Monthly Archives: April 2012

This Weeks Good Reads

I read a lot throughout the week.  Different articles, blogs, books that will help me help you.  Since I know I can not write about every topic in the world, I will share with you some of the information that I come across on a week to week basis.

First off, I just want to say, I am reading the Hunger Games trilogy, almost done with the last one, and I absolutely enjoy them.  I was very skeptical at first, but my girlfriend convinced me to read them, and have polished them off fairly quickly.  I hardly ever read for pleasure, and this has been a nice break from the usual. 

Putting that random thought aside, here are my five reads for this week:

Interesting study on vitamin D and how it can aid in weight loss.  This would only be the case if you were deficient in the vitamin in some way.  They talk about it here in the article, and why some obese people would be deficient in this vitamin: 

This article explains the importance of breathing properly.  We should all be breathing into the stomach, not the chest.  I try to teach this to every one of my clients, but they don’t want to take the little time throughout the day to fix it. Breathing properly will help fix your posture, give you better core strength and help the body perform a million times better.

For those of you who think exercise and pain go together like green eggs and ham, read this one.  Pain should never be felt during or after an exercise. If you do, take a step back, regress the exercise; get better at the regression and then progress back to that exercise.  If it still hurts, regress again until you are pain free.

This is my bang for the buck article of the week.  A lot of people trying to lose weight replace sugar with artificial sweetners.  This article will explain why this is a bad idea.

This is for those die hard lifters, who love squats and deadlifts so much.  Not saying they are bad, because… I love them too, but we have to train on one leg as well.

Was this post helpful, enlightening, the purest, greatest thing you ever read? Let me know, leave a comment below!

6 Things That I Have Changed My Mind About (Part I)

During my entire life, I thought that I was ALWAYS right.  It was really only my parents that were able to prove me otherwise.  They would give me advice on matters that I would never take; thinking that they were wrong, and of course, I was right.  Then a couple weeks down the line… I would realize they were correct.  The same has happened throughout the last five years since I have been a trainer.  I had formed my own philosophies about training, and thought I knew it all.  That I never made a mistake, until I learned better and realized, I have been wrong, and most likely will be wrong again some where, some time… but probably not anytime soon…

Here are six things that I have changed my mind about:

1.  What I have once thought: 

When exercising, the more the better.

With all of the availability of information on exercise, and all the different modalities, there are way too many options to choose from.  There is aerobic training, strength training, corrective training and sports.  Well, it seems to be that all of these options are important.  So lets do some of it all.  And that is a great idea.  Except, how much of everything is the appropriate amount.  When I first started exercising, I did it all.  I worked out six days a week.  My goal was to get big and strong.  And not only was I working out six days per week, I was also playing football and baseball for minimum two times per week.

So what is wrong with all this? I did gain results after all.  I gained 30 lbs in a year.  I got much stronger, so why not continue to do all that stuff.  Well for starters I was 17-18 years old.  I was sleeping 10 hours a night, and I was eating food like I was in a hot dog eating competition.   It was all fun and games, until I began to gather more responsibilities.  I got a real job, harder class work and all the added stress that comes with it.  One, I didn’t have the time I once did to exercise six times per week plus some two-a-days.  Two, as my sleep decreased my fatigue got worse and worse.  I tried to keep up exercising like I was when I was 17, but it would just lead to incredible amounts of fatigue and my many injuries.

What I think now:

Not many people have time to exercise six days per week.  So keep it between two and four times a week.  You can get a lot of work accomplished in that time.  Mobility work, stretching, foam rolling, strength work, conditioning work.  You just need to learn how to break it up.  Figure out what you want your main priority to be for a months time period and spend more time on that, and less on the rest.  When a beginner spend a lot more time on mobility and stability of the muscles and joints.  This will help you gain the necessary mobility and stability needed to have perfect form during each and every exercise.  Also, once you have great mobility, stability and technique, you will be able to get better results faster.  Sometimes it is always good to take baby steps early on.

Time will pass no matter what, if you consistently train year after year, the years will add up.  Take the time to do it right early, and you will have great success later on.  As for those with a little more experience, start doing a little less if your workouts are longer then an hour.  If you have pain, find out why and learn how to use corrective exercising in order to decrease pain.  If you are pain free, learn how to integrate stability, mobility, corrective exercise cardio and strength training into one.

I set up a 12-month outline of my exercise programs for myself.  I outline what months I am training hypertrophy, strength, power etc. An example would be for a strength phase:  I set up my workouts either three days or four days per week, with a main focus on strength, meaning my reps would be in the one to five range.  If I have power exercises, they would be at a low percentage of my 1 RM max, in order to not fatigue me.  I will do most of my foam rolling and corrective work on off days, and play sports and bike ride if I do so, on the weekends, which I are almost always off days from exercise. Just always remember to keep it simple, and keep your workouts to roughly an hour.  This will be the recipe for better results in the gym, while not over-taxing the body.

2.  What I have once thought: 

To get strong, you must lift really heavy, all the time.

As I first started to work out and even many of the following years after that, I was constantly taught by everyone around me that in order to get strong, you must lift really heavy, all the time.  There is no time for deload periods, a week of rest or using a percentage of your 1RM to moderate intensity.  It is pick the heaviest weight you can lift for X amount of reps and complete it, and if you can’t, have a spotter help you.  During my first year of training, it worked wonders for me.  But, in all honestly anything will.  A first year exerciser has the ability to make gains in the gym unlike anyone else.  They can have up to 30% gains in strength, and lose or gain weight like it was their job.  But as the experience level starts to rise, this technique brings your gains to a halt.  Frustration sets, as every week there are no longer PR’s, but decreases in the amount of weight you can lift.

What I Think Now:

Rest is the most important part of getting strong, or getting any results… period.  If you are not getting adequate sleep, your body’s hormones will never be normal.  As we sleep, our body is healing.  Hormone levels are returning to normal, injuries are being healed, and the stresses on our nervous system and body are being relieved.  If we deprive our bodies of the 6-8 hours of sleep per night, your body will not be able to do its job, and the stress the body takes through out the day will continue to build up.

Also rest during your exercise phase is important.  For me I lift mostly for strength.  During my workout phase, I will have a high, medium, very high and deload week. This allows me to lift heavy (90% 1 RM) during my first week.  The following week is of a medium load, which allows to me lift moderately heavy (80 – 85 % 1RM).  This allows my nervous system some rest, but still giving me adequate load for my body to have positive responses to training.  Now I can do my really heavy day (95% 1RM).  When doing strength training there is a ton of neurological stress on the body.  The more stress you place on it without giving it a day off, the more it builds up, and can have negative effects on the body.  As the nervous system gets more and more fatigued, so do you, your performance decreases, and you will not get stronger, but may even get weaker.  This is the full purpose of a deload week.   This allows you to still get a good workout in, but not lift heavy at all (50-60 % 1RM).  This helps the nervous system get more rest, and allows the body to be as fresh as can be for every workout.  It may seem weird to a lot of people not to lift heavy every time they go in there, but through trial and error, I am finding this way to be superior to other modalities.  If you don’t believe me, try it, or just check my training log, as I will be periodically testing, and posting my results.

Core Training 101

If you can only name the obliques and the muscles thatgive you a six-pack as the muscles of the core, then chances are you’re training your core incorrectly.  We all want great looking abs, but how can we achieve this while keeping the core functional enough to prevent back pain, and help you get stronger than everbefore?  The answer is not as hard as you think.  Once you finish reading this,your abs will already look a little better in the mirror, and your back pain…GONE!

First off, what exactly is the “core”?

Your core in its most basic form begins from your diaphragm, and ends at your glutes.  The core is also three-dimensional meaning, we are referring to all muscles in the front, the back and the sides.  All these muscles work in unison together, therefore no one muscle group/movement pattern can be avoided.

Lets List the muscles in its simplest terms shall we. 

  • In the front: rectus abdominus (what up six-pack muscles!),  transverse abdominus (TA for short) and the hip flexors.
  • In the back: spinal erectors, multifidi and the glutes.

Now that we got a slightly better understanding of what the core is we can talk about what not to do.

With all the research being done by the likes of Dr.Stuart McGill and others, it is becoming common knowledge that flexion places alot of compressional force on the spine, which can lead to spinal injuries overthe long run.  Also, along with all the sitting we do, constant flexion will just continue to pull us forward continue to make our posture worse.

With this being said, we are allowed to flex the spine, but we must do it smartly.  Crunches and situps from the floor or on a machine are no bueno.

ALSO STAY AWAY FROM ALL MACHINES TO TRAIN YOUR CORE!  This is as half backwards as throwing your remote control at your television to turn it on.  Your core is there for stabilization, machines stabilize for you.  Therefore, machines don’t do didiley squat for you!

So with the DO NOTS out of the way, lets talk about what to do in order to get that sexy midsection, and get that functional strength needed.

First lets break up our core training into four movements.

1.  Anti-Extension

This group of exercises consists of all exercises where you must actively resist extension of your lumbar spine.  To think about what extension is, think about arching backwards at your lower back. During these exercises, we want to avoid this.  This allows us to really focus in on ou robliques and even the rectus abdominus to smaller extent if done properly.  If the first time you do the exercises listed below and think they are easy, you aren’t doing them correctly.  When doing them correctly, your entire midsection should feel like it is on fire.  And the best part is, the better you get at these exercises, the harder they get.

Anti-Extension exercises include:

  • Stability ball rollouts   
  • Wheel rollouts  
  • Body Saws   

2. Anti-Lateral Flexion

This set of exercises consists of all exercises where you actively resist lateral flexion of the lumbar spine or side bending.  These exercises are really great for targeting your quadratus lumborum and your internal/external obliques.

Examples of anti-lateral flexion:

  • Side planks 
  • 1 arm farmers walks 

3, Anti-Rotation

In this group of exercises, guess what? We are resisting rotation of the lumbar spine.  Some of the exercises outlined here may appear to be rotating, but these exercises drive thoracic rotation which is much different and much safer to train.  We do not want to train too much lumbar rotation, as the lumbar spine is mainly there for support.  So too much rotation at this part of the spine is unwanted, especially if you already have back pain.

  •  Paloff press 
  • Landmine rotations   

Here the hips will rotate along with the upper body.  This still is an anti-rotational exercise because there is no rotation around the lumbar spine when done correctly.  Focus on keeping the chest up, arms straight, and allow the hips to rotate as you descend the barbell to your hip.  Once at the bottom, reverse the directions by driving through your obliques.

  • Half-Kneeling Chop  

4. Flexion

So I know earlier we talked about no flexion of the spine.  But truth is, if done properly this is a great way to hit the rectus abdominus and train this motion.

  • Reverse situp with stability ball 

The medicine ball is there to help you lock your lats.  By keeping the lats tight, and using the stability ball to stimulate the hamstrings, you really hit the rectus abdominus without getting any assistance from surrounding muscle groups.

Stability ball knee tucks 

  • Straight leg situps 

Two of these exercises require you to maintain a flatback, meaning there is no lumbar flexion, just hip flexion.  The other one (reverse situp) uses the stability ball to work reciprocal inhibition.  By contracting the hamstrings through squeezing the stability ball, you reciprocally inhibit the hip flexors from working, allow us to really focus on the rectus abdominus to get a great ass kicking.

So basically, if you were trying to incorporate the above classifications of core exercises into your training program, here is how it would look if you are using a four-day split

Day 1:  Anti-Extension

Day 2: Ant-Lateral Flexion

Day 3: Anti-Rotation

Day 4: Flexion

You could pick two exercises from each category for each day, and boom!  Your core will look better then Mr. Olympia’s.

If you are on a two-day split

Day 1: Anti-Extension + Anti-Lateral Flexion

Day 2: Anti-rotation + Flexion

One exercise from each group on each day will help you achieve sexified abs and a functional body that is pain free.

Was this post helpful, enlightening, the purest, greatest thing you ever read? How do you train your core? Has this style of core training helped you? Let me know, leave a comment below!