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Archives for February 2018

Top 5 Predictors of Sugar Cravings and How to Beat Them for Good

BY ANNA HAGLEY

TheWonderVegan.com

If you’ve ever used the phrase, “I have a gut feeling about this…” then you know your gut and your brain are connected, and our guts know what they’re talking about!

While we listen to our gut feelings for some life decisions, we may not pick up on what our gut is trying to tell us about certain food choices, drink choices or overall lifestyle habits, and just how much our gut health is related to mood, cravings and overall physical and mental health.

So why do you crave sugar, why do you always feel tired and why do you keep going for the sugary junk food despite your self-promises to do otherwise? We eat certain foods, don’t eat certain foods or over indulge. Maybe these are habits that have been formed when you were young, or maybe it’s a relatively new problem. Either way, you’re probably ready to pull your hair out from promising yourself you will “eat healthier,” just to fall off the wagon again and again.

Let’s keep it simple. There’s a good chance you are experiencing a vicious cycle that you feel you can’t get away from, and here’s what that cycle looks like:

  1. Eating Sugary Foods Over Time (white flours, processed foods, sweets, breads)
  2. Taste Preference/Habit Formation/ Taste Preference Conditioning
  3. Bacteria Overgrowth and Intestinal Inflammation
  4. Hormone and Mood Disruption:
  5. Fatigue

1. Eating Sugary Foods Over Time (white flours, processed foods, sweets, breads): It happens to the best of us. Somewhere along the way, we get into a habit of eating the obviously-sugary foods, or maybe the sneaky ones that you don’t even realize have hidden sugars. Seemingly innocent choices like bread, cereal, granola, protein bars and sports drinks can have alarmingly high sugar contents. Hashtag Read The Label.

2. Taste Preference/Habit Formation/ Taste Preference Conditioning: After being in a routine of relying on the processed, pre-packaged and otherwise unhealthy, sugary food options, our taste buds and bodies begin craving these options, partly due to being creatures of habit, but also due to the way sugar interacts with the brain (and the gut, but don’t worry, that’s covered in number 3).
Sugar causes the brain to release dopamine (the Cupid of Chemicals, being responsible for the “love at first sight” feeling) like fireworks. Fireworks might be cool, but this is nothing to celebrate. Eat sugar = dopamine release=brain love fest. That’s one reason we keep going back for more. Luckily for you, unlike truly addictive substances, sugar “addiction” is unique in that the level of dopamine will return to its original levels in the brain, even after repeated hits of sugar, whereas in addictive substances, dopamine levels tank with repeated use, leading to withdrawal and increased cravings 1. Basically, sugar isn’t addictive in the way that we traditionally define that term. So why the heck are sugar cravings so intense?! Keep reading…

3. Bacteria Overgrowth and Intestinal Inflammation: Our gut needs bacteria to function optimally, but there are good and bad bacteria. Excess sugar promotes the growth of bad bacteria in your gut…bacteria that can rewire your brain to keep craving what the bad bacteria thrives on…sugar. You might be thinking this is some serious sci-fi Frankenstein stuff, right?
Wrong.

So how do bacteria play mind control with us? According to the Journal of Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, it’s actually pretty effortless for them. There’s a specific nerve, the vagus nerve, that connects the digestive tract to the base of the brain. Bacteria are great at survival, so to help ensure they survive, they have figured out how to alter the vagus nerve signals, change taste receptors and cause cravings, all by releasing chemicals 2 . To add insult to injury, increased bad bacteria makes us feel bloated from inflammation, and messes up our bathroom routine.

4. Hormone and Mood Disruption: By now you’re probably noticing that each of these points build upon each other. With that being said, the experts in all that is science, medicine and research, are finding that bacteria imbalances can be correlated with mood changes. Bad bacteria overgrowth can lead to releases of toxins that alter our mood, and not in a good way 3. Metabolic disorders (your metabolism and metabolic hormones misbehaving) and obesity are also found to be linked, in part, to gut bacteria imbalance 4.

5. Fatigue: As if all of this wasn’t tough enough, your body going through all of this is going to leave you feeling incredibly fatigued, which can start the cycle of unhealthy eating all over again. In fact, UC Berkeley researchers have found that people tend to favor unhealthy snack and junk foods when they are sleep deprived 5 .

Is experiencing and reading about all of this exhausting enough to make you want a nap? We’ve got your back with the most beneficial and realistic tips to start beating this habit-forming, Frankenstein-bacteria-growing, body-mind hijacking situation.

Probiotics: Adding a probiotic to your daily routine is a simple and convenient way to give bad bacteria a taste of their own medicine, pun intended. They allow for manipulating the bad bacteria and getting more of the good bacteria back into our gut, so that it can function properly and feel good again 3.

Adequate Sleep: Now you know that lack of sleep can impair your judgment and healthy eating success. Self-examine your daily routine to streamline it as much as possible and get to bed a bit earlier (Be honest- is the nightly Netflix binge really necessary? Our gut tells us, probably not!)

Meditation: If you’ve never meditated before, you may be picturing a yoga expert humming in a cross-legged position, but meditation can be as simple as finding a quiet place to sit in solitude on your lunch break, while listening to the sound of your breath. The breath can sound like waves of the ocean and have a calming, therapeutic effect. This can lower our stress and improve mood. If you can’t seem to find a quiet space, journaling 3 things you are grateful for, 5-10 minutes before bed, may have a similar benefit. These tips help combat the negative effect sugar has on your mood while you are on the journey to better health and decreased sugar cravings.

Detox Organics: A superfood (actually 25 superfoods in one, but who’s counting) like no other. This cocoa-powder style dietary supplement is organic, soy free, dairy free, vegan and non GMO, all while promoting toxin elimination, energy and mood improvement and inflammation reduction. The coolest part? It tastes like chocolate milk, so you’ll be satisfying the urge for something sweet all while re-wiring your brain to want more of the healthiest and most effective superfood supplement available. See why over 250,000 people use this product and order yours here.

Pre-Planning Meals: It doesn’t get simpler than this. Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail. You’ve tried the option of “winging it” day after day and just hoping you’ll pick healthy food options and it hasn’t worked. So let’s stop hoping, and start acting: take action by preparing 3-4 days worth of meals ahead of time, so there’s no room for chance or error. If you provide yourself with the healthy options, you’ll be less likely to grab the unhealthy ones. Not sure what to make? Find healthy eating tips or grab a meal plan here. (Hint: We like sweet potatoes!)

In short, you have the power to beat the cycle of sugar cravings and improve your life. Now that you know what you do, don’t wait to make a change. As always, we’re here for all of your health and wellness needs. Contact us for more tips and help to get started.

 

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult with your medical provider before starting an exercise, diet, or supplement regimen.

References

1 Westwater, M.L., Fletcher, P.C., & Ziauddeen, H. Eur j Nutr (2016) 55(Suppl 2): 55. https://doi.org/10/1007/s00394016-1229-6

2 Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:115-33. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-0897-4_5.).

3 Bioessays. 2014. Oct; 36(10): 940-949. Published Online 2014 Aug 8/ doi: 10.1002/bies.201400071

4 Hormones (Athens). 2017 Jul;16(3):223-234. doi: 10.14310/horm.2002.1742.

5 Sleep deprivation linked to junk food cravings. Berkley News. Yasmin Anwar, Media Relations. Published Online 2013 Aug 6. http://news.berkeley.edu/2013/08/06/poor-sleep-junk-food/

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Bites

Makes 12 balls

Ingredients:

Instructions:

In a food processor, add the cashews, coconut flour and protein powder. Process until it turns into a fine meal.

Add the almond milk, vanilla extract and salt. Process until a dough starts to come together.

Add the chocolate chips and pulse to break them up a bit. Roll into golf-sized balls.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy!

If you work in an office all day as millions of Americans do then it can be difficult to find the time to workout. In the morning it can feel like you barely have enough time to enjoy a substantial breakfast, let alone find additional time to exercise, and in the evenings you may have other responsibilities or simply be too tired to hit the gym.

If you’re in this position then you should look to squeeze as much exercise into your week as you can, whether you’re hitting the gym on the weekends or going for a run on an evening. But there are also exercises that you can do at the office to increase your fitness and your overall health.

Hand Grips 

Hand grips are designed to strengthen the muscles in your wrist. They are often marketed at guitar players looking to improve the functionality of their fretting hands, but they can also help weight lifters gain more stamina and strength and they can guard against potential problems related to excessive typing.

Basic hand grips have two handles positioned in a V shape, with one handle held at the base of your fingers and the other on the heel of your hand. There are also hand grips that provide varying degrees of resistance for each finger and work more of those important wrist muscles, but the best tool for strengthening your grip is something known as a Powerball.

Your wrists play a huge role in all upper body workouts. The reason wrist exercises are not included in workout programs is because many of the exercises you do, from tricep extensions to dumbbell curls, will work them anyway. But whether you lift weights or not, you can still benefit from improving the size and performance of these muscles.

Butt Clenches

Butt clenches are a great way to tone the muscles in your backside and get that trim, slim ass everyone wants. The people who strive for a shapely backside are the ones who will perform endless cardio in order to get it, without ever really targeting the muscles there. The exercises that do target the glutes, including squats and deadlifts, are often ignored by casual gym goers, dismissed as bodybuilding exercises.

But you don’t need heavy weights and strenuous exercise to make improvements here. Making a commitment to include regular butt clenches into your day will suffice. You can do them when you are standing or sitting, just clench, hold, release and then repeat. If you are performing them for the first time then try for 15 to 20 clenches in a row, followed by a break of 30 to 60 seconds and then another 2 to 3 sets.

If you’re not hurting the next day then repeat and gradually increase the amount that you do, both in terms of reps and sets. You’ll have an ass like Jennifer Lopez—or Channing Tatum—in no time.

Steppers and Mini-Bikes

Steppers are a basic way to get some distance training into your lower body. They are small machines that usually retail for less than $30 and allow you to step up and down, simulating a walk up the stairs. There are also mini pedal exercisers that are better for cardio, but won’t be as effective at building the muscles in your legs.

These machines are not a replacement for stationary bikes or for walking up and down the stairs. When you perform these activities upright you are committing more muscles to the task and will burn more calories as a result. But it’s a great option for shedding some extra pounds while you’re sitting at your desk and it’s also very cheap.

Stretching at Your Desk

There are some simple stretches that you can do while at your desk. You can do these even if you’re chatting on the phone or working on your computer, so there is no excuse not to—although your coworkers may think you’re a little odd.

  1. Extend: Stretch your legs out under the desk and extend until you feel those muscles working. Push your heels out, hold and then repeat with your toes. You can also extend your upper body, raising your arms above your head.
  2. Shrug: Sit-up straight and shrug, holding that position for a few seconds. This will work your traps and your shoulders.
  3. Head-Roll: Lower your chin to your chest and roll your head from side to side, making sure you don’t strain yourself.
  4. Knee Press: Place one ankle on the opposing knee and lean forward, applying pressure to the glutes and hamstrings.
  5. Leg Lifts: If you have plenty of space under your desk then sit upright with your ankles pressed together and then raise your legs. Hold them in position when they are extended and then gradually lower them. This works better when you have some resistance attached, speaking of which…

Add Weights to Office Exercises

If you strap on some ankle or wrist weights you can make your exercise at the office that little bit more productive. The extra weight will add more tension to your muscles, which will turn simple stretches into resistance training.

However, these weights are not recommended for use throughout the day. You don’t want to add unnecessary tension to simple tasks, especially if you’re writing on a keyboard or using a mouse. It’s a one way ticket to repetitive stress injury. Use ankle weights when walking and wrist weights when stretching, and then leave them at your desk for the rest of the day.

Standing vs Sitting

A few years ago it was reported that by standing at your workstation you could burn more calories and extend your lifespan. It seemed like a simple solution and as a result furniture manufacturers and offices worldwide began creating and implementing standing workstations.  However, when additional studies were performed on larger and more varied groups, the results could not be replicated and it seems like the odds of you meeting you maker do not increase if you spend more time sitting than standing in your workplace.

The problem with this kind of study is that it is always going to favor those who sit less. After all, if you spend less time sitting then there’s a good chance that you are a more active person, have a more active job or simply don’t like staying still for long periods of time, all of which will lead to a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular problems. However, if you sit when you are at work but remain active and otherwise healthy when you are not, then there should be nothing to worry about.

It goes without saying that the more you move the better your health will be and the more calories you will burn, so by all means try to move around a little more when you are at work—go for a walk during your break, deliver messages in person instead of email—but don’t concern yourself with the risks of having a stationary job.

Ways to Add More Activity to Your Working Day

  • Try walking or cycling there or back, or at least part of the way.
  • Walk to a nearby cafe or shop for your lunch instead of taking it with you.
  • Walk around the office when possible.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Join the staff gym if available.

America has highest rate of obesity in the world, putting all other countries to shame. And this situation is only getting worse, with the numbers of dangerously overweight Americans rising every single year. It’s an issue that seems to be woven into the very fabric of our culture and there are no easy fixes on a nationwide scale, but the problem begins at home and that’s where we we can find the solution.

In the US we have access to a higher quality range of cheap food and affordable exercise equipment; there are gyms and organic grocery stores on every corner; and you don’t need to look far to find diet tips or a nutritionist willing to give you them. The problems stem not from a lack of healthy choices, but from an abundance of unhealthy ones, and as soon as you make the choice to be slim and trim and actually stick to it, you’ll have all the help you need.

How do I Lose Weight?

It’s a question we all think that we know the answer to, but as soon as we start our weight loss journey we do things that suggest we don’t really understand the process at all.

We allow ourselves to do things that will only hinder our progress in the name of greed or convenience. We listen to people who we shouldn’t be listening to simply because we want to believe what they are telling us. Really, the question should be, “How NOT to Lose Weight” and the first step is to avoid the following thought processes:

  • “It’s okay to binge today if I make up for it tomorrow”Not True. Think of it this way: every pound of fat equates to roughly 3,500 calories (this is not an exact calculation as many diet “experts” claim, but it’s close enough to serve as a useful average). To lose a pound of fat, you need to consume 3,500 calories less than your body uses and you do this over the course of many days. If you binge on 1,000 extra calories today, you’ll need to consume 1,000 less in future days just to get back to a level playing field.
  • “I’ll start at the beginning of the week/month/year”Why? Why would you wait? The date on the calendar isn’t going to make a difference and by delaying the process you’re only prolonging the length of time it takes to reach your goals.
  • “I can eat as much [X] as I want, it’s free” — Don’t kid yourself. No food worth eating is calorie free. There are some foods that may burn as much as they consume, but not to the extent that you think.
  • “Today is my cheat day”Only if you want to delay your weight loss. Cheat days are okay when used in moderation, but to get slim and trim quickly, you can’t have them.

Dangerous Diets

You don’t need a fad diet to help you get slim and trim, you just need a basic meal plan, plenty of exercise and a calorie deficit. It really is that easy. Fad diets often harm your body, they make promises they can’t keep and they leave you in a worse position than when you started. The following diets are a great example of this and should be all the motivation you need to kick them to the curb and to focus on the basic principles of weight loss.

  • Atkins Diet: By depriving your body of carbs you are taking away a major energy source, which will lead to feelings of fatigue and could impact your mental health. This diet has also been linked with heart-disease and kidney disease.
  • The Master Cleanse: Apparently popular with celebs, this one involves drinking nothing but a concoction made of lemon, water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. It’s an incredibly catabolic diet, which means it might help you to lose weight but will take muscle as well as fat and will also leave your body deprived of vital nutrients.
  • 5:2 Diet (AKA Intermittent Fasting): This one may be showing promise in early research and it may lead to a longer life, but it will slow protein synthesis and limit muscle growth and it has also been linked with everything from anxiety and bad breath to insomnia.
  • Paleo: A popular diet for many and one that can be healthy if done right, the issues with the paleo diet stem from its focus on fats and protein. Much like the Atkins diet, this can lead to kidney and heart problems. It is also based on claims that are insane. It’s true that our ancestors likely didn’t suffer as much from heart disease and cancer as we do, but only because disease, hunger, conflict and wild animals killed them at a very young age.
  • Weight-Loss Pills: The majority of weight loss pills are either ineffective, dangerous or very unpleasant. Take Xenical as an example. It works, but it will deprive your body of fat and your days of passing gas without a care will be numbered. Stimulants work to an extent, but they can be very taxing on your heart and you’re often better off with a strong cup of organic coffee like GRIND. As for appetite suppressants, the only ones that work are the ones we know very little about and the ones you shouldn’t be willingly ingesting.

One Diet at a Time

It’s essential that you ignore all other diets out there. We’re often sold on several different diets at once, whether we’re following partial principles laid out by Weight Watchers, adding slimming shakes to our diet, buying the latest slimming tea or abstaining from protein/fat/real food. These diets aren’t all terrible, but they are designed to be followed to the letter, so don’t pick and choose. Don’t buy those teas, don’t base your decision to eat a meal on whether it has a certain amount of Weight Watchers points and for the love of God, don’t drop an entire macronutrient from your diet because someone with letters after their name told you to.

Tips for Being Slim and Trim

Now that you know what not to do, let’s focus back on the basics and end on a positive note:

  • Keep a meal and workout journal.
  • Move slowly. Don’t try to do everything at once and know that even small changes in diet and activity will benefit you.
  • Don’t use lack of time as an excuse not to workout. You can add more activity to your working day and it takes just 10 minutes to do a few push-ups on an evening.
  • Don’t forget to lift weights, they will boost your metabolism and help you to add definition.
  • Eat a diet of 30% to 35% protein. It requires more calories to metabolize than any other macronutrient.
  • Consume plenty of fruits, vegetables and seeds.
  • Don’t abstain from fat, but focus on healthy fats as found in olive oil, seeds and nuts.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid fruit juices and smoothies.
  • Get a workout partner if you struggle with motivation.

Ingredients:

For the brownies:

  • 1 ½ cups dates, pitted
  • 1 ½ cups walnuts
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt

For the frosting:

  • 1 medium avocado
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 scoop Chocolate Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ½ cup freeze dried strawberries (or use fresh)

Instructions:

Line at 9×5 inch baking dish with parchment paper.

Add the dates and walnuts to a food processor and process until they are finely chopped. Add the cocoa powder, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt. Process until a dough starts to come together.

Transfer the brownie mixture into the baking dish and press into one even layer. Place in the fridge to chill.

Add all of the frosting ingredients (except the strawberries) to your food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides a few times as needed. Using a rubber spatula, scoop the frosting on top of the brownies and spread it around. Top with strawberries. Transfer to the fridge to chill to at least 30 minutes.

Cut into 8 brownies and enjoy! Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Makes 8 brownies

Whether you go to the gym every day or 3/4 times a week, it’s a ritual that can become tiring. You’re stuck inside, sweating, panting and grunting with dozens of other men and women—it can get old fast. So, leave the stuffy confines of the gym behind and hit the open air every now and then with these top outdoor workouts.

Soccer

The world’s favorite sport should burn more calories on average than a game of football, especially if you are playing with just handful of friends. The action is constant, everyone is involved all of the time and it’s a true test of speed, skill and stamina, all of which will melt that body fat away.

On average, you will burn between 250 and 500 calories an hour playing soccer, but this accounts for games played with full-sized teams and on full-sized pitches. If you reduce the size of the pitch and the number of players, then everyone has to get involved with the play. It is relentless, testing, and makes for the ultimate outdoor workout.

Of course, someone has to be the goalkeeper and that position is a little less demanding. But while you’ll miss out on cardio you will be pushing your upper body and your core much harder than the outfield players.

Sprinting

Jogging is the go-to outdoor workout for anyone looking to lose weight, but if you don’t have the time or the inclination, or if you’re worried about the damage being done to your knees, then try sprinting instead. Those short, explosive bursts of running will increase your heart rate and force all of your muscles into action.

It’s much more explosive than jogging and it will get the job done in half of the time. It won’t test your stamina as much, but it will help to build your core muscles.

Battle Ropes

Battle ropes are finding their way into more and more gyms, but they’re rarely used properly. If you’re going to use battle ropes you need to really go for it. Forget about short, jerky movements at a slow pace and go for it! You want big swings and you want to put every effort into it. Do this for 30 to 60 seconds, take a rest and then do it again.

It’s a high intensity workout that will leave you breathless and ready to give up, but it’ll be worth it.

Medicine Ball Workout

Never underestimate the usefulness of the medicine ball. A mainstay in boxing gyms up and down the country, this piece of equipment can be incorporated into your cardio and strength workouts. It doesn’t really matter what you do, because the weight of the ball will ensure that it puts your muscles under duress while the movement will stretch and strain them just like a dumbbell workout would.

The trick is to be fast, explosive and angry, all while putting your body through a full range of motion. Popular medicine ball exercises that can develop explosive power include thrusting, jumping movements that end with you throwing the ball in the air as high as you can. Just don’t try to catch it if you do this. The act of throwing is more than enough to develop those core muscles and catching it may put stress on your wrists, not to mention your face if you miss-judge the catch.

Basketball

A test of stamina and athleticism, basketball is a fun way to burn calories and with countless courts nationwide, there’s no excuse not to get involved. According to MyFitnessPal, a 150 pound person can expect to burn over 500 calories an hour playing this sport. It will also help to improve your core muscles, while strengthening your legs as you jump, block and dunk your way to success.

Resistance Training

Your body will adapt to everything that you throw at it and you need to keep challenging it if you want to experience those gains. If you’re lifting weights in the gym this is easily overcome as you can just switch-up your workouts, throwing in some new exercises and alternative splits. When it comes to sprinting and jogging, you need to incorporate some resistance in the form of chute resistance training.

This involves the use of “running chutes” which are basically parachutes that activate when you’re at speed and create an immense amount of drag, slowing you down and forcing your legs to work harder in order to get over the line. It’s a gentle way of adding extra resistance to a basic bodyweight exercise and it will send your personal best times through the roof.

Circuit Training/CrossFit

CrossFit has gown immensely in the last year or two and everyone seems to be promoting it these days. But you don’t need to join a program and spend a fortune in order to benefit from the ideas it preaches. There are countless CrossFit training programs online that you can follow. You can also create your own based on strengths and weaknesses.

Here is a sample of a CrossFit workout to show you how easy it is:

  • 5 Rounds of
  • 5 Pull-Ups
  • 10 Push-Ups
  • 15 Burpees
  • 20 Jumping Swats
  • 30 Sit-ups

Obstacle Course

This one isn’t easy to do, but it’s probably easier than you think. An obstacle course is a true test of stamina, power and agility. It combines many elements in order to give you a complete workout. There are professional obstacle courses across the country where you can test yourself, but you can also use whatever is available, whether you’re in your backyard or a local park.

Use tables to climb over, tires to run through, beams to hurdle over, nets to scramble under, cones/posts to slalom through. Park benches, bollards, walls and trees are the perfect foundation for any obstacle course, so local parks are ideal, but you can also get creative. Incorporate children’s climbing frames and park benches, set yourself a goal of stopping to do push-ups or sit-ups at certain points, and bring a friend along to time you or race you.

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