Prop Push to Fitness

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Aerial Yoga at Akshar Yoga Center in Bangalore
Aerial Yoga at Akshar Yoga Center in Bangalore

Did you know that you can use props to exercise? And yes, these could be a variety of them like bricks, bolsters, ropes and more. Exercising with props can help you perfect your posture, give you balance and also add a fun element to your workout.

Resistance Band exercise at TrainMe
Resistance Band exercise at TrainMe

Prep with Props

Exercise equipment is any apparatus or device used during physical activity to enhance the strength or conditioning effects of that exercise by providing either fixed or adjustable amounts of resistance or to otherwise enhance the experience or outcome of an exercise routine.  Yoga is one form of exercise that can be made fun with the help of props. Fitness props are meant to make your workout fun and super-effective. One such prop is a hammock, a fabric that is made out of special, high-density nylon material that can support over 1000 kilograms. The hammocks are held up by carabineers, support chains and webbing straps. “You can adjust the height according to personal preference, or for better maneuverability. Flying Bird Yoga or Ariel Yoga can be performed with the help of Hammock. Throughout the yoga class, you do various traditional yoga poses or aerial adaptations of traditional poses using the hammock for support. Some of the most basic poses involve simple stretches while seated on the hammock, while other poses progress to hanging upside down and grabbing your thighs, ankles or feet for support and balance,” opines Akshar, Founder & Director, Akshar Yoga. Pramod Chaturvedi, Owner & Director, Coreperfect Raw, a Crossfit gym in Navi Mumbai advices, “if you’re looking to get in a quick workout at home, you can do a short HIIT workout with your own body weight. Work up a sweat with jumping rope jacks, rope/ bosu ball burpees, body weight lunges, skaters or anything to get your heart rate up & built lean muscle at same moment. Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports.”

Ankle stretch with Thera band helpful for people having injury in Ankle at Fitpass
Ankle stretch with Thera band helpful for people having injury in Ankle at Fitpass

Why props?

Workout props help in increasing the intensity of an overall workout routine. They offer focus on specific muscle groups and tissues plus are usually lightweight, easy to carry, and very convenient to use. There are different ways to workout with different kinds of workout props. Each of them requires a specific protocol to be followed in order to derive and achieve the best possible outcome according to your body. “For instance, Thera bands or resistance bands are commonly used for stretching a body’s muscle extensively to build more strength. They are super lightweight, use no space at all, can be easily folded and packed and are pretty easy to use as well.  A Thera band is a portable exercising band, used for the purpose of conditioning muscles, rehabilitation and building strength. The user is supposed to stretch and release the band in each exercise to build strength in the muscles, especially legs and arms. The user can progress through eight different resistance levels according to their muscle and body tone. A BOSU Ball is like a half of the Swiss ball mounted on a sturdy flat platform. The acronym BOSU stands for “Both Sides Up” or “Both Sides Utilized”, and as the name goes, the ball can be used from both the sides, either the dome or the flat and stable surface. BOSU trainers can be incorporated into rehabilitation programs and can also be used in case of stretching and polymeric training programs,” avers Arushi Verma, Co-Founder and Director, FitPass. As Arun Venu, 31, Software Application Engineer says, “yoga sessions with the hammock have always been a very rejuvenating experience. It not only adds fun and vigor to my yoga routine but has also improved my flexibility and strength. It is a great prop for stretching and has made my non flexible body very flexible.”

Leg Stretch with Thera Band at Fitpass
Leg Stretch with Thera Band at Fitpass

Do it Right

The props can be used for resistance and functional training and need to be done right. “Try to always be regular to your practices even if it is for a short time period. During the practice avoid wiping sweat unless it is onto your eyes or nose. Always carry extra clothes, towels, water and good gripper mat. Try to forget all your worries and issues try to be completely present in the session,” advices Sarvesh Shashi, Founder, Zorba Yoga – A Renaissance Studio. A PVC pipe can be a great prop for mobility drills. It is economical, easily accessible and can be used for workouts for beginners and for rehab from injuries and for warm up drills for advanced athletes. “PVC pass throughs are warm up drills before you start any workout for shoulders. They can be used as a barbell for doing movements like overhead squat, power cleans and deadlifts for beginners. PVC Pipe warm up drills can be done for 5 to 8 mins every day. All beginners must use this for weight lifting movements until they get their technique 100% right,” says Shwetambari Shetty, Fitness Expert at Cult, Zumba Educational Specialist and Master Trainer India. Likewise, sandbags are fabulous for cardio and strength workout. “Available in different weights, you can throw them, squat with them, lift them. You can use this at the gym or at home. Use them mostly for squats and throw over shoulders. You can challenge yourself further by using heavier sandbags. For squats you can do 10 reps, 2 mins break and repeat the set 3 times or you can reduce reps and go heavier. For sandbag throws, you can do 10 throws over shoulders, break for a min and repeat one more time,” adds Shetty. Props are sporting accessories which help you improvise your workout. There are various accessories whose primary goal is to work on core stability, balance and coordination, speed and agility also improving alertness of the central nervous system (CNS). “As required in any other form of training performing all the exercises with proper Form & Technique is required, proper selection of the accessory according to the exercise is  vital, always perform the exercises under proper supervision, always plan intervals with the help of the accessories like with the help of the kettle bells you can challenge your muscular endurance in one interval, in the second challenge your core stability with the use of the stability ball, this will keep your heart rate elevated & give you maximum results. Train using the accessories in all anatomical planes to get the maximum benefit out of them,” says Ramesh Gajria, Founder, TrainMe.

Scissor Hold with Thera band  at Fitpass
Scissor Hold with Thera band at Fitpass

Work to your advantage

Props definitely help in challenging work outs and one should consider props to make their workout more effective and fun. “The use of hammock in flying bird yoga makes the exercise super-effective and decompresses and oils the vertebral discs in your spinal column to prevent them from becoming stiff with time. During inversions, there is an increased flow of fresh blood to the capillaries in the face. This will leave you with a glowing skin,” says Akshar. Dr. Rajnesh, Spa Manager at Six Spa Spa Jaypee Greens Golf & Spa Resort adds, “total Resistance eXercise (TRX) helps in upper body and lower body workout, Kettle Bell helps in strengthening of your core muscle as well as lower body and the shoulder and upper body parts can also be involved. The Foam Roller helps in stretching as well as to relax your muscle after workout while the Therma Band helps in pre and post workout stretching various muscle can be worked with various positions. The Medicine ball helps to strengthening your core while the Swiss Ball can be used for various workout for the entire body in various positions. The Bar Bell helps in advance workout deepening upon the weights you need to carry in particular exercise can be used in various ways.” In fact working with props makes you fitter, faster. Shraddha Iyer, Mumbai based HR Professional says, “Zorba has helped me become flexible in not just body but mind as well.  I feel refreshed and open after every session. I feel stronger with every Asana I master. I feel motivated to achieve my next asana goal, I am more focused and much more composed and calm at work. I feel light and energetic and my mind is also steady. What I like the most is, I have found a space, my place where I meet likeminded people who loved doing what I do, it’s like a second home, a family where I re-energize myself and leave filled with happiness and positive energy.”

Brick yoga at Zorba
Brick yoga at Zorba

Do it at Home

If you prefer to exercise from your home, you can choose smaller crops that do not occupy a lot of space and are easy to store. Resistance Bands are a great choice as this can help you work on your muscular strength and endurance. “The range of resistance created by these multiple bands ranges from 7lbs to 70 lbs. and you can work out your legs, back, chest arms, shoulders also your abs using them. Conventional exercises like squats, deadlifts, chest presses, shoulder presses, biceps and triceps can be done,” says Gajria. And while Swiss balls are slightly bulky they are a great accessory you can just put in in your living area and use as a chair to help you improve your posture as you have to work on center of gravity it will work on the smallest muscle in your body. Well, bad posture is the main reason for many injuries and when you sit on the ball you will be alert and focused on it.

Basketball Yoga at Zorba
Basketball Yoga at Zorba

Take Care

It is always advisable to use props under and with expert supervision in order to avoid any injury or unfortunate accidents while working out. Once you have started working out, make sure to follow the basic steps while using these props and that you use them for the sole purpose of exactly what they are meant for. Do not try to go overboard, as it can lead to injuries. “Always keep in mind that you use high-quality workout props and keep them maintained by following the basic workout etiquettes. Also, before launching off to start a new workout with any of the props, make sure you have complete information about that specific workout. Try and stay under the guidance of an expert fitness instructor before trying your hands on any of the workout props,” says Verma. Also when you use props for the first time you might face a few challenges in the beginning due to lack of experience. Again, the do’s and don’ts vary from person to person and equipment to equipment. “For instance, TRX or any other suspension training device can be used by almost anyone as a Certified TRX professional is equipped with all kinds of variations-progressions and regressions to cater almost anyone. Contradicted movements on these equipment depend on many factors which are but not limited to, participant’s exercise history, age, mobility, medical conditions and preference,” says Malini Chawla, founder, Fit by Ravissant, a fitness center based in Delhi. Quite evidently, workout props can prove to be very handy once you get used to and comfortable so get fit the prop way!

Chair yoga at Zorba
Chair yoga at Zorba

Tips

  • Wear form-fitting, but comfortable, clothes as loose clothing can make it difficult to move.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat a light meal to prepare you for the intensity of the workout.
  • Do not use hand lotion as it will make it harder for you to maintain your grip.
  • Remove jewellery, watches and anything else that can get tangled.
  • Always adjust grips as per need.
  • Try to concentrate on your breathing as well.

Prop Checklist

  • Brick/ cork blocks
  • Straps
  • Sculpt
  • Wood sticks / Danda
  • Exercise Bars
  • Basketball
  • Chairs
  • Blindfold clothes- Insight yoga
  • Exercise/yoga balls
  • Yoga wheels
  • Silk yoga/ Aerial yoga clothes
  • Rounded pillows

This story appeared in the December 2017 issue of Smartlife Magazine here:

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