To tone my upper legs and backside, I do lunges, sometimes holding a light weight in each hand. I've been hearing that lunges can put a lot of pressure on the knees. How can I be sure that I'm doing them right and not hurting my knees?
When you don't have a trainer to guide you, you need to be careful with form and technique during weight-bearing exercises. To avoid stressing the knees while doing lunges, be sure your front knee is directly over your ankle; it should never go farther forward.
Here's the correct technique:
From a standing position, take a giant step forward (or backward). Your back heel should be off the ground, knee pointed toward the floor.
Keeping your core firm and your torso straight, lower your hips until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Again, do not let that front knee creep forward. This will keep the pressure on your glutes, thighs, quadriceps and hamstrings, and not on your joints.
I've been working on the Reformer machine with my Pilates instructor for about six months, and I've never felt better. Now that I have the form down, where can I find a Reformer for my home gym?
For those who aren't familiar with the Reformer, it is the central piece of equipment used in Pilates training. Shaped like a bedlike platform with a seat that runs on tracks, it really is a full-body exercise tool.
There are many different Reformer styles to choose from, and they range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on the model.
For a simple version, try large retailers online or any sporting goods Web site. You can find fancier models at www.pilates .com. The Reformer comes with an instructional video or guidebook, so you don't have to rely on an instructor to teach you how to use it (although it never hurts to have professional guidance).
I saw someone at my health club using a squishy, circular balance disk. It looked like a bloated pancake and was about the size of a Frisbee. What are these gizmos called, and where can I buy them?
Devotees use these balance discs for core strength training, joint stabilization and, of course, to improve balance.
The standard size is about 14 inches, just big enough for both feet, although you can also use them sitting down, lying down or kneeling. Try the disc alone or with resistance cables, bands or balls. You can track them down at most sporting goods stores for less than $25, and there are dozens of brands. Here are four popular choices, along with an approximate price for each:
Dyna Disc, $23.
Exervo Balance Disc, $15.
FitBall Balance Disc, $20.
VersaDisc Balance Disc, $20.
Do you have a fitness question? You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness@baltsun .com, or online at baltimoresun .com / healthscience, or in writing to The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.