Monday, March 19, 2012

Top Exercises & Portobello/Caprese Pasta

TONING MUSCLES. At the end of the day, we all want to look toned. Not only that, strong muscles keep your body strong and your balance in check.  There are a few exercises that, I believe, are the very best for keeping fit and toned.  Here are three of my favorites.  I'll start posting a few every week! 

1. The Criss-Cross or (Butterfly Crunches):
Why they rock? First, they work the entire rectus abdominis ... you know, the abs that give you a six pack...  They also work the obliques.  There are not many moves that work the entire rectus abdominis and the obliques at the same time.  Do at least thirty, medium speed... (never rush these). 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, got it?
How to? Lay on your back, make sure your lower back is pressed into the floor. Knees up at a 90 degree angle. Hands are behind your head (don't pull) elbows out wide. Bring one elbow to the opposite knee as you extend the opposite leg out straight and about 5" off the ground (beginniners put your extended leg straight up in the air). Repeat on each side.

2. Squats
Why they rock? Ok, you want a nice tush, great legs?  Do squats... forget the isolated moves (they are good for the details, but squats are more effective).  They work your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, which provides a nice foundation to keep your butt lifted, right?  They even work your calves. 
Advanced squatters?  Add a jump... so pop up off the floor as you rise from your squat.  Tell me if you don't feel that the next day... amazing for your legs (and a great burst of cardio. Make sure you keep your core tight to stay stable. Try 10.
Beginners: Use a chair! Grab a kitchen chair (no cushion). Sit down, stand up. Repeat for 20.
How to? You already know how to do a squat, BUT, keep these things in mind: Pretend that you are sitting back in a chair, push through your heels, as you sit back you should be in a 90 degree angle.  Don't let your knees go over your toes. 
3. Planks
Why they rock? Planks work virtually every muscle in your body, especially your core.  They also work your transverse abdominis (see ab photo from above).  There are not many exercises that work the transverse abdominis.  Working this muscle, for lack of a better term... sucks or pulls in your waist.
How to? Lay on the floor, put your forearms on the mat and tuck your toes under.  Pull your abs in (don't suck) and get in a straight line.  Don't push your butt up in the air and don't let your abs dip down to the floor.  
Advanced?  Lift one leg off the floor, hold for 10 and switch legs.
Add these moves to your exercise routine a few times this week. All three work multiple muscle groups throughout the body.  Tone, baby, tone!

Onto the recipe of the day.  I was craving a nice Italian meal tonight.  There is a big "Meatless Monday" trend going on right now which I think is awesome.  You all know I love my chicken, but, it's good to say goodbye to it once a week. I thought I'd help those of you who are giving it a try... a hearty protein packed meal :)

- garlic
- barilla protein plus pasta (10 grams of protein in a small serving!)
- tomatoes
- basil
- portobello mushroom (hearty and a good meat replacement in terms of texture and taste!)
- buffalo mozzarella
- olive oil
- lemon
- crushed red pepper, salt

How to:
- Boil salted water and cook pasta
During this time:
- Spray a portabello mushroom cap with olive oil spray or drizzle then throw it on a grill pan or on the grill on medium heat, sprinkle some crushed red pepper
- Chop tomato into chunks
- In a saute pan... add olive oil, lemon juice, crushed red pepper, garlic and tomatoes
- When pasta and portobello are done. Chop the mushroom and toss it with the pasta and the olive oil saute.  
- Then, chop the basil and mozzarella and sprinkle (don't cook with the basil - it may get bitter)
- Pair it with a side spinach salad and enjoy! (I sprinkled a little parmesan :-)

Have a great week and enjoy the sunshine!

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