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Back in motion: Can swinging a kettlebell improve back and shoulder pain?

Exercises with strength-training equipment known as kettlebells may provide relief from back, shoulder, and neck pain.

Kettlebells have been used in Europe for years in strength training, and now they’ve become a popular workout tool here in the United States too. The benefit of kettlebells is that they provide the user a wider range of motion than dumbbells do. Kettlebell workouts engage multiple muscle groups at once, making them a great option for getting a whole-body workout in a short time.

Interestingly, the January 26 edition of the New York Times Health Section reported on a Danish study that suggests kettlebell exercises are a promising musculoskeletal therapy for low-grade back and neck pain.

The study involved middle-aged women with low-grade back, shoulder, and neck pain who were randomly assigned to either a regular kettlebell workout or a general-exercise control group. The study did not include those with chronic pain.

According to the Times article, at the end of the study, the group that did the kettlebell exercises reported less pain, as well as improved strength in the trunk and core muscles, compared with the control group. Overall, the study showed exercising with kettlebells reduced lower-back pain by 57% and neck and shoulder pain by 46%.

For those with core-muscle instability or weak core muscles, kettlebells can be a great way to strengthen those muscles (back, abdominal, glutes, quads, hamstrings) and improve posture. However, along with exercise it is imperative to stretch the hamstrings, since this tends to be a major contributor to lower back pain or discomfort.

It’s important to start slow when using kettlebells and seek professional guidance. Like any other exercise equipment, if used improperly, kettlebells can cause serious injury, and their swinging motion can be difficult to control.

Workouts you can do at home during the holidays

You can fit in these workouts at your home through the holiday season to keep you on track.

With the holiday season upon us, finding time for our usual workouts can sometimes be difficult. Two great physical fitness resources are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Each has online workouts that you can try for free.

For a total body workout that you can do at home with free weights, try this total body workout from ACE that includes videos of the warm-up, the workout, and the cool-down. For a total body workout without additional equipment, try this at-home workout.

If you have less time, try this Basic Bodyweight Strength Training Program from ACSM.

Fit in these workouts in at home through the holiday season to keep you on track.

No place to exercise?

Not having a place to exercise is no excuse. The whole world can be your gym if you just put a little thought into it.

The last excuse a trainer wants to hear from a client is that they don’t have enough space—or the right space—to exercise. The truth is that with a little effort and imagination, you can find a whole world of places and practices to improve your strength and endurance. Just think about all the free equipment outside at the park, on your way to work, or at your child’s school playground. You can make use of just about anything. Want to gain upper body strength? Start climbing the monkey bars and don’t stop ‘til you drop. Or try push-ups—a great way to get moving without standing in line at the gym. All you need for walking or running is a good pair of shoes and any path, road, or bike trail—the same places work for a bicycle, too, and they don’t cost a dime. By now you should be getting the picture. Just get rid of that mental block about needing a special place or equipment that is keeping you from getting a healthy, fit body. Just think of all the new forms of exercise waiting for you the minute you walk out the door! Here are five simple exercises to get you started.

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Get fit on the job: Part II

HPRC Fitness Arena:
More tips for working out at work.

Fitness is so important to your mental and physical health. Consider scheduling exercise into your work day; put it on your calendar! Keep packable tools like elastic tubing and bands at your desk. You can easily strengthen your chest, upper back, shoulders, arms, and legs in just a few minutes, two or three times a week. All without leaving your office! For ideas, click here: ACE GETFIT: Time saving tips for on-the-job fitness

Is it time for your sneakers to hit the road?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Physical Fitness
How to know when it's time to get new sneakers.

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), your sneakers are ready to be replaced after three to six months of regular use, or approximately 350 to 500 miles of running. Looking at the wear patterns can provide good indicators that your sneakers need to be replaced.

When the time comes to replace your sneakers, ACE has specific suggestions to help you find the perfect, and affordable, pair. They suggest that you buy sport specific shoes, test for stability, try on shoes at the end of the day when feet are their largest, and allow room for socks. Although some sports scientists will advise you to consider your foot type when purchasing sneakers, there is conflicting scientific evidence on this recommendation.

No weights, no gym… No problem.


Have you ever been tempted to try the exercise equipment advertised on late-night infomercials—the products that promise to enhance various body parts or provide a great workout for a low, low price? Most of it isn’t necessary to get into the shape you want. Some of the most effective workouts can be done at home­­—with only your own body weight. It’s not that equipment is bad—correct use of weights and some machines can be very effective—but it isn’t necessary, nor is it an excuse to prevent you from getting in a good workout when equipment isn’t available.

There are some clear benefits to exercising at home without the use of equipment, including saving time and money that you would spend at a gym. Most importantly, exercising by using your body weight provides you with the ability to exercise anytime and anywhere—you aren’t restricted only to the times when you have access to the piece of equipment or device. Also, there are a variety of ways to go about a home-based program, ranging from workouts on DVD to a workout you create for yourself. Those already familiar with online workouts may know that YouTube has been afire with videos of extraordinarily fit people demonstrating their workouts done with minimal equipment in their homes, backyards, or local parks. Always proceed with caution—these videos are impressive and can be useful, but realize that they come with a risk of serious injury. Before you begin any home workout, consult your physician and/or an exercise professional to determine what is safe, and best for you.

We list some examples below of fitness moves that can be performed at home without equipment. These moves should be performed properly and at the right intensity level for them to be effective and safe. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) provides an Exercise Library that displays the proper form for many exercises.

Core

Crunches (Supine Reverse, Supine Bicycle)

Plank (Front, Side)

Glute Activation Lunges

Bridge

Vertical Toe Touches

Upper Body

Inchworms

Push Ups (Standard, Single Leg Raise)

Downward-Facing Dog

Superman

Bird-Dog

Lower-Body Strength

Lunges (Forward, Side,

Bridge (Standard, Single Leg)

Squats (Single Leg)

Wall Sits

Inverted Flyers

Full Body

Spider Walks

Sprinter Pulls

Mountain Climbers

Squat Jumps (Cycled Split)

Jump and Reach

For a complete workout, visit ACE’s At Home (Without Equipment) Workout.

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Treadmills vs. elliptical machines – which is better?

HPRC Fitness Arena:
A look at two gym favorites.

Treadmill Elliptical Machines

Reuters.com has an article that examines the advantages and disadvantages of treadmills versus elliptical exercise machines.

Read the full article here.

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