Crossfit: What is it and how does it work?

How It Works

If you’re up for a very tough workout that takes everything you’ve got, this high-intensity program may be right for you.

Started by a former gymnast and gymnastics coach, CrossFit lets you pick from different “workouts of the day,” or WOD. You might run, row, or climb ropes and do lunges, squats, and other moves.

These workouts push you to the max, so you’ll burn a lot of calories.

You’ll do a different workout each day, and do each exercise as many times as you can in a certain amount of time.

Intensity Level: Very High

Expect to be pushed to your limits. This is one tough workout, even if you’re in great shape.

Areas It Targets

Core: Yes. You’ll do moves that work your core, like squats, dead lifts, pushups, and pull-ups.

Arms: Yes. Plan on doing pushups and pull-ups, which are great for your arms.

Legs: Yes. Lots of exercises work your legs, like squats and running.

Glutes: Yes. You’ll do different types of glute-firing squats, like air squats, back squats, and front squats.

Back: Yes. You’ll do back extensions or similar exercises that are good for your lower back.


Flexibility: Yes. This workout will improve your flexibility.

Aerobic: Yes. You’ll work hard during workouts. Your heart will get a great workout, and your endurance and stamina will go up.

Strength: Yes. You’ll use a lot of weights and your own body weight during these workouts. Expect to get stronger.

Sport: No.

Low-Impact: No.

What Else You Should Know

Cost: Membership costs vary between gyms. $200 per month is typical. Or you can pay a drop-in rate of about $25 per class. If you prepay for a year, you may get a lower rate. Or, you could do the Workout of the Day, posted online, for free.

Good for Beginners: No. It’s easy to get hurt if you don’t know the right form for each exercise. You may also end up quitting because it’s so tough.

Outdoors: Yes. You can do CrossFit outside, and they have outdoor workouts specifically for this. You’d either do this on your own or join a group that does outdoor CrossFit.

At Home: Yes, but it can be tricky if you’re new to it. If you do it at home, you’ll need an equipped gym.

Equipment Required: Yes. You can use the equipment at any of the company’s 7,000 licensed CrossFit gyms, which they call “boxes.” If you plan to do it somewhere else, whether it’s at home or at another gym, you’ll need a weight set and a place to do pull-ups and dips, at least.

What Dr. Michael Smith Says:

If you’re looking for a challenging workout to take your fitness and body to the next level, CrossFit will do just that. It’s a very well-rounded program, providing vigorous aerobic exercise along with muscle strengthening and even flexibility. But it’s also very intense, so it’s not for everyone.

If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to start with something else to get your body used to exercise before taking on CrossFit. The intensity makes it better suited to people who are used to regular activity. Even then, take it slow and pace yourself. This workout will kick your butt even if you’re in great shape.

Given the intensity, one of the main disadvantages to CrossFit is the risk of injury. It’s easy to push yourself beyond your body’s abilities, so be extra careful.

Because it’s so intense, CrossFit isn’t something you want to do every day. But it’s an excellent way to mix up your workouts to help prevent exercise boredom.

Is It Good for Me if I Have a Health Condition?

Getting fit is a vital step to successfully treating diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. CrossFit can certainly help you do that and lose any extra weight, too.

But it’s intense. Get your doctor’s OK. If you’re not already active, do other exercise programs first to get your body used to moving. When you’re ready, give CrossFit a try.

If you have heart disease, CrossFit will likely be too much for your heart. Less intense workouts will probably be a better fit; and always check with your doctor before jumping into any new exercise.

CrossFit isn’t for you if you’re dealing with a knee or back injury. Recover first. Then get your body back in shape. After that point, you can give CrossFit a try.

Remember, exercise shouldn’t hurt. If you feel pain, the workout may be too much for your body. You can get in excellent shape with other exercise routines that don’t tax your body so much.

If you have a physical limitation, CrossFit may be possible depending on your challenge. For instance, you could work with a trainer to create a CrossFit routine that’s purely upper body if needed.

Don’t push it. If the workout just doesn’t seem to fit your need, do something else. There are plenty of other options that can get you fit and may be better suited to your body.

Are you pregnant? It’s not the time to start CrossFit. If you did it before getting pregnant, ask your doctor if you can keep doing it. Of course, as you progress along in your pregnancy, you’ll need to make some changes. Don’t do anything that may put you off balance. And don’t do anything that’s too intense or that dehydrates you.


17 Science-Backed Ways to Totally Crush Cardio Workouts

Love it or hate it, cardio workouts, such as kickboxing or bodyweight routines, are essential to overall health and critical to athletic performance. A typical cardio workout elevates the heart rate, helps improve lung efficiency, and burns a whole lot of calories and fat. And guess what? There are things you can do to get even more out of it. In addition to the non-negotiables (read: proper workout nutrition and hydration, along with a solid warm-up and cool-down), here are 17 ways to get better results.

1. Think outside the treadmill.

There are plenty of ways to up the intensity and hit your aerobic zone without running. Try this: Use light weights, like dumbbells or kettlebells, for a fast-paced strength-training session. That means minimal rest between sets (about 30 seconds) to boost your heart rate and metabolism.

2. Stop and start.

You’ve probably heard the seemingly endless list of interval training pros, so we won’t repeat them here. We’ll simply say that there are lots of ways to incorporate HIIT—whether that’s on a track, bike, or rowing machine. Whatever method or exact interval you pick, the idea remains the same: Give it your all, rest, and repeat.

3. Take time for Tabata.

Tabata is a high-intensity workout that was originally designed to last just four minutes. So-called Tabata classes at your local gym might be longer, but the idea is the same: 20 seconds of all-out effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest, which is repeated for a total of four minutes.

4. Mix and match.

Intervals have applications that go beyond running or cycling. Combining strength training and cardio into one workout (hello, Barry’s Bootcamp) will produce results in as little as eight minutes. (And while the subject has produced mixed results in studies, it probably doesn’t matter too much which you do first. ) Luckily, you don’t have to hit up a boutique gym to make this happen. Instead of sprinting and stopping, do a bodyweight exercise during your rest period.

5. Carry it.

This one works especially well at the grocery store. Rather than heading straight for the cart, carry all of your items in a basket as you walk the store. Sounds minor, but carrying any additional weight while walking or running has been shown to improve intensity, recovery, and recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Just be sure to keep an eye on mechanics—even a few extra pounds can change your form.

6. Add some speed.

Have a need for speed? Running on a treadmill may seem like a drag, but since the belt helps with leg turnover, there are few places you can go as fast. Plus it’s is a great tool for promoting consistency and pace per mile. (And yeah, sometimes proving you can run a lot faster than you thought you could.)

7. Up the incline.

As you’re cranking up the treadmill’s speed, don’t forget to adjust the incline. As the belt gets steeper, so will your heart rate, sending your calorie burn through the roof. Bumping up the incline to a 5.5 percent grade or higher can also strengthen the legs and core, not to mention improve running form and sprint speed (by lengthening stride and increasing the number of steps taken per second).

8. Let it go.

Of the handrail, that is. Holding onto the side or top of the treadmill does more harm than good. It’s a surefire way to sabotage a workout, decreasing energy output and oxygen consumption and significantly reducing the effectiveness of a workout. Go hands free then pump arms from waist to chest, not across the body (which can slow you down).

9. Run to the beat.

Pick something with a quick beat—we’re talking 120 to 140 beats per minute—to get the most out of your cardio workout. Matching your cadence to a beat has been shown to alleviate perceived physiological effort. In other words, the right music can make a tough workout feel easier. It’s also been shown to improve performance, increase motivation, and put distractions (like negative thoughts and fatigue) on pause.

10. Go off road.

If the treadmill isn’t getting the job done, head for the great outdoors. Trail running, mountain biking, or even open water swimming can add variety and immediately up the intensity. Plus there’s a growing body of research that indicates working out in nature can have serious mental health benefits. And if that’s not enough, navigating uneven ground, like sand or rocks, can up your athleticism and improve stabilization muscles.

11. Add some kettlebell work.

When it comes to cardio training, kettlebells are a better bet than traditional dumbbells. The all-mighty kettlebell swing has been shown to improve oxygen uptake, max heart rate, and functional performance.

12. Get around.

Create a circuit training workout that stacks up a fast-paced combination of bodyweight cardio exercises. By pairing resistance training with high-intensity aerobic moves back-to-back (think jump squats, burpees, and mountain climbers), the body will achieve results fast—including building muscle and burning fat.

13. Go high tech.

The trick to running a faster 5K or finding motivation to crush your next workout could be in an app. We love Motion Traxx, along with the 38 other fitness apps here. Had enough of your smartphone? Pick up a heart rate monitor or consider a GPS watch that will help track distance, pace, and the number of calories you burn while running.

14. Enjoy some coffee.

Fact: A pre-workout dose of caffeine can provide that needed pick-me-up, improve endurance, and even increase athletic power in the short-term. Just be careful not to overdo it: In most studies, subjects were given relatively low doses of caffeine (3-5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight). Depending on your size and the potency of your coffee, this translates to one cup or less.

15. Get social.

Building a workout routine around team sports, group activities, or fitness classes can boost performance during aerobic exercise. Even if you can’t get to a class, a workout partner can make the entire gym experience more enjoyable—with an extra boost of accountability. Not sure what to do? Check out our 29 kick-ass partner exercise ideas.

16. Play the right mind games.

Mental fatigue can be the downfall of any workout. Studies have shown that if the brain is tired, performance also suffers. Reenergize yourself with a new running route, fitness class, or workout routine. Or try one of these other options for breaking through a fitness plateau.

17. Time it right.

Research suggests that working out first thing in the morning is best for creating and sticking to an exercise habit. However, not everyone is a morning person (though there are ways to become one). The good news is that when it comes to killing a cardio workout, any time is better than never (in fact, there are even surprising benefits of working out at night).


The 15-Minute Low-Impact Workout to Strengthen Your Butt

Newsflash: You don’t need to put yourself through a soul-crushing workout to see changes in your body. And this 15-minute, low-impact workout from Grokker proves just that.


These bodyweight-only moves can be done at the gym or on your living room floor. When you hit play, you’ll follow trainer Le Jon Guillory through a series of kickboxing-inspired moves, all performed on your knees, that will burn out your bum and build serious strength in your glutes. Plus, the trainer’s high-energy style and sense of humor will keep you motivated (and maybe even smiling) ’til the end.


The 13 Best Abs Exercises

We often get questions about the best abs exercises—after all, who doesn’t want to tone their tummy in the least amount of time? There are countless exercises that target the abs, including fitness DVDs (Does “8 Minute Abs” ring a bell?) and even pricey machines that you often see on infomercials. But do you need a video or specialized piece of equipment to get the abs of your dreams?

A study conducted at San Diego State University’s Biomechanics Lab (and published by ACE, the American Council on Exercise) says no. Their research revealed that the best exercises for your abs don’t require any gizmos, and are surprisingly easy to fit into your day.

Researchers looked at the effectiveness of 13 common abdominal exercises—everything from crunches to the “Ab Roller”  machine. Using EMG (electromyography), researchers measured the muscle activity of the participants to determine which exercises best targeted the abs and the obliques, while also limiting the activity of the hips and thighs (because when an abdominal exercise is executed poorly, the hips and thighs engage to “help out” the abs).

Overall, researchers said that all of these exercises are “relatively effective” ways to train the abs—but some are more effective than others.

Check out their ranking of abs exercises (from best to worst) below:

1. Bicycle Crunches 2. Knee Lifts on Captain’s Chair 3. Crunches on Ball

Click here for a demo.

Click here for a demo.

Click here for a demo.

4. Crunches with Vertical Legs: This exercise is just like a traditional crunch (see #11 below), but with your legs extended up into the air, in line with the hips.
5. Torso Track Machine
6. Crunches with Arms Extended: This exercise is just like a traditional crunch (see #11 below), but you extend your arms overhead, squeezing your upper arms by your ears as your crunch up and lower down.
7. Reverse Crunches: Click here for a demo.
8. Crunches with Heel Push: This exercise is just like the Crunches with Vertical Legs (see #4 above), except that as you crunch up you also slightly lift your hips off the ground (feet towards the ceiling).
9. Ab Roller Machine
10. Plank: Click here for a demo.
11. Traditional Crunches: Click here for a demo.
12. Exercise Tubing Pull
13. Ab Rocker Machine

To view the entire study report from ACE, click here. (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download this PDF.)

Action Sparked: It’s important to remember that every individual performs exercises differently, and even in this study, an exercise that proved effective for one person was sometimes ineffective or uncomfortable for another person. Especially for people with back, spine or disc issues, it can be tricky to find exercises that don’t aggravate your problems. So listen to your body and work at a level that is comfortable for you, and never perform an exercise that causes pain.

The big thing you can take from this study is that you really don’t need to buy anything special to train your abs—traditional exercises prove to be better. But if you are going to invest in one piece of exercise equipment, a simple and inexpensive stability ball is the way to go. Not only are crunches on the ball ranked as #3 above, but the ball is extremely versatile for all types of exercises.

Remember that your abs are just like any other muscles in your body, so train them accordingly. That means 1-3 sessions per week, and 1-2 days of rest in between abs workouts. Also, be sure to avoid the top 10 abs training mistakes.



The Top 5 Exercises You’re Doing Wrong

For some people, safety and form during a workout is a huge priority. For others, it’s an afterthought. If you work out without the careful eyes of a trainer or instructor watching your every move, it can be difficult to know if you are exercising with proper form—even when you’re really trying to.

Learning how to move with correct alignment isn’t just about looking good; it can mean the difference between muscle activation and joint strain—or even injury.

Here are five exercises that are common—and may even seem simple—but are most often performed incorrectly by people of all fitness levels.

(For detailed instructions on each move, continue reading below this graphic.)

#1: Plank

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Placing your hands on the floor too far in front (or behind) of your shoulders
  • Sinking into your arms (causing your shoulder blades to “wing” out across your upper back)
  • Letting your hips sag and/or your abs relax
  • Jutting your chin forward

Fix Your Form: Line up your palms on the floor directly under your shoulders and brace your abs into your spine as you extend into plank. Press your arms into the floor and imagine you are lightly gripping the ground with your fingertips to engage your wrists.

Your body should be in one straight line (diagonal with the floor) from your heels to your hips to your head. TIP: Imagine you are holding a grapefruit between your chin and your chest to help keep your neck neutral.

#2: Lunges

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Stepping too wide (or narrow) with your feet (so that knees don’t bent at 90 degrees)
  • Shifting your weight and/or torso forward as you bend your knees
  • Leaning back with your torso as you bend your knees (pushing your hips in front of your shoulders)
  • Bending front knee past your toes

Fix Your Form: Begin in a wide split stance (one foot in front of the other) with your bodyweight centered between your legs and your back heel lifted (not pictured).

Bend both knees about 90 degrees and lower your body straight down, keeping your spine neutral (shoulders stacked over your hips) and back knee underneath your torso as it bends.

#3: Crunches

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Pulling on your head as you crunch (using your arms to lift)
  • Closing your elbows in toward the sides of your head
  • Pushing with your leg, squeezing with your glutes
  • Pressing your belly out as you lift your upper body off the floor
  • Gazing at the ceiling

Fix Your Form: Clasp your hands behind your head lightly and relax your head into your hands to keep your neck lengthened. Open your elbows wide to the sides and curl up over the top of your ribcage, looking forward with your eyes so that your chin comes slightly to your chest.

Relax your legs and glutes and keep your pelvis parallel to the floor (envision trying to balance a wine glass on top of your belly as you crunch).

#4: Squats

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Using a slouched, rounded posture (sinking the chest and tucking your tailbone under)
  • Bending your knees and lowering straight down with the hips (so that your knees extend past your toes and your hips stay underneath you)
  • Allowing knees and/or toes buckle (roll inward)

Fix Your Form: Keep your back neutral (there should be a slight natural curve in your lower back), chest lifted.

When you bend your knees, press your hips behind you (as if you were going to sit back into a chair), tracking your knees over (but not past) your toes, with your feet and knees pointed forward.

#5: Push Ups

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Placing your hands on the floor too far in front of your shoulders
  • Bringing palms too close together (for a traditional push up)
  • Pushing hips up in the air
  • Pressing chin forward and looking up as you lower, or (not pictured) letting your head drop down toward the floor as you lower
  • Lowering further than you are able to with proper alignment of the body (as listed above).

Fix Your Form: For a traditional push-up, try to line up the midline of your chest with your thumbs, keeping your hands under your body and wide enough that you can lower your chest straight down in between your hands. Keep your hips in line with your spine (similar to the plank, your torso should form a straight line from your shoulders to your hips to whatever point, knees or toes, is in contact with the floor). Look down to the floor with your eyes—not by bending your neck—to avoid neck strain, keeping neck in line with the spine at all times. Only lower down as far as you can with proper alignment.

If you noticed that you’re guilty of even a few of these form guidelines, don’t beat yourself up over it. The key is to continue to improve and focus on that form. Proper form is essential to target the muscles you’re trying to train while also avoiding injury. So enlist the help of a friend, use a mirror when you can, or consider getting help from a personal trainer for even more insight.

Are you guilty of any of these common mistakes? What specific exercises do you have troubling maintaining proper form with?

The Best Fitness Tracker Bands

Whether you’re looking to count your daily steps, keep track of your sleep habits or see how many calories you burn in a workout, a slew of new devices aim to offer everyone from athletes to average Joes more insight into the details of their lives. These gadgets, called fitness trackers, have increased in popularity in recent years, and are showing no signs of slowing down. The devices often work together with smartphone apps and websites to help you view your activity, set health goals, share your achievements with friends and sometimes provide extra motivation to get off the couch.

Live Science reporters have tested all of the fitness trackers listed here, and ranked each in four categories — Design/Comfort, User-Friendliness, Value of Information and Enjoyment/Inspiration. We’ve reviewed them, and can give you a look at the pros and cons of each device, as well as how it stacks up against the competition.

Choosing the right fitness tracker depends on may factors, including the seriousness with which you approach fitness, exactly what you want to track, how much you want to spend and how discreet or flashy you want the device on your wrist to be.

Below is the overall rating for all the devices we’ve reviewed, along with summaries of our reviews to help you pick the right one for your lifestyle.

Best Overall: Basis Peak (Full Review): 7.5/10

The Basis Peak fitness tracker, shown in white and black
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The Basis Peak is a fitness tracker that automatically detects what you are doing, such as running, cycling or sleeping. The Peak continuously monitors your heart rate, and is water-resistant enough that you can take it swimming. The company says that with a coming software upgrade, the Peak will soon have some smartwatch capabilities, such as notifications for incoming calls. Like the previous Basis trackers, the Peak excels at motivating you — it uses a point system, and gives you an explanation for why you should work toward each of several “habits.” The cons are that the device is a bit bulky, doesn’t have an alarm and is not GPS-enabled.

Basis Peak
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Best for the Money: Jawbone UP Move (Full Review): 6.6/10

The Jabone UP Move
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The Jawbone UP Move fitness tracker will track your steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and hours slept. With the ability to personalize your goals, and get reminders to help you work toward them, our reviewer found that the UP Move provides a lot in the motivation department. The Live Science testing team picked the Jawbone UP Move as our “Best for the Money” tracker for a few reasons: At $49.95, it’s about half the price of the Fitbit One and the Polar Loop. In addition, the although the UP Move’s price is comparable to that of the Fitbug Orb, the Orb is a bit bulkier and doesn’t have an alarm, nor does it have as many social media capabilities as the UP Move.

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All the rest:

Fitbit Charge (Full Review): 7.3/10

The Fitbit Charge tracker.
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Because it boasts a handful of smartphone features, the Fitbit Charge stands apart from ordinary fitness trackers. This device costs about $130, tracks all of your usual metrics and will even display incoming calls to your phone right on your wrist. We found these call alerts to be handy during workouts, limited in usefulness: You’ll still need to pull out your phone to actually take a call. The tracker is more comfortable to wear than most, and unlike some of the other options from Fitbit it has a small display screen. But the Charge is not waterproof and does not have a heart rate monitor.

Fitbit Charge
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TomTom Runner Cardio (Full Review): 7.1/10

TomTom gps watch
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The TomTom Runner Cardio is designed for runners — it has both a heart rate monitor and GPS capabilities that let it track data such as your distance, time, pace and speed. The Live Science testing team determined that this device is also the best overall tracker because it not only has the advanced features of a heart rate monitor and GPS, but it is also supremely easy to use. It has a single, large button that makes it easy to scroll through your data, even on the fly. You can also wear it while swimming. The accompanying MySports app will create charts of your data over time, and also lets you set your own goals for distance, time or calories burned, sending you text alerts to help you work toward them. However, at about $270, the Runner Cardio is pricier than other fitness trackers, and it doesn’t track your sleep.

TomTom Runner Cardio
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Moov (Full Review): 7.1/10

The Moov's smooth, watch-like face.
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The Moov fitness tracker stands out from the competition because it not only tracks the same data as most fitness trackers — steps taken, calories burned and the amount of time spent working out — but it also provides spoken instructions through your headphones on how to improve your form or sustain certain movements while exercising. The device, which costs $79.95, can be worn on your wrist or ankle, and is water-resistant enough that you can take it swimming. The Moov does not track how much time you spend sleeping, and it has no screen, so users must look at a smart phone or tablet to see their stats.

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Withings Pulse O2 (Full Review): 6.8/10

Withings Pulse O2
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The Pulse O2 is the latest fitness tracker from Withings, and is marketed as a way to track daily activity and improve health. It tracks steps taken, elevation changes, distance walked, calories burned, heart rate and sleep, and is the first fitness tracker to measure blood oxygen levels. You can wear the device on either a belt clip or a wristband, and a touch screen makes it fun to use. The accompanying app also allows you to set reminders to engage in healthy behaviors. However, the device is not intended to check your heart rate during exercise. And the blood oxygen level measurements seem unnecessary for most people. BUY the Withings Pulse O2 >>>

Withings Activité Pop (Full Review): 6.6/10

The Withings Activité Pop.
The Withings Activité Pop.
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The Pop is a fashion-forward fitness tracker that comes in three colors and looks like a regular watch. It tracks your daily steps taken, displays your progress toward you daily goal right on the watch face and automatically goes into sleep mode when you hit sack. The device is waterproof, so you can take it swimming, and it runs on a watch battery, so it does not need to be charged. At $150, the Pop is the more-affordable version of Withings’ previous fashion-forward fitness tracker, the Activité, which costs $450. Withings recently redesigned its HealthMate, making it easier to see all of your stats. The Pop does not track heart rate.

Withings Activite Pop
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Fitbug Orb (Full Review): 6.5/10

The Orb is a recently released activity tracker from the United Kingdom-based company Fitbug. BUY Fitbug Orb >>>
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The Orb is a fitness tracker that tracks your steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and quality of sleep. The main selling point of the Orb is its price: At $49.95, it’s about half the price of the Fitbit Flex and the Polar Loop. The main advantages of the Orb are that there are more ways to wear this tracker than with many other trackers on the market, and users receive emails and notifications with tips that provide you with meaning behind the information it tracks, as well as suggestions for improving your health. However, the wristband lacks a screen interface, and requires you to put the battery in yourself. The battery needs replacing every four to six months.

Fitbug Orb
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Adidas Fit Smart (Full Review): 6.5/10

The Adidas Fit Smart tracks your heart rate and provides coaching during training. BUY the Adidas Fit Smart>>>
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The Adidas Fit Smart is a tracker aimed at people who are training for a race, or who want to stay in shape for a sport. The app lets you create your own training schedule, and the device can even coach you during your workouts, alerting you to when you should pick up the pace. It also includes a heart rate monitor, which not all trackers do. However, the Fit Smart does not track your calories or sleep, and is not meant for use during swims.

Adidas Fit Smart
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Fitbit One (Full Review): 6.4/10

The Fitbit One BUY the Fitbit One>>>
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The Fitbit One, at $99.95, is in the mid-level price range for fitness trackers. It tracks all the basic metrics, including sleep, steps taken, distance walked and calories burned, and also counts the number of floors you climb. We gave the One high scores for its small size, the way it lets you connect with friends, the alarm that you can set, the inclusion of a wireless dongle to sync with your computer and a lower price than trackers such as the Garmin Vivofit. It does lack certain features found in higher-priced fitness trackers, such as the ability to track cycling, a capability of the Basis Carbon Steel Edition. Also, the One’s sleep graph is somewhat difficult to navigate (and the device tends to count “steps” while you’re asleep).

Fitbit One
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Garmin Vivofit
The Garmin Vivofit. BUY Garmin Vivofit>>>
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Garmin Vivofit (Full Review): 6.3/10

The Garmin Vivofit is marketed as a device that can help you turn your daily exercise into a healthy, lifelong habit. In addition to logging the standard fitness-tracker data — including steps taken, calories burned, distance walked and hours slept — the Vivofit assigns you a personalized fitness goal, which adjusts itself daily, as the device learns your habits and milestones. We experienced some issues syncing the device to a computer and phone, but the Vivofit’s one-year battery life definitely sets it apart from other fitness trackers currently on the market.

Garmin Vivofit
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Fitbit Flex (Full Review): 6.3/10

fitbit flex, fitness-tracking device
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The Fitbit Flex wristband ranked highly in comfort and design. The tracker’s soft, rubbery band is comfortable and easy on the eyes. We found it among the most inspiring and enjoyable of the fitness devices we’ve reviewed, in part because the wirelessly connected app provides a lot of data to allow you to work toward your goals and monitor your progress. Although it can be a little clunky to use, the Flex does a good job motivating you with goals for daily distance and activity time. Note that another well-known fitness tracker from the company, the Fitbit Force, was recalled in February 2014 after users experienced allergic reactions to the nickel in the device.

Fitbit Flex
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FitBit Zip (Full Review): 6/10

The Fitbit Zip fitness tracker
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The Fitbit Zip is an economical fitness tracker, priced at just $59.95. This basic device tracks steps taken, calories burned and distances walked, but does not track sleep time or stairs climbed, nor does its screen light up. Through its app, the Zip provides a fair amount of motivation to get you moving.

Fitbit Zip
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The Polar Loop (Full Review): 6/10

The Polar Loop is an activity tracker wristband
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The Polar Loop is one of few fitness trackers on the market that is truly waterproof, allowing users to track activity while swimming laps. (The other is the Misfit Shine.) We found the Loop to be very comfortable (when you first get it, you cut the band so it fits your wrist), easy to use and simple to sync with the iPhone app and computer software. The biggest drawback we found is the button used to display the time and activity data, which is small and sits low in the band, making it difficult to push. Although the Loop measures the basics of sleep time, steps taken, activity time and levels, and calories burned, it does not give you any details on sleep quality, nor does it let you input calories eaten.

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Jawbone UP24 (Full Review): 6/10

The Jawbone UP24
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The Jawbone UP24, a newer version of the original Jawbone UP, stands out from other fitness trackers in that it provides useful data on several aspects of your daily routine, it’s easy to operate and it allows you to scan food barcodes. Depending on your style, you might find the UP24 among the more fashionable tracker wristbands. However, for those who like to check their information without having to access their phone, the UP24 may not be for you, as it doesn’t have a screen. In addition, frequent swimmers and people who live or work near water may want to look for a water-resistant tracker like the Misfit Shine or Polar Loop.

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iFit Active (Full Review): 5.8/10 

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The iFit Active fitness tracker is part of the iFit platform, and syncs wirelessly to update both its mobile app and its website. One standout feature of the iFit is that it lets you track your intake of not only calories, but also individual nutrients, such as sodium and saturated fat. The app is a bit buggy — it may crash when you scan the barcode on a food product to enter your calorie intake — and the device is not waterproof. It does not have a heart rate sensor, but it is priced at $129, which means the iFit is less expensive than other trackers that do have this feature. BUY the iFit Active >>>

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LifeTrak Brite R450 (Full Review): 5.8/10

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The LifeTrak Brite R450 aims to provide a comprehensive view of health and fitness. Not only does it track daily steps, distance, calories burned, heart rate and workouts, it also automatically detects when you fall asleep and wake up. And unlike many fitness trackers on the market, the Brite R450 also monitors light exposure, including exposure to blue light. The device will notify you when you’ve been inside too long and need to get more natural light.  And the Brite R450 can send you alerts when you get an incoming call, text or email, and is waterproof up to 90 feet, so you can wear it swimming. The device’s app can show you more information about your daily activity, but syncing with the app proved frustrating – it took several minutes to transfer data from the device to the app. And although the Brite R450 tracks light exposure, it provides very little information about what to take away from this data, leaving us wishing that the device made better use of this feature.

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Garmin Vivosmart (Full review): 5.7/10

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Vivosmart tracks steps taken, calories burned and notifies you of texts and calls that you receive on your smartphone. BUY the Garmin Vivosmart >>>
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Garmin’s Vívosmart tracks steps taken, calories burned and distance walked. You can also use the device to track your sleep. And since this fitness band is also part smartwatch, it lets you read texts and other notifications from your smartphone right on your wrist. But these smartwatch features will cost you. Vívosmart goes for $169.99, which is significantly more than what you’d pay for a fitness tracker with more basic functions. We experienced a few problems when trying to sync Vívosmart with a smartphone, but the device did prove effective at getting us up and moving throughout the day.

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Runtastic Orbit (Full Review): 5.4/10

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The Runtastic Orbit is a fitness tracker that monitors both daily activity (steps, calories and distance) as well as your sleep habits. At about $120, the Orbit is in the mid-level price range for fitness trackers. The Orbit has a few advantages compared to many other fitness trackers, including that you can set the device to vibrate to alert you if you’ve been sitting still for too long, and it’s waterproof, so you can wear it swimming. However, in our experience, the Orbit came up short in several areas. The device and accompanying app provide little information about what your statistics mean. (For example, there is no information about how much activity you need in a day to be healthy.) And although the device claims to track happiness and ambient lighting, these features appear to be in a primitive form, and there was no information on how to use these features. But if you are a user of other Runtastic products, you may find the device useful, because it can pair with the general Runtastic app, which tracks workouts.

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Microsoft Band (Full Review): 5.3/10

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The Microsoft Band is a fitness tracker that includes some smartphone features, such as the ability to read email, texts and other reminders on your wrist. The device is also one of the few fitness trackers that has GPS capabilities. The band tracks your heart rate, steps taken, calories burned and the quality of your sleep, and also offers a guided workout feature. But despite its whistles and bells, in our review, the Band seemed to come up short on comfort. It pairs with the Microsoft Health app, which works on iPhones as well as on Android or Windows phones. At $269, the Microsoft Band is at the higher end of the price range for fitness trackers.

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Samsung Gear Fit (Full Review): 5.3/10

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The Samsung Gear Fit is not just a fitness tracker or a smartwatch — it’s both. The device stands out for its sleek design and interactive display, and the ability to receive notifications on the device itself. However, its user-friendliness could use some improvement. You’ll need three apps to manage the device, including a separate app just to look at a lot of your sleep data. The Gear Fit also shares some features with Samsung’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy S5. Both devices have a heart rate monitor and a pedometer, which can lead to some confusion. For example, you have to change your settings if you want the phone to use pedometer information from the Gear Fit, rather than from the phone itself. BUY the Gear Fit >>>

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Nike FuelBand SE (Full Review): 5/10

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The Nike FuelBand SE is an update to the original version of the FuelBand, and includes a few new features, including the ability to set reminders to move. You can also create “sessions,” which let you track the Fuel points you earn during a specific activity, like an afternoon run, as well as the duration of the activity. But the device provides little information about how much activity you need to be healthy, and does not provide sleep analysis.

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Soleus Go (Full Review): 5/10

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The Go is a fitness tracker from Soleus that tracks daily steps, calories burned, distance traveled and sleep quality in addition to workout time and pace. The tracker also includes a few smartwatch features, such as alerts when you get a call or text. Two appealing features of the Go are that the device vibrates to remind you to move, and users have the option to set the device to automatically enter sleep mode at a certain time. However, Soleus provides little information about what your stats mean, and the charging device is cumbersome. In addition, users need to press buttons on the device multiple times to find certain information, such as daily steps.

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Misfit Flash (Full Review): 4.25/10

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The Misfit Flash is a basic, budget fitness tracker that usually retails for between $34 and $50. The device is waterproof, and may appeal to people who want to try out the whole activity- and sleep-tracking thing without spending a lot of money. You can wear the flash several ways — on your wrist, clipped onto your belt or dangling from your keychain — and the device will tracker your distance traveled, calories burned and hours spent sleeping. The Misfit app features a point system that brings in all the data on your running, swimming, cycling and other sports into a single number that lets you see how active you are everyday. In our testing, the Flash lost points because its wristband seems to break rather easily, and because in lieu of a watchface or liquid crystal display, the tracker has only a circle of tiny lights, making it difficult to interpret your data.

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Other Fitness Trackers Reviewed:

Basis Carbon Steel Edition (Full Review): 7/10

Basis B1 (Full Review): 6.8/10

Withings Pulse (Full Review): 6.6/10

Jawbone Up (Full Review): 5.8/10

Misfit Shine (Full Review): 5.4/10

Nike FuelBand (Full Review): 5.1/10

Bowflex Boost (Full Review): 4.1/10


50 Easy Ways to Burn 100 Calories

Everything you do burns calories—breathing, sleeping, standing, and all of the active pursuits you enjoy. But what does it take to burn just 100 calories? You may be surprised by how little—or how much—activity you have to do to achieve that goal! To put it all in perspective for you, we’ve gathered 50 different ways to burn 100 calories. From standard exercises you do at the gym, to everyday chores around the house, you can burn 100 calories in just a few short minutes of your day.

Keep in mind that not all movement is created equal. In order to classify an activity as a cardio ”exercise,” you must be working at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. (You can calculate your target heart rate here.) However, even though periods of less intense activity may not count as part of your workout, they still provide health benefits and burn extra calories. After all, the less sitting you do, the better!

50 Ways to Burn 100 Calories

(Values are approximate and are based on a 150-pound person.)


Biking: 23 minutes of casual cycling
Cardio dance class: 15 minutes
Elliptical: 8 minutes
Jumping rope: 9 minutes at a moderate intensity
Lifting weights, vigorously: 15 minutes
Pilates: 24 minutes
Rowing machine: 13 minutes
Running stairs: 6 minutes
Running: 9 minutes of running at a 6 mph pace
Swimming: 15 minutes moderate intensity
Walking stairs: 11 minutes
Walking: 20 minutes of walking at a 3 mph pace
Water aerobics: 23 minutes
Yoga: 20 minutes
Zumba: 11 minutes

Sports and Leisure Activities:

Basketball, shooting hoops: 20 minutes
Bowling: 30 minutes
Dancing around living room: 20 minutes
Darts: 35 minutes
Golfing, carrying clubs: 15 minutes
Ice skating, moderate: 18 minutes
Kickball: 13 minutes
Mini golf or driving range: 30 minutes
Playing catch with a football: 35 minutes
Playing Frisbee: 30 minutes
Playing soccer, casual: 13 minutes
Skiing,downhill: 10 minutes
Softball or baseball: 18 minutes
Tennis (doubles): 21 minutes
Tennis (singles): 15 minutes
Treading water, moderate effort: 23 minutes
Volleyball, recreational: 26 minutes
Water skiing: 15 minutes

Yard Work:

Mowing the lawn: 20 minutes
Painting house: 18 minutes
Raking leaves: 23 minutes
Shoveling snow: 15 minutes
Washing the car: 20 minutes
Weeding the garden: 18 minutes

Everyday Activities:

Carrying an infant: 24 minutes
Cleaning, moderate effort: 26 minutes
Cooking: 34 minutes
Doing dishes: 40 minutes
Mopping the floor: 20 minutes
Playing with children: 23 minutes
Pushing a stroller: 35 minutes
Rearranging furniture: 14 minutes
Shopping: 38 minutes
Sweeping: 23 minutes
Walking the dog, 26 minutes

Were you surprised by the amount of time it takes to burn 100 calories? Which of these activities can you incorporate into your life to burn an extra 100 calories per day? Pick one that fits into your schedule and go for it!



The 15-Minute Core Workout You Can Do Anywhere

This core workout may be short on time, but it’s high on intensity. Fitness instructor John Godfrey strategically builds in some rest time so you can push through to the end, but trust us, you’ll feel the burn once it’s over.

After a quick warm-up, you’ll do a combination of moves such as planks, crunches, and twists that target your abs from every angle. The best part: All you need is a mat, which means you can do these moves nearly anywhere. Just press play!

To recap, perform a 5-minute warm-up followed by the moves below. Perform each exercise for 8 to 10 reps.

  • 3 Position Leg Swing
  • Straight Leg Sit-Up
  • Knee to Elbow to Wrist
  • Russian Twist
  • Windshield Wipers
  • Plank to Pike
  • Plank Walk-Out
  • Frozen V-Sit
  • Dish Rock to Cradle Rock
  • Side Plank Pulsing Side to Side
  • Leg Cycle
  • Side Crunch
  • Legs Up Ab Pulse
  • Straddle V-Up


What You Need To Know Before Buying A Treadmill

If you’ve decided to join the ranks of treadmill owners, there are a number of factors to consider to ensure that you purchase a machine that meets your needs. There are a multitude of treadmills on the market with prices ranging from $299 to $4,000. You are likely to find that a treadmill’s cost directly reflects its quality.

Before you leave your home, measure the space in which you’d like to keep the treadmill. While the average treadmill measures 64 inches long and 28 inches wide, there are machines that fold up to be stored under a bed or in a closet. Drive to the nearest fitness-equipment speciality store where the staff will be knowledgeable and you can choose from a wide variety of machines. Wear a comfortable pair of athletic shoes — the same pair you’ll wear as you exercise on the machine at home.

Consider three key elements as you shop:


First, look at the treadmill’s motor size (measured in horsepower) to determine the machine’s longevity. Some manufacturers measure horsepower at continuous duty (the motor’s ability to function under a load for an extended period of time), others at peak duty. Look for a motor with a minimum 2.0 continuous-duty horsepower, which will accommodate users who weigh more than 180 pounds.Next, examine the treadmill’s belt and deck. The belt should be at least two-ply, 17 inches wide and 49 inches long. The board thickness should measure at least an inch.

The deck acts as a cushion for the joints, legs, back and feet. The most sought-after treadmills feature low-impact decks that flex under the user’s foot plant to absorb the shock without rebounding to cause additional jarring. This feature is essential for individuals with shin splints and foot and back problems.

A sturdy frame supports the belt and deck system. Treadmills that cost between $399 and $1900 usually have a steel frame; treadmills with a price of $1900 or higher often are constructed with aircraft aluminum frames that offer additional flexibility for impact absorption. Aluminum frames don’t rust or corrode and are lighter and easier to move.

Programming Features

Lower-priced treadmills offer basic programming for variable speed, time, distance and calories. However, they seldom utilize user information, and the calorie counters aren’t very accurate.The price rises when you add quality programming features, such as preset programs that automatically vary the workout intensity by raising or lowering elevation and increasing or decreasing speed.

Heart-rate control programs are convenient features that consider the user’s age and weight and keep the exerciser at an intensity sufficient to achieve maximum fat-burning or cardiovascular benefits.

Other programming options include incline/grade settings. A maximum grade of 10 percent may challenge beginning exercisers, while experienced exercisers may need a treadmill that reaches a 15-percent grade.


Most manufacturers warranty against manufacturing defects only, not normal wear and tear, and if a user weighs more than the machine’s specifications, a warranty may be voided.Many machines come with a lifetime warranty on the frame, while warranties on features and components usually range from 90 days to three years, depending on the machine’s quality.

Higher-end machines often come with a one-year in-home labor contract. You can purchase renewable extended warranties that cover everything from parts to labor.

Don’t Give the Man Your Money Yet

Is the machine loud? Do you like how it looks? Does it offer a smooth ride? Is it easy to operate? Remember, this product will be around for a long, healthy time, so determine what you want and need from it before you begin shopping to prevent a regretful purchase.

Why Treadmills Are Ranked #1

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that, based on a study from the Medical College of Wisconsin and Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Milwaukee,

Treadmills provide the most efficient way to burn calories when compared to other popular exercise machines.

Researchers asked eight male and five female young adults to exercise on six different types of indoor exercise machines, including a cross-country skiing simulator, cycle ergometer, rowing ergometer and stair stepper.

They compared energy expenditure at ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) levels of 11 (fairly light), 13 (somewhat hard) and 15 (hard), and found that subjects who exercised at an RPE of 13 burned approximately 40 percent more calories per hour on the treadmill as compared to the cycle ergometer, which produced the lowest energy expenditure.

7 Best Exercises To Relieve Low Back Pain

Do you have low back pain? You’re not alone – 31% of people worldwide have previously, or currently experience this common health problem.1 If you spend long hours sitting at a desk, lift weights with poor form, or experienced previous injury being active or playing sports, there’s a good chance you have pain in your back.

Low back pain is one of the most difficult areas for health care practitioners to treat. Not only are there several possible sources of pain (including lumbar discs, facet joints, muscles, nerves, and ligaments), but there are several ways to hurt them – from bending over incorrectly, chronic poor posture, untreated strains from overuse and misuse, sitting too much, exercising too much, the list goes on.

What makes it more confusing is that different causes of back pain require different types of treatment.

Let’s first understand the most common causes of low back pain.

Main Causes of Low Back Pain

1. Chronic Poor Posture

Chances are that if you work in an office, you sit a lot. Sitting for prolonged periods of time is less than ideal because the seated posture (especially bad posture) places increased pressure on your spine. Over time your muscles can adapt to this chronic posture leading to some major muscular imbalances. The hip flexor muscles on the front of your legs and your hamstrings on the back can become tight and shortened, which can impair your ability to move correctly.

For instance, if your hip flexors are tight, you’ll have less hip extension. This means that when your leg goes behind you, it will pull on your pelvis and spine, creating extra rotation and extension in your lumbar region. This isn’t good.

If your hamstrings are tight, you’ll lack the ability to flex at your hips and pelvis. Once this happens, you’ll compensate for the lack of mobility by bending your low back more, which puts the muscles in the back in a weaker position and increases your risk of rupturing your lumbar discs.

2. Poor Movement Mechanics

Even if you have the flexibility of a yoga master, you may not be moving correctly. When your spine is out of its neutral position, the muscles that support the spine are at a biomechanical disadvantage (either too short or too long). Your ability to stabilize your trunk will be compromised. Every time you pick something up with a rounded back, you’re putting yourself at risk. And if you’re picking up something heavy, the risk increases exponentially. This is why it’s critical to be aware of your spinal posture when lifting and exercising!

Low-Back Pain Strategy


1. Moving More (Not Less) Helps Your Lower Back

In the past, many health practitioners only prescribed bed rest. However, movement and return to ordinary activity help people recover faster.2

Unless it’s too painful to move, your back will benefit from light exercise, which can help increase circulation and speed up recovery. If you have pain from some sort of trauma or have nerve symptoms that travel down into your legs (or weakness of any kind), then see a health practitioner.

Otherwise, the sooner you can start incorporating light exercise, the quicker your recovery can be.

2. Be Mindful That Pain Affects How Your Body Moves

The human body is pretty incredible. Your body “remembers” where you’ve been hurt, and even once you recover from the pain, the control of your muscles often changes in ways that you may not feel or be aware of.

The main muscles that experience change after low back pain are the transverse abdominus (TvA) and the multifidus (MFD). These are both deep trunk muscles that help to stabilize the spine and prevent it from moving, especially under load.

After a bout of back pain, the timing of TvA and MFD is thrown off (often delayed), and they may also become weak. The hope is that by training and recruiting these muscles with targeted exercises, their function will normalize.

3. Improve Hip Flexibility & Lumbar Spine Stability

The primary strategy for successful low back pain recovery and prevention is to improve (1) flexibility in your hips and (2) stability in your lumbar spine. These two exercise strategies help combat the two primary causes of low back pain.

Maintaining flexibility in your hips helps to prevent excessive movement in your low back. For instance, if your hip flexors are tight, you won’t be able to bring your leg behind you without either rotating your pelvis or overarching your low back. You’ll also end up compensating when you want to bend from the hips – if you lack hip flexion, you’ll round out your back when you squat all the way down.

In addition to hip mobility, you should train your spine stability. Start with exercises where your focus is to keep your spine still, such as the plank. By doing this, you’ll strengthen your spinal muscles in a safe position and learn to feel what it’s like to keep your spine completely stable.

Here are the best exercises to loosen your hips and strengthen your core to prevent and relieve back pain.

Flexibility Exercises

1. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

As mentioned earlier, you’ll want to have flexible hip flexors. After your warm-up routine (when your muscles and tissues are more pliable), perform a half-kneeling hip flexor stretch for 30-60 seconds on each side.

Instructions: Kneel on one knee, tighten your abdominals, and push your pelvis forward without letting the pelvis tip anteriorly. To bias the psoas muscle even more, reach up and across with the same side arm.

2. Standing or Supine Hamstring Stretch

Flexbility Test: If you can’t bend forward at your pelvis to 70-degrees, then you most likely have tight hamstrings. But, if you feel tightness or a zinging sensation into your calves when you try this, the cause is actually your nerve and you may benefit from seeing a physical therapist.

Remember, if your hamstrings are tight, when you bend down to pick something up your back will be doing the movement instead of your hips. That increases your risk of back injury.

To increase your hamstring flexibility, perform this simple standing hamstring stretch for 30-60 seconds on each leg.

Instructions: Put your leg onto an elevated surface, then reach your navel towards your knee with a flat back. No need to reach forward with your hands as you’ll only be rounding out your back, which defeats the purpose of the stretch.

Alternatively, you could perform this stretch in a supine position (on your back) with the aid of a belt.

Core Strengthening Exercises

Recently, there has been a lot of focus on the Transverse Abdominus (TvA). Two things to know about your TvA: (1) You should definitely be able to exert voluntary control of your trunk muscles and (2) you should be able to maintain a stable and firm spine.

To strengthen the deep core muscles, some health practitioners try to activate the TvA in isolation of the other core muscles. Unless your TvA really doesn’t contract (which can be confirmed with ultrasound imaging), the focus should be on engaging all of the trunk muscles simultaneously.

3. Side Plank

The side plank is one of the best exercises to engage your trunk muscles including your obliques and TvA without compressing your spine. It’s also a great exercise to improve your posture and build shoulder strength.

Instructions: Start with the modified side plank, supporting your bodyweight on your forearm and stacked knees. Hold side plank for 10 seconds, resting for only 3 seconds. Complete 10 reps.

Once you can do that, increase the duration until you can hold for 100 seconds straight. For example, hold for 20s on, 3s off. Then 30s on, 3s off. And so on.

Progressions: Perform the modified side plank with your top leg straight. Then progress to feet stacked.

4. Supine Dead Bug March

The supine dead bug march is an excellent exercise for abdominal engagement & stability.

Instructions: Lay on your back while maintaining your natural arch (you can place a small folded towel under your lumbar spine to help). Raise your arms and legs up to the ceiling, knees bent to 90-degrees over your hips. Maintaining your neutral spine position, touch one toe to the ground. Then bring the leg back to the starting position and repeat on the opposite leg. Perform for 2 min straight, keeping your spine in a neutral position the entire time.

Progressions: Extend your leg straight to hover just above the ground. Progress to straight legs, and extending opposite arm and opposite leg to hover above the ground.

5. Bird Dog

While this exercise might look easy, it’s actually pretty challenging. Why it’s good: extending your opposite arm and leg out creates a force vector that moves diagonally across your back, challenging multifidus to contract to keep your spine from rotating. This is an excellent exercise to recruit multifidus & build spine stability.

Instructions: Start in a tabletop position on hands and knees. Your shoulders should be over your wrists, and your hips over your knees. Keeping your hips and shoulders completely square, reach your right arm forward and your left leg back. Hold for 5 seconds, then return to the start position before switching sides. Perform for 2 min straight, alternating sides every 5 seconds.

Progressions: Place a foam roller on your lumbar curve and don’t let it fall off. Another progression is to place your knees and your hands together, maintaining your balance as you perform bird dog.

Movement Training Exercises

When combined with a focus on spinal stability, these exercises are great for training proper movement and core stability.

6. Squats

Squats are a fantastic core-strengthening exercise – when you do them correctly.

Start with bodyweight squats. Do your squats facing sideways next to a mirror so you can see your form. The goal here is to keep a neutral spine throughout the squat movement. That means, no butt wink! If your pelvis rotates under, then your lumbar spine is flexing. Don’t add weights until you confidently squat with perfect form.

Instructions: Stand tall with your feet slightly wider than your hips, feet slightly turned out. Keeping your chest tall and your core tight, bend your knees and reach your butt back as if you were sitting in a chair. At the same time, drive your knees out over your second toe (don’t let your knees collapse in). Your spine should remain neutral the entire time. From the bottom position of the squat, push through your feet to bring yourself all the way back to standing.

Progressions: Squat with one weight on one side, squat with one leg

7. Hip Hinge

Learn to move from your hips, and not your back. After perfecting the move without weights, try the Romanian Deadlift or the single-leg deadlift. Once you can do these basic movements, start performing them asymmetrically. The unbalanced load will require your rotational stabilizers (i.e. multifidus) to contract, helping increase your stability and core strength.

Instructions: Start standing tall, shoulders over hips over heels. Holding a dowel or a broomstick along your spine (touching your head, upper back, and lower back), push your hips back to the wall behind you while keeping your knees over your ankles. When you feel a stretch along the back of your legs, drive through your feet and squeeze your glutes to stand all the way back up. The dowel should stay in contact with your head, upper-, and lower-back the whole time. Continue to reach the hips back and then stand tall for 10 reps. Complete 2 sets.

Progressions: Deadlift, Single-leg Deadlift

Note, I didn’t mention the benefits of yoga or pilates. It’s not that these exercise forms don’t help, because they do. Yoga is great for building flexibility, and holding certain positions can be very challenging. Pilates uses a very intelligently designed system of pulleys and levers to challenge the entire body. It might even be easier in pilates to isolate certain muscle groups. But personally, I prefer other movements. I’d rather train to stay quick on my feet or to lift heavy things. If you enjoy yoga, pilates, or other form of movement, they can definitely be good for you. However, they’re not something I recommend for everyone.

Proper mobility and strengthening is something I recommend for everyone. And finally, lifestyle considerations are important including your desk setup, how you sleep, and other factors.

Do you have low back pain? What are your favorite core strengthening exercises?