Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Summer- a fine time to tone that core !

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Summertime brings warm weather, outdoor activities and the switch to lighter and more revealing clothing. People often ask me, can you really tone your core muscles and change your appearance after a certain age?  Most of the time, they’re talking about after age 50, when hormones shift, and gravity takes hold. The answer is a resounding “yes”, but you must work consistently and wisely to maintain or improve muscle mass and definition.  I won’t pretend that it’s as easy as it was 20 or 30 years ago, but it’s still possible.

Take Patty Baker, who I see regularly to work on whole body strength and conditioning. She looks great, and although I won’t reveal her age, I will tell you she remembers where she was when JFK was shot!  Take a look at the muscle development in her back and shoulders. One of the many mistakes people make when trying to condition their “core” is to focus only on their abdominal muscles. It is, however, important to focus also on the back and shoulders just like Patty has.  I’ve worked with many people whose neck issues have dissipated once they have strengthened their upper back and shoulders. It makes sense that when you strengthen the muscles adjacent to the weaker or painful areas, you reduce the stress on those muscles.

When strengthening any muscle group, it’s important to always challenge yourself while maintaining good form. Once you’ve developed good form, gradually increase your repetitions to a maximum of 15.  Once you hit that number, you need to change the exercise to make it more challenging . For example, people will say, “I can do 100 sit-ups or crunches”, or “I do 50 push-ups a day!”  If you’re able to do that many repetitions, the exercise is too easy for you, and should be made more demanding. You likely need to add weights, do them more slowly, pull your navel into your spine, or modify your form to make them really count.

Here are some of my favorite abdominal and back exercises that will have you feeling more toned in those shorts, T- shirts and bathing suits. For full descriptions, go to the following websites:

http://exercise.about.com/od/abs/ss/abexercises.htm

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http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/rehabilitation-exercises/shoulder-exercises/prone-fly-on-swiss-ball

 

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Notice the superman and reverse pec fly exercises shown above. These will improve your posture  and you’ll look taller and slimmer just by  strengthening your back muscles.

So, remember, it’s not just about your abdominals- work your back and shoulders and wear those summer clothes with pride !

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