Ever wonder why we dont waste time working “arms” during personal training sessions? We have no need. All you need is 1-2 sets of this arm blaster on your off-days for toning and arm development.
One question I am often asked on Monday morning is why certain bodyparts seem to tone up while others lag far behind in terms of overall development. While everyone is genetically “endowed” with certain bodyparts which develop naturally , the most common answer is that the target area contains at least 1-2 hypertonic muscles.
While this may sound like seltzer water on steroids, the term hypertonic refers to a condition in which muscles are rendered abnormally rigid and unable to move fluidly through the range of motion. Physical causes of hypertonic muscles can range from old injuries to emotional stress and lead to the formation of lesions or triggers point which alter the muscles range of motion.
Because the muscle is unable to contract and relax properly during exercise, it becomes tight and weak. Usually originating in smaller stabilizer muscles, this hypertonic effect spreads to effect the movement of entire areas of the body. One example of this are tight and weak calves which inhibit the development of the glutes, hamstrings and hips.
Often, clients with flabby lower bodies are the victims of this issue, meaning the first step to tightening up your thighs is to lengthen and stretch the calves. The key to this process is elimating trigger points and then stretching the muscle to restore normal range of motion.
Rather than adding extra volume to your workout, try dropping all direct hip/thigh work for two weeks and performing the following sequence of 10-15 minutes daily. Once this is accomplished, strengthening exercises can be resumed with great success.
- Perform with a tennis ball or foam roller
- Roll for 60-90 seconds and press down on any tight or painful spots
- If it hurts, this means you need it!
- Hold stretch for 60-60 seconds
- Bent knee to stretch lower calf
- Straight leg to stretch upper calf
When it comes to a flat stomach, one debate which has raged in the fitness world for some time is the necessity of situps/crunches in training the abs.
In one corner, we have advocates of crunches which cite EMG data—electrodes are attached to muscles
To detect activation levels—which report superior muscle activation when the spine is flexed in a motion generated by crunches or sit ups. The problem with this is the study was done on cadavers (or dead bodies)
On the other side of the argument, studies have shown flexing the spine is the action most commonly associated with disc herniation. Because most herniations are caused by cumulative trauma, several hours of flexing the spine hours on end—sitting forward at the computer, bending over, etc—would seem to render crunches (which also flex the spine) a bad idea for back health.
So do we attack the spine in search for ripped abs or cut out all crunches and hope for the best? While this question has led some trainers to cut out all crunches in their programming, I feel this is a very personal decision that must be made by the client.
With this in mind, my job as a trainer is to help you qualify whether or not your spine is suited for crunches. Some questions to consider are whether you spend the majority of your day flexed over a computer, do you often walk in high heels or experience lower back pain?
If yes to any of the above, it may be time to consider your crunches. But in order to truly know whether or not these aggravate your back, we commonly employ two tests:
Core stability: Frontal plank
- Can you hold this position with the hips are for 30 seconds
- Does your back arch or dip excessively at any point during the plank?
Lumbar flexion tolerance: Bend test:
- Does your back hurt when bending over?
If either test indicates trouble, the solutions are to build more stability and/or develop alternatives to flexion exercises. Tune in next week for suggestions on both topics.
In the midst of honking horns, subway stampedes and the very cold possibility of stepping in black ice, New Yorkers were faced with another worry last week when an outbreak of swine flu—a influenza like infection which usually affects pigs—appeared in 42 school children at a New York preparatory school. Already affecting several thousand in Mexico, researchers fear Swine Flu may threatens to become an infection of pandemic proportions– affecting thousands before the opportunity for vaccination.
A variant of the Spanish flu which killed 50 million people in the early part of the 20th century, Swine flu has already inflected over a thousand people in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. But despite the panic which may ensue from an unknown disease which threatens the population, Swine Flu is actually nothing new. On February 5, 1976, an army recruit at Fort Dix said he felt tired and weak. He died the next day and four of his fellow soldiers were later hospitalized. Two weeks after his death, health officials announced that swine flu was the cause of death and that this strain of flu appeared to be closely related to the strain involved in the 1918 flu pandemic. Alarmed public-health officials decided that action must be taken to head off another major pandemic, and they urged President Gerald Ford that every person in the U.S. be vaccinated for the disease.
The vaccination program was plagued by delays and public relations problems, but about 24% of the population had been vaccinated by the time the program was canceled. This time around, the crucial difference is the physical make up of the population. Because obesity rates have tripled amoung Americans during the past 30 years, the way our bodies deal with infection has been compromised in comparison to the period of the last out break. With this in mind, the question I have gotten quite frequently of late is what is the best kind of exercise to build up the immune system? Aside from weightloss, the best answer is simple aerobic exercise.
While I am a big advocate of interval (aneroebic) training for fatloss, this sort of exercise breaks the body down to build up a stronger version. When it comes to recovering from a cold, this is probably a bad thing. By contrast, walking 30-45 minutes per day has been shown to increase blood circulation, improve tissue recovery and improve cardiovascular capacity.
Even for those seeking fatloss, including a 30-45 minute walk in your weekly routine improves the body’s ability to recover from soreness and fatigue of an intensive routine. Some suggestions for this include:
- Walking after your strength training or interval session
- A brisk 20-25 minute walk several days per week
- A long 45-60 minute walk once or twice per week.
In today’s world of multi-tasking mayhem, concentration is something of a luxury. And when it comes to exercise, one of the reasons the fitness world has begun to despise aerobic exercise is that boredom sets in during long walks or jogs on the treadmill. Aside from the numerous studies which have shown that interval training is superior for fatloss, this form of exercise is simply more time efficient during the course of a busy week.
But take away our complicated lives and schedules and aerobic exercise may be more valuable than we realise. Keeping in mind, “fatloss” is only one of a number of benefits we enjoy from being active, here are few reasons to choose aerobics over intervals (at least once in a while):
1. Stimulant medications: After training numerous clients on stimulant medication, I have found that prolonged intervals (30+ seconds) actually can lead to abnormal breathing and fear of fainting. Because stimulant medications– such as adderall and ritalin– can cause an already elevated heart rate, the concept of maximally elevating heart to burn calories may, at a glance, be unncessary. The benefit of this heart racing affect is that simple steady state aerobic exercise (treadmill walk or run) is rendered far more effective at burning calories without increased exertion.
2. Prolonged soreness: While a little soreness may be an indication that a good workout hurts– so does unneccesary repetition. This means several days of high intensity jumping, sprinting or squat thrusts (god forbid) can leave your muscles screaming for relief. Because aerobic exercise improves blood flow and circulation to the muscles, a 25-30 minute walk or jog is the perfect compliment to stretching to reduce soreness.
3. Interval plateaus: One physical certainty is that our bodies adapt to even the most grueling forms of exercise (see burpees) . This means that while intervals may still cause you to work up a sweat, your body becomes better adapted with each workout. With this in mind, pace tempo running (treadmill, elliptical, outside)– or moving as quickly as you can– for around 1 mile improves your body’s work capacity in similar style to interval training through a different stimulus. Alternating several weeks of interval training with a week of pace-tempo running or a 12-15 minute pace tempo run once per week is a great way to shock the body in to fatloss submission.
When it comes to fatloss, we have all heard that a healthy breakfast is the fuel that kickstarts a healthy
metabolism, but the components of such a meal remained somewhat shrouded in mystery. While some advocate high
carb and calories confections for energy throughout the day, others are content with a boiled egg and OJ to
kickstart their day.
One comment I often get from new clients is that they simply have no appetite for breakfast, but they are ravenous
by mid-morning. This makes sense because only once your body kicks in to gear does it realise it’s requirements for fuel.
By that time however, you are usually out the door and on the way to work. With this in mind, re-training your hunger impulse
is a crucial step in long term fatloss and maintainence. The fact is that a large has been shown to dramatically increase
cognitive performance while quelling hunger throughout the day.
In terms of composition, I like to use the 2 to 1 ratio depending on your goal. When low carb dieting, including around twice as much protein as carbohydrates helps to quell hunger throughout the day while still providing energy for the day. For sports or on workout day, simply flip this number to get an energy boost which will last well in to the afternoon.
In either case, your breakfast should be at least 1/3rd larger than the size of dinner– meaning someone on a 1500 calorie diet would consume around 350 calories for dinner and 500 calories for breakfast.
Aside from size, the other issue many run in to with breakfast is what to eat in a hurry. With this in mind, here are a few goal specific selections:
Fatloss (Low carb):
- Cream Cheese Spinach Omelette
- Vegetable Frittata
- Low Carb Pumpkin Pancakes
- Low-Carb Breakfast Burritos
- Low-Carb Strawberry Smoothie
Performance/Muscle gain (Higher carb):
Hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue and lack of sleep are all signs that menopause may be just around the corner. And for most women, this inevitable discomfort means all sorts of changes to the homes and physique.
But rather than mull over the mundain details of a necessary evil, this blog entry is dedicated to the positive outcome of what menopause brings: fatloss! (or at least improved fatloss potential) One of the major hallmarks of menopause is a decline in the hormone Oestrogen, which research suggests may reduce a woman’s ability to burn fat.
Traditionally enabling women to store fat more efficiently than men, this hormone causes women to burn around half the bodyfat of their male counterparts outside of the gym. For example, previous research has found that after consuming a meal comprising of 20 grams of fat and 20 grams of carbohydrate, males will burn 10 grams of both the fat and carbohydrate, while women burn 5 grams of fat and 15 grams of carbohydrate, the remainder stored in the body.
With this in mind, lower levels of oestrogen mean the body no longer holds on to water or fat as readily, setting the stage for more efficient fat burning. Because oestrogen also stimulates bone growth however, many women often experience bone lose after menopause.
Taking these two factors in to account, the exercise prescription for a strong and lean physique after menopause include two crucial components:
1. 1. Heavy strength training- In the range of 5-8 reps to stimulate bone growth. Due to a drop in hormone levels, the possibility of “bulking up” is virtually non-existent.
2 . 2. Interval training- In the absence of excess fat storage, the ability to burn fat outside of the gym is markedly increased. This presents the possibility of dropping bodyfat and weight in a similar manner to males.
The bottom line is that while menopause remains an inevitable event, the physical benefits of it affects can outweigh with a few changes to your routine. For more information or ideas on strength training and/or intervals, check out our online video library at: http://www.youtube.com/thespotter123
In my line of work, one thing I get a lot of is frustration over diet. Based upon the principals of calories in versus calories out, a switch to fruits, veggies and protein only would seem to drastically reduce calories while easily dropping weight– on paper, that is.
Despite a rather long history of cutting out processed crap, it seems some individuals can eat greens and chicken until they are green in the face and not shed a pound.The reason behind this is that while calories all begin the same, the way your body reacts to food changes over time.
Much like exercise, adaption to the same food means that your body becomes more efficient at digesting each meal. While this may be good for the stomach, this does not bode well for the prospects of weightloss.
By contrast, the ideal scenario for weightloss is frequently changing your foods to increase the body’s thermic effect.
In short, this refer’s to the calories it costs your body to burn/digest food. The thermic effect of food can count up to 10% of daily metabolism and give you the edge on fat burning.
Interestingly, a client who has been stuck at the same weight for around a month– despite eating healthy– miraculously dropped four pounds during the week of his family’s visit.While this does not mean throwing in the towel on veggies/protein, try taking an off-day each week or an off-week every two weeks in which you completely change the foods you eat– while keeping the calories at similar levels.
On a daily basis, small changes to your routine will keep the body guessing to maximize this effect. If you have been stuck on a weightloss plateau for several weeks, try these steps to tip the scale in your favor.
After a Spring Break away from the preassures of work, Monday morning can be a particularily painful process. But for many clients returning to the gym, one area of the body which is refreshingly free on pain is the low back.
In as little as a week, the act of simply being on one’s feet can virtually cure acute pain in the low back and hips by breaking the cycle of repeated sitting and bending over. Because the ligaments and joints around the spine easily mold to the habits of our lifestyle, virtually all back pain is the result of the daily position of the spine.
In fact, studies have shown that around 20 minutes of cumulative spinal flexion (bending over), extension (bending backwards) or roation (twisting) can lead to damage and altered alignment of the spine. This means that actions such as frequently turn to stare at the television, leaning forward at the computer or wearing high heels all play on the position of your spine (and subsequent pain)
But one habit most back pain sufferers share in common is the tendancy to move from the lumbar spine rather than the hips. Because the lumbar spine is built for stability, this causes tremendous strain to this area. By contrast, using the hips to flex and extend the trunk and twisting from the thoracic (or middle spine) versus the lumbar spine acts to protect the back against pain.
The key to doing so is learning to move these areas without compensating with the lumbar spine. In both cases, this can be done on all fours with the following drills:
Hip extension: Quadraped hip extension:
The biggest key to ending back pain is learning to move the hip independent of the spine. The idea behind this drill is to learn to move the hip without extending or compensating with the spine. Placing a dowel rod on the back helps to measure whether the spine is moving. Perform three sets of 5 five second holds without bending or extending the spine.
Middle spine rotation: Seated rotation:
The idea with this drill is learning to diassociate middle and lower spine rotation. This is accomplished by twisting the upper trunk while keeping the hips level. Focus on rotating the upper back without moving or flexing the hips or low back. Repeat for two sets of thirty seconds on each side.
Ask 9 out of 10 trainers that best method for quick and efficient fatloss and their response is likely to be interval training. But what an interval? Basically any intense exercise or movement that cannot be sustained for more than an “interval” of seconds or minutes.
The logic behind this principal states that by spiking heart rate to maximum, this form of “aneroebic” (meaning beyond aerobic) exercise requires the heart to pass back through the aerobic zone and expend more calories over the course of the day for recovery.
But while this looks good on paper (and works very well), not all intervals are created equal. Because the body adapts to any form of exercise, you will eventually burn fewer calories with the same interval program. With this in mind, the key to avoiding fatloss plateaus is switching up the lengths of your intervals as you progress.
Lets take a look at a typical interval program over a three month period:
Interval length: 60 second continuous intervals
- Jumping Jacks
- Treadmill sprint
* Repeat this sequence back to back 1-3 times with a three minute rest period in between each.
Now, this is a fairly intensive routine which will do some serious damage to your fat and in order to progress you can add a set or lower your rest period with each successive week. After around four weeks however, it will be time to change the nature of the routine itself. Because the body adapts to exercise selection last, this can be done by simply changing rest periods during the set itself.
Interval length: 20 second on/10 seconds off
- Jumping Jacks
- Treadmill sprint
* Perform 3 bouts of prescribed length for each exercise and then move on to the next. Repeat this sequence 1-3 times with a three minute rest period in between each.
As you can see, the only variables which has changed here is including a short rest period between each interval. The beauty of this strategy is that it allows us to ramp up intensity while exposing the body to another type of interval. Progress can be achieved every week by adding an additional 20 second interval to each exercise.
Cycling this sequence over the period of 4-5 months, this simple sequence performed 3-4 times per week holds the potential to vastly improve body composition without adaption.
For further questions and our fatloss workout of the week, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org