Technique – BodyPower

bodypower techniqueTechnique is a word that is used a lot to emphasise great results in the fitness and sporting worlds.

So what actually is the definition of technique? It is simply “The most effective way to carry out a particular task” Seeing it explained like that, it is no wonder all sporting achievements rely so much on technique!

As children, in a sponge-like learning state, technique is established quickly and seamlessly, as we figure out the easiest way to sit, crawl, bend and stand, in order to navigate the world around us.

As we grow older, and factors such as competition and ego start to muddy our judgement, technique is often discarded in favor of achieving results more quickly in order to impress peers, beat a record, or prove a point. Technique also is the first thing to suffer when we are tired, distracted or under pressure…things which affect much of our adult lives.

Case in point: One of things that always surprises us when we take AB-MXR on the road to fitness shows like BodyPower or FIBO, is that whenever we get someone to trial the AB-MXR and they are surrounded by a group of friends…they hold their breath! And we’re not just talking about average couch-potatoes either, these are qualified fitness professionals and self-confessed gym-junkies!

And of course, breathing along with posture and alignment, are the cornerstones of effectively completing a task i.e. of good technique.

Technique is ultimately why we invented the AB-MXR. We wanted to develop a piece of kit that would take virtually all the thinking out of training, something that would keep your posture and alignment on point, no matter how much you fatigued, or how distracted you became.

The AB-MXR does this in a couple of ways:

  1. by aligning to your neck, thereby positioning your spine in the optimum position; and
  2. by being symmetrical, thereby not allowing one side of your body to dominate an exercise as you tire. (What it obviously doesn’t do, is remind you to breathe! Thinking of adding that functionality to AB-MXR 2.0!!)

We have made this our life mission because, in the long-run, good technique allows you to achieve the results you want for your body at the correct pace, and minimizes the risk of injury – keeping you fitter and stronger for longer.

So when you are introduced to a fitness innovation designed to improve your technique, embrace your inner child and take advantage of it – and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll achieve the results you want!

It doesn’t have to be a Boot Camp Workout

Can’t face training in the gym or boot camp workout in the park this summer? We get that. Really we do. Sometimes exercise could do with just being more…FUN!

So if you’re struggling to “work out” in the traditional sense, why not take up a recreational sport, and exercise without realizing you’re doing?!

Here are a couple of suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:

Rowing:
Sure, the Thames may seem like an unappealing prospect in the middle of winter, but the summer is here (as well as can be expected in London, anyway!) and there are recreational rowing clubs all over town.

Rowing is terrific for developing upper-body strength and aerobic stamina. And once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to enjoy the camaraderie of a team sport and the incredible vistas that only being on the Thames can provide…and all the while building a seriously strong and able body!

Figure skating:
Maybe you’re not a fan of the sunshine? Or maybe you’ve always dreamed of jumping on an outdoor ice rink over the Christmas holidays and surprising your friends with your elegant spins.

Either way, figure skating is a terrific way to build phenomenal lower-body strength (you want buns and pins of steel? look no further!) as well as improving balance and coordination. It’s also a supremely challenging skill that works the brain as well as the body. And ice rinks all around the UK offer adult beginners classes during day, evenings and weekends. Get started now, and you could the talk of the Christmas Market rink by Decemeber!

Outdoor pools:
Honestly, what a better way to spend a summer’s day or evening than at a pond or lido, or perhaps even your own pool (if you have one, please invite us over!)

Swimming is a brilliant sport for a number of reasons, all of which are evident by looking at the incredible bodies on Olympic swimmers. We love it for three primary reasons: it is a full-body workout; it doesn’t favor one side of the body more than the other, which results in fewer injuries; and finally, nothing clears your head from a day’s stress quite like a swim. So find your local outdoor swimming facility and dive in!

There are plenty of other ways of keeping fit in non-traditional ways this summer. The key is to be creative and to experiment. Be it Tai Chi at dawn, taking up trapeze classes, or finally learning to ride a horse… find an activity that you’ve always wanted to do, it doesn’t have to be boot camp workout and we bet you anything, the body you dream of will follow.

As for us, we’re quite into the idea of Archery…but then again, maybe we’ve just been watching too much of Game of Thrones!

Drop us a line @AB_MXR and let us know what you decide to take up!

Breaking the Bread Habit

breaking the bread habitNo matter how you slice it, more and more research is showing that bread shouldn’t really have pride of place in the modern dirt. Whether you are paleo, macrobiotic, or just watching your weight a little, cutting bread from the menu seems to correlate with less bloating, fewer sugary cravings, sustained saeity between meals, and better results aesthetically.

Despite all of that, bread has been such a staple for so long, that it’s understandably hard to just quit it, cold turkey.

We thought we’d share with you some of the best alternatives to bread we’ve discovered since…well, since sliced bread!

Portobello mushrooms:
Sandwiches are *the* most popular lunchtime meal. And a traditional sandwich is meat and/or veg, between two slices of bread. The bread essentially acts as a container for the inner filling (and possibly also a surface to house a condiment) but often can distract from the flavors within and fill you up before you finish all the good stuff in the middle.

Try replacing each slice of bread with a portobello mushroom. It achieves the same effect of ‘sandwiching the filling’, with the added bonus of adding nutritious protein and fibre to your meal! You can try pre-baking your mushroom slices or using them raw for different flavors – either way, your lunch will thank you!

Filling suggestion: burgers, ham and cheese.

Lettuce wraps:
In a similar vein, wraps have come a long way in usurping the sandwich market. We think corn wraps are in theory a great alternative to bread, but are wary of them because a lot of them still contain wheat.

Try wrapping your food in a fresh lettuce leaf instead. This adds a much fresher flavor to the food, and is a much lower-calorie alternative to bread or wraps. It’s a particularly refreshing alternative in the summer…with the added bonus that it looks so cool!

Filling suggestion: fajita meat, prawns and cole slaw

Stuffed bell peppers:
This is one of our favorites. Peppers are like the Tardis of vegetables – slice off the top, and you have enough room to house a whole meal within. It’s almost like storing your food in an edible pot!

They will enhance your food with a sweet tanginess, as they have more flavor than mushrooms or lettuce, and will add a delicious crunch to your meal.

Filling suggestion: tuna salad, egg and cress.

There are plenty of other ways to cut out breads from your diet. Try making pizza bases out of ground nuts, or dipping crudites instead of breadsticks in hummus and tapenades.

Whole grains like brown rice and quinoa are also great accompaniments to stews and curries, while lentils and legumes such as chickpeas help fill you up without distending your stomach.

Ultimately the best way to kick your bread habit is to get creative. Once you start, you’ll soon forget bread was ever part of your daily life.

Let us know how you get on, and share any great discoveries you make with us @AB_MXR!

Pimp Your Plank

basic plankWe love planks. A tried, tested and true piece of ammunition in the battle of the core. But like all great staples, it can always be made spicier with just a few additional ingredients!

Here are some of our favorite plank modifications:

Inverse side-plankSide-plank
A wonderful variation on a regular plank, which challenges the body unilaterally, testing arm-strength and proprioception. If you are a dab hand at these, try lifting one leg and doing a star variation!

Side-plankInverse side-plank
This challenging variation focuses on strength in the lats, pecs and obliques of the free side, while building strong stabilisers on the grounded side.

Supeman plankSuperman plank
A wonderful rehab tool. Builds coordination unilaterally, and strengthens the back and buttocks.

Hand-to-forearm dynamic plank Hand-to-forearm dynamic plank 
The PT favorite for the advanced exerciser. Switching back and forth from hands to forearms is a great way to build up a sweat, keep your body thinking, all the while seriously challenging your core to dig deep and build strength from the inside out.

Swiss ball plank Swiss ball plank
A highly advanced exercise, which works the entire body, with particular emphasis on the abdominals, back, adductors and calves.

And if you want spice up your planks even more, you’ll find that most of these exercises can also be done with an AB-MXR, which adds a whole other level of intensity! Check out the range of AB-MXR exercises here:

http://www.ab-mxr.com/full-body-workouts/

Happy planking!

We Love Your Correct Neck Posture

Correct Neck Position AB-MXRNecks.

We kinda take them for granted until we injure them. And really, it’s not a body-part we should neck-legt (see what we did there?) – correct neck posture is  essential.

The neck supports your head, which is quite a feat because it is the heaviest part of your body. Within it, run arteries that supply blood to the brain from the heart, and in particular, a pair of arteries that feed the vital part of the brain, which controls our heart rate, breathing, immune system, hormones, coordination, balance, and sleep…all of which, we’re sure you will agree, are fairly important to you.

And as is often the case with our bodies, despite the neck being kind of a big deal, it is very fragile, because it also needs a certain amount of mobility to allow your sensory functions to operate effectively, and this flexibility places the neck at risk of misaligning or even dislocating.

So given all of this, you can imagine our frustration when we see people at our local gym and on social media *still* doing sit-ups, crunches and the like, unsupported.

It is the very reason why we created the AB-MXR. At the very heart of our product, was the idea that the constant strain on people’s necks during exercise – and specifically abdominal exercise – needed to be addressed.

After months of experimentation with various forms of support, and in close consultation with one of the UK’s leading chiropractors, we finally found a solution.

A padded support, moulded to match the optimal curve of the neck, that when held by its handles, gave the user no choice but to disengage the neck while doing sit-ups. Interestingly, once our guinea-pigs (not real ones!) couldn’t strain their necks, they suddenly couldn’t do an endless plethora of sit-ups. They felt the effect of the exercise sooner, because they had to use proper technique, and work exclusively from their core, without the assistance of their neck to compensate for the weakness in their abs.

After this Eureka moment, we found that the AB-MXR’S alignment hugely benefited a lot of other exercises (try squatting with an AB-MXR for example, and you’ll never look back). And its unique shape made it a versatile piece of equipment that could be used to strengthen virtually every part of the body. Then we had the idea of creating different weighted AB-MXRs (1 through to 5kgs) to make the exercises load-bearing. And while goofing around with it at a trade show a little while later, we discovered that it was incredibly effective for assisted stretches. And so on, and so on.

For us, it’s like the gift that keeps giving, and every day, AB-MXR users write us to tell us how much it has changed their workouts, and to show us their new inventive ways of using it.

But at the core of all that, was a simple idea. Keep your neck safe. After all, you only get one, folks.

If you haven’t tried an AB-MXR yet, stick your neck out and give us a shout! We’d love to introduce you to our little baby.

Spilling the Juice on Juicing

Spilling the juiceAnother year, another diet craze hits the market. Although to its credit, the juicing frenzy has stuck around longer than most, especially because of the new found popularity of technology like Nutribullet.

So – is juicing the best thing since steel-cut oats?

We do get the appeal of juicing. As humans, we eat with our eyes as much as we do with our stomachs, and the sheer vibrancy of the greens and reds of many of the freshly blended juices just screams “healthy!” to our stomachs.

And yes, juices can be a great way to load your system with raw, unprocessed vitamins and minerals.

So what’s the problem, we hear you ask? Well there are a few.

  1. Humans have teeth for a reason. We as a race evolved to chew on food. It’s part of our physiological make-up, and a hugely important part of digestion. Take the visceral act of chewing away from a human, and it can confuse their body’s understanding of when it’s hungry or full.
  2. Juice-only diets generally lack protein. Behind the bright green veneer, lies essentially a cup of blended carbohydrates. So while juicing purported health benefits, it actually does little more than feed the average body’s addiction to high-glycemic sugars. Yes, there are hardened juicers out there who perhaps blend tuna in with their green shakes (we happen to know one!) but the majority of fair-weather/beach-body juicers need their juices to be sweet in order to be palatable.
  3. Most juicing excludes the fibre. Take away the act of chewing and now the fibre too, and you have basically blocked any of the natural ways in which your body slows the absorption of nutrients into the blood. Which is great if your juice is purely made of vitamins, but troublesome as your juice is mostly made up of sugars. This results in a huge blood-sugar spike…and we all know that what goes up, must come down. So the inevitable crash after will have you seeking your next quick-high, perpetuating a vicious cycle of sugar-addiction.
  4. News flash: Your stomach likes solids! Just as you would never run your washing machine without clothes inside it, feeding your body nothing but liquids can be very confusing to your gastric system, and can cause you severe stomach cramps and nausea. Your body was designed to churn solid food into soluble materials – don’t deprive it of its purpose in life!

Often times, those on a juice diet also struggle to feel sated after a day of juices and end up succumbing to a solid meal. While this is good news for your empty stomach, it can be bad news for your calorific intake. This pattern of behaviour often results in the diet juicer actually putting on weight when they should in theory be losing it!

So, our advice is to ditch the juice and eat the way your body intended you to.

By all means, enjoy juice if you find it hard to fit your 5-a-day into your diet, but make sure you calculate that into your overall daily calorific intake. And wean yourself off the high-fructose base of many juices, and really try to stick with earthy leafy greens and vegetables for maximum benefit.

Natural Cosmetics & Personal Wellbeing

natrual cosmenticsJuicing, eating organic, going vegan…these trends are becoming second nature. We spend so much time making sure we eat clean…but are we extending that philosophy beyond what we injest to our personal hygiene products?

Just pick up any cosmetic in your bathroom and check out the ingredients. You will be assaulted with an unprounceable ingredient list of chemicals that you would never dream of putting in your mouth…and therein lies the problem!

Your skin is basically like a giant mouth that streches all over your body…more sponge that force-field. Hence why products like nicotine patches work – the nicotine is *absorbed* directly into your bloodstream through your skin.

A lot of the chemicals used to create our lotions and potions are likely to have minimal to no side-effects…but parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, and petrochemicals are amongst the primary building blocks of most synthetic cosmetic products, and just a quick google search will show you that they have been linked to diseases ranging from breast cancer to endocrine dysfunction to birth defects.

Studies are being carried out all the time, and evidence is being compiled for us to truly understand as a society what is safe for use in the short, medium and long-term.

In the meantime, we are doing our own research, seeing which products in our toiletry arsenal can be replaced with healthier alternatives. It takes a lot of reading, trying to discern fact from scare-mongering, and it takes a lot of experimentation…and we are enjoying the learning and the process!

We know it is can be cost-prohibitive to switch to all-natural products, and we also appreciate that we have all come to expect a certain performance function from our cosmetics e.g. it is notoriously difficult to find an all-natural antiperspirant that is as effective as an off-the-shelf synthetic one…and smelling bad when you work in a people industry – even one where your product is sweat – is not a good thing!!

So we won’t get on our soap-box (pardon the pun!) and tell you to only bathe with goat’s milk and rub grass into your armpits.

We would however like you to join us in developing an awareness of what risks synthetic personal hygiene products can  carry, and maybe explore a few alternatives. And if you find something that works great, drop us a line and let us know about it, either on email or Twitter. Let’s all help each other get as healthy as possible!

Diet and exercise on the go

Diet and Exercise on the GOLet’s face it – for most people, diet and exercise, eating healthily and scheduling in exercise can be a struggle at the best of times. The human brain is a wilfull mistress, making us envy athlete’s physiques as we poke holes at our own, while simultaneously tempting us to stay indoors watching TV on our comfy couches while eating another bar of chocolate! And even if you have managed to get a good workout/life balance at home, your routine and will-power can be easily overthrown by business and holiday travel, and often, the effects of this will cascade into your life once you return back from your trip.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you keep on track during your travels:

  • Pick hotels with a gym and/or pool:
    Thanks to competition in the hospitality market, it is now easier and more affordable than ever to find a hotel with some sort of fitness facilities. And if you have access to a gym or a pool in the same building as your room, you will find it significantly easier to schedule in even the quickest of workouts within your day while you’re away.
  • Use exercise as an excuse to sightsee:
    If you are on vacation and feel that being indoors in a hotel gym is poor use of your travel time abroad, fair enough! Why not incorporate running or cycling into your sightseeing schedule instead? Urban walking, running or biking are great ways to take in a new city, discovering local amenities that would other sail by you in a taxi or on a subway, while still getting your daily dose of exercise.
  • Pre-book athletic activities:
    Of course sometimes, we have the best intentions to walk everywhere on holiday or work out every day, but when we land, all our resolve gets thrown out of the window because of maybe the weather, or other people’s agendas. One way around this is to pre-pay for activities as part of your vacation package like guided hikes, snorkelling, zip-lining or yoga, so that you have to follow through with them even if your will falters. The add-on benefit of this is that these activities will likely be new and different for your body, shocking it into getting fitter whilst you master a new skill.
  • Enjoy local meals, but take your own snacks away with you:
    There is no point travelling to Thailand or India, for example, and feeling like you can’t let go and enjoy local delicacies, even if they might be slightly out of your ideal diet. However, we find that it’s snacking that really gets us into trouble when we are away! Eating food on the go is tough no matter where you are, and often results in the consumption of quick, unhealthy, and heavily processed snacks with little nutritional value. To combat this, bring the healthy snacks you have incorporated into your regular life away with you, so if hunger strikes between meal times, you can much on a protein bar, or a bag of nuts, with impunity.
  • Drinking in moderation
    Yeah, yeah – we know this one is a toughie! If you enjoy alcohol and want to let go while away, or have to drink during business dinners on work travel, the key really is just to be aware of how much you are consuming, and to not allow drinking to derail your fitness goals while you are away. Maybe decide on how many units you are comfortable consuming per day or week you are away without your exercise routine being compromised [and stick to it!], or maybe only drink the alcohol that you find personally affects you the least the next day (we confess, that’s champagne for us!)

Finally, a cheeky self-plug! You might also want to stow away an AB-MXR in your hand-luggage! It’s the perfect piece of kit to take with you on the go – lightweight, highly versatile and chic! If you haven’t tried using one yet, order one and see for yourself.

And don’t forget to tweet us pictures of your holidays at @AB_MXR – we’d love to see where in the world you are!

Sleepy Times

bed and pillows
We are the society that doesn’t sleep.

Where our sleep was formerly dictated by the rise and fall of the sun, today the glow of technology keeps us up all night, and sleep deprivation is paraded as a badge of honour in offices and homes around the world.

Sleep debt and insomnia are now rife and likely holding back your weight and fitness goals (we’re shouting to wake you up, sleepy chops!).

Studies have even found that dieters that don’t get enough sleep lose half as much fat as individuals on the same diet that are getting enough sleep.

But even if you’re more focused on strength training, it’s worth noting that you may need about 7-9 hours of sleep minimum to allow the body to fully recover. Especially the major hormone responsible for muscular regeneration, HGH, is actually triggered by sleep. So staying up all night to watch Breaking Bad actually hinders muscles from regenerating after a training session (Walt causing trouble again!)

It’s also worth noting that when we lose sleep, our insulin sensitivity declines, meaning our body produces excessive amounts of it… which means, you’re likely to feel hungrier, burn fewer calories, and feel less sated after a full meal than one of those smug night sleepers.

Of course, sleeping is easier said than done for some of us… so try to do the following to sleep more and look and feel your best:

Come 2 or 3pm, cut the caffeine. Caffeine has a lifespan of about 8 hours in the body… so quit the coffee and yes, black and green tea, and even chocolate, 8 hours before your bedtime.

Switch off the screens. Ideally within a half hour of your ideal bedtime, cut out artificial blue-light sources – TVs, phones, laptops, kindles. If you really can’t live without them, there are apps that change the blue light to red in the evening, which can help reduce their effect on your circadian rhythms.

Find a bedtime rhythm. A regular bedtime routine will teach your body to yield to sleep, and not fight it. So whether it is a certain piece of music that you play, or a shower you take, or a pyjama you wear every night… train your body to spot the signs of an impending bedtime and welcome sleep like an old friend.

Well… just writing this blog has made us sleepy… so we’re going to switch off our blue device now and snooze.

Slumber well, AB-MXRs!

Water Is Life – Body Training

Body TrainingWe touched on the importance of drinking water in our last blog, but thought it would be remiss of us not to let you know how beneficial water is to the training body all the time, not just when you’re hungry or sweating in the gym…so here is our timely water blog!

The current ‘heatwave’ we are having in London serves as a wonderful reminder of just how important it is to stay hydrated, especially as we lose 2.5 litres during the average day, only regaining 1 litre through food, with the remaining 1.5 litres in theory being replenished by our drinking water.

We all know that our bodies are 60% water and that water IS life…but here’s how being hydrated translates into your fitness goals.

‘Feeding muscles’: Water delivers oxygen to muscles in order for physical activity to be done efficiently. The more water inside the muscle cells, the better they function, and the more they increase in strength, size and capacity.

Also – want that protein to help your gains? Water absorbs the different nutrients in food & transports them through the digestive system, leaving the nutrients better and more readily absorbed by the body.

Drink water to make the most of your food!

‘Decreasing fat’: Dehydrated bodies retain extra water from cells (including fat cells), which causes bloating and weight gain. Sweating aside, alcohol, coffee, tea and fizzy drinks all act as ‘diuretics’, forcing water out of the body, leading to dehydration. If you cannot live without your liquid stimulants, you have to drink more water to counter their diuretic nature, and to purify your blood, preventing diseases such as hypertension.

A dehydrated body also causes your kidneys to malfunction, forcing the liver to work twice as hard and compromising its ability to metabolise fat, thereby possibly leading to weight gain.

We can hear you all reaching for your Evian’s already!

The biggest complaint we hear from our clients is that drinking more water throughout the day is a tough task, because it’s flavourless.

To those people we say: If you’re just not that into the (non)taste of water, try making your own flavoured water at home. Adding slices of fruits or herbs adds a subtle, delicious taste to plain water. Be it cucumber, lime or mint…find a way to make water an essential daily part of your life..and reap the rewards of a stronger, healthier body.