Strength Training for Parkinson’s

Strength training for Parkinson's disease: Slowing the Progression

Strength Training for Parkinson's Disease Brain Anatomy

Due to high-profile cases in recent decades, the US is very aware of Parkinson’s disease.

Celebrities like Michael J. Fox, Ozzy Osborne, and late icons Muhammad Ali and Johnny Cash are a few of the famous names who were/are inflicted with the disease.

In the US, 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed annually.

While Parkinson’s is not terminal, symptoms can significantly affect the individual’s quality of life.

Research has shown exercise, strength training, in particular, can improve symptoms and slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Keep reading…

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a central nervous system condition that causes tremors and affects bodily movements.

Dopamine levels diminish as a result of nerve cell destruction in the brain, resulting in a slew of symptoms.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s

This disease manifests by disrupting physical abilities:

  • Causing tremors
  • Postural instability
  • Slow, rigid movement

Those diagnosed with Parkinson’s often suffer from:

  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Strength loss
  • Accelerated muscle atrophy

Muscle atrophy already accelerates after the age of 25, where individuals without Parkinson’s can expect to lose anywhere from a pound to a pound and a half of lean muscle every year on average, so you can imagine how adding Parkinson’s to the mix is particularly troublesome.

Brain imaging showing a loss in serotonin function as Parkinson's disease progresses. Red/yellow areas show that serotonin function reduces before movement symptoms develop. [Neurodegeneration Imaging Group, King's College London.]

Strength Training as a Treatment

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s. With that in mind, science has focused on ways to improve the quality of life for those with the disease.

Among the proven treatment options is something we know well: strength training.

Strength training reverses some of the physical effects of Parkinson’s and can possibly match the physical ability of Parkinson’s sufferers to that of those without the disease.

Physiological Improvements

Physical improvements for Parkinson’s patients are demonstrated by a few studies, most notably research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In a four-month study, 15 patients exercised in a full-body strength training workout three days per week.

The routine featured some of the familiar exercises we do at The Perfect Workout, including the leg press, chest press, and lat pull-down. The researchers measured a number of physiological and functional areas at the start and end of the study.

The strength training program was successful in reversing a number of areas generally affected by Parkinson’s.

The participants improved their strength by at least one-third in all major muscle groups. Muscle size increased, including a 36% improvement for fast-twitch muscle fibers (the fibers most responsible for performing challenging tasks).

The trainees were able to walk an additional 140 feet in a six-minute walk test, indicating better endurance, walking speed, and walking ability. Imagine being able to walk another 140 feet during a grocery trip or vacation with family!

Balance on one leg improved by 34%, meaning the people with Parkinson’s were able to stand longer on one leg and were less likely to experience a fall.

The most profound result was from the standing test.

The standing test in this study showed how many muscle fibers were needed for the Parkinson’s sufferers to stand from a seated position. At the start of the study, standing required a near-maximum effort (90% of muscle fibers). Imagine that: needing nearly all of your strength to stand from a chair.

At the end of the study, only 60% of muscle fibers were used to perform a stand. In other words, standing became much easier.

In fact, those with Parkinson’s disease used the same amount of effort to stand after the training program as people the same age who did not have Parkinson’s!

Balance Exercises

The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends doing exercises to improve balance. Some simple at-home exercises include:

  • Walking heel to toe
  • Side leg raises
  • Wall pushups
  • Marching in place

Resistance exercises can also help to improve strength and balance overall.

A 2014 study noticed an increase in balance (and a lower rate of falling) during 12 weeks of strength training when compared to the months prior to training.

In another study, researchers from the Netherlands and Belgium assessed 28 studies using strength training or various types of activity to see what practices are effective for reducing falls and fall risk factors.

Twenty of those studies focused on strength training. The research shows strength exercises also led to improvements in walking speed, static balance, and balance while moving.

Parkinson’s at The Perfect Workout

Many of our members have been able to improve their conditions at The Perfect Workout, including Parkinson’s.

One of our members, Sandie from McGaheysville, VA has early-onset Parkinson's. She has days where she experiences more stiffness in her joints than others. Her trainer Melissa works with her as a team to assess how her body feels on each exercise.

“We're able to adapt each workout based on her energy level or her level of feeling, stiff joints or not. And she knows that no matter what by the end of the workout, she feels much stronger and she feels that that has helped her with some of her symptoms.”

To learn more about exercise’s role in slowing Parkinson’s disease progression, enjoy this presentation from Daniel M. Corcos, PhD, professor of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at Northwestern University. Dr. Corcos answers many of the questions about how to combat Parkinson's disease through progressive resistance exercise and endurance exercise.

Strength Training for Parkinson’s … It Helps.

As a whole, strength training improves muscle strength, muscle tissue, endurance, walking ability, balance, and the effort needed to perform daily activities for those with Parkinson’s.

With this in mind, strength training is an excellent option to help stop or reverse the physical and functional effects of Parkinson’s disease.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  1. Cadore, E. L., Casas-Herrero, A., Zambom-Ferraresi, F., Idoate, F., Millor, N., Gómez, M.,…& Izquierdo, M. (2014). Multicomponent exercises including muscle power training enhance muscle mass, power output, and functional outcomes in institutionalized frail nonagenarians. Age, 36(2), 773-785.
  2. De Kam, D., Smulders, E., Weerdesteyn, V., & Smits-Engelsman, B.C. (2009). Exercise interventions to reduce fall-related fractures and their risk factors in individuals with low bone density: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Osteoporosis International, 20, 2111-2125.
  3. Kelly, N. A., Ford, M. P., Standaert, D. G., Watts, R. L., Bickel, C. S., Moellering, D. R., … & Bamman, M. M. (2014). Novel, high intensity exercise prescription improves muscle mass, mitochondrial function, and physical capacity in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(5), 582-592.
  4. Volpi, Elena et al. “Muscle tissue changes with aging.” Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care vol. 7,4 (2004): 405-10. doi:10.1097/01.mco.0000134362.76653.b2

Hip Strength And Mobility

Hip Strength And Mobility - What You Should Know

Female strength training for hip strength and mobility

The hip bone’s connected to the… everything!

Maybe not anatomically, but the hip joint is the largest weight-bearing joint in the human body, and it is a hub for functional movement.

Having strong hip joints and surrounding muscles helps maintain mobility and our ability to perform basic activities of daily living.

Thankfully, maintaining hip strength and mobility can be achieved through a few exercises performed on a regular basis. To learn more, scroll down.

The Importance of the Hip Joint

Healthy hips are fundamental to many day-to-day activities. The hip joint is where the head of the thigh bone (femur) meets an indented space on the pelvis. Hips support our body weight when standing. They are also critical to the processes of walking, climbing stairs, running, sitting, standing, and bending over.

The hips are so important that our strongest muscles — the quadriceps and glutes — are located around and help move the hip joint. Unfortunately, the hip joint is an area that’s highly susceptible to the “wear and tear” of life and aging.

Hips are also the most common site of osteoporosis and fractures with advancing age. Every year, 350,000 hip fractures happen in the United States (Hopkins Medicine). When hip fractures occur, they lead to a loss of independence and, in some cases, a loss of life.

Threats to Hip Health

Osteoporosis, a condition of low bone density, is a “silent” disease. You don’t feel it. You don’t see it. However, people start losing bone strength in their 30s, and that rate of loss picks up after age 50. As a result, bones become weak and susceptible to breaking with an event like falling.

Because the hip joint bears the most weight, it can be heavily impacted by osteoporosis. The thinner “neck” of the femur is the biggest risk for bone density loss and subsequent fractures.

Not only is this the most common site of fractures, but it’s also the most severe place to have a fracture. About one in five older adults die within a year of having a hip fracture, and a large portion of those who survive lose mobility and independence (Schnell et al., 2010).

Osteoporosis isn’t the only concern for hip health. The hip joint is one of the most common sites for arthritis. It’s especially common for people who have experienced years of more-than-normal force on the joint. These individuals typically have a background in athletics, dance, distance running, or people who have been obese.

With arthritis, people lose hip mobility, the joint feels tight, stiff, and painful, and about a third of people with hip arthritis get a joint replacement (Quintana, Arostegui, & Escobar, 2008).

Hip Strength & Mobility

Suffering from hip osteoporosis or arthritis as we age isn’t inevitable. Hip health can be maintained or even improved by focusing on two factors: hip strength and hip mobility.

Enhancing hip strength and a full range of motion can reduce the risk of suffering from hip pain, hip injury, or losing independence (Carneiro et al., 2015; Snyder et al., 2009).

The question then becomes, “How can we enhance hip strength and range of motion?” Strength training.

Multiple studies show strength training 2-3 times a week can enhance hip muscle strength, bone density, and range of motion (Carneiro et al., 2015; Rhoades et al., 2000; Snyder et al., 2009). (Though our slow-motion strength training method can accomplish those things in just 20 minutes, twice a week.)

These studies used a variety of approaches, ranging from using a few lower body exercises to full-body routines. Only a few exercises, though, are needed to improve hip health.

Resistance Exercises for Hip
Strength & Mobility

Leg Press

The leg press is not only the most important exercise in a workout, targeting the largest muscle groups, but it’s also critical for hip health. The leg press and its exercise variations below strengthen the largest muscle that supports the hip joint: the gluteus maximus.

In this exercise, you slowly push through your heels, keeping your buttocks down in the seat, pushing each repetition to the point just shy of locking out your knees. You then resist the weight all the way down to the bottom of the range of motion, barely touching the weight stack, and slowly beginning again. Repeat until you achieve “muscle success”.

It also improves bone density in the hip and surrounding areas (Rhoades et al., 2000). The leg press also increases range of motion for several key movements that involve the hip joint (Rhoades et al., 2000).

Read about John Abel, who’s improved his hip health at The Perfect Workout.

Hip Abduction

Hip abduction, commonly referred to as the “outer thigh exercise,” or “ABD,” strengthens muscles that are vital for basic activities such as walking: the gluteus medius and minimus.

Performing hip abduction helps strengthen those muscles plus increases lateral hip mobility (Snyder et al., 2009). Between the leg press and hip abduction, hip mobility improves in all directions.

At-Home Exercises for Hip Strength & Mobility

The leg press and hip abduction are ideal for achieving the goals of adding hip strength and range of motion. There are home exercises, though, which can mimic those movements.

Chair Stands

To perform this exercise, you sit in a squat position and stand from a chair. The challenge is to have as low of a chair as possible and to use slow movement.

Position yourself to sit on the edge of the chair. Keep your chest up and look forward. As you slowly stand, push through your heels and the middle of your feet. As you lower yourself with bent knees, only briefly allow your butt to contact the chair before slowly starting upwards.

Repeat until you achieve muscle success. This exercise targets the same muscle groups as the leg press does: the gluteus maximus and quadriceps.

Standing Hip Abduction with Resistance Bands

Mimicking the muscles that are used in the machine exercise that has the same name, the standing hip abduction involves standing and holding onto a counter or chair.

Place a resistance band around the outside of both ankles. Train one leg at a time. Keep the other leg on the ground and use that for balance. The moving leg moves out to the side as far as possible, then slowly moves back toward the standing leg. Once the moving leg’s foot taps the ground, it should slowly move outwards to the side again.

Repeat until you achieve Muscle Success, then switch to train the other leg.

Hip Health Summarized

A healthy hip joint is critical. It’s the center of basic activities, such as standing, sitting, and walking. Therefore, we must keep the joint healthy.

Aging and the wear and tear of life’s activities lead to skeletal concerns, which increase the risk of hip pain, swelling, loss of movement, and fractures. To protect your hip joint, you can strength train with exercises involving the area.

These hip exercises help improve muscle strength, bone strength, and mobility. The specific exercises that are most important for hip health are the leg press and hip abduction. At-home replacements are using resistance bands during standing hip abduction and performing chair stands.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Carneiro, N. H., Ribeiro, A. S., Nascimento, M. A., Gobbo, L. A., Schoenfeld, B. J., Júnior, A. A., … & Cyrino, E. S. (2015). Effects of different resistance training frequencies on flexibility in older women. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 10, 531.
  • Quintana, J.M., Arostegui, I., & Escobar, A. (2008). Prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis and the appropriateness of joint replacement in an older population. JAMA Internal Medicine, 168(14), 1576-1584.
  • Rhodes, E., Martin, A., Taunton, J., Donnelly, M., Warren, J., & Elliot, J. (2000). Effects of one year of resistance training on the relation between muscular strength and bone density in elderly women. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(1), 18-22.
  • Schnell, S., Friedman, S.M., Mendelon, D.A., Bingham, K.W., & Kates, S.L. (2010). The 1-year mortality of patients treated in a hip fracture program for elders. Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation, 1(1), 6-14.
  • Snyder, K. R., Earl, J. E., O’Connor, K. M., & Ebersole, K. T. (2009). Resistance training is accompanied by increases in hip strength and changes in lower extremity biomechanics during running. Clinical Biomechanics, 24(1), 26-34.

Benefits of Ab Crunches: More Than Just A Six Pack

for more than just a six pack: get to know the ab crunch

Personal Training Carlsbad CA

The Ab Crunch is a client favorite when it comes to exercises.

Sometimes it’s because of a misconception about what it can do for belly fat.

Other times, it’s because clients know how it can help their mobility goals.

Let’s dig into what the Ab Crunch can do for you…

Muscles Used

The rectus abdominis, or “abs,” are the muscles many of us would like to display in a bathing suit. Besides the aesthetics, they’re an important muscle group for function.

The Ab Crunch machine trains the abs as well as another pair of important muscles. However, performing this exercise requires attention to detail. There’s a small difference between proper execution and lower back strain with the ab crunch. We’ll discuss all of those details later in the article.

The rectus abdominis starts at the bottom of the sternum (chest bone) and the front of the ribs. It runs down to the top of your pubic bone (part of the pelvic girdle), which is just above your genitals.

The main function of this muscle is to pull your spine into a ‘C’ shape, bringing your chest and midsection closer together.

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Of course, the abs are most known because of the “six pack.” A “six pack” has that appearance because of connective tissue.

As the abs flow from the ribs to the pelvic girdle, there are three segments of connective tissue in the middle. This where the “six pack” gets its upper, middle, and lower portions.

Also, a sheet of connective tissue (linea alba) runs vertically, splitting the abs in half and causing it to look like there are six muscles instead of three.

Secondary muscles in the ab crunch are the external and internal obliques. The obliques are located in the area that many refer to as their “love handles.” (We’re covering all of the fun stuff today.) 😉

How It Works

Regularly performing the ab crunch to the exhaustion point of “muscle success” will strengthen your abs and obliques and possibly make them more aesthetically noticeable. However, I have to warn you: Seeing your midsection muscles is largely a result of low body fat levels.

The less fat between your skin and your abdominal muscles, the easier it is to see definition in your abs.

And losing body fat is mainly a result of positive dietary changes. Wanting to see your abs may beckon a change to your diet more than the use of the ab crunch machine.

Believe it or not, the rectus abdominis does not exist only to make you look good in a bathing suit. It is also functionally significant. The abs are critical muscles for respiration and childbirth.

In addition, they are major stabilization muscles.

Every exercise or sports movement focuses on a small group of joints. For example, throwing a baseball mainly involves the elbow and shoulder joints. For this to occur with optimal efficiency and effectiveness, muscles in various parts of the body (like your abdominals!) contract to hold other parts of your body relatively still.

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Performing the exercise looks like this: 

I mentioned previously that the abs work to pull your chest and midsection closer together, causing your spine to curl into a ‘C’ shape.

The proper range of motion for the ab crunch is small compared to most exercises. The exercise may include only four or five inches of movement in each direction. It’s common to exceed this amount, and that’s where some problems occur.

To avoid overextension problems that can lead to discomfort or targeting the wrong areas, follow these simple steps:

  1. In the ab crunch, as you “curl” downward, your lower back should press into the lower pad. (Your upper back should also stay firmly pressed into the upper pad.)
  2. If your lower back is about to peel off the pad, this is a cue that you’re at the end of the range of motion and need to reverse direction and begin returning to the starting position.
  3. When the lower back is removed from the pad, the midsection and thighs are now moving closer together. This motion is a hip-based movement called “hip flexion.”
  4. Hip flexion uses other muscle groups, and these muscle groups exert some force on the lower back. Examples of exercises that use hip flexion are sit-ups and leg lifts. While the abs assist in these exercises, the hip flexors are the dominant muscles.

In summary, “curl” down on the ab crunch machine no further than the point where you feel your lower back will start leaving the back pad.

Using the ab crunch will strengthen your abs and obliques, muscles that not only help you look good on the beach (with proper nutrition) but also with critical life functions.

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Maximize Your Ab Crunch in 2 Minutes or Less

In order to get the most out of your 1-2 minutes on the Ab Crunch, your coach will guide you through these four things:

  1. Full Range of Motion (and no further!): Full range of motion helps avoid shortcutting the targeted muscles. Think “ribs to hips” and “belly button to spine” to squeeze your abdominal muscles properly.
  2. Relax Your Feet and Hands: Avoid letting your hands or feet take over carrying the weight to “muscle through” the movement. You want the primary contraction to live in your abdominals. The goal isn’t to get as far as you can. It’s to let the targeted muscles reach muscle success.
  3. Neck Relaxed: Try to keep the neck as static and relaxed as you can to keep the tension in your abdominal muscles and not in your neck.
  4. Muscle Success: How could we leave this out?! Achieve muscle success and thoroughly fatigue your abdominal muscles to help build your strength.

Strengthen your abdominal muscles and work toward visible abs with a 20-minute workout.

How to Build Strong, Defined Thighs

how to build strong, defined thighs

Personal Trainer Mill Valley CA

Want firmer thighs and a lifted booty? The Leg Curl is an exercise you don’t want to skip. If you’ve been training with us, you know our 20-minute workouts target the entire body including one of the biggest muscles- the hamstrings. If having a strong, firm thighs and a lifted backside is something you’re striving for… keep reading.

The Muscles Used

The hamstrings are large muscles that make up the back of your thighs and are the primary movers worked in the Leg Curl. In addition to the hamstrings, this power exercise also targets the calves. These main muscles targeted by the Leg Curl are largely responsible for the appearance of your thighs and lower legs and train the muscles that are responsible for running speed. To learn how to target the hamstrings along with your buttocks, read our article on the Leg Press.

How it Works

The hamstrings contract to provide knee flexion, which is the technical name for the movement performed during the Leg Curl.

Each hamstring is a group of four muscles that start on your pelvis (around the bottom of your buttocks), cover the backs of your thighs and attach to the lower leg, just below your knee.

The hamstrings have two major functions: to flex your knee, and pull your thigh backward (hip extension). Performing the exercise looks like this:

  1. The Leg Curl (seated in particular) begins with you seated and legs stretched out in front of you in between two pads.
  2. Your feet are flexed with toes pointing straight up to engage the muscles in the back of the leg and upper body is upright and relaxed.
  3. As you begin to move the weight, you’re trying to pull your heels close to your buttocks, keeping your toes pointed up throughout the entire range of motion.
  4. Once you have reached your full range of motion- you’ve brought your heels back as far as they can go, you want to squeeze your hamstrings in the contracted position for approximately 3 seconds and slowly resist the weight back to the beginning position.

Like all exercises, you avoid resting in between repetitions and slowly push yourself to reach Muscle Success.

Why Do It?

Building the muscle fibers in the hamstrings can provide a firm appearance to the backs of the thighs, and can also create an ovular shape. This can be seen if you look at the back of someone’s thighs from a side view.

The Leg Curl is a very efficient exercise, in that the calves (gastrocnemius) assist the hamstrings in flexing the knees. Many women wear high-heeled shoes because the elevated heels force the calves to contract, making the leg look more defined and shapely. Using the Leg Curl can create that same muscularity in the lower legs without needing the shoes.

Hamstrings in Day-to-Day Function

The hamstrings are a major muscle group responsible for pulling the leg down after the knee rises.

The foot drives into the ground and propels you forward. The acceleration comes from the leg and foot being pulled down as fast as possible. The faster the foot can move downward, the greater the acceleration.

For any athlete who sprints, such as those playing baseball, softball, and football, the Leg Curl trains a muscle that is critical to maximizing acceleration. You don’t need to be an athlete or play competitive sports to benefit from this exercise. Performing the Leg Curl regularly will help to improve leg strength and overall mobility for anyone.

Maximizing Your Leg Curl in 2 Minutes or Less

In order to get the most out of your 1-2 minutes on the Leg Curl, your coach will help you achieve these three things:

  1. Full Range of Motion: A full range of motion helps to give a thorough workout to the targeted muscles. Think “heels to butt” and give those hammies a big squeeze as you strive for each repetition.
  2. Flex Your Feet: A fuller range of motion can be accomplished when the ankles are dorsi flexed, meaning the tops of your feet are pulled towards your shins. If your toes are pointed down as you flex your knees, your calves will be multitasking with two responsibilities, and they will do poorly in each. Keep your toes up to make sure your calves can do their best in flexing your knees.
  3. Muscle Success: You knew it was coming! Achieving muscle success by fully fatiguing the hamstrings will help you build the strength you’re looking for.


Whether you desire firm, rounded thighs or to run faster during your favorite sport, the Leg Curl is a quick & efficient way to achieving strong and sexy stems. Strengthen your legs and define your entire body with a 20-minute workout.

Bye Bye Flab! One-Stop-Shop for Sculpted Back & Arms

Bye Bye Flab! One-Stop-Shop For Sculpted Back & Arms

Bye Bye Flab! One-Stop-Shop For Sculpted Back & Arms

Want a better upper body?

One brief exercise could be your ticket to more defined arms, sculpted shoulders, and a leaner looking waist.

If you read our leg press article from a few weeks ago, you’ll recall that the leg press is the one-stop shop for just about all lower body muscles.

When it comes to the upper body, the Lat Pulldown is the one-stop shop.

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The Muscles Used

In one set of the lat pulldown (LPD) – roughly 1 to 2 minutes – you can train pretty much all of the major muscles in the upper body.

These muscles are the prime movers in the lat pulldown.

  • Latissimus Dorsi (the “lats” or wings of the back)
  • Trapezius (“traps” or upper back)


In addition, there are other major muscles involved:

  • Pectoralis Major (chest)
  • Posterior Deltoids (shoulders)
  • Biceps brachii (front of upper arm)
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How it Works

With the LPD, you start seated in the machine with your arms raised in front of you, holding onto the handles. As you pull the handles down toward the ground, your shoulder blades are also pulled down, and the lower traps perform that action. As your upper arms come down, your elbows flex (or bend), bringing your wrists closer to your shoulders.

This is where your biceps come into play. Your forearms are heavily utilized in the LPD as well. The forearms have the most fundamental role in the pulldown: maintaining grip of the handles. And finally, your abdominal muscles are used significantly to stabilize your torso during the exercise.

how LPD blasts flab & sculps

You might be wondering how does this exercise eliminate a flabby upper body and leave me looking sculpted?

Training the lats improves the shape of your back. As lean muscle tissue is added to the lats, it gives a ‘V’ shape to your back. If you feel you have “love handles,” gaining muscle in your lats might help them become less noticeable.

The pulldown also helps improve aesthetics with your arms. As mentioned, your biceps and shoulders are key players in this exercise, and this exercise will help make your upper arm muscles more defined.

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do the LPD, But do it right

To get the most out of the LPD, work with one of our Trainers to get proper coaching and guidance at any of The Perfect Workout studios.

In the meantime, here are some helpful tips:

When performing the pulldown, don’t think of the main goal as pulling your hands or the handles down. Focus mainly on pulling your elbows to your sides. The lats are the main muscle group used, and focusing on your elbows and upper arms can assist you in becoming more aware of the lats as you train.
As you transition from the positive (pulling down) to the negative (slowing letting your arms up), your shoulders will subconsciously rise (or shrug). Pull them down, or “unshrug,” This action will force your back muscles to work harder.
Fatiguing your muscles to “muscle success” is where you'll receive the most value with the LPD.

In just one short set performed one or two times per week, you are training the major muscles of the upper body while improving the shape, tone and strength of your back and arms.

The 2-Minute Leg Exercise that Reshapes Your Body

The 2-Minute Leg Exercise That Reshaped Your Body

Personal Trainer Carlsbad CA

If you could spend two minutes doing something that had the power to drastically reshape your body, would you do it?

We’re talking about the Leg Press. But not just any ol’ Leg Press….

Slow-motion strength training leg press.

how it works

The Leg Press Machine is an incredible piece of equipment because it allows you to fully target the biggest muscle groups in the body, the legs and glutes.

Like all slow-motion strength training exercises, you only need to perform it for about 1-2 minutes, assuming you are working with an ideal amount of resistance needed to achieve muscle success within that time frame.

There are more exercises involved in a full workout, but the leg press is the best investment of your workout time.

Why?

Because the leg press addresses all major muscles in the entire leg in one brief exercise.

These muscles are the prime movers in the leg press.

  • Gluteus (the buttocks)
  • Quadriceps (front of thigh)
  • Hamstrings (back of thigh)


In addition, there are major lower leg muscles involved,

  • the gastrocnemius (calves)
  • tibialis anterior (front)
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Before you start the exercise, your Trainer will assess your form checkpoints and the weight you’re pushing to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Upon beginning, you’ll slowly push through your heels, keeping your buttocks down in the seat, pushing each repetition to the point just shy of locking out your knees…check, check, and check.

The exercise progresses and fatigue starts creeping in. This is a good thing!

Your thighs and buttocks are working hard to get the weight to move slowly on the lowering phase of the repetition. You’re putting in at least 90% of your maximum effort to produce movement on the lifting phase of the last one or two reps.

Then it happens – movement stops. Even though you’re pushing as hard and as fast as you can, your current repetition ceases to move. Muscle Success. You ease the footplate back until the weight returns to its home on the weight stack, and your leg press set is over. You’re out of breath and your legs are momentarily a little unstable to stand on.

Exercise complete.

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well, if it's that easy...

Woah, woah woah.

The exercise is simple, but we never said it was easy.

In fact, any slow-motion strength training exercise is very challenging and should be if we want it to be effective.

One of the hardest hurdles to overcome with SMST, especially the Leg Press is “the burn.”

This is what’s called lactic acid buildup- a totally normal sensation during weight training.

It’s Worth the Burn.

When training to muscle success, the leg press maximizes the amount of muscle fibers that can be used in the exercise. Other leg exercises in your workout simply serve to complement the leg press by putting extra emphasis on individual muscles.

It’s the leg press’ efficiency that leads to the need for so few lower body exercises. Many people who workout in other “regular” gyms commonly spend 45 minutes to an hour on “leg day,” but the leg portion of a workout at The Perfect Workout often takes less than 10 minutes, largely due to the efficiency and effectiveness of a challenging set on the leg press.

Strength Training Carlsbad CA

who doesn't want a better backside?

As far as aesthetics go, the leg press gives shape to two of the most aesthetically driven areas: the thighs and butt. The quadriceps are the main thigh muscles used in the leg press. When you add lean muscle to your thighs, the quads give your thighs an ovular shape.

The largest buttocks muscle is the gluteus maximus, which is used significantly in the leg press. It covers most of the distance between the bottom of your butt and the lowest point in your lumbar spine. When adding lean muscle to your gluteus maximus, it gives enhanced shape and an improved profile view.

Personal Training Carlsbad CA

it's improving the inside too

As far as bone density, the major sites of concern for osteoporosis are the hips and lumbar spine. These are the common sites of fractures in seniors.

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at bone density changes in women between 65 and 75 years old following a year of strength training.

During the study, the trend of bone loss that comes with age not only stopped, but also reversed.

The leg press was the only major lower body exercise performed. In addition, it was credited with helping the lower back, as no direct exercise was performed for the lower back muscles. By improving bone density, the leg press reduces the risk of fractures in high-risk populations.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the benefits associated with the leg press. For example, regular leg press performance has improved athletic measures, quality of life, and decreased arthritis pain in other studies.

The leg press provides as much or more bang-for-the-buck as any one exercise does.

If you take anything from this article, let it be this: embrace the leg press. Work until muscle success every time you get on the machine, and think of the intense effort it requires as a medium to get a plethora of desired benefits.

  • Rhodes, E. C., Martin, A. D., Taunton, J. E., Donnelly, M., Warren, J., & Elliot, J. (2000). Effects of one year of resistance training on the relation between muscular strength and bone density in elderly women. British journal of sports medicine, 34(1), 18-22.

The Advantages of Machines

the advantages of machines

The strength training machines you see in The Perfect Workout studios are descendants of machines that were created by Nautilus, Inc. in the 1970’s. Arthur Jones not only originated the fundamental principles behind brief and intense strength training, he also invented the original set of Nautilus machines. Within a few years, machines from Nautilus and sprouting rival companies were in many public gyms as well as college and professional sports training facilities.

This led to one of the most famous on-going debates in the fitness industry: free weights or machines. In other words, is it more effective to use strength training machines or free weights, such as dumbbells and barbells? If you are reading this, you are probably aware that our studios are primarily filled with strength training machines. There are reasons for that.

While both options provide results when the user trains with a high level of intensity, we generally prefer well-designed machines for a number of reasons. Machines can be safer to train on than free weights, they allow for better concentration which can facilitate a higher intensity level, many machines provide resistance throughout each repetition’s entire range of motion, and there are several additional advantages of machines which I don’t have enough space to cover in this brief article.

If you recall the days when you first learned to drive, then you’ll probably remember someone telling you, “safety first”. The same recommendation applies to training. As you know, the goal of strength training at The Perfect Workout is to reach “muscle success”, the point when the targeted muscle is so fatigued that it cannot move the resistance any further. In many free weight exercises, training to complete exhaustion leaves the possibility that the weights may fall on the trainee afterwards. As we know, training to “muscle success” leaves our muscles with less control and fatigued for a few minutes afterward. If a person lost control of the weight when training on a machine, most machines are designed so that the weight would just fall on the weight stack (instead of on top of you!), so that’s one reason why machines can be safer than free weights.

As far as getting results, a necessary factor in successful strength training is mentally pushing your muscles to that very deep level of “muscle success” fatigue. This takes focused mental concentration, and each person has a limited ability to concentrate in any given moment. A well-designed machine can eliminate sources of distraction, enabling deeper concentration and a deeper level of fatigue in the the targeted muscles, and as a result help stimulate better improvements in your body. As an example, consider the leg press vs. a free weight squat (with a barbell on top of your shoulders). Both exercises are potentially very effective for improving the muscles in your buttocks and front thighs (and to a lesser degree the muscles in your rear thighs and calves). With the leg press, as you near “muscle success” all of your concentration ability can be used to push as hard as you can, helping you stimulate the big changes in your muscles and your body. You don’t have to worry about anything else other than pushing hard. In the barbell squat, if you approach “muscle success” fatigue levels, a significant portion of your concentration needs to be used to focus on balancing and avoiding falling down, and this reduces your mental energy available to make your muscles push hard. In this respect, the leg press has the potential to allow you to stimulate greater increases in the targeted muscles.

Another benefit of well-designed machines is resistance throughout the entire range of motion. A machine has the potential to better harness the power of gravity when compared with free weights. For example, in a standing biceps curl with a barbell, gravity provides significant resistance to the biceps during the middle portion of each repetition. However, at the lower and upper ends, the exercise moves perpendicular to the force of gravity, basically providing rest for the muscles. Biceps exercises with machines usually feature a rotating wheel called a “cam” that varies resistance and enables constant work for the muscle throughout the repetition, and this can result in a more thorough workout for the muscles.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying dumbbells, barbells, and other free weights are not effective training tools. In fact, in 1992 when I first began using slow-motion strength training in my own workouts, I was training in a relatively primitive gym in which my initial routines involved many free weight exercises, and I still was able to make excellent improvements. If a person trains intensely, he or she will achieve great results, regardless of the equipment. However, we find that strength training machines help our clients train safely and effectively, and that’s what we’re all about.

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