make it harder, don’t allow your butt to reach the floor between reps; instead, let it hover above the ground about an inch or two. Trust me, a few sets of 10 to 20 reps will get the lower abs burning real good.”

—Adele Jackson-Gibson, CrossFit L1 trainer and fitness writer

Bear Hold

Someone recently told me that I gained weight and their remark is not incorrect. ⠀ I did gain weight and I have no attachment to it other than knowing I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been AND the happiest. ⠀ I didn’t gain weight because I let go of myself. I gained weight because I let go of unimportant things—the obsessive behavior around food, my body, and my workouts. ⠀ I redefined what holds significance for MY life and quite frankly being smaller isn’t one of them. ⠀ I asked myself: Will weighing 10lbs less *really* make my happier? No. Will it make my healthier? Not really. Will it make people love me more? No. Will it make me love myself more? No. ⠀ The only thing it will do is keep me from my social life and I want no part of it. ⠀ Taking care of my body is important to me and I still do that, but having a social life is *just* as important. And if that means gaining a few extra pounds because I’m not holding myself hostage to my diet, then I’m okay with that. ⠀ I love my body and I love the way I’m living my life. Weight gain is sometimes necessary and it’s not always a bad thing. ⠀ #breakthestandard #lovemyshape #empowerher #getbulky #thiccc #enough

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“To be completely honest, I have a love-hate relationship with this exercise. I love it because it’s absolutely killer for building a resilient core, improving postural imbalances, and strengthening both the pelvis and hips (which is why I add it into my own routine and to the routines of my athletes as well). But I hate it because it’s really, really hard! Here’s how to do it: Get on all fours like you’re about to crawl with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Push the floor away from you with your hands and reach your back to the ceiling while tucking your hips and pelvis. Bring your toes up underneath you, and bring your knees about an inch off the floor. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds while taking full yet slow inhales and exhales throughout the movement.”

—Devon Day Moretti, personal trainer

Half-Kneeling Pallof Press

When women ask me “Rachel, what’s the quickest way I can lose weight and also feel normal around food and also feel confident in the gym and also love the shit out of my body?” I have without a doubt the most unsexy answer ever: ⠀ 1️⃣ Ditch diets, for real. Delete your apps and trackers + throw away the scale. 2️⃣ Consistently show up to do the work to unlearn diet culture and rewrite your food + body narritive even when it’s scary AF. 3️⃣Get support. You *can* do it alone, I did. But it took me 4 years and was the hardest time in my life. Get yoself a qualified coach or therapist. Not a personal trainer with a diet plan—a coach who specializes in food freedom and breaking up with dieting. ⠀ That is the brutally honest path to freedom. Incredibly unsexy? Yes. Worth it ? 100000% yes. ⠀ 7 years ago I was you. I was scared shitless to go to the gym. One time I literally walked into the gym, accidentally used a machine the wrong way, and was so embarrassed I walked out and NEVER walked back in 🙈🤷🏼‍♀️ I was binging alone in secret, hated my body and was buying into a new trainer, workout plan and meal plan every month thinking that once I got my willpower down, I’d be “better”. ⠀ Once I learned that the solution to food and body freedom wasn’t in a cookie cutter plan, I laid out exactly what I wish I had found to find body peace, and turned it into @strongchicksrock. ⠀ 💫24/7 access to a coach. With a 90% failure rate in self paced course, I knew the 1:1 support was a no brainier. 💫Custom movement plans designed to fit into a clients life. No 2 hour in the gym-scary-hard-intimidating workouts. Movement focused on helping you feel strong AF in your body. Allowing you to cultivate a relationship with your body and strength that honors your schedule and gives you consistency. 💫Step by step approach to breaking up with dieting so you learn how to feel normal AF around food without weighing/tracking/and saying no to food you love. 💫No BS self care practices made just for you—because you’re a busy ass woman who deserves body love without stress. ⠀ If you want to dive into your unsexy but totally fucking worth it journey of finding your own food and body freedom, head

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“For core strength, my all-time favorite exercise is the Half-Kneeling Pallof Press. To try it, start on the ground in a half-kneeling position, and grab a cable or resistance band that’s looped around a squat rig or column. Grab onto the handle with your outside hand, then wrap your inside hand around it, too. When you’re ready to begin, press from the midline of the body, so right from your chest, and extend your arms out, straight in front of you. Pause for two seconds, then bring it back in. That’s one rep! I typically go for 10 to 12 reps.”

—Rachel Turner, founder of Strong Chicks Rock

Back Squat

“It is important for me to have a strong core, not just for heavy lifts but also to protect myself for the future, especially when having kids. I want to be able to recover faster post-pregnancy. My favorite core exercise is a compound movement that makes you engage that core every single time you get under that weight! To try it, simply put the plates (or no plates, if you’re a beginner!) on the barbell, and then get that barbell on your shoulders. To begin, pull down on the bar to engage your lats, squeeze your core, and sit your hips back while keeping all of your weight in your heels. Then, explode back to the starting position. That’s one rep.”

—Alexa Felipe, CrossFit athlete with a BS in exercise physiology

V-Ups

“As a CrossFit athlete who does aerial yoga, a strong core keeps me safe during anything from lifting weights to balancing on somebody else’s palm. My favorite ab exercise for my core is the V-Up, which is an exercise I started as a little kid in gymnastics and still love to this day. It engages your entire core from upper abs to those hard to target lower abs. Basically, you start lying down on the ground and then simultaneously ‘fold’ your body into a V shape by bringing your toes and legs up toward the ceiling and lifting your shoulders and reaching your hands to your toes. Trust me, you’ll feel this one in as little as three or four reps!”

—Amy Winn, recreational CrossFitter and aerial yogi

Hollow Holds

“A strong core is important for me for two reasons. First, it helps me keep good posture during a long day of coaching. And second, it keeps me safe during my own barbell-centric training. I love Hollow Holds and Hollow Rocks because honestly, nothing makes my core work harder. To try it, lie on your back. Keep your lower back flat on the ground and raise your shoulder blades and legs. Think about pushing your belly button toward your spine as you do this. Ideally, you’ll keep your legs together and point your toes to the ceiling, while your arms stay locked over head. Hold this position. That’s a Hollow Hold! To make it harder, practice rocking back and forth, which is called a Hollow Rock!”

—Stephany Bolivar, CrossFit L1 trainer and certified personal trainer

Crunches

“Training all layers and angles of the abdominals is vital. I find that I get the most immediate definition in my abs when I focus on my obliques. My go-to move? A crunch variation. To try it, stack your knees together. Drop them both over to one side, bring your hands behind your head, and crunch your head, neck, and shoulders to the center. Start with 20 to 25 per side. The constant rotation in your spine engages both internal and external obliques!”

—Cameron Norsworthy, certified personal trainer and fitness instructor

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Dead Bug Pallof Press

“The Dead Bug Pallof Press is a hybrid of my two favorite core exercises. This movement trains the core for maximal performance both in and out of the gym. The primary responsibility of the core muscles is to stabilize the spine, particularly when the arms and legs are doing their own thing. It’s responsible for keeping your back healthy and your body from crumpling in half when you’re walking down the street or cranking out squats to overhead presses. Meanwhile, the Pallof press develops anti-rotational core strength, another huge component to stability and spinal health. Put the two moves together and you have the consummate ‘I’m showing my body so much love right now’ core exercise.”

—K. Aleisha Fetters, certified strength and conditioning specialist, strength coach, and fitness writer

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Teenagers with substance abuse likely to die prematurely than peers

Adolescents with serious conduct and substance use problems are five times more likely to die prematurely than their peers, a recent study has found. The study also suggests that while drug and alcohol use among adolescents draws more attention, antisocial behaviour, including rule-breaking tendencies, may be a more powerful predictor of early mortality.

Lead author Richard Border said, “This research makes it clear that youth identified with conduct problems are at extreme risk for premature mortality, beyond that which can be explained by substance use problems, and in critical need of greater resources.”

For the study, Border and his colleagues looked at death rates among 1,463 adolescents who had been arrested or referred to counselling for substance use problems. They also followed 1,399 of their siblings and a control group of 904 adolescents of similar age and demographic background.

The researchers decided to do the study after while following up with subjects from the ongoing Genetics of Antisocial Drug Dependence study launched in 1993, they made a troubling discovery: Several had already died. They used mortality data from the National Death Index to determine how many. Substance-related deaths were the most common, along with traffic-related deaths, suicides and deaths resulting from assaults. Co-author John Hewitt said, “To see detailed, hard data from a cohort of adolescents, makes tangible the dangers that these youth are facing as they go into adulthood.”

When the researchers further analysed the data, they were surprised to discover that while both conduct disorder and substance use severity was associated with increased mortality risk, conduct disorder was a more powerful independent risk factor. As the study focused on youth whose conduct was serious enough they had been arrested or referred to therapy, it’s uncertain to what degree the findings apply to the broader population. The full findings are present in the journal Addiction.

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First Published: Aug 12, 2018 10:54 IST

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Checking emails after work could increase anxiety and harm your health

Employer expectations of work email monitoring during non-working hours are harmful to the health of not only employees but their family as well. William Becker, a Virginia Tech professor in the Pamplin College of Business, conducted a new study, “Killing me softly: electronic communications monitoring and employee and significant-other well-being,” which showed that such expectations result in anxiety, which adversely affects the health of employees and their families.

The study revealed that employees don’t have to spend actual time on work in their off-hours to experience the detrimental effects. Just the expectations of availability increase strain for employees and others even without the actual engagement of the employees in work during non-work hours.

Becker said, “The insidious impact of ‘always on’ organisational culture is often unaccounted for or disguised as a benefit — increased convenience, for example, or higher autonomy and control over work-life boundaries.”

Becker’s research interests also include work emotion, turnover, organisational neuroscience, and leadership.

A few other studies have shown that the pressure of increased job demands leads to tension in family relationships when the employee is unable to fulfill non-work roles at home. According to Becker, policies that decrease expectations to monitor electronic communication outside of work would be ideal. The solution may also include establishing boundaries or time limits on when electronic communication is acceptable during off-hours by setting up off-hour email schedules when a person is available to respond.

He also said that if a job requires email availability, such expectations should be communicated clearly as a part of job responsibility. Such steps could reduce anxiety in employees and increase understanding from their family members. And for employees, they could practice mindfulness, which has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and tension.

Becker’s study will be presented at the Academy of Management annual meeting in Chicago.

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First Published: Aug 11, 2018 11:02 IST

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Death Cab For Cutie's Frontman Is a Hardcore Ultramarathon Runner

When Death Cab for Cutie frontman Benjamin Gibbard discovered ultrarunning in 2011, he couldn’t have been more unprepared.

Gibbard had completed his first marathon in Los Angeles earlier in the year, a major accomplishment he then considered to be the pinnacle of human endurance. So when he registered for a 30k (about 18.6 mile) race at San Francisco’s Marin Headlands, the indie rock icon assumed he wouldn’t be as challenged by the shorter distance.

He was wrong.

“I showed up at the race, and it’s this massive green space, just hundreds of thousands of acres of trails and stuff,” Gibbard told MensHealth.com. “I turn to some guy and I’m like, ‘Hey, where’s this race going? The road goes the other direction?’ He looked at me like I was an idiot. ‘Dude, we’re going up there, it’s a trail race.’ I was like, what?”

Took a leisurely 22 mile stroll along the PCT today with Mr. James Varner. Swam in an alpine lake, kicked it with some marmots. #cascadia

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Trail and ultrarunners traverse terrain you’ll never find on standard city marathon courses, following paths through hills, mountains, and everything else the great outdoors can throw at them. Races range from 30k events to grueling tests of will and stamina of up to 100 miles and more, which can take more than 24 hours to finish (a seasoned veteran now, Gibbard’s best 100 mile time is 25:18:28).

That first 30k run was a rough one for Gibbard. “I was wrecked at the end of it,” he admitted. “But I was totally hooked. I was like, what is this sport?”

Now, seven years and thousands of trail miles later, with Death Cab for Cutie’s ninth studio album Thank You For Today ready for release, Gibbard shared how running has affected his life as a musician.

Running to Change

After almost a decade of near-constant touring, Gibbard found himself in a fitness rut back in 2007. “I remember being on this elliptical and thinking about how boring this was, and then looking over at the treadmill and thinking, ‘You know, I wonder if I can run 2 miles,’” he said. “It was just going to start like that, it was never an, ‘I’m going to change my life’ type of moment.”

Even though he didn’t make a conscious decision to change his behavior at that point, Gibbard would eventually leave the rock and roll lifestyle behind, getting sober and refocusing his priorities. By 2011, he had set himself on the path to ultrarunning.

I killed this guy 9 years ago today and he's never coming back. #soberlife

A post shared by Benjamin Gibbard (@gibbstack) on

I killed this guy 9 years ago today and he’s never coming back. #soberlife

A post shared by Benjamin Gibbard (@gibbstack) on

Gibbard threw himself totally into the sport, finishing his first 50-mile race in 2013, then his first 100km and 100-miler the next year. “I’m kind of an off or on kind of person,” Gibbard admitted.

To even train to compete in ultra races, you most certainly have to be on; the lead-up regimen alone calls for hours-long sessions of running dozens of miles per week. That’s a rough task for anyone, let alone the frontman of an internationally-renowned touring rock band. Gibbard has to fit his runs in on the road, finding trails and courses along the way.

There’s no way to be cocky. Because you’re gonna get got. You’re gonna get humbled.

But for Gibbard, all the hard work is worth it. He considers his training sessions a crucial opportunity to shift his focus away from his work.

“[Running] has provided me a way to remove myself from the creative process for periods of time,” he reflected. “There was a time in which music was pretty much the only thing in my life. If I was working on a piece of music, I never put it aside…I feel like I’ve gotten so much better perspective on my work when I’m allowing myself to walk away from it and then come back with fresh ears.”

Gibbard performing with Death Cab For Cutie in 2016.
Getty ImagesThomas Cooper

To step away from music even further, he prefers NPR and baseball podcasts to playlists on long runs. Gibbard says he avoids tunes because “music marks time,” which can drag on during a full day on the trail. One example of his favorite programming: A 12-hour Star Wars radio play from his childhood in the early ’80s he put on 30 miles into his first 100 mile race.

Even though he might not intend for this to be the case, Gibbard’s music appears to have been affected by his hobby. His lyrics have long fixated on the concepts of distance and the passage of time — “Distance, both metaphorical and literal, has always been very interesting to me creatively,” he admits — but in Death Cab For Cutie’s new album, Thank You For Today, the themes are more present than ever, with a steady, driving beat that runs throughout its songs like a pacer and a fixation on places and the seasons. All it takes is a look at the track list to see the evidence; one of the songs is actually named “Near and Far.”

deathcabforcutie.com

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Perhaps the greatest impact that running has had on Gibbard is the activity’s ability to create a kind of inner peace, an intense state of being that he calls a “type of zen place.”

During his first 100 mile race, Gibbard entered that zone. “Everything fell away, and it was just this zone where the only thing that existed in the world was my body and this trail that I was following. And I was going to follow it until it ended,” he said. “It was a moment that I think people meditate to get to, they use psychedelics to get to…. Ultrarunning is what has taken me there.”

Joining the Foot Travelers

Gibbard is far from alone in chasing that feeling. He’s proud to be a part of the vibrant, eclectic community of ultrarunners.

“It’s this really amazing community of people who come from all walks of life, and who just share this beautiful craft,” he said. “It completely strips you of your ego — even the best ultrarunners still are humbled by the mountains or the trails. There’s no way to be like Usain Bolt out there. There’s no way to be cocky. Because you’re gonna get got. You’re gonna be humbled.”

When Gibbard talks about running, he doesn’t sound like a man fixated on first-place finishes or record times in every race. His pursuit is clearly more the journey itself.

Gibbard overlooking the Faroe Islands.
Rachel Demy

“There’s a level of physical training you need to accomplish it, but it’s 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental,” he said. “It’s something that you want to do because you just want to see if you can do it. Obviously I think we’re all athletes — but I don’t think of us as athletes. I think of us as a different breed of foot traveler.”

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