Exercises to Strengthen Your Lower Back and Reduce Pain

How to strengthen your back, while reducing pain.

Anyone who’s ever experienced lower back pain is fully aware that it can be both excruciating and debilitating. In severe cases, you can have a hard time moving around and may not even want to get out of bed in the morning.

Not engaging your muscles, however, will only make the situation worse. Here are some simple exercises to strengthen lower back muscles while simultaneously reducing and preventing potential injuries.

The Most Common Causes of Back Pain

Millions of people across the United States suffer from lower back pain. Many of them suffer from severe cases that result in limited mobility, depression, and other problems.

Here are several of the most common causes of lower back pain:

  • Back Injuries
  • High Stress
  • Weight Gain
  • Hormones
  • Pregnancy
  • Bad Sleep
  • Gastro Issues
  • UTI

How Exercising Helps Relieve Lower Back Pain

When you strengthen your core or any muscle group, you’ll effectively reduce the chances of injury of those particular muscles. By building up the muscles in your lower back, this can alleviate and even prevent back pain from occurring and/or worsening Plus, it’s also believed that exercise increases blood flow to your lower back, which results in less stiffness and a more expedient healing process.

Exercises to Strengthen Lower Back Muscles

If you’re experiencing lower back pain, then you’ll definitely want to obtain a medical diagnosis. Your doctor will go over with you precisely the types of exercises to strengthen lower back muscles and improve your overall health.

There are quite a few different exercises to choose from and here are some of our favorites:

Partial Crunches

Start with knees bent, feet flat, and either your arms crossed over your chest or hands behind your neck. Tighten your abdominal (stomach) muscles as you raise your shoulders and exhale. Resist the urge to use your elbows or arms to pull your neck off the floor. Hold for a second and then return to the starting position.

Duration: 8-10 reps

Hamstring Stretches

Start by lying on your back with one bent knee. Loop a towel beneath the ball of your foot and then straighten your knee while slowly pulling back the towel. If you’re doing it properly, you’ll feel a gentle stretch in the back of your leg. Hold this for 15-30 seconds.

Duration: 2-4 reps for each leg

Glutes Bridge

Start on your back, knees bent, feet flat, and hands at your sides. Raise your hips off the floor and try to create a straight line from hips to shoulders. Lower your hips to the floor, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat.

Duration: 8-12 reps

Pelvic Tilts

Lie back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your stomach as if you’re getting ready to be punched in the gut. This will push your back against the floor, with your hips and pelvis rocking back. Hold this position for 10 seconds while you breathe normally (deep breaths aren’t needed).

Duration: 8-12 reps

Bird Dog

Start off on your hands and knees while tightening your stomach muscles. Lift and extend your left leg behind you, keeping your hips level, and hold this position for 5 seconds. Then, switch to the other leg and repeat. To improve this exercise, lift and extend your opposite arm each time.

Duration: 8-12 reps

Quad Superman

Start in the tabletop position, drawing your navel in toward your spine. Raise an arm and the opposite leg straight up to the level of your shoulder. Slowly lower your arm and leg, and then repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

Duration: 8-10 reps

Lifting Weights

Whether or not lifting weights is a good exercise for your lower back pain will depend on the advice of your doctor. If you have acute back pain, he or she may advise against it. However, lifting weights can relieve chronic back pain in many people.

Yoga & Pilates

The gentle stretches involved in yoga and Pilates can be very beneficial in reducing lower back pain. However, if you’re experiencing lower back pain, be sure to tell your instructor because there are certain moves that he or she may want you to skip just to be safe.

Visit Fitness 360 to Learn More about Exercises to Strengthen Lower Back Muscles

If you’re experiencing lower back pain, always be sure to consult your physician before beginning an exercise routine. Once you’ve done that, Fitness 360 will work closely with you to create a focused regimen of exercises to strengthen lower back muscles and relieve pain. If you would like additional information or are ready to sign up, give us a call at (727) 797-5100 today to join our fitness community in Palm Harbor and Trinity today!


8 of the Best Leg Exercises for Women

Why Leg Exercises for Women Are Important

A lot of people – both men and women – seem to truly dread “leg day.” They’ll either put it off, skip it occasionally, or cut the number of exercises, sets, or reps in a given session. If any of these describe you, then you’re making a huge mistake. Since our legs contain the largest muscles in your body, they need to be strong and powerful, in addition to improving our core and overall health.

If you’re a woman who’s worried about your legs getting too muscular, which is a common concern, let us put your mind at ease. Due to the lower levels of testosterone, you can safely work out using multiple exercises without your leg muscles appearing too bulky or large. To that end, here are 10 of the best leg exercises for womenthat you can do with nothing more than a bench or chair and two 5-pound dumbbells.

Banded Lateral Walk

Targeted Muscles: quads and glutes

Exercise Instructions: With a small resistance band just three or four inches above your ankles, keep your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Tighten your core and then move your left foot to the side, followed by the right. Next, go back the other way and repeat.

How Many to Do: 3 or 4 sets, 10-12 reps per leg

Split Squat

Targeted Muscles: quads and glutes

Exercise Instructions: Start by standing with your back facing a chair a couple of feet away. Place your hands on your hips, then bend your right leg behind so that the top of your foot lands on the seat. Next, squat and bend your leg at a 90° angle with your knee over the ankle. Finally, press through your midfoot and stand.

How Many to Do: 3 or 4 sets, 15-20 reps per leg

Pistol Squat

Targeted Muscles: quads and glutes

Exercise Instructions: Feet hip-width apart and hands reaching in front of your chest, lift and flex your left foot a few inches off the floor. Squat down and bend your left knee 90°, holding your leg to hip level in front of you. Repeat with the other leg.

How Many to Do: 3 or 4 sets, 5-10 reps

Single-Leg Deadlift

Targeted Muscles: hamstrings and glutes

Exercise Instructions: Start with your feet hip-width apart, dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing the front of your thighs. Hinge forward at the hips at 90° as you extend your left leg behind you to make your body parallel to the ground and arms hanging down. Switch to your right leg and repeat the process.

How Many to Do: 3 or 4 sets, 15-20 reps per leg

Three-Way Calf Raises

Targeted Muscles: calves

Exercise Instructions: Place the balls of your feet on either the bottom step of a staircase or something at a similar height and place your hands on your hips. Lift your heels high with your toes pointed inward, lower them just below the step’s level, and then repeat the motion with your toes outward. Finally, stand on one leg with the toes pointing forward and bend the opposite leg behind you, repeating the lifts.

How Many to Do: 3 or 4 sets, 15-20 reps

Good Morning

Targeted Muscles: hamstrings, glutes, and abs

Exercise Instructions: Feet shoulder-width apart and the end of a dumbbell in each hand, bend your elbows and move the weight under your chin. Keep your legs straight and maintain each arm’s position, then press your butt back to hinge forward at the hips until your back is almost parallel to the ground. Finally, squeeze your glutes to return to a standing position.

How Many to Do: 3 or 4 sets, 15-20 reps

Goblet Squat

Targeted Muscles: quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, and glutes

Exercise Instructions: Feet hip-width apart, hold a dumbbell in front of your chest with your elbows toward the floor. Then, push your hips back and bend your knees to squat. Finally, push yourself back up to reset.

How Many to Do: 3 or 4 sets, 15-20 reps

Three-Way Lunge

Targeted Muscles: hamstrings, inner thighs, quads, and glutes

Exercise Instructions: Feet hip-width apart and hands clasped together in front of your chest, lunge your left forward, keeping your knees at 90°. Return to the starting position, then lunge to the left with your toes facing forward and knee at 90°. Return to the starting position again and then do one final lunge backwards.

How Many to Do: 3 or 4 sets, 15-20 reps

Contact Fitness 360 for More of the Best Leg Exercises for Women

Routine leg workouts for women can help you stay strong, get toned, lose weight, and provide other meaningful benefits. The staff at Fitness 360 can give you all of the tools you need for a successful workout and can set you up with a personal trainer if needed. If you have any questions about our list of best leg exercises for women or any other workout increase, give us a call at (727) 797-5100 today to learn more about our fitness centers in Palm Harbor and Trinity.


Your Guide to Les Mills Body Combat Classes

What are the benefits of body combat classes?

Fitness classes have come a long way from when they began, and the popularity only continues to grow. Gyms and studios have become more creative and versatile with their classes, so you now have plenty of options to choose from. If you are looking for a go-to workout, now may be time to try out the popular body combat classes.

Body combat classes make use of mixed martial arts movement to create a fun and energetic cardio workout that is sure to burn those calories. The name may sound daunting especially if you are not into intensive exercises. However, do not let that intimidate you. Get to know more about what you can expect from the class, and you might understand just why it is gaining so much popularity today.

What are Body Combat Classes?

Perhaps you know the gist of a body combat workout, but before you enroll in your first class, you may want to get more information to help you decide. Body combat is a full body and non-contact workout that features moves from Karate, Taekwondo, Boxing, Muay Thai, Kung Fu, and other similar disciplines.

The Les Mills body combat workout is designed using the science of cardio peak training, which combines steady-state and high-intensity training for maximum fat burning results. It means maintaining a moderate heart rate zone of around 50-69% of your maximum rate for aerobic endurance, coupled with occasional peaks that push you to about 85% of your maximum heart rate. If you are familiar with HIIT, body combat essentially follows the same principle. 

No need to worry if you have no prior martial arts experience. What makes body combat classes highly attractive is that they are suitable for anyone, regardless of fitness level or age. Instructors will guide you through the workout, so they will show you the proper stance and form for each movement. From punching and striking to kicking and lunging, you can expect your whole body to be engaged.

Why Join Body Combat Classes?

Body combat offers more than just cardio fitness—it trains your whole body and targets different muscle groups. Beyond burning fat and calories, you can also expect these benefits from taking body combat classes:

1.     Flexible Workout

The common concern with a fitness class is the difficulty. While body combat will certainly challenge you, it is also flexible in that instructors show variations of each movement, making it suitable for anyone. If you are a beginner, you can stick to the low-impact modifications and gradually transition as you get stronger.

Depending on your fitness center, you may also find different workout durations. Some classes will be a 45 or 30-minute workout, while others may reach an hour.

2.     Tone Muscles

The combination of martial arts movements allows you to engage different muscle groups in your body, so you can target your upper and lower body, as well as your core. By repeating the moves multiple times throughout the workout will help strengthen, tone, and define your muscles.

3.     Release Stress

Yes, you read that right! Body combat can help you release stress a few times a week to keep you at your best mental state. Whatever the cause of your stress may be, you can let it out once you get to class by giving your all in every kick, punch, and jab.

4.     Achieve More

Instead of spending a whole hour doing solely cardio, strength training, or core training, you can do all three with body combat. The program design allows you to achieve cardio and conditioning at the same time, thus resulting in maximum efficiency. Moreover, you can expect even better results when combining the two together since your increased heart rate will ultimately help burn more calories.

5.     Improve Reflexes

The movements in body combat classes help improve your reflexes and balance. Since it is non-contact, you will find yourself having to balance on one leg to execute a kick or mixing punches and kicks. It might be challenging at first, but over time, you will become much better at coordinating your movements.

Sign Up for Body Combat Classes Today

If you want to try out the Les Mills body combat, come visit our fitness center in Palm Harbor to sign up for a session. Aside from getting to join the class, you can also gain access to our top facility and gym equipment. Our trainers are ready to help you develop a routine that will match your needs and goals. Contact us today at 727-797-5100 to join our community today!


Workout Plan to Burn Belly Fat: Tips for Your Workout Routine

Improve your workout plan to lose belly fat this summer!

Losing weight is already a challenge, but if you are trying to be fit, you would know that losing belly fat is a whole different challenge. The belly area just seems to be one of the most stubborn. There are many reasons why you may want to lose belly fat. Other than the aesthetic reasons, a large midsection can also be linked to heart diseases like heart attack, diabetes, and stroke. This makes it so critical to pay attention to the area.

Before anything else, it is important to understand that you cannot spot-reduce your belly fat. You can achieve this by modifying your diet, so you end up losing body fat and weight. Rather than fixating yourself on belly fat, you must think of it as a holistic approach that involves losing overall fat. Doing so will help you reduce your visceral fat, that stubborn fat stored in your abdominal cavity and known for increasing health risks.

Ultimately, trimming down your midsection will require a good balance of diet and fitness to promote overall health. To help you with your goal, here are some tips for designing a workout plan to lose belly fat.

How to Begin to Lose Belly Fat

As mentioned above, losing belly fat requires more than just working out. It is a holistic process that requires looking at every aspect of your lifestyle. Check out these tips and tricks to develop an effective routine and proper habits to help you stay active and healthy.

Eat at a Caloric Deficit

The basic rule to losing weight is to eat at a caloric deficit diet, which essentially means you burn more calories than you consume. Now, does this mean you have to restrict yourself with your diet heavily? Not necessarily. While you would need to be more mindful of what you eat, this does not automatically mean you have to cut back on all types of food.

Generally, eating more protein and less carbs is recommended if you are trying to lose weight. Protein is essential for building muscle and repairing after your workouts. It also boosts metabolism more effectively than carbs and fats and helps you feel fuller for a longer time. Caloric intake will depend on your body and level of activity, but the overall goal is to reduce your intake without depriving yourself of the essential nutrients.

Eat Healthy Fats

On the topic of losing body fat and weight, there tends to be a misconception that you have to cut out the fats you eat. What many do not realize is there is a distinction between good and bad fats. Naturally, you want to cut down on the latter, but healthy fats are an essential part of your diet. These come from unsaturated fatty acids like olive oil, eggs, fatty fish, avocados, and nuts.

You will still need to eat these fats in moderation since they can be heavy on calories. However, the bottom line is that you should not eliminate fats from your diet since they still offer health benefits.

Keep Moving

You likely already know by now that physical activity will be a must to get rid of belly fat. If you want to get serious about your fitness, you can build a workout plan to lose belly fat. However, even without one, you can still incorporate some activity into your daily routine.

Remember that your journey is gradual, so even small steps can make all the difference. Walking is usually a good starting point for those who want to be more active. People tend to push themselves too hard and go for extreme exercises right away, which can cause them to give up more easily. Instead, start small and add in as little as a 10-minute walk to your daily routine. You will be surprised to see how much of a difference this can make.

Circuit and Strength Training

The key to burning belly fat and maintaining the results is to do circuit and strength training. Circuit training involves performing a set of high intensity exercises consecutively and taking a short rest between each circuit. This is particularly effective since the minimal rest times push your muscles to work harder, allowing you to build muscle and burn more calories.

Strength training will also be important in your exercise regimen since you want to replace your body fat with muscle. Many tend to shy away from lifting weights due to the fear that they would bulk up, but strength training does not immediately equate to heavyweights. Depending on your capabilities and goals, you can opt for lighter or moderate strength weights, which will be just as effective in burning calories, building muscle, and boosting metabolism.

Get Enough Sleep

Beyond your diet and fitness, always remember to prioritize the quality of your sleep. Sleep deprivation can increase tendencies to binge on unhealthy food, so you want to make sure to avoid developing such habits. Poor sleeping patterns will also make it more difficult to get the energy you need to work out and get through your day, so give yourself adequate rest time.

Exercises for a Workout Plan to Lose Belly Fat

Not sure how to start building your workout plan to lose belly fat? Losing belly fat requires you to work your whole body, which means you should exercise not only your core but also your other muscle groups.

Here are some effective exercises to include in your routine to help you out.

1.     Crunches

Crunches are an essential in any workout plan to lose belly fat. They are great for burning stomach fat and working that area in your body, allowing you to develop a stronger core. Lie on a mat with bent knees and your feet on the ground. You can place your hands at the back of your head or cross them on your chest, then lift your upper body while keeping your neck and head relaxed.

Remember: You cannot spot-reduce fat. Thus, while crunches are great for strengthening your core, they should not be the only exercise you do. Mix up your workout plan by adding the other exercises below.

2.     Burpees

Burpees are the perfect addition to any circuit or warm-up, sure to get your heart rate up. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, then slowly lower your body into a squat position. Next, place your hands in front of your feet, then jump into a plank position.

For more advanced variations, lower yourself into a push-up. Jump your feet back so that they are positioned right outside your hands, then lift your hands up and jump up explosively. Overall, burpees are a great high intensity exercise that will work multiple parts of your body.

3.     Squat Curls

This compound exercise works your upper body and lower body at the same time. Holding your dumbbells and with feet shoulder-width apart, bend down into a squat position. Keep your weight on your heels and bring your chest out. As you move back into a standing position, curl your arms into your shoulders to do a bicep curl.

4.     Walking or Running

Depending on your activity level or preference, walking and running are both welcome additions to any workout plan. Taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes can do wonders for your metabolism and endurance. On the other hand, running, whether outside or on a treadmill, can elevate your heart rate and burn massive amounts of calories.

You can also combine the two to do a HIIT style workout, where you push yourself and run at high speed for 30 seconds, then walk or take a break for the remaining 30 seconds.

5.     Mountain Climbers

Another classic exercise that works your core and other muscles is mountain climbers. Start in a plank position, with your palms facing down and core engaged. Bring your right knee towards your chest then return it to the plank. Do the same on your left side.

As you get stronger, you can explore more mountain climber variations. For example, you can bring your knee to the opposite chest side or bring it to the same side before swinging it to the other side.

6.     Squat Jumps

If you plan to do some HIIT, make sure to include squat jumps in your circuits. This explosive plyometric movement will work your lower body and give you the cardio kick you need to burn calories. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then lower down into a squat position. Press down and jump as high as you can. As you land, bend your knees until you return into a squat.

Visit Our Fitness Center Today

Our fitness center in Palm Harbor and fitness center in Trinity are here to help you achieve your health and fitness goals. Whether you need the guidance of our personal trainers to develop a workout plan to lose belly fat or prefer to do your workouts on your own, our facility is sure to provide you with the perfect environment for that. Contact Fitness 360 today at 727-797-5100 to learn more about our memberships.