Thursday, May 31, 2007

Getting there is not as important as HOW you got there!

It can be amazing watching people perform exercises. I am all for full range of motion lifts but, as the title suggests, getting there is not as important as how you got there.

Lets take a squat for example. One thing I notice with most trainees is that in an effort to get full, a$$ to ankles, depth (getting there) they compromise with a wicked posterior pelvic tilt (how they got there). Two things can be said about this:

1) They got the full range of motion that they were looking for.


2) How effective was that exercise knowing that the way they got there (posterior pelvic tilt) places the spine in a potentially compromised position?

Lets look at another example that gets butchered a lot, the overhead barbell press. I will watch guys start with the bar down near their anterior delts (under their chin) and then as they press up overhead, they start to shrug their shoulders, one arm starts to press more than the other, they lean back, and their scapular movement is not proper at all. Again, getting there (pressing the barbell from the start position to overhead) was not as important as how they got there (sloppy form and poor scapulohumeral rythm). The exercise put the shoulder and, depending on the degree of backwards lean, the lower back in a compromising position.

Nothing good can come from either of these examples. One thing I try to strive for is perfect technique all the time. If I am unable to get proper range of motion with good technique, I imediatly want to know why. Sometimes it may be a flexibility/mobility issue or sometimes it may be that I am just trying to use to much load and occasionally it may be a combination of the two.

One thing everyone should do when they go to the gym is think about the exercise before you perform it. Go over, in your head, where the start position is, where the end position in, and what is supposed to happen in between in order to perform the lift correctly, safetly and effectively.

Besides the two above, some real trouble exercises are:

bench press
step ups

Do a form check on these exercises. Drop the weight down if you have to. Slow the tempo down if you have. Or, worst case scenario, drop the exercise and regress down to something that is more manageable, until you are able to work up to performing the lift with perfect technique.

Hopefully everyone can get the nerve to check their ego at the door and correct their exercise technique even if it *gasp* causes you to lower the weight on the bar.



Monday, May 28, 2007

Trainer or Teacher?

I hate the phrase "personal trainer." It brings bad images to mind of some idiot in short shorts and a tank-top, watching himself in the mirror while his client, a 40yr old, overweight soccer mom, does biceps curls in the corner of the gym. These "trainers" give a bad image to the industry, and they don't teach people anything! Which brings me to my topic, trainer or teacher?

A while ago I wrote an entry titled "Working Yourself Out of a Job" in which I discussed the importance of engraving the basic tools and values of fitness in your clients' heads so that they can go out and do what they have to do, on their own, without depending on you. Look, Mom! No more training wheels!

I think this is one of the most important parts of this industry, and unfortunately, one of the most misunderstood. We aren't trainers. We educate. We are teachers. Trainers are people that teach your dog to stop taking a shit on your carpet. teachers mold a person. They help individuals develop the skills and confidence the need to make descisions on their own later in life.

We live in a society that is constantly losing the battle with obesity – a society that is almost completely sedentary. We, as fitness professionals need to step up, stop training, and start educating! I take every opportunity I can to teach my clients about setting up their training and cardio programs, explain to them why we do things in the gym a certain way and show them how to make healthy food/lifestyle choices.

This doesn't have to be done in the one-on-one setting. Health education classes can be extremely popular for reaching a larger segment of the population. A "class" setting has the potential to reach those who might otherwise be turned off at the thought of meeting a trainer at the gym for fear of having someone give them a hard sell (God, I hate that), or someone who may be afraid to go to the gym at all because they think, "There are people that are in really great shape there, and they will make fun of me..." Even the ones who go to the gym, but don't know what to do and just hop on the treadmill day after day, not knowing what else to do with it all.

Don't think about being just a trainer. Make the move to being an educator. Your clients will thank you for it, and you will impact a heck of a lot more people in the long run!

Happy Memorial Day,


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Upcoming stuff.......

If anyone is interested, I am going to be speaking at the Arizona State NSCA Clinic on June 16th at ASU. The title of my presentation is "Preparing the School Age Athlete."

Just thought I would throw it out there incase anyone was in the area and thinking about coming to check it out. Joe Kenn (the strength coach at ASU and incredibly smart guy) will be speaking as well, along with others.

Over the next few blog entries, I will probably talk a little bit about training youth athletes incase anyone reading is or will be working with that population.


Trying to simplify periodization

The word periodization gets thrown around a lot. For some, it means a long structed plan (could be anywhere from 12 weeks to a year in duration) and for others it may be something shorter (5-8 weeks).

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the term periodization, and people tend to generally overthink it and make it harder than it is. To get rid of the confusion, we will simply define periodization as changing variables.

I think for certain populations, there may be a need for a long(er), drawn out and structured programs (mainly the population I am referring to here are athletes getting ready for a competitive season or one specific event). However, for the general population we can make things much easier. I typically look at a program for the general population in short 4-6 week blocks of training.

Without getting facy and throwing around whole bunch of nonsense, lets just put together a simple day of training and walk through an easy 4 week phase of training where we will be altering variables each week (periodizing).

1) Squat- 225/10RM
2) bench press- 185/10RM
3) Chin up- BW + 15/10RM

To make things more "life-like" I have added some hypothetical 10 rep maxes so that we can show progressions.

Now, onto our 4 week block of training. Before plugging everything in, lets establish some sort of direction for our program. Below, I have listed out each of the weeks of training and possible increases that we can make:

Week 1- base week
Week 2- increase either volume or intensity by 2.5-5%
Week 3- increase again either volume or intensity by 2.5-5%
Week 4- increase by 2.5-5%
WEek 5- decrease volume or intensity by 5-10%

Okay, now lets apply this to the squat listed above and see how it will work out:

For the base week, lets start by doing 3 sets of 10 with a 12 rep maximum. To get our 12 rep maximum, we calculate our 1RM from our 10RM (~75% of our 1RM):

225/75% = 300lb 1RM

Then, we take our preceived 1RM and calculate our 12RM (~70% of our 1RM):

300 x 70%= 210lb 12RM

Week 1- Base week- 210/3 sets x 10 repetitions
Week 2- increase intensity by 5%= 220/3 sets x 10 reps
Week 3- increase volume by adding 2 reps(5%) to each set- 220/3 sets x 12 reps
Week 4- increase intensity by 5%- 230/3 sets x 10 reps OR work up to a new 10RM.
Week 5- decrease volume by removing 2 reps from each set, but keep intensity- 230/3x8
Week 6- lots of options here. You could go with your new 10RM, recalculate and then move on from there or you can start your new training cycle with a higher intensity (8 reps) and work up from there over 4 weeks (linear periodization).

Now, how can we simplify periodization even more? What if that was a bit much for you. Some people don't want to sit there and calculate all that stuff out before their workout. They want to keep it even easier.

To make it even easier, just choose a rep zone (12-15, 8-10, 3-6) and work within that zone by increasing one of the variables listed above (sets or reps). Lets take our 225lb 10 rep squat and use it in an example again:

Rep zone = 8-10; 225 = 10RM
Week 1- 225/3 sets x 8 reps
Week 2- 225/4 sets x 8 reps (added a set)
Week 3- 225/3 sets x 10 reps (added reps tp each set, but lower the set number)
Week 4- 225/4 sets x 10 reps (increased the set back up to 4)

So, even if all we did was track our load/sets x reps, we can gauge how we are progressing. This information is important in helping us know what we need to do to continually make improvements towards our goals.

Hopefully this info will give everyone something to consider when preparing their next phase of training. Hopefully this info will give trainers something to consider when looking at their clients programs and figuring out where to go next.

More later!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Let's Talk About Metabolism...

Metabolism refers to the necessary processes taking place inside our bodies that help to sustain life. The processes can be broken down into two categories: those yielding energy via the breakdown of substances (catabolic) and those synthesizing, or creating, substances (anabolism).

Our metabolism is dependent on several factors, all of which we have some sort of control over. The four factors that make up our metabolism are:

* Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
* Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)
* Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT)
* Thermic effect of food (TEF)

Lets further look at what these terms mean, and how we can potentially take control of them to help our bodies burn more fat and maintain (or build depending on your goals) some muscle (which will help to increase our metabolism overall).

Resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories we expend at rest. Basically, if you were to lie in bed all day and watch television, this would be the number of calories that you would need in order to lie there and keep your organs and tissues in normal working order. Since this part of our metabolism is not dependant on us getting up and moving around, you may be asking yourself how we have control over it. Well, even though our metabolic rate is controlled by a few factors that are out of our control (genetics and age being the two big ones), we can always work to improve metabolic rate through a few other factors.

Whenever we exercise, we help to increase our RMR as our body will become more efficient at burning fuel at rest, in order to keep up with the rise in metabolism due to our increased activity levels. This is especially true when we perform exercises at a high intensity (resistance training or sprinting), as our metabolism may be elevated for some time period after the exercise itself has stopped. This is termed excess-post exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC for short. Although research is still undecided about how long this elevation in metabolism occurs for after exercise, we do know that more intense exercise seems to stimulate metabolism to a greater degree than the traditional long and slow stuff (although this does have its place in your training program as well).

Another way to help to increase our RMR is to increase our muscle mass. Our muscle-to- fat ratio is going to help determine how many calories at rest we burn. If we have a poor muscle-to-fat ratio, then our metabolic rate will not be as high. If we have a good muscle-to-fat ratio our metabolic rate will be higher because muscle is a metabolic pig. Muscle has the potential to burn an extra 5 calories per pound per day! So, if you have 150lbs of lean tissue you can potentially burn an extra 750 calories per day (150 x 5 = 750)!

Non-exercise Activity thermogenesis (NEAT)
is a measure of how many calories we burn doing daily tasks (which are not specifically exercise). This can be things like doing the dishes, taking the garbage out, or walking the dog. While most people these days lead a very sedentary life (we drive to work and then we get out of our cars and then sit at a desk all day) this one can be a very huge deal! Any way that you can increase your NEAT will be very beneficial to you. For example, try parking furthest away from the office door so that you have to walk a greater distance to get into the office. If you typically take the elevator up to your office, try to take the stairs. Go for a walk when you get home from work at night instead of just walking in and sitting down in front of the television. Stand up and stretch out every 15-20min at work and then take a walk around the office for a minute. Be creative, just figure out some way to increase you energy expenditure through out the day. I went to a large commercial gym to work out last week and one thing that I noticed was that they had a valet service at the front door of the gym. That is pretty funny. We wonder why we have an obesity epidemic in this country. People can't even walk from their cars to the gym!!

Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT)
is the amount of energy we expend during our workout. If you aren't working out consistently right now, you should be! Make time to do some sort of structured exercise a couple days a week. This will make the greatest impact on your overall metabolism. As stated before, the more intensely we work out the greater potential we have to burn more calories during exercise and possibly once exercise has stopped for the day. Also, resistance training will help to positively shift our muscle to fat ratio and enhance metabolic activity.

Finally, thermic effect of food (TEF) is the amount of energy we expend to actually digest the food that we eat. The best example of this is when people refer to celery as a zero-calorie or non-calorie food. They say this because it takes more calories to digest the celery than the celery has itself. Making sure to eat greens (fiber) can help to increase our TEF because it slows down the digestion of the meal and makes the body work harder to breakdown the food. Also, because protein has nitrogen, this nitrogen needs to be stripped away and then excreted (via urea). The process of stripping away the nitrogen raises the proteins TEF over the other two macronutrients (carbohydrates and fats).

With summer inching closer, we usually take time to relax, vacation and lounge around. I hope you can take some of this information and use it to increase your metabolism and get the results you've always wanted. Remember, if we do everything right, as we are relaxing by the pool this summer, our RMR should be higher!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

PT, Chiro, Massage....etc...

I still think you should do a little blurb on what to look for in Physical Therapy, Chiro, Massage therapists.

That is a good question. For a physical therapist or chiro, you are really going to want to have somoene that does manual therapy, as well as exercised based therapy. There are a lot of "quawk"practors out there who want you to come in every other day or every week and just crack your back. Ideally, you need to find out why things are out of alignment, how they are getting out of alignemnt and what you need to do to get them back into alignment (proper stretching and strengthening). The "re-setting" that the chiro does is a band-aide to the problem. It is a temporary fix, to which you need to properly maintain. A good chiro should be showing you how to do that and not just taking your money. Physical therapists can also be very helpful in getting you on the path towards feeling better. Again, manaul therapy and proper strengthening and stretching is the way you want to go. If you are walking in and all the therapist does is ultrasound and stim, you need to walk back out and find someone else.

Massage therapy is a little different. Ideally, you are going to go with what feels go to you. I personally prefer a deep tissue sports massage. For some, this may be to invasive and uncomfortable. You have to find out what you can handle. Good soft tissue work can go along way. Like the other stuff, it is always up to you to maintain the proper tissue density once the therapist helps get the knots out.

Therapy modalities are great. They make you feel better and they can make you perform better as well. But, in the end, it is up to you to maintain the healthy structure after therapy. If you don't, you will always end up where you were before.

Another word on Chiro' seems that a lot of them these days want to talk about diet and push their crappy supplements on you or their friggin' pine needle juice or whatever they are selling. I would steer clear of these them. I personally am not a fan of voodoo medicine.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Blog Update.....

Hello everyone,

Sorry, I have been super busy lately and have not had much time to blog. I am also having a bit of writers block. I don't want to flood this thing with the "same-old-same-old" and just talk about stuff that everyone else is always talking about. I want to make sure that people get information out of this that they can actually use, instead of hearing my ramble about nothing.

Is there anything anyone would like me to jump into? Does anyone have specific questions or concerns?


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Questions regarding my last entry on abdominals....

“You just need to do the proper type of training to expose them.”

So then, what is the “proper” exercise then? There are soo many to choose from. I only do hanging leg raises and I use the abs crunch machine @ the gym, and at the same time doing cardio to melt the fats as well as eating a proper diet. I think I’m on the right track, but is there any abs exercise in particular that you find more effective than the rest?

I think you misunderstood what I meant when I said "proper training." I was not talking about abdominal training. I was talking about training overal, as in your whole training program. Body fat is lost over the entire body. There is no one special exercise that will make your abdominals lose the fat that is laying over top of them. A solid program of resistance training, some interval cardio work and even some steady state cardiovascular training are what you need (along with a good diet) to get to your goal.

That said, when looking at the abdominals I think that most people only focus on one thing, trunk flexion (ie crunches). The abdominals (the entire core musculature really) have a variety of functions. Working in a physical therapy clinic, it is not uncommon to see people come in and complain of lower back problems and at the same time saying they don't understand why they have these problems because they perform "insert some absurd number of repetitions here" of crunches a day. After watching the do their crunches, you realize that they aren't really contracting their abdominals at all, rather just going through the motions. Most people do their crunches way to fast and they don't focus on really bracing their abs. I use tempo restrictions for people (3/2/1) to help teach them to stay contracted, as well as being specific with the ROM that they are using. Back to the statement I made about the many functions, you also want to work on some sort of stabilization exercise (planking and bridging movements are excellent for this) as well as some sort of rotational movement (2 part chops and lifts are good, as well as bird dogs). Also, don't neglect things like reverse crunches. The abdominals contract both top to bottom and bottom to top, so you should really train them through their many functions.

While we’re on this matter, do you have any links to good exercise websites that teaches proper exercise postures? I need to work on my back too. If possible point me in the direction of an ebook, that way I can put it in my phone and bring it to the gym for reference.

I don't know an e-books that go over exercise technique. is a great site with exercise technique videos and descriptions. I would check that out if you are unsure of your form. Also, you might want to try and find a trainer who is compotent enough to analzye your form and give you some technique cues.


Monday, May 7, 2007

abs abs abs....

blah blah blah.....All I get are questions about how to get abs. I understand peoples infatuation with seeing their abs...they look great! But seriously, there is no magic sit up or crunch exercise that is going make them stick out. You have to work for it. Here is todays Q&A:

Q: I have been doing crunches and sit ups every day for the past month and I still don't have abs. What am I doing wrong?

A: This is a pretty common question/complaint of many gym goers. The reality of it is that you can do crunches and sit ups and abdominal exercise until you are blue in the face and you will never see your muscles. That is, until you actually get rid of the fat that is lying over the top of them. The easiest way to achieve this is a healthy diet and a proper training program which is focused on losing fat over your entire body. Once you realize the importance of creating a caloric deficit with your diet and training, you will be well on your way to the "6-pack abs" that you desire. Everyone has abs. You just need to do the proper type of training to expose them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Research Review...

Great study in the recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning on specific training for golf and fitness for adults......even if you aren't a golfer, check this one out because it does also test fitness parameters....

Functional Training Improves Club Head Speed and Functional Fitness in Older Golfers

Thompson CJ, Cobb KM, Blackwell J, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2007, 21(1), 131-137.

My comments

With the summer right around the corner and the weather starting to warm up, more and more people are heading out onto the golf course. So, I thought this would be a great study to look at for two reasons. First, most people are looking to enhance their golf game somehow and second, most people are looking to enhance their health somehow. This study really focuses on both golf and fitness, so it is nice to kill two birds with one stone when you can.

This study took 18 male golfers between the ages of 60 and 80 years old. The golfers had to meet the requirements of averaging more than 40 rounds of golf per year and they had to be free of any uncontrolled cardiovascular or metabolic disease. In orther words, they were normal healthy 60-80yr old men. The men were assigned to either a control or exercise group. The control group was instructed to continue their normal level of activity throughout the study; while the exercise group was placed on an 8-week exercise program. The exercise program was written specifically for this study and was based on the principles of the National Academy of Sports Medicine's (NASM) Optimum Performance Training model (a training model that has been used for the general public as well as professional and olympic caliber athletes with great results). All subjects in the test were asked to not take any golf lessons during the 8-week period, in-order to prevent any changes in swing speed or skill, which would throw off the results of the study.

Subjects were tested before and after the 8 week period for club head speed. As well, the subjects went through a battery of tests to assess strength, flexibility, and endurance. The reason these tests were used was to evaluate the subjects current fitness levels and compare them to their fitness levels after completing the 8-week exercise program.

Following the 8-week program the subjects were re-tested. The exercise group saw a 4.9% increase in Club Head Speed. Additionally, the subjects in the exercise group saw significant post-test improvements in four out of the six overal fitness tests.

What this means to us

This means several things to us. First, some may be wondering what the term "functional" means in the title of this study. Functional has become sort of a buzz word in the fitness industry. It seems to have a variety of interpretations, depending on who you talk to. To me, functional means nothing more than the fact that the exercise program is designed to enhance everyday activities (whether they are sports movements or life movements). That being said, just about everything is functional. I should make note of what the NASM-Optimum Sports Performance model is, as this will give you more understanding of exercise application. Basically, the program is a designed program which targets different skills at different times (periodization). For example, in this study the subjects were given 8 weeks to train. The researchers broke the model down into short phases which primarily focused on enhancing different factors. focusing on endurance (higher reps) and work capacity first, then moving into hypertrophy (muscle growth or structural changes) and finally strength and power. On their time line, it looked like this:

weeks 1-4: 1-2 sets x 15 reps

weeks 5-6: 3 sets x 12 reps

weeks 7-8: 3 sets x 8 reps

In the last two weeks, the researchers also added plyometric exercises (jumping and medicine ball throwing) to help increase power output, a vital characteristic in the golf swing.

The other two factors that are of critical importance in the NASM model of training are core and balance training. The program is set up so that the individual trains all three (core, balance and strength) in one day, like so:

1. core exercises
2. balance exercises
3. weight training exercises

So, now that we know a little bit about how the program was set up, we can take away from it the fact that aside from enhacing our golf game, this type of training can be used to enhance our fitness levels. We know that regular exercise is vital to overal fitness. Of special concern is the fact that as we age, we start to lose our ability to display power and we begin to lose muscle mass. By strength training and using some power training (low level plyometrics and medicine ball work as seen in this study) we can really delay this natural response of aging. As well, the balance and core training can be vitally important to prevent falling in this population and increasing these individuals confidence in their ability to move and be more "functional."

How we can use this to our advantage

We can use this to our advantage by taking a look at our currnet training program and making sure that we are accounting for these variables and setting up different phases of training so that we can continually improve and reach higher levels of fitness and health. Even by using something as basic as the repetition scheme given above, we can go pretty far.

Something as simple as that, when applied can be very effective to your exercise program.

Wrapping up

Hopefully, not only the golfers out there, but ALL of you, can use this information to better their current exercise routine. The study, while focusing on golf performance, was also geared towards showing improvements in health and fitness. Don't be afraid to take some of these ideas and use them to your advantage!