Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hello 2017

As I write this, 2016 is about three weeks from coming to an end.  I want everyone to look back on their goals that were made early in the year.  Have you reached them?  Are you close or have you forgotten about them?  If your goals were reached were attempts made to far beyond, or if they were forgotten they may not have been important enough to you.
It is time to start thinking of your goals for the New Year.  Some of the goals may be one from previous year or years.  If you have struggled to reach goals in the past, make them more of a priority.  Map out a plan to reach the goal.  Reaching a goal is about acquiring a new skill, whether the skill is strength, being able to run a marathon or write a book.  All of them require you to start, moving weight, taking a step or writing a page. 

Goals do not have to be based on the calendar year, if you have a new goal begin the work now.  Why wait to 2017?  The longer you put off starting the work, the harder it is to begin.  Make your goal or challenge, write it down and put it in many places (if you see your goal there is no escaping), map out a plan to attain the goal, and start the plan.      

With this post, I have completed one of my 2016 goals, average one post per month.  I may have to up that to two per month.  Stay tunes.
Happy health holidays to everyone.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

My hamstrings are tight!!!!!

Are you one of those people that feel as though your hamstrings are always tight, no matter how much stretching you perform? This is a common problem, and in a lot of cases NOT a hamstring problem. In many of these the tight sensation arises from the hamstrings actually being tired from being chronically elongated.  I know you’re trying to imagine what I’m talking about.

I have people do this simple test.  Lay on your back with your legs straight out, toes pointed to the ceiling.  While keeping them straight, raise one leg as high as possible.  If you are able to attain a vertical (90° angle at the hip) leg, your hamstrings are not tight. 

Now we have to look at the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC).  The pelvis may be anteriorly tilted, which causes the hamstrings at be chronically lengthened.  Simplistic visual of the anteriorly tilted pelvis is to imagine the pelvis as a bowl filled with water, and if the bowl is tilted forward the water will spill down the front.  This constant or chronic position will cause the hamstrings to feel tight.

So, if you pass the laying leg raise test, your core must become more active on a regular basis.  Try this lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC) reset and core activation steps:

•Start in a standing position and squeeze your glutes hard.

•Take a couple deep belly (diaphragmatic) breaths.

•Upon exhalation, pull tummy tight to a level 2 out of ten (0=full relaxed, 10 is squeezed as hard as possible).

•Relax Glues, keep core tight.

The LPHC is now neutral and under the control of the core.  This position will take some work in the beginning.  Go through the reset steps to program the position before you sit, pick anything up or doing just about any movement.  This will become your new normal with training and your hamstrings can finally get some rest. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

CORE: Best way to work it!

Over the last twenty plus year in this industry I have seen more magazine covers and now internet headlines than I can count (now my clients will say that’s not hard to do!) touting something about a tight core or six-pack abs.  The truth (and problem) is many are heavily focused on crunches and crunch variations.  Crunches done in large numbers can be bad for the lumbar spine (low back); there are only so many flexion (crunch action) movements our back can take before there is a structural breakdown.  Disk herniation is a common result from this breakdown.  Dr Stuart McGill uses a video in his lectures of a dissected rat spine that is put through large numbers of crunch movements until the spine breaks down and disk herniations occur.
Better options for a healthy core:
Plank varieties (regular, single leg, single arm, opposite arm/leg, side, etc.); these can be performed for time or breaths.  It is not about the length of time, think quality of position.  If you are doing a two minute plank, but only have the ability to hold proper position for thirty seconds, then you will have spent one-minute thirty training the body in a bad position.
Rotations/Anti-rotations (chopping, diagonal lifting and pallof pressing performed in the following positions: kneeling, ½ kneeling, lunging or standing); biggest key is to keep the low back stable (do not twist or rotate through this area).
Carries (farmers walk, suitcase carries, front rack, overhead); this is a great way to work the core and grip strength.  Maintain good posture, do not lean to one side, forward or back (over extension).
Low Back (hip hinge work using the following actions; extensions, reverse extensions, deadlifts); movements are done bending (hinging) at the hip not by bending at the lumbar spine (low back).

For a complete core pick one movement from each type of action one to two times per week.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Women should lift!

Women and weights!
A friend sent me an article the other day titled “How weight training can help woman stay strong” from  The title made me chuckle a little, I didn’t know weight training only helps woman to stay strong.  This title could have rose out of the audience on and their possible need to attempt to educate people to do more than just “do their time” on cardio equipment.  Before everyone thinks I am just picking this article apart, it does have some good points; like the government recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity and seventy five of vigorous.  Women between the ages of 25 and 64 were asked about their activity level, and forty-nine percent reported they performed the recommended cardio and only eighteen percent were doing the recommended weights and cardio.  Cardio and weights have been shown to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.  Lifting weights has been shown to help increase muscle mass and this side effect of weights might keep us more active and prevent injuries as we age.   
Strength coaches and trainers have been saying this for years! 
Here are some other reasons woman should weight train:
•Weight training is more effective for fat loss than cardio, weights burn more calories, and there is increased fat burn during and after. 
•More muscle will increase caloric expenditure, as strength is increased, lean muscle mass will increase, muscle burns calories (stored body fat does not).  Weight training will not make you look masculine or bulky; everybody (men and women) builds muscle at different rates.  Look at all the shapes and sizes at the Olympics, they all weight train!
•Weight training increases heart health, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that those who lift have less risk factors for heart disease; like increased waist circumference, high triglycerides and elevated blood pressure and glucose levels.
•Improved Sleep, those who weight train report the ability to fall asleep faster and have improved sleep quality. 
•Weight training increases bone health in woman, postmenopausal women have increased risk of osteoporosis, resistance training can combat bone loss.
Heavy weight with low reps or lighter weight with higher reps is a question that’s asked a lot.  I feel the answer is both.  Some studies I read compared the training styles and each had positive outcomes.   Best results occurred in the groups that rated their exertion at 7, 8, or 9 on a ten point scale, not the amount of weight lifted or reps performed.  So, it’s not the amount of weight lifted or the number of reps performed, it’s how hard you work!

Go lift some weight, and work hard!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Some truths about 6-pack abs!

Someone recently asked me about 6-pack abs, I don’t know if I gave the desired answer.  So, here I go attempting to answer.  The biggest truth about having visible abdominal muscles is you need to have a lower body fat percentage.  On average men need to be under 10% and women under 18%.  You can’t spot reduce or crunch away fat from the area.  
Body fat reduction occurs over the body as a whole and is done through intense cardio, resistance training and diet.  The best movements for fat burning are compound movements like barbell squats, deadlifts, rows and kettlebell swings.  These are great since more muscle will be worked during each lift, major calories are burned and the muscles of the core are trained.  I feel performing compound movements is the best way to train the core.  The job of this muscle group is to protect the lumbar spine, not just generating a crunching movement.  The core does not require daily direct training (like crunches), it should be trained like other muscle groupings with proper rest and progressive resistance. 

The ability to see your 6-pack (which we all have) will require a lifestyle change and discipline.  There is no quick fix to 6-pack abs.  Abdominal fat is usually the last fat to shed and the first to come back.  Do the work and get the results!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Calm the mind, Strengthen the core!

If you are like most people, you do not think of your breathing.  I am finding that more and more people are breathing inefficiently.  This means you are probably taking shallow chest breaths rather than belly or diaphragmatic breaths.  During proper breathing our bellies should expand (the diaphragm drops down to create space for the lower lungs to fill with air) and fill the imaginary cylinder around your core.
We need to remember the diaphragm is a muscle and if does not do its job, the muscles in the upper chest and neck will take over.  This can lead to headaches, hand numbness and back pain.
Try these techniques and pay attention to how you feel.
Box Breathing: this is a very simple exercise that I picked up from Mark Devine from
                Inhale through nose for a 4 count, hold breath for a 4 count, exhale through mouth for a 4 count, and hold the empty for a 4 count. Repeat for 2 to 10 minutes.
Wim Hof breathing: this one is a little more difficult but very effective.  Wim Hof is a multiple world record holder for sitting in ice baths (close to two hours in a tub with 700kg of ice).
1.       30 “power breaths”; breathe in fully through nose, breath out without force and hold until gasp reflex.  
2.       Breath in fully through nose, hold 10 seconds
3.       Repeat 1-2 cycles.

Try each technique, see which one you like and add that to your beginning/end of day routine or your relaxation/meditation time. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sick of same old core movements?

The next time you want a "new" core exercise give a loaded carries a try. You might be asking, what is a carry? Carries might be one of the most simple core movements to perform, pick up something heavy and walk. All the muscles of the core must fire to protect our spine from moving while carrying heavy things. Your body will always get it right, no thinking are my hips in the right place like while planking.
Types of carries;
Farmers walks:  holding two objects (dumbbell, kettle bell), one on each side.
Suitcase walk: hold on object by the side.
Rack (position): hold object (1 or 2) up by shoulders.
Overhead: hold object (1 or 2) overhead with strait arms.
Odd objects can also be used for carrying, bear hug a sand or heavy bag.

Give carries a try during you next workout. Pick up something heavy, walk a certain distance, time or steps, and do that two or three times.
Have fun and try a variety of carries.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Try this for calf help!

As anyone who has talked with me knows, I am a huge proponent of tissue work and foam rolling. We all need to have a daily tissue mobilization practice. With the weather improving (finally in the Northeast), people are getting more active. Especially runners! And with that comes tight calves/Achilles and feet. I have had a few comments lately about the difficulty of holding the body off the ground in order to create enough pressure for effective rolling. I happen to agree. For this problem I have a little trick that will allow everyone to create enough pressure on the calves for great results.
You will need two yoga blocks or two 2" think books and a tiger tail/the stick like device (I use a 1" round dowel).
 To perform, place the blocks on the floor and put the tiger tail or dowel on top. Start by placing one leg onto roller just above the heel; place the second leg on the first. Take your time and work up the calf, pointing the foot in and out until just below the knee.
                        Block Set-up                            

                                        Beginning Calf Rolling

Using the yoga block set up will allow you to spend more time working this tissue, giving you better results.

Give it a try. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Power Lifting, Strength and Sport?

Last weekend marked the return of UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. It was his first fight (in the octagon, not with the law) in over a year. Jones won, regaining his title in a five round unanimous decision. After the fight the social media world blew up with chatter of how Jones did not look dominant or like himself. People said he must be washed up or that his extra-curricular activities must be catching up with him.
I looked at it a little differently; maybe he felt he needed the work. As good as practice and sparring are (and are needed) nothing is quite like the actual event. It was a lunch-pail kind of fight, work on some things and retrain what five rounds of fighting feels like.
What does fighting have to do with this fitness/motivation blog? A friend sent me an article posted on posing an interesting question whether power lifting played a role in Jones' "lack of dominance".  During the fight, Jones’ head coach Greg Jackson was overheard saying “power lifting’s a problem.” And that he’s gassed referring to Jones.  This may have been referring to Jones’ overall conditioning or just simple ring rust.
I've never worked with an elite mixed martial arts fighter, so my opinion is coming from my almost twenty years of training athletes of various levels.  I feel MMA fighters might be the most difficult type of athlete to work with.  I’m not talking personality, but training capacity.  Fighters today must be experts in a number of fighting styles, from boxing, to BJJ to wrestling.  This would be the equivalent of an NFL player going both ways and also performing the kicking for their team.  Fighters also have a different coach for each fighting style.  And these coaches need to communicate with one another.  Each coach needs to be aware of what the others are doing; the athlete will need some restorative/mobility/technique work to aid recovery.  Being crushed by three coaches in one day may lead to overtraining or injury. 
Let me get back to the issue of the power lifting being Jones’ problem.  I do not think (nor do I feel Jackson really thinks) power lifting is the problem.  Jackson probably does not feel the strength gained from lifting was actually the problem, but maybe power lifting was prioritized over his fight training.  Increasing strength will make any athlete (or human) better at their activity.  A stronger Jon Jones will be a better Jon Jones.  But, did the time he spent acquiring that new strength take away from his primary training as a fighter.  I feel many athletes should follow the 80/10/10 rule (I learned this from Dan John) for training time. 80% of training time should be devoted to your sport, 10% on strength, 10% on correctives and movement.  I bet Tom Brady spends most of his dedicated training time to throwing mechanics and the nuances of foot work that allow him to move so well around the pocket.   
On a final thought, I do feel strength is king.  Strength makes athletes better, and non-athletes better humans.  Everyone should work on increasing strength, but not at the sacrifice of your sport.  Keep working on strength acquisition, strength is a skill.  Keep working on getting stronger.

Till next time.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Power of a Group!!!!!!

During March we hold a month long challenge that encompasses duration cardio and intervals, upper/lower body splits and a couple benchmark workouts.  One of the benchmark workouts is a “Spartan” workout and I put a small group of the participants through the workout.  Steve was a late entry to this group, and he was so excited after that he wanted to write a piece about his experience.   

Last week was an interesting day at the gym to say the least. I was just getting off the treadmill having completed a 10 minute warmup when I saw a group of people gearing up for a "Spartan Style" workout with Big Joe. I was intrigued by the eclectic group that was about to embark on an undoubtedly intense workout. As I was just walking away to the bench press to begin another uninspired workout, I was encourage by Joe to join the group and give it a try. Immediately my mind began to delve into its typical thought pattern of excuses. "Nahhh, the hip kinda hurts today." Or "Uh, thanks but I haven't been working out much so I wouldn't be able to keep up, blah blah blah."

But today was different. Something was pulling me right into the group and I wasn't quite sure what it was. I could feel a vibrant energy brewing within the group as a few members encouraged me to join them. This energy trumped the laziness of my mind and I joined up. After a quick rundown of the exercises by Joe it was go time. 3 minutes in I was breathing heavy and was looking longingly at the bench press and of the comfort of an easy workout. That self -defeating thought only lasted a moment as another member encouraged me to get back up on the pull up bar like Dan Henderson training for a Rampage Jackson fight . Bam! The endless chatter of my mind started to fall away as I entered a deeper state of flow. It seemed as if the other members were right there with me as I observed them doing the tough reps with more ease. Joe kept the pace high with encouragement and adjustments to technique. That, I feel, was the biggest benefit of the workout. Its one thing to be in a group and have some good energy to get you through a tough workout. Its of WAY more benefit to be accompanied by a personal trainer such as Joe who is there to to make sure no one gets injured. A case in point, when I was doing some difficult plyometric jumps Joe observed my knees collapsing in which I wasn't aware of. As some of us know, middle age can be a ripe time for injuries from bad technique that our younger bodies could get away with. Bad habits have a way of perpetuating without to oversight of a good trainer and I'm thankful Joe was there to catch my bad form. 
After about 40 minutes the workout was finished and it was now time for some high fives as the endorphins started kicking in. This is why we go to the gym, is it not? For that endorphin rush which is the body's way of giving thanks for a strong effort towards a healthier existence. I'm now friendly with two of the members of that group who I had previously never met. They ask me to ask Joe (they are a bit intimidated by him) if he can continue this Spartan Friday for months to come. I believe they intuitively understood something special happens when you have the right energy with the right trainer. Who knows? Maybe this will catch on sometime soon at our club. But until next time, Happy Trails in the name of Health!!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Are you consistent?
How is everyone doing with their workout goals (I wrote about goals in January)?  Do you find yourself still struggling to find a goal? If so, how about attempting to be more consistent with any exercise/activity.   I’m still talking about performance based activity.  Become consistent performing basic human movements; squats, push, pull, hinge and push/pull sled.  Are you able to squat? If you struggle, you need to do them more often.  It is said that ten thousand hours is required to become an expert at something.  We don’t need to be an expert.  But, we do need to be good.  Becoming “good” will take hundreds of hours (does not have to be done in a week).  This is where consistency comes in.  Doing small increments daily will add to the hours needed to become good at a movement.  When we were in school we didn’t just read and write once in awhile, we did it daily to become good.
And on a goals note, one of mine for this year is to write more on this blog.  A friend of mine recently “checked out” my blog and pointed out to me that I have made an average of one post per year.  Here is my second post, which is more than last year. 
Until next time, keep getting strong.          

Monday, January 18, 2016

New Year, New look at GOALS!
 Happy 2016 everyone!  As I write this we are two weeks into the New Year, and I have listened to many people say they have “fallen off the resolution bandwagon”.  Are you one of these people?  Do you already feel you are behind the eight ball trying to looses that extra 10, 20 pounds (or whatever your resolution)?   I feel goal setting is a large part of training and progressing.  So many people struggle to keep their weight loss goals.  If you feel this is you, maybe a different look at goals might help.  Performance goals may be right for you.  Performance based goals would be increasing push up reps (or doing one), squatting or dead lifting your body weight, doing a pull up for the first time or setting a 5K personal record.  Working towards your performance based goals may help you reach weight loss goals.    Do the work and results will come!    

One of my goals for this year is to write more on this blog!  This is the first step.