Why Stretch?

Flexibility is regarded to be the amount of movement available at a joint or range of joints. The amount of movement can be affected by a persons age, gender, temperature and the history of activity of that individual.

Stretching is commonly held by men to be the realm of women and that lifting heavy weight is what real men do. This way of thinking may well be regretted by many of those who utter it as they age (Allah knows best).

From the benefits of stretching are:

Reduce Stress

Your mind and body feel more relaxed during and after stretching

Increase Range of Motion

To avoid tightening of joints, regular stretching will increase the range at which you can move at a joint.

Reduce the risk of Injury

Strong but un-stretched muscles are less able to resist stress than a strong pre-stretched muscle. Stretching reduces the risk of back issues and prevents joint sprains.

Prepares for Exercise

By stretching before your main exercise session the body is prepared for the stresses and strains to come, increases bodily awareness, mind-muscle connection and performance of skillful movements.

Promotes Recovery

Reduces muscle soreness after exercise and promotes circulation.

Types of stretching

Before you begin your main exercise session you should begin with Preparatory stretching, stretching the muscles you will be using during exercise. These stretches should be gentle and held for between 8-10 seconds, done standing.

Maintenance stretches are usually held for 10-15 seconds to help alleviate any potential soreness during the closing phase of your session. They (maintenance stretches) help to get muscles back to their normal length after an exercise session that has focused on a specific muscle set e.g. a large number of squats.

The last type of stretching we’ll look at is the Developmental stretch which is aimed at increasing overall flexibility and is thus performed at the end of an exercise session. The stretch is held for 20 seconds at a time so it’s important that the muscle being stretched is relaxed. Executed while on the floor or in a seated position, they should be performed using your own body-weight or with gravitational pull and the pressure of hands due to partner work.

Developmental stretch (Phase 1) initial stretch is taken to the point of tension and held until the muscle relaxes further.

Developmental stretch (Phase 2) a further period of at least 20 seconds.

You shouldn’t notice your limb shaking, if you do, the stretch has been taken too far and should be released.

As you’ll now come to understand, stretching has a place in all of our lives – past the morning stretch as you rub your eyes. From increasing range of motion to relaxation, stretching has benefits that can remain for as long as we live if we were to allot some time to stretching now. While the Corona virus has shut down most gym’s it makes sense to increase your amount of stretching in preparation for getting back into the gym.

Food: a Cure for Stress

You’ve tried jogging, punching the heavy bag, lifting heavy weights and you’re moments away from purchasing your first MMA membership but you still can’t find a way to reduce your stress. Have you thought about the food you’ve been eating?

When you’re stressed your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, increases blood sugar levels, raises blood pressure and increases your heart-beat. All of this may have you sweating and even bring about involuntary body movement.

As you’ve come to know, not all foods are equal. Some foods are known to decrease stress levels more than others so here is a rundown of the top foods to put in your basket next shop to cool the stress naturally.

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Spinach and those other dark greens contain magnesium which helps to regulate cortisol and blood sugar levels. They also contain folate which produces dopamine (a brain chemical) that calms you and induces pleasure.

The full benefit of dark greens comes about while their intrinsic properties are still present. This means rather than boiling the life out of them you should stick to steaming your veg.​​

Yoghurt

It has been found that the brain and your gut communicate forward and back. Researchers from the University of Missouri have suggested a probiotic, composed of live but beneficial bacteria meant to improve digestive health, can reduce both anxiety and stress-related behaviour.

I consume around 30g at a time with Honey but you could also add in Blueberries which fight free-radicals linked to stress.

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Dark Chocolate

Another cortisol suppressor is dark chocolate which has the ability to calm stress levels. It also reduces blood pressure and improves blood circulation but this is in relation to dark chocolate and not milk chocolate so put away the snickers and flake. Go for 70% and above to feel that euphoric feeling and get over that stress but eat in moderation, break off a block each day and ‘chill out’.

Lockdown Leg Strength

Take the Stairs

If you’ve been searching the internet for gym session ideas during this Coronavirus Pandemic then you’ve just struck gold, my friend. I hope you and your family are in the best of health and benefiting from this time at home by seeking knowledge, good conversation and even better food.

For those of you that are reading an article from myself for the first time, thanks for checking for me, my name is Hanif, you can call me Abu Hafs. I’m a REP’s and CIMSPA registered Fitness Instructor and AfN Certified Level 3 Nutritional Adviser. I enjoy exercise, good health food, spending time with my growing family, reading and studying, meeting my brothers, perfume and sportswear.

At this time when the UK is in lockdown mode due to the Coronavirus, it may be hard to enjoy life in normal ways. You may be a regular in the gym, love running or riding your bike for exercise and to visit various sites. So to keep you in top form as much as possible I’ve got a leg session that’s just what you need to keep your Quads, Hamstrings and Lower Legs rock heard.

Before any exercise, you’ll want to warm-up and stretch to prepare your muscles for the real work you’ll put them through. Once those steps have been done you’ll be primed for the task, stretching can aid your range of motion so you’ll stay flexible generally.

Bodyweight Squat:
Working your Quads and Glutes this exercise will also require you to engage your core muscles (Abdominals). Standing upright with feet shoulder-width apart and facing forward, and feet pointing straight ahead, (1) engage your core while breathing in (2) flex at the hips (3) slightly arch your back (4) push your rear out externally (4) bend at the knees to find yourself in the squatting position. From this point you should drive upwards with your feet firmly placed on the ground, breathing out to find yourself in your original standing position. Hold the squat for 3 seconds for each repetition, going for 8 – 12 reps and 3-5 sets. Include Dumbbells if available for increased resistance.

Forward Lunges:
This exercise will require you to maintain good balance while also increasing you in strength, working your Quads as well as Hamstrings and Glutes.
From an upright position with your feet, shoulder-width apart, (1) take a step forward (2) bending at the knee and hip. The trailing leg should be parallel to the ground at the bottom of this movement as you flex at your toes (trailing foot). Hold your position at the bottom of this movement for 1 – 3 seconds and reverse the movement, pushing into the ground with force to return to your upright position.
Try going for 5 sets of 10 reps and including dumbbells will increase the effort required.

Calf Raise:
This exercise will work your Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles, giving you rock hard lower legs. To do this while on Lockdown, stand with a chair in front of you or stand in a doorway. Holding the pillar of the doorway, (1) with your feet together, (2) raise onto the balls of your feet (tip-toe stance) (3) holding this position for a moment and then returning to resting position. 3 sets – 12 reps, 4th set – as many reps needed to bring on fatigue.

Stair Step-up’s:
Working your Hamstrings, Quads, Glutes and Calves, taking a step up and a step down can be made even more taxing by taking two steps at a time. This exercise looks easy but by maintaining a rhythm for a prolonged time will bring on fatigue sooner than you’d imagine.
Aim for periods of 5 minutes, increasing the time as fatigue takes longer to reach.

After this workout, you should feel challenged and tired, if not, increase the sets as you need to. These times we are in are hard but staying healthy will ensure you come out of this time with legs like tree trunks.
If you enjoyed this workout, share it with family and friends, and for a more tailored routine get in touch with me.

A Balanced Lifestyle isn’t Easy to Maintain

Food is Medicine

At the beginning of any new endeavour or change to the usual routine, it’s understandable that things will be rough. Having a desire to change something that isn’t working is a great step to making the changes many people will never face-up-to. Seeing the goal is the easy part, you may be reminded of the goal just by stepping outside your home, walking down the street and looking at all the fit and healthy people that make this look so easy. The reality is far from that if you were to ask many of those people, they have hard days and soar days, they make bad meal choices and run low on motivation as anyone does.

If you’ve been waiting for a sign to help you kick-start your healthy lifestyle, now really is the time to make action reality. People are dying around the world and people are worried about many other reasons including how to keep food on the table.

A balanced lifestyle is subjective but I’m talking about balance in terms of dietary choices and exercise levels, two key components that will help you keep your engine tickin’ over. Yes, exercise and gaining understanding over what you eat rather than caring only about the taste.

Old gym interior with equipment

“The problem is my gym is shut and I can’t get to the shops earlier enough!” you may exclaim. Calm down my friend, you probably have the ideal food combinations in your pantry and cupboards right now and you can walk with your family as well as do a series of bodyweight exercises at home with no cost but sweat (a good trade).

Yes, it’s hard at the beginning but sweet in the end and I’m on the journey with you. We’re all on the journey maintaining our health so every pound lost and every healthy meal you make further strengthens your resolve. Good times and hard times will arise but keep going and remind yourself of the journey rather than the end goal. Another tip or two to help you along is to keep a diary of your great achievements and also look for a friend or family member to share the journey with, to talk to and to share difficulties with.

The times we live in require the wise man to look into what he feeds himself and his family because some foods are better than others in nutrition and affects upon your body. Take it a day at a time and get in contact with me for any questions you may have.

Reasons why you’re Gaining Weight and the Cure

Weight gain in all the wrong places can come about by more than overeating; as we age our bodies go through changes and life can take a toll on us. With motivation, a good diet, regular exercise, sleep and the list goes on you can turn the battle with weight issues to your favour. This article will discuss the various reasons why you may be gaining unwanted weight and ways you can go about controlling your weight.

Metabolism:

Your Metabolism controls how many Calories you burn per day and is also responsible for the chemical processes that keep your body functioning such as breathing, repairing cells and digesting your meals. These processes require energy and this is where the calories you eat come in. Factors like age, body type, gender and genes all have effects on your metabolism. The more muscle you have and the less fat you are storing pull a man toward a faster metabolism. But as we age we start to increase in fat and lose muscle and so your metabolism slows down. Implementing a balanced diet and aiming to lose 1 – 2 lbs of weight (i.e. fat) per week can help ensure you don’t lose muscle mass in the process.

Food selection:

Hydrogenated Fat (trans fats) are unhealthy and should be avoided as much as possible. They are chemically altered fats used by businesses to preserve foods for longer (longer shelf life). Ideally, you want to stick to foods that have had little to no processing used upon them. The quantity you eat can also be an issue causing you to gain weight. The average person is recommended to have 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (manageable if you try) so selecting your food well is a fast way to managing weight. 

Stress & Anxiety:

Stress and worry negatively affect the body, including the heart and mind. Hormonal changes can take place which can increase your desire for comfort foods and disturbing your eating patterns. Exercise, contemplation, prayer, eating foods like fish and avocado as well as drinking a lot of water can help change the flow of stress.

Tiredness:

Not getting enough sleep can alter your eating habits. You may find yourself in the kitchen in the middle of the night “pigging out” which displeases you generally. Exercise during your week regularly will help you get a better quality of sleep because of its effects upon your body clock.

Cure:

Exercise is a sustainable way to burn calories and there are so many forms of exercise you can engage in. Some people believe Strength training is for bodybuilders and that the best way would be to engage in Aerobic activities like Jogging or Cycling however weight training is very effective, more so than cardio, at building muscle. Muscle burns more calories at rest than some other tissues and that includes fat, meaning you can reach your weight target with a solid gym plan including strength training and cardio work. Along with exercise, as you’ll see above, the food you eat has a great effect upon how your body feels and how your weight fluctuates so reduce fast food, eat more fruit and vegetables, fibre, healthy fats and drink water throughout the day. These steps will help you to manage your weight.

Sources:

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/metabolism-and-weight-loss/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/metabolism-and-age#section1

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cardio-vs-weights-for-weight-loss#section2

Goal Setting the SMART Way

It’s just about Spring again and you’re ready to lose a few pounds and get back to the fitness level you remember so well, those days when you could run fast enough to catch the next bus stop in no time. That’s all good, the determination is there and you have your gym wear ready but do you know what you want? You can run right now if you had to but do you know specifically what you want to achieve through exercise and a better dietary plan?

At Abu Hafs Hanif Fitness and Nutrition we help men of all ages and sizes reach their goals and goal setting is what this blog post is about. Setting goals can be done in a number of ways but the goals need to be SMART. Remember that if you don’t set the goal how will you know if you’ve achieved anything? When you set goals you can mark-off key point in your journey that you feel had significance.

SMART – Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound.

Specific: tells you and I exactly how much weight you want to be at or what shirt size you want to be wearing or the body fat percentage you would like to maintain.

Measured: tells you and I that the goal is measurable through scales, measuring tape, skinfold callipers or even you putting on the size shirt you wished to fit into.

Achievable: meaning that the goal is testing and taxing but within your capability of achievability. 

Relevant: meaning are there other goals that you want to attain that are more of a priority, then focus on that first. Ask yourself…why is this goal important to you?

Timebound: meaning is it possible for you to achieve the desired results within the time you have agreed to?

Setting goals in this way will help you and motivate you to keep pushing forward. Gaining and losing weight is not easy and you are doing yourself good and likely motivating others by your efforts. To look and feel better may not be your prime reasons for setting SMART goals, rather, losing weight to avoid aches and pains, high blood pressure or to please your wife and/or to increase labido maybe your reasons or something more pressing to you. No matter your reason for wanting to lose weight setting targets can only help; stick to the plan, keep working and you’ll achieve your goals God willing. 

My Top 5 Sculpting Exercises to Do Every Morning to Build a Strong And Balanced Body

Without a doubt the following exercises I’m about to walk you through are winners in terms of their effectiveness in sculpting the body while increasing you in strength in a balanced way. You may have heard of them and likely still, you would have done them from time to time so here are my top 5 sculpting exercises to do every morning to build a strong body.

1. Press-ups

Call it Push-up or Press-up. This exercise is a favourite of School boys to Military Veterans. To effectively work your Chest, Triceps and Deltoids lay face-down on the ground, arms extended, hands shoulder-width apart with feet touching. Inhale and bring chest toward the ground, bending at the elbows. Try to keep your back straight and avoid bending your lower back. Then push back up as you exhale.

Try 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

2. Pull-ups

Pull-ups can be done in various ways; pronated grip, supinated grip or even alternate grip. Just make sure you have a grip of the bar. You’ll be working your upper back (latissimus dorsi and trapezius muscles) and upper arms (biceps). Aim to have your hands shoulder-width apart as you grip the bar, elbows off lock and back straight. Pull up until the bar is at your chest, done correctly your elbows will be moving towards your torso. Then lower, under control, and repeat remembering not to lock elbows.

Try 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

3. Crunches

Crunches, also known as Abdominal Curls, can be done in various ways; with and without additional weight. You will work your Anterior torso (rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques. This exercise is the way to that six-pack or maybe eight, but your nutritional diet will also have an impact on how much you see.

To put the move into action, lie in a supine position (on your back) using a mat is recommended, back straight and knees bent at a 90 degrees angle. Feet should be flat on the floor with your hands upon your thighs. Curl upwards; bringing your hands towards your knees as much as you can and lower back to your starting position under control at all times. You will feel the tension on your mid-section. Repeat, ensuring your shoulders are off the ground.

Try 5 sets of 12 reps.

4. Bodyweight Lunges

Bodyweight Lunges or with dumbbells, this exercise will strengthen your lower body (gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings and gastrocnemius) and help any imbalance.

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From a straight standing position, take a step forward keeping your knees in line with your hips and ankle. Bend front and rear knees to 90 degrees; keeping torso, front shin and rear thigh upright (imagine the age-old view of a man proposing to his future wife on one knee, something like that). The drive back up to the standing position always looking forward, knees off lock. Now repeat with the other leg.

Try 3/5 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

5. Planks

A finishing core exercise to set your day off right. Build up your abs, increase flexibility, balance and posture. Lay face-down on the ground, forearms parallel to the ground and shoulder-width apart with feet touching. Raise torso so your body is parallel to the ground and hold. Don’t let hips or head drop and keep head in-line with your spine.

Try 3 sets of 30 second rounds.

After this workout, you’ll be ready for the day and you’ll soon notice strength and mood improvements. And once you’ve increased in reps and sets try adding in weights to the exercises and if that’s still not enough, drop me an email [Here] to arrange a personalised exercise plan.

Exercise Therapy: Top Pursuits to help you de-stress

Weight Training

Stress, depression and anxiety are common issues people deal with and have to fight through. Men can often face these issues but never seek out specialist help that may be of benefit. If you’re tired of mental ill-health, stress, and tired of talking (or not), you may find benefit and ease in getting more physical exercise into your daily routine.

Exercise is known for raising your mood and group activities can help you to build friendships that are based around togetherness, team effort and mental strength as well as physical strength. When we exercise our brains release various chemicals such as endorphins and dopamine which are believed to have a connection to raised mood and good feelings, so increasing your levels of physical activity may be your ticket out of the dark clouds.

So here are some physical activity pursuits I recommend for you to try out and research for yourself, they are:

Swimming is a great sport that works your heart and limbs. AnxietyUK.org say “Swimming is a fun and effective way to relieve stress, possibly more so than other types of physical exercise. Being in contact with water, by itself, can help to loosen up both body and mind.” If you don’t know how to swim it’s recommended you employ a trainer to help you with this since swimming can be more dangerous than other forms of physical activity but once you’re swimming you’ll find it hard to forget how to do it.

Running doesn’t have to cost much and the benefits of it can reach far. Seeing new scenery and sights can put you in a good mood, waking up early and seeing the sunrise, something many people will miss out on seeing. Your body’s ability to take in and utilize oxygen will increase with regular exercise not forgetting its ability to increase the happy chemicals in your brain.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a form of self-defence and a skill that will teach you self-discipline, raise your mood and build camaraderie with those you spar with. A sport and martial art that was further developed in Brazil by the Gracie family, you’ll find humbleness and determination to do better will build confidence and reduce your stress as you grapple with unlocking the code to the skills your opponent possesses.

Archery is a skill and sport that will build your self-esteem, mind-muscle awareness, stamina and accuracy. A skill that was recommended or at least approved of by our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), archery will increase you in confidence and give you a target to channel your thoughts into, leaving your worries behind for a time.

Weight Training and weight training rooms get a bad wrap from many corners but weight training really is for the brave, brave enough to seek growth and battle their own mental limitations. Men and women alike find benefits in resistance training because it helps to slow muscle and bone breakdown, especially in older people but in terms of stress, you’ll feel more relaxed due to brain chemical activation like in swimming. Looking at your growth over a period of regular gym activity will also increase your good moods and confidence.

Abu Hafs Hanif is at the heart of helping Men better their current fitness and nutritional situation through tailored plans and programmes that educate and empower our clients to lead balanced lifestyles in terms of health. Tackling eating habits that hinder progression and adapting nutritional diets, we will help you to live healthy, happy and longer God willing.

Leave us a message in the contact box for help on your journey to stressing less or [CLICK HERE].

Home Training and Hitting Goals

So you don’t like Gym’s and have just spent a good few pounds on home gym equipment, great!! You’re one step closer to reaching the goals you’ve set yourself and you should be pleased with yourself for putting your money where your mouth is. However, balancing out your body and exercising safely shouldn’t be ignored because a home gym could be even more dangerous than working out in your local gym.

High Angle View Of A Workout Plan In Notebook At Wooden Desk

Working with a gym plan will ensure you don’t overwork some muscles while neglecting others. Reading through magazines and trying out the trending exercise of the day won’t give you a solid foundation but will rather have you shifting from exercise to exercise, week-by-week, slowing results overall. It would be better to start with a foundation of exercises that meet your needs and push your progression for anywhere between 8 weeks and 6 months. This will help you to see your strong-points and the weaker points that you need improvement in.

Gym Instructors and Personal Trainers are employed to do more than tell you what to do in the gym. They will have knowledge of anatomy which allows them to notice body imbalances and help you to rectify those issues. Having a home gym doesn’t mean you can’t employ a Personal Trainer to help you increase in size while working out at home or in losing weight.

You can hit every target you set yourself while training outside of the gym it just takes more creativity and preparation. For help on your fitness journey with a programme written specifically for you, send me a message [Here].

Abu Hafs Hanif – Rep’s and Cimspa registered Fitness Instructor.

5 ways you can increase your exercise levels starting today

It’s cold out there I know but maintaining a level of physical activity throughout the year can and should be done as much as possible. Give yourself a head start on the multitudes of people that will turn up at the gym or outdoor group workout by increasing your physical activity/exercise levels through these 5 things, and they are:

Take the stairs is a taxing pursuit for even the most athletic and endurance hardened of us. You could work in an office, shopping centre, using public transport or visiting a friend or family member – you’ll come across stairs at some point and when you do take the opportunity to get some exercise in.

Park away from home and/or work in order to give yourself more walking time, thinking and reflection time. Doing this consistently will help you to amass a large number of steps and calories burnt per week and month.

Stand more may sound like nothing special but you burn calories standing. If you have meetings in the office stand, if you’re on public transport stand, while at home stand as much as is doable for you and stand some more.

Walk with the family brings togetherness to the family, you’ll enjoy the activity and see and experience new things and surroundings. Walking shouldn’t cost you anything but rather it will give to you.

Try our exercise ideas – you don’t need a gym membership for us to design a programme for you just a desire to better yourself and look after your health is needed. Minimal equipment needed and bold ideas that will stretch you are a guarantee, you’ll achieve your target with patient persistence. 

For more information leave us a message [Here] and for more ideas to get you active see the NHS link – https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-active-your-way/