Saturday, March 31, 2007

Just don't hold your breath. Breathing and Weight Training

This issue can be a source of confusion for many exercise enthusiasts. What's the right way to breath during your lifting routine? In or out on the lift? What about holding your breath? Deep or shallow? This information should be a breath of fresh air.

Breathing dysfunction is a very common cause to muscular and postural dysfunction. It often results from breathing due to high stress and anxiety. When the breathing pattern becomes more shallow, the secondary respiratory muscles are used more predominantly than the diaphragm. This upper-chest, shallow breathing pattern causes overuse of the neck and shoulder muscles. These muscles play major roles in posture. Their increased activity and excessive tension often result in headaches and dizziness. This alters the pain cycle by increasing pain receptors in the brain. The inadequate oxygen consumption and retention of metabolic waste within muscles can create fatigued stiff muscles. This can also decrease joint motion of the spine and rib cage. Needless to say, shallow upper-chest breathing can cause a whole mess of problems.

When it comes to breathing techniques in your exercises, just don't hold your breath. When you hold your breath in your routine, it causes your blood pressure to rise, which can be fatal. So if you forget everything about breathing in your lift, just remember to breath. Period.

The standard in weight training is to breath out on exertion. It activates the core and helps to produce more power. There are a few different exceptions to this rule, however. When moving weight toward the body upon exertion, it doesn't fit the body's natural movement patterns.

Here's a guide to help you sort it all out:
  • Lower body exertion: Breath out
  • Upper body push: Breath out
  • Upper body pull: Breath in
  • Functional training and light lifting: Breath naturally

Thursday, March 29, 2007

There's a fine line. The complexity of calories

One of the most challenging components of a nutrition plan is determining the appropriate caloric intake that compliments your fitness goal. As a society, we consume 260 more calories a day than we did 10 years ago. The over consumption that Americans engage in is causing the obesity epidemic that is not only effecting the health of adults, but children as well.

Because it gets drilled into our heads that we're eating too much, when an individual starts to change their nutritional habits, it's a knee jerk reaction to drastically cut calories. Now instead of consuming too much, they are consuming very little. This causes cravings that are difficult to control and an appetite that goes haywire. Eventually, this decrease causes metabolism to slow down and in turn creates a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting.

First, let's take a look at the science of the energy equation, the First Law of Thermodynamics. This basically states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred. It's also known as the Conservation of Energy. So what does this mean in the world of fitness? If you eat too much and move very little, calories (energy) are stored and weight increases. If you eat less and move more, calories (energy) are burned and weight loss occurs. It's basic math, simple addition and subtraction. However, our bodies are more complex than elementary mathematics. What happens if you eat little and workout often, but your weight doesn't change. Or worse, you gain weight. What is the science in that?

If this truly happens, there is either an under reporting of caloric consumption (caloric amnesia or nutrition denial) or the body is not getting the amount of energy it needs. It boils down to your Basal Metabolic Rate (aka: resting metabolic rate). Your BMR/RMR is approximately the amount of energy expended during rest or the amount of calories needed to sustain life. The release of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of the vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, brain and the rest of the nervous system, liver, kidneys, sex organs, muscles and skin.

What happens in this drastic decrease is that the daily caloric total is often less than an individuals BMR/RMR. The body does not get what it needs, lean body mass (muscle) is lost and metabolism slows down, meaning your body burns less calories at rest than it did before. Optimum performance does not occur at this level.

The car analogy is perfect for this situation:
Your planning on driving across the country. The first thing you think about is filling up the gas tank, but you get too busy and forget. You start your trip but end up getting stranded on the side of the road because the car ran out of gas.

Your body is that car, but much more amazing. Your cross country trip is your fitness goal and the gas is your calorie consumption. When you consume too few calories, your amazing body will not leave you stranded on the side of the road. No, your body will find an alternative source of fuel. Muscle and organ tissue. Your body becomes catabolic (breaking itself down) to keep you alive and going. The loss of lean body mass increases body fat. The metabolic processes slow down attempting to conserve energy.

Taken to the extreme, this is weight loss through anorexia. However, the majority of individuals who drastically cut calories are not anorexic, nor intend to be. They are walking the fine line. They are consuming enough to live, but not enough to function (metabolically) efficiently. More often than not, it's a difficult lifestyle to maintain and the individual gives in to binges, continuing the yo-yo cycle.

For optimum health and performance, one needs to think "balance". Don't be afraid to eat. Just don't over do it. Balanced nutrition complimented with a balanced workout routine will ensure overall fitness success and it won't compromise your health or wellness.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Stand tall! Form is everything

We've all seen it. The sloppy lifter. They're either the person who really is a novice and just hasn't learned about proper form, or they're the meat head trying to impress the other 'roid ragers with how much they can pick up (even if it pulls something out of socket).

The best ways to prevent improper form are to determine the appropriate intensity, tempo and posture for the specific exercise that fits the individual's goal.

In regard to posture, the best "trick" is to think of yourself as a stick figure, straight and angular. Your head is back above your shoulder, not forward, tilted or turned to look at yourself in the mirror. Your shoulders are back rather than protracted (rounded forward). Your abs and glutes are activated in every motion to stabilize your body. Your legs are in line with your hips (unless specified in specific exercises). Your knees are lose, not hyper-extended (locked out). Your feet are pointed straight ahead, not turned out.

During your reps, you want to continue this "angular" thinking. Many injuries occur when joints are extended beyond certain points in the range of motion. Take a chest press, for example. When bringing the weight back toward the body, many people will take it (barbell, dumbbell, cable) all the way to the chest, causing the shoulder and elbow to go beyond 90 degrees. This over extension with pressure damages the shoulder and sends you to rehab to repair your rotator cuff.

The goal is to keep this solid posture in every rep. If you find yourself swinging in a bicep curl, drop your weight so you can maintain good form. It's always better to workout effectively rather than getting injured. An injury will not only hold you back because of the time it takes to heal, but also the time it takes to "re-program" your body to work efficiently due to the alteration of the kinetic chain in the injury cycle.

Remember this checklist before you start your lift:
  • Head back over your shoulders
  • Shoulders pulled back
  • Abs tight
  • Glutes tight
  • Legs even with hips
  • Knees lose
  • Feet pointed straight ahead
Once you've started your set, keep your posture and remember your "stick figure" angles. Having good form not only reduces your risk of injury, but it also ensures efficient muscle contractions helping you achieve your fitness goal.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How hard are you really working? Figuring out your training intensity

Most people unknowingly take the easy road in their routines and really don't understand what training intensity they should be working in. Training intensity is defined as an individual's level of effort compared to their maximum effort. It can also be derived from the percentage of maximal oxygen consumption (MHR), as in cardio training programs. Training intensity is one of the most important variables to consider in you training program and it can make or break your success.

An individual's training goal and the appropriate phase that will help them accomplish that goal will determine the number of sets and reps for an exercise and in turn, determine the appropriate level of intensity.

  • Power training is best performed with 30-45% of 1 rep max when using conventional weight training or up to 10% of body weight when using medicine balls.
  • Maximum strength training requires training at 80-100% of 1 rep max.
  • Hypertrophy (or muscle gain) is best achieved when training at 70-85% of 1 rep max.
  • Endurance (stabilization) is optimally developed with a training intensity of 40-70% of 1 rep max.
All training intensities are determined by calculating your 1 rep maximum. Note that it is stated calculating, as the risk of injury when attempting a 1 rep max is very, very high.

There are many ways to increase the level of intensity in your routine. Training in an unstable environment in the stabilization phase can increase the intensity because it recruits more muscles to perform the exercise. This leads to burning more calories per exercise. Changing other variables such as rest period and tempo also changes the level of intensity by increasing your heart rate. It's more than just changing the resistance and increasing the weight.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Time wasting machine- ab benches

This is one of the machines that will waste the most amount of your time. With nutrition, genetics and body fat aside, ab benches (specifically the ones with arms rests) will do absolutely nothing for you. Why is that? Your upper body does more work than your abs.

This is really short and simple. If it has a place for your arms, regardless if it's a weightless bench or a plate loaded machine, don't use it. Go for ab exercises on the floor, a ball or even adjustable decline benches. All of these options will enable your abs to do the work rather than your neck, shoulders and arms.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Moving onto...Active Flexibility

We are multiplanar people, moving in all different directions. Most tend to forget this when working out, only performing motions in a forward motion (frontal plane). This one dimensional form of training often causes muscular imbalances and injury. Most injuries often occur when moving to the side (transverse plane). If the soft tissue is not extensible through the full range of movement, the risk of injury dramatically increases. This is where organized and progressive workout techniques come in, specifically active flexibility.

Active flexibility is designed to improve the extensibility of soft tissue and increases neuromuscular (brain and body connection) efficiency. Active flexibility allows for specific muscles to move a limb through a full range of motion while being stretched. Active flexibility uses active-isolated stretching and SMFR techniques. This is the type of flexibility training one would progress to when moving onto strength training on the OPT model.

Active-isolated stretching is the process of using cooperating muscle groups to dramatically move the joint into a range of motion. This type of stretching is is suggested for pre-activity warm-up, as long as there are no muscular imbalances present.

Once you've improved stability and muscle efficiency through stabilization training and corrective flexibility, you're ready to progress onto strength training and active flexibility. This progression enables you to continue your success while constantly challenging your body, making you the best athlete you can be.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cardio Stage Training

Just like any other form of training, cardio is effected by the General Adaption Syndrome and The SAID Principle. In order to continue with effective progression, variety needs to be incorporated. Stage training is a great way to do that.

In order to continue the adaptation cycle, a cardio program must be progressive and organized to minimize the risk of over-training and injury. Stage training is a three stage system that uses different heart rate zones. The three different stages mimic the three stages of training in the OPT model.

Zone One
Zone One consists of a heart rate of 65-75% of a heart rate max. This zone is a recovery zone for those working in higher intensity programs. It's a great zone for beginners to start in. This form of training coincides with the stabilization training.

Zone Two
Zone Two consists of a heart rate of 80-85% of a heart rate max. This is near the anaerobic threshold. Anaerobic threshold is the point where the body can no longer produce enough energy for the muscle with normal oxygen intake. As a result, it begins to produce higher levels of lactic acid (part of what causes post-workout soreness) than can be removed from the body. Training and staying at this level will burn more calories with a higher percentage of those calories coming from fat (but this is not a "fat burning zone"). Zone Two coincides with the progression from stabilization training to strength training.

Zone Three
Zone Three consists of a heart rate of 85-90% of a heart rate max. This is a true high intensity workout and cannot be sustained for long periods of time (more than 10-60 seconds). Staying in Zone One or Two will cause an individual to hit a plateau. Working out in Zone Three about once a week is typically enough of a change to continue the adaptation cycle. One must be careful to not spend too much time in Zone Three because it can lead to over-training. Zone Three coincides with the progression from strength training to power training.

By organizing these zones to fit in with the appropriate strength training program for your goal, you will effectively achieve your goal while improving your performance.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Carbs don't make you fat! The fitness myth about Carbohydrates and weight gain

There has been an abundant amount of time and energy spent on investigating the link between carbohydrate consumption and the increase of obesity in America. This is also the claim to most fad diets, "Carbs make you fat", "Don't eat bread, it's a bad carb", etc.

When reviewing that data on Americans food intake, it's interesting to note that in the early 1900s, the percentage of carbohydrates consumed was higher and fat consumption was lower than it is today, without the obesity epidemic that we're currently experiencing. It's only over the last two decades that there's been a significant increase in obesity. The research being done has concluded that there are two reasons for this dramatic rise: An increase in caloric consumption (eating too much) and a decrease in energy expenditure (not moving enough). Data published in 1996 by the US Department of Health and Human Services found that 60% of American adults are not regularly active and that 25% are completely sedentary.

The facts are very clear. America's increasing problem of obesity is not because of carbs, but because of an energy imbalance.

Our bodies need carbohydrates. This is why:
  • They provide satiety (keeping you full) by keeping the glycogen stores full and adding bulk to the diet.
  • They balance blood sugars levels (provided there is a consistent intake of low-glycemic carbs)
  • They are the perfect and preferred form of energy
  • They constantly need to be replaced, causing a craving that must be satisfied
  • Parts of the central nervous system rely exclusively on carbs
  • They efficiently burn and utilize fat and protein
The recommended carbohydrate intake:
  • 25 grams of fiber a day
  • should be between 60-70% of total caloric intake
  • Fruits, whole grains and vegetables are the preferred source of carbs

In conclusion, don't be afraid to eat carbs. They aren't bad for you. If you're worried about weight gain, take a look at the whole picture. Are you eating right (notice it's right, not less)? Are you working out regularly? Most importantly, are you being honest with yourself about your fitness and nutrition?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tools of the trade - Stability Balls

Stability ball, swiss ball, therapy ball, whatever you want to call it. If you don't have one, run out and get one now! This is one handy fitness tool to have at home and at work.

You can do a variety of exercises for every single muscle group with one of these. By incorporating a ball into your routine, you will work multiple muscle groups at once, maximizing your caloric burn. You also constantly work our core stabilizing muscles, making for a more stable back and joints and stronger abs.

You can use a ball at the office, provided you have a health conscious boss. As a society, we are sitting in front of computers and TV's for longer periods of time. If you work in an office, you're most likely sitting in front of a computer all day long, causing you muscular imbalances and back pain. If you use a ball as an office chair it will help prevent low back pain and you can get an ab workout in while you get your work done. Two birds with one stone. Sounds great to me!

You can find a ball pretty much anywhere. There are a few things you want to look for though. First, make sure you get a burst resistant ball. These balls have a tacky kind of texture to them. This is really important for those who have kids. The last thing you want to to do an exercise and have the ball explode from under you. The burst resistant balls will slowly deflate if punctured, saving you and your family from injury.

Secondly, get a ball that's fitted to your height. Balls come in different sizes. Look on the sizing chart to make sure it will work out for you. Most women need a 55 cm ball, while most men need a 65 cm ball. This is a generalization, however.

Once you get a safe ball that fits you and your program, you'll be ready to rock!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A great way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day!

Yesterday I got an update on how Wendy did in her race. It was cool to hear that all of the muscles that had given her a hard time in previous marathons were working well. It was also great to see her how her core training helped out too!

She's been diligent in her workouts making sure she can get not only cardio doubles, but her core and resistance training in as well. Her dedication has really been paying off! She is going to run in another half marathon in 10 weeks and I can't wait to see what her time will be. Awesome job Wendy!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

What's your type? I'm talking about muscle fibers

There are many reasons for working out in a progressive, integrated fashion. One of the main reasons is due to the different muscle fiber types and their responses to resistance training. Muscle fiber types vary in their chemical and mechanical properties. They've been separated into two main categories: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 muscle fibers or "slow twitch" are smaller stabilizing muscles. They produce less force and are slow to fatigue. These fibers are important for muscles producing long-term contractions needed for stabilizations and postural control.

Type 2 muscle fibers or "fast twitch" are larger short-term contracting muscles. The produce more force and power and are quick to fatigue. These fibers are important for producing movements like sprinting.

All muscles have a combination of slow and fast twitch muscle fibers that will vary depending on the function of the muscle. It's been shown that the muscles on the shin are approximately 73% slow twitch while part of the calf has approximately 49% fast twitch.

In order to have successful, efficient results, it requires a varied and integrated program that encompasses all aspects of training: flexibility, stabilization, balance, strength and power. If all of these components are addressed, your body will function at an optimum level of performance, the risk of injury is decreased and results will be quick to happen.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A pinch for good measure- checking your progress

Let's say you've been working out for a few weeks and you're not quite sure about your progress. What's the best way to measure your success? Well, here's the skinny on a few different techniques.

Skin Fold Caliper Measurements
While this may not be the most accurate technique in assessing the exact percentage, it is an accurate way to chart progress. Caliper measurements are done by measuring the amount of fat that can be pinched from three to seven sites on the body. Most fitness professionals use the Durnin/Womersley formula, which is a four site upper body measurement. The key to an accurate measurement is consistency.

Bioelectrical Impedance
This technique uses a portable instrument (or a scale) to conduct an electrical current through the body. This is based on the hypothesis that tissues that are high in water content conduct electrical currents with less resistance than those with little water (like body fat). This is not the most accurate technique due to the constant fluctuations in hydration.

Underwater Weighing
This technique is the most accurate in determining the exact percentage. This method determines the proportion of fat to lean body mass. This is done by weighing a person through normal methods and then, being weighed again underwater. Because lean tissue is denser than fat, the more lean a person is, the more they will weigh underwater. The results indicate a person's overall density. While this may be the most accurate technique, it's not the most practical. Unless you have access to an exercise physiology lab.

Circumference Measurements
This is another technique that can be very beneficial with consistency. Not only is this a useful technique to asses gains in lean body mass, but also the percentage of body fat. This is an excellent alternative for when skin fold measurements are not an option. The measurement sites are: neck, chest, upper arm, forearm, waist, thigh, calf.

Waist-to-hip Ratio
This is one of the most used clinical applications of girth measurements. This can be an important assessment because there is a correlation between chronic diseases and fat stored in the midsection. The ratio can be determined by dividing the waist measurement by the hip measurement. If your waist measures 30 inches and your hips 40 inches, the waist-to-hip ratio is 0.75. A ratio above 0.80 for women and above 0.95 for men may put people at risk for a number of diseases.

Body Mass Index
This technique is not designed to assess body fat, but the BMI is an easy method for determining if your weight is appropriate for your height. To calculate this measurement, divide body weight (in kilograms) by height (in meters squared). The obesity classification using BMI are : mild = 25-30, moderate =30-35, Severe >35. This assessment is not accurate for athletes, due to lower body fat percentages and higher amounts of lean body mass.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The fluid of life- Water

Water is the most important resource for the body. You can survive weeks without food, but only days without water. Keeping hydrated can be a challenge and dehydration can have a huge negative impact on your fitness performance.

On average, an individual should drink approximately 96 ounces (3 quarts) of water a day. Those looking to alter their body composition and decrease body fat should drink an additional 8 ounces of water for every 25 pounds they carry above their ideal weight. Water intake should be increased if an individual is exercising briskly or living in a hot climate.

Studies have shown that a fluid loss of even two percent of body weight will affect circulatory functions and decrease performance levels. The effects of dehydration can also include:
  • decreased blood volume
  • decreased blood pressure
  • decreased sweat rate
  • increased core temperature
  • water retention
  • increased heart rate
  • sodium retention
  • decreased cardiac output
  • decreased blood flow to the skin
  • increased perceived exertion
  • increased use of muscle glycogen
Thirst alone is a poor indicator of how much water is needed. Athletes consistently consume inadequate fluid, managing to only replace about 50% of sweat losses. Guidelines for the athlete are:
  • consume 16 oz. two hours prior to exercise. An additional 16 oz. may be needed for warmer climates.
  • drink 20-40 oz. for every hour of exercise
  • water should be cold
  • if exercising longer than 60 minutes, use a sports drink (containing up to 8% carbohydrate)
  • if exercising less than 60 minutes, water is all you need
  • drink 20 oz for every pound of weight loss after a workout session, especially if you're doing two-a-day's.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More Great Results!

Last night Beth posted about her results with the fitness program. She's lost 8 lbs in a week! This is great stuff. She's eating right, working out at home & staying committed. Even with two kids, the youngest one being 7 months old.

I am so happy for her and I can't wait to see what her results will be like after the next couple of weeks. Way to go Beth!!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

How injuries can come back to haunt you - The Kinetic Chain

At one time or another, we've all been injured in some way. Be it a broken arm, a sprained ankle, a torn rotator cuff, a pulled muscle in the low back or even a surgery like a cesarean section. Past injuries have a huge impact on how our bodies function.

In the human body, the components that make up the human movement system include the nervous system, the skeletal system and the muscular system. Together, these components are known as the kinetic chain.

All systems of the kinetic chain must work together to move the body. If one component of the kinetic chain is not working properly, it will affect the the other components and ultimately affect movement and function of the body.

Reflecting on past injuries can help you discover possible dysfunctions. There is a vast array of research that has demonstrated that past injuries affect the functioning of the kinetic chain. This is especially true of the following injuries:
  • Ankle Sprains: Ankle sprains have been shown to decrease control to the glutes. This in turn can lead to poor control of the hips and legs during many functional activities (running, walking), which can eventually lead to injury.
  • Knee Injuries: Knee injury can cause a decrease in control to the quads. Non-contact knee injuries are often the result of ankle and/or hip dysfunctions, like the result of an ankle sprain.
  • Low Back Injuries: Low back injuries can cause a decrease in control to the stabilizing muscles of the core, resulting in poor stabilization of the spine. This can lead to various injuries in the upper and lower extremities.
  • Shoulder Injuries: Shoulder injuries cause poor control of the rotator cuff muscles which can lead to instability of the joint during functional activities (throwing).
  • Other Injuries: Injuries that result from the kinetic chain imbalances include repetitive hamstring strains, groin strains, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints and headaches.
If injuries seem to be repetitive, that's a clear sign that the kinetic chain has been affected and the body isn't functioning properly. By focusing on integrated training, starting with stabilization, you can "reprogram" the kinetic chain, helping your body to preform efficiently. After a few weeks of stabilization training, your body will be at peak performance when you start true strength training. You won't need stop training to recover from injury and you'll be able to continue your success with better results.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Another fitness myth- The "fat burning" zone

While the overall benefits of cardio are vast, the primary purpose in fitness programming is to reduce body fat. Most people think that you can drop body fat by only working out for an extended period of time on a certain machine or in a class. Most people also believe that there is a "fat burning" zone for exercise. However, body fat reduction can only take place when there is a caloric deficit. When there is more energy being burned than consumed. This is the Law of Thermodynamics.

Typically, the "fat burning" zone is thought of as when the body is mainly using fat for fuel. Fat and glucose are major sources of fuel for exercise. In order for them to be used efficiently, the body must receive enough oxygen. Oxygen allows fat and glucose to be used as fuel, or energy. This in turn produces carbon dioxide and water as waste products. By using a metabolic analyzer you can figure out a person's respiratory exchange ratio (RER), which will measure how many calories are being burned in a specific exercise.

The body uses the highest percent of it's fuel from fat when the body has an RER of 0.71. So how do you exercise at this level? You don't. The body can only be at 0.71 RER when is at complete rest. This is how the fat burning zone started.

Thought the percentage of fat being burned is at the max, the amount of energy used and calories burned is minimal. This isn't very productive in achieving weight loss or body fat reduction. So, it's not how much fat an individual burns, but how many calories that ultimately produces results.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Burning calories while on the couch - It's all about EPOC

Many people want an easy exercise routine that you can do from the couch. Well, you can! Sort of. It does take a little bit of work to make it happen.

The human body is designed to expend as little energy as possible. To do this, the body adapts to the demands placed upon it. Our bodies have perfected this conservation due to our highly adaptable qualities. One way you can combat this is by maximizing the amount of calories burned in a workout session. By maximizing calories burned, you're also maximizing the O2 consumption needed for the workout and recovery. This recovery oxygen consumption is known as EPOC. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.

EPOC is the elevation of the body's metabolism after exercise. This means that the body is burning more calories following exercise than before the workout started. EPOC is like a car engine that stays warm after you've been driving around. After exercise, the body must utilize increased amounts of oxygen to replenish energy supplies, drop body temperature and return to a resting state.

Research has indicated that the higher the intensity (percentage of HR max) of the training session, the greater magnitude of EPOC. It has also been shown that splitting the workout into two (doubles) of equal time has the greatest effect on EPOC.

So in your workouts, work hard. Try two-a-day's. When you maximize your intensity, you'll still reap the rewards while you're sitting on the couch.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Time wasting machine- hip adduction/abduction machine

There are a few machines in the gym that are only there because when people come in to take a tour possibly thinking about joining, they look for specific machines. These machines are there for that gym goer, but if you watch closely, no reputable trainer will work their clients out on them. The hip adduction/abduction machine happens to be one of them.

This machine is a favorite of the women in the gym. The majority of these women share the same goal. Firm legs, smaller hips and shapely rears. Notice that the goal is to be smaller in these areas of focus, not bigger. However, with the techniques typically used, the end result is muscle growth.

Now, this isn't to say that this machine is all bad. It does have it's place in the world of fitness, but it's in rehab. If you've had a major knee, hip or back injury, this machine can be a great tool for regaining strength. Just not changing your body composition.

The biggest reason for not using this machine (other than it generally leads you to a completely different goal) is the biomechanics of the motion. This is why any personal trainer who understands human movement science looks for other methods of training for these muscle groups.

This is a seated machine. If you think about it, what muscles are you utilizing when you're sitting? None! When do you ever use your hip muscles when you're sitting? You don't. And on top of this, most people are sitting for long periods of time during their workdays. If you're stuck in front of a computer all day long, the last thing you want to do in training your muscles is to continue sitting in your workout routine.

To effectively train your legs, hips and glutes, try to incorporate balance and stabilization into your routine. Do standing or walking motions. Lateral resistance band walks are a much more effective and much more intense way of targeting these muscle groups.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Going insane in your workout routine. The two sides of Adaptation

Repeating an action expecting a different result is one definition of insanity. This fits perfectly with workout routines that yield little success.

Just as you get bored doing the same thing repeatedly, like eating the same thing for breakfast everyday or watching the same movie every night, your body gets "bored" doing the same exercises over and over again. This drives people "insane" while working out, wondering why their favorite routine isn't getting them what they want.

This can work in a positive and negative way, using The SAID Principle.

The SAID Principle stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. This means that the body will specifically adapt to the type of demand placed upon it. So, if you lift heavy weights, you can expect an increase of maximal strength. If you lift lighter weights for many reps, you can expect a higher level of endurance.

So, lets say your goal is to increase strength. You lift heavy weight expecting to increase your maximal strength. Over time, you get closer to this goal. Your body adapts to the weight, becoming more efficient at lifting the load. You become stronger as a result. But, now what? If you keep lifting the same way, nothing new happens. No additional increase in strength, no additional effort. It's just not the same, so you can't expect anything new to come from it.

Most people at this point would increase the weight, when in fact this is only one of many ways that increased stress can be placed on the body. There is more than one way to challenge your body, continuing the cycle of adaptation without increasing the risk of injury.

What many gym goer's don't know, is that your body is made up of different types of muscle fibers. By just increasing the load or weight, focusing on the power movers (main muscles), the stabilizing muscles are more prone to injury, leading you down the road to breakdown or exhaustion. Exhaustion is when the stress is too much for the body to handle causing stress fractures, muscle strains, joint pain and overall fatigue.

Training programs should provide a variety of intensities and stresses to optimize the adaptation of all different tissues to ensure the best result. By focusing on the body as being more than one dimension (more than just lifting heavy) you can use the SAID principle of adaptation to your benefit rather than your detriment, achieving a higher level health and fitness.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Multivitamins. Do you need one?

The supplement industry is a multi billion dollar business and it continues to grow every year. People are often looking for a quick fix to their health needs and will turn to anything that promises a cure. I want to preface this post by warning those who are looking for any supplementation guidance, be it to improve general health, to find a fat loss aid or a muscle builder, to steer clear of the pro-shop in your local gym.

The trainers at large corporate gyms often times do not have enough education in nutrition and supplementation to accurately recommend the right supplements to compliment your fitness goal. They are usually pushers, trying to get the sale. More often than not, this is not to their fault, as the higher up's at corporate have set goals for them to achieve. One of these goals is to gross X amount of dollars in supplement sales. If a trainer does not meet this goal, their jobs are threatened and they are generally fired. A trainer who is pressured by management, wants to keep their job and increase their commission is not one to turn to for guidance in this aspect of health care.

This is also true for supplement retail stores too. They are there to do their job. Sell you on supplements. Walking in a store without having done any research on your own is like walking in the store with a bright red stamp on your forehead "I'll Take Your Word. You Take My Money". It sets you up for an empty wallet and a big bag of supplements that could lead to health problems rather than better health and wellness.

This is not to say that they are all bad people or that there aren't educated trainers that have your best interest in mind. It's just that they're few and far between.

So, please. First talk to your Doctor. Do your homework. Take the advice of trained professionals who are not getting kick backs, commissions or paychecks from supplement companies.

With all of that being said....Yes. You do need a multivitamin.

Nobody has a perfect diet. Even if you have great habits, with the way today's nutrition standards go, you're still probably eating some kind of processed food. If you're vegetarian, you're still lacking essential nutrients. It is almost too difficult to get all of your nutrient requirements from food alone. Food intakes account for approximately 60% of your nutrient needs, where a balanced antioxidant, multivitamin and mineral (separate calcium) make up the rest.

So what is the best multivitamin for you?

This is where you want to do a little bit of homework. You want to find a reputable company that has high standards and quality products. Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA, so companies can put orange peel shavings in a pill and call it vitamin C (you can email me for a list of a few trusted companies).

Just like with fitness goals, there's no short cut to optimum health. Be careful of one-a-day's and all inclusive vitamins that claim you get antioxidants, multivitamins and minerals in one dose. Iron is an oxidant. Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Taken together, they cancel each other out. You want to look for time released delivery systems. Otherwise, you're wasting your money. Literally. It's going straight into your toilet.

Nutrient deficiencies are common, but you can over do it too. Even essential nutrients are potentially toxic at some level of intake. The effects of some nutrients can be extremely serious. Among the vitamin category of nutrients, excess vitamin A, D, and B-6 can produce serious adverse effects and are commonly available in supplement form. Complete tables of the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) values are available at the Food and Nutrition Board web site. The tables include the UL (Tolerable Upper Intake Level) values and brief descriptions of the adverse effects of excessive intake.

A good quality multivitamin can not only help you achieve your fitness goal, but help you achieve better overall health and wellness.