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Firefighter Shortcuts to Slimming Down

I answer many e-mails from confused, albeit enthusiastic readers, on how to trim or firm a specific part of the body. Everybody wants those flat abs, tight thighs, and sexy shoulders, but unfortunately, most are terribly misinformed on how to go about getting them.

Spot reduction doesn't work. The notion of doing more sit ups to burn off the spare tire you've been lugging around for the last couple of years has become obsolete. The most productive fat burning is accomplished through calculated aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling). Gauging intensity with heart rate (or breathing rate) enables you to burn fat as your primary fuel.

Resistance training (weight lifting, working with resistance bands or body-weight, sprinting) builds strength, endurance, and muscle -- muscle that requires fuel (calories) to function. When you increase lean muscle mass through resistance exercises, you also raise your basil metabolic rate, or the amount of fuel you require just to exist. This is the second best way to keep body fat levels under control.

But what about those specific body parts and the endless list of improvements? Is it necessary to perform an individual exercise for each "trouble spot" or area of concern? Absolutely not! The human body functions as a unit. Very rarely will any muscle flex all by itself. Via an extremely sophisticated system of electronic signals, and mechanical contractions, movement is generated using many muscles, and even muscle groups simultaneously. When you perform the simple action of going from a standing to a sitting position (also known as a squat), it's more than just the gluteus, quadriceps, and hamstrings working. The muscles of the inner and outer thighs, low-back, abdominal's, and oblique's are also engaged indirectly as stabilizer muscles. This can translate into a lot of exercise with only a small investment in time, and without the need for sophisticated or expensive equipment. Squats or lunges done with just body weight or hand weights are extremely effective at working the entire lower body, thus eliminating the need for possibly three or four additional movements. The same affect can be seen with the upper body. Movements that act at more than one joint, and involve more than one muscle get big results. One such exercise that most of you us are familiar with is the push-up. This power-house of an exercise workout virtually the entire upper body in one capacity or another (directly or indirectly).

The shoulders, triceps, and pecs are directly involved in pushing the body away from the floor, as the back, hips, and abs stabilize, holding the body straight. That's mega-muscle usage in a compact, easy-to-do exercise. The push-up can be modified to be more or less intense, thereby opening it up to almost anyone who wants to add it to their program.

So slim down, while you trim down -- not only your body, but your routine. Rid your program of unnecessary exercises that eat up time and energy. Get more bang for your buck. Pack your program full of multi-muscle movements like the squat and push-up, and get fit in less time.
Courtesy of Michael Stefano, New York City fire captain and author of The Firefighter's Workout Book We site:

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