In class, especially in Zumba Toning, you hear me often say “you need to engage the muscle.” I see it, the second the words come out of my mouth the deer in headlights look comes over your face – “WTF does ‘engage your muscles’ mean?”
The short definition of the word “engage” such as how we use it in fitness terms means to come together; interlock (the gears engaged) – or they are working together. So, when participating in a toning or strength training type workout, one must engage or work the muscle. I often describe it as pretending to do something with a heavy object and “creating resistance.” For Zumba Toning, there is no requirement to use any type of weight for the class granted you come in with an open mind and hold your arms correctly.
A lot of the toning we do in Zumba Toning comes from an engaged upper body and holding our elbows up and parallel to the floor in what I call the “goal post” position.
Oftentimes, our arms will be in a “half goal post,” meaning your elbows are up, parallel to the floor and your arms are pointed straight out in front of you (much like a push up position) or like you are laying them flat on a table top. Any time our arms are in any of these positions, you should be pushing the weight away from your body, then pulling it directly back to your beginning goal position. At NO point should your elbows drop and your shoulders disengage.
Bent Over Rows
For example, when performing a row, the emphasis for your muscle engagement is on the pulling up and bending of the elbow. When you pull your arms up into the bent position imagine you are pulling something heavy up off the ground and SQUEEZE your biceps and triceps. As you lower your arms back to the starting position, slowly release the SQUEEZE to release the muscle and disengage. Proper form for this movement means we stand in a neutral position with our feet hip width apart and our torso bent slightly forward so that we may keep a strong, straight spine. Doing this protects us from potential injury.
When it comes to tricep kickbacks, our muscle engagement comes with the extension of the elbow and pushing the hand up and back toward the ceiling. In this instance, muscle engagement will occur when pushing the arm straight and up as if pushing a heavy object into the ceiling. In these instances, I like to compare using a hand weight as a hammer. We begin by standing in a slight lunge position, placing our weight on the foot placed in the front of the body; our torso will be bent slightly forward at the waist to ensure a strong, straight spine and a bent ROW elbow. **Note: when in the executed kickback position, the wrist is NOT bent up with the weight hugging the forearm. See in the photo below how her arm is completely straight from the shoulder through the wrist.**
A lot of time, especially in Zumba Toning, I am going over the IMPROPER way of performing a tricep kickback. The image below shows the incorrect way of holding your hand weights and foot placement. You’ll see how her wrist is “broken” meaning she has forcibly pushed the weight toward her body and misaligned the muscles of her forearm from being held straight causing unsupported tension in the wrist.
Standing Side Crunch
There are a number of ways to properly perform a standing side crunch, however, for the purposes of our classes we must engage our lower body in order to execute . the crunch correctly. To execute this move correctly, begin with feet placed about hip width apart, with your knees bent to a 45-degree angle. **NOTE: as a challenge, this move can also be done while in a full squat position, however this is not a requirement of proper form. While in the bent stance, bend at the waist to the left, then recenter your torso, and bend at the waist to the right, then recenter your torso. Bending at the knee ensures your body weight is evenly dispersed so you do not topple over when you’re bending from side to side and also allows you to bend a little deeper to really crunch to the side. This move is beneficial for your obliques and the upper part of your hip where many people carry extra weight (the “spare tire” if I may).
The shoulder press is a mainstay move in Zumba Toning, and in many strength training exercises as it works the shoulders, the chest and the upper back. To properly execute this move, start with your arms in an upright “goal” position and press your arms until they are straight above your head. To release, slowly lower your arms back into the upright goal position. For this move, your elbows should never fall into what I call chicken wing position, or hug to your sides or rib cage.
The last move I will go over in this post is the upright row. This move is working your arms and your chest. you should be sanding with your feet about hip width apart, your arms should be placed with your palms facing your thighs and shoulders relaxed. To begin, slowly pull your hands up to your chest height by bending your elbows; then release by slowly lowering your arms back to the starting position.
For more information, or questions, feel free to contact Kristen directly!