Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The ROM machine.....

Well, this doctor that trains at our facility talked the physical therapist and I into going down and checking out this machine. The ROM machine. The 4 minute workout. Actually it is 8 minutes. Four minutes of upper body and 4 minutes of lower body. It is basically, all out as hard as you can go for four minutes. The resistances is set to a certain level when you punch in your body weight. The website is riddled in myth about burning 180 calories in 4 minutes and then an extra 200+ throughout the day (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). EPOC is one of those things where studies are still up in the air as to how much you burn post workout, and how long the burn actually lasts. It seems like everyone wants to fabricate it and make it a little more. The important thing is that you work hard. Well, the ROM machine made us work hard. It was a tough 8 minutes. It was intense too. It wasn't the hardest thing I have ever done. It was tough though. The guy was like "this is better than sprinting because you get resistance. When you sprint you only use 60% of your muscles because you have no resistance. When you use this you use all of your muscles." Okay moron, whatever. Anyway, it was tough. The ROM people will tell you that this is all you need to do and that this will get you in the shape you want. I beg to differ. I still think you need resistance training for certain things and the ROM machine only moves in one plane of motion (the sagital plane) and life happens in many planes. So, I would say, maybe it is a piece of the puzzle but it is not the whole puzzle. I can still head to the gym and get a great lift in and do some hard and intense cardio and get a better workout. I think it is great if you don't regularly do anything, as it gets you up and moving. I also think it is great for those that go into the gym to do their carido and don't work hard enough as this makes you work intenstly (which is important). I don't think it is the answer to everything though and I really question whether or not people can get lean doing 4min. of work (upper one day, lower the next) each day, no matter how intense it is. Anyway, just thought I would share. I am sticking with the barbells and dumbbells though.

Well, tomorrow I am off to the strength and conditioning summit at the Arnold Classic. Should be a lot of fun. Hope I learn some new things. WIll report back next monday!


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Whole Wheat Donut Anyone?

What the hell is this? Krispy Kreme has just announced the release of their whole wheat donut.

180 calories of garbage if you ask me. What about when peopel eat 2 of them? You know that is going to happen. "Well, it is whole wheat so it must be okay! I think I will have two."

This kind of stuff makes me wants to puke. I hate how we constantly cater to peoples garbage diets.

Eating food like this does not help people learn how to make proper food choices. It is more like a crutch or a bandage to cover up the real problem....America's Fatness. Lets get real. Instead of offering people the same shit in a different pacakge, why don't we educate them on how to take control of their lives? Why don't we teach them to be healthier individuals?


Sunday, February 25, 2007

What type of message does this send?

I was watching the USA Track and Field Indoor National Championship today. They started talking about Justin Gatlin and how is lawyers are appealing his ban from track and field (he got the maximum of 8 years) and trying to get it lowered down.

My take on it....Whether you agree or not, he cheated. There are rules. He broke those rules. He knew what he was doing when he broke those rules. He cheated.

I don't care about the record or any of that. He failed his drug test. It was proven that he cheated. He deserves the punishment.

When he then comes back and gets to have an NFL tryout (even though he was banned from track and field for doping) what type of message does that send? Are those drugs that made him fail the test legal in NFL football? NO! What message does that send kids? I'll tell you. It says "Cheating if fine. It doesn't matter if you get caught either. Someone else will give a chance. No big deal."

Now his lawyers want to get his 8 year ban brought down. Again, what is the message? "It is okay to cheat. Don't worry about it. If you get caught, there are ways around the punishment."

Screw that! Gatlin should be out of track and field and he should not be allowed in any sport. Period, end of sentence. The message should be "Cheaters never win. You cheat, you are gone. Zero tolerance."

That kind of stuff drives me crazy.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cardio....The Fat Burning Zone (sigh).

I have a few announcements before I get to today's Q&A.....

1) Thanks to everyone who is still reading and sending me questions and feedback! I totally appreciate the support and the interest you all have shown.

2) Anyone want to go grocery shopping with me? If you do, I am hosting a FREE shopping tour at the Whole Foods Market in Scottsdale, AZ on wed. march 21st at 7pm. If you or anyone you know who is out here and wants to come out please let me know. It is going to be a good time. We are going to go through the store and learn how to read food labels and make some healthy choices. As well as learn a little bit about what we ARE eating and what we SHOULD be eating.

Okay, onto todays Q&A. I had a few questions about cardio as of late so I thought I would entertain this one about the fat burning zone since it seems like people are a little misunderstood about the information that is being posted on their treadmill, elliptical machine or bicycle.

When I do cardio, I try and work in the "fat burning zone" that is listed on the treadmill. Sometimes my heart rate goes higher than this. Does that mean that I am not burning fat?

Truth be told, the "fat burning zone" on the cardio equipment never made much sense to me from a training perspective. What the fat burning zone really tells us that at a lower work rate (lower intensity), we are burning a higher percentage of our calories from fat. On paper, that sounds like a great thing! The only problem with it is that at that lower work rate, we aren't burning that many calories to begin with. Whether the calories are coming from fat storage or not is a moot point. Technically, we burn the most percentage of fat when we are at rest. So, if you want to burn only fat, just take a nap! But again, how many calories are you really burning overal when you are sitting and lounging around the house? Not much!

Okay, so where am I going with all this? Really, what we want to look at is total
caloric expenditure. Significant research points to the fact that at the end of the day, the most imporant thing is caloric expenditure. Ask yourself, "Have you created a caloric deficit?" "Have you burned more than you take in?"

When we get into the gym and actually push ourselves hard, we burn more calories. When we push ourselves REALLY hard, we begin to go anaerobic. This happens around 80% of your Vo2max (the maximal amount of oxygen your body can take in and use efficiently). When we go anaerobic, there is a shift in metabolism from fat oxidation towards glucose oxidation (gluces is blood sugar, and glycogen is the stored form of glucose). While this may sound not as effective to some, a simple mathmatical equation can show us that those who work harder in the gym, have
greater results.

Lets start by taking two people. Person "A" always comes into the gym and walks or
slowly jogs on the treadmill for 30min., so that they can maintain their fat burning
zone. Person "B" however, uses their 30min. to work very hard and push into their
anaerobic training zone. They might just work as hard as they can for 30min. or they
might use a protocol of intervals where they are alternating one hard minute with one
easier minute.

So, we will say that hypothetically, person "A" is working at a total work rate of 8
calories per minute. For 30min. they are burning 240 calroies and lets say that 80% of those calories came from fat storage. That would be 192 calories.

Person "B" is working a lot harder. They are working at a work rate of 15 calories per minute. So, for 30min., they are burning 450 calories (nearly double what person "A" is burning). However, beacuse they are working at a higher work ratem, burning more overal calories, and working anaerobically, they might only be burning 60% of their calories from fat storage. But, beacause they have burned so many calories overal, even though the percentage of fat oxidation has gone down, they are still burning 270 calories from fat (technically) or 60% of 450 total caloric expenditure. Sounds great right!!

The reason I said "technically" about was because in reality, we don't know. The amount of fat that you burn is also going to be dependant on what is in your body at the time (ie the amount of glucose in the blood). So, if you just had a meal prior to your cardio training session, your body is going to have a more readily available source of energy (in the form of glucose) and it will easily take advantage of that.

Worrying about how much fat you have burned during a cardio session is silly. It is like worrying about how much muscle you built duing a weight lifting workout (we all know that we don't build anything in the gym. We tear down). At the end of the day, the main thing is "did you burn more than you took in? Are you in a negative
calorie balance?" Working harder during your workout and monitoring your diet are the best ways to positively effect your metabolism and get down to your desired body fat level.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Functional Training

I was asked this question the other day:

"What is functional depends on the person and where they are at physically. But in general we all need to be able to do our daily activities without injuring ourselves. A lot of what we do is unilateral but so few people want to do unilateral training. People often train to look better but not to improve their life. What are some movements you think that people don't do in the gym but you think are critical..."

Then, I was giving a presentation last night to a high school volleyball team and the coach asked me if I "do functional training."

I figure since the questions are going to both have a similiar answer, I would tackle them tonight. we go......

Functional training is a real buzz word in the fitness industry these days. What is it really though? Most people hear the words functional training and they think of some idiot on a woblle board or bosu ball doing dumbbell curls with their head tilted to 45 degrees. I don't know about anybody else, but I really can't see the functionality of that.....unless of course you are ever going to need to do a curling movement in the middle of an earthquake with an ear infection throwing off your equillibrium.

In reality, functional training is really as the name suggests. It is any type of training that enhances your performance be it in a game like situation or in real life. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to do anything that WASN'T functional! If it isn't going to make me better at moving about in my daily life, why would I ever waste my time doing it?

So, to answer the second question more specifically. Yes, I do functional training. I am going to work with the volleyball athletes to help enhance their performance and most importantly prevent injury. How do we do that? We train to be functional in the game of volleyball. Things like learning how to land, learning how to jump, strengthening their core, glute strength, ankle strength (ankle injuries are the #1 injury in volleyball), scapular stabilizer strength (shoulder is another area that tends to get injured in volleyball), etc. What ever we do in the gym is going to have some element that is functional to their specific sport.

For the first question. Yes, functional depends on the person and where they are physically. Sometimes, you may be working with a senior citizen and what is functional training for them? Learning to sit down to a bench or chair slowly without just "plopping down" and then learning how to stand up. Working to improve walking kinematics and gait. Etc. These would be functional to their needs. For someone that is just interested in looking better and not in improving their life, I still think that they can benefit from unilateral exercises like lunges, split squats, step ups, etc. Is their something about these exercises that wont make these individuals look better just because they are single leg (unilateral) movements? I don't think so. I think those are excellent exercises whether your goals are pure hypertrophy or athletic performance. I don't see how "fucntional" means not looking better? Even if they did want to perform unilateral exercises (I would advise against it as it would really limit your training options), there is still nothing more functional than good old squats and deadlifts. What is more functional than those exercises? We squat down and pick things up all day!

As far as critical movements that people in the gym don't perform enough of, I am a real meat and potatoes guy. I like push ups, pull ups, benching, overhead pressing, rowing, deadlifting (especially single leg RDL), squatting, etc. Nothing to fancy. I like unilateral work (which I think gets overlooked by a lot). Mainly though, people can do very well with the basics. The problem with people in the gym is that they don't know how to properly perform the basics so things just fly out the window and go to hell. That and they waste time working on things like 45min. of biceps training when they can be rowing or doing chin ups. Poor waste of time and poor execution of exercise technique is the biggest problem in my opinion.

hope that helps to clear up some of the confusion. I will try and get to a few more questions tomorrow.

have a great night!


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Training Youth Athletes......things that make me angry

I am all for youth training! I think it is a graet thing. Working with youth athletes is something that I take very seriously. Unfortunatly, there are so many people out there that don't understand how to properly train youth athletes. I hate....HATE....seeing these bull headed high school football coaches bring their players into the gym, have them lift with awful technique, teach them nothing and don't even have any sort of program to make sure that the kids can develop a base level of fitness and strength and then progress.

What a shame!

At the gym I lift at, a high school coach always comes in with a few of his players for their offseason lifting. Unfortunatly, it is some of the worst training I have ever seen. If I were their coach I would be totally embarrassed. All he cares about is the numbers, no matter what the reps looked like, as long as there are high numbers. I have see squats with some terribly dangerous spinal positions, quarter range of motion bench presses and full on round back deadlifts. I can't stand to watch, and my training partner (who happens to be a doctor of physical therapy) goes absolutely ape shit when he sees this guy coaching these kids.

It is ashame that parents trust their kids with a moron like this! The worst part is that most of these guys have a huge ego about this stuff. If I went and talked to this coach, he would flip out on me. How could I possibly know what I am talking about? I am 5'5" and 180lbs! There is no way I know anything.....besides the fact that he is 6'2", about 240lbs and I can best all of his lifts (which really doesn't say much for him!).

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine that is a high school strength coach/football coach in NY. He does a fantastic job teaching kids olympic lifting, squatting, plyometrics and bench pressing. He educates them on technique and he uses a program! An actual program with weeks, and sets and reps and variables!! Imagine that! A high school football coach that isn't brain dead. Now that is a coach that I would want to work with my kid.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Supplements......Just as the name suggests

Why are people so quick to jump on the supplement band wagon? The other day I was in Vitamin Shoppe getting my whey protein. There was a kid in there with his mother. He had to have been about 15 or 16 years old and maybe 155lbs soaking wet. He is telling his mom how he needs to find the protein powder that has 60g of protein per serving and he has to get some muscle tech as well. Immediatly I think "I wonder what this kids diet is like? I wonder how long he has been training and what his training program looks like?" The whole point of a supplement is that it SUPPLEMENTS your already healthy lifestyle. It doesn't take the place of anything. It isn't magic and chances are if you aren't eating enough calories and intaking the proper foods, you aren't going to get to your goal and you are just wasting your money.

The other thing that was going through my head when the kid was then talking about how he needed to get creatine was "I wonder if this kid even knows what creatine is? What it does? Why you would take it?" People are funny like that. They ask me what my opinion of a supplement they are taking is and I always say "well, what does it do for you? How does it work?" The usually don't have a clue. It just seems like common sense to me. Why would you put anything in your body that you are unsure about what it is, what it does or how it works (if it even works at all)?

Food first. Learn to eat healthy. Learn to plan your meals and set up a proper diet. Once you get your diet under control and you are consistent with your food intake and once you have your training under control and it is consistent, then look to adding supplements.

Remeber, the purpose of them is in the title...SUPPLEMENTs


Saturday, February 17, 2007

A few more gym rants.....things I saw this morning that drive me crazy!

Well, I went over to the big "chain" gym near my house this morning. I had to take some pictures of myself doing a few exercises for a presentation I am giving on wednesday to a high school volleyball team. I saw some really aggravating things that always drive me nuts. So, here it goes......

Is that belt holding your pants up?

Why the hell do so many guys wear training belts to the gym? Today I observed a guy working out and he wore a belt the entire time (except for one instance which I will get to in a minute). I could see wearing a belt if you were in a powerlifting competition and getting ready to go all out on a max attempt. From a safety stand point I could see needing the extra stability. But, guys who wear their belt all the time in the gym, even when they aren't doing intense lifting are just taking away from their core musculature to properly strengthen and develop and offer stability during movement. It becomes a crutch at that point. So this guy wears the belt to bench press. Then, he moves on to dumbbell bench press on a stability ball and he wears the belt for that too.....wouldn't the point of benching on the stability ball be to increase activation of the core musculature and attempt to enhance stability? Stupid. He used the belt on his decline bench press next (does this guy do anything except press?). He wore the belt to do seated pec deck flyes. Then, he finished his workout with push ups. He had his feet elevated on a bench and he had both of his hands up on benches off to his side so that he could get a real deep range of motion. The best part was he DID NOT wear the belt for this exercise. His lack of core strength realy showed! The guy looked like a seal during each rep, as his lower back arched and his hips dropped and sagged down. I didn't know what to do. Part of me wanted to throw some fish at him to eat and part of me wanted to just take the fish and beat him over the head with it.

Look Mom! No hands!!

This one is a big pet peeve of mine. Why do so many people hold onto the cardio equipment when they are performing their exercise? Get your hands off the machine. Stand up straight. Have good posture and stabilize yourself. Lower the speed if you have to. It is like saying "I can squat 500lbs.....if I only go down a quarter of the way."

People are always looking to cheat themselves. In the long run, it never works out though. Get in the gym, do what you have to do and do it properly. Stop cheating yourself. Allow yourself to develop and progress over time.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Questions from yesterday: Muscle Imbalances/tightness/weakness

Got some great questions in the comment section from yesterday, so instead of making a post on some new material. I will take the time to answer those.....

As a side note, I am starting a healthy lifestyle/fat loss focus group here in AZ (scottsdale). It is going to run 10 weeks. We are going to meet for 1-1.5hr once a week. Each week will be chock full of different material, goal setting and applying healthy habits to your life. It should be lots of fun and people are going to get a great deal of information out of it. It is going to be affordable and well worth all the information and take home material you will get. If you or anyone you know is interested. Please have them get in touch with me (you can reach me through here or the website in my profile) and I can get them some more information on it.

Okay, onto todays questions (or yesterdays questions).

First, these are some LOADED questions. It would take a long time to really answer them and go in depth. I will try and keep things breif and general. As silly as it sounds, a lot of it is going to depend on the person and their specific movement patterns, which I can not see through the internet.

Here are the questions:

1) I would like you to write a blog article on muscular imbalances/weaknesses/tightnesses. I know it is difficult without observation of the person but one in which you see the most problems occur going into detail. It would be great to know some of the technique's to assess these problems and solve them.

Great question! There are several techniques out there that you can use to assess movement. Gray Cook has a Functional Movement Screen that is very good. NASM uses the Overhead Squat assessment that Mike Clark really explains well in their textbook material.

I use few things from each of them. My movement assessment looks like this:

1) Overhead squat test
2) single leg squat (obviously there are times when I leave this out. It depends on the person. When I use it, it is typically to confirm the things I saw in the overhead squat test. Or to take a look at something more indepth.)
3) Cook Hip lift
4) Plank for time
5) push ups

The 6th thing that I sometimes throw in is a rowing movement to look at scpular-humeral rythm and assess their pulling muscles. Occasionally I will have them walk on the treadmill and assess posture and gait. But a lot of that stuff shows itself on the overhead squat and single leg squat test.

Now, I don't know if you are talking about techniques to asses yourself or someone else? In general, it is tough to assess yourself. It is best to get someone to take a look for you. I will list some of the common movement impairments I see at each joint starting with the foot and ankle complex:

- Foot and ankle- I usually see the foot flatten out (overpronate) and the foot turn to the outside (I have them perform the assessment squats with their toes pointed straight ahead. I also like to have them do the squat with their shoes off.). Heels rising off the floor is another common one I see.

- Knee joint-
lots of knees bucking in. Internal rotation of the femur and adduction. Rarely do I see someone go bow-legged. Maybe like 1 out of 20.

- Lumbo-pelvic hip-
You will either see someones lumbar round out OR you see them have an excessive arch. Sometimes their trunk might have an excessive forward lean as well. From the back side, you may sometimes see someones hips shift to one side or the other.

- shoulder joint-
in the overhead squat, I usually see arms fall forward and watching from the back side, I sometimes see the person go into a shrug. At the elbow, sometimes they are unable to completlet straighten their arms out.

So, those are some of the more common things I see as far as movement impairments go.

2) I myself have found when doing squats, my hip flexors always take most of the workload, they are sore as hell the next day. Also, when I stretch my lower back (cat stretch) my hip flexors tighten up. This means I need to stretch these right? Also, when doing a back squat I tend to fall back going atg. I have a mega sore back from squats also, I stretch this and it feels great. But maybe I need to strengthen it? It always murders me when running and also just doing a jog I get a massive ache in my lower leg (ankle area.)

Well, my first question back to you is going to be, "What do you hope to get out of the back squats?" The fact that your hip flexors get stiff after doing them and your lower back hurts probably means they are doing more harm than good. Don't associate pain as being a productive thing. I would probably ditch the back squats for right now in favor of something that is more manageable technique wise. It does sound like your hip flexors are very hypertonic. Have you tried foam rolling them at all? This can be very helpful for inhibiting the muscle spindles and activating the Golgi Tendon Organ to get the muscle to relax a little bit. Go slow, and when you find a tender spot, just stop there and hold that position. You want to apply the tension so that the muscle can relax. Things like tennis balls or lacrosse balls can help you even get a little deeper once you have prepared the tissue properly. After that, try doing some static stretching to restore length. Once the tissue has been inhibited by using the foam roller to take care of the stiffness, the static stretching can be more effective. Follow that with some glute activation exercises like glute bridges and lateral tube walks and then go and hit the weights. Before performing any type of squatting movement, you might even want to stretch your hip flexors out (maybe even between sets too).

3) I myself have some pain in the area where the scapula meets the clavicle on my right shoulder. Feels like a tearing pain in that area. I did some painting of some walls in my house today, and boy does it hurt right now.

Honestly, you need to go see a physical therapist or orthopedist about this. Without being there, I don't want to just take a guess and I am not a physical therapist. A masters degree in Exercise Science does not qualify me to diagnos anyone. It is beyond my scope of practice. Luckily I work with two incredibly smart physical therapists who can handle problems like that. If you were my client, I would refer you to them. I hate when personal trainers over step their grounds and play PT. You need a specialist.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Some questions from yesterday......

First, I just want to thank everyone that is reading along and/or passing this information or blog address to their friends, family or co-workers. I really appreciate it.

I had some great questions regarding my post yesterday, so I thought I would answer them here. I had a few questions emailed to me from people regarding how they go about implementing a more "athletic" type training program and how they get out of the "funk" of a body part split.

Well first, they way you get out of the funk of being in a body part split is you just stop doing it! Look for other things. As far as an athletic type training program goes, maybe that wasn't the best term. Maybe I should have said something along the lines of "a more well-rounded approach to training". The bodybuiling split is very one-sided in my opinion. While yes, you can have certain days were you lift heavy or heavier and you can set up some form of periodization and make it work. In general it is just limiting in that you really only work on one thing.....hypertrophy....and you do it in a manner that is not a productive use of time in my opinion (ie, training a full day on small muscle groups like arms or delts). There are many more things to training than just hypertrophy, especially if your goal is overall health and fitness. This is why I tell people to train like an athlete. Athletes need to have strength, power, stability, mobility, some need more hypertrophy and a good work capacity to be able to sustain those qualities as well. Look at those qualities again....strength, power, stability, mobility.....The thing that sticks out to me, is whether you are an athlete preparing for a training season or not, you are going to need those qualities in the sport of life! That is your sport. That is what you are training for. Those qualities help to enhance your overall fitness (espeically as we age). So, however you want to say it....train like an athlete, train more well-rounded. I think the main thing is just train to be FIT!

Another individual posted some questions in the comment section at the end of yesterday's blog entry. Here they are (one by one):

1) Anyhow, what did you mean when you said train like an athlete? Do you mean you randomly rotate between exercises or what? You’re not an advocate of the split routine then?

The first part of that question I answered above. As far as randomly rotating exercises go, I am not saying that. I am just saying to look at your program and see if it is well rounded. Does it include mobility work? Does it have some strength work? Power work? What are you doing for energy system development? Etc...Basically, does it have other qualities than just working in an 8-10 rep range? Not that all of those qualities need to be worked on at once either. You can (and should) have phases of training where you might emphasize one over the other. These phases might last somewhere between 3-4 weeks long (maybe a little longer) and you might focus on developing more strength (while you train some of the other qualities like power at a lower volume). Iam not, NOT advocating a split routine. You can certainly split your training up. Some do upper/lower, some do push/legs/pull, etc...I prefer total body workouts with upper/lower coming in second. I don't use body part splits and rarely do i do a push/legs/pull split either. I am not saying that they are bad. There are times when they can come in handy and variation is always a good thing. For most people though, they don't need an "arms" day. They need to get stronger at pulling and pushing exercises. That alone will help them develop bigger arms. It all comes down to what your goals are, how advanced you are (and most are not as advanced as they think in their training) and how you manipulate the variables.

2) I’m following Tom Venuto’s two day split workout. Care to write your next blog entry about why this is not good and also what kinda “athlete’s training” you do? I’m under the impression that you target all kinda random muscles in your workout? How often do you hit the gym then?

I don't know what Tom Venuto's two day split workout is. I do know that Tom Venuto is a smart guy though. So, I am sure it is well thought out. As far as what I do. No, I don't target random muscles. I DO target movement patterns though. How often I hit the gym depends on how busy my schedule looks over certain weeks at a time. If I don't have to much going on and I can get some good sleep and rest, they I like to get in and lift 4x's a week (and do 2-3 interval cardio session. I try to do the interval work at the end of my workouts so that I can take 3 full days off. Sometimes I can only get two interval workouts in on lifting days for that week. So, if I feel like it, I get in there on a 5th day and do my cardio). If my schedule is busy and I have things going on, I drop down to three days a week (I don't go below that though.). I typically always do total body training, but occasionally I will do upper/lower over a four day split. On my three day a week training, I hit a push and a pull for both the upper and lower bodies. I laid this out a few entries ago as far as pushing and pulling goes. If I train total body over 4 days a week, like now, I do my lower body pushing movements with my upper body pulling and my lower body pulling with my upper body pulling (or sometimes I will do all my pushing, upper and lower, on one day and all my pulling, upper and lower, on the next day). My current training split looks like this:

Day 1

core- side planks

1) 1-arm DB snatch

2a) Front Squats
2b) pull up

3a) walking lunge
3b) 1-arm/1-leg DB row
3c) DB scaption raises

Day 2

core- half kneeling two part chop

1) Hang Power Clean

2a) DB bench press
2b) snatch grip DL

3a) Standing BB press
3b) 1-leg glute bridge
3c) YTA's

Day 3

core- crunches

1) hang power snatch

2a) front split squat
2b) Pull up

3a) lateral lunge
3b) supine row
3c) cable single leg D2 pattern

Day 4

core- half kneeling sequential lift

1) hang power clean (60% of Day 2 weight)

2a) incline BB press
2b) single leg BB RDL

3a) Db push press
3b) stabillity ball leg curl
3c) stability ball prone T's

Every workout will start with some foam rolling, easy stretching and a dynamic warm up performed bare footed to strengthen the foot and ending with short quick feet drills (again in bare feet), performed for 4-6 sets x 4-6 sec. Every workout will end with stretching.

I hope that helps give you an idea of how I break up my training and a little food for thought when planning your own training program.

More tomorrow!!


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Training for overal fitness...

Partner Up!

Today was the first day in about 3 years that I had a training partner. I usually just workout alone because trying to track down training partners can be a real pain. Sometimes they are late, sometimes they don't show and flake out, sometimes they want to hang out and chit chat and not work, etc. The phyiscal therapist that I work with wanted to start training with me and the gym is right on the way home for the both of us so I said okay. It was a good time. It is funny how you sometimes push yourself a little harder when you have a training partner. You get a little motivation. A little "fire under your ass". Hopefully we can make it a regular thing for awhile. It was nice to have a training parter and someone, especially someone knowledgeable, to watch your technique and give you some feedback.

Training for overal fitness

The gym we were at is a real "meat-head" place. You know, a real chest and bi's gym. Some big guys doing bench press and hammer curls until their arms fall off....lots of what I call "non-functional hypertrophy". As big as they are, I would never want to be like that (at one point in my life I would have loved it though). Don't get me wrong, I am always happy to put on some more size and get a little bigger. But, I wouldn't want to be "non-functional" like that. These guys have terrible posture. Shoulders that are rounded forward. No mobility in their hips or shoulders. Weak core musculature and are just not well rounded at all.

I prefer to be more mobile, fast, strong (as strong as I can be at least), explosive and have a good work capacity. It is funny to see the looks we get when we are training. It is rare to walk in a gym (especially a gym like this) and see guys doing things power cleans or Db snatches, snatch grip deadlifts, and cable chops. The program was brutal and we moved pretty quick. We got some real looks when we first showed up and began by warming up on the foam roller. I don't think anyone there knew what it was for! We finished our workout with some 400m repeats, which was brutal, and again, really looked strange to the gym regulars (what are they doing on those treadmills?).

I think for most people....athletes, general population, for overal fitness is much better than banging out 3 sets of 10 on the preacher curl. I think most guys don't really want to look like the bodybuilders anyway. They want to have an athletic look. They want to be lean, muscular, have good strength and a good aerobic capacity. If this is you, you really need to consider ditching that body part training split (chest on monday, bis/tris on tues, legs on thurs, back on fri, delts on sat.) and look to doing something more well rounded. Aside from the fact that body part splits don't make much sense to me from a biomechanical standpoint, the well rounded approach offers you the most bang for your buck. You can work on several differnt things (flexibility, mobility, strength, power, endurance, etc..). This type of training is much more efficient and, if you have been doing the body part split thing for a long time now, your body will welcome the change!

So get to it. Don't be scared that your arms will shrink. Chances are they are already pretty small anyway. Write out a program, set some goals, and take action. Train for overal fitness. Train like an athlete. Reap the benefits.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Aerobics Class Rant

Did anyone see this article in the NY Times this week?


It was all about aerobics classes and how some people who really hit the aerobics class scence hard in the 80s and 90s are now paying the price with painful joints and other problems.

I don't know if it was the classes per se or the fact that some of those women were taking way to many of those classes through the week for several years and just overtrained themselves to hell.

But, that is not my rant. My rant is....Have you even seen what goes on in those clases?

I used to work in a large commecrial gym (thank god I don't do that anymore) and I remeber watching those classes and wodering, "what the hell is going on here? Is this person even qualifed to teach exercise?" Those classes can be a complete zoo. I have seen some of the worst attempt at plyometric exericises ever in those classes. Do they even teach proper jumping and landing mechanics? The participants are all over the place! Knees buckling inward, landing straight legged, etc....It gets pretty ugly. The strange thing is, the teacher never goes around and corrects the problem. Which makes me think that the teacher doesn't even understand that there is a problem! What about those classes that do endless reps upon reps of dumbell curls (with 2.5-5lb DBs no less....Don't want to get to bulky!)? Another good exercises is the dumbell bench press performed standing up, arms pressing out parallel to the ground....what the hell is that? My all time favorite though, by FAR, is the Quasi-modo bent over row! Is everyones back supposed to be bent like a "U"? Does the teacher know how to coach this lift? What about the instructors themselves? I don't know about you, but the last person I would want teaching me about being healthy is that Buffalo standing in the front of the room with the ear piece on her fat head barking orders. Is she going to teach us something or eat the microphone?

Now, I am sure there is someone, somewhere, that teaches a really great group fitness class. I just have not seen that person. When I come across them, I will shake their hand. Hopefully their class is:

A) Not to big and has a limit to the amount of people that can attend to assure quality control and that they can give everyone the attention they need in order to PROPERLY learn how to jump, land, lunge, squat, move, etc..


B) Is intense! God for bid people actually work hard when they go to a gym! Here is a great way to know if you are working hard enough in your group fitness class....If you can curl your dumbells while walking back and forth bitching about how the nanny was late and you had to change your own kids diaper this morning (gasp!) you are not working hard enough. Shut your fat face, pick up some heavier dumbells and lift some actual weight.

More fun Tomorrow!!


Friday, February 9, 2007

Wow!! This is just wrong!!

This happened right here in Phoenix. I know where this gym is at. The thing that upsets me the most is that these people are giving the profession a really bad name!! I don't like to call myself a personal trainer at all because it associates me with morons like this. Anyway, here is the link. You can either watch the video (it was from the local ABC news) or read the transcription of the news story. It is really upseting. However, at the same time I am happy that the reporter exposed these people so that others know what to look for (more on that later)....

Well, what did you think? Pretty nuts!!

A few days ago I posted the names of some guys in other states that I thought were good at what they do. But what if you don't live in those states? How would you go about chosing a personal trainer, should you want one? I am going to lay out a few questions for everyone that they can print out and take with them to the gym to interview their trainer. That's right....INTERVIEW! Don't just go in and say "I want to get a trainer." The chances of you getting stuck with the total newbie with no experience are about 9 out of 10. Go in and say, "I want a trainer. I would like to meet with the top three guys that you have and talk to them about what I am looking for." From there, ask the following 4 questions:

1) Do you have a degree in this field?

Just because they don't have a degree does not me that they are no good. It is simply a good place to start just to get to know a little bit about the persons background. If they say no, don't rule them out just yet.

2) What are your professional certifications?

Knowing the type of certification the trainer holds is important. I have seen really smart guys without certifications, who are great trainers. But, for the most part you are going to want to work with someone that is certified, as it ensures you that the person has put in at least some time educating themselves on the topic of exercise. Don't just take any certification. There are only three certifying bodies that I deem acceptable:


I don't care what anyone else says. If it isn't one of those three than it is garbage. I know that is harsh but these are the best in terms of advancing the knowledge of trainers and applying science and research. If they don't have one (or all) of those three, chances are I wouldn't want to work with them.

3) Do you do any type of assessment?

This is a critical question. The saying goes "if you aren't assessing you're only guessing." It's true. How can you know about where a person is trying to go if you don't know where they are already at? The crappiest trainers do no assessment at all. The second level of crappy trainers do performance assessments only (ie, how much can you bench, how much can you squat, etc.). I don't like that because if you don't know about how the person moves, how can you accurately (and safely)test their performance. Which brings me to what the better trainers do, which is a movement assessment. Some sort of movement assessment to analyze how the person moves and the quality of movement they are producing is crucial. That is the main part of my assessment. I want to find out how efficiently the individual produce movement. From there, I have an idea of where we need to go in order to really get this person to their goal in the safest way possible.

4) Do you have any programs that I can take a look at?

This is very important. Bad trainers don't write anything down. They just wing it everytime. Trainers that are just above bad, write workouts. They don't write programs. The best trainers write programs. They take the results from your initial testing, the information about your goals and they write out something concrete. A map. Something that tells you were you are starting at, where you are going to end at, and how you are going to get there. If you are interviewing a trainer and they can't produce a few programs for you and explain them and how they work and what the goals of different phases of training were, then walk away! That person does not deserve the amount of money you are about to pay for their crappy service.

Looking for a trainer can be a tough task. Take your time to really find someone that is knowledgeable and understands your goals and can explain how they can help you achieve those goals. You want to find someone that is honest and has your best interests at heart. Not someone who just needs you to purchase a 12 pack of sessions so that they can reach their monthy bonus.

When it comes to spending your money, you always want to get the best you can.....nice cars, nice clothes, shoes, nice apartment, etc.....Your body is no different. If trainer "x" charges $45/session, there is probably a good reason that he charges that. Look for someone that is going to give you the quality care you deserve.

Until Monday....Have a healthy weekend.


Thursday, February 8, 2007

Getting on Track With Your Eating.

Since my last two posts have been training related, I figue today I will talk a little about nutrition.

I get lots of people that come to me for help with what they eat. They always have the same types of questions "how many calories should I be eating?", "how many carbs should I be eating?", "should I be eating low fat?", etc...

My answer is always the same, "I don't know?"

Weird right?

I say I don't know, because I have to first see what they are eating in order to give them some sort of direction to go in. This requires them to write out 5 days of eating for me. Ofcourse their first reaction is "Oh no way! You are going to see all the junk I eat!"....yea, that is the point!! I can't tell you what you SHOULD be eating if I don't know what you ARE eating. So, they write it down. Five days later they come back to me and the first thing that say is...."I had no idea it was this bad!"

So where do we go from there?

The problem with most people is that they go from "I had no idea it was this bad!" to "I have to make it perfect." They do this in a days time. Tomorrow they are on a super strict diet. What do you think happens two days later? They typically are no longer on that diet. These are things you need to be sensitive to if you are a trainer out there working with general populations or athletes or, if you are an athlete or a general population person thinking about making a lifestyle change. Too much change too quickly is a sure way to fall off the wagon.

The first thing we do is talk about making small changes to what they are currently doing. Before I talk about calories or macronutrient breakdowns, I just want to talk about eating healthy. I just want them to learn how to make healthier choices. Once they get that down, things start to fall in place. For example, if the person doesn't drink very much water but they drink maybe 5-6 diet soda's a day. The first thing I want to do is have them cut back to 2-3 diet sodas and start drinking more water. If the person only eats 2-3 meals a day, first we are going to work on eating 3-4 meals a day. If the person eats no greens or fruits, then we are going to try and add some in. You get the point...

Reaching the goal of living a healthy lifestyle is the same as attempting to reach any other goal you set. You need to have a plan and then you follow that plan one step at a time. If you try and step to far out, you lose your balance and fall.

Look at your diet tomorrow and this weekend. Write it down. On monday, start to implement small changes that will lead you on the path to a healthier life.


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Continuing with yesterday's theme

I guess I can't leave my readers hanging. Yesterday I talked about the nonsense that happens in gyms with trainers. They actually did a piece on this in the news this morning! I guess they were reading my blog? They were talking about poor trainers and the problems with finding a good trainer. It is a shame that the industry gets a bad rap because of those that fail to do their homework. Anyway, I also spoke a little about program design and set up. Since some of my readers are not trainers or working in this field in some capacity. I decided I would elaborate a little more so that you can take something useable away from this blog and have information that you can apply.

*Note- the information below about training is assuming that you are already a healthy individual. Sometimes I write a program or information on the internet and then I get emails from people saying that their shoulder hurts so bad they can't lift their arm; but, they would like to know if the program would still be good for them? Go get it checked out by a physical therapist or an orthopedic surgeon. Last time I checked, my degree did not cover those two services.

Okay, so where to begin?

As I stated yesterday, the basics work. There is no need to get creative and try and squat on a stability ball with your head tilted to 45 degrees, with one eye closed and your arm elbow deep in your a$$. Why not try squatting on the ground first? HEY! There is a novel idea! Something basic!! Do you ever see trainers do squats with their clients? Better yet, do you ever see trainers do squats with their clients properly? What I am getting at here, is that we don't need to be fancy. Lets base our initial training on basic movements and try and get really proficient with them, before moving onto more difficult things.

Breaking up the body

If we are looking at the body, we can break everything up into a "push" and a "pull". Instead of thinking body parts, I think of everything as push or pull. Why? Because your body is never in isolation. When you bench press, you still work your shoulders and triceps. When you row, your biceps are still working, and on and on. The body is an integrated kinetic chain, so I really think it is best to train it like that.

The template set up

For setting up a basic program, I always go with total body workouts and I stick with the A/B template. The A/B template just says that on day "A" we are going to do these exercises and on day "B" we are going to do these other exercises. It keeps things simple, but most importantly it allows us to develop some technical proficiency with those base level movements, so that we can progress on to more difficult things.

If we did it three days a week. It would look like this:

Week 1
day1- A
day2- B
day3- A

Week 2
day1- B
day2- A
day3- B

Chosing the exercises

Now that we know we are going to have an "A" and a "B" day, it is very easy to select exercises. I like to have a push and a pull in both the upper body and the lower body on each day.

For example,

Day A
Squat (push)
chin up (pull)
bench press or push up(push)
glute bridge (pull.....this isn't technically a pulling motion, but I group it as such since the main
focus is to activate the glutes. We can further progress this exericses to a stability
ball glute bridge with a leg curl, which then gives us the actual pulling movement.)

Day B
Romanian Deadlift (pull. I usually start people with DBs)
Db shoulder press (push)
seated row (pull)
split squat (push)

Pretty simple right? Most people are probably looking at that thinking that it isn't much. Trust me, if you work hard enough, it will be plenty. But, we are not done yet. One thing that I really focus on in the first phase of training (and even later phases) is work capacity. Most people aren't training to be the next great powerlifter and they aren't training to be Mr. Universe. They are training for general health, fat loss, some muscle gain....basically, they want to look good naked. A lot of people don't have a lot of time to spend in the gym, so they have to work efficiently (I am a big fan of the half hour sessions with my clients. Provided they come in 10 minutes early to do their proper dynamic warm up and they stay after to stretch a little. The actually lifting part doesn't take to long.). So, how do we get this efficiency? I like to do exercise pairings. I know a lot of coaches have adopted this (guys like Boyle, Cosgrove, Poliquin, and many others). It works great for athletes (and I will talk about how to make it work in when you get to more intense lifting) and it works great with our general population clients as well. What I do, is I pair up a push and a pull. So, if I push with the lower body. I pull with the upper, and vice versa.

Now our training template looks like this:

Day A
1a) Squat (push)
1b) chin up (pull)

2a) bench press or push up(push)
2b) glute bridge (pull)

Day B
1a) Romanian Deadlift (pull)
1b) Db shoulder press (push)

2a) seated row (pull)
2b) split squat (push)

Now we are getting somewhere. Typically, I have the person perform the exercises back to back (so 1a, followed by 1b) and then take a rest (rest 45sec) and then repeat for the desired number of sets before moving onto pairing number 2. If we move into more intense lifting (this is where I would start talking about athletes), I will place the rest inbetween the exercses to allow for greater recovery. So, 3-5 reps of 1a, rest 2min, 3-5 reps of 1b, rest and repeat for the desired sets. If I were training a powerlifter or olympic lifter, things would be different though, since we would focus on our specific exercise and would want to work on developing certain qualities in that movement. But, athletes in other sports are not training for powerlifting or olympic lifting. So, this works well and I have had good results with it, as have others. But, this entry is not about training athletes anyway, so back to the topic......

What about the CORE!?!?!?!?!

Okay, so what about the "core"? First, all those exericses above are really going to tax your core. But, I understand that we do need to have a certain level of conditioning in the "core" musculuatre. So, I add that to our pairing, creating a group of 3. As the person advances and gets stronger, we drop the core exercise from the group and proceed with rest inbetween exercises as explained above. We do the core at the begining of the workout towards the end of our dynamic warm up (reason being that if we leave it to the end, it never gets done). So now, our workout is going to look like this:

Day A
1a) Squat (push)
1b) chin up (pull)
1c) plank
rest- 45sec and repeat

2a) bench press or push up(push)
2b) glute bridge (pull)
2b) crunch
rest- 45sec and repeat

Day B
1a) Romanian Deadlift (pull)
1b) Db shoulder press (push)
1c) reverse crunch
rest- 45sec and repeat

2a) seated row (pull)
2b) split squat (push)
2c) bird dog
rest- 45sec and repeat

So, what started as a little workout of a few exercises, has really turned into something brutal!! Most people don't realize how hard it is to make it through one of those groupings. I recently started working with a guy who has been training for several years. He does half hour sessions with me and after the first session he said "damn! that was a lot harder than I thought it would be!" After a few weeks, as you can imagine, his work capacity is through the roof. He has developed a good base level of fitness (which he didn't have from his previous training because it wasn't efficient, he was always doing the same thing(s) and he didn't know how to progress himself) and we can progress to doing more intense lifting and increasing the complexity of the exericses.

Wrap up

So, that is just a little bit of the thought process I take when putting together someones program. There is still a lot more to it.....reps, sets, rest interval, rep tempo, phases of training, when to develop certain qualities etc....I hope that this info gave you something to think about when setting up your own program and I hope it wasn't to confusing.

Shout Outs

I have been writing on the internet for about the past 7 years on I have contributed lots of information on training and nutrition and I often times get emails from people saying "do you know any trainer in my area that can help me out?"

So, here are some recomendations of guys that I think are really really good if you are in the market for a trainer and in these areas:

Akron/Cleveland OH area:

Sean O'Callaghan is a good trainer. He is an x-powerlifter that put up some impressive numbers at his body weight. He now is competitive in moutain biking. Sean trains people out of Kings gym in Bedford Heights part time. The other part of the time, you can catch him at The Edge Fitness Center in Medina OH, a facility which he owns. If you are in these areas, I highly recommend looking him up.


Manhattan is where I spent the last 5 years working as a trainer. If you are in the city and in need of a trainer, I suggest heading up to Equinox on 85th and 3rd ave., and meeting with either Dax Baker or Myles Astor. Both are very knowledgeable guys that can help you achieve your goals. Both are very good with sport specific training and coaching the olympic lifts.

In Long Island:

If you are in the Long Island area, I highly suggest checking out Professional Performance Center ( Timothy Stump is an awesome physical therapist and strength coach. He has worked with athletes of all levels and is a very accomplished olympic lifter and powerlifter. You really can't go wrong at this place. It is an incredible sports training facility, complete with indoor sprint track, indoor turf field, olympic lifting is awesome and all the guys there are really great trainers.

Another guy in Long Island that isn't taking clients right now (at least not that I am aware of) because he is working with high school football and track athletes is George Kasimatis. Most high school football coaches put their kids through an awful weight training program. However, George is really great at teaching the kids to be proficient with their lifting technique and really helping to develop their strength and power qualities. As far as strength training goes, he is one of the smartest guys I know.

In the souther NJ/Philly area:

Dave Mayo is pretty much as good as it gets. You can contact him through the website listed on my profile. Dave is your go to guy for things like speed and agility and really knows how to help athletes develop those qualities. You can't go wrong with Dave if you are in that area!

In the Phoenix area:

Ofcourse you can always come and see me. :-)

Well, that is it for tonight. More tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Ever Watch Trainers Train?

Maybe it is just me, but I am constatly watching trainers train.

Usually, as I am huffing and puffing for 45-60sec between sets, I like to look around and see what other trainers are doing with their clients and sometimes, you get to see other trainers train themselves. I am constantly amazed at some of the crazieness that occurs in gyms.

Yesterday, as I walked into the gym to workout I noticed a trainer working out (himself). He was doing bench press. He had the bar loaded to 275lbs. I figured I would stop and watch, and see what his technique looked like (I always want to see what kind of example trainers set for members of the gym they work at). I was amazed! He unracked the bar, brought it down towards his chest, bounced it off his chest, and then got his butt all the way up in the air and off the bench and pressed the weight up. He did 5 or 6 reps. It was some of the worst bench pressing I had ever seen. If I were a potential client seeing that, I would never want to train with this guy! Why would you do something so stupid. Stupid not only from a safety stand point, but a business standpoint.

The day before that I got a real treat though. This trainer was working with her client, an older lady about 60+ years old. The did all this work, like lunges and crunches, etc, etc. Then, they walk over to do triceps pressdown on the cable tower. They do one set and then decide to supset it with.....JUMP SQUATS! Sweet! Now, I am all for power training and, it has been documented well in research, as we age we lose muscle mass and the ability to properly fire motor units. But, why would you do jump squats at the end of a workout with a 60+ year old lady, who you haven't even taught to properly land yet? I mean, come on! The lady was landing straight legged and it was getting pretty ugly.

I just don't get what is going through trainers minds sometimes? They are always trying to be creative and do crazy things to "keep the client from getting bored". It is funny, I have never had a client get bored when they were making progress. I try and do basic things and get people to achieve a certain level of proficiency with those basic things, before moving onto more complex exercises. How can you run before you walk? I would really love to see the programs they write and the progressions that they go through with exercises. It is not uncommon to see a trainer have their client attempt to learn how to squat one week and then the very next week they are trying to do step up to a bench. Why not take the time to learn how to perform the squat properly before moving to more dynamic things? Basic things get people results. No matter what the current trend in the industry is, we always come back to the basics.

Well, those are my thoughts for today. Tomorrow I am sure I will have a few more. This is the first in a long list of blog entries. So get ready! It is going to be a wild ride. Welcome to my blog.

Patrick Ward