All Trainers Are NOT Created Equal

Many people who have personal trainers feel that theirs is the very best.  I have never met anyone who doesn’t rave about his or her trainer, especially if he/she has been working with them for a substantial period of time. Part of the training experience is the camaraderie and trust formed between the trainer and his client, and the majority of people are very loyal.

However, putting friendship and personality aside, only a handful of personal trainers are truly competent and knowledgeable. As a result, many people get injured and sometimes the client doesn’t even realize that their trainer is responsible. Many injuries are repetitive injuries, which are injuries that occur gradually over time due to frequent, repeated, unsafe movements.

The client may not even know that they are being injured! For example, one morning a person can wake up with his knee bothering him and he is unable to walk without pain. He may not remember doing anything the day before to cause the injury; in fact, this injury may have been happening gradually over a period of time. Therefore, a client may be ignorant to what is causing his ailment. Injuries may be caused by improper form, unsafe exercises, or lack of knowledge about anatomy and how the body works. Clients need to be able to evaluation their trainers objectively; you cannot assume that all gyms are hiring qualified, competent trainers.

Intensive training &/or education is not currently required to become a personal trainer. All that is required is a certification that is accredited that the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCAA); for example, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), NFPT (National Federation of Personal Trainers and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). Most gyms require that their trainers are certified, but NOT all do! Make sure that your trainer is certified and that he attends seminars and takes continuing education courses to stay current.

The body is a complex machine and it is important that a trainer understands proper mechanics to avoid injury, especially if the client has pre-existing conditions. A trainer should perform an initial evaluation and obtain a health history so to target weak areas and avoid aggravating an injury or condition that is already present. The evaluation should include testing flexibility, balance, core strength, muscle strength and endurance, as well as proprioception. Your trainer should be able to explain why he is choosing certain exercises and how they benefit you. He or she should also be knowledgeable in functional training, which is training for daily activities or a specific goal. Additionally, your trainer should be able to use the initial assessment to design a tailor-made workout program for each individual. There is no one-size-fits-all in personal training.

There are many benefits to using a personal trainer rather than working out on your own. Choose wisely, because not all trainers are created equal. Do your due diligence and do your research to ensure you get the results that you want.

What is Functional Training?

There are many different opinions on which exercises are best to do. “What type of training should I be doing?” is a big question along with “Do I perform slow or fast reps?”, “Do I use a bench or a physio-ball?”, or “Do I do one body part at a time?” The answer is that everyone should be training according to their own personal goals. There isn’t one specific routine that will work for every person. Performing a typical gym program of random exercises, three sets of ten, with one-minute rest between each has benefits but will not be the most efficient way to attain your goals or address your specific needs. Training primarily with machines without the use of free weights is inefficient because you are moving resistance along a fixed axis, and not freely in space as the body normally would. Machines have value while integrated properly but are often misused. They have limited functional strength transfer to real life situations in most cases and can actually create poor motor patterns in some people.

Functional training is defined as movements or exercises that improve a person’s ability to complete their daily activities or to achieve a specific goal. It is not a series of exercises deemed functional by some manual. Doing movements in the gym that strengthen the muscles involved in the movements you wish to improve outside the gym is a good start. This does not mean you can simply add weight to the exact movement you wish to enhance. There is research that has proven doing this can actually be detrimental to some athletic movements. When a baseball player adds weight to his bat, that actually can slow his bat speed down because the added resistance changes the forces on the joint and disrupts mechanics. All exercises have some functional value when applied correctly however, this value is determined by the benefit outside of the gym. Every exercise has a functional limitation and it is up to the trainer to understand what that limitation is. A good program will focus on weak areas as well as the specific goals of the client. It is important to understand how to progress someone from simple smaller targeted movements to more complex multi joint movements. Training someone functionally can range from having a tennis player lunge to a chop or a bodybuilder do a slow curl for bigger biceps; its all about the goal.  Keep in mind that doing complex movements before a client is ready will do more harm than good.

In order to build appropriate muscle strength, joint integrity, balance and flexibility in all planes of motion, it is essential that the body is exercised in a functional manner. It is crucial to include multi-joint and multi-planar exercises, as this recruits the body’s stabilizers to synergistically facilitate movement. Doing this ensures that the nervous system is working properly and that all  parts of the body are used in the appropriate manner, with the correct muscles firing at the right time. This is not to say you shouldn’t include some so called non functional exercises, including a machine or old school exercise can be beneficial, safe and fun when applied correctly. To create a functional program, a trainer must set realistic goals and understand the client’s weaknesses, daily activities and limitations.

A trainer must be able to identify postural distortions and include exercises that correct them. More importantly, they have to educate the client on what movements or activities to avoid or modify during their day. It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it. The ability to identify a postural distortion is dependent on the trainer’s understanding of anatomy, motor patterns and muscle function. A trainer must also be able to identify when muscles are over active and firing out of sequence, or not firing at all. Synergistic dominance is common in most postural dysfunctions. In general, if the agonist is tight then the antagonist is weak, thus creating increased stress on the joint. This can result in patterns of repetitive stress, ultimately leading to accelerated joint degeneration .

Core stability, flexibility and balance are key factors when designing a functional exercise routine. It is important to maintain posture while being able to move all joints in a full range of motion. Training with free weights, and challenging the surrounding environment promotes balance and stability, which is necessary if you expect to see benefits outside of the gym. Keep in mind, it is more important to be able to control your own body weight and concentrate on form, balance and core endurance, than to move heavy weights.

A functional core routine consists of dynamic movements, isometric exercises and challenges the center of gravity. To completely train the core, you must also include dynamic stabilization, isometric and proprioceptive movements, not just for the mid section, but for the entire trunk. Medicine balls, balance boards, foam rollers and physio-balls are great tools for core training, and should be integrated into every program. It is a fact that training on the physioball (challenged environment) is superior to traditional floor exercises. As a person ages, balance and stability become compromised. If balance and stability are not addressed, they will consistently degrade. A weak core contributes to poor stability, and inhibits proper limb movements, causing muscle imbalances in the kinetic chain. This is why falls are common in the geriatric population. Many back and hip injuries are related to weak core muscles. There are many small muscles in the core that the general population knows little about or addresses during exercise. In most spinal injuries,  MRI images show atrophy in these small muscles. In order to maintain a healthy spine, these little muscles need to be trained. Without stability, even the strongest person can not effectively propel a force into the environment.

Flexibility is a very important facet of any exercise program, but is often overlooked.  Lack of flexibility in the right places appears to be the root of many problems. The body’s movements are hampered when flexibility and posture are distorted. Active, dynamic, static and PNF stretching are key factors and should all be included in any training program. When a muscle is tight, it limits the muscle’s ability to contract properly, causing inefficient movements and risk of injury. Without flexibility, the body’s movement becomes limited, and good results are difficult to achieve.

Traditional weight lifting is a thing of the past, and has been proven to produce limited results compared to a functional program. The only way to enhance movement is to mimic the movement in the gym until it becomes autonomous in every day life. Before initiating any exercise program, one should always consult a physician, as well as a qualified fitness professional. This insures that they are addressing their specific needs and goals.

 

FAQ:

Q) Should I do slow repetitions or fast?

A) You base the speed of the repetition on the speed of the required activity. The body needs to be trained at the same or a higher velocity during exercise to benefit a particular activity. A sprinter doesn’t jog to increase their speed. In my opinion slow training is good for form training, rehabilitation and hypertrophy.

Q) My friend works out at the local gym and mostly uses machines. He has been doing the same routine forever and has gotten good results. Is this program good for me?

A) NO! Any exercise program will produce results whether it is done right or wrong if you stick to it. Unfortunately when exercise is done incorrectly the harmful affects may not be noticed until the damage is done. By exercising functionally you will systematically attain your goals and insure that your time in the gym is spent safely and efficiently. Just because someone looks good does not mean they are an expert.

Q) Can functional training benefit anyone?

A) Yes. Functional workouts are beneficial for any athletic level or age group. By training functionally your time in the gym is spent more efficiently. When you train in this fashion you will see drastic improvement in overall health and performance not just appearance.

Q) Shouldn’t I do cardio and lose weight before I start a functional program?

A) NO! You should have a functional training program that concentrates on raising and lowering your heart rate. The program should first use body weight exercises then advance to free weights. This promotes lean muscle mass, skeletal integrity and healthy cardiac function. Muscle mass accelerates fat loss.

Q) My friend tells me to do 3-5 sets 10-12 reps to failure with 1 minute rest intervals.

A) This is what everyone who thinks of the gym envisions. Unless you are a body builder this is not a good program. If you train in a functional fashion you burn more calories and get more benefit from your sessions outside of the gym.

Q) Aren’t aerobic classes and the treadmill enough?

A) NO! A weight training program that includes balance, core stability strength and cardiac conditioning builds lean muscle mass. When you build muscle you burn more calories at rest and during daily activities. Which would mean, by adding resistance to your program you actually will burn more calories doing the same aerobic class or distance on the treadmill?

Q) Should I stretch before or after exercise or an event?

A) Evidence demonstrates that static stretching before an activity is not beneficial to prevent injury. If you want to avoid injury you need to be flexible by stretching regularly and not just before activity. Active and dynamic stretches with a short warm up mimicking activity before, P.N.F and static stretching at the end help remove waste from the muscles.

Q) Why have none of my doctors told me to stretch and exercise to alleviate pain?

A) Unfortunately we live in a society of doctors that prescribe meds for everything imaginable. Everyone wants immediate gratification (pill) not a long term solution (exercise). The fact is most people would ignore the doctors’ request to stretch and exercise then seek a new doctor for a simpler solution. Most minor health problems can be eliminated by moderate exercising but people choose to take meds because they are lazy.

Q) I injured my knee and my doctor told me to rest it for a while. Do I?

A) This is the worst thing you can do. Pampering an injury for extended periods causes muscle atrophy and decreased blood flow. All injuries should be functionally rehabilitated under careful supervision.

Q) Should I cut carbs out of my diet?

A) NO! Cut high glycemic carbs out only. Carbohydrates are essential for cellular function. Eating carbs that do not spike insulin levels is healthy and effective for weight loss.

Q) My doctor told me to walk to get some exercise for my aches. Is walking enough?

A) NO WAY. If walking were enough basically everyone would be healthy we all walk. If you have pain chances are there is a biomechanical issue. My first suggestion would be to stretch. More walking will only aggravate the issue. You need to correct the imbalance first not just walk more.

 

References

1: Cosio-Lima LM, Reynolds KL, Winter C, Paolone V, Jones MT. Effects of physioball and conventional floor exercises on early phase adaptations in back and abdominal core stability and balance in women. J Strength Cond. Res.2003 Nov;17(4):721-5

2: Hides, J. A., Richardson, C. A., and Jull, G. A. Magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasonography of the lumbar multifidus muscle. Comparison of two different modalities. Spine 20:54-8; 1995

3: Hides, J. A., Stokes, M. J., Saide, M., Jull, G. A., and Cooper, D. H. Evidence of lumbar multifidus muscle wasting ipsilateral to symptoms in patients with acute/subacute low back pain. Spine 19:165-72; 1994

4: Kiyoshi Yoshihara, MD; Yasumasa Shirai, MD; Yoshihito Nakayama, MD; Shinji Uesaka, MD. Histochemical Changes in the Multifidus Muscle in Patients With Lumbar Intervertebral Disc Herniation. Spine 2001;26:622-626

5: Julie A. Hides, PhD; Carolyn A. Richardson, PhD; Gwendolen A. Jull, MPhty Multifidus Muscle Recovery Is Not Automatic After Resolution of Acute, First-Episode Low Back Pain. Spine 1996;21:2763-2769

6: Etty Griffin LY. Neuromuscular training and injury prevention in sports.
Clin Orthop.2003 Apr;(409):53-60

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Why Does Everything Hurt?

As we get older,  it seems as if we discover a new ache or a pain in our body every day that never bothered us before.  Many of us are plagued by chronic pain and we often do not know how to alleviate it. Part of the issue is that we are constantly doing things during the day which exacerbate our symptoms and we don’t even realize it. Additionally, as we get older, we often forget that our bodies are not quite as resilient; after a week of sedentary behavior, we will hit the gym or play sports full-force on the weekend which lead to us injuring ourselves.

One of the most common complaints is lower back pain. This often results from sitting for too long and from sitting incorrectly. Sometimes lower back pain can be a result of a disc injury or arthritis, but for most of us, it is just the result of not moving enough. First, position your desk so you are sitting with proper posture. It is also important to get up for frequent breaks and to stretch and to move around. Outside the office, lower back pain can be exacerbated while exercising. It is imperative to make sure you are not using your lower back during weight lifting or other exercises. Instead, focus on activating the hips and glutes to protect your lower back during your workouts. Additionally, strengthen your core muscles to stabilize your trunk, which will also decrease the load on your back.

Another common malady is neck pain and stiffness. This can result from sitting improperly, walking incorrectly, driving with your head jutting forward, or from sleeping with you neck turned.  Also, stress and tension play a significant role in neck pain and stiffness as well.  Neck pain can increase outside during exercise as well. Often, while performing exercises, we lead with our chin and put extra pressure and strain on our necks without realizing it. Proper form and activation is key to keep the neck pain free. Meditation, stretching and other stress relief techniques are also helpful for decreasing neck pain.

Other common ailments are knee pain, joint pains, muscle strains, and carpal tunnel syndrome. If symptoms are severe and you do not see improvement, you should visit a doctor to rule out a major injury. Assuming there is no disc issue or major tear, sprain or break, many of these problems are caused by our activities of daily living and improper form during therapeutic and strength exercises. The way we sit, walk, talk on the phone, sleep, and exercise all impact how our body moves and feels. Form during exercise is extremely important. Many clients don’t realize their positioning is off and might be affecting their mobility, flexibility, cardio endurance, and strength.

Most people will feel better by engaging in a routine that includes stretching to improve join mobility. It is helpful to use tools like a foam roller or baseball to alleviate knots and to help stretching. Secondly, weight loss often helps with daily aches and pains. Extra weight can put pressure on the joints and cause pain and discomfort. A healthy diet and cardiovascular exercise can help decrease weight and issues with pain. Lastly, strength training, especially core training, helps decrease muscle pain because the muscles stabilize the joints.

It seems like the answer to feeling better and decreasing pain is to engage in physical activity with proper form. Always make your body a priority! If necessary, meet with a personal trainer to ensure you are performing exercises correctly and to make sure you are utilizing exercises to help with your individual issues.

Circuit Training for a New You

Circuit training is a type of interval training that incorporates a series of strength and/or cardio exercises with little or no rest between sets. It increases your heart rate while simultaneously strengthening your muscles using a combination of resistance training and high-intensity aerobics. This combination of weight training and cardiovascular work makes circuit training a valuable way to exercise.

One “circuit” consists of a set of prescribed exercises performed in order with little rest between each exercise. The circuit is then repeated one to several times. Many different exercise stations can be incorporated into circuit training. Usually, stations alternate between muscle groups so little rest is needed. To increase cardiovascular endurance in circuit training, brief bouts of high intensity aerobic exercise, like jumping rope, can be incorporated. The exerciser gains muscle through the resistance training, while she/he simultaneously increases cardiovascular endurance as a slightly elevated heart rate is maintained throughout the entire program.

There are many advantages to circuit training. First, it is fun and brings change and excitement to routine workouts. There are endless numbers of exercises you can add to each circuit to change it up and make it more interesting. This type of workout also burns more calories than doing cardio alone as you maintain an elevated heart rate throughout the whole exercise routine. Additionally, circuit training is a practical solution for those with time constraints as it allows you to combine cardio and muscular fitness together in one session. Further, you can set up as many stations and exercises as you want, to either shorten or lengthen your workout.  Another benefit to circuit training is that it is portable and convenient. It can be done at home, outside, or in the gym with minimal equipment. You can do use bodyweight to perform pushups, planks and lunges for strengthening and use stairs and jump ropes for cardio stations anywhere and at any time.

If you are looking for a new routine to help you lose weight and increase muscle mass, circuit training may help you achieve your goals. Circuit training is fun and is a great way to challenge your body, whether you are just beginning an exercise program or are a seasoned athlete.

 

HIIT It Up!

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, workouts are a phenomenon that is sweeping the nation. What is it, and is it safe? Read on!

HIIT is a cardio session that consists of short, high intensity bursts. HIIT can be an incredibly effective way to work out to see the body composition and fitness results that you want, but you need to do it right. Numerous studies have shown that working your hardest is key when it comes to boosting endurance, increasing metabolism, regulating insulin levels, and losing body fat. HIIT routines that involve bodyweight work (e.g. push-ups) or added weight, such as kettlebells, medicine balls, or dumbbells, will tone your muscles while spiking your heart rate. All types of exercise will ultimately help you burn fat by burning calories, but the more intense the exercise, the more fat you will burn. As a result, it is a very effective way of helping people get the “shredded” look.

A true HIIT workout will involve pushing yourself to the max during each set, which should never exceed 90 seconds. These workouts are typically quick and convenient since they are such high intensity; they usually are 30 minutes or less. They can also be done virtually anywhere, with little to no equipment. The only stipulation is that you should rest in between sets. This may not be the first thing that comes to mind with such an intense workout, however, it is imperative. Recovery is essential so that the body works to adapt from the anaerobic (high-intensity) period to the low-intensity recovery period in HIIT. This workload results in high caloric expenditure, which can lead to fat loss.

That fat loss also comes from an increase in metabolism, which is a benefit to any high intensity workout. Research shows that this is due to an increase in post-exercise exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. EPOC speeds up your metabolic rate and can result in a metabolic boost for up to 48 hours after a complete HIIT routine! The high intensity cardio raises your metabolic rate to the point where you continue to burn calories even after the session ends—in some cases 15% more.

If weight loss is your ultimate goal, the old saying that you can’t out-train a bad diet is true…even if your workouts are super demanding. HIIT isn’t an excuse to neglect your diet, so keep it clean! By incorporating HIIT training into your exercise regimen and keep your diet in check, you’ll start to see some amazing results!

If you’re looking for a safe, but effective HIIT workout check this one out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G43UTJoa6gw&t=2s

Living With Back Pain

Back pain can be a debilitating and life altering problem for many Americans. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, 80% of Americans will experience some type of back pain in their lifetime. Most of the time back pain is an uncomfortable annoyance, although in some cases, it may be serious and require medical attention. Pain is usually associated with how our bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons work together.

While back pain can occur at any age, it more commonly effects those between 35-55 years old. Other risk factors for back pain include a sedentary lifestyle, stress, anxiety, depression, smoking, pregnancy, sleep disorders, obesity, strenuous physical activity, and strenuous exercise, especially if exercises are not performed correctly. There are many possible causes of back pain, but the most common is due to strained muscles, strained ligaments, and muscle spasms due to heavy lifting, improper lifting form, or abrupt or awkward movements. For most of the population, everyday activities, poor posture or a bad mattress are frequently responsible for back pain.  This may be the result of sitting or standing too long, driving for long periods, sitting in a hunched position, over-stretching, bending awkwardly, or pushing/pulling/carrying items. Back problems may also be due to structural problems, such as ruptured disks, bulging disks, sciatica, arthritis, scoliosis, or osteoporosis. More seriously, pain may sometimes be due to cancer of the spine, spinal infections, bladder or kidney infections, and shingles, so contact a doctor if your pain is accompanied by fever, inflammation, numbness, pain radiating down the legs, or incontinence.

In most cases, back pain can be treated at home and will not need imaging scans or treatment by a physician, though surgery may be indicated for those with structural issues.  For pain, doctors usually suggest over the counter NSAIDS, codeine, and cortisone injections. To alleviate pain, complementary therapies such as acupuncture, shiatsu, chiropractic manipulation, and osteopathy are also sometimes recommended. TENS therapy (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) may also be utilized; it emits small electric pulses through electrodes on the skin.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could avoid back pain altogether?  Well, there are steps you can take to prevent the onset of back pain. First, adopt healthy behaviors such as smoking cessation and maintaining a normal body weight. Additionally, it is important to engage in regular exercise to build strength and flexibility. Physical activity also helps to prevent obesity, which, on its own, is a risk factor for back pain. It is also important to be aware of your posture both when sitting and standing and to correct poor posture as often as possible. When standing, keep a neutral pelvis with straight legs, stand upright, and keep your head forward. While sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor and make sure your knees and hips are level. Your arms should be at right angles if you are using a keyboard, and your lower back should be supported. Next, be careful when lifting. Always bend your knees, never twist and lift, and push rather than pull objects!  Finally, make sure you have a supportive mattress so that your spine can remain straight.

If you follow these suggestions, you can help reduce the onset of back pain and also alleviate some of your discomfort if back pain does occur. Be as active as possible in a safe and effective way, and you can keep your body moving pain free as long as possible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Your Core Strong

In the world of exercise, the core is a common focus. Often we hear about how important it is to strengthen our core and to improve core stability, but what exactly does this mean? The core is made up of much more than the abdominal muscles. In fact, most of the power in the body is derived from the core.  It is imperative to have core strength and stability in order to prevent injury and to increase performance. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand what the core is and how we can strengthen it effectively.

The core connects the upper body to the lower body and it affects how we move these body parts. It is involved in activities of daily living, such as bending and lifting, sitting properly at a desk, housework, gardening, sports, balance and stability, good posture, and preventing back pain. Weak core muscles can negatively affect your daily functions. With our sedentary lifestyles, most of us have weak cores. We need to continually work at strengthening these muscles.

The core is made up of muscles from the neck and shoulders down to the pelvis. These include the multifidus, interspinales, intertransversarii, rotatores, internal and external obliques, transversus abdonminis, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, thoracolumbar fascia, and abdominal fascia. Therefore, core training is not as simple as doing sit-ups.  It is important to train all of the core muscles, not just the “abs,” for effective movement. The core transfers force and acts as a stabilizer, which is why it is important to train the core dynamically in all planes of motion rather than in isolation. Therefore, deadlifts, squats, pushups, pikes to pushups, and planks would be much more effective at training the core than sit-ups. These exercises will create more efficient movement and increased strength. Further, the core should be engaged while weight training other body parts in order to develop core strength. It is important to note that many traditional core exercises do not adequately recruit the abs and have been shown to damage the lower back.

Core stability creates efficient movement and proper positioning to prevent injury. For example, if a cyclist reaches too far forward while biking, it changes the position of the hips and pelvis, which affects posture and power. Similarly, while running, tight hips and lack of hip extension can cause the lower back to hurt and affect performance. It is helpful to use a foam roller to decrease inflammation and tension and to prevent restrictive movement before exercising.  Additionally, meeting with a personal trainer to learn the proper form will ensure you are exercising effectively in order to reach all of your fitness goals.

Don’t neglect your core, since it is the foundation for your health and fitness. The stronger the core, the stronger you are and the better you will feel.  A stronger core equals a more solid you!

Please click on this link for some effective core exercises: http://thearenafitness.com/exercise-library/exercise-gallery/images/pdf/exercise_pdfs/3_core.pdf

Osteoporosis & Exercise

Over 53 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at risk for osteoporosis due to low bone mass.  Osteoporosis is defined as a disease which weakens the bones so they become fragile and break easily. It is especially prevalent in the bones of the hip, spine, and wrist. Often, osteoporosis is a “silent” disease because the person does not exhibit symptoms or knows he/she has it until a bone is broken or the vertebrae in the spine collapse.

While anyone is susceptible to osteoporosis, it is more common in older women, especially non-Hispanic, white women and Asian women. Other risk factors include being small and thin, having low bone density, taking certain medications, and/or having a family history of osteoporosis. Bone mass can be tested with a bone mineral test.

There are a few ways you can prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones strong, such as consuming a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercising, not smoking, and not drinking alcohol excessively. Falls are the number one cause of broken bones, so weight bearing exercise and balance are extremely important to prevent falls and to increase bone density. If bones become extremely fragile, fractures can also occur through normal daily activities, such as bending, lifting, coughing, or from minor bumps or stresses.

Exercise improves bone health, muscle strength, coordination, balance, and overall health, and it is vital for treating and preventing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing and strength training exercises are both recommended for peak bone mass because you are working against gravity. Weight-bearing exercises include weight training, hiking, jogging, walking, stair climbing, dancing, and tennis. They can be either low impact or high impact. Strength training is also known as resistance exercise, and it includes lifting weights, using bands and balls, and utilizing your own body weight. Yoga and pilates are also great options since they improve flexibility, balance, and strength, but certain positions will need to be avoided to avoid spinal injury.

Consult a doctor before beginning any type of exercise program, especially if you have osteoporosis. You may have to avoid bending, twisting, and flexing to protect your spine if your bone mass is low. Additionally, high-intensity exercises should be avoided to avoid fractures. It is important to stretch and strengthen the muscles properly and to improve posture. It is good idea to consult with a personal trainer to learn how to perform exercises properly and how to progress your activities and routines.

 

References:
The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
https://www.nof.org/patients/fracturesfall-prevention/exercisesafe-movement/osteoporosis-exercise-for-strong-bones/ (National Osteoprosis Foundation)

Protein Powder 101

There are many different types & brands of protein powder on the market. It can be very difficult to decipher which is actually the best one to purchase. Protein powders are derived from various sources, such as whey, egg whites, soy, rice, kemp, pea, and flax. There are pros and cons to each type, depending on individual needs and preferences.

Whey is the most common and cheapest protein powder available on the market. Whey rotein is derived from milk. It is the liquid extracted from milk when cheese is made. Whey is a complete protein and contains all the essential amino acids. It is also rapidly digested and good for muscle synthesis. Whey is available three forms: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysates. Concentrates usually have less protein and more carbohydrates and other components than isolates do. Isolates have been purified in an attempt to get to the purest form of whey protein. Whey hydrolysate has similar protein levels to isolates but the protein has been broken down into small peptide chains and amino acids, which makes it easy to absorb and hypoallergenic, since it denatures the protein. It also can be more expensive. Casein, which is also derived from milk, can also be used to make protein powders. Casein is more difficult to digest than whey, and therefore it takes a longer time for the body to utilize it.

Egg whites are another type of protein, which is especially good for those avoiding dairy, soy, or gluten. It is a high quality protein for leaning out and building muscle. Some people complain about the taste.

Soy protein is a complete protein that is easily digested but it is not digested very quickly. It is lactose and gluten free. Some brands use GMOs, so look on the label if you do not want to use genetically modified soy. Soy contains isoflavones, which may potentially reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Despite this benefit, some studies show that in excess, isoflavones can interact with estrogen and affect hormone levels. In men, this may cause a decrease in their testosterone levels.

Other good sources of vegetarian protein are from peas, rice, hemp and flax. Sometimes quinoa, millet, and lentils are added as well. They usually come in a blend since none are complete proteins on their own. However, they can be sold separately as well. For example, pea protein is deficient in cysteine, even though it has the same amount of protein per serving as whey. It is also free of cholesterol, fat and gluten. Rice protein is also deficient in some amino acids, especially lysine. However, it is gluten free and inexpensive. Hemp protein powder comes from hemp seeds and cannabis, though it does not contain a significant amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Hemp is high in protein and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. However, it is also very high in fat and calories. It can also be expensive, since growing hemp products in the US is illegal. There are many vegan powder blends on the market, which combine hemp, peas, rice, quinoa, etc. Vegan powders are dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free, and when combined, they are complete proteins. They can be a bit more expensive than whey products.

Besides the source of the protein you choose, it is also important to look at the QUALITY of the protein powder, which differs dramatically between brands. It is important to avoid a lot of artificial ingredients and fillers, so the fewer ingredients on the label the better. Consumers should also look at the calorie content as well as the types of flavors and sweeteners used in the product. You should also pick a brand that has been tested for quality and purity, so that you know that what is listed on the label is actually in the product. The supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA, but many are certified by GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). This is a system to ensure that the products meet certain quality standards during its production and manufacturing.

No matter what you choose, it is important to remember that the body needs adequate protein. Protein plays a crucial role in the body and do most of the work in the cells. They are also required for the function, structure, and regulation of the tissues and organs in the body. So do your research, and buy a protein powder that fits your lifestyle, tastes, and needs.

 

The Truth of the Trend

Research has shown that training the nervous system with Olympic lifting, plyometrics, or any type of explosive high intensity training can be beneficial to the athlete when done correctly. There is much debate on the subject of CNS (central nervous system) fatigue and whether it is a real phenomenon or a false naming of adrenal fatigue, muscle fatigue, etc. Whether or not CNS fatigue truly exists or is being named correctly is beside the point. The fact is that explosive exercises with weight such a Olympic lifting place very high demands on all systems of the body and carry serious risk of injury if not learned and practiced properly.

Olympic weightlifting requires a high level of understanding and skill. Research suggests that the optimal number for training the nervous system is 1-3 repetitions with a rest period of 6 minutes between sets. In addition, ATP is only present for 6-8 seconds which is about 3-5 reps before needing at least 2-3 min of recovery. Once ATP runs out the lifts will become compromised because the muscle does not have the energy to elicit the contraction the nerve is demanding. Anything beyond said rep range starts to overload the joint because form is compromised. Since these methods are designed to tax the central nervous system it does not make sense to try to change them into strength and endurance movements for high reps. Despite the research and proven science, many mainstream programs will suggest doing a set of anywhere from 10-20 repetitions or even do as many reps as possible in a 30-60 second window. Using these methods for endurance is like telling a sprinter to sprint through marathons for training.

Another issue is that these methods require a very high level of motor control. Proper movement patterns need to be practiced without resistance at a low level until the client shows proficiency in the movement. Of all the lifting methods, Olympic lifting is the most difficult to master because of the required flexibility and motor control for explosive movements with heavy weights to get the max benefit. Olympic lifting is a sport in itself and can take years to learn. From our experience it takes the average person 4-6 months just to be able to get into the positions required to properly perform the movements. Once they can move it can take another 6-12 months to actually learn how to correctly do the lifts with weights. Olympic lifting is a professional sport yet everyone thinks they can do it without training. Even professional athletes should be cautious because the lifts were not designed for football, soccer or tennis, but instead for Olympic lifting.

Athletes should integrate Olympic style lifts into their strength and conditioning programs to reap the benefits of these movements but not duplicate them exactly. I suggest that most athletes train from the power position. This is called the hang (bar just below knees) since that is what most sports require. If a super elite athlete wants to learn the full lifts, it should be determined by a very high level coach.

Most courses that teach this method are 2-4 days, after which a certification is received and one is allowed to teach the lifts. Since we all agree Olympic lifting is just like basketball or any other pro sport, how is that possible? One cannot learn basketball in 2-4 days, let alone teach it, right? The answer seems obvious, yet people still spend millions on extreme home training videos and going to training facilities to do trendy high intensity programs that make no scientific sense.

The videos are the most dangerous, in our opinion. Any professional knows you cannot learn plyometrics by watching a video, and that the average person does not have the knowledge of the basic physical requirements and proper progressions. The science behind plyometrics is similar to Olympic lifting and should not be done for high repetitions either. The sad truth is that a majority of programs break the laws of proven science and safety, but their obvious flaws are overshadowed by attractive instructors, celebrity endorsements, extreme marketing tactics and industry politics. These companies are commendable, in a way, because the business intellect required to achieve such enormous revenue is impressive and there are some very good components in many of these programs. The main issues with these programs are that the parts that are wrong are so wrong it negates any of the positive aspects.

So the big question we get is  “why do they work if they are wrong?”

The fact is that if you do anything consistently and intensely while eating well you will obtain results. If you were to move bricks from one side of the yard to another for two hours a day with a 15 minute jog every 30 minutes for two months, you can be assured there will be fat loss and muscle growth. This is especially true for people who have never exercised or have done very little. So does that make it right? This sounds crazy but one of the best NFL receivers of all time, Jerry Rice, did just that growing up. He played a lot better when he started training like a football player instead of moving bricks.

Why doesn’t everyone get hurt? I know a guy who has been doing that stuff for years! Well, there are people who smoke until they are 90 and have no issues while others who never smoke die of lung cancer at 40 years old. In most cases smokers will develop health problems before 85, but there are always the exceptions. Everyone is different. There are countless variables that contribute to our physical constitutions and what our bodies can handle before we break down including genetics, nutrition and mental/emotional patterns, just to name a few. Some people are born athletes and can tolerate these programs because they have a natural ability to perform most plyometrics correctly and are strong and flexible enough to weather the storm of poor training.

Are all cookie cutter programs bad? No. There are some great instructors out there who can run programs that follow science and elicit even better results. This article is meant to educate you and serve as the WARNING LABEL. This is not meant as an attack on any particular company or program. It is simply meant to provide information based on common sense and science so that better results can be achieved safely.

 

 

References:

Bompa, T. (2005) Periodisation Training for sports. 2nd ed. Human Kinetics (taken from  http://www.brianmac.co.uk/cns.htm#ref)

Peinado AB, Rojo JJ, Calderón FJ, Maffulli N.

BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2014 Apr 24;6:17. doi: 10.1186/2052-1847-6-17. eCollection 2014. Review.

 

 

Why Your Workouts May Not Be Working

Have you been exercising & not seeing the results you’re expecting? Have you developed pain or made an already painful condition worse with exercises that were supposed to help? Have you been told by a trainer or physical therapist that your glutes are not firing or that you have poor balance and you just can’t seem to correct the problem?

These are very common issues that I hear about in my practice which can have multiple causes. The first thing to examine the program itself – what exercises are being done and are they even appropriate for the individual, based on their health history and present condition. I often see people doing exercises that they should definitely not be doing because they are harmful and will cause injury. Unfortunately, I also see many trainers and specialists prescribing these same exercises.

The second thing to examine is form to determine if the exercises are being done properly. A good exercise, if done incorrectly, can also be a bad exercise. Always be meticulous with form. The purpose of exercise should be to improve our health, whether the goal is increasing strength and endurance, rehabilitating tissue, or correcting movement patterns.

The above are very obvious reasons and should always be ruled out first. However, if the exercises are appropriate & being done with correct form but the issue is still present, there may be another less obvious culprit. This hidden hijacker of a good workout results could be fascial tension.

You may have heard of fascia recently, as it getting more attention due to research. Fascia is connective tissue that literally wraps and connects every structure in the body. To visualize this, imagine removing every organ, muscle, and bone. If we were to leave all the fascia intact, we would have a 3D outline of the entire body – a completely continuous web.

Fascia transmits energy and force, in addition to holding everything together. We often think of muscles contracting independently to perform an action. For example, flexing our elbow we attribute to the biceps and brachialis muscles. But in reality, it is much more than that. Tension is created throughout the entire arm and shoulder, into the trunk and down to the hand through fascial connection. Other muscles are also performing at different levels in order to stabilize the arm. So really, everything is working, but at different levels of intensity.

We often think of muscle contraction generating force in the tendons (which attach the muscles to bones) in order to produce a movement. Studies have recently demonstrated that only 70% of the generated force of a muscle contraction is transmitted to the tendons. The other 30% is transmitted outward to the fascia surrounding the muscle by way of attachments along its entire length. Because fascia is completely continuous throughout the body, this force is transmitted to other muscles and structures. This shows that when a muscle acts, it is doing much more than its attributed movement. It is communicating with and working in conjunction with other muscles along a line.

Fascia is also a sensory organ. Another recent discovery is that there there are more sensory nerve endings in the fascia than there are in the muscle. These nerve endings provide information to the brain and spinal cord about position, tension/stretch and pressure – a sense of where we are in space and what is happening to keep us there. Keep in mind that most of this is happening without us even realizing it.

Fascia is made up of different layers that need to slide over each other in order for movement to happen, and in order to have accurate information exchange with the nervous system. If there is restriction of this sliding, usually due to a densification of hyaluronic acid, the substance that lubricates the fascial layers, overall movement can become restricted. Muscle activity can become inhibited due to the lack of efficient communication through the nerve endings that live in the altered fascia.

The densifications causing this altered function can be a result of old trauma/injuries, surgeries, scars or repetitive strain. For example, an old ankle sprain that didn’t heal properly may subtly cause dysfunction either locally in the foot/ankle, or above in the knee, hip, pelvis or even in the shoulder on the opposite side of the body. These densifications may be difficult to detect because they are often found in different areas than where the symptoms manifest. In this case it would be helpful to be evaluated by a professional who understands this process to properly determine the dysfunction and correct it.

Fascial Manipulation is a diagnostic and treatment system developed by the Stecco family in Italy. It sees the body as an interconnected network of points along the fascia that make up different motion planes. The points are centers of coordination for underlying muscles. Interestingly, many of these are also acupuncture points. Densification, or dysfunction, in these points can alter the muscle activity. Fascial Manipulation practitioners find these areas of densification and remove them through a very specific, deep massage technique. When normal sliding is restored to these points, or centers of coordination, very often pain is relieved and muscles function much more effectively with less stress. It is worth noting that Fascial Manipulation has the most scientific research behind it than any other manual soft tissue technique.

Freed movement in the fascial planes leads to normal coordination of muscle activation. This can allow workout results to be more consistent with the targeted actions of exercise and desired goals. If you feel you are not getting the most out of your workout and you know you are doing the proper exercises with good form, consider a fascial evaluation.

Robert Inesta, DC, L.Ac, CCSP

Don’t Fear the Weight Room

Some women still fear the weight room.  The existing myth is that lifting weights will lead to women having big, bulky muscles or looking too manly.  Ideas like this give resistance training a bad name.  As trainers, we have to remember that men and women are physiologically different. The increased muscle mass that is acquired by men is due in large part to testosterone.  While it’s true that women secrete and deliver testosterone just like men do, they do so at much lower rates and volume.  This allows for women to build tone lean muscle and increase metabolism to enhance weight loss.  Many times the main objective for women to start an exercise program is to lose weight and look better, but there is more to it.  We have to remember that resistance training has various benefits that will help women’s health, both now and in the future.  Looking tone and fit is great, but what else can exercise do for women?  Looking great is always a plus, but resistance training may also decrease day to day stresses from our fast paced lifestyles.  Stress is a very important factor, which may lead to decreased motivation and eventual increase in body fat storage.  Studies have shown that proper exercise can reduce stress dramatically.  Another important factor for women is bone mineral density (BMD).  Women are at a higher risk of low bone mineral density than men, due to a higher level of estrogen.  A consistent moderate resistance program can increase BMD in women and dramatically reduce the possibility of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis.  The proper resistance training program can also increase posture, balance, flexibility and stability for all ages.  These are all very important aspects to our daily lives, but for many women, it becomes all about looking better.  How is exercise going to do this?

What is Metabolism?

Sure, running on the treadmill will help women lose weight, but so will every other daily activity we are engaged in.  Whether it’s walking, eating, or even sleeping, our bodies are using calories to function properly.  Losing weight all depends on the intensity and duration of what we are doing each day.  As mentioned,  running on a treadmill will help us lose weight more than walking, and walking will help more than sleeping, but if there were an easier way, we would do it…right?  Luckily there is.  It’s all about our metabolic rate.  Our metabolic rate (or basal metabolic rate BMR) is closely related to resting metabolic rate (RMR) and measures the total amount of energy expanded while at rest or sleep.  The term thermogenesis refers to the measure of total energy exhausted as heat disposal.  As we age, a decrease in BMR will coincide with the amount of lean body mass that we possess.  New scientific research has shown that aerobic exercise alone doesn’t correlate with an increase in BMR, but anaerobic does due to maintaining lean body mass.

Cardio vs. Weight Training

We’ve discussed the physiological differences that cardio (aerobic) and resistance training (anaerobic) play in exercise via metabolism.  Anaerobic exercise may contribute to an increase of metabolism, but aerobic exercise is important too.  Aerobic training is very important for the cardiovascular system (“heart health”).  Some people have trouble combining the cardio and resistance training.  There are important factors that a trainer must know before incorporating cardio and resistance training together.  First, if the trainee wants to increase power and strength then including cardio exercises can be detrimental.  This is due to an increase the muscle capillary density, increased number of mitochondria (both help in oxygen consumption to keep the muscle going), and a possible change in fiber type (type IIx to type IIa to type I).  Inversely, a trainee that wants to increase their aerobic power can achieve this by combining both cardio workouts with resistance training.  This will allow for an increase in aerobic power due to an increase in VO^2 Max.  VO^2 Max is the amount of oxygen exchange within a muscle for adequately supplying and keeping the muscle cells functioning properly (contributing factor may also be stroke volume SV).  For weight management the optimal goal is to combine both types of exercise by using circuit training.  Circuit training will allow a trainee to increase their aerobic and anaerobic power by incorporating moderate to high intensity (keeping the heart rate up) exercises with resistance training.

Frequency of Weight Loss

Weight loss can vary.  Some people go on extreme crash diets and lose 8, 10, or even 12 pounds a week.  Depending on the trainee, losing this much weight this quickly will almost certainly be put back on in the long run.  Furthermore, some may be able to safely and effectively lose 4 pounds a week, while another may only be able to lose 1 to2 pounds a week.  This all depends on the trainee’s starting weight.  A good table for measure can be a 1% rule (1% loss of starting body weight per week).  If a trainee’s starting weight is 150 pounds then a maximal weight per week should not exceed 1.5 pounds a week.  Whereas, someone with a starting weight of 300 hundred pounds may affectively lose 3 pounds per week.  The 1% rule can adequately allow for weight lose without becoming macronutrient deficient.  Macronutrients are the three essential nutrients that consist of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats).    When people attempt some of these “fad” crash diets they ultimately fall short in the proper percentages of one of the three essential nutrients.  This may put the body in a particular nutrient deficiency that may change the body’s physiological chemistry.

Women’s Resistance Training Program Design

A proper program design should be specific to the person being trained.  Each trainee will begin at a different level based on their condition, so a tailored exercise program is crucial with the adequate amount of progressions for optimal results.  Each exercise program should begin with some sort of active/dynamic warm-up to help promote proper muscle activation for the following workout.  To circuit train affectively, three to four multi-muscle functional workouts can be grouped together to optimize increased heart rate and aerobic and anaerobic power output.  Between 2 to 4 sets and 10 to 15 reps of approximately 3 or 4 exercises should be performed in a continuous cycle with little rest (30seconds to 1 minute after completing each cycle of the 3 to 4 exercises).  Each group of three to four exercises may primarily target different areas of the body.  After the warm-up, the first group of exercises may focus on legs.  The second group may focus on the upper body, and the third may focus on the core muscles.  This exercise structure can help save time and effort with a busy schedule and may also maximize overall fitness results.  Ending each workout with a form of static stretching may also be a good idea.  Static stretching AFTER exercise can keep the joints from getting too tight.

 

References

Copley, J. Strength Training for Weight Loss. Weight Lifting is Better then Cardio and Dieting.

April 13, 2008. suite101.com

 

News Medical. What is Metabolism?  October 23, 2012

News-Medical.net