Why Squats Are a Really Powerful Exercise

Why Squats Are a Really Powerful Exercise

When exercising, one of the most fundamental and functional movements is a basic squat. There are so many modifications for beginners and variations to make them harder – they really never get old.

So you may be wondering what makes squats such a powerful exercise. After all, they seem like a pretty basic move. Well, there are a few very good reasons why squats should definitely be part of your regular exercise routine.

Functional Movement

Functional movements are powerful. They not only tone and tighten your muscles but they also put your body through everyday movements, making you move more efficiently overall.

As we age, the importance of functional movements become apparent, especially as we become more sedentary. Movements that used to be easy, like sitting down in a chair or picking up a box, become increasingly harder. By maintaining functional movements in your workouts, you’re promoting total body mobility as you age.

Work Multiple Muscles at Once

Squats help tone and tighten your legs, glute muscles, and core muscles. So while at first glance you may think you’re only working your lower body with squats, you are in fact engaging your upper body too.

What areas in your legs and glutes your squats target mainly depend on your stance and where the weight is distributed (for example, you may be using weights, kettlebell or a barbell).

How to Perform a Squat Correctly

How to Perform a Squat

Maintaining correct form in every exercise you perform is vital. Bad form when performing squats with weight can be taxing to your knees and back. Here’s how to properly perform a squat:

  1. Start with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly.
  2. When squatting, the movement should be as though you are about to sit in a chair. Your knees should not go over your toes and your chest should stay up.
  3. Keep your weight in your heels as you perform the squat, and as you push up into a standing position.
  4. When you are back in the starting position, squat down and complete the exercise again.

Start with 10-12 reps and work your way up to doing 20 reps at a time with no weight (or 15 reps with weight).

How to Modify Squats

When you’re new to squats, balance can be challenging. To ease into this exercise, find something to hold onto during your squat. This will stabilize your body and help you complete the squat with good form. A railing is a good go-to!

The following two squat variations are also a great way to change things up:

The Sumo Squat

The Sumo Squat

The Curtsy Squat

The Curtsy Squat

If you’re looking for a challenge, adding weight to your squats is a great way to increase the intensity. Barbells, dumbells, and kettlebells are great for adding a level of difficulty into your basic squat.

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3 Healthy Recipes for Homemade Energy Bars

3 Healthy Recipes for Homemade Energy Bars

Energy bars are often at the top of the list when it comes to handy, healthy snacks. But not all bars are created equal. To ensure you’re feeding your body with the nutrients it needs, homemade energy bars are the way to go!

To sustain your energy you need a bar that’s nourishing and packed with natural sources of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. This includes real foods such as fruit, seeds, and whole grains – not artificial ingredients and refined sweeteners.

The following three recipes are chock full of healthy, energizing, natural ingredients that will keep you going all day long! 

1. Fruit and Seed Bars

Fruit and Seed Bars

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup dried dates, pitted
  • 2 tbsp water
  • ¼ cup dried coconut, unsweetened
  • ½ cup prunes
  • 1 ½ cups old fashioned oats
  • ¼ cup dried cherries, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup coconut butter
  • 1 tbsp maple sugar
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds, hulled
  • ¼ cup hemp seeds
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • ¼ cup coconut butter
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Process dates, prunes, and water in a food processor until a doughy consistency is reached.
  2. Add oats, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, dried coconut, and dried cherries. Process on low until evenly mixed.
  3. In a small saucepan, warm coconut butter and maple syrup until a runny paste is formed.
  4. Mix in vanilla and remove from heat.
  5. Immediately pour the paste over the batter and process on low until it is evenly mixed in.
  6. Line a 6 x 8 inch baking dish with parchment paper.
  7. Press batter into the pan until level. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  8. Cut into 12 bars.
  9. Place in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

2. Quinoa Cashew Bars

Quinoa Cashew Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup cashew butter
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup dried apricots, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Combine quinoa, oats, cashew butter, sesame seeds, coconut, and dried apricots in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Mix in honey.
  3. Transfer into a parchment paper lined 6 x 8 inch baking dish.
  4. Press firmly into the dish to form a dense, even layer.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden on top.
  6. Allow to cool, then slice into 12 bars
  7. Place in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

3. Peanut Butter Lentil Bars

Peanut Butter Lentil Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils, cooked
  • ½ cup dates
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ¼ cup almonds, chopped
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate, chopped

Instructions

  1. Blend lentils, dates, and peanut butter in a food processor until a sticky batter is formed.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Using a wooden spoon, mix in oats, almonds, almond flour, salt, and chocolate.
  4. Transfer into a parchment paper lined 6 x 8 inch baking dish.
  5. Press batter firmly into an even layer. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.
  6. Cut into 12 bars.
  7. Place in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Now that we’ve got you energized, stock-up on PGX® Daily Ultra Matrix Softgels* to support your healthy eating habits and help balance blood sugar levels already within the normal range.† The discrete softgels are convenient and can be taken with or without food with a glass of water.

*Drink additional water (8 fl. oz.) after ingesting PGX®. If you are taking medications, take one hour prior to or two hours after taking PGX®.

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5 of the Most Hydrating Foods

5 of the Most Hydrating Foods

Don’t wait for your water break to rehydrate. Instead, fuel your fluid levels throughout the day with a steady intake of healthy hydrating foods!

This means foods with high-water content that also contain fibre to promote gradual absorption of water through your intestines, as well as electrolytes to help with its uptake and balance within your cells.

Eat your way to healthy hydration with these five hydrating foods:

1. Juicy Vegetables

Up your hydration by adding a handful of cucumbers and lettuce to your mid-day sandwich, munching on a cup of diced celery and radishes throughout the morning, or topping your evening risotto with fresh watercress. All of these veggies are top contenders in the hydration and fiber categories – we’re talking over 93% water by weight! [1]

Melons 2. Melons

There’s nothing like a juicy slice of watermelon to help you refresh on a sunny day. But don’t stop there – honeydew, cantaloupe, and casaba melons all contain at least 90% water per weight, in addition to electrolytes, natural sugars, and vitamins [1]. A mixed melon salad, with a little mint and lime, is a great addition to a BBQ or a sports day.

3. Yogurt

The potassium, sodium, and calcium in yogurt are electrolytes that contribute to fluid balance and hydration. This, in addition to the quality protein, carbohydrate, and water levels in plain low-fat yogurt, all add up to make it a fantastic post-workout snack.

4. Smoothies

By including a healthy 2:1 ratio of vegetables to fruits in your smoothie, combined with unsweetened soy, almond, or hemp milk, you’ll be covering the key bases for hydration: water, electrolytes, and fiber. It’ll be delicious and filling too!

soups 5. Soups

As the mercury rises, a scrumptious bowl of chilled soup can be satisfying and hydrating.

Top picks include:

  • Gazpacho
  • Chilled beet soup
  • Cold pea soup
  • Curried zucchini soup

Don’t forget to combine the satiating benefits of *PGX Daily Singles with your favorite hydrating foods, as it can also reduce the glycemic index of meals by up to 60%! Simply stir 1–2 of the discrete and convenient packets into 375–500 ml of beverage, soup, smoothie, or other foods. Use them before or with meals and snacks for best results!

*Drink additional water (8 fl. oz.) after ingesting PGX. If you are taking medications, take one hour prior to or two hours after taking PGX.

References:

[1]  USDA. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. Web. 3.May 2017.

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How to Target and Strengthen Your Abdominal Muscles

How to Target and Strengthen Your Abdominal Muscles

Our abdominal muscles are an integral part of our core, which helps provide stabilization for a lot of our movements. Strong abdominals contribute to a strong core. But abdominal workouts can be challenging and confusing, especially if you’re new to working out.  So what is the best way to strengthen your abdominal muscles?

Your Abdominal Muscles

Abdominal muscles are one section of your core and are made up of mainly four different groups:

  1. Transversus abdominis,
  2. Rectus abdominis
  3. External oblique muscles
  4. Internal oblique muscles

The abdominal group of muscles cover your internal organs and can be found in front of your body, below your chest and above your hips. The internal and external oblique muscles span the sides of your body.

When you think of abdominal exercises crunches probably spring to mind. When you perform a crunch movement, your body targets the rectus abdominus muscle (what you see as a “6 pack”) and the external and internal obliques. Planks on the other hand, work all four groups of abdominal muscles and are deemed one of the best movements for strengthening not only your abs but also your core in general.

Top 4 Moves to Strengthen Your Abdominal Muscles

There are many types of exercises and specific moves that will help build and maintain core strength. But I’m going to share with you today, my top four moves to effectively target and strengthen your abdominal muscles:

Ball Crunches 1. Ball Crunches

Adding a stability ball into your abdominal workout allows your body to get a wider range of motion while protecting your back. So take your crunches up off the floor and onto a stability ball!

Work up to doing 2–3 sets of ball crunches, 15 repetitions at a time.

 

Directions:

  1. Sit comfortably on a stability ball and slowly walk your legs out so that your back is in the middle of the ball.
  2. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, your hands behind your neck to support it and your core tight.
  3. Contract your abs and exhale as you raise your torso about 45 degrees.
  4. Pause, then lower, inhaling as you go.

Plank 2. Plank

Adding planks to your workout is a great way to strengthen your entire core, as this movement works all four groups of abdominal muscles.

When you start adding planks to your exercise routine, work up to being able to hold the position for 1 minute at a time, with three repetitions.

 

Directions:

  1. Get in a push-up position and hold yourself up with your forearms, with your elbow directly under your shoulders.
  2. Hold your body in a straight line with your core tight. Do not let your back arch.
  3. Hold for as long as you can.

Ab Rollout Using Stability Ball 3. Ab Roll Out Using Stability Ball

This seemingly simple movement is much harder than it seems. And again, we’re adding a stability ball into the mix!

As you stretch out your abdominal muscles using the stability ball, you’re making them work. This is a great exercise to help strengthen your abdominal muscles.

Directions:

  1. Start on your knees with a stability ball about 1.5–2 feet in front of you.
  2. Rest your forearms on the ball and slowly roll the ball away from your body, keeping your back straight.
  3. When your arms can no longer go out anymore, or your form is going to break, slowly pull the ball back into the starting position.

Cable Wood Chop 4. Cable Wood Chop

This movement involves pulling a cable weight across your body in an upward to downward or downward to upward motion. You will need to use a free motion cable machine for this exercise, which is common to most gyms. This exercise works your stabilizer muscles including your rectus abdominis and oblique muscle groups.

Directions:

  1. Using a free motion cable machine, put on the extension that looks like a triangle, with a hand hold.
  2. Select a weight you can pull across your body 15–20 times
  3. Adjust the arm of the machine to your starting position, either up high or down low.
  4. Hold the triangle with both hands.
  5. Keeping your arms straight and legs hip-width apart, pull the cable across your body as your torso rotates, in one fluid movement.
  6. Return to the start and begin the movement again.
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