How to do the Perfect Plank!

April Plank Challenge!

Take part in our challenge by performing a 60 second plank every day from April 1- April 30 for a chance to win a Jawbone UP 24 Fitness Tracker!  Just perform any kind of plank for 1 minute every day. Record it daily on our website.  Everyone who completes a minimum of 25 out of 30 days of planking will be entered into the drawing. You’ll improve your core strength and just maybe win a cool prize for doing it!

Fitness Tip of the Month – Tips and Variations for Planks!

The Plank- What it is!!

The plank is a balance and core conditioning exercise. There are two major types of planks, the full plank, where you balance on both arms and both feet, and the side plank, where you balance on one arm and the side of one foot.  A less advanced plank can also be done from the knees or with straight arms(push up position).  Many other variations of the plank are also possible.

How to Perform It!

Get into pushup position on the floor. 
Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet.  Do not allow your hips and lower back to sag towards the floor.  Keep your abdominal muscles as tight as possible to reduce the risk of overstressing your back muscles.  The side plank is the same as the full plank but you will be supporting yourself with one forearm and your ankles should be stacked on top of each other.

Side Plank


Static Full Plank


The static plank is a great way to increase your muscular endurance of your core muscles.  The muscles being used during a plank are many.  They include but are not limited to the calves, hip flexors, all your abdominal muscles, quadriceps, triceps, forearm muscles, chest muscles, shoulders muscles, back muscles and neck muscles.  It really does require most of the muscles within your body.  The better your total body functions the easier the plank will be.

Performing a static plank is great, but a dynamic plank is much more beneficial to increasing your overall strength and functionality.  Why is this?  Sport is about moving and controlling your body as stresses are placed upon it.  These stresses could be hitting a tennis ball, changing direction while running, jumping for an overhead, or lunging for a line drive.  These movements are usually being performed with 1 or zero points of contact to the ground.  The static plank is great for endurance but adding movement to your plank will challenge your system more true to movements.

Below are some movements that you can add to your plank to challenge your body to stabilize and control it against the forces of gravity.  These movements are not easy so be extremely careful when attempting them and be sure to keep your abdominals engaged and tightened throughout the movement.

Plank with a single arm reach overhead reach – either alternating or repeating the same side


Plank with a leg lift towards the ceiling

Plank and bringing your knee towards your chest

Plank with a rotational reach towards the ceiling

Plank with a leg lift to the side

Side Plank with leg lift

Side Plank with the arm reaching away from the body (punching motion)

Side Plank with the arm rotating towards the ceiling

Once you can perform a static plank for 1 minute without any lower back pain you can progress to the dynamic planks.  Always remember while exercising to be certain you can perform the basic movements before attempting the advanced movements.  Getting hurt while exercising is the last think you want to do!

Tips for Holding a Plank for 1 Minute or Longer

  1. If you are unable to hold a plank for 20 seconds start with a straight arm plank (Push up Positon).

Push up

  1. When you can successfully hold a straight arm plank for 1 minute increase it to 3 sets of 1 minute. (Rest for 1 minute in between sets)
  2. Now you are ready for a static plank for as long as you can. Hold it for a long as you can for 4-6 times right after each one with a 1 minute rest in between each plank.  In no time at all you will be up to 1 minute planks!
  3. Do a plank every day.
  4. Turn the stop watch over so you can’t see it.
  5. Read a magazine article or your tablet.
  6. Countdown backwards in your head really slowly.
  7. Listen to your favorite music. The average song lasts just under 4 minutes.

Comparing Calorie Counter Apps: My Fitness Pal and Lose it

One of the most important components of weight loss is knowing how much you are consuming.  Hundreds of diets promote all sorts of gimmicks for losing weight.  The bottom of line is this.  Take in fewer calories per week, burn a few more calories per week and you should lose weight.  Study after study says that tracking what you eat leads to more success over time.

Apps have been created for counting calories and just about everything else.  I will review two of the most popular calorie counters, my My Fitness Pal and Lose it.

Both Apps have very similar features which are great, including food tracking tools that have the ability to scan bar codes into the app and memorize them for future tracking.  Once you have entered the regular items you consume it will be very easy to count your calories daily.
Both free apps have the following features.

  1. Weight Tracking
  2. Bar Code Scanner
  3. Sync with Scales such as Fitbit Aria and Withings Scale
  4. Mobile Reminders Notifications
  5. Sync with most Activity Trackers and Fitness Apps such as Fit Bit, Jawbone, and Map MY Fitness
  6. Sync with Facebook and twitter.
  7. Set up groups to share your information and see how others are doing.

Lose It has a premium edition with many additional features.  My Fitness Pal has some additional customizable diet plans and suggestions which can be helpful.

Using either App will get you one step closer to losing weight.  Many studies prove that people who track what they eat are far more successful at losing and keeping weight off then people who don’t.


I am a fitness guy and not a tennis pro, but I would say seeing the ball is very high on the importance scale for being a good tennis player.  In all sports, keeping your head still and focused on the object you are trying to hit or catch is one of the many keys to being successful.

That being said, what exercises might help me to improve my head control during sports.  Our eyes lead us to where we are going in life but in sport we often are moving in one direction while our head is looking for something else. This skill is learned and not natural, but the best athletes do it with ease.  Having good thoracic spine mobility is the key to this.  The thoracic spine is the area between your lumbar spine L1-L5 vertebra and your cervical spine C1-C7 vertebrae.  Your thoracic vertebrae makes up the middle twelve bones of your vertebrae.  When your thoracic spine is tight, or limited in range of motion (ROM) I guarantee you that your neck will also have some unwanted tightness.  Improving your thoracic spine mobility will not only help you with neck rotation but it usually will also improve shoulder mobility.  Limitations in shoulder mobility usually lead to rotator cuff, elbow or wrist injuries over time.

I have listed 3 great exercises using cables, and medicine balls to stimulate and strengthen your thoracic mobility and stability.  Performing these exercises should improve your neck mobility, strengthen your upper abdominal and oblique muscles and enable you to focus your eyes on the ball better while preparing for your shots.

Standing Reverse Wood Chop with a Medicine Ball

Starting Position

Starting Position

Finiah Position

Finish Position

  1. Stand with feet wider than hip-width.
  2. Hold medicine ball by left hip with both hands.
  3. While looking straight ahead, contract the abdominals and turn torso slightly to the right. As you release the twist, lift the medicine ball across the body until your arms are extended over your left shoulder.
  4. Release and repeat left hip to right shoulder.
  5. Perform 10-15 repetitions and switch sides going from Right Hip to left shoulder.

Standing cable Rotation

Standing Cable Rotation with Head Stationary

  1. Stand perpendicular to a cable column in an athletic stance with your feet at about shoulder width, your hips back and your chest tall.
  2. Grab a cable rope at chest height with a double overhand grip and rotate your arms across your body then return to start for 8-10 reps.
  3. Make sure to prevent any motion in your hips and lower back. If it is too difficult to stabilize your hips then widen your stance a bit and/or lower the weight.
  4. Keep your head and neck facing forward and do not rotate it with your shoulders.

Half Kneeling Push-Pull

Half Kneeling Push Pull Anti-Rotation

  1. Attach 2 handles to a cable column or functional trainer and set the handles between chest and shoulder height.
  2. Grab both handles and set up with the rear arm loaded in your armpit and the front arm straight ahead. You may have to angle yourself a bit to be comfortable with the cables.
  3. Simultaneously push and pull while preventing any motion in your lower back. It is okay if there is a little rotation in your upper spine but limit it as best you can.
  4. Make sure you keep your stomach and glutes engaged to get better recruitment of core muscles.
  5. Do 10-12 repetitions then switch sides and legs.

Tips:  The purpose of this exercise is less about the pushing and pulling and more about preventing any unwanted motion in your core while you are pushing and pulling.  Focus on your core and use a very light weight. I would suggest 1 plate for the push part and 1 or 2 plates for the pull part.  I guarantee you will feel a great core burn if you perform this correctly.  This exercise can also be performed with stretch bands instead of cables.

If you have any questions about these exercises feel free to contact me, or one of our trainers and they can assist you.

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes!

Click on the links below to see the recipe’s for the following healthy Thanksgiving Recipes!

Tricolor Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

tricolored roasted parsnips and carrots

Roasted Cauliflower with Green Olives and Pine Nuts

roasted cauliflower green olives and pine nuts

Ginger Pumpkin Souffle

Celebrate Hipcooks

Sweet Potato-Pecan Casserole

Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole

How Important Is a Good Nights Sleep?

You probably have heard that not sleeping is bad for weight loss.  Have you ever wondered why?  Here are a few reasons behind the theory.

  1.  Calories burned while just living decree significantly when you are sleep deprived.  Your energy expenditure can go down by 5% per day during periods of sleep deprivation.  Your post meal energy expenditure can also go down by 20%.  Those are both two huge differences in the amount of calories you burn.  Have you ever heard the term speed up or slow down your metabolism?  The bottom line is this.  When you don’t sleep your metabolism slows down.
  2. When you sleep less you eat more.  Studies have shown that people on avg. increase calorie consumption by 350 calories on the day after you have slept poorly.  Night time snacking also increased when people had not slept well the night before and they craved high carbohydrate foods.
  3. Food cravings are increased when you don’t sleep well. Sleeping too little impacts your hormone levels in ways that can undermine the efforts of even the most determined dieter. That’s because insufficient sleep raises the levels of ghrelin, the hormone that tells you to eat. When it comes to weight gain and loss, this hormone plays a leading role.  Ghrelin’s job is to boost your appetite, increase fat production, and make your body grow-which are undesirable effects once you’ve passed your teenage years. Lack of sleep also lowers levels of leptin, the hormone that says, “I’m full; put the fork down.” Leptin’s levels run high during the night, which tells your body while you’re sleeping that you don’t need to eat. Its levels drop during the day, when you need food as energy. So high leptin levels keep hunger at bay. So after even one night of too little sleep, leptin and ghrelin become dietary gremlins bent on diet-wrecking mischief. The lower leptin levels mean that you still feel hungry after you eat. And ghrelin, for its part, magnifies the problem by stimulating your appetite, setting the stage for a day of unsatisfying, high-cal feasting after a restless night.
  4. Sleeping less makes you hold on to fat.  The hormone changes mentioned above directly affect fat burning.  One study showed that people who slept more burned 200% more fat than the sleep deprived group in a two week period.
  5. When we are awake we can eat more.  Period!!!!!!

Below are some tips for getting a better night’s sleep.

1.   Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine, and Other
Chemicals that Interfere with Sleep

2.   Turn Your Bedroom into a Sleep-Inducing environment

3.   Go to Sleep When you’re Truly Tired

4.   Don’t Be a Nighttime Clock-Watcher

5.   Keep Your Internal Clock Set with a Consistent Sleep Schedule

6.   Lighten Up on Evening Meals

7.   Balance Fluid Intake

8.   Exercises Early

9.   Get a wearable device such as a fit bit to track your sleep – seeing how many hours of sleep you actually get can be a great motivator to end your day a little earlier each night

For more details on getting better night’s sleep take and research on how sleeping less makes you gain weight take a look at the following articles.

Musclea Activation Techniques News Stories

Greg Roskopf is getting some national media since he started working with Carson Palmer to help him with his neck injury.  He was mentioned two weeks in a row during the Washington Redskins game about working with Palmer.  Check out the links below for more information.


3 Great Healthy Pear Recipes for the Fall

Below are three healthy and great tasting dishes featuring pears.  I especially love the Chopped Cucumber Pear and Fennel Salad.  The crunchy fennel and sweat pears go great together.

Chicken Paillards


Celery and Pear Bisquecelery_and_pear_bisque

Chopped Cucumber Pear and Fennel Salad



  1. In what year were yellow tennis balls first used at Wimbledon?


  1. How much was the prize money for winning the first round of mixed doubles at the 2014 U.S. Open?


  1. In 2014, Sabine Lisicki landed at the top of the list of the fastest recorded women’s tennis serve, ousting Venus Williams.  What was her serve speed?

131.0 mph (210.8 km/h)

  1. Who tops the men’s fastest recorded serve list, with a speed of 163.7 mph (263.4km/h)?

Samuel Groth

  1. In what year was each of the four grand slam tournaments first held?

The Championships, Wimbledon: 1877

US Open: 1881 (originally as US National Championship)

Roland Garros, French Open: 1891

Australian: 1905

  1. According to the International Tennis Federation, what is the regulated weight range for a Type I tennis ball?

56.0-59.4 grams  (1.975-2.095 ounces)

How to Improve Your Ankle Mobility/Flexibility!

The foot is your point of contact to the ground.  Some would say that all function starts with the feet.

I tend to agree.  Over the last 15 years I have been watching and directing people through exercise programs.  I take a global view when observing motion and one area of the body which people are most often deficient is the ankle joint.  The lack of mobility in the ankle joint can be the cause of many injuries in other parts of the body.

As tennis players you are constantly moving in all directions and countless stresses are being placed on many joints within your body.  Maintaining good foot and ankle strength are very important to your mobility, speed, and positioning for hitting good shots.

Perform the following exercises as a warm up before playing tennis.  For better results perform them every day and you will see your Range of Motion increase and your legs will get stronger.

Supine Ankle Rotations 

  1. 10 circles clockwise
  2. 10 counter clockwise 
  3. 10 point/flexes (point/flex =1 rep)

Supine Ankle RotationsSupine Ankle Dorsi Flexion and Plantar Flexion

1. Lie on your back with one leg extended and the other leg bent and pulled up toward your chest

2. Clasp your hands behind the bent knee

3. Keep the foot on the floor pointed straight up toward the ceiling and your thigh muscles tight

4. Circle the lifted foot one way for the indicated number or repetitions, then reverse direction for the same number of reps

• Make sure the knee stays absolutely still with movement coming from the ankle and not the knee

5. For the point/flexes, bring the toes back toward the shin to flex, then reverse the direction to point the foot forward for the indicated number of reps

6. Switch legs and repeat

Purpose: This exercise promotes proper function of the lower leg muscles and encourages stabilization of the hip joint on the same leg

Standing Leg Swings – Front to BackSagital plane leg swing

Stand next to the wall, one arm’s length from the wall. Swing the leg closest to the wall out in front of you to roughly hip height, and then swing it back as far as you can without arching your back. Slightly bend the knee of the leg that you are standing on.  Push the foot that is on the ground into the ground and move the lower leg forward and backwards during the leg swing.

Repeat 10 times on each side.

Leg Swings – Across the BodyFrontal Plane Leg Swing for increased Ankle mobility

Face the wall and put both hands on the wall. With your right foot a few inches off the ground, swing your right leg in front of your left leg as far across your body as you can. Then reverse and swing the leg out to the side. Try and keep your left heal on the ground but allow your left ankle and knee to rotate.

Repeat 10 times on each side.

Click here for some great stretches for maintaining and increasing ankle dorsi-flexion.