Everyone talks about growing bigger glutes or rock-solid abs, but what about those shoulders?
Having a strong back and shoulders is important for everyone, but there’s more to it than just being able to lift heavy in the gym. It also keeps your posture looking (and feeling!) good and can even minimise unhelpful upper-body rotation when you run, making you more efficient so you can log more miles.
Outside of fitness, shoulder and back strength is vital for daily activities, like cleaning up and carrying in the shopping. It also helps to open up your chest, giving your lungs more room to expand, which helps you to breathe easier throughout the day.
Here are six of our go-to exercises that will work the different parts of your back and shoulders and help you to really start seeing those gains.
Ready? Of course you are!
1. BENT-OVER ROWS
The bent-over barbell row can be performed with either dumbbells or a barbell. A barbell will allow you to add more weight, which in turn helps to build more muscle mass, but do what feels comfortable for you.
This movement is one of the best back exercises, as it targets a large range of back muscles, including your lats and spinal erectors.
Your form is key for the bent-over row, so make sure your spine is kept in a neutral position. Focus on keeping the shoulders retracted and imagine trying to touch your elbows together behind your back at the top of each rep.
HOW TO (DUMBBELLS):
Start by standing with your feet under your hips and holding the dumbbells at your sides. Keeping knees slightly bent, hinge at your hips, so your torso is close to parallel to the floor and extend your arms straight in front of your legs, with your palms facing each other.
From here, engage your core and row the dumbbells up towards your sides until your upper arms are at least parallel to your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Then, slowly reverse the motion to return to start.
Perform 10 to 15 reps.
2. DUMBBELL FRONT RAISES
Frontal raises work the anterior (front) deltoids, more commonly known as the delts. When working your back and shoulders, it’s important to make sure each exercise is targeting different areas to promote muscular balance.
Start by standing straight with your feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell in either hand in front of your thighs with your palms facing your body. Brace your core and without locking your arms, raise your arms in front of you to shoulder height. Hold for a few seconds and slowly return to the starting position.
If you find you’re rocking side to side or backwards and forwards, you either need to engage your core to enhance stability or reduce the weight to ensure your shoulders are reaping the full rewards.
Complete 10 to 12 reps.
3. SEATED CABLE ROWS
The seated cable row works the muscles of the back, shoulders and forearms, including the lats, rhomboids (between the shoulder blades), traps and biceps. It’s an excellent all-round compound exercise for developing the middle back - and even doubles up as a useful arm workout too!
Before you start, if necessary, adjust the seat. Once sat, position yourself with your knees slightly bent, so you have to reach to grab the cable attachment with outstretched arms and without curling your lower back.
Brace your core and pull the handle and weight back toward the lower abdomen while trying not to use the momentum of the row too much. Target the middle to upper back by keeping your back straight and squeezing your shoulder blades together as you row, keeping your chest out. Next, return the handle forward under tension to full stretch, remembering to keep your back straight even though flexed at the hips.
Complete the exercise 10 times.
4. LAT PULL DOWNS
This exercise targets the lats, which is the muscle just under the armpits and spreading across and down your back. By isolating the back muscles with this exercise, you can focus specifically on them without tiring out your biceps or triceps.
Targeting your back muscles will help to improve posture while easing pulling movements, like opening a door, or even performing a pull-up. Having strong lats is even said to help relieve some forms of back pain.
Sit comfortably on the seat with your feet flat on the floor. You may need to adjust the bar height, so that your outstretched arms can comfortably grasp the bar without having to stand up entirely.
Grasp the bar with a wide, overhand grip. Pull the bar down until it’s approximately level with your chin, exhaling on the downward motion. Make sure to keep your upper torso stationary, your feet flat on the floor and engage your abs as you pull. The bottom of the motion should be where your elbows can’t move downward anymore without moving backward. Here, squeeze the shoulder blades together while maintaining square shoulders.
From the bottom position, slowly return the bar to the starting position while controlling its gradual ascent.
Perform eight to 12 reps.
When you think of back exercises, the deadlift is likely not to be the first that springs to mind. However, the deadlift is one of the best free weight back exercises there is. The movement requires engaging your back muscles, from your rhomboids to your erector spinae, in order to prevent any injury.
Not to mention, it’s also a great way to target your legs and glutes.
HOW TO (BARBELL):
Position your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes under the bar, pointing straight ahead. Your heels should remain flat on the floor and when you lift, the bar will travel close to the shins. For this movement, maintain a neutral spine position.
Brace your core, then squat down by bending at the knees. Grasp the bar just outside the line of your knees with an overhand or mixed grip. To lift the bar, push upwards with your legs from your knees, breathing out on exertion. Be careful not to raise your hips first, so that your back becomes rounded. Your arms should also stay extended under tension while gripping the bar as the legs push up.
The bar should almost graze the shins and rest around thigh level. Pull your shoulders back as much as possible without bending backward. Then, lower the bar to the floor with a reverse motion, ensuring you maintain a straight back.
Repeat for eight to 10 reps.
6. SEATED DUMBBELL SHOULDER PRESS
The overhead press is one of the most effective movements for establishing baseline strength and building a completely balanced physique.
Using dumbbells rather than a barbell will allow you to strengthen each side of the muscle equally.
This particular shoulder exercise targets the triceps, pecs (major and minor), traps and delts, which are most responsible for the size and shape of your shoulders. So, if you want shoulders that look as if they’ve been sculpted by the Gods, this is the exercise for you.
Set up an adjustable angle bench to 90 degrees and sit comfortably. Hold one dumbbell in each hand and rest them on your thighs. Then, using a controlled motion, hoist the dumbbells up so you’re holding them just above your shoulders with your palms facing away from you. Take a deep breath and press the dumbbells toward the ceiling until your elbows are almost locked, contracting the delts. The dumbbells should naturally drift toward each other, but not clash.
Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position until they’re just above your shoulders - the handles should almost line up with your ears.
As you do the overhead press, keep your shoulder blades ‘down and back’ and your feet flat on the floor. Also, keep your mid and upper back pressed into the backrest and avoid over-arching your lower back.
Perform eight to 10 reps.
Don’t forget to bookmark this blog, girls, and add some of these exercises to your back and shoulder workout to really work those muscles!
Looking for more fitness inspo? Take part in our New Year Fitness Challenge.
Your 5-Minute Mental Health Check Up
Hey there! How are you feeling?
That’s a question we don’t ask ourselves enough.
It’s quite normal for us to schedule an appointment with the dentist or doctor to check our oral and physical health, so why is it less common to check on our mental health?
So many factors are closely related to our mental health, which is why it’s important to address the small changes and approaches we can take to prioritise and care for our mental wellbeing.
That’s why, for Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve created a quick and easy five-minute mental health check you can do every day, anywhere.
WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?
Mental health is how you feel in your mind and your mood. Just like your physical health, it depends on many factors, including your genetics, your environment, your circumstances, what you do to maintain it, and underlying physical or mental health conditions you may suffer from, and how they are treated.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from Monday 15th May to Sunday 21st May, addresses anxiety. Anxiety is an emotion we all experience, but sometimes it can get out of control and cause issues for our mental health.
In a survey of 3,000 adults, 34% said they experienced anxiety.
HOW TO LOOK AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Here are just a few things you can ask yourself or do to ensure you’re doing what you can to protect your emotional wellness.
HAVE I DRANK ENOUGH WATER?
Keeping hydrated is key for both your physical and mental health. When you don’t drink enough water and start to become dehydrated, your body triggers warning signals that you’re in a ‘life-threatening’ situation and starts kicking up stress hormones, particularly cortisol. An increase in cortisol is connected to anxiety, depression and mood disorders.
Carry a bottle of water with you to keep your hydration levels topped up. If you’re someone who likes more structure, you can use alarms or trackers to remind you that drinking water is part of your self-care.
HAVE I EATEN THE RIGHT FOODS TO FUEL MY BODY?
Diet and lifestyle can have a profound effect on our mood and research reveals there’s a direct link between what we eat and how we feel.
There are plenty of foods and nutrients that can put a smile on your face and make you feel awesome. When we’re stressed, it’s tempting to reach for comfort foods like pizza and sugary snacks that give us a temporary ‘high’. However, these foods can soon leave you feeling exhausted, jittery or sluggish.
Food high in fibre, as well as fruit, veg, nuts and seeds are more beneficial to your mental health. Discover our very own nutritious mood-boosting recipes here.
DID I GET ENOUGH SLEEP?
Anyone who has struggled with sleep will know what a difference it makes to our bodies, minds and ability to function.
For many people, sleep is often the first thing that suffers when they’re struggling with their mental health. The CDC recommends adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep a day.
If you’re struggling with your sleep, there are a few simple changes you can make, including:
- Establish a bedtime routine;
- Avoid tech and caffeine before you go to sleep;
- Practice meditation/relaxation.
READ MORE: How To Fix Your Sleep Schedule
Humans are hardwired to need time in nature, as we evolved to prefer environments where we had fresh water, sunlight, and nature because those provided us with the resources we needed to survive. But, nowadays, nature doesn’t just allow us to survive, it helps us to thrive.
Spending even small bursts of time outdoors can greatly benefit your mental wellbeing. A 2019 study found that spending just 20 minutes outside significantly lowered stress hormone levels.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Okay, so this one is our thing for sure. Keeping active has so many benefits, mentally and physically - from lifting weights to flowing yoga.
Regular movement throughout the day can boost your mood, reduce stress and refocus your mind.
Partner some fresh air with your movement to elevate the benefits - and kill two birds with one stone.
Explore our guided workouts and fitness tips here.
REACH OUT TO FRIENDS
Human connections actually boost feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain. The key is not how many friends you have, but to surround yourself with those whom you can be your most authentic self.
Be honest with yourself about how much time you need to spend with your friends to feel fulfilled, refreshed and empowered, and then make it happen - even if it’s just a catch-up dinner once a month, it makes a difference.
Meeting new people can be equally beneficial to your mental wellbeing, as studies have shown that connecting with strangers can help us feel happier and more connected with our communities.
WHAT AM I DOING TODAY THAT I CAN LOOK FORWARD TO?
Planning things to look forward to or that you enjoy doing can help us cope with difficult situations by increasing our sense of hope.
Whether it’s something as small as binge-watching your favourite TV series or something more extravagant like a weekend away with friends, factoring in time to do what you love will help you adopt a more positive outlook each day.
A huge part of prioritising your mental wellbeing is learning to understand and manage your feelings.
When we’re upset, we don’t always know why we’re feeling that way. It often helps to acknowledge our feelings without any judgement or telling ourselves we’re ‘weak’ for feeling the way we do.
We all have good days and bad days, and that’s okay. However, by asking ourselves the questions in this article and adopting these simple habits, we can work toward feeling like our best selves once again. Remember, rest is a basic human need.
Inside The New AYBL HQ
A world-class team deserves a world-class home - and after months of hard work, dedication and long days, the time has finally come.
Introducing the new AYBL HQ.
Measuring an impressive 56,000 sq feet, our global home is a place like no other. Featuring modern design throughout and a wealth of creative working spaces, our office is a place where people come to innovate and be their best.
Want to discover more? Join us as we step foot inside our creative hub.
Building on our high standards, our office is a hub of creativity and collaboration. From top to bottom, the stylistic space is kitted out with all the necessary tools and resources to optimise productivity and inspire our talented teams to push boundaries.
Its ultra modern design allows for plenty of natural light, open spaces and greenery to accommodate different work styles and preferences.
As a community-first brand, we wanted to create an environment that would not only enhance creativity and productivity, but a better sense of community and belonging for our people.
1. THOUGHTFUL DESIGN
Designed to maximise natural light, flow and functionality, our new home offers a modern and sleek look that reflects our brand and values.
2. COMFORT THROUGH & THROUGH
On every level, the office is equipped with comfortable furniture, ergonomic workstations and state-of-the-art equipment. There are also spaces for relaxation, where you can unwind, recharge and take time for you.
4. CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY
When you’re the UK’s fastest-growing company, you need technology that can keep up and deliver. From video conferencing tools and virtual whiteboards to our very own photo studio equipped with high-class cameras, our new HQ is home to the latest technology to support collaboration, communication and productivity.
This place truly has everything. That goes for hot water taps on every floor, too. Brew anyone?
Influential, inspirational and innovative. We had to make sure our team had the space to thrive and build the best ideas.
Designed to accommodate different working styles, our office offers a range of spaces for focused work, collaborative work and socialising, as well as options for remote work and flexible schedules.
AYBL is on an ever-evolving journey to ensure the brand promotes and supports sustainability wherever possible.
With that in mind, we have incorporated a range of eco-friendly features into our office design, including energy-efficient lighting and appliances and recycling programmes.
We understand that there is still plenty of work to be done, but right now, it’s about progress not perfection.
We’re incredibly proud to be working in such an amazing office space that not only supports us to be the best in our field, but supports our health, happiness and the environment. Here, we can work together to pave the way for the boldest and bravest ideas whilst feeling like we’re part of something special.
This is truly where the magic will happen.
How To Start Running
The hardest part of running? Getting out the door.
Running is a great way to get fit and feel better, but sometimes, a lack of motivation - or even know-how - can catch you short.
Starting a new running habit needn’t be difficult - all you need is a good pair of running shoes and the willingness to move a little or a lot, all at your own pace.
To help put you one stride ahead, we’ve pulled together the very best running tips for beginners, so you can get off to a safe start and enjoy hitting the tarmac (or treadmill).
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM OUR BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RUNNING
THE BENEFITS OF RUNNING
If enjoyment alone isn’t enough to get you increasing your stride, perhaps the proven health benefits of running will?
Running is one of the most effective ways to increase daily activity, cardiovascular fitness and mental health. It also is widely accessible, as you don’t need any fancy equipment, it’s relatively inexpensive and you can do it just about anywhere.
Here are some of the other key health benefits of running:
- Promotes muscle development;
- Can help aid weight loss;
- Helps to relieve stress levels;
- Boosts the release of endorphins, sometimes called a ‘runner’s high’;
- Increases bone strength and joint health;
- Promotes better sleep;
- Increases lung capacity, metabolism and energy levels;
- Reduces cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.
Whether you’re new to running or getting back to it after a long break, it’s really important to ease yourself in and gradually build up to avoid injury. Here are some top tips to get your started on the right foot.
Now, we’re not saying you need to go out and buy a wardrobe full of expensive new running kit, but what we are saying is that staying equipped for the environment and surface you’ll be running on is non-negotiable.
Start by investing in a suitable pair of running shoes that fit comfortably and offer extra support, cushioning and grip for your runs.
When it comes to the clothing, well, that’s where we step in. Fusing form and functionality, our Pace Collection is designed for practicality - with soft, lightweight and breathable details - so you can run with ease and without distraction.
Take measured steps to keep your body safe and free from injury. Warming-up is an essential part of any workout, especially running. We recommend walking or doing an easy jog for five to 10 minutes before increasing your intensity. You may also benefit from warm-up exercises, such as dynamic stretches.
Be mindful of other safety advice, such as running against the flow of traffic and carrying your mobile with you at all times.
Nothing can get you lost in the moment quite like blasting your beats as you pound the pavement.
We all have our own taste in music, which makes it all the more important to pick a playlist that’ll motivate you to power through, even when times get tough, with the wind against you and the heavens pouring.
If you need a little inspo, we’ve got plenty of tracks to keep you moving. Check out our Spotify here.
OUR TOP SIX RUNNING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Now that we’ve established the basics, you’re probably wondering exactly how to start running?
If you’re totally new to running, chances are your motivation levels are pretty high. That being said, it’s as important as ever to pace yourself. This includes your running speed, intensity and training frequency.
Don’t be afraid to start off with a few fast paced walks each week to build up confidence, condition your muscles and create a positive habit you can stick to. Pacing yourself will allow you to continue progressing and reduce your risk of injury.
The likelihood of strains, repetitive stress and foot pain tends to be greater during your first few weeks of running as a beginner, or if you’re returning to running after a long break.
The Run-Walk Method is a great way for new runners to get started, helping to build endurance with less joint stress and is a manageable intensity level.
The method combines running with intervals of walking. Start by alternating one minute intervals of running with one minute of walking, and then gradually try to increase the time spent running. As you become more comfortable, reduce the time spent walking.
Check out our beginner’s running plan further down this page.
Never underestimate the power of rest.
It’s completely natural for your muscles to feel a little sorer than usual, but if you’re experiencing genuine pain or discomfort, it’s crucial you allow it time to rest and recover.
If you’re suffering from sore muscles, more likely than not, it’s DOMS - AKA delayed onset muscle soreness. This is the aching or stiffness you experience as a result of intense training, however, this should subside within 48 hours.
Avoiding exercise altogether can actually prolong DOMS, so consider lower intensity exercise, such as walking, mobility and slow jogging to increase blood flow and relieve your muscle fatigue.
Chances are, you already knew this, but if not, you’ll soon learn that eating well and staying hydrated can significantly influence your runs.
You lose water through sweat, whether cold or hot, so you need to drink before, during, and after your runs. You ideally want to drink 120 ml to 180 ml of water every 20 minutes, but pay attention to your thirst level and drink when you feel thirsty. During longer workouts (90 minutes or more), some of your fluid intake should include a sports drink to replace sodium and other minerals (electrolytes).
In terms of nutrition, it’s best to eat something light and high in carbohydrates but low in fat, protein and fibre. Aim to finish eating 90 to 120 minutes before you start running.
If you’re running for longer than 90 minutes, you’ll need to replace some of the energy you’re burning. A general rule of thumb is to consume 100 calories after an hour and another 100 calories every 45 minutes.
It’s easy to neglect other aspects of your fitness and strength when starting your running journey. Balancing your running sessions with other forms of resistance training and exercise will help to build muscular resilience, reducing your risk of injury and boosting performance.
Repeatedly hitting the road without building strength in the gym can not only lead to injury, but a performance plateau too. Be sure to balance out your training with strength-based exercises to work on muscular endurance, speed, power and potential imbalances - all of which will help with your running in the long run.
Running is a natural movement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve aspects of your running form to improve your experience and efficiency.
First things first, keep your posture upright. Keep your head lifted, your back long and tall and shoulders level but relaxed. Maintain a neutral pelvis and ensure you’re not leaning forward or back at your waist.
Likewise, it’s important to monitor your footstrike - this is the way your foot hits the pavement. You might land on your heel, in the middle of your foot, or on your toes or forefoot. It’s recommended that you should try to land in the middle of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes. However, if you’re naturally a toe runner (land on your toes) or heel striker, it may be best not to change your stride.
RUNNING PLAN FOR BEGINNERS
Without a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve, and the steps you need to take to get there, you’re making the challenge much tougher than it needs to be.
That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate running plan for beginners.