Exercise and nutrition for us fit-minded but otherwise fairly normal people.

Calf Raises - Donkey Style

Sunday, August 19, 2007

You may be familiar with calf raises. Usually, these are done on either a seated or standing calf raise machine. Your shoulders or knees sit under levers attached to weights. The balls of your feet sit on the ledge of a small platform, with the heels slightly over the ledge. From here, you move up onto your toes and then lower. That is a single rep. Other variations include simply performing this on a platform while holding onto dumbbells or a barbell, or usingno extra weight at all. It can also be done without a platform, on the floor, by simply raising up on the toes and back down.

Yet another, lesser known, less popular variation, is the donkey calf raise. Perhaps this is because those who actually perform this version do so in the privacy of an empty, or home gym. Instead of using weights or a machine to do the calf raise, the donkey calf raise is done leaning forward, with a partner straddling you back. The name comes from the image of a person riding a donkey. The awkwardness of this seems obvious. Why someone would actually want to put themselves through the humiliation of attempting the calf raise donkey style is not obvious. Apparently it is an extremely good exercise for the calf muscles. I'll never have a first hand account to know if this is true or not.

The following pic is from the Complete Weight Training Book, by Bill Reynolds. Complete with the 1970's gym apparel, the Donkey Calf Raise is done perfectly.


Workout on the Cheap

Thursday, August 16, 2007
Working out can be expensive. A gym membership may cost $50 per month. A treadmill will set you back at least a few hundred dollars. Something like the Bowflex could cost thousands, plus interest on financing. Then there's the countless unopened exercise DVDs and that spontaneous ab roller purchase that never really got used. It's almost ridiculous how much money can be blown on fitness. But it doesn't have to be that way.

A gym membership can be a great investment. They tend to have a lot of equipment, making it easy to get a good workout in. Some gyms even offer free group classes that you can join . It may be a recurring monthly cost, but if used to its fullest, a gym membership can be sublime. However, don't be fooled by that brand new Super Mega Health Club that just opened. It may be big, but it will probably also be costly. Lower priced memberships can be found at other less lavish gyms and while the larger clubs may have the latest and greatest elliptical machines, there are some really great reasons to choose the less ostentatious abode. The smaller places are generally more accessible as their memberships are lower. You may find that you are less intimidated at a smaller gym and even though it has less equipment, the equipment that they do have might be free more often. It's also far easier to get to know the staff at a smaller place and take advantage of some of the programs that they may offer. All of this will actually help keep you motivated and keep coming back.

But if you can't afford a gym membership, there are alternatives. However, don't fall for the infomercials and all the costly gimmicky equipment. You can easily get a good setup at home with low (or no) cost.

  • A great way to keep in shape is running or walking. And not on the treadmill. The only cost you will incur for taking this up is the price of a decent set of sneakers. Make your investment count, however, by visiting a shop that specializes in running, such as the Running Room.
  • Find some used weights. All you really need is a bench, a barbell and some plates. With just these few items, you can pretty much do any weight training you'd ever need to do. Check you local classifieds. Go garage sale hunting. Check out your local freecycle group - watch for equipment that someone just wants to toss. Scour around your parents place for some old weights that your Dad has long since stopped using.
  • Find a good workout video and use it. All sorts of people have gotten amazing results with the likes of Billy Blanks. Tonnes of Tae-Bo videos are available used from online sources like Amazon.com for as low as $5!
  • Get a skipping rope. You can find them super cheap, but a good skipping rope workout pays off huge. Jumping rope is a seriously great cardio exercise.
  • Work on body-weight exercises. Do circuits of situps, pushups, air squats, calf raises and lunges. If that gets boring, try adding in handstand pushups, dips and clappers.
  • Build some homemade equipment. Fill up a sandbag or get a heavy rock or object. Curl it, throw it, press it, put it on a sleigh and pull it.
  • Check out your local public swimming pool. It may offer free public swimming at certain times of the week.
  • Get a basketball and get your sweat on by shooting some hoops with a few buddies.

There are probably a billion other ways to keep fit, with either very little or absolutely no money down. What would you suggest if you were cash strapped and couldn't afford the gym membership?

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Super Cardio - The Rowing Machine

Tuesday, July 31, 2007
If there is a form of cardio exercise that just plasters me against the wall, it's the CII rowing machine. Typically, when trying to include cardio after some resistance exercising, I'll hit the CII rower and attempt a 1000m personal record. It takes under 4 minutes, but I'm dead afterwards, with my heart-rate through the roof and breathing a mile a minute.

I've yet to come across a gym that doesn't have a few rowing machines lying around, and I've yet to encounter a gym where they are more than rarely used, which is unfortunate, because rowing is a very effective tool to help burn calories and stress the cardiovascular system.

The rowing machine puts a large demand on a broad range of upper, core and lower body muscles, from your traps to your quads. The high intensity of the exercise burns lots of calories and the strain on the muscles causes additional calories to burn well after finishing exercising. High intensity running is also known to cause continued post-exercise calorie consumption, but unlike running, rowing is an extremely low-impact exercise.

The Concept II website has loads more information on the rowing machine, as well as sample routines that can be done on this wonderful piece of gym equipment.


A Good Full Body Circuit

Monday, July 30, 2007
I like to change up the workout all the time.  I rarely do the same routine twice in a month.  However, I've found a particular routine to be a great full-body workout and it takes very little time to complete so I've started doing it more often.  The routine requires two barbells and weight for each.  It's a circuit style workout consisting of squats, pull-ups and inclined presses, so you might need to hog some equipment for a while, but fret not - the routine should take a maximum of 20 minutes to complete.

The routine is a simple 3 piece circuit.  Each exercise is done immediately after the other (or as soon as you feel ready), with a little break inbetween each round.

Start off with the weighted back sq