A Warm-​​Up for Warriors: Salute to the Slimnastics Warm-​​Up

The warm up is essential to your workout so that you don’t get injured by diving in too fast. You can’t do many push-​​ups with a pulled biceps muscle, so you’ll protect future workouts and improvements if you take five minutes before you work out each day. You can also protect yourself from injury by checking with a doctor before trying this or any other workout.

Yoga-​​based SUN SALUTATIONS are a great way to warm up, especially if you don’t have 10 minutes a day to sit on the floor and meditate. The breathing with sun salutations de-​​stresses you while the moves prepare your muscles for work. One breath=one movement.

Mountain: Begin in standing position, called mountain pose. Inhale the arms overhead, letting the palms meet in prayer, and exhale as you fold forward, hinging at the hips, sweeping arms out to the sides and down toward the earth. Keeping a micro-​​bend in the knees for a light hamstring stretch – later you will straighten the legs more for a deeper stretch when you are warm.

Lunge: Inhale stepping the right leg back and, if it is your first time through the series, lower right knee to the mat, slightly behind hip.  Lifting the arms toward the sky into crescent lunge, you stretch up while the left knee stays bent at a 90 degree angle.

Down Dog: Exhale and place hands on either side of the left foot, then step the left foot back next to the right but about hips width apart. Using the core strength, lift hips up towards the sky in an upside-​​down V.  Keeping the fingers wide and elbows straight, but not locked, reach the heels towards the floor but not touching. Inhale slowly and fully here while pedaling one heel closer to the floor, then bending that knee and reaching the other foot closer to the floor to wake up the calf muscles. Exhale fully and bring heels back toward the ground.

Plank/​Push-​​up: On the next inhale, shift the weight forward into a plank, or chaturanga dandasana. Your shoulders should be lined up directly over your wrists, abs tight and hips in line with shoulders, parallel with the floor. If it is your first time through the series, you can lower the knees to the floor in modified plank.

Exhale and keeping elbows close to your ribs, lower down (like a  triceps push-​​up). If it is your first time through the series, follow cobra. If not, follow up-​​dog.

Cobra: Keeping hands under the shoulders, rest the belly on the floor and engage the lower back muscles to lift your head, chest and shoulders slightly off the floor. Picture a cobra with the snake belly on the floor but head lifted up. Snakes don’t have hands so don’t put any weight into yours, instead use your back muscles. Inhale through the move. You can always chose cobra instead of Up Dog (and I usually do) to add back warm-​​up and strength to your workout.

Up Dog: if you have done the series a few times, you can chose up dog for a slight back bend. From a hovering triceps push-​​up (chaturanga dandasana), keep the chest and quadriceps off the floor, flip the feet from toe balance to balancing on the tops of the feet and push through the hands to lift the chest and head while straightening the elbows. Inhale through the move.

Exhale into down dog again, engaging the core.

Extend the right leg high and behind you into “3 legged dog.”

Lunge: Inhale and lift the hips to swing the right leg through and between the hands, keeping knee over ankle. Lower the left knee if it is your first series.  Lift the hands to the sky again.

Forward fold: Exhale the hands to the earth and step the back leg forward between the hands. Straighten the knees as much as is comfortable for another light hamstring stretch.

Mountain: Inhale and hinge at the hips, keeping back flat and sweeping the arms into a reverse swan dive to standing in mountain with hands overhead in prayer.

Chair: Exhale and lower hands to the knees or extended in front of you at shoulder level while bending the knees and sitting back into an imaginary chair to create warmth and strength in the quads and glutes.

Repeat: Inhale into mountain, exhale forward fold. Inhale stepping back with the LEFT foot this time into crescent lunge (knee up or down). Exhale to down dog. Inhale to plank, exhale to triceps push-​​up hover, inhale to cobra or up-​​dog. Exhale into down dog and into three legged dog with the LEFT leg. Inhale and sweep the leg through to lunge on the other side. Exhale to forward fold. Inhale to mountain, exhale into chair.

That completes your first series on the right and left. Repeat on the right and left leg 4 more times and you’ll be prepared for a warrior workout with arms, legs, back, core and mind warm and ready!

Fight Football Season Fat With Game Drills and Stadium Music

nikki-football

It’s my favorite time of year, football season while the weather is still warm. It’s like Christmas in September. As a former Syracuse University cheerleader and football office assistant, I got to see a lot of college practices and pre-​​game warm ups. So in my NYC fitness classes and my Booty Camp DVD (Amazon and Nikkifitness​.com) I created football drills to go with popular football songs to keep you from getting fat this football season!

I will be on Fox & Friends on Saturday showing some moves that you can do during the game and on commercials so that you don’t get fat watching your favorite team, or during your fantasy drafts. Tune in Saturday August 27th from 9-​​10am eastern.

To get you “in the game” here is my suggested football themed fitness music playlist (download from iTunes):

You can also find college fight songs and songs for your favorite NFL team if you search for them.

Tune in on Saturday to see my Sore Score push-​​up drills– if your team scores 45 points in the game with touchdowns, field goals, PATs and safetys, you end up doing around 200 push-​​ups in one game! Then I also have moves like “the heisman”, tire runs, run and dropsquat trust, tubing run with reins… and of course, you burn off those chips, chili dogs and beers by creating your own touchdown dance!

High Altitude Training Do’s and Don’t

 nikki-altitude-hiking

For hard core athletes and military troops looking to get an edge, altitude training may be an answer to shocking your body into working harder. Altitude training has been touted by olympic-​​level athletes and coaches who claim it increase strength, speed and endurance while improving recovery and avoiding fatigue.

I gave it a try recently for this column and also did some research to see if it is really safe. My verdict: it’s no joke and not for the “faint” of heart.

According to Wikipedia, “Altitude training is the practice by some endurance athletes of training for several weeks at high altitude, preferably over 2,400 metres (8,000 ft) above sea level, though more commonly at intermediate altitudes due to the shortage of suitable high-​​altitude locations. At intermediate altitudes, the air still contains approximately 20.9% oxygen, but the barometric pressure and thus the partial pressure of oxygen is reduced.”

My first experiment was to try to run 3 miles in Aspen, CO. I had taken anti-​​altitude sickness pills, Acetazolamide, a day before arriving and throughout my trip, so I thought it would be no sweat. I usually can run 3–4 miles without stopping or being out of breath and consider it an easy workout day. However in my 30 min jog in the mountains, I had to stop 5 times because I was so out of breath.  Feeling like my workout was not hard enough because I kept stopping, I headed to the hotel gym for some weightlifting. I could not catch my breath and instead of doing multi-​​tasking toning moves, I had to stop and break it down — doing just biceps curls, just french presses, just lunges, not combining core/​arms/​legs like I usually do.

I noticed my hands and feet tingling. Not a fun sensation, then I felt nausea later in the room. I just wanted to curl up in bed and feel better. (Remember I am a personal trainer, plyometric cardio interval and weight lifting class instructor, runner, p90X enthusiast, fitness DVD creator and yogi who works out 6 days a week.)

The next day we tried a hike in the mountains. I hike in the hills of Pennsylvania every chance I can get out of NYC, an barely even consider it a workout. Again, pins and needles and shortness of breath hit me on the advanced trail, so we turned around and took the scenic one.

I recognized and researched some of the symptoms of altitude sickness including headache, fatigue, pins and needles,  rapid pulse, lack of appetite or nausea, nosebleeds, dizziness, and trouble sleeping to name a few. Working out and drinking alcohol makes symptoms worse.

If you are considering trying altitude training, my advice would be to talk with your doctor first, and spend some time in the high altitude location, maybe a week, without working out (first time I ever recommended not working out!), so your body gets used to it (I was only there for 3 days). Give yourself plenty of time there if you are serious about training. Stay really hydrated, and perhaps find some oxygen inhalers (they had one in the mini bar at the hotel). Do some research on sites like Altitude​.org and Altitudetraining​.com

Upon my return I never thought Newark air was so delicious, but my workouts the rest of the following week did seem effortless. My verdict on this kind of training is: it might bring gains, but it might set your body back more than it helps. Good health is a gift, so don’t jeopardize it.

Go Back to School with “Practice” Workouts

nikki_sportspractice

I was a cheerleader in college at Syracuse University, and never had to force myself to go to the gym, because we always had “practice” where I just had to show up for several hours with my best friends and do stunts (plyometric muscle builders), push-​​ups for when the team scored during games, and all the choreographed fight songs and routines (cardio).

After school I needed another fun and social forced workout like PRACTICE, so I became a group fitness instructor and later a trainer. Now I live in NYC, teach at gyms here and have a line of 7 fitness DVDs.

My latest theme of group workouts brings me back to college and sports. I do basketball, football, baseball and track drills! I even have a fitness playlist with fight-​​songs and game-​​day favorites to get you in the mood (get it at http://​www​.nikkifitness​.com/)

NikkiFitness Practice Workout (you will need an aerobic step with 2 risers on each side):

Basketball Toe Taps: Face the short side of the step. Start straddling a step-​​type bench or a basketball. Tap your right toe on the bench or ball and balance on your left foot. Next, hop the weight onto your right foot while putting it on the floor and taping the left toe onto the step or ball. Jog your arms while continuing to shift your weight and tapping your toe. Continue for 30 seconds. For the second 30 seconds, do one bounce (dribble) and one shoot with your arms.

Basketball Double Dribble: Face the long side of the step. Step with your right foot on the left corner of the step and hop up as you pretend to “shoot” a basketball, and kick your straight left leg behind you in a glute raise. As you come down to the floor and switch sides, “dribble” twice. Step your left foot on bench and shoot the ball as you kick your straight right leg up and behind you to complete one rep. Continue this drill for 60 seconds.

Football Tire Runs: Level 1– Stand on top of a short bench or aerobic step, facing one of the short ends. Step down with the right foot, and then the left, to straddle the step. Without pausing, step back up with the right then left foot. Jog faster in a right, left, right, left pattern with high knees as if jogging through tires. Repeat for 30 seconds. Level 2– From here straddle with the right foot down then the left and hop both of them on top together. Perform that for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side at level one for 30 seconds and then on level two on the left for 30 seconds.

The Heisman: Jog twice to the right and then pause in a crouch with your left knee up and Heisman pose your hands. Then jog to the left two quick times and hold the Heisman pose with the right knee up to a count of (right) one, and two (pause), then travel left for counts three and four (pause).

Goal Posts: Stand facing an aerobic step bench. Jump onto it with your feet and knees pointing out to the sides in a plie squat and arms in a goal post/​biceps flexing position, elbows bent at 90 degrees and out to the side at shoulder level, fists clenched and hands at head level. Step down right then left, and then jump again with both feet landing at the same time. Step down left then right to complete the set. Perform this straddle hop with goal post arms for 60 seconds.

Baseball Pitcher: Stand with your left side body facing forward. Throw the “ball” with your right arm, winding up with your left leg. As you let the “ball” go and follow through, bring your right leg forward and down your body to face the left side of the room and land in a deep squat with your right leg in front. Stand and wind up with your left arm and right leg and land forward with your left leg coming forward into a squat as you release the “ball” with your left hand. Continue “throwing” with opposite arms until you walk/​squat forward 4 times. Run back “home” to start again. Do the drill for 60 seconds.

Fitness — fit it your practice this sports season.

Simple Workouts for Expecting Moms

If labor is a marathon, why would you stop training nine months before? There’s no need to stop your workout if you’ve been active up until conception. While pregnancy isn’t the time to start a new or more challenging fitness routine, it can be a time to continue your healthy behavior, even if you must cut back a little.

I’m 35 weeks pregnant and have been lucky enough not to have any extreme problems that kept me from working out. My routine helped boost my mood, feel less like an invalid, and keep my arms, legs, back and chin from doubling. I cut my work outroutine down from multitasking toning and cardio plyometric intervals  to arm and leg toning, and I reduced my weights from 15 lbs to 8 lbs. Additionally, do easier cardio for longer periods of time.
I’ll share with you of my safe pregnancy moves if you’re trying to keep that double chin at bay.
After a warm-up I do one set of each muscle group triceps, biceps, chest, shoulders, and back. You can change the size of weight and number of reps for each set if you crave more variety.
After each set, stretch and go on to the second move for each muscle group. You’ll need sneakers and free weights, as well as pillows to lean back on for the chest flys if you’re past your first trimester. Start by checking with your doctor to see if what work out routines are safe for you during your pregnancy.
Try the following tricep workout to tone your arms (I do them alone with knees slightly bent.):
Tricep Dips
Kickbacks
Overhead inside presses
 Shoulders: Front press
Front shoulder raises
Overhead front press
Chest (If you experience carpal tunnel symptoms, replace pushups with more flys or use a bench press at the gym.):
Pushups on incline
Upper Back: One-arm reverse
Lower Back: Alternating arm and leg extensions on all 4s.
Next month I will share with you my legs and cardio baby bump routine for your marathon labor training. Fitness – Fit it in! Nikki

4 Moves to Sculpt, Slim Your Body

What if someone told you that you could do a full sculpting workout and cardio all in 20 minutes? What if in just four you could tone your biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, upper back, lower back, abs, inner thighs, outer thighs, glutes, quads and calves in just four moves? Too good to be true? Not if you multitask with 15 reps of three sets below.

Six-Part Plie:  (Tones inner thighs, quads, glutes, calves, biceps, core and shoulders.) Stand with feet wider than hip distance apart, toes pointed out at 45 degrees. Hold 5- or 10-pound weights in each hand. As you perform the inner thigh/quadriceps/glute plie squat, lower the hips toward the floor, bending knees at 90 degrees, so at the lowest point the knees are directly over the ankles. As you stand back up, lift the arms to a bicep curl. Continue to press the hands to the sky for a shoulder press and rise up onto the balls of your feet to work the calves. You should keep the feet wide and being a little off balance causes the core to kick in and hold you up, so contract the abs during the move and repeat.

Triceps side plank thigh lift: (Sculpts abs, triceps and outer thigh) Lay on your side balancing on the left forearm and bend left knee underneath you. Lift the hips off the floor. Lift extended top leg (the right) and with a 3-to 5-pound weight in your right hand. Push the weight from behind your neck to the sky, keeping your elbow stacked over your shoulder the whole time. Lower the weight behind your neck and extended the leg back to the ground at the same time for one rep. Repeat 15 times and then perform the move on the other side for one set.

Airplane: (Sculpts and strengthens back and back of legs) Lay on your stomach with arms extended at shoulder level so that the body forms the letter “T.” Lift head, shoulders, hands, chest, knees and feet off the floor and hold for an upper back, lower back, glute and hamstring extension. Lower to the floor for one rep. Repeat 15 times for one set. (Trainer’s tip: keep looking at the floor, don’t lift chin up to look in front of you, but instead keep looking at the floor to keep the spine in line.)

CardioSculpt Squat Thrust: (Melts fat, increases metabolism, tones pectorals/chest muscles, firms shoulders, tightens abs and tones quads, glutes and calves.) Perform this move to an eight count with your favorite up-tempo music. Do two jumping jacks, touch the floor with your hands and jump back to a plank, do a push-up, jump back to standing. Repeat 15 times for one set.

Perfect Your Posture With One Do-​​Anywhere Move

 Yoga

Everyone knows about push-​​ups, their convenience and effectiveness.… but what about the opposing muscle group?

Working your upper back, trapezius and rhomboids, usually requires machines, correct body alignment, free weights or tubing and a personal trainer forcing you to do them. Everyone from military men, to desk job devotees, to new moms tend to get the back slump that comes from either overdoing the push-​​ups without working the upper back, over-​​stretching the upper back in a computer or car slump position, or holding a baby all day.

The wheel push-​​up (from my Fit Travel Workout DVD) is my favorite upper back move because it requires no equipment and I always feel the muscles getting sore and stronger afterward. If you’ve done the regular wheel in yoga class, this will feel familiar. If you have never done a wheel, I will walk you through it.

Wheel Pushup

1– Lay on the floor on your back, looking up at the sky. Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground. Flip your hands so that they are on the ground next to your ears, fingertips pointing to your feet. Try to lift yourself up with your arms gently onto the crown of your head. Hold there without putting pressure on the head or neck, and then slowly lower down and counter-​​stretch your back by hugging the knees to your chest for 10 seconds.

Wheel Pushup

2– If you feel strong enough, perform the move again, and this time lift off the head and straighten the arms and legs as much as you can, as if someone tied a string around your waist and is pulling our belly to the sky. Hold this arch (the wheel) for 2–10 seconds, and repeat the counter-​​stretch above.

3– If you are ready for the wheel push-​​up, go back through the first 2 progressions, and once in the wheel position with arms and legs straightening into the arch formation, start bending the elbows to just barely tap the head to the floor and then straighten the arms again. That is one push-​​up. Work up to doing 15 at a time and always counter-​​stretch between sets.

No equipment needed and just as effective as a pectoral push-​​up. If you still need a trainer forcing you to do it, print this article post it in your workout area!

Fitness — fit it in. Nikki

4 Moves to Sculpt, Slim Your Body

What if someone told you that you could do a full sculpting workout and cardio all in 20 minutes? What if in just four you could tone your biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, upper back, lower back, abs, inner thighs, outer thighs, glutes, quads and calves in just four moves? Too good to be true? Not if you multitask with 15 reps of three sets below.

Six-Part Plie:  (Tones inner thighs, quads, glutes, calves, biceps, core and shoulders.) Stand with feet wider than hip distance apart, toes pointed out at 45 degrees. Hold 5- or 10-pound weights in each hand. As you perform the inner thigh/quadriceps/glute plie squat, lower the hips toward the floor, bending knees at 90 degrees, so at the lowest point the knees are directly over the ankles. As you stand back up, lift the arms to a bicep curl. Continue to press the hands to the sky for a shoulder press and rise up onto the balls of your feet to work the calves. You should keep the feet wide and being a little off balance causes the core to kick in and hold you up, so contract the abs during the move and repeat.

Triceps side plank thigh lift: (Sculpts abs, triceps and outer thigh) Lay on your side balancing on the left forearm and bend left knee underneath you. Lift the hips off the floor. Lift extended top leg (the right) and with a 3-to 5-pound weight in your right hand. Push the weight from behind your neck to the sky, keeping your elbow stacked over your shoulder the whole time. Lower the weight behind your neck and extended the leg back to the ground at the same time for one rep. Repeat 15 times and then perform the move on the other side for one set.

Airplane: (Sculpts and strengthens back and back of legs) Lay on your stomach with arms extended at shoulder level so that the body forms the letter “T.” Lift head, shoulders, hands, chest, knees and feet off the floor and hold for an upper back, lower back, glute and hamstring extension. Lower to the floor for one rep. Repeat 15 times for one set. (Trainer’s tip: keep looking at the floor, don’t lift chin up to look in front of you, but instead keep looking at the floor to keep the spine in line.)

CardioSculpt Squat Thrust: (Melts fat, increases metabolism, tones pectorals/chest muscles, firms shoulders, tightens abs and tones quads, glutes and calves.) Perform this move to an eight count with your favorite up-tempo music. Do two jumping jacks, touch the floor with your hands and jump back to a plank, do a push-up, jump back to standing. Repeat 15 times for one set.

Triple Threat: Biceps

I like to work out in threes. Three sets of 15 reps, alternating 3 moves in each set, and combining upper, lower and core muscle (3) groups. Whether or not you can be this ambitious depends on if you are deconditioned and just starting a workout routine, or have a workout addiction and are always looking for a new fix to get you over a plateau. I did these moves and shot the accompanying photos when I was 8 months pregnant, so don’t be afraid to get toning!

Rookies and experts alike should benefit from my series of “Triple Threat” moves I have developed in my fitness DVDs and NYC fitness classes at Crunch. Today’s blog shows 3 different biceps moves. You can do them alone, version one on Monday for several sets, version two repeated in your Wednesday workout and the third on Friday; do versions 1, 2 and 3 in all your muscle workouts this week. You can also combine them with different leg and core moves for true multitaskers. For each move you can also chose to do 20 reps with light weights, 15 reps with mediums, or 8 reps with heavy weights for 3 sets of biceps burning. Keep abs tight, hips tucked under, feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent (unless adding multitasking leg and core moves like lunges, calf lifts, plie squats, etc.)

Here’s your biceps triple threat fix:

Version 1 – lift arms at the same time or one at a time, out to the sides, by holding weights and turning your palms to the ceiling. Anchor elbows into your ribcage and widen hands our towards the side, as opposed to directly in front of you. Lower to your pockets (almost completely straightening elbows but not nyperextending) and lift toward your shoulders for one rep.

Version 2 – hold weights in your hands directly in front of you, palms up, as if you were carrying a tray. Close fingers around weights and lower to your legs and lift towards shoulders.

Version 3 – hold weights and turn your wrists so that your palms face the center line of your body. Lower weights towards your legs by extending the elbow joint and lift towards shoulders by flexing the elbow. Your hand with the weight should look like a hammer.

Again, use these moves alone or with multitaskers and chose one a day repeated in 3 sets, or alternate all 3 in one workout. Don’t forget to work the opposing muscle, the triceps, which will get a triple threat treatment in next week’s blog, followed by the shoulders. Gotta love 3s!

Triple Threat: Triceps

I like to work out in threes. Three sets of 15 reps, alternating 3 moves in each set, and combining upper, lower and core muscle (3) groups. Rookies and experts alike should benefit from the series of “Triple-Threat” moves I have developed in my fitness DVDs and NYC fitness classes at Crunch. Today’s blog shows 3 different triceps moves. You can do them alone or combine them with different leg and core moves for true multi-taskers.

Here’s your triceps triple-threat fix:

Skull Crushers – Lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, under your knees. Hold a body bar or free-weights in your hands and extend your elbows, weights as close to the sky as you can reach, and over the chest. Keeping the area from your shoulders to just below your elbows completely still, flex the elbows, dropping your hands and weights slowly next to your ears (with body bar, lower it just over your head towards the floor). Extend elbows again and lift weights back to the sky and directly over the chest. Repeat for 20 reps per set, and vary the weight as you progress.

Dips- Sit on a chair, bench or step with palms on the edge, fingertips pointing towards the floor and knuckles pointing to the sky. Support yourself with your arms and step feet forward slightly to lift your backside off the seat. Either keep legs bent at a 90 degree angle with feet flat on the floor, or for more of a challenge, straighten legs most of the way and balance on heels. Keep elbows behind you as you bend them and drop your backside towards the floor, almost touching/grazing your back and shirt to the seat behind you. Elbows should bend to 90 degrees and then use your arms to push you back to where the arms are straight, but you are still supported by only feet and hands. Repeat for 20-40 reps per set.

Triceps push-ups – And you thought regular push-ups were hard!? These target toners really hit the backs of the arms, and also include work by the pectorals, shoulders and abdominals. Start at the top of a push-up, legs straight and balancing on your toes (advanced). Beginners should start on their knees and walk your upper body forward so that your knees line up behind your hips. . Align hands under shoulders with the intention of keeping your elbows tight by your body, not flying out to the sides like a traditional push-up. Lower your body down and forward, so that your shoulders, abs and hips are in a straight line. You should feel your elbows in by your ribcage and hands under the shoulders, chest between the hands and about one inch from the floor. Keep your neck in a safe line with the spine and focal point a few inches in front of you on the floor. Push back up to the top of a push-up or plank.

Chose one of these moves a day repeated in 3 sets, or alternate all 3 in one workout. Don’t forget to work the opposing muscle, the biceps, which got a triple-threat treatment in last week’s blog, Not finished? Add triceps French presses and kickbacks for a firming-in-five routine.

Nikki