Heavy Breathing

Heavy Breathing

You may hear that demanding male trainer at CBF shout “Breathe!” As if anybody needs to be reminded! If you’ve lived long enough to be there, you’ve lived long enough to know how to breathe, right?

Actually, during most of your daily life your breathing takes care of itself without you giving it a thought. However, during exercise, things are very different. Your body is under significant stress as your skeletal muscles, heart and brain demand oxygen and energy to fuel your movement.

Here are a few breathing techniques you can use to help yourself exercise effectively and safely.

lungsFirst, NEVER hold your breath. Sometimes people hold their breaths to get an extra push on a weight or max out the last ten seconds of the ropes. Don’t. Holding your breath can spike your blood pressure to dangerous levels because it restricts blood flow back to the heart, making it work even harder. Grunt, pant, gasp, but never stop breathing.

Second, when you are working with resistance, such as a kettlebell, machine, or tubes, exhale as you lift (when muscles contract) and inhale when lowering (when muscles stretch). For instance, when doing the kettlebell swing, exhale when you contract your glutes and hamstrings to send the bell up, then inhale as it swings down between your legs. When doing a lat pull down on the machine, exhale as you pull the weight down, inhale as it goes back up. Ditto with tubes. Exhale as you push your hands out in a chest press, inhale as they come back.

Third, when doing an exercise targeted at your core, like band knee to knees, walkaways, or primal moves, purse your lips as you exhale. Do a quick experiment on yourself. Put your hand on your belly, take a deep breath, and exhale hard with your mouth open wide. Now do the same thing, only this time exhale hard through pursed lips. Feel how your abdomen tightens. You just activated the transverse abdominus, a powerful band of muscles that is key to proper core activation and exercise performance

Finally, when you are running or sprinting, maintain an erect, head-up posture to maximize the volume of your thoracic cavity, thus space for lungs to expand. Breath so deep so your belly button goes out and in, as your chest rises and falls. Help your body engage the breathing muscles in your ribs and back that are idle when you are not exerting.

With good breathing technique, you’ll find you have more strength and endurance than you thought.



The Black Ball Workout

The Black Ball Workout

Last Friday CBFers participated in the first solo/pairs workout with new medicine balls that begins easy and ends not so easy. It’s a great addition to our program for older adult fitness.

Think about how you move every day – forwards, backwards, sideways, facing up, facing down, turning, reaching, tossing, throwing, crouching, kneeling, and other …ings.

Often you must complete these movements while managing a light load of one to ten pounds – laundry, groceries, a child, skis, a case of beer, daypack, firewood, coiled hose, box of books, a chair, a stack of dishes.

These diverse movements require strength and flexibility, in equal amounts, from head to toe. There’s no better or safer way to develop this combination than by moving a weighted medicine ball against gravity – in multiple directions, at varying velocities – throughout your range of motion.

twins1 (1)In the fitness world, you hear the phrase “range of motion.” Maintaining a useful range of motion is really important for older adults to continue participating in life’s many activities and remaining independent deep into old age.

twins2 (1)

Having a useful range of motion is much more being able to reach up or bend down or twist into a static yoga pose. That’s just the beginning. You also need to be able to generate force and absorb force.

For example, when you reach up to the overhead bin to remove a bag on the airplane, if you have a useful range of motion, you’ll not only grab the bag, you’ll also control its descent, avoiding dropping it onto the passenger seated below. When you need to move a shovelful of dirt, you’re be able to sequence the flexion of your ankles, knees, and hips to reach it, then able┬áto quickly straighten them to lift the load, rotate, and toss it away.

The physical advantages gained with medicine balls is more than stronger muscles. The wide range of movements improve the tensile strength and elasticity in ligaments, tendons, and the connective tissue that surrounds every muscle. These are what tend to get injured when you are not fit.

Check the pictures of excellent range of motion for 50+ adults. These exercisers are able to extend their arms straight out from their bodies while holding up the weighted balls because their arms and shoulders are strong. Their arm and shoulder actions are supported by a stable platform provided by their flexed ankles and hips. Straight backs and engaged cores protect them from dangerous pressure on their lower backs.

We spend lots of time in the numbered circuits developing raw strength with heavier resistances in isolated muscles, like biceps, triceps, quadriceps, and hamstrings, as well joint complexes like shoulders or knees.

In the Black Ball Workout, these strengthened body parts come together, preparing you for useful movement in the real world.

And it’s fun. One CBFer said it was one of the funnest things she ever did in her entire life.









Love That Fantastic Elastic

Love That Fantastic Elastic

One of the best workouts we do is with tubes because they develop total body, multi-planar strength that you can’t get with machines or free weights.

You might wonder when you lay awake at night: How can simple tubes be superior to all those pneumatic/cabled contraptions and hardware in the globe-gyms?


At CBF we believe poet Elizabeth Barret Browning was thinking about exercise tubes when she penned Sonnet 43, which begins: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

First, tubes create resistance in multiple directions – overhead, diagonally, sideways, forwards – that are impossible to replicate otherwise. Research shows you engage more muscle fibers around joints, like those in the rotator cuff.

Second, the typical way you call on muscles to work in everyday activities or sports is when you are on your feet, not seated or laying down as is the case with machines. Many more muscles must engage. Think about when you do overhead triceps. The triceps are the prime mover, but in back the muscles of the legs and torso must create a stable platform for the triceps to move.

Third, as the tubes pull against your body from various angles, you improve your balance, whether upright doing front presses or on one knee doing wood chops. Your body is forced to make subtle adjustments to variable forces to the changing resistance as the band stretches and contracts.

Fourth, the maximum resistance of the tube occurs at the end range of motion, where injuries often happen in daily life, eg, you reach up to lift a heavy object off a shelf and pull a muscle. Tubes provide resistance from start to finish, increasing your resilience.

Fifth, tubes are especially effective for use by older adults because they develop cross-sectional strength in the targeted muscle, while also incorporating integrated movements  that are required in everyday tasks and athletic pursuits.

Sixth, tubes are very safe. You can quickly adjust resistance if you fatigue, and they are easier on tendons and ligaments that can be threatened by weights that are too heavy.

Tubes are used routinely by elite athletes these days because there’s so much to love.