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Strength Training and Toning Exercises

Updated on June 9, 2013
'The Tree'
'The Tree' | Source

The body is a wondrous and powerful machine that is capable of a great many feats and abilities, protecting us from a range of viruses and dangers. However, there are also many skills that it can be trained for, which it will not be able to complete automatically.

For example, taking a stroll or pulling a lever are tasks that can be undertaken without a second thought. However, having the strength necessary to complete certain tasks, such as removing a lug nut or hiking through a mountainous region, is a different matter.

Situations can arise in life when we require more from our bodies, whether that means needing more strength or muscles that can cope with a large amount of exertion. When this occurs, it is useful to be in a position where your body is able to respond positively.

By regularly undertaking a course of exercise that concentrates on toning the body as well as increasing strength, you will be able to enjoy a body that is capable of achieving so much more than you thought.

Stretching

Stretching has more of a purpose than simply warming up the muscles in readiness of some other form of exercise. Stretching is beneficial to the body in its own right and, done regularly, can aid with lengthening and toning the muscles. For example, if you feel sluggish and stiff on waking in the morning, try bending at the waist to touch your toes and holding for a few long moments. Follow this by stretching your arms by reaching your hands to the ceiling and pushing toward it. This action can be accompanied by the raising of the heels to really stretch the entire body.

This stretching process is especially beneficial for stretching the back as long periods of sitting or standing can result in the vertebrae being pushed together and the fluid filled sacs between then becoming squashed flat. The action of bending forward allows the sacs to plump up.

Another way in which to stretch the body is to twist the upper body from side to side with the feet firmly planted shoulder width apart. A smooth, gentle motion that results in you almost looking behind you will help to stretch the muscles across the back. Stretching to each side with one arm reaching up and over your head and the other reaching down the leg while leaning to the side will also work the muscles of the back and sides.

Stretching increases the body’s ability to carry out tasks that would not previously have been possible. Accordingly, the more you undertake some stretches, the easier they will become and the further you will be able to push yourself; for example, bending over and being able to place your palms on the floor rather than just touching your toes.

Not having the ability to do the splits does not have to be a reason for disappointment as it is a skill that can be learnt. By working on the muscles, the body can be trained into taking on different positions. Teaching the body how to do the splits involves stretching the legs to particularly work on the hips to increase the range of motion. This can be undertaken by standing with the legs apart and gradually widening the stance further and further.

Stretching exercises can be coupled with other types of exercise, such as weights and resistance training. This is especially true of fitness regimes like yoga and Pilates.


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Yoga and Pilates

The process of developing the body by toning the physique and making it strong does not have to be intense and frantic. Fitness regimes such as yoga and Pilates will not necessarily eave you fighting for breath, but can still prove to be a highly effective way to train the muscles. While many would recommend fully immersing yourself in any particular regime to get the most out if it, this is not always necessary as simply incorporating particular techniques into your normal exercise routine can still be beneficial.

Yoga is not just for those who want to relax and feel more connected to the earth, it is also an ideal way to tone the muscles and make the body stronger. Pilates also aids the process of stretching the muscles to help them work well, support the frame and prevent injury.

A muscular body can be a hindrance in certain circumstances, such as with martial arts, where a lean body can be much more effective. Instead of a body lined with bulky muscles that can prevent easy movement, lean muscle does not limit speed and still enables a sufficient amount of power for when punches and kicks are needed.

Both yoga and Pilates involve holding positions for at least a few minutes, which forces the body to become more flexible by working muscles in a way that they would not normally experience. It is for this reason that every effort must be made to complete each move fully and correctly.

Moves such as the downward facing dog, the tree and the wheel help to align the body, fully engaging the muscles in order to develop a physique and mind that is beautifully balanced.

Resistance Training

The wide range of exercises that fall under the heading of resistance training make it an ideal way to build strength and a toned body.

Exercises, such as the good old push-up, enable you to use your own body weight in the process of toning and strengthening the body. Sit-ups, squats, leg raises and lunges will also fall into this category and do not require the use of any equipment. However, it is also possible to make use of equipment, if desired, such as ankle weights when completing leg raises.

Any situation that puts pressure on the body as it is not in a relaxed position will especially help to work muscles that are not often engaged. For example, try raising your arms to your sides so that they are level with your shoulders. This is not a normal position for the arms to maintain and requires a certain level of muscle power to keep the arms aloft. The exercise of these muscles can be intensified with the use of weights. This will increase the rate of resistance and make the body work harder.

Weights

Coupling the use of weights with other forms of exercise, such as resistance training, can help make it easier to achieve the desired results. Relatively light weights lifted with a high number of repetitions helps to create lean and strong muscles, which tone the body without wildly changing the shape of the body. It may seem like the person with the biggest muscles is the strongest, while this may be a logical assumption to make, it is not always true and this should not be a goal for someone seeking to increase their strength. If the goal is also to create a muscular looking physique, then heavier weights used with a smaller number of reps is more effective.

Chores

Everyday chores can also be adapted to make them less boring and more beneficial in helping to tone up. When shopping, rather than jumping straight in the car or choosing to get goods delivered, carry your shopping home to give both your arms and legs a workout. Similarly, cleaning that is undertaken in a vigorous manner can also help to tone the muscles. Whether stretching up to dust a high corner or pushing around a weighty vacuum cleaner, calories can be burnt and the body can be conditioned at the same time.

Undertaking a course of exercise that focuses on strength training and toning does not solely need to be for the purpose of changing the way that the body looks, but it also helps the body to become stronger and more flexible.

It is recommended to seek advice from a GP or qualified personal trainer before undertaking any course of exercise.

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