SHAPING YOUR LOWER BODY - BENEFITS OF UNILATERAL MOVEMENTS

Squats, deadlifts, leg press; all great compound exercises that are effective in building strength and conditioning your lower body.

Often overlooked though are the unilateral or single leg movements that should be incorporated into your workouts if you are after shape, tone and strength through your lower body.

I am a big lover of unilateral movements. I find them very challenging and it helps you realise what areas or sides of the body require a little more work when they are singled out.

Unfortunately I’ve recently started to avoid the single leg movements for the lower body and will do for the remainder of my pregnancy as it started to contribute to some pelvic girdle pain. I can honestly say I’m missing my lunges and single leg squats. But for those of you that don’t have any PGP and are looking to change up your leg routine a little and start seeing some changes to your lower body, I highly recommend incorporating some unilateral exercises.

Unilateral movements are fantastic for:

  • Increasing your strength – that one leg has nowhere to hide and can’t rely on its buddy to help it out of the exercise. All of the focus is in the one leg at a time. When coupled with a healthy diet assists in improving muscle tone and shape of the area due to the recruitment and activation of various muscle fibres.
  • Improving your balance – standing on one leg can be challenging at the best of times. When you add movement into that or some added resistance it will really challenge both your balance and posture, leading to:
  • Improved core strength and stability – your core muscles need to work harder and remain activated to assist in balance throughout the movements, resulting in a stronger core.
  • Assists with muscle activation and recruitment – performing unilateral movement’s forces you to focus on the specific muscle groups you want to recruit to successfully complete the exercise. This helps build that mind-muscle connection and activate muscle fibres that might normally go unnoticed when performing a normal squat or deadlift.

Some of my favourite single legged exercises for shaping and toning the lower body are:

  • Bulgarian split squat
  • Back stepping lunges
  • Side lunges
  • Single leg hamstring curl
  • Single legged press
  • 45 degree side single leg press
  • Single legged deadlift
  • Pistol squat
  • Cable kickbacks
  • Donkey kicks

When performing single leg exercises form is super important and in benefiting from the results and avoiding injury. Be sure to start with body weight or light resistance. Some of the above exercises also really challenge your balance so are great at assisting to improve this and your proprioception. To make them more challenging keep the tempo to a 1:3 or 3:1 ratio or even super slow, add in some bottom half pulses or isometric holds to really feel the burn.

Add 1-2 of these exercises into your next leg routine, or perform a circuit of 3-4 of them on a regular basis to help see some changes to that lower body.

Brooke x

WEIGHT TRAINING WHEN PREGNANT

I'm still trying to fit in some resistance training each week as I progress through my pregnancy.

I've always loved a good high intensity workout with minimal rest that would get my heart rate up. It doesn't take much to elevate my heart rate these days and I have had to scale back on the intensity, duration and exertion in my workouts. 

For my resistance sessions I have decreased the weight used, number of reps and sets and increased my rest periods. 

Being pregnant doesn't mean you have to give up resistance training, or any form of activity that you enjoy for that matter. There are many benefits to continue incorporating resistance training into your weekly routine, given that you have consistently undertaken this form of exercise prior to falling pregnant and have no contraindications. Regular activity during pregnancy is beneficial to both you and your baby, not just physically but for your mind and spirit also. 

Here is one that I did recently that uses some great compound movements that ensures a safe, relatively short and effective workout. I use a combination of my heart rate together with the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to ensure I stay within a safe intensity level for my fitness level. 

3 sets of the following, rested at the end of each exercise for various periods to keep at an RPE of ~13:
12x Barbell deadlifts
10x kettle bell curl to push press
12x Barbell back squats

To increase the intensity of this workout up the weight, reps or sets. 

If you'd like a safe and effective exercise program whether pre or post natal and wanting to get in some workouts whether in the comfort of your home or the gym get in touch with me brooke@balancefitnessandnutrition.com.au

I'm loving my DS Flex - Women's Active wear that keeps me comfortable as my body continues to change.

I encourage you to keep physically active throughout your own pregnancy and make time for you. Movement does great things for our mental and physical health, so keep moving, keep positive and always listen to your body.

Brooke x 

Video can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/balancefitnessnutrition

IS YOUR DIET DOING YOU DAMAGE?

Is your DIET doing you DAMAGE?

Social media is swarming with stunning fit women with flawless figures, often documenting their life or journey to better health. The number of women that are setting goals and participating in fitness competitions is rapidly increasing each season. Having a goal to compete is fantastic, you have a timeframe, it’s specific, achievable and realistic (in most cases – if the timeframe is appropriate), and should have a positive impact on your health. There is nothing more rewarding than stepping on stage knowing that you have reached your goal and that your hard work after months of prepping, early starts, late finishes, aching muscles, food prep, consistency and mental battles has paid off. But what happens to our bodies when we have been exercising excessively and restricting our intake of food and nutrients for long periods of time? 

There are many different coaches and approaches to competition preparation; from those that are qualified, experienced and have their clients best interest at heart, to the amateur competitor who has won a few comps, thinks what worked for them will work for you and may be more concerned with boosting their individual profile on social media.

balance fitness nutrition

Behind the success and selfies, there are the less discussed health concerns that can affect females. Consisting of patterns of disordered eating, menstrual disturbances and low bone mass, referred to as the female athlete triad. These implications are particularly common in women taking part in events or sports that emphasize leanness (such as competing), but also common in those that have very low energy availability and exercise for extended periods of time. Low energy availability is a factor that impairs the reproductive health in women. Insufficient energy can lead to dysfunction in the menstrual cycle, decreasing circulating levels of oestrogen and other hormones within the body. Low energy availability and excessive energy output, can lead to metabolic damage, and in the longer term affect bone health through reducing bone mass.

Reproductive hormones may be the last things on a competitors mind whilst on the journey to the stage or a slimmer figure, but there are serious implications on female reproductive hormones from excessive exercise and restricted intake. Menstrual disturbances or lack of cycle and low bone mass can also be common in individuals undertaking extreme eating behaviors accompanied by grueling training and exercise sessions.

Disordered eating behaviors are commonly associated with the underlying energy restriction through food restriction, selective avoidance of food groups, binge eating, or dysfunctional eating patterns such as skipping meals. Whilst reading this a few things may spring to mind; this sounds like you, or what about that girl from the gym who was telling you about her own comp prep experience, or your friend from work that displays these eating behaviors? Behaviors such as intense fear of weight gain, weight loss through food restriction, excessive exercise or both and behaviors such as laxatives and vomiting can all contribute to irregularity of period. So whilst you may still be having regular menstrual cycles, it is important to understand the longer term implications associated with over exercise and under eating, and recognize the symptoms if they appear.

It is important to note that the health concerns discussed can occur with or without eating disorders, as the scale from optimal intake to low energy availability ranges greatly. It is important to recognize and treat the signs to reduce the associated risks.

Are you at risk?
- Do you restrict your food intake and diet?
- Do you exercise for prolonged periods of time, or a number of times per day?
- Do you limit the types of food you eat – don’t do carbs, no fruit, ‘food rules’?
- Are you vegetarian?

Also ensure that if you set the goal to compete, that you are doing it for the right reasons. This will help with taking a balanced approached, avoiding extremes and will be more likely to reach your goal.

Reasons to compete:
- You love training / physical fitness
- You need a challenge / new goal to work towards
- You can handle criticism (Competing is a very subjective sport)
- You have a good support group that will cheer you on every step of the way

Reasons not to compete:
- You hate the gym / training / exercise
- You have an injury or pre-existing medical condition
- You are doing it to impress or beat someone, win back a boyfriend, boost your social media -profile, or want a sponsorship deal.

Whilst it is completely normal to log your food diary on my fitness pal, count calories, weigh foods and portion sizes, and this is the key to success in many sports, including competing, there can sometimes be a fine line between success for sport and disordered eating. Ensure you look past short-term success of extremes and a trophy, to ensure long term reproductive, skeletal and bone health. The first line of treatment for restoring menstrual dysfunction is through decreasing energy expenditure and increasing food intake. Simply put, rest and a balanced, plentiful diet will help overcome these symptoms if identified. 

Prep smarter not harder, for long-term health, rather than short-term success! x