Archive for September, 2011

Seven DIY fitness tests

The plank
To assess core stability

You’ve probably heard of core stability (the strength and function of the deep stabilising muscles of the trunk) – but do you have any? “The Plank is a position you will find difficult to hold if your core stability is poor, because you need to activate these muscles to keep the spine supported and the body in a straight line,” says physiotherapist Sarah Connors.

How to do it Lie on your front with your forearms on the floor, elbows directly under shoulders, fists clasped. Tighten your core muscles, then press down through your forearms and lift your body on to the toes. Your head, neck, back and legs should form a straight line (like a plank of wood). Look at the floor. Time how long you can hold the position, maintaining good form.

What it means Below 30 seconds – needs work; 30-60 seconds – average; 60+ – good (“The longer the better,” says Connors).


Wet footprint
To assess foot-strike pattern

You often hear how important it is to have the right trainers to suit your foot type and gait pattern – but how do you know what that is? You can get a basic picture with this test, as the shape of your footprint indicates whether you have particularly high or low arches, associated with different foot-strike patterns.

How to do it You’ll need a sheet of cardboard, or a slab of concrete or slate to walk across. Dunk your feet in water, then walk across the surface. Compare the foot’s silhouette to the descriptions below.

What it means Toe prints plus heel but little in between – high arches, associated with excessive supination, or underpronation (feet roll outwards as you run); entire foot – low or flat arches, associated with overpronation (feet roll in); toes, forefoot plus heel, joined by a broad band – normal or “neutral” foot-strike.

To assess upper-body strength

A full push-up entails lifting roughly two-thirds of your body weight. Technically, the test measures muscular endurance rather than pure strength.

How to do it Assume a push-up position – hands wider than shoulder-distance, body in a straight line, head in line with spine. Lower the chest by bending the elbows, then straighten and repeat as often as you can in a minute. If you can’t do a full push-up, do the test on your knees.

What it means Men: 30+ – excellent; 25-29 – good; 20-24 – not bad; 19 or below – needs work. Women: 25+ – excellent; 20-24 – good; 15-19 – not bad; 14 or below – needs work.

To assess balance

Lack of balance plays a significant role in contributing to falls in later life – and balance deteriorates with age unless challenged.

How to do it Fix a sheet of A4 paper to the floor and balance on it with one bare foot. If you can stand for 60 seconds, try closing your eyes. Still not wobbling? Try hopping on the spot 10 times. Repeat with other foot.

What it means “If you have trouble completing this exercise, or you continually miss the paper, your balance and ‘motor control’ are not as good as they could be,” says physical therapist Peggy Brill. This test doubles as a balance-enhancer.

To assess cardiovascular capacity

Kenneth Cooper – the man credited with inventing aerobics – developed his test in 1968, but it is still used as a measure of cardiovascular fitness. It involves running or walking for 12 minutes, maintaining a steady pace.

How to do it Use a flat, measurable route or a treadmill. After a five-minute warm-up, set a stopwatch and run or walk as fast as you can. Record the distance and compare it to the values below.

What it means 1.46 miles or above – excellent; 1.33-1.45 miles – good; 1.32-1.26 miles – fair; 1.25 or below – poor.

Vertical jump
To assess explosive power (the ability to exert a force quickly)

How to do it Stand facing a clear wall space. Keeping feet flat, raise your arm and mark the highest spot where your fingertips touch the wall. Leap up, arms overhead, and touch the highest point you can. Subtract your standing height from your jumping height in cm.

What it means Men: 61-70cm – very good; 51-60cm – good; 41-50cm – average; 40cm or less – below average. Women: 51-60cm – very good; 41-50cm – good; 31-40cm – average; 30cm or less – below average.

Wall list
To assess leg strength/endurance

This test – in which you sit on an invisible chair against a wall until your thighs feel as if they are about to combust – gives a good idea of lower body strength.

How to do it Lean your back against the wall and shuffle your feet forward. Slide down until your knees and hips are at a right angle and start your stopwatch.

What it means Men: 76 seconds or more – very good; 58-75 seconds – average; 57-30 – below average; 29 or below – poor. Women: 46 seconds or more – very good; 36-45 seconds – average; 35-20 seconds – below average; 19 or below – poor.

These tests are suitable only for those in good health. If in doubt, see a doctor.

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While it might start out like any other computer animated cartoon, Chump and Clump quickly descends into a drug and booze induced haze. Come for the animation, stay for the trip.

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Ducati… and AMG? Yup. This unholy marriage of the performance-obsessed has resulted in this: the Ducati Diavel AMG Special Edition ($TBA). As you might expect, it scores high marks in both the aesthetic and speed departments, offering up signature AMG five-spoke wheels, carbon fiber radiator grills with aluminum trim, an AMG-style sport exhaust system, an AMG-style horizontally-ribbed seat in Alcantara, hand-set cam timing with the name of the technician engraved on the engine casing, a numbered plaque on the fuel tank, a Testastretta 11° engine, and spectacular matte black carbon fiber bodywork.

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Sometimes concept cars are simply production model previews. The Ford Evos Concept ($TBA) is not one of them. This four-door, four-seat fastback operates on a lithium-ion plug-in hybrid powertrain, and apart from the strikingly sexy body and gullwing-style front and rear doors makes technology the focus, with features like a heart-rate monitoring seat, allergy-free interior, and the ability to communicate with the cloud and other wireless devices such as your cell phone, letting it perform crazy-future tasks like automatically playing the same music that you were just streaming at your house, heat or cool the interior to an ideal temperature before you get in the car by predicting when you’re going to leave based on your calendar, automatically close the garage door and turn off lights as you pull out of the driveway, and tons of other Jetsons-ish tasks that are bound to make us even lazier.

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ExpressBox 3T

Laptops aren’t exactly renowned for their expandability, especially those beautiful slivers of aluminum from Apple. (Simply upgrading the RAM on your Air requires you break out the soldering iron.) Magma has a solution, the ExpressBox 3T. This silver case houses its own 220w power supply and a trio of PCIe 2.0 slots. Two of those slots are of the x8 variety (though one can hold an x16 card) while the third is scaled back to x4. And they all talk to your notebook via that wonderful little port known as Thunderbolt. It even comes with a carrying case which, we suppose, makes this hunk of metal “portable,” but we certainly wouldn’t want to lug it around very often. Sadly there’s no info just yet about price or release date, but we do have a gallery of images below and the complete PR after the break.

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There’s a fresh new twist in the never ending Apple / HTC patent battle. The Taiwanese handset manufacturer is hitting back against Cupertino using newly obtained firepower: nine patents picked up from Google last week. The patents, which began life under Palm, Motorola and Openwave Systems, were transferred to HTC on September 1st. So much for the whole sitting down and not suing thing.

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