Aimed Excercise: Don't Hit It Too Hard!

Concentrating on one area of the body is great for building taut thighs, six-pack abs and a rock-solid chest, but how do you know if you’re overdoing it?

Exercise gurus are always telling you to “feel the burn,” but that burning sensation can swiftly become chronic pain if you don’t exercise properly. Aimed exercise is supposed to target a specific muscle or group of muscles that has given you problems in the past, or that can help you excel at a sport you love. However, too much concentration is bad for the body.

After all, how much good will you be lying in a bed or lounging on the couch watching Judge Judy? Before you start an aimed exercise program for your legs, buttocks, abs, chest or any other part of your body, consider your starting threshold. How much pressure can you take before you crumple to the floor in pain? The exercise program you devise should never take you to that point, and you shouldn’t feel too stiff to move in the morning when you wake up.

A better idea is to start small, with aimed exercise that doesn’t tax you much at all. You’ll start to get a feel for how much you can handle, at which point you can gradually increase your reps or weight, depending on the exercise. For example, if 25-pound weights feel light as a feather when you’re doing shoulder presses, increase the weight to 35 pounds for two sessions, then go up to 40.

Also, aimed exercise is not meant to be used every single day. You shouldn’t be focusing entirely on your abs seven days a week, for example, because you’ll overdo it and neglect other important muscle groups. Instead, try spreading out your aimed exercise program five days a week, leaving one day for abs, one day for thighs, and so on.

Or, if you prefer, do aimed exercise on that one stubborn muscle group two days a week, then leave another three for cardio and more well-rounded exercise. The goal is to strengthen or tone a particular muscle group, while furthering your health and fitness in other areas as you progress.

If you adopt a healthy exercise routine that doesn’t leave you exhausted and in pain, you’ll be more likely to stick with the program for the rest of your life.

Aimed Exercise: Arms and Back

Exercises for your arms and back will become easier if you also focus on your shoulders, building strength and flexibility.

Without strong shoulder muscles, it can be difficult to properly execute even normal, everyday movements, let alone sports or other athletic activities. When your shoulders are flexible and strong, you’ll have an easier time with things like lifting, pushing and pulling.

Shoulder exercises should involve all of the muscles associated with your shoulders, including the anterior deltoids, the lateral deltoids, the posterior deltoids and the supraspinatus (rotary cuff). These muscles work in unison to provide your shoulders with maximum elasticity.

One of the most popular shoulder exercises is the shoulder press, which can be executed either with dumbbells or with a barbell. Hold the bar(s) so that your hands are slightly shoulder-width apart in an overhand grip. Starting with the bar(s) at chest level, push up until your arms are nearly straight overhead, then lower them slowly again to chest height.

In a variation of the shoulder press exercise, hold a barbell behind your neck, then raise the bar slowly until your arms are nearly straight, lowering again. This focuses more on the anterior deltoids and should not be attempted without a spotter.

If you’d like to focus on the lateral deltoids, you might try the upright row in your regimen of shoulder exercises. With this movement, grasp a barbell or two dumbbells in an overhand grip, with your hands approximately shoulder-width apart. Then lift your hands until they are tucked just underneath your chin, and lower slowly back to waist-height. Your wrists will flex into a “puppy dog” position on the upswing of this movement.

And finally, for your rotary cuff, this shoulder exercise can be done either lying down or standing up, using one dumbbell at a time. When lying on your side, rest your head on your bottom hand, elbow extended above your head, and separate your legs so that the top ankle is about one foot behind the bottom ankle. Hold a dumbbell even with your hip, then slowly raise it until your hand is above your head. Lower slowly. For best results, concentrate on bringing your hand slightly behind your head on the upswing.

These shoulder exercises should make your more limber and supple in other exercises, and will increase both strength and flexibility.

Aimed Exercise: That Chest, Man, Gotta Do Something About That!

If one of your target areas of exercise is your chest, you are likely looking to add both muscle mass and definition to your pectoral muscles. Whether you’re a professional body builder or simply an active human being, your chest muscles accentuate your upper body strength and provide flexion to your movements.

Great chest exercises engage both chest muscles – the major and minor pectoralis – by creating tension. Most will use machines either at the gym or in your home, though you can also improvise and use household items to bolster your workouts. It is usually a good idea to purchase a quality set of dumbbells if you are interested in working out your pecs.

Inclined Flies

One of the most basic chest exercises that you can start with is the inclined flies, which can be performed either on an inclined workout bench or on an inclined chair. Lie down with your back flat against the incline and your legs either straight out in front of you or planted on the ground at your sides. Put one dumbbell in each hand, and ask a spotter to stand at your head.

Lift your arms up above your head with the dumbbells in hand, but do not lock your elbows. Then slowly but steadily move your arms apart until your upper arms are parallel with the ceiling, keeping your palms turned toward one another. You should feel the burn in both your chest and your arms, and your elbows should be bent at an almost 90-degree angle. Then, slowly bring your arms back above your head to complete themovement.

Push-Ups

There are some chest exercises that you can fit in anywhere during the day without the need for complex machinery. Push-ups are a tried-and-true favorite that can strengthen the pecs faster than anything else, as long as you’re doing them correctly. Once you’ve gotten to the point where regular push-ups don’t cause you any strain, you can do them with your feet on a bench for declined push-ups to make them more difficult.

For these chest exercises, place your hands directly underneath your shoulders, and make sure your back is straight through the entire movement. Raise yourself up until your elbows are nearly locked, then lower yourself until your nose almost touches the floor, then back up again. You can hold for a two-count on the downside of the push-up if it makes it more challenging.

You can also liven up the traditional push-up with an exercise ball, which lifts your legs higher than a standard workbench to work your lower pectoral muscles. This type of chest exercise will help provide the definition you’re seeking, and will ensure a well-rounded workout.

Chest exercises are often forgotten in a standard workout regimen, so make sure you devote ten or fifteen minutes to this every time you hit the gym. Within just a few weeks, you should start to notice a difference.

Aimed Excercise: Your Back!

Have you ever experienced chronic back pain? Even if you haven’t, back exercises can make the rest of your exercise program run more smoothly, and will set the stage for a healthier you.

Have you ever experienced chronic back pain? Do you need to sit down after loading a sinkful of dishes into the dishwater? The spine and the muscles surrounding it are far more vulnerable than most of us would care to admit, and much of the back pain experienced by adults is due to a lack of proper muscular development.

Aimed exercise is usually targeted at areas of the body that make us feel unattractive. The buttocks, thighs, abs and calves receive most of the workout because they can balloon up and trim down from one season to the next. However, if you want to make exercising easier and more productive, you’ll target your back muscles as well.

From Top to Bottom

When you decide to use aimed exercise to target your back, it’s easy to focus on the area that causes you the most discomfort. For example, if you are always experiencing pain in your lower back, you’ll probably seek exercises that target the lower back. However, the back muscles all work together, and discomfort in one area can actually be indicative of a weakness in another area.

The best way to shape this type of exercise plan is to find exercises that will benefit as many of the back muscles as possible, which usually means a wide variety of simple exercises. Furthermore, these exercises are most beneficial when observed on a daily basis, and in as little time as possible. Just carve out a fifteen-minute niche in your day, and dedicate that time to back exercises.

Simple Lower Back Stretch

To exercise your back, start by stretching the lower quadrant of your spine in preparation for more difficult movements. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted on the floor about hip-width apart.

Slowly lift your right knee and pull it to your chest, lacing your fingers around the knee and holding for 10-15 seconds. Then release slowly back to the floor and repeat with the left leg. As you grow more comfortable with this exercise, lift both knees at the same time. Additionally, you can lower both knees to one side or the other, rotating the muscles in your back for further stretch

Arch Exercise

Continuing with the lower back, lie down flat on the floor like in the previous exercise, with your knees bent and your feet planted squarely on the floor. Lift your pelvis toward the ceiling, tightening your lower back muscles and without using your feet to push your body upward. Your buttocks should not come off the floor, but it will create an arch in your middle back. Hold for 10 seconds.

Next, lower your pelvis back to its natural position, then stretch the other way, pushing your lower back toward the floor as tightly as it will go. Hold again for 10 seconds. This back exercise increases flexibility and will, as an added bonus, work your abdominals.

The Bridge

Remaining in the same position on the floor, we’re going to try a yoga position next. This time, rather than arching your back away from the floor, you’re going to lift your lower back and buttocks until your body creates an inclined “ramp” from shoulders to knees. Essentially, this back exercise will stretch out the entire back, while providing some strength training at the same time.

This exercise should be held longer than the previous two, usually for three or four deep and relaxing breaths. When you release yourself from the position, do so slowly-never flop back onto the floor. For this to work properly, keep your arms slightly spread and flat on the floor during the entire exercise.

Moving Forward

The three exercises above are simple and are meant to help introduce you to the world of back exercises, which can increase in complexity. The goal, however, is not to develop rock-hard back muscles, but to provide your body with the flexibility it needs to accurately perform other forms of exercise. Once your back is strong and dependable, you’ll find your entire exercise program runs more smoothly.

Ready, Aim...Fire: How To Aim When You're Exercising

Everyone has a body part that they would like to change given the chance. Whether you hate your thighs or your stomach or your love handles, there are ways to target your exercise regimen to firm up those areas you’d rather not show to the public just yet.

Everyone has a body part that they would like to change given the chance. Whether you hate your thighs or your stomach or your love handles, there are ways to target your exercise regimen to firm up those areas you’d rather not show to the public just yet, as long as you have the willpower to sustain a regular workout. Although you shouldn’t neglect full-body exercise such as cardio, you can incorporate certain aimed exercises.

Abdominals

This area is perhaps the most frequently targeted as aimed exercise, and is also one of the most commonly neglected. Doing crunches once or twice a day is usually sufficient to keep this area in check, but it’s important to exercise the right way if you want to see results.

Some people use equipment such as exercise balls and ab rollers to perfect their techniques, but according to Elizabeth Quinn , nothing beats the Bicycle Crunch. Simply lie on your back with your hands beside your head, and alternately bring your elbowsto the opposite knee. This type of aimed exercise targets all abdominal muscles, and will even start to chip away at those love handles.

Thighs

Women are probably the gender most often concerned about their thighs, and thankfully there are aimed exercises that can help slim them down and tone them up. Of course, most women don’t want bulging thigh muscles that make it difficult to fit into their jeans, so the trick is to exercise without adding bulky muscles.

One of the most popular exercises for this area is the Sumo Squat, which is easy enough to do for beginners but can be made more difficult for advanced workout enthusiasts. Stand with your legs slightly spread, toes forward, and place your hands in prayer position in front of your chest. Then squat down as far as you can without allowing your knees to venture in front of your toes, hold for three seconds, and straighten back up. To increase the burn, you can hold a dumbbell between your hands rather than squeezing your palms together.

Butt

If you don’t like your view from the rear, it might be time to shape up that but. Aimed exercise for the buttocks can provide shape and toning, but again you don’t want to build bulky muscle. For this reason, your exercise regimen should include strength training movements that are intended to tone down rather than bulk up.

A Kneeling Leg Press, for example, is perfect for the buttocks, and will also help to shape your outer thighs and even your abdominals. Start by kneeling on the ground with the heels of your hands directly underneath your shoulder blades and the fronts of your knees under your hips. Flex your left foot, keeping your eyes directly between your hands, and slowly lift your leg in the air until your knee is level with your hips. Hold, then slowly lower back to the floor. If you need an additional challenge, try squeezing a rubber ball at your knee joint.

There are thousands of other aimed exercises that can target different areas of the body, but make sure you’re targeting the results you want. If your goal is to build muscle, try cardio exercise and weight lifting, but stick to strength training exercises if you simply want to tone.