May 2011


Hello!  I hope you all had a terrific Memorial Day weekend.  Enjoyed family and friends and took a moment to think about why we have that day anyway.  Well enough pleasantries, down to business.  Every day I look at magazines and articles and read about “The best exercise for this” or “The best exercise for that”.  Truth of the matter is that in order to be the best exercise for anything, an exercise has to involve more than just that one thing.  So, by definition, any exercise that isolates one specific area, is probably not the best of anything.  It goes back to our discussion on functionality.  Ask yourself this; “During the course of my day, what do I EVER do that isolates one specific area of my body?”  The answer is never, right?  Everything that we do is a complex combination of different body parts and systems.  So therefore, a good exercise will target multiple muscle systems and multiple muscle areas.  So, then, the question is what DO you do in your day more than anything else.  I’d bet money the answer is sit and stand.  The most functional simplistic movement on planet Earth.  Well, all that movement is, really, is the squat.  And that is the best exercise ever.  Now you’ll hear “experts” argue that squats shouldn’t be done because they are bad for the knees, or bad for the back, or hurt the ear-lobes (not really, but the others are equally as ridiculout).  I would agree that they CAN hurt the knees, back, etc., but SHOULDN’T.  When done properly, the squat is the safest exercise in the world, even for someone with bad knees, bad back, bad ear-lobes, whatever.  The key, however, is just that.  That they must be done properly.  Now, I’m not going to spend your time trying to explain the proper mechanics of a squat without visual demonstration here.  I am going to argue the merits of it, and I will attach links at the end so that you may hear AND see how it all works.  Now when I talk about a squat, I’m not even talking about having barbells loaded on your back or dumbbells with you or anything.  You can get the same benefit out of simple body weight (BW).  Plus, when I teach squats to even the most experienced of my clientele, this is where we begin.  The weights that we add are completely secondary.  We have to have the movement right, first, but again, I digress.  So why the squat, you ask.  Well, according to my very expert analysis (HaHa), in order to be the best, an exercise must activate and utilize multiple muscle groups.  The squat qualifies with honors.  Not only does it work all the muscles around the hips (glutes, Hamstrings, Adductors on the inner and rotators on the outer), but also the major knee extensors (Quads), as well.  Add in to this the fact that the squat (especially when you do get to the point of added weight) is a fabulous postural and core strength builder.  And when I say core strength, I’m talking about the deep muscles all the way down to the bottom that do NOT, I repeat NOT get worked with hundreds of silly crunches.  These are the muscles that help you alleviate lower back pain and these are the muscles that give the flat tummy (in addition to the diet).  This, in and of itself, will make you noticibly more stable and balanced in your everyday life.  Now, in order to do this, the squat will require many coordinated firings from the neural system, again helping with spatial awareness and stability.  Add the added hormonal response to increase muscular strength AND tone and you’ve got a winner.  Plus, as stated earlier, our main goal with exercise is to make every day life better.  And what more do you do every day than sit and stand?  So with that in mind, how is the squat NOT one of, if not THE, best exercise ever?

 

PS – OK, so as promised, here are some links that will help you practice and hopefully perfect your squat technique.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kawBY5p29fQ

http://media.crossfit.com/cf-video/CrossFitJournal_Rippetoe_TheSquatAndHamstring_Pre.wmv

 

Today’s post is a fan request (not that I have many fans, but we’re working on it, right?).  We’re going to talk about one of the most hotly debated topics in the fitness industry…dietary supplementation.  And the basic question that we want to answer is what works and what doesn’t and what should you take and when.  The simplest answer to the question is that you should take as little stuff as possible ever.  But I can’t work without my pre-workout, or I have to have my protein shake after my workout or my vitamin or whatever.  Says who?  The problem with most of the supplements is the same as with things like trans-fats and high fructose corn syrup.  These are things that don’t occur in nature.  Therefore, guess what your body’s tolerance and ability to work with these things is….minimal, correct.  The problem in society lies in the paradox.  “I take supplements because I don’t get enough nutrients in my diet.  But since I rely on supplements for nutrition, my body becomes more deprived.”  And so on.  See, supplements are designed to have tons and tons of nutrient density.  Look at a label.  Almost everything in it is well in excess of your daily need.  This gives us a sense of accomplishment because we took in so much.  But as with any food, having nutrient quantity is only half of the equation.  If your body cannot access and use these nutrients, then they don’t do you any good, do they?  If your bank statement read that you had a $1 million balance, you’d feel pretty good about yourself, right (if you didn’t, we need to talk)?  But if you couldn’t access or use it, where are you at?  Poor.  This is what happens with nutritional supplements.  Your body is getting this plethora of nutrition, but it can only access a small fraction of it.  For example, take your average protein shake (brand doesn’t matter, contrary to belief).  Every scoop of whey protein contains about 25g (give or take) of pure protein.  Now, whey is a derivative of milk, which is an excellent source of protein.  But in it’s natural form is a little unstable and a liquid.  Guess how much processing it takes to make it powder?  All of which takes away from it’s “bio-availability”.  Of that 25 grams of protein in your shake, your body can access only about 5.  This is the equivalent of less than 1 ounce of chicken (7g) or less than one glass of actual milk (8g).  So after your workout, don’t scoop the protein, eat the food.  Your body will thank you.  And don’t get me started on the deluge of pre-workout supplements on the market.  All of them are basicall derivative forms of amphetamines (stimulants).  Picture taking the caffeine content of an entire pot of coffee and concentrating it into one serving.  Now do you understand why your heart is racing, hands are jittery and you can’t sleep?  Now this “science” is all besides the fact that most supplements just simply don’t work.  They don’t have to.  There are no laws on the books that regulate that.  They say that they have studies.  Guess who conducted the study?  Right.  If I want to prove that a vitamin supplement benefits people, my test group would be full of vitamin deficient people, too.  And if you don’t fit their “target market profile”, then “results may not be typical” or “your results may vary”.  Nutritional supplementation had a noble start.  Filling gaps in the diet for those who cannot or do not eat a properly balanced diet.  Or for those who have special situations in their lives, like pregnancy or nutritional disorders.  However, companies have taken that WAY over the edge in the recent decade and now you have to supplement everything.  This magazine says this and that magazine says that.  Turn the page and it’s an ad for said supplement.  Connect the dots.  The bottom line is that most people do NOT require supplementation in their diet.  Now this will have a lot to do with your own personal dietary choices.  If you eat garbage, your body will be garbage, no doubt about it.  But for most people who eat a balanced, mixed, varied diet, much of the supplements either go to waste in your body OR create toxicities that can be just as, if not more harmful in and of themselves.  Eat food, enjoy food, be healthy.  Have a safe Memorial Day weekend and I’ll see you next week!

So one of the biggest questions that any trainer gets from his/her client base is “How much cardio should I do?”  Now the answer that I am going to give is a little bit counter to common accepted knowledge.  I would argue that this is a case where definitely less is more.  For example, traditional thought process says that if you want to lose weight and burn fat that you have to do at least 30-45 minutes of low-intensity cardio 4-5 days per week?  Outside of the fact that that just becomes a HUGE time commitment (especially if you are doing other training), I would argue that I could get more benefit out of less time.  Now, let’s be straight.  If you are going to be shorter in your duration of workout, you are going to have to work harder, no doubt about it.  So, if you are averse to hard work, then by all means, stay the less effective course.  But look at it this way.  You could work (walk/jog) on a treadmill at 70% of your max (7 on a scale of 1-10) and burn “X” amount of calories.  But if you work harder for a shorter amount of time, couldn’t you burn the same amount of calories in a lesser time-span?  Of course you could.  Let’s take an example and bear this out. 

Routine #1 – 30 minutes slow and steady (60% max)

     Total calories – 146/Fat calories 73 (50%)

Routine #2 – 30 minutes intervals (alternate work/rest) at 85% max

     Total calories – 206/Fat calories 82 (40%)

Now, what we have always been told is that you should work at a lower rate in order to burn fat and not carbs, right?  And in traditional logic that would be true, wouldn’t it, since at the lower intensity we burned a higher RATE of fat (50% to 40%).  But isn’t the ability to lose weight the difference between calories intaken and calories burned ( a little over-simplified, I know, but we’ll go with it for now)? And where did we burn more calories?  In example #2.  Put this in there, as well, that even though fat calories were burned at a lower rate, where were more fat calories burned overall?  Example #2.  Now what makes more sense?  I’ll actually throw 2 more factors at you that make it even better (we’re just full of sunshine today, right?).  Factor #1 – Long, slow, distance training (cardio), by nature is catabolic.  That means that it breaks down body tissue.  Fat tissue, yes, but muscle as well.  I’ll ask you, when was the last time you saw a “buff” marathoner?  Interval training, however, since it is higher intensity is not catabolic in nature.  So, whereas you will burn fat tissue, you will not break down muscle, since you are working at a much higher rate for shorter bursts of time.  Therefore, you will both burn fat AND build lean muscle tissue.  Isn’t that the best of both worlds?  Factor #2 – Everyone knows that one of the many benefits of exercise is that it keeps your metabolism elevated for a time after your workout is over.  So you’re getting benefit not only from the workout itself, but after, as well.  Well recent studies show that anaerobic interval training can keep the metabolism elevated up to 4-5 times as long as typical aerobic exercise.  Some studies say in excess of 8-9 hours.  Picture working out at breakfast and still reaping the benefits at dinner time.  Now how cool is that?  Something that you SURE do NOT get from traditional cardio.  Now, am I saying that cardio is the devil?  No, I’m not.  It has it’s place.  Just mainly as a recovery mechanism.  You’re body can’t work that super hard more than 2 or 3 days in a row.  All I’m saying is that instead of your standard 45 minutes on the elliptical, shorten….Do 20 minutes alternating between a minute all out sprint and a minute of super easy rest.  Do quarter mile (.25 treadmill) repeaters.  The bottom line is that the harder your body works, the more benefits are reaped.  So why cheat yourself?  Get the best out of everything that you do.  Be good!

So what is it that most people want, but are unable to achieve?  Besides total clairvoyance and the occasional winning lottery number, I mean.  Weight loss.  How many times have you spoken to someone or BEEN someone who has said that they want to lose weight?  Well if so many people want it, why can so few achieve it?  The problem is that most people end up fighting themselves and sabotaging their efforts from the very beginning.  It is the common process that is flawed, and therefore most are doomed to fail before they cut calorie 1.  Here is the problem with traditional thinking.  Traditional thinking says that if I want to lose fat, then I have to cut fat from my diet.  Makes sense, right?  And diet product that you see is some variation of low-fat, no-fat, reduced fat, skim, etc.  The problem is that your body relies on fat.  And when we cut fat out of our diet, it has to be replaced with something.  Let me give you an example.  Take 2 legitimate breakfasts:

  1. Egg Burrito – 1 egg, ¼ onion, 2 Tbsp salsa, ¼ cup black beans and about ¼ cup of shredded cheese mixed in.  Put it in a tortilla and eat it.  Combine that with a 12 oz glass of 2% Chocolate milk to help it all go down.
    1. Nutritional info – 579 total calories
    2. 48% Carb/32% Fat/ 20% Protein
  2. 1 Toasted Bagel with non-fat cream cheese and a 16 oz Latte (that’s Grande for you starbuck’s people). Middle size.  Seems like your winner, right?
    1. Nutritional info – 510 total calories (so far, so good)
    2. 65% Carb/14% Fat/21% Protein

 

So what’s the difference?  Common thought would say that the second option is better.  Less total calories and less fat.  Wrong answer and here’s why.  Look at your nutrient ratios.  65% carbohydrate in #2 and only 48% in #1.  What that means is that that bagel and latte are going so spike your blood sugar and subsequently your insulin levels.  To the layman that means that your body has all this sugar to deal with and it’s got to do one of 2 things…burn it or store it.  No most people are not nearly active enough around breakfast to burn that much sugar, right?  We’re on our way to work and such.  So where is most of that going to go?  You got it, fat stores.  Now imagine if you ate that way all day long, as the ADA suggests?  They recommend that people get 55-65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates and we are more than happy to oblige.  Breads, pastas, snacks, etc.  The fact that most people are not NEARLY active enough to burn that off then leads to why we are still gaining weight in this country even though our overall fat intake in the last decade has gone down.  Fat isn’t the problem.  Fat is actually necessary for those trying to lose weight.  Now before you look at me cross-eyed and check my credentials hear me out.  Fat slows the digestive process.  It buffers the sugar, for lack of a better term.  Therefore, that sugar doesn’t get into your bloodstream as quickly.  Think of it more as a slow-release as opposed to a total dump.  Now, since your body is not seeing as much sugar at any one time, guess what happens?  Over the course of the day, more is used and less is stored.  Leading to…you guessed it, weight loss.  Add to that the fact that since fat slows the digestive process, you will not be as hungry as quickly.  In example #2, those 510 calories are going to go fast and you are going to be hungry again within an hour or so.  So you eat again, right?  Example #1 will help sustain and satisfy you longer so that you don’t want to eat again until lunch-ish.  Leading you to eat fewer total calories over the course of the whole day.  So as you can see, fat is not the enemy.  Over-indulgence in processed sugars and simple carbohydrates are.  So if you’re looking to lose weight (like most of the country is), don’t cut out the facilitator.  Embrace good fats in your diet.  And it won’t lead to heart disease, either, so don’t worry about it.  Plus, foods with fat in them are delicious.  What ISN’T made better by cheese, I ask you?  Have fun and eat up.

Hello again.  I hope everyone had a fruitful and productive weekend.  I think today’s post is for everyone.  I want to talk about the difference in the fitness world between a Certified Personal Trainer and a Qualified Personal Trainer.  The problem is that the industry standard has been so diluted by quantity, that the quality of training has suffered significantly.  A Certified Personal Trainer is anyone who has taken a test and holds a certificate from a recognized body.  Unfortunately, there are currently over 300 certifying agencies for trainers around the world.  The problem with almost all of them is that someone, anyone can just sign up online, read a book, take a test and presto they are a personal trainer.  Scary, right?  In any other field that deals with the human body, there is legislation to regulate and weed out this very thing.  Massage Therapy, Chiropractic, Cosmetology, etc.  But not yet with personal training.  Now, the industry is moving that way, which is good, but it’s not all the way there yet, so everyone has to be careful when researching and choosing a trainer.  Now a QUALIFIED Personal Trainer is a little bit different animal.  The qualified trainer will have gone through a nationally accredited program (such as NPTI, for example), and will have accrued hours of experience along with their education.  Our students here get 300 hours of actual classroom education.  They not only read about the human body, but understand it a lot more in-depth than most all trainers.  We just finished a unit in which we address the basic mechanical movement patterns of the human body.  Now, granted, it’s an introductory lesson, but even that is far more than most will address.  And that is the fundamental basis for adaptation…moving properly, right?  A qualified trainer will have a diversity in their program design capabilities.  So many trainers have all of their clients doing all the same stuff all the same time.  They have maybe 20 basic movements that they use and that’s it.  But not everyone is the same and does not deserve the same basic cookie-cutter workout, either.  We always tell our students that routine is the enemy of adaptation.  That means that the more different stuff your trainer can show you, the better you’re going to be.  A qualified trainer has the ability to work with so many different populations and a certified personal trainer just does not.  So I implore you…if you are looking at BEING a trainer, go to a good program and actually learn your stuff (NPTI would be a great foundation).  If you want to HIRE a trainer, do your research.  Get a good one and one that knows their stuff.  We are out there, but you have to filter through the trash to find the diamonds.  Do your homework.  Your body will thank you.

Welcome back!  I would like to start today’s post with a little disclaimer.  Today’s information is not original information.  This ground-breaking, life-altering information that  you will get today is not my brain child.  It is something that I picked up along my journey and think is absolutely and completely important to pass on to all of you.  What I am talking about is the proper exercise progressions and the concept of the hierarchy of exercise.  What happens all to often is that this “order” so to speak gets violated and people try to skip levels and jump from point A to point D without any regard for points B and C in between.  And what we find is that when we do this, things just don’t work properly and we end up more dysfunctional than when we started.  Here is an image of the basic hierarchy so that as we explain, you can follow along.

Basically what this Fitness Hierarchy shows us is that the ultimate way that people work out is flawed from the ground up.  The first reason that we need to exercise is for the basic purpose of health and wellness.  It is pretty well known fact that exercise (at least certain forms of exercise) are basically the fountain of youth.  Consistent physical activity can not only make you feel better, but can help stave off chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, osteoporosis, and the list goes on.  There are so many positive benefits of exercise, that it’s a little bit silly.  OK, so we’ve got that one down pat.  We understand how good exercise is.  The next part is the tricky part, because the second level of the pyramid is probably both the most important and the most neglected one.  And that is the premise of “Functionality”.  Now the term “Functional Training” has bee tossed around a lot in recent years in terms of workouts, but still, most people don’t get it.  The basic meaning of being functional means knowing how to and having the ability to properly move.  Not only through workouts, but through your day.  We’ll leave that second part out for now, because that’s another discussion for another day.  But what you’ll see is so many people in the gym skipping to the strength and conditioning level of fitness.  Trying to exercise and push their bodies and get all these good benefits that we spoke of earlier, without the ability to properly move.  People running for time on end on the treadmill without knowing how to properly run and wondering where the shin splints and fascitis come from or why their back hurts from the impact.  Others lifting weights in the gym and needing to create such compensatory movement patterns that their body has no idea what is going on.  The first thing that we have to overcome to get around this problem is the human ego.  Most get in the gym and do what they have been told for ages, without regard to the fact that it’s probably all wrong.  You need to learn how to move your body properly before you add load to it, right?  Right.  You can’t do a 200 pound squat, if you can’t properly squat your body weight.  So commonly we have to take a step or 2 backwards in order to eventually race forwards.  We need to breakdown all that is learned and wrong in order to build something good and right.  That takes a little time and a lot of discipline…something that our instant gratification society sorely lacks.  The main keys to functionality are the ability and MOBILITY to move properly.  Having the mobility in the hips to do a fully parallel squat.  Having the range in the shoulders to pull and press weight.  Exercise and movement are both SKILLS, and should be treated and taught as such.  Once someone can move properly, then and only then can they properly proceed to the strength and conditioning level, and ultimately sport performance.  And with that said, I really don’t feel the need to fully address those two levels on their own, because if you take care of the base two levels of the pyramid, the upper two will take care of themselves.  The main idea being, that if you have a strong foundation in health, exercise and movement, then the rest will improve by general rule.  However, if you skip the bottom two levels of this progression, then you are trying to build a fully competent structure on an extremely shaky foundation.  Doesn’t make sense, does it?  Pass it on.

PS – If you guys want to see a gym that deals with functional human movement at it’s core, go to www.smallgroupfit.com.  It’s a gym that has been opened up by a former grad and their entire premise is teaching you how to move in order to get you fit and strong.  Check it out.

Hello, and welcome back.  I’d like to spend some time today talking about the wheel.  And I know that you all are wondering what the hell I’m going to be going on about.  Have no fear, I will have a point (eventually).  Back in the day (a Tuesday, I believe), man had it rough.  They had all this stuff that they needed to move around, and they ended up having to drag it from place to place.  Now that can get real old real quick, as most of you probably know.  Then one day, some really smart cromagnon guy (maybe girl, I don’t know) figured out that if I have something round underneath all of this stuff it moves much easier.  Thusly, the wheel was invented.  Now, over the millenia, man has tried to improve on the wheel, as is human nature.  However, you really can’t improve the wheel, it’s the perfect invention.  Thank you for indulging me, as I finally get to my point.  Exercise is similar to the wheel.  Exercise, in some form, has been around since basically the dawn of mankind.  We lift, push, move and pull things every single day.  That is work and yes, that is exercise.  But in our infinite wisdom, we keep trying to improve on exercise.  Now we have machines that work this and machines that mimic that.  We are trying to re-invent the exercise wheel.  Unfortunately, the same things seem to be true.  You can’t improve on the basics.  We have these HUGE weight sleds (leg presses) that are designed to provide weight to the lower body.  Let me ask you, when was the last time that someone asked you to sit in a chair or lie on your back and push something with your legs?  Now let me ask you the last time you had to stand out of a chair or pick something (a toddler, perhaps) off the ground?  These are your basic squatting movements.  And if you d0 these things on a daily basis, you should do them in the gym.  “But my back…..but my knees….”  If the basics are done properly, there should be no pain whatsoever, but you have to do it right.  My point is, in our daily lives, we are never asked to sit at a machine and move a stack of weight in a predetermined movement pattern (that probably doesn’t fit our body anyway), but we are asked to move our body weight and awkward free weights virtually every day.  These are the movements that are going to make you more fit and functional.  It’s your squat and your press, not your leg extension and bicep curl.  The simpler your workout stays, the better off you are going to be in the long-run.  My client’s rarely will set butt on a machine for anything.  There are a few exceptions of course, but for the most part we are lifting body and free weights from the beginning of our time together.  Because in the long run, that is what is going to benefit them most.  And isn’t that the ultimate goal?  Learn to move, so you don’t get yourself hurt?

PS – If you like my blog, please help me spread the word.  Re-post and link up.  I appreciate it.

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