Ken Grall

  1. 7 Tips for Healthy Knees

    Follow these 7 healthy knee stretches and tips for happy knees Knee pain is one of the most common ailments that people struggle with when exercising. As the largest joint in the body, your knees certainly take on their fair share of impact. Some people simply give in to accepting knee pain as being an inevitable side effect of exercise or aging. The good news is you CAN prevent, and even reverse it…simply follow these 7 tips to assure your knees stay happy and healthy!

    Tip 1

    Healthy Knees Require Warm-Up with Soft Tissue Work

    Before you perform your regular workouts, make it a point to include a well-planned warm-up routine. A proper warm-up is one of the simplest things you can do to prevent knee problems. A dynamic based warm-up (think things like skipping, shuffling, butt kicks, etc.) will get the synovial fluid going in your joints which means less friction during your workouts. Soft tissue work (foam rolling) is also a must for today’s exercisers. The pressure of your body into the roller allows you to hit the areas of the quads, calves, glutes, etc and work out “trigger points” that, when left alone, could eventually lead to pain or injury.

    Tip 2

    Ankle & Hip Mobility for Healthy Knees

    Knee pain is often a result of mobility issues in the joint below (ankle) or above (hip), so keeping those joints healthy and mobile will go a long way in keeping the knees pain free. Poor ankle mobility will limit your ability to perform certain exercises properly, which often means the knees pay the price by absorbing more force. Ankle mobility can be limited by tight calves or perhaps from previous ankle injuries. Poor hip mobility can have a similar impact on the knees. I generally use the body weight squat as a good indicator of hip mobility. The best way to squat is with your hips first. Those who lack good hip mobility will often bend at the knees first to initiate the squat and then end up with their weight too far forward. Again, the knees will then bear too much force because the hips aren’t moving the way they should.

    Tip 3

    Maintaining a Healthy Weight Helps to Keep Knees Healthy

    Being overweight really does have an impact on your joints, especially the knees. The heavier you are, the more stress you are going to deliver through the knees. Pretty simple on this one…maintain a healthy weight and you’ll greatly lower your chances of suffering from knee pain.

    Tip 4

    Keep Your Backside Strong to Lessen the Strain on your Knees

    When I say backside, I’m talking about your glutes and hamstrings. Your glutes are built to be strong and should be the powerhouse of your lower body. When working properly, they will take a brunt of the force away from the knees during many exercises. Likewise, your hamstrings shouldn’t be ignored! Many knee problems are caused by an imbalance in the legs. Many people tend to be quad dominant, which will put a lot of stress on the knees. Be sure to balance out your leg workouts by including an equal amount of quad, glute and hamstring exercises.

    Tip 5

    Be Aware of Your Knees' Aches and Pains

    This one almost seems too obvious, but if something hurts don’t do it! Far too many people try to work through the pain thinking they will eventually get through it. Instead, try to address the issue by figuring out what is causing the pain and then take the proper steps to correct it. Remember, when you’re injured you are not doing your body any good by continuing to do the same thing.

    Tip 6

    Focus on your Form to Keep Your Knee Movements Natural

    I’m often amazed at the amount of people who blame a certain exercises for their knee pain when, in fact, the problem is in how they’re performing the exercise. If you think your form may be off on certain exercises like squats, deadlifts and lunges, be sure to seek some help or do some research to assure you are doing them safely and correctly.

    Tip 7

    Build Good Posture and Core Strength will Help Minimize Knee Stress

    If you are one that suffers from bad posture, chances are you could be hurting your knees. Keeping your head centered over your shoulders and your shoulders over your abdomen and pelvis will keep your back, hips and knees happy. Make sure you’re including plenty of core exercises in your routine to strengthen the abs and low back. This will promote good posture and, ultimately, lessen the pressure on your knees. Knee pain can be a major road block for many lifters, athletes and every day fitness enthusiasts. But, by taking some of these tips and putting them into action, chances are very good that you’ll prevent, or even reverse, any future problems.  
    About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.
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  2. 5 Tips to Help You Exercise Safely in the Summer Heat

    With the summer months rapidly approaching, it’s time to take your workouts outdoors!   While many of us may be tempted to jump right into our outdoor workouts, we should all take great care in preparing for the summer heat and the effects it can have on our bodies.

    Let’s take a looks at 5 tips that will assure your outdoor workouts are safe this summer.

    Tip #1: Hydrate

    Exercising in hot weather increases our body temperature, so it’s vital to assure your body is properly hydrated before, during, and after your workouts.

    While the body’s ability to perspire acts as a natural cooling system, it’s your job to make sure you’re hydrated enough for this to work properly.

    Your focus should primarily be on drinking water.  Remember, our bodies consist of 50-60% water, so it’s vital to maintain this amount.  On a hot day, you can easily lose 3-5% of your body’s water weight while working out.

    During exercise, aim for drinking 8-10 oz. of water every 20 minute. After exercise, be sure to get in another 10-20 oz. to assure you are properly re-hydrating.  Another great way to re-hydrate is to grab some fruit.  An orange or an apple will help replace valuable electrolyte loss and aid in recovery.

    Tip #2:  Avoid Peak Heat

    Plan your outdoor workouts for early in the morning or around sunset. Sun and humidity levels are more intense during the daytime hours, so to minimize the effects of the heat plan your workouts around that part of the day.

    Tip #3:  Dress Appropriately

    Invest in some lightweight, loose-fitting workout clothes that will help wick away moisture and keep your body cooler.  Sweating alone does not cool the body, but the evaporation of sweat does.  Clothes that soak up your sweat not only become uncomfortable and weigh you down, but they don’t allow for proper evaporation.

    Also avoid dark colored workout clothing that will absorb the heat and focus on wearing light-colored items.

    Tip #4:  Acclimate

    If you have been running indoors or working out in a cooler climate, be prepared to ease up a bit when the weather heats up.  Heat and humidity can wear your body down much faster when you’re not used to it, so gradually work your way into summer heat shape and allow your body to build up a tolerance to that kind of workout environment.

    Those high intensity intervals or long distance treadmill runs will be tough to match in the hot weather, so be smart and gradually work your way up to them.

    Tip #5:  Listen To Your Body

    It’s crucial to pay attention to your body when it comes to working out in the heat.  Heat exhaustion and sun stroke can quickly sneak up on you and put you in a world of hurt!

    If you’re feeling any of the following symptoms while working out in the heat, it’s time to shut it down and find some air-conditioned comfort:
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Weakness
    • Light-headedness
    • Muscle cramps
    • Headache

    To quickly cool off, here are a couple of tricks:
    • Run cold water over your forearms
    • Apply ice packs or cooling wraps to the back of your neck, your forearms, and/or your armpits
    • Use a spray bottle to mist your skin while fanning air on it to aid in the evaporation/cooling
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  3. Bike To Work Day: 7 Easy Tips For Commuting On Your Bike

    Bike to Work Day. Person commuting to work on a bicycle. We’ve all seen the occasional cyclist commuting on our daily drive to work and have probably even thought about doing it yourself. Not only does bike commuting help the environment, but it also saves money (gas, wear and tear on your car, etc.) and is a great way to stay fit and burn a few extra calories.

    The month of May is National Bike Month, with the biggest day being Bike to Work Day. In 2017 that day will be recognized on Friday, May 19th.

    Bike to Work Day has been around for quite some time, having originated in 1956 by the League of American Bicyclists. Since its inception, a growing number of communities have embraced the event and used it as a way to promote the bicycle as a healthy and safe alternative for commuting to work.

    It must be working. . .the United States has seen a 62% growth in the number of bicycle commuters since 2000!

    So if you’re not among the growing bike commuters across the country, why not use Bike to Work Day as your reason to give it a shot! Even if you only commute a handful of times, it’s better than none at all. And who knows. . . once you give it a try you might fall in love with it!

    Here are 7 tips to help get you started on your bike commute to work:

    #1: Consider the Distance

    If you live only a few miles from work, it’s very conceivable to commute both ways by bike. However, if that distance is a bit longer, consider hitching a ride to work with a co-worker and bringing your bike along for the commute home. As you get used to the distance, you may find that you want to make it a 2 way commute.

    #2: Map Out Your Route Options

    You’ll definitely want to consider distance, traffic volume, road conditions and terrain on all of your bike route options. Some routes may be a bit longer, but if they are safer, it could be a better option. Test out your potential routes on the weekends and see which is the best fit for your commute. There are also bike route apps and websites that can be very useful in helping you find your best options.

    #3: Set a Frequency Goal

    For many first-time bike commuters, it’s a pretty lofty goal to commit to biking to work every day. To start, set an achievable goal of biking to work 2-3 times/week. After you can consistently do that, then definitely add to it!

    #4: Dress the Part

    Most bike commuters don’t like to wear their work clothes (unless they have a very short commute), so investing in comfortable bike clothes (bright colors, bike shorts, etc.) will be well worth it. Make sure your bike has reflectors or a flashing light if you’ll be biking in the early morning or evenings. And, it goes without saying, wear a helmet!

    #5: Don’t Forget Your Cell Phone

    A phone can come in very handy - and no, not for talking or texting while you’re riding – but in case you get a flat tire or have any other issues that may cause you to be late getting to work or returning home. A call to your boss explaining the situation will go a long way!

    #6: Clean Up!

    You might work up a bit of a sweat on your commute, so be sure to plan accordingly when it comes to cleaning yourself up before work. If you’re lucky enough to have a shower at work, great! If not, your co-workers will appreciate you having the appropriate supplies to freshen-up before your work day starts.

    #7: Get in Bike Shape

    It can be tough to just jump into a regular bike commute if you don’t have an appropriate level of fitness. I don’t think your employer would be too happy if you showed up to work worn out and useless for the rest of the day! Get out and ride your bike to develop a fitness base or, incorporate an indoor exercise bike into your fitness routine.

    Happy Biking!
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  4. How to Start a Home Gym with a Strength Training Focus

    How to start a home gym. Two people exercising on a home gym Strength training in your home gym is a possibility.

    By now, you all know that a strong body is a healthy body.

    You also know that strength training can be one of the most efficient ways to lose unwanted body fat.

    And, ladies, you know that you won’t get bulky by incorporating strength training into your fitness routine.

    While treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes are great and can be a solid addition to your home workouts, I highly recommend the following pieces of strength equipment to not only give you unlimited options on the exercises you can do, but also to help you build the strong, healthy, fit body you deserve!

    Barbell & Weights

    A weightlifter using a standard barbell or Olympic barbell in a home gym. Barbells can come in various lengths and sizes but there are two main types that you’ll most likely have to choose from…standard and Olympic.

    Standard bars are one inch in diameter and utilize weight plates with 1 inch holes in the center. They’re a good starting point but are not the best option for heavier lifting (over 150 lbs.).

    Olympic bars, on the other hand, are built to handle a bigger load. They are typically 7 feet long and weigh 45lbs. without any weight added to them. The end sleeves are 2 inches in diameter, so the weigh plates have larger 2” holes through the center.

    Barbells allow you to do a wide variety of exercise from presses to pulls to squats to deadlifts. They also allow you to progress by being able to add small increments of weight as needed.

    Bumper plates are also a great option for your barbell and the home gym setting. These rubber plates are made for Olympic size bars and are easier to move around and a better (safer) option if you will be doing any floor-based lifting.

    Power Rack

    A in shape woman lifting with a power rack in her home gym. While it may sound a bit daunting, a power rack is actually one of the most versatile pieces of strength equipment you can add to your home gym.

    First of all, a rack goes hand in hand with your barbell. It allows you to do almost anything with your barbell from bench pressing to squatting to racking your bar for deadlifts, curls, push-ups, shoulder presses, etc.

    The power rack also adds the ever important measure of safety by allowing you to rack your weight and know that safety bars can be put in place in case you cannot complete a lift.

    Racks also allow you to add accessories to your home gym. Many offer built-in pull-up/chin bars and allow for add-ons such as dip attachments and band pegs.

    Racks come in many different sizes, so don’t be fooled by the thought of it taking up too much space. You’ll be surprised with just how much you can accomplish within a power rack with a barbell and weight plates.


    Chrome dumbbells in a row on a dumbbell rack. Dumbbells are just as versatile as a barbell and allow for an unlimited number of exercise options. And, like barbells, you’ll have a couple of different options to choose from.

    Selectorized dumbbells are also popular with the home-gym crowd these days. They’re a bit more expensive than the plate loaded bells, but allow users to quickly change their weight. They may not, however, be the best option for those in need of heavy dumbbells (above 50 lbs.)

    On the other hand, if you have more space and a higher home gym budget, you may want to consider going all out and getting a commercial-style dumbbell rack with fixed-weight bells. Most commercial gyms are equipped with dumbbells that range from 5-100+ pounds. This makes for a very convenient option as far as quickly grabbing the weight you need, but like I said, they will eat up a lot of space and add quite a bit to your home gym investment.

    Utility Bench

    A folding utility bench in a home gym. To get the most out of your barbell and/or dumbbells, I highly suggest adding a utility bench to your home gym.

    A bench allows you to perform any exercise that requires you to lay down (bench press, pullovers, tricep extensions, flyes, ab work, etc.) or work in a seated position (shoulder press, lateral raises, bicep curls, overhead tricep extensions, etc.)

    Benches are relatively inexpensive, but can get a bit more expensive as you move up to more of a commercial grade piece that is built with a heavier grade steel and often has more padding and higher quality upholstery.

    Benches can come in just a fixed flat position or one that can be adjustable up and down to accommodate for incline and decline exercises.

    The heavier duty benches should have wheels that allow you to easily move them around, while the home model flat benches are usually light enough to pick up and move.

    2 Bonus Strength Pieces

    A woman using TRX suspension kit in her home gym. While the equipment above will go a long way in providing you with a great strength-based home gym, there are a couple of budget-friendly/space-friendly pieces of equipment that you may want to consider adding:

    Suspension Trainer. Systems like TRX allow you to utilize your own body weight and are a great addition to a strength training routine. The straps are easily attachable to your power rack, a door or a support beam. They are relatively inexpensive when you consider the wide variety and overall number of exercises you can do with them.

    Resistance Bands. These are a great strength tool for any home gym and can be utilized for a wide variety of exercises. You can attach them to your rack, to a door, wrap them around equipment, or utilize your own body to stabilize them for a wide-variety of pushes, pulls, etc. Plus they take up minimal space….always a bonus when it comes to your home gym!
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