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PAWS FASTPITCH SOFTBALL IS PROUD TO SUPPORT PHYSICAL FITNESS FOR ALL SOFTBALL PLAYERS.  WE BELIEVE PROPER CONDITIONING IS OVERLOOKED DURING PREPERATION FOR AND DURING SOFTBALL SEASON.  THERE A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT STRENTGTH & CONDITIONING EXERCISES ON THIS PAGE THAT WERE WRITTEN BY DOCTORS AND CERTIFIED CONDITIONING/FITNESS EXPERTS.  CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN PRIOR TO ATTEMPTING ANY OF THE EXERCISES LISTED HERE.


IT'S NOT THE HOURS YOU PUT IN, IT'S WHAT YOU PUT INTO THE HOURS!


SOFTBALL FLEXIBILITY, STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING


One of the misconceptions in the sports world is that an athlete gets in shape by just playing or taking part in his/her chosen sport. If a stationary level of performance and consistent ability in executing a few limited skills is your goal, then engaging only in your sport will keep you there. If you want the utmost efficiency, consistent improvement, and balanced abilities, top athletes must participate in year round conditioning programs.

The bottom line in sports conditioning and fitness training is adaptive body stress. Athletes must put their bodies under a certain amount of stress (overload) to increase physical capabilities.

Before you start any conditioning or fitness training, you should be checked out by your doctor to make sure it's safe for you.  It is best to get advice from someone who is a certified fitness expert and experienced working with teens.
 

 
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The Components of Fitness

Health is a state of complete mental, physical and social well being where as fitness is the ability to meet the demands of a physical task.  Of all the nine elements of fitness, cardiac respiratory qualities are the most important to develop as they enhance all the other components of the conditioning equation.

Basic fitness can be classified in four main components: strength, speed, stamina and flexibility. However, exercise scientists have identified nine components that comprise the definition of fitness:

Ø       Strength - the extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance (e.g. holding or restraining an object or person)

Ø       Power - the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements. The two components of power are strength and speed. (e.g. jumping or a sprint start)

Ø       Agility - the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (e.g. zigzag running or cutting movements)

Ø       Balance - the ability to control the body's position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics stunt)

Ø       Flexibility - the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue, i.e. fat or muscle (e.g. executing a leg split)

Ø       Local Muscle Endurance - a single muscle's ability to perform sustained work (e.g. rowing or cycling)

Ø       Cardiovascular Endurance - the heart's ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (e.g. running long distances)

Ø       Strength Endurance - a muscle's ability to perform a maximum contraction time after time (e.g. continuous explosive rebounding through an entire basketball game)

Ø       Co-ordination- the ability to integrate the above listed components so that effective movements are achieved.


What does it mean to be physically "fit"?  Physical fitness is defined as "a set of attributes that people have or achieve that relates to the ability to perform physical activity" (USDHHS, 1996). Being fit is not defined only by what kind of activity you do, how long you do it, or at what level of intensity. Overall fitness is made up of five main components: 

Ø      Cardio respiratory endurance

Ø      Muscular strength

Ø      Muscular endurance

Ø      Body composition

Ø      Flexibility 


Cardio respiratory endurance
is the ability of the body's circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel during sustained physical activity.  To improve your cardio respiratory endurance, try activities that keep your heart rate elevated at a safe level for a sustained length of time such as walking, swimming, or bicycling. Start slowly with an activity you enjoy, and gradually work up to a more intense pace.

Muscular strength is the ability of the muscle to exert force during an activity. The key to making your muscles stronger is working them against resistance, whether that be from weights or gravity. If you want to gain muscle strength, try exercises such as lifting weights or rapidly taking the stairs.

Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscle to continue to perform without fatigue. To improve your muscle endurance, try cardio respiratory activities such as walking, jogging, bicycling, or dancing.

Body composition refers to the relative amount of muscle, fat, bone, and other vital parts of the body. Body composition is important to consider for health and managing your weight!

Flexibility is the range of motion around a joint.  Good flexibility in the joints can help prevent injuries through all stages of life. If you want to improve your flexibility, try activities that lengthen the muscles such as swimming or a basic stretching program.


FLEXIBILITY

Flexibility is defined as the ability of a joint to move through its full range of motion and should be one of the most important parts of every athlete’s training program and yet, it may be the most neglected. Most athletes simply do not understand the benefits of regular stretching and that a flexible body has a greatly reduced chance of injury. As a competitive softball player you must follow a consistent flexibility program to ensure your safety and success on the field. Always spend at least 10 minutes stretching at the beginning and end of each workout, practice or game.


The benefits of a consistent flexibility program:

Ø      Decreased risk of injury.

Ø      Decreased severity of injury should one occur.

Ø      Increased force production as a result of a greater range of motion.

Ø      Decreased muscular soreness and tightness.

Ø      Increased blood flow to muscles and connective tissues.

Ø      Increased recovery ability following strenuous activity.


It is important that several guidelines be followed in order for you to stretch safely. Remember that stretching is an individual activity. Some athletes are genetically gifted to be more flexible than others, so each athlete should know their limitations.


Guidelines for safe and effective stretching:

Ø      Stretch regularly. You will only improve if you stretch properly and consistently.

Ø      Never stretch a cold muscle group. Perform a 5-10 minute general warm-up prior to a stretch session.

Ø      All movements should be slow and controlled. NO BOUNCING!

Ø      Bouncing while stretching can cause muscle and/or joint injury.

Ø      Stretching should be relatively comfortable. The feeling we experience while stretching isn’t necessarily pleasant but it should not be painful. (Pain is a signal that something is wrong.)

Ø      Breathe while stretching. Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling fully.

Ø      Concentrate on the muscle group you are stretching.

Ø      Some areas of the body may require additional time and effort.

Ø      Perform additional stretches for your specific problem areas or injury sites.

Ø      Hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds.

Ø      Stretch your entire body.

Ø      Relax.

SAMPLE STRETCHING


Stretches to be performed standing up:

Right leg forward lunge with the arms overhead (hips low)

Left leg forward lunge with the arms overhead (hips low)

Right leg forward lunge, walk the right foot over to the left, lower

your elbows to the floor.

Left leg forward lunge, walk the left foot over to the right, lower

your elbows to the floor.

Standing quad stretch

Calf stretch (hands against a wall)

Right wrist stretch up, then down

Left wrist stretch up, then down

Right elbow across the front

Left elbow across the front

Right elbow around back

Left elbow around back

Rotator cuff stretch


Stretches to be performed lying down or sitting:


Right knee to chest… Roll the ankle around

Left knee to chest… Roll the ankle

Bring both knees to the chest

Cross leg side roll right

Cross leg side roll left

Figure 4

Seated Groin

Right leg out straight, left foot at the right knee, reach past the right toes

Left leg out straight, right foot at the left knee, reach past the left toes.

Both legs out straight with the feet together, lean and reach forward.

Body twist


NOTE:
PNF stretching is not recommended for athletes under the age of 18.


AGILITY AND MOVEMENT


Agility and movement drills are excellent way to improve or enhance your agility, balance, quickness, and movement. They are also a good way for young athletes to begin developing some lower body functional strength. Beginners should start by choosing 3 or 4 of the drills. If you don’t have cones to work with, use cups, plastic soda bottles or anything that makes a good marker.

You can set up all of the drills and go through them in circuit fashion, or if you’re limited in the number of cones you have available, set up one drill at a time. Begin by using a 1 to 3 work to rest ratio while performing the drills.  A good starting point is 15 seconds on/45 seconds off. Go through the circuit of drills 3 times, or if you’re doing 1 drill at a time, do it 3 times then quickly set up the next drill, do it, then set up and do the third. As the conditioning level improves, you may want to work up in the time of work and down in the time of rest, maybe reaching bouts of 30 seconds on/30 seconds off. Emphasize quickness with control (balance). As time goes on, alternate drills for variety - keeping a good balance of forward, backward, and lateral movement.

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1. Lateral Quick Steps w/ Sprint up and backpedal

Begin by standing beside cone 2, and then move laterally over the cones. After stepping over cone 11, sprint to cone 12 touching it with your right hand. Backpedal to cone 11 and move laterally to your left. After stepping over cone 2, sprint up to cone 1 touching it with your left hand. 


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2. Lateral Quick Steps w/ Sprint out

Begin by standing beside cone 1, and then move laterally over the cones. After stepping over cone 11, sprint through cone 12. Turn and jog back to cone 1 - repeat.


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3. Sprint/Lateral Jumps/Backpedal

Arrange cones in a rectangle with approximately 3 yards between cones 1 and 3, and cones 2 and 4 (approximately 4 yards should be between cones 1 and 2, and cones 3 and 4). Begin at cone 3, sprint up to cone 1, and jump laterally over to cone 2 emphasizing the push off the left foot. When you reach cone 2, backpedal to cone 4 and jump laterally over to cone 3 emphasizing the push off the right foot then sprint up to cone 1. Focus on the quick change of direction at each corner.


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4. “T” Drill

Begin at cone 1. Sprint to cone 2, shuffle laterally to cone 3, touch it and shuffle laterally to cone 4, touch it and shuffle laterally back to cone 2, touch it, and backpedal to cone 1, touch it and immediately sprint back to cone 2 to begin your second repetition thru. Two repetitions thru make 1 complete drill.


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*5 yards between cones 1 and 2.  3 yards between cones 2 and cones 3 & 4.


5. Box Drill

Begin at cone 1. Sprint to cone 2, lateral shuffle to cone 3, backpedal to cone

4, then lateral shuffle to cone 1.  Three repetitions thru make 1 complete drill.


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*5 yards between cones.


6.  X Drill

Begin at cone 1. Sprint to cone 3 and backpedal to cone 4. Then sprint to cone 2 and backpedal to cone 1. Emphasize strong start of each sprint up.  Three repetitions thru make 1 complete drill.


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*5 yards between cones.


SPRINT AND SHUTTLE



150 yd. Shuttle

Place a cone at your starting point and pace out 5 yards.  Place the next

cone down. Not including your starting cone, you should have five cones

in front of you at 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards. Sprint from the starting cone

to the first cone and back, second cone and back, and so on.


Dirty Dozens

Place a cone at the start line and a cone 20 yards out. Sprint out to the cone,

then sprint back to the start cone and continue until you’ve completed 12 twenty yard sprints. Rest for 2 minutes, then repeat. Set a goal time and just do the best you can on each one, recording your times - try improve from one training session to another.


300 yd. Shuttle

Place a cone at your starting point and place another cone 50 yards out. Sprint

from cone 1 to cone 2, then back - 3 consecutive times. 


STRENGTH TRAINING AT HOME


When a weight training facility is unavailable, there are things that you can still do that will enable you to get in a strength training session. Resistance can be provided by using a book bag with books in it (or anything else that provides the weight).  Of course there will be limits to how much you can add so when you’ve reached a point that no more weight can be added, make the exercise harder be slowing the movement down.

Before you begin any type of strength training routine, get some guidance and expert advice. Your coach or trainer can give you advice on how many times a week you should lift and what kinds of warm-up and cool-down activities you should do before and after lifting to avoid soreness or injury. Many trainers who work at schools, gyms, and in weight rooms are knowledgeable about strength training, but it's best to get advice from someone who is a certified fitness expert and experienced working with teens.  If you've started puberty, your body will have begun making the hormones necessary to help build muscle in response to weight training. If you haven't started puberty, though, you'll still be able to get stronger, you just won't see your muscles getting bigger.

Before you start strength training, you should be checked out by your doctor to make sure it's safe for you to lift weights.  If you feel your body is not ready for strength training for any reason, talk to your physician.  When lifting weights, either free weights or on a machine, make sure that there's always someone nearby to supervise, or spot, you.

Do 3 sets of each exercise. To make the workout go quicker, use the following exercises grouped together, doing the reps required on one exercise and then going immediately to the next exercise then the next. When you’ve finished 3 sets each of the exercises in that group, move to the next group.

Ø      Group 1: Round the Worlds, Walking Lunge, Lying Pullover

Ø Group 2: Wood Chopper, Reverse Lunge, Lateral Hops

Ø      Group 3: Straight Arm Twist, Side Lunge, Bent Over Forward Swing

Ø      Group 4: Squat Jumps, Push Ups


GLOSSARY OF TERMS:


Round the World
- Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Hold a weight (book bag) with both hands, arms extended overhead. Slowly move the weight to the right and downward, keeping the arms and legs straight and bending from the waist. The idea is to "draw" a circle keeping the weight as far from your bellybutton as possible. "Draw" five circles in that direction then five in the other direction.

Wood Chopper - Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, holding the weight with both hands, arms extended overhead. With this exercise, instead of drawing circles, you'll be doing chopping movements. Keeping the arms and the legs straight, "chop" down to the right foot, bring the weight back up and "chop" down to the left foot. Continue until you've "chopped" to each foot 5 times.

Straight Arm Twist - Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, holding the weight with both hands, arms extended straight out in front of your chest. Bend the knees slightly.  Keeping your hips squared to the front and the arms straight, twist from the torso as far to the right as possible, then move the weight back to the front position and repeat. Do 10 twists to the right, then 10 twists to the left. Don't be afraid to get some speed into it with this movement as the weight moves out as well as back to the center so that you have to work to stop the weight at the center position. Have strong, powerful twists for each repetition.

Walking Lunge - With the book bag on your back or holding a weight in each hand with the arms down by your sides, stand with your feet a shoulder width apart. Stand straight and tall with the chest up and look forward. Take a big step forward with your right foot allowing the hips to move toward the floor until the left knee just slightly touches the floor. When you're in the stride out position make sure that you have stepped out far enough that the right knee does not go out beyond the tips of the toes on the right foot. Now, step forward, driving the hips up and bringing the left foot up even with the right one. Don't lean over as you step up!  Lead up with your chest. Come up with power and take 10 steps with the right leg, turn around and do 10 steps back with the left leg.

Reverse Lunge - With the book bag on your back or holding a weight in each hand with the arms down by your sides, stand with your feet a shoulder width. Stand straight and tall, with the chest up, looking forward. Take a big step back with your right foot allowing the hips to move toward the floor until the left knee just slightly touches the floor. When you're in this step-back position, make sure that you have stepped far enough back that the right knee does not go out beyond the tips of the toes on the right foot. Pause there, then return to the start position. Do 10 step outs with the right leg then 10 with the left leg.

Side Lunge - With the book bag on your back, stand with your feet a shoulder width. Stand straight and tall with the chest up and look forward. Take a big step out to the right with your right foot allowing the hips to move toward the floor until you feel a good stretch in the groin.  When you're in this stride out position make sure that your right foot is pointed forward.  Now, push yourself back to the start position. Do 10 step outs with the right leg then 10 with the left leg.

Squat Jumps - Stand with the feet slightly wider than your shoulders. You may have a book bag on your back or a weight in each hand. Dip into a squat position (don't let the knees move forward as you lower into the squat position) then explode up leaving the floor as far as possible. It is very important that when your feet come back in contact with the floor that you land in a good squat position, not allowing your knees to break the plane of the tips of your toes. Make sure that your heels make solid contact with the floor and that you're not landing on your toes. Complete one rep, return to the start position then do another rep until 10 reps have been completed.

Lateral Hops - Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders and your knees slightly bent. Explode over to the right, landing on your right leg and balance there on that right leg for a few seconds, then explode back over landing on the left leg. Continue until you've completed 10 landings with each leg.

Bent Over Forward Swing - Stand with a wide stance, knees bent. Bend over until your back is close to parallel with the floor, holding your book bag with both hands, arms hanging down toward the floor. Stay in the bent over position as you swing the book bag forward (hard!) until the arms are parallel with the floor. At this point your arms and your back are both parallel to the floor - hold there for a second, then let the weight come back down to the start position, slowly. Do 10-15 reps.

Lying Pullover - Lay on your back with your arms extended out overhead holding the

weight (book bag) with both hands. Slide your feet toward your hips so that they are flat on the floor and the knees are pointed up with approximately a 0 degree bend in them.  Keeping your arms straight, move the weight from the floor to a position straight up over your shoulders (like an overhead throw), then slowly lower the weight back down to the floor. Do 10-15 reps.

Pushups - Lay flat on the floor with your hands flat on the floor about 3 or 4 inches out from the center of your chest (not up level with your shoulders). Keep you body straight from head to ankles as you push up off the floor and the arms are fully extended. Come back down until your chest TOUCHES the floor and repeat. Do sets of 10 to 15 reps each.  Do sets of 10 to 12 reps each. If you’re making all the reps and you’re going all the way down on each rep, put some weight on your back.

Resistance Tubing Workout

yhst.jpgResistance tubing offers an inexpensive and portable way to get a full-body, strength-training workout at home or on the road.

As with all exercise, it is important to warm up for five to 10 minutes and gently stretch the muscles you will be working. For beginners, it is best to do one set of 12 to 15 repetitions.

Intermediate exercisers (i.e., those that have been lifting weights for up to three months) can perform one to two sets of each exercise. More advanced strength trainers (i.e., those who have been lifting weights or using tubing for more than three months) should try to complete two or three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. Stretch each muscle group after each set and at the end of the entire workout to improve flexibility.

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Perform the following exercises for a quick full-body workout:


Seated row (back)
: Sit on the floor and grasp one handle. Wrap the tubing around a
bedpost or some type of anchor close to the ground and grab the other handle. Sit back so that there is tension on the elastic when your arms are extended forward. Extend your legs in front of you with your knees slightly bent. Pull the handles so that your elbows form right angles as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.

Bring your elbows back as far as you can, keeping your spine neutral. Slowly let your arms extend back to the starting position and begin your second repetition. Be sure not to slouch.


Bench press (chest)
: Secure the center of the tubing at chest level and face away from the anchor, grabbing the handles in each hand. Begin with your thumbs at your armpits and step far enough away from the anchor that at this starting position the tube is not gapping. Fully extend your arms in front of your body. Slowly release to the starting position and repeat.

Military press (shoulders): Stand on the center of the band with feet shoulder-width apart. With your palms facing forward and hands by your shoulders, extend your arms straight up while keeping your back straight (do not arch your back) and abdominal muscles tight. Slowly lower and repeat.


Triceps extension (triceps)
: Step on the tubing and pull one handle up behind your head. Bring your elbow up close to your ear and, beginning with your arm bent behind you, extend straight up until your arm is straight. You may use your other arm to hold your elbow in close to your head. Slowly lower back to the starting position and switch arms.


Biceps curl (biceps)
: Step on one end of the exercise band and grab the handle with the same hand. Be sure that when your arm is extended down by your side, there is some tension on the tubing. With your palm facing forward, bend your elbow, bringing your hand up toward your shoulder. Keep your wrist straight and bend only at the elbow. Slowly release and repeat. If you are using light resistance you may be able to stand on the center of the tube and work both arms simultaneously.


Squats (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes)
: Stand on the tubing so that you are centered. Grab the handles with both hands and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold the handles up by your shoulders and bend as if you are going to sit in a chair. Return to standing and repeat. Be sure to keep a flat back and contract your abdominal muscles.


Kneeling crunches (abdominals)
: Anchor the tubing above your head and let the handles drop down. Kneel on the floor with the anchor behind you. Hold the handles with your hands up by your ears and elbows in. Bending from the waist, curl down, bringing your head toward your knees and keeping the handles locked by your ears. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Tubing Safety Tips

Pulling on exercise tubing isn’t exactly a risky activity. Still, to keep the tube from snapping into your face—and to give your muscles the best challenge—follow these important guidelines.

Ø       Check for holes or worn spots in the tubing. Replace the tube if you see any tears.

Ø Do your workout on carpeting, wood floors or grass—anywhere but asphalt or cement. Abrasive surfaces can tear your tube.

Ø Wear comfortable, supportive athletic shoes, not sandals or dress shoes.

Ø  Make sure the tubing is secured underfoot or on an anchor before you begin each exercise.

Ø       Maintain good posture throughout each exercise: Keep your knees slightly bent, your abdominal muscles pulled in and your chest expanded.

Ø       Perform the exercises in a slow and controlled manner, to work against resistance both when you pull on the tube and when your return to the starting position.

 


PILATES

This Pilates workout is designed to strengthen your core stability muscles: the deep abdominal, back, and pelvic floor muscles. One of the best ways to challenge these muscles is to make them stabilize the trunk under unstable conditions.

Why does Pilates strengthen the core so effectively? Why will exercises targeting the abdominals in a Pilates workout likely strengthen the core more than traditional crunches? The answer, and, ironically, the secret to flat abs: Pilates focuses on a key muscle of the core, the Tranversus Abdominus, the deepest muscles of the abdominal wall, the fibers run horizontally, creating a corset like effect. A strong Transversus Abdominis protects your lower back and internal organs, and, of course, strengthens your core. The Transversus Abdominis is engaged by pulling in the abdominal muscles in and toward the front wall of the spine (think of tightening a belt.) No change in spinal shape should result. Thus, a HUGE bonus of focusing on the Transversus Abdominis is that we can create the coveted flat tummy... the trademark sign of a true Pilates body and a well conditioned athlete!

1. Warm Up the Core - Diaphragmatic Breathing

womanBreathing250.jpgGetty Images/Digital Vision

You might think that breathing is too easy an exercise. But diaphragmatic breathing helps you get oxygen to fuel your workout, stimulates the organs and spine, and it prepare your core muscles to workout. Take at least 5 deep, belly breaths.

Here’s How:

You can do this exercise lying on your back with your knees bent or even now, sitting up reading. Either way, do it with one hand resting lightly on your lower belly so you can feel your breath move your body.

Your shoulders relaxed and dropped away from your ears.

Your spine is long, in what we call neutral spine, a natural position of the spine that allows the curves of the spine to be present.

If you are sitting, feel that your weight is falling directly down through your sit bones and your head is floating up toward the sky.

Your throat is open and relaxed.

The Inhale: Breathe in slowly through your nose. Let the air flow into your upper chest and down your spine -- expanding the sides and lower ribs, filling the diaphragm, back and lower back, and dropping all the way down into the pelvis. Allow the deep inhale to push your belly out a little bit.

The Exhale: Let go of your breath in the reverse order that you brought it in. Drop your lower abs, then your belly. Let your ribs pull in, and last, let your chest to drop as you fully expel all the air.

2. Wall Roll Down

womanBreathing250.jpgMarguerite Ogle

Standing is another action we take for granted. But standing with good alignment takes a lot of core strength. We are always in danger of falling over, really. It's the core muscles that hold us up. The wall roll down exercise helps to stretch the back and warm up the abs, establishing a strong, tall posture when we step away from the wall. Notice also that wall roll down incorporates the Pilates fundamental exercise, arms over.
Do wall roll down 5 times.

Here’s How:

Stand tall against a wall. Leaving your body on the wall, walk your feet six to ten inches away from the wall.

Pull your abdominals in.

Keep your shoulders away from your ears, your chest wide and your ribs down as you raise your arms straight up over head.

Your arms stay parallel to your ears as you nod your head and begin to slowly roll your spine down and away from the wall, vertebrae by vertebrae.

The abdominals stay lifted and there is a sense of lengthening the spine as you roll down.

As the roll down progresses, you have the opportunity to deepen the scoop of the abs even more.

Work slowly, peeling the spine away from the wall.

Let your head and neck relax.

Roll down as far as you can go without letting your hips leave the wall. Your abdominals are very pulled in.  Feel the curve evenly along the upper, middle and lower sections of your torso. You could be getting a good hamstring stretch here.

Begin your return up the wall by initiating the roll up with your lower abs. This is a powerhouse move.
Think of using the lower abs to bring your pelvis to an upright position.

Continue up, placing each vertebrae on the wall, one by one.

As you roll up, your arms travel alongside your ears and the shoulders stay relaxed.

As you come close to upright, you will feel a moment when you can let the ribs stay down as shoulders drop into place. It feels a bit like your upper body is rolling up between your shoulders.

Bring your roll up to the starting position. Be sure your abs are engaged and your shoulders are dropped.

Arms are overhead with wide shoulders and an open chest.


3.
Knee Folds (ball optional)

womanBreathing250.jpg(c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

The ball adds our first real stability element. Make your core muscles stabilize you. Keep your spine long and your abs in. Don't depend on just leg power to lift the leg. Whether you are on the floor or on the ball, the idea is to get a deep crease at the hip and use your abs to help lift the leg. Do at least 5 lifts on each leg (alternating).

Here's How:

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Mentally scan you body. As you do so, let go of unnecessary tension and check your alignment.

Alignment Check:

Your neck is long and relaxed

Your shoulders are dropped and your chest is open.

Your arms are by your sides.

Your ribcage is released onto the floor.

Your spine and pelvis are in neutral position -- not tucked and not arched.

Your legs are parallel, about hip distance apart.

Your feet are in line with your legs, toes pointing straight forward.

Breathe deeply. Allow the breath to expand the ribs evenly, and to travel down your spine and into your pelvis.

Engage your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. They should feel active, and your belly will pull in and up as you engage. However, this is not an overly strong move and it does not change the position of the pelvis.

On an inhale, feel that you are using your abdominal muscles to lift one leg off the floor.

Your thigh muscles will be part of this move, but the abdominals are more important. As you use your abs, keep your torso long. Feel a deepening of the crease at the hip joint. It is important not to let the hip to come up with the leg.

Exhale and return your foot to the floor. As you do so, be sure to use abdominal control. Don't let the thigh take over.

4. Chest Lift (ball optional)

womanBreathing250.jpggetty images/sheer photo, inc

Again, the exercise ball is going to add a stability challenge to this exercise. Use your core for balance and stay away from trying to steady yourself by over-gripping the ball with the legs. On the floor or on the ball, you might feel this more in your upper abs but pull in the lower abs in and up as well. Do 5 -7 repetitions.

Here's How:

Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Make sure that your legs are parallel - lined up so that your hip, knee and ankle are in one line and the toes are pointing directly away from you.  You are in neutral spine position with the natural curve of the lower spine creating a slight lift off the mat.

Keep your shoulders down as you bring your hands behind your head with the finger tips touching.  Your hands will support the base of your skull.  Your elbows will stay open throughout the exercise.

Take a few deep breaths. Use this time to make a little survey of your body. Be sure your body is balanced side to side. Check that your neck is relaxed and your ribs are dropped.

Exhale: Slowly pull your belly button down toward your spine and keep going, allowing your spine to lengthen out and the lower back to come down to the mat. Simultaneously, tilt you chin slightly down and from the top of the head, with a long neck, slowly lift the upper spine off the mat until the base of the scapula is just brushing the mat.
There is a deepening feeling under the bottom ribs as you lift.

*Remember, the work is in your abs, which are in a deep concave position. Your neck and shoulders stay relaxed, and the movement does not create tension in the legs.   Pause at the top and inhale. Draw the abdominals in deeper. 

Exhale: Keep the abdominals drawn in as you slowly lower back to the mat.

Inhale: Release the abdominals and return to neutral spine.

5. One Leg Circle

womanBreathing250.jpgCourtesy of Peak Pilates

In one leg circle, the leverage of the extended leg moving away from center challenges the core to keep the trunk stable, as in no rocking of the hips, at all.  Do 5 circles each direction with each leg. Do small circles at first and build up to larger ones.

Here's How:

Preparation

Lie on your back with legs extended on the floor, arms by your sides. Take a moment to feel the weight of your body on the floor.

Try to balance the weight of the shoulders and the hips on each side.

You may want to do some sequential breathing to help drop the breath into the body and encourage the weight of the ribs to rest on the floor.

Engage Your Abdominals

Pull your abdominals in, anchoring the pelvis and shoulders. Extend one leg toward the ceiling.

If your hamstrings are stretched, go ahead and lengthen the leg all the way up toward the ceiling. Do not lift your hip in the process.

You may leave the knee slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight. It is more important that your hips stay stable and grounded on the mat than it is for your leg to be straight.

The Leg Circles

Inhale: Cross the extended leg over toward the opposite hip.

Exhale: Drop the leg a few inches. Use control as you open the leg out and then sweep it around in a small circle back to center.

Be sure to keep your shoulders and pelvis level. This is more important than extending the leg fully or making big circles. It is in keeping the pelvis stable that your abdominals get their workout. No Rockin' or Rollin'!

The Breath and Movement Pattern

Do five circles in each direction with each leg.

First set of 5:
Inhale to cross the body and circle down.
Exhale to open the leg and circle up.

Second set of 5:
Exhale to open the leg and circle down.
Inhale to cross the body and circle and up.

6. Shoulder Bridge

womanBreathing250.jpg(c)2008, Marguerite Ogle

This exercise begins with shoulder bridge prep, where both feet are on the floor and you lift the hips straight up (not rolled up) to be in a diagonal line with the shoulders. Extending one leg gives you less of a base and a greater level of difficulty for the core to maintain stability.

Alternate lifting each leg 5 times each. If you are only pressing up to bridge position without the leg lifts, press up 3 times.


7.
Open Leg Balance and Rocker

womanBreathing250.jpg(c)2006,Marguerite Ogle

Maintaining balance is a big job for the core. First, we take away all contact with the floor except just behind the sit bones. Then, if you are ready, take that balance into rolling. Stay curved, and use your abs to initiate the rolling and keep you rolling straight.
Do 3 balances and 3 rolls. Don't do more because we are going directly to rolling like a ball.

Here’s How:

Open Leg Balance

Sit up tall on your sit bones.

Bring your feet in toward your body, knees open, feet together. Put your arms to the inside of the legs and grasp your ankles.
Make sure your shoulders stay dropped as the spine extends long up through the trunk and the head reaches for the sky.

Pull in the abdominals, paying special attention to lifting the lower abs.

Extend one leg, stabilize, extend the second leg.
You may rock back behind your sit bones, but don't go so far that you settle onto your tail bone.  BALANCE and hold for a count of 5.

With control, fold one leg in, then the next.  Check you posture and repeat the exercise 3 - 4 times.

Open Leg Rocker:

Prepare: Sit up tall on your sit bones with your knees bent so that you can grasp your ankles.

As you balance between your sit-bones and tailbone, keep your abdominals activated as you lift and extend one leg, then the other, to shoulder width apart.  Balance.

Inhale and Roll: On an inhale, use a deepening scoop of the abdominals and the fullness of your inhale to propel your roll back onto your shoulders.

Stay in your
C-curve as you roll, leaving your head and neck off the mat.  Pause.

Exhale and Return: Remain in your C-curve and use your abdominal muscles, along with a strong exhale, to bring yourself back to an upright balance.

Tip: Rolling exercises are initiated and controlled by the deepening of the abdominals, the breath, and expansion of the back in relation to the breath. They are never accomplished by throwing oneself backward from the shoulders and head. Stay in the C-curve until you come up for your balance!

8. Rolling Like a Ball

womanBreathing250.jpgSteve Boschoff

Rolling exercises are part of the classic Pilates exercise repertoire. They create a unique abdominal workout where we have to use a lot of control to initiate and support the movement. Rolling also gets the blood flowing, stimulates the spine, and coordinates the breath and movement.

The power of the breath is the key to getting these rolling exercises to flow smoothly. Allow yourself to breathe out loud for these. Don't be shy; exaggerate for a while until you get the breath coordinated with the movement.

The biggest problem people have with rolling exercises is trying to get their roll started by tilting themselves backward from the head and shoulders. This never works. The rolling starts with a deep pull in of the lower abs and strong use of the breath. Stay curved, use your breath, focus your intention, and pull the abs in so much that you have to roll back; it works. Another tendency is to try to use the momentum of throwing the legs to get the roll over and back. This can harm to your back and it takes the focus off the abs, which is where you want it.

Stay in Your C Curve

Repeat: Stay in the C curve the whole time. There is a tendency to undo the curve and layout at the top end of a roll. This will cause you to lose your momentum.  Rolling exercises treat the head as an extension of the spine, so your neck continues the curve of your spine and your head is not overly tucked. Remember, you want to be a perfect wheel.

Roll Only to the Shoulders

It is important to protect your upper back and neck. Roll only onto your shoulders, just above the lower tips of your scapula, and never up onto your neck.  A big part of working with the shoulder area as a support station is keeping your chest open, back wide, and shoulders down. This will help you roll evenly and have a good platform to roll onto.

9. Side Leg Lifts

womanBreathing250.jpgBy Peter Kramer, Courtesy of Kolesar Studios

Lying on your side with your ribs and legs lifted away from the mat does not provide a very big surface to balance on. That means your core will be working extra to keep you stable and your hips stacked vertically, as well as to lift your legs. It is a good idea to bring your legs slightly forward of your hips to help with balance.  Do 5 lifts on each side.

Here's How:

Prepare: Lie on your side with all body parts lined up so that your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and ears are in one line.  Now move your legs slightly in front so that you are in a banana shape. This helps with balance and protects the lower back.

You can prop your head up on your hand, or stretch the bottom arm out long and lay your head down. If you prop your head up, you must support your alignment by lifting your rib cage away from the mat.  Make sure that your abdominals are pulled in. This is your key to using the abs for strength and stability.

Inhale:
The breath moves down the full length of your spine, making your entire body very long from tip to toe.

Exhale:
Use your abdominals and the engagement of your legs to bring both legs up a few inches off your mat.  Focus on keeping your inner legs together, all the way from your sit bones to your heels.

Inhale:
Get longer still as you slowly lower your legs back down on the mat. Use control.

Turn over on your other side and repeat.  Modify this exercise by leaving your head down on an outstretched arm.  The front arm is just for balance. Use your core.  Increase the challenge by pausing at the top of your lift for several breaths.

10. Side Kick Front/Back with Kneeling

womanBreathing250.jpgCourtesy of Peak Pilates

Side-lying and a leverage challenge from your moving leg will work your core muscles in side kick front/back. Moving up to kneeling side kick, with just one leg and one hand on the floor, makes it even harder to maintain a stable trunk.  Do 5 kicks on each side. Do 3 on each side if you are taking the exercise up to kneeling position as well.

PLYOMETRICS

Plyometric exercises are explosive exercises that help to build, power, strength and speed. The most important element when considering performance technique during plyometric training is the landing - it must be soft. When you land from a jump, you want to softly accept your weight on the balls of your feet, slowly rolling back to the heel with a bent knee and a straight hip.

Many athletes and trainers use plyometric jumping exercises to build power and speed, improve coordination and agility and effectively improve sports performance. It's also important to recognize that these are high risk exercises and if performed incorrectly or performed without a solid base of training, plyometrics can increase the risk of injury.

What are Plyometric Exercises?
Plyometric exercises are specialized, high intensity training techniques used to develop athletic power (strength and speed). Plyometric training involves high-intensity, explosive muscular contractions that invoke the stretch reflex (stretching the muscle before it contracts so that it contracts with greater force). The most common plyometric exercises include hops, jumps and bounding movements. One popular plyometric exercise is jumping off a box and rebounding off the floor and onto another, higher box. These exercises typically increase speed and strength and build power.

Safety of Plyometrics
Experts in the field of exercise science have varying opinions of plyometrics. The American College of Sports Medicine states that "that plyometric training is a safe, beneficial and fun activity for children and adolescents provided that the program is properly designed and supervised."  The American Council on Fitness also recommends plyometric exercise if done properly. And the National Strength and Conditioning Association offers a position stand in favor of plyometrics.

Plyometrics (and any impact exercise) can increase the risk of injury if you don't follow certain safety precautions. The tremendous force generated during these moves requires that athletes use them sparingly, with proper training, and expert guidance and supervision.

The most important aspect of a safe and effective plyometric program is developing a safe landing technique. This means the athlete lands softly on the toes and rolls to the heels. By using the whole foot (and a larger surface area) for landing it helps dissipate the impact forces on the joints. The other key to proper landing is to avoid any twisting or sideways motion at the knee.  

Before you start plyometrics training, you should be checked out by your doctor and be instructed by a certified fitness insructor to make sure it's safe for you.  If you feel your body is not ready for plyometrics training for any reason, talk to your physician. 

To warm up for a plyometrics workout, jog for at least five minutes, and follow that with five minutes of light skipping, gentle jumping jacks, and high knee prancing. It’s best to perform the jumping drills on grass so you have some cushioning. A football field is ideal so you can use the yard lines, but any stable, cushioned surface like a track will provide the "give" you need. After the drills, do an easy run or reduced-volume speed session to cool down and round out your workout.

Plyometrics Safety Tips

Ø Plyometrics are recommended only for well-conditioned athletes

Ø      You should have high levels of leg strength prior to performing plyometrics

Ø      Warm up thoroughly before starting plyometrics

Ø      Start slowly with small jumps and gradually build up

Ø      Land softly (see above) to absorb shock

Ø      Allow plenty of rest between plyometric workouts

Ø      Stop immediately if you feel any pain in your joints

Ø      Pay attention to Injury Warning Signs.

Ø      Use footwear with plenty of cushioning

Ø      Perform plyometrics on soft or cushioned surfaces only

These exercises are basic, however, it is critical to perform them correctly. Please take the time to ensure safe and correct completion of these exercises.  Launch into each drill with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.

Squat Jumps
plyometrics_squat_jump.gif
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, trunk flexed forward slightly with back straight in a neutral position.
2. Arms should be in the “ready" position with elbows flexed at approximately 90°.
3. Lower body where thighs are parallel to ground and immediately explode upwards vertically and drive arms up. Do not hold a squat position before jumping up – keep the time between dipping down and jumping up to a minimum.
4. Land on both feet. Rest for 1-2 seconds and repeat
Prior to takeoff extend the ankles to their maximum range (full plantar flexion) to ensure proper mechanics.


Jump to Box
plyometrics_squat_jump.gif
1.Stand facing box with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
2.Lower body into a semi-squat position and immediately jump up onto box. Do not hold a squat position before jumping up – keep the time between dipping down and jumping up to a minimum.
3. Feet should land softly on box. Step back down (not jump back down) and repeat.


Lateral Jump to Box
plyometrics_squat_jump.gif
1. Stand side on to box with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.

2. Lower body into a semi-squat position and jump up onto box. Do not hold a squat position before jumping up – keep the time between dipping down and jumping up to a minimum.
3. Feet should land softly on box. Step back down (not jump back down) and repeat.


Split
Squat Jumps
plyometric_exercises_tuck_jumps.gif
1. Stand with feet hip width apart. Take left leg and step back approximately 2 feet standing on the ball of back foot.
2. Feet should be positioned at a staggered stance with head and back erect and straight in a neutral position.
3. Lower body by bending at right hip and knee until thigh is parallel to floor then immediately explode vertically.
4. Switch feet in the air so that the back foot lands forward and vice versa.
Prior to takeoff extend the ankles to their maximum range (full plantar flexion) ensure proper mechanics.


Tuck Jumps
plyometric_exercises_tuck_jumps.gif
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, with arms at sides.
2. Jump up bringing knees up to chest.
3. Land on balls of feet and repeat immediately.
4. Remember to reduce ground contact time by landing soft on feet and springing into air.


Lateral Box Push Offs
plyometrics_squat_jump.gif
1. Stand to side of box and place the left foot on top of box.
2. Push off the box using the left leg only and explode vertically as high as possible. Drive the arms forward and up for maximum height.
3. Land with right foot on the box and left foot on the ground to the other side of the box.
4. Repeat from this side.


Bounding

1. Jog into the start of the drill for forward momentum.
2. After a few feet, forcefully push off with the left foot and bring the leg forward. At same time drive your right arm forward.
3. Repeat with other leg and arm
4. This exercise is an exaggerated running motion focusing on foot push-off and air time.


Bounding with Rings
plyometrics_squat_jump.gif
1. Jog into the start of the drill for forward momentum.
2. After a few feet, forcefully push off with the left foot and bring the right leg forward. At same time swing left arm forward and land into the first ring, which is 3-4 feet out and to the left, with the right foot.
3. Continue and repeat with other leg and arm into the second ring, which is now 3-4 feet up and to the right.
4. This exercise is an exaggerated running motion focusing on foot push-off and air time.


Box Drill with Rings
plyometrics_squat_jump.gif
1. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your body facing the first ring.
2. Hop forward using both feet and land in first ring.
3. Now hop to the left and land in the ring to the side. Now jump backwards to land in ring behind you. Finish by jumping to your right to land in final ring.
4. Rest and repeat. Remember to keep ground contact time between bounds to a minimum.


Lateral Hurdle Jumps
plyometrics_squat_jump.gif
1. Stand beside object to be cleared.
2. Bring knees up and jump vertically but also laterally off ground and over the barrier.
3. Land on both feet and immediately jump the other direction over barrier.
4. Try not to pause between jumps or sink down into a squat position.


Zigzag Hops
plyometrics_squat_jump.gif
1. Stand to the left of an agility ladder or similar object approximately 1-2 feet away.
2. Forcefully push off both feet and land the on the other side of the ladder.
3. Repeat and land feet back on the other side, continue repeating and so on down the ladder.4. Do not "double hop" upon each landing and keep ground contact time to a minimum.


Single Leg Tuck Jump

This is the same as the tuck jump exercise above only one leg is used. Upon landing another jump is performed immediately with minimal ground contact time and with the same leg for the desired number of repetitions. This is repeated for the other leg after a rest period. Single leg plyometric exercises are typically more advanced and require greater strength and balance. They are suitable for sports were a takeoff is completed on one leg.


Single Leg Lateral Hops

plyometric_exercises_tuck_jumps.gif
1. Start by standing on one leg with your hands on your waist or at your sides.
2. Proceed to hop to the side while maintaining your balance and hop back to the starting position.
3. You can place a rope on the ground or any object on the ground. The object can be small in size and height or large to increase difficulty.
4. Repeat continuously.


Depth Jumps
plyometrics_squat_jump.gif
1. Stand on box with toes close to edge, feet shoulder width apart.
2. Step off (do not jump off) box and land on both feet. Immediately jump up as high as possible and reach up with both hands towards. The jump should be vertical with no horizontal movement.
4. Ground contact time should be short unlike in the diagram. Landing should be soft.

Note: Start with a box height of 30cm (12in). Intensity can be increased by gradually increasing the box height to a maximum of 107cm (42in) but this is only for experienced athletes with a substantial strength training background.

AEROBICS


Aerobic exercise is physical exercise that intends to improve the efficiency of the cardiovascular system in absorbing and transporting oxygen.  Aerobic means "with oxygen", and refers to the use of oxygen in the body's metabolic or energy-generating process. Many types of exercise are aerobic, and by definition are performed at moderate levels of intensity for extended periods of time.

Among the recognized benefits of doing regular aerobic exercise are:

Ø       Strengthening the muscles involved in respiration, to facilitate the flow of air in and out of the lungs

Ø       Strengthening and enlarging the heart muscle, to improve its pumping efficiency and reduce the resting heart rate, known as aerobic conditioning

Ø Strengthening muscles throughout the body

Ø       Improving circulation efficiency and reducing blood pressure

Ø       Increasing the total number of red blood cells in the body, facilitating transport of oxygen

Ø Improved mental health, including reducing stress and lowering the incidence of depression


As a result, aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of death due to cardiovascular problems. In addition, high-impact aerobic activities (such as jogging or jumping rope) can stimulate bone growth, as well as reducing the risk of osteoporosis for both men and women.

In addition to the health benefits of aerobic exercise, there are numerous performance benefits:

Ø       Increased storage of energy molecules such as fats and carbohydrates within the muscles, allowing for increased endurance

Ø Neovascularization of the muscle sarcomeres to increase blood flow through the muscles

Ø       Increasing speed at which aerobic metabolism is activated within muscles, allowing a greater portion of energy for intense exercise to be generated aerobically

Ø       Improving the ability of muscles to use fats during exercise, preserving intramuscular glycogen

Ø       Enhancing the speed at which muscles recover from high intensity exercise


Both the health benefits and the performance benefits, or "training effect", require a minimum duration and frequency of exercise. Most authorities suggest at least twenty minutes performed at least three times per week.


Recommended types of Aerobic/Cardio Activities

Walking, Running, Jumping Rope, Ski machines, treadmills, rower, health rider, aerobics to music, aerobic videos


1. Walking

Just starting out on your weight loss goal? Not been working out lately? Then walking is for you. Although the fat burning potential in walking is low, its a great place to start. With time you can jog and increase the intensity level burning more calories.
 

2. Running/Jogging

Do you love outdoors? Want some fresh air with exercise? Then Outdoor Jogging is the way to go. Also if you are just starting out on your weight loss expedition then outdoor jogging is best for you. Early morning or evenings are best to perform these activities in a quiet environment.

Many experts rate this as the best Aerobic exercise with a high fat burning potential. Injuries can result from overtraining and may be a reason you should avoid them, especially if you have a previous medical history. Always consult a doctor.


3. Outdoor Cycling/ Stationary Cycling

Stationary Cycling is also a great way to burn calories.  It is an excellent aerobic exercise and you can have fun doing it. Whenever possible, get away from the gym and head outdoors for an even more exhilarating activity.


4. Treadmills/Rowing Machines/Ellipticals/Stair-climbers

Here you can combine walking, jogging and add resistance as well. The fact that you can perform high intensity exercise with a treadmill makes it very effective for fat burning.  Rowing machines are a whole body exercise and can greatly burn calories.


Add a weight training session to your aerobics at least 3 times a week. Aerobics and weight training work together, helping you burn fat, preserve muscle and get toned.

Always remember the key to a better body is consistency. No one has ever lost fat and got fit without being consistant with their exercise and fitness.


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REFERENCES

BRIAN MAC - SPORTS COACH
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION
"DRILLS TO ENHANCE QUICKNESS, AGILITY AND MOVEMENT", WRIGHT WAYNE
MARGUERITE OGLE, ABOUT.COM
ACEFITNESS.ORG
"PLYOMETRIC POWER", BOB COOPER
"PLYOMETRIC EXERCISES", ELIZABETH QUINN
WIKIPEDIA.ORG
ALLAUSSIE.COM.AU
EXERCISEGOALS.COM