I have an old ankle injury that is acting up; what is a good exercise to strengthen that area?
Ankle sprains and feelings of ankle instability can be very frustrating and take longer than other injuries to heal because the ankles bear the weight of the entire body.
Three-way heel raises will help to strengthen your calf muscles, which in turn provide strength and stability to the lower leg.
To perform this exercise, place the balls of both your feet on a two-inch riser or similar object.
Start with your toes pointing in and ankles out. Slowly rise onto your toes and hold for one to two seconds.
Return to your starting position and perform five to 10 repetitions. Perform your next five to 10 repetitions with your toes pointing out and the final 5-10 repetitions with your toes pointing straight ahead.
You should feel this exercise in your calf muscles. Take a 20 to 40 second break and perform two to three sets depending on your comfort level.
To increase the difficulty of this exercise, use one leg at a time instead of two.
Is it better to breathe out on the hard part of the exercise or the easy part?
Strengthening exercises have a concentric contraction (shortening) and an eccentric contraction (lengthening).
For example, when performing barbell curls the concentric contraction is when you are curling the barbell up to your chest and the eccentric contraction is when you lower the barbell down.
With barbell curls, the hardest part is the way up because you are fighting gravity.
In general, it is best to breathe out during this peak exertion part of the exercise.
However, the most important thing to remember when breathing and weight training is to breathe consistently and to develop a rhythm with your exercise pace.
Do not hold your breath while performing strengthening exercises as it is necessary for your muscles to be provided with oxygen. If you hold your breath you will get dizzy and your strength will be limited.
What is the best leg toning exercise that I can do at home?
Dumbbell squats are a great exercise for toning up your lower body, especially your quadriceps and gluteus maximus.
To perform this exercise stand with good posture, holding your dumbbells at your sides. Your feet should be shoulder width apart with your toes angled slightly outward.
Keep your back flat and bend your knees, lowering yourself into a full squatting position with your knees bent to approximately 90 degrees or your thighs parallel to the floor. Without bouncing in the bottom position, slowly reverse the movement and return to the starting position.
Perform two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions two to three times each week and you will see and feel your legs change shape.
Shaun Karp is a certified personal trainer. For more information, go to www.karp fitness.com.
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