Of course, you know what it feels like to have a tight muscle. But tight hips aren't just uncomfortable—they can lead to all sorts of other aches and pains, especially in the lower back. "People focus on the hips and say their hips are tight, but we don't always think about the fact that the lower back connects to our legs at the hip," Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., instructor at Soul Annex in New York City and creator of Le Stretch class, tells SELF. Tight hip flexors make it harder for your pelvis to rotate properly, which can cause your lower back to overcompensate, "and this can be a setup for lower-back injury," Teo Mendez, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at NY Orthopedics who focuses on operative and non-operative management of sports-related injuries, musculoskeletal injuries, and arthritis, tells SELF.
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To begin, place the top of one foot on a weight bench (or a chair) and step forward with the other foot out in front of you, similar to a lunge position. Make sure that the front foot is positioned at least at shoulder width and it is far enough away from your body that your knee will not come over your toes when you perform the squat. Put your hands in front of your body (or overhead to make it harder). Perform a “single leg squat” by bending the front leg. The knee of the leg that is up on the bench will go towards the floor. Get it as close to the floor as you can. Do not let the heel of the front foot come up off of the floor. Keeping your heel down will ensure that you engage your glutes and hamstrings in this exercise. You should feel the tension in the hip flexor of the leg that is on the bench when you perform this exercise (you will also feel the muscles of the front leg working). It is important to keep your torso upright throughout the full range of motion. As you go down into the squat, the hip of the back leg is going into extension, which will stretch the hip flexor as well as strengthen it as it stabilizes the hip throughout the range of motion.
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Stand on your right foot and lift your left foot off the ground. Inhale as you step your left foot backward into a lunge, so that your left knee hovers above the ground. Exhale as you drive through your right heel to rise to a single-leg stance, bringing your left leg forward and up to hip height. Do 10-12 reps. Switch sides. Optional: Load this move by holding a kettlebell at your chest or a dumbbell in each hand.
All of the gluteals must work to perform this movement—the “deep six” external rotators keep each side of the pelvis stable in spite of the different actions in each hip, and the larger gluteals add additional support for the hips. This move forces your buttock muscles to shore up their connection from the thighs through to the lower back to keep the hips and spine stable.
Pick a few key exercises that together train the whole body. Presses, chinups, rows, and squat and deadlift variations are the best choices (more on these in Rules #2 and #3). Write down how much weight you can currently do for 5–10 reps on each of them, and, over the next few months, work your way up to where you can either add 10–20 pounds to each of those lifts or do 3–5 more reps with the same weight. That’s how you force your body to grow.
The majority of your workouts should be comprised of compound exercises. Common examples include squats, deadlifts, lunges, bench presses, rows, pull-ups, lat pull-downs, overhead presses, and so on. Isolation exercises should definitely also be a part of your program, just a smaller part in comparison. Common examples include bicep curls, tricep extensions, chest flies, lateral raises, leg curls, leg extensions, calf raises, and so on.
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Insulin is a fat storage hormone. This isn’t true and makes people fear carbs because we know carbs signal insulin. Insulin will only store carbs as fat when there is no more room in the liver and muscle for glycogen. So unless there is a spillover there is no need to be transported somewhere else. Insulin isn’t a fat hormone, it’s a sugar storing hormone unless you don’t take care of it. Fat doesn’t need insulin to be stored as fat. It can store itself there because it owns those areas. Body fat is the home for dietary fat. Also, protein spikes insulin and it’s tough to gain fat or weight when eating protein. But, high protein mixed with high carbs/high fats/high both together will outweigh the fact that protein is tough to add fat/weight. If one doesn’t realize this then they blame protein for their issues.
Carbohydrates give my working muscles the energy to do their job. Without them, I would feel tired, and my gym sessions would definitely struggle as a result. Just like I approach my protein intake as a way to repair my muscles after training, I aim for the carb "sweet spot" where I can maximize energy and glycogen replenishment. And just like with protein, quality is crucial. My carbs come from high-fiber, high-nutrient foods. I include plenty of sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and brown rice, among others.
When you’re doing higher reps, focus on the muscle you are trying to build and squeeze every ounce of effort out of it. Yes, cheesie as it may sound, visualizing the muscles working and growing while you train them can be helpful. A 2016 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that, when lifters thought about their pecs and triceps during a workout, they activated them better.
Other things would be….the main reasons “diets” work like keto, is because you are eating less food. Eating less will help always if you have been eating too much. Each diet has a specific way of doing things. Keto is cool because it drops the carbs. Dropping carbs is dropping calories. Dropping calories is eating less. Also, as we drop carbs we lower our glycogen levels which means we lower the risk of carbs turning into fats. If we just have fats being stored as fat, then we are doing better than bother carbs and fats being stored. This doesn’t mean carbs are bad because they are being dropped. This just means carbs are being dropped to get your glycogen levels back to “normal”. Also, with dropping carbs we drop the amount of work insulin has to do. Insulin does a lot during a surplus, so by dropping carbs, you drop calories and increase insulin sensitivity. Even if you don’t drop carbs, you still are improving insulin as you aren’t making it work in a surplus any more. Even though protein still spikes insulin, we are still improving it by letting ONLY protein spike insulin rather BOTH carbs and protein.
After all, if you’re doing more reps in a set, the weight would obviously be lighter and the intensity level lower. If you’re doing fewer reps in a set, the weight is obviously heavier and the intensity is higher. In addition, how close you come to reaching failure – aka the point in a set when you are unable to complete a rep – also plays a role here.
How to do it: Lie on your back with both feet planted firmly against the flat base of a Bosu ball, knees bent. Stabilize your body. If you’re feeling a bit wobbly, your arms can hover on either side of you in case you fall in one direction. If you feel balanced, raise your arms straight up above your chest, hands clasped to challenge and work your stability. Drive your hips toward the ceiling, then lower and repeat.