Reebok claims to have a simple answer to the elusive toned body that so many people want. They’ve created a line of shoes called EasyTone that will supposedly tone your lower body simply by walking in them.
According to Reebok, “EasyTone is designed to help give definition to your legs and butt. Simply walk and let the balance pods under your shoe do the rest. The slight instability created by the pods forces your muscles to work a little harder, toning you up as you strut.” Before you invest $100 or more in these sneakers thinking that they’ll actually improve your muscle tone, here are a few things to consider.
Is Appearance More Important than Function?
The foot is one of the most anatomically complex structures of the body, and unfortunately, we spend most of our lives wearing stiff shoes that restrict its function. This promotes weakness and injury in the foot and ankle, and because each joint of the body influences adjacent joints, it can also cause problems in other areas of the body that might seem unrelated. For this reason, it’s advantageous to wear shoes designed to replicate being barefoot such as Nike Free or Vibram Five Fingers. These shoes allow the foot to function more freely and therefore reduce the compensatory muscle and joint strain throughout the body that would otherwise increase the risk of pain and injury.
The Reebok EasyTone shoes are just as likely as any other typical sneaker to alter natural foot function, and walking with “balanced pods” fixed to the bottom of your feet may even be worse. Although unstable surfaces can be beneficial for rehabilitation and injury prevention, this doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea to be regularly walking on “balance pods” that are embedded in rigid soles. Furthermore, the toes provide support and neuromuscular feedback which is important for balance and is likely to play a role in promoting proper walking mechanics. It seems that the “balance pods” in Reebok’s EasyTone sneakers would reduce toe function even more so than a normal sneaker.
Another concern is that the slight instability created by the EasyTone sneakers likely makes them inappropriate for certain activities, especially sports. Any activity that demands additional strength, balance, and agility, which can be something as simple as running on a bumpy sidewalk to catch a bus, will increase the need for stability. Because Reebok’s EasyTone sneakers are intentionally designed create slight instability, they oppose this need and can potentially increase the risk of injury in such situations. Although most people might consider this to be a matter of common sense, I’m sure there are some who would assume that the EasyTone sneakers are safe to use for any activity that regular sneakers could be used for.
While a toned body may give you some personal satisfaction and bring you additional attention, such benefits aren’t worth very much if you’re in pain and prone to injury. I’m not suggesting that Reebok’s EasyTone sneakers will directly cause you pain, but rather that the concept behind them is very questionable and prioritizes appearance over optimal function. In addition, it’s quite a stretch in my opinion to expect a pair of sneakers to have a noticable effect on your physical appearance.
Sneakers are Not the Answer to an Attractive Figure
Reebok claims that walking in their EasyTone sneakers results in your calf and hamstring muscles being activated up to 11% more than they would be with ordinary sneakers and that your gluteal muscles will be activated up to 28% more. Regardless of the percentages that Reebok quotes, walking isn’t enough of a stimulus to transform legs that are skinny or fat into legs that are toned with muscular definition. This would still be the case even if the EasyTone sneakers resulted in 100% more muscle activation. Despite this, I’m sure Reebok will make millions from their EasyTone line because most people are too attached to the prospect of a quick and easy solution and will be eager to believe that they really can “tone up as they strut.”
Being toned is really nothing more than having a reasonable amount of muscle without a lot of excess body fat. Although this is a simple concept, many people make the mistake of thinking that they need to do special types of exercises and do an excessive amount of exercise to burn calories. By doing so, they’re sacrificing their health for a slim figure when they really don’t need to. All that’s typically necessary to achieve an attractive figure is a moderate amount of exercise and a truly healthy diet, both of which will promote optimal health instead of detracting from it.
If you’re truly committed to improving your figure and don’t want to waste $100 on a pair of sneakers that are unlikely to deliver the results you’re hoping for, I suggest that you focus more on your lifestyle than what you’re wearing on your feet. With optimal health as your top priority and motivating force, stop eating processed foods, especially those containing sugar and refined carbohydrates, and eat more natural whole foods. This is the most reasonable way to lose weight, and you can accelerate the process in a health promoting way by doing low intensity aerobic exercise on a regular basis along with occasional interval training.
To improve your muscle definition, do some moderate strength training with an emphasis on functional and compound movements such as presses, pulls, lunges, squats, and deadlifts. These exercises will improve your physical function as well as improving muscle definition, and the fact that Olympic powerlifters do these exercises doesn’t mean that they’ll make you bulky or that you’ll need to lift heavy weights to benefit from them.
More on Improving Your Figure the Healthy Way
If you’re looking to improve your figure, one of the best things you can do for yourself is realize that most of your success will result from living a generally healthier lifestyle. Attempting to improve your appearance without this foundation will likely be a compensatory effort that will compromise your quality of life in other areas. If you need more guidance getting started with a well rounded exercise program, I recommend reading Core Performance by Mark Verstegen. For more information on the healthy lifestyle habits that will help you live a better life and make it easier to improve your figure, I suggest that you sign up for my free course, 7 Simple Steps to a Leaner, Happier, and Healthier You.
Fusion Kick Fit is very excited to announce our newest member to join our training staff. Colin Wilson has been training in martial arts for over 2 years and has been training with Sensei Mong for over 4 months. Colin has extensive fitness and training experience through his personal studies and fitness pursuit. Currently he is attending SUNY Oswego and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in wellness management Colin will be a major asset to Fusion Fit Kick as we will be introducing some new group exercise class in the coming Winter of 2009.
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This weekend focus on core strength in every contraction… don’t be fooled, this is disguised as a core workout!
Warm up: 15 minutes on elliptical machine or stair master, 2 sets of 25 push ups
- 40 walking lunges
- 20 superman back extensions
- 20 mountain climbers
- side planks; 30 seconds on each side
- complete 4 rounds for time, post your time!
“Clark Kent is who I am, Superman is what I can do” - Superman (the movie) quote
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Be a ‘Band-It‘ with these resistance band exercises focusing on legs, shoulders, back and chest…
Warm up: run 400 meters (or 1 lap around track), 25 push ups
Workout: (videos below)
- 20 reps chest press
- 20 squat jumps with lower back pull (back pull not shown)
- 20 lat pull downs
- 20 lunges with shoulder press (shoulder press not shown)
- 20 side steps (20 on each side)
- core; 2 minute planks (beginners 1 min)
- repeat 3 times; Make sure to select the proper band width: adv use a thicker tube, beginners use smaller width
Have fun today and Band-It!
- Rock the Band 8/27/09
- Super Set: Chest & Back
- ‘Escape to Witch Mountain’!
Another way to minimize post-workout muscle soreness is the appropriate nutrition. Not to get too technical, your muscle glycogen is depleted after a workout and other chemicals are being released to break down the muscle tissue. This is known as the “catabolic” state. This is the time to refuel your body with what your muscles [...]Read More
Hi Everyone!! Hope you’re having a fabulous weekend. I’m working on this new venture I keep hinting about… so not much of a weekend for this chick!! Sooooo, THANKS to my good friend Dave Hedges from Wild Geese Martial Arts & Fitness for helping me out during this busy time by providing a guest post for us all!
Dave has written us a great article about finding your best training partner. Who knew your best workout partner might be that person who stares back at you from the mirror every day? Check it out below to make sense of that!! It’s a great read and an even better idea!
Your Best Training Partner
You’re busy, I’m busy. Finding the time and motivation to exercise for whatever goal can be an uphill struggle.
This is where having a training partner comes in, somebody who won’t accept your excuses and will push you to perform at your best everytime you work out.
But, my schedule is all over the place! I train at home! There just isn’t anybody around!
Well have I got news for you….
There is someone, someone who’s always available and can if allowed push you harder than you ever thought possible.
Who? Look in the mirror, you are about to become your own training partner.
The first thing you have to do is make an appointment with yourself. At X O’Clock on Yday the Zth I am going to meet up with me and do workout number 1.
Of course, you have already asked yourself what goals you want to achieve, thought about your training plan and worked out your routines.
Now you have made an appointment, you must make sure you keep it. After all, you wouldn’t let your mate down, why would you let yourself down?
So you arrive at your appointment and find yourself waiting, what next?
Open your training log, you do have one don’t you? A record of each and every workout you do with written detail about how you felt, could you have done more? was it too much? We’re you having an off day or were you on fire that day? How long did it take?
Turn to workout number 1 and have a look at it, tell your self that today your going to beat your previous effort.
Start to warm up, watch yourself, is anything wrong? Are feeling good, do you need to do a little more today? Do we feel good and are just going to rip it up today?
Hit the session, you know what you did last time, so you now what you have to do this time, you have to get that extra rep, go that little heavier, do it a little faster. Record everything, you owe it to yourself. Berate yourself, congratulate yourself, do what it takes, just imagine your encouraging a friend, talk to yourself in the third person, “C’Mon mate, one more!!”, “Dave, move it, push!!”, “2 more and you’ve beaten last week, get going!!” You’ll be amazed at the effect. You may feel a little weird and self conscious doing this in a commercial gym, but persevere. I find if I talk to myself loudly, I tend to get left alone, nobody disturbs me, of course you don’t have to do this, it’s just a me thing…. If you are training at home, go wild.
If you’re struggling, look at the log, how much more must you do to beat last week? Use it as a target, count down to it…
Cool down, take your time with this, no rush allow yourself to stretch and relax, coming back down from the adrenalin and endorphins..
Check your log, write how you felt, what you had on the stereo, could you have done more or are you happy..All little details you can use to your advantage next time round.
Before you know it you’ve done a beasting workout, you feel great, and in good time you’ll look and perform even better than you thought possible.
Thank yourself and hit the showers.
You’ve just become your own training partner.
As an aside, if you are hitting the weights, especially Benching and Squatting, it’s a good idea to get somebody to keep an eye on you, while you make a great training partner for yourself, you’re a lousy spotter!
Home training with bodyweight, this isn’t an issue.
Let me know how you get on.
Wild Geese Martial Arts & Fitness
Dave is also the author of a great book called: No Equipment, No Excuses – Bodyweight Training for the Home, the Office & on the Road. Click the title of the book to head over there and check it out for yourself. You’ll love it.
And in my usual fashion I have managed to extract from Dave what his favourite workout song is, so here’s today’s Workout Song of the Day. Be careful playing this at work or around the kiddies, though. There’s a couple of explicit moments in this one. I have to agree that this one would be GREAT for weight training, it’s absolutely chock full of good, hard, angry ANGST!! And we all know how I feel about angst-ridden music and weight training! Pour that emotion into the iron and let it translate into brute strength! Have a great workout to this one, gang!
JayZ / Lincoln Park – Points of Authority
Don’t forget, if you love it for it’s angsty-goodness, you can click through on the Buy button on the sample player to go get your own copy and add it to your collection of great workout songs, too!
Thanks again for the post and the song, Dave. I’m sure everyone really enjoyed this one! I know I did!
… and don’t forget to check out Dave’s book at No Equipment, No Excuses – Bodyweight Training for the Home, the Office & on the Road.
That’s it for today, gang!! Enjoy the rest of your weekend and we’ll see you again soon.
Warm up: 100 yard sprints, repeat 5 times
Exercise 1 - 30 Jumping Squats, take 30 seconds rest and repeat 5 times.
Exercise 2 - Planks; front 30 seconds each, Left Side for 30 seconds, Right Side 30 seconds; repeat entire set of planks 5 times
Each day is a new day and a chance to face your challenges. What would you do if you knew you would not fail?
This intense leg workout will challenge your strength and endurance… work those legs and don’t give up!
Warm up: 400 meter run, 2 sets of 25 crunches
- 50 air squats
- 50 box jumps; Adv 24 inches, Beg 6-12 inches
- 50 back squats; Men 95 lbs, Women 45 lbs
- 50 front squats; Men 95 lbs, Women 45 lbs
- 50 walking lunges (25 on each leg with dumbbells) ; Men 60 lbs, Women 20 lbs
- Do each exercise for time. Take a 2 minute break in between and post time for each station.
“I’m a track star running thru life, chasing my dream.” — 50 Cent quote
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Warm up: 10 minutes on elliptical machine, 2 minute planks, 10 lunges on each side
- 10 hang power cleans (Men 95 lbs, Women 45 lb bar)
- 20 push ups
- 20 air squats
- 20 crunches
- 5 rounds for time
“Only the strong survive”
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Is your quality of life being limited by chronic knee pain? If not, wouldn’t you like to reduce the possibility of this limitation? In either case, the information below will help you build strong knees that are resistant to pain and injury.
I dealt with the frustrations of chronic knee pain for about 4 years and sought the help of several specialists without making much progress. This is unfortunately a familiar case for many people. I knew that I must have been doing something to cause the pain and realized that the only way to truly resolve the problem was to figure out what it was.
After finally getting closer to the root of the problem, I made significant improvements and am now able to climb stairs, walk long distances, exercise, and play tennis without knee pain. It’s very satisfying to say the least and I hope that the proceeding information will help you achieve similar results.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Prevention
Although the importance of prevention is much more obvious in regard to disease, it’s still a very important aspect of your physical health. My step-daughter has a friend who’s an excellent soccer player and was a likely candidate for a college scholarship. Unfortunately, she ended her soccer career during her junior year of high school by incurring her second ACL tear. As a ski racer and a tennis player, I’ve heard many stories like this, and I’m sure you have too. Although some injuries are too traumatic to be prevented, many of them can.
Even if you’re not an athlete, knee pain can compromise your ability to perform basic functions like walking and make it difficult to fully enjoy life. As such, you should embrace the importance of building healthy knees even if you’re not currently experiencing any pain, and this applies to the rest of your body as well.
What Causes Knee Pain?
The health and proper function of your knees depends on a number of factors including muscle strength, muscle flexibility, joint mobility, and gait pattern. If any one of these factors are compromised, you’ll be vulnerable to pain and injury.
If the supporting musculature of the knee joint is week, more of the stress incurred by the knee will be transferred to it’s ligaments. Likewise, if the major muscles that act on the knee are inflexible, it will increase the strain on the knee joint, the tendons attached to the muscles, and the muscles themselves. A lack of mobility in the hips and ankles will also increase the strain on the knee and exacerbate all of the problems listed above.
Due to a number of factors including previous injuries and a sedentary lifestyle, many people develop weaknesses and imbalances that lead to a faulty gait pattern. The knee is usually the joint which takes most of the resulting burden and becomes vulnerable to pain and injury as a result, especially during strenuous physical activity.
Orthotics are Not Always the Answer
Many people tend to overpronate when they walk which causes their ankle and knee to roll inward and leaves the knee in a compromised and vulnerable position. As such, knee pain is frequently blamed on foot problems and orthotics are often used as the solution. Although orthotics may help to reduce the pain, in many cases, they merely compensate for the problem rather than directly addressing the root cause of it.
I was convinced by a physical therapist that I had an anatomical foot deformity that was causing me to overpronate, and based on this, I wore orthotics for several years. Although the orthotics did help some and I don’t completely doubt the physical therapist, I eventually discovered a much more logical explanation for most cases of knee pain.
Your Butt is Meant for Much More than Just Sitting
The gluteus medius, one of the smaller butt muscles, resists the internal rotation of the thigh, or in other words, prevents your knee from rolling inward. Regardless of how good or bad your foot function is, a weak or inactive gluteus medius will likely lead to knee trouble. Since realizing this and addressing it, I’ve completely stopped wearing orthotics and my knee has improved greatly.
Many of us spend the majority of the day sitting. We sit in the car when we drive to work, we sit at a desk all day, we sit in the car to drive home, we sit down at the dinner table, and then we sit on the couch to watch television. The human body was not designed for this much sitting. Our primitive ancestors rested by getting into a deep squat which is a basic and natural position that many of us have lost the ability to get into.
When we sit, it causes the gluteal muscles of the butt to lengthen and the hip flexors to tighten. By sitting for many hours every day, as many of us do, it creates an imbalance that results in the weakening and deactivation of the gluteus medius muscle which allows the knee to roll inward more easily and leaves it susceptible to pain and injury. For some people, their gluteus medius becomes so weak and inactive that they can’t even consciously contract it. As such, the gluteus medius should be a focal point of any knee strengthening program.
Healthy Knees Depend on Ankle and Hip Mobility
The hips and ankles are designed for mobility and can accommodate a fairly large range of motion. The knees, however, have a smaller range of motion and are better suited for stability. When the mobility of the hips or ankles is restricted, the knees are forced to compensate and are put under more stress than they’re designed to handle. As such, ankle and hip mobility are of critical importance to healthy knee function.
The following videos demonstrate some excellent mobility exercises for the ankles and hips. If you don’t see the text pointers in the first video, turn on annotations by clicking on the furthest button to the right of YouTube toolbar.
As you’ll soon see, I demonstrated all of the exercises in bare feet. I think exercising in bare feet is an excellent way to maximize muscle recruitment, improve balance, and promote healthy foot function. All of the exercises included in this article can be done barefoot in the comfort of your own home, but if you’d prefer to do them somewhere else, I recommend wearing Vibram FiveFinger shoes.
The Importance of Flexibility and Muscle Tissue Quality
As I previously mentioned, tight muscles can contribute to knee pain and increase the risk of injury by creating additional and uneven stress on the knee joint. Furthermore, tightness in the major muscles acting on the hips and ankles can inhibit the mobility of these joints and make an additional contribution to knee trouble.
When most people think of flexibility or muscle tightness, they associate it with stretching. However, trigger point therapy, or self massage, is a very important factor as well. Muscle knots, also referred to as trigger points, are localized areas of tightness within a muscle where many of the fibers have become stuck together. They are caused by frequent use of the same muscle and compromise the muscle’s strength and flexibility. Fortunately, muscle knots can easily be eliminated through a variety of self massage techniques which loosen muscle tissue, release knots, and improve flexibility. For this reason, self massage is just as important, if not more so, than static stretching and should ideally be done prior to anything else.
Trigger points can also refer pain to nearby joints, and in some cases, may be the entire cause of your pain. For a better understanding of how to identify and address trigger points, I highly recommend The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies. I often develop trigger points in my vastus medialis which is the inner part of the quadriceps, and thanks to this book, being able to manage them has been a significant help.
In relation to the knees, the most important muscles to massage on a regular basis are the claves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors. The following video demonstrates how to massage these muscles using the foam roller. You should spend more time on each muscle than I do in the video. I went through each muscle quickly to keep the duration of the video short. Unless you’re naturally very flexible, you should also do static stretching for the same muscles. A good resource for learning a variety of different static stretches is Sport Stretch by Michael Alter.
Protect Your Knees with Stronger Muscles
As I previously mentioned, strong muscles will help to stabilize the knee and reduce the pressure on it’s ligaments and the joint itself. While it’s important to develop balanced strength throughout all of the muscles of the lower body, two muscle groups that are of particular importance are the glutes and quadriceps. The glutes are important because of their ability to control excess movement of the knee, and the quadriceps are important because of their influence on the alignment of the knee cap.
While isolation exercises can be useful for injury rehabilitation, it’s important to realize that they don’t train small stabilizer muscles or the more complex movement patterns that are a common part of every day life. As such, they don’t do a whole lot to improve the function and resilience of your knees. Compound exercises that require balance and incorporate multiple joints will do a much better job, and single leg exercises are the best.
Some of the easier exercises to start with, especially if your knees are in bad shape, are the step up and the glute bridge. As the condition of your knees improves, you can progress to exercises like the split squat, lunge, and single leg deadlift. This last exercise, the single leg deadlift, targets the important gluteus medius muscle very well and has been an especially important part of my improvements.
The following videos demonstrate the split squat and the single leg deadlift. For the split squat, keep your knee tracking directly over your foot, and for the single leg deadlift, keep your knee slightly bent to promote activation of the gluteus medius. For both exercises, be sure to maintain excellent upper body posture.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Nutrition
Regardless of how much effort you put into an exercise program to build healthy and robust knees, it won’t do much good without an adequate amount of high quality nutrition to support the development of healthy cartilage, bone, muscle, tendons, and ligaments. To insure that you’re acquiring the necessary nutrients, eat plenty of natural whole foods such as meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables. Fish and other seafood is especially beneficial because the high content of omega-3 fatty acids will help to prevent the inflammation that is so commonly associated with knee pain. Omega-3 fatty acids are also an important aspect of good health in general.
Proper hydration is also critical to knee health because it keeps the cartilage surfaces smooth and allows the ball of the joint to glide smoothly within the socket. Because of the increased joint friction that results, dehydration can promote inflammation, pain, and even arthritis. I think a good guideline is to drink approximately as many ounces of water each day as half of your body weight in pounds.
While there are a lot of popular supplements available for joint pain, particularly glucosamine and condroitin, I personally don’t think they’re necessary and they especially shouldn’t take the place of the more effective measures described in this article. However, if all else fails and you have the money to spare for such supplements, they may be worth a try and could potentially make a difference. One supplement I do recommend is Great Lakes Gelatin which is natural and derived from cattle hide and bone. If you have the time to prepare it, bone broth is an even better source of gelatin. Like glucosamine and condroitin, gelatin promotes the repair of cartilage and is also useful for repairing the lining of the intestines.
Beware of Overuse
There’s no doubt that the human body is built to move or that regular exercise helps to keep us healthy, but movement and exercise need to be a balanced with adequate rest and recovery time. Exercise, especially if strenuous, wears down the body and increases the need for recovery and repair. If adequate recovery time isn’t provided, the body will continue to break down and eventually become susceptible to pain and injury. This is especially the case with people who exercise excessively to lose weight, release stress, or compete in an endurance activity.
If you live a very active lifestyle and exercise frequently, make sure that you allow yourself enough recovery time, and be prepared to take a break if you notice any warning signs of pain.
For more information about how to put together an effective program to eliminate and prevent knee pain, I highly recommend Bulletproof Knees by Mike Robertson. This book presents many more exercises than I can include in a single article and provides guidance on how to adjust your exercise program as the health of your knee progresses. It also discusses plyometrics which is another important aspect of building healthy knees that I left out in the interest of limiting this article to a reasonable length.