We’re Better Together – Upper and Lower Body Exercises
As fitness professionals, we are frequently asked what exercises are best to do together to get the most benefit. Upper body only or lower body only? Some upper, then lower, or lower, then upper? There are many answers to this question and of course, the answer will totally depend on individual and specific goals. However, for most of us who are looking to be strong, healthy, lean and fit, the answer is not as complicated as you might think.
Old School vs. Now
Older schools of thought designed workouts to isolate specific muscle groups on certain days. For example, you might have come across programs that worked chest and triceps one day, back and biceps the next day, legs on another day and shoulders, abs, and back on another day. Much of this design is based on bodybuilding type programs where the focus is on overloading a specific muscle group for maximum growth. Because the majority of our clients are not looking to become bodybuilders, we encourage another type of training that works the body as a whole. You might hear us call this type of training Functional Training. Functional Training incorporates upper and lower body exercises, often times at the same time, making the exercises better together.
Functional Training (FT) focuses on working the body as one unit, performing controlled and intentional exercises using mostly free weights, cables, medicine balls, balance equipment, body weight, etc. The idea is to train our bodies in ways that mimic the stresses life puts on us. This training enables us to be strong in order to perform our daily activities to the best of our ability and prevent injury.
Most FT exercises will work the upper and lower body together, therefore working the body as a whole. When combined, these exercises take on a new intensity, strengthening the body in ways that performing them singly cannot.
For example, a squat is an incredibly effective exercise for strengthening many muscles mainly in the lower part of the body. To perform a proper squat, however, one must have a certain level of strength in the core, as well. Because the squat is thought of as being a lower body exercise, the core is often forgotten, therefore leading to improper form and potential injury. However, if the squat is combined with an upper body exercise, such as a cable row, it is nearly impossible to forget about the core. If you did, you would most likely fly forward into the cable ensuring that you would never forget your core again! So, while the squat is a great exercise on its own, it may very well be better for overall conditioning when paired with an upper body exercise.
Another example of an exercise that works the upper and lower body together, helping you get more bang for you buck, is a dumbbell chest press performed on a physioball. The chest press while lying on a bench, in itself, is a good exercise for strengthening the chest, shoulders, and triceps. But, when you roll out on a ball and use it in replace of the bench, you also incorporate your core and your lower body, mainly your glutes, quads, and hamstrings along with your chest, shoulders and triceps. Overall, this is an excellent exercise that works both upper and lower bodies together.
FT and the Aging Body
Functional Training is key in keeping the body healthy through the years. Much of the motivation for working out for younger generations revolves around looking good and being in tip-top shape for sport performance. As we age, our priorities change and overall health and quality of life become more important. FT provides the necessary training that will help keep the body going strong, allowing us to actively participate in daily life activities that make our hearts happy and healthy.
So, to answer the common question on what exercises are best to do together for maximum benefit, we like to say, all of them. Combining exercises that focus on the lower body with exercises for the upper body will train the body as a whole, making it more ready and able to face whatever life holds. When overall conditioning, high levels of fitness, and the ability to get through a busy day of activity are the goals, we firmly believe that certain exercises are better when done together.
However, if you insist on doing your biceps curls on their own, at least stand on one leg, or with one foot in front of the other in a straight line, or even on a balance disc or BOSU. Doing this will isolate your biceps, but will also work your core and hips and therefore, your balance. That way, the next time you are reaching low in the milk cooler to grab your gallon of milk and you happen to slip on that broken egg that has yet to be cleaned up, you will handle the situation like a trained pro!
Nutrition Corner: Nutrition Combinations that Maximize Health
We all know that fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, legumes, and lean meats all contribute to a healthy diet. But, did you know that you may be able to maximize how your body absorbs these nutrients by eating some of these healthy foods together?
Digestion can be a tedious process on the foods that we eat, breaking down the nutrients into a form that bodies can absorb properly. Some of these nutrients have a better chance of surviving the digestive process if consumed alongside other nutrients, therefore boosting the absorption of the body. This concept is called Food Synergy. More about food synergy can be found in an article written by David R Jacobs at Food Synergy.
Nutrition author and founder and CEO of Behindtheburner.com, Divya Gugnani, lists 10 Power Food Combosâ€ that are based on Mr. Jacobs’s research regarding food synergy.
Here are the 10 Power Food Combos complete with ways to incorporate them into your daily diet.
- Oatmeal and Orange Juice Start your day with a nutrient-packed breakfast. Chock full of fiber and cholesterol-lowering compounds, oatmeal is the true breakfast of champions. Adding orange juice has shown to provide better benefits in cleaning out arteries therefore, lowering cholesterol. Phenols, organic compounds found in both oatmeal and orange juice, are found to work better when these two foods are consumed together than on their own.
- Blueberries and Grapes Need a morning snack? Add some blueberries and grapes to your low-fat yogurt for an awesome pick me up complete with a hefty dose of antioxidants. These fruits have been proven to have a greater antioxidant response in the body when eaten together then when consumed individually. Topping a lean protein food, like yogurt, with this fruit combo is sure to give you the energy you need to make it through a busy morning!
- Garlic and fish Flavor-wise, this combination is hard to beat! Fish is a wonderful lunch or dinner option when looking to keep your stomach from feeling too heavy or full. Combine heart-healthy and cholesterol-lowering fish oils with the strong beneficial heart components that garlic yields, and you have a rock star pairing that actually works as an anti-inflammatory agent. Now, that is sure to make your heart happy.
- Tomatoes and olive oil There are many reasons why those who eat a Mediterranean diet have lower reports of heart-related deaths. Tomatoes and olive oil may be one of them. Rich in the antioxidant, lycopene, tomatoes boast reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and warding off some cancers. Lycopene is fat-soluble, meaning it is a nutrient that is absorbed in fat. Combining lycopene with a healthy, unsaturated oil, such a olive oil, will boost the absorption rate in our bodies. Tomatoes make a great addition to a salad, complete with olive oil vinaigrette, to go along side your fish and garlic dish (see above) for a healthy, nutrient-dense lunch.
- Nuts & Seeds and Dried Fruit Ready for that mid-day pick-me-up? Stay away from the caffeinated beverages, and grab a yummy snack consisting of nuts and seeds with dried fruit. The nuts and seeds are a good source of protein and the dried fruit (no sugar added) provides loads of vitamins and nutrients. Together, they create a perfect combination snack that;s sure to keep you going through, what can be, the one of the sleepiest times of your day.
- Red wine, or Dark Chocolate and Apples If you have had a long day and need to unwind a bit, this little treat is just the answer! Red wine continues to be praised for its health benefits because it contains flavoniods, which are heart healthy, plant-based compounds that can lower cholesterol by helping to keep arteries clean. If red wine is not your thing, try some dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is packed full of flavoniods and a little bit will go a long way. And we all know what an apple a day can do for us due to the high levels of anti-inflammatory components. Together, the red wine or dark chocolate along with the apples help prevent blood clots and keeps your heart strong!
- Beef (protein) and carrots & Dinner is here and you are ready for a nice, tasty, hearty meal that is good for your health, too. Carrots contain loads of vitamin A, an essential nutrient in immune function. Viatmin A is best absorbed by the body when eaten along with protein. Zinc is a mineral that is prominent in beef and is very effective in boosting your immune system. This powerhouse combination helps keep you healthy by preventing the weakening of your immune system. Not a fan of beef? Any protein will help the absorption of vitamin A, and a sprinkle of toasted wheat germ will provide you a nice dose of zinc.
- Beef and Rosemary If you are a fan of beef or any other red meat, make it a habit to season the meat with rosemary. This delicious combination can help decrease the negative health effects that can come from consuming red meat. Rosemary is loaded with antioxidants that will help clean-up the free-radicals that can be released through digestion of the meat. Free-radicals have been shown to cause signs of aging and may even lead to some cancers.
- Spinach and Beets Raw spinach, in itself, is a wonderful choice for a salad because it is full of key vitamins and minerals that help make for a healthy body. But, we can all gain even more nutritional bang for our buck if we simply add some vitamin C. The iron from the spinach that is absorbed in the intestines is greatly increased when combined with vitamin C. So, add some colorful beets to your salad, or some mandarin oranges will do the trick, too.
- Green tea and lemon Tea (caffeine free) is a great way to ease into the evening, calming your body before bed. Green tea is one of the best beverages to drink for health benefits. It is loaded with antioxidants and has been said to help increase your metabolism. Add a squeeze of lemon and you have bumped up the absorption rate of these antioxidants by almost 13 times! Now, thatâ€™s a way to end your day!
Resources: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/03/18/10-power-food-combos.html http://www.ajcn.org/content/89/5/1543S.full
Healthy Recipe: Ginger – Garlic Fish in Parchment
Recipe is by Rachael Ray and taken from The Food Network website.
This recipe is to help you get at least one of the power combinations listed in the nutrition article above “ garlic and fish!
Note: You may substitute the sea bass for your favorite fish and still get great results. Salmon, tilapia, Mahi Mahi would all work well! Also, if it is a beautiful summer night and you’re in the mood for cooking outside, sub heavy-duty foil for the parchment paper and cook these packets on the grill! As Rachael would say, Yum-O!
- Parchment paper
- 4 (6 to 7-ounce) portions sea bass
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch scallions, cut into 3-inch pieces on an angle
- 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 3 to 4-inch knob ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons tamari sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Rip off 4 pieces of parchment to form packets each about 12-inches long. Season fish with salt and pepper. Place a piece of parchment in a shallow dish then in the center of the paper stack 1/4 of the scallions and shiitakes, layer with slices of ginger and garlic and top with fish. Combine the honey, vinegar and tamari and pour 1/4 of the sauce over fish. Fold over the top of the parchment then roll the sides in to form a sealed pouch. Repeat with remaining parchment and ingredients. Arrange the pouches on a baking sheet and roast in hot oven 12 to 14 minutes
Dennis Ritchie – July
A picture is worth a thousand words. Let us supply just a few as to why we choose to shine the spotlight on Dennis Ritchie this month. As you can see by his smile he is a very good sport. Dennis is a well loved addition to whatever group class he participates in. What may be less apparent is the courage displayed by his attempt to use the bosu. He had the choice of using the more familiar disks nearby but instead Dennis chose to challenge himself as he does every day. Dennis has struggled with his balance for quite some time but continues to make great progress in this and other areas of his fitness. His fellow classmates have noticed and remarked on his impressive gains. Dennis is a teacher at La Cima Middle School and has been working out with us at BodyBasics since 2008.
Congratulations! Chris, Mike D., Mike H., Maureen, Nick, & Amelia
Kaylee Roberts – August
When Kaylee Roberts started working out with us, one of her chief goals was to regain her balance. As you can see by the picture, Kaylee has done that! Kaylee also wanted to improve her strength so that she could do her everyday activities with more confidence. She reports that everything is easier now that she is stronger and more coordinated. With hard work and focused determination Kaylee has accomplished so much and is continuing to show improvement every day.
Kaylee, you are a joy to work with.
Chris, Mike D., Mike H., Maureen, Nick, and Amelia
To empower people to realize their innate abilities by providing an environment that nurtures, educates, and inspires.
Keep Up the Great Work!
We are very proud of all of you!
Chris, Mike H., Maureen, Mike D., Nick, Jenny, and Amelia