Do More When You Work Your Core

When most people think of their core they think of their abs, but it takes a lot to achieve a shredded six pack!

Your core is divided into 3 systems, the local stabilization, global stabilization, and movement system. Try to picture them from the inside out… Local, Global, Movement. It is important to create a core foundation from the inside out in order to make progress. For example, if your Movement System is strong but your Local System is weak then your body will sense the muscle imbalance and won’t be able to transfer forces correctly. A clear visual of this would be excessive spinal extension during an overhead press… your core should not look like a question mark during the exercise!

Core Anatomy

The Local Stabilization System is made of muscles that attach directly to the vertebrae and are made of type 1 (slow twitch) muscle fibers. They help provide support from vertebrae to vertebrae.

The Global Stabilization System are muscles that attach from the pelvis to the spine. They transfer loads from the upper to lower extremities, provide stability, stabilization, and eccentric control of the core.

The Movement System includes muscles that attach to the spine and/or pelvis to the extremities. The muscles in this system provide concentric force production and eccentric deceleration.

Core Training

When training your core, include the entire muscle action spectrum. Focus on force production (concentric), force reduction (eccentric), and dynamic stabilization (isometric). The goal of core training is to create neural adaptations instead of strength gains. Using a variety of tools such as stability balls, BOSU balls, exercise bands, and balance equipment are excellent ways to create a multisensory training environment. As with any exercise, focus on your form rather than the reps or weights your using. Quality over quantity!

There are 3 levels of core training; stabilization, strength, and power.

Core-Stabilization Training Examples:

  • Bridges
  • Supermans or (Cobra for you Yogi’s out there)
  • Planks

Core Strength Training Examples:

  • Stability Ball Crunch
  • Back Extensions
  • Reverse Crunch
  • Cable Rotations

Core Power Training Examples:

  • Rotating Chest Pass
  • Medicine Ball Pull Over Throw (on stability ball)
  • Front Medicine Ball Oblique Throw
  • Soccer Throw

If any of your core muscles are weak, it can result in lower back pain or a bulging belly (the question mark example). Keeping your core muscles strong is great for your posture, and can help give you more strength to complete other exercises.

Cardi-NO: Guidelines for Cardio Training

Fight or FITTE? 

FITTE stands for frequency, intensity, type, time, and enjoyment and it is an easy peasy way to figure out exactly where to begin with cardio training.

Frequency is the number of training sessions in a given period of time. For general health, cardio should be done everyday in small quantities. If you want to improve your fitness levels cardio should be done 3-5 times a week at a higher intensity.

Intensity is the level of demand placed on the body. It can be measured by calculating your heart rate, output, Vo2Max, or Vo2R… If you’re like me and hate math, stick with a basic heart rate measurement.

Time is the length in minutes of each training session. The general guidelines for adults are 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio per week OR 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous intensity cardio per week.

Type is the mode or specific exercise. The exercise should be rhythmic, use large muscle groups, and be continuous. This could be running, jogging, walking, swimming, cycling, or using any form of cardio equipment.

Enjoyment is how much fun you are having! Because at the end of the day, if you’re miserable then whets the point? Exercise adherence drops like crazy if you’re not interested in what you’re doing, so find something fun and challenging that you enjoy!

When it comes to cardio don’t fight it, FITTE it!

Once you get comfortable with your routine you will need to progress your training. Your body will adapt to the level of stress placed on it and will require a change in routine to produce a higher level of adaptation in the future. I hate to break it to you but you can’t wake up and run a marathon tomorrow. You have to progress systematically to prevent injury and overtraining.

Stage 1 is where many begin. You will start slow and work your way up to 30-60 minutes of exercise. When you can do this 2-3 times per week then you are ready for stage 2.

Stage 2 focuses on altering the speed, incline, or level to increase the workload. Stage 2 is also the introduction to interval training, where speed and intensity is varied throughout the workout. This might look like 1minute of high intensity followed by 3 minutes of recovery. Work to rest ratios should continue to decrease in order to progress to stage 3. During stage 2, you should incorporate stage 1 type training on some days to allow proper recovery time and keep workouts balanced.

Stage 3 is also focused on altering the speed, incline, or level to increase workload as seen in stage 2. The main difference here, is that the intervals are shorter (30-60 seconds) and work to rest ratios continues to decrease, allowing for more high intensity and less rest.

As with any cardio training it is important to remember the warm up and cool down periods.

Warm ups can be general movements to get the blood flowing or specific movements that mirror the exercise you’re about to do. Warm ups should only take about 5-10 minutes. You want your heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature to increase, so your body is ready for training. This is also a great time to get psyched up about your workout! Start off by using self-myofascial release (foam rolling), followed by static stretching, and finally jumping on cardio of your choice (treadmill, bike, stair climber, rower, elliptical, etc.)

Cool downs are important too because they reduce your heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature, and return muscles to their previous state. Cooling down helps prevent pooling of blood in the lower body, which may cause dizziness or fainting. As with the warm up, cool downs should only take about 5-10 minutes. Finish up with 5-10 minutes at the end of your cardio of choice, followed by self-myofascial release, and static stretching.

At the end of the day, cardio is hard and being unhealthy is hard… choose your hard!

 

Iso, Tonic, Metric, Huh? Muscles in Action

There are three main types of muscle actions: isotonic (eccentric and concentric), isometric, and isokinetic.

Isotonic muscle action is constant muscle tension. Under this category you’ll find eccentric and concentric. Eccentric muscle action is when a muscle develops tension while lengthening. Force is produced, tension is developed, and movement occurs. Work is actually being done ON the muscle instead of the muscle doing the work. Eccentric motions move in the same direction as the resistance, it is like deceleration. During exercise this looks like landing a jump, or lowering the weight during resistance training. Eccentric motions are also known as “the negative”. Concentric muscle action is when the contractile force is greater than the resistive force, therefore shortening the muscle. This is like acceleration in the sense that the muscle is doing the work by producing the force.

Isometric muscle action is when the contractile force is equal to the resistive force, and shows no change in muscle length. You can see isometric motion when you pause (or hold) during resistance training in between the lifting and lowering phases.

Isokinetic muscle action is when the muscle shortens at a constant speed over the full range of motion. Tension in the muscle is at its maximum throughout the whole range of motion. This can improve strength, endurance, and neuromuscular efficiency. Typically these types of movements are seen in rehab clinics because of the required training equipment.

If you want to take your training to the next level you have to do more than just “lift things up and put them down” try incorporating some of these movements into your current routine!

WTF is a Macro? Bioenergetics & Metabolism

First, lets review some key words so all of this science makes sense. Bioenergetics is the study of energy in the human body. Since we need energy to sustain life, exercise, and recover from it, this is kind of important! Metabolism refers to all of the chemical reactions that occur in the body to maintain itself. It is the process in which nutrients are acquired, transported, used, and disposed of by the body. Exercise metabolism is the relation of bioenergetics to the physiologic changes and demands placed on the body during exercise. Energy. The main energy sources are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (AKA Macros). Phew, onto the Macros…

Fuel for Energy Metabolism

When we eat food, it has to be further broken down into substrates before it can be used for energy. Carbs, fats, and proteins are the main substrates used to transfer energy to the cells.

Macronutrient #1 Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not just bread, bagels, or pasta. Carbohydrates are not the devil either. Carbohydrates are organic compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, which include starches, cellulose, and sugars. Carbohydrates are a good source of fuel for the body during daily activities and exercising. Lack of carbs in the diet can cause fatigue, poor mental function, lack of endurance, and lack of stamina. Hang out with someone on a low carb diet and tell me how friendly they are after the third day. Once carbs are digested they produce glucose (a simple sugar). Glucose is then absorbed and transported in the blood where it circulates until it enters the cell, from there it is either used or stored as energy. Once it is stored it is known as glycogen. Glycogen is a string of glucose molecules that can be broken down and used for energy, especially during long intense exercises. Glycogen is stored in the liver and in the muscles.

Macronutrient #2 Fats. Eating fat will not make you fat… promise. Fat helps the body use vitamins and keeps skin healthy. They are also a great energy source. Triglycerides are the chemical or substrate form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body. When excess calories are consumed they are converted in the body as triglycerides and transported to fat cells. Most people have a decent supply of fat, which can be broken down into triglycerides and used for energy (enter the Keto Diet hype).

Macronutrient #3 Protein. The beloved protein. Brotein. The bodybuilders BFF. Protein doesn’t actually supply much energy during exercise and isn’t a significant fuel for energy metabolism. Protein only becomes a significant source of fuel when the body is in starvation. If calories are restricted too much amino acids are used to form glucose, this is known as gluconeogenesis.

Energy During Exercise

Intensity and duration of exercise are inversely related. Immediate energy systems are for a very short-duration exercise, here,  the main fuel source is stored ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and phosphocreatine. When the duration increases (longer than 2 minutes) the main fuel source becomes glucose. When the duration increases even longer, the main fuel source becomes glucose AND fat. After 90 minutes of exercise glycogen stores are basically depleted. When glycogen is used up, the fuel source switches over to fat. Long story short, energy from ATP is limited, energy from carbs (glycogen) is limited, but energy from fat is almost unlimited. Your body needs energy for exercise. Your body needs the correct ratio of carbs, fats, and proteins to function optimally. If you’re overwhelmed by all this crazy science, you’re not alone. There are many personal trainers and dietitians that are able to provide you the correct Macro Ratios to match your goals.

How Do I Train My Clients?

When you train with me we will use all forms of training as a progressive system to  progress you to reach your goals. Three reasons I cycle you through different forms of training are:

  1. Physiologic Benefits
    • Improves cardio respiratory efficiency
    • Enhances hormone and cholesterol
    • Increases metabolism
    • Increases bone density
  2. Physical Benefits
    • Decreases body fat
    • Increases muscle
    • Increases strength in muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  3. Performance Benefits
    • Strength
    • Power
    • Endurance
    • Flexibility
    • Speed
    • Agility
    • Balance

Each form has a purpose that gives you a systematic approach for reaching your goals.

Phases of Training

I use three different levels of training which are stabilization, strength, and power. Within each level there are smaller divisions of training phases.

Level 1 Stabilization Level:

The main focus of this form of training is to increase muscular endurance and stability while developing optimal neuromuscular efficiency (AKA Coordination). The difficulty is increased by challenging your balance and stabilization systems, rather than just increasing the load you’re using.

  • Goals for clients at this level are toImprove muscular endurance
    • Enhance joint stability
    • Increase flexibility
    • Enhance control of posture
    • Improve balance, stabilization, and muscle coordination
  • Training Strategies for clients at this level areTraining in an unstable, yet controllable environment
    • Low loads (weight) and high repetitions

Level 2 Strength Level:

The main focus of this form of training is to increase muscle size (hypertrophy) and lifting heavy (maximal strength). The goal is to enhance stabilization endurance while increasing prime mover strength. Within Phase 2 you will use supersets, where you will perform two sets of similar exercises back-to-back without any rest time in between them. The reason for this is because we want to work the prime movers in the first exercise to elicit prime mover strength, then immediately follow that exercise by challenging the stabilization muscles. Clients who are working in Phase 3 will focus primarily on muscle growth, such as bodybuilders. Clients who are working in Phase 4 will focus on Maximal Strength Training by lifting heavy.

  • Goals for clients at Level 2, Phase 2 areImprove stabilization and increase muscle strength
    • Enhance joint stabilization
    • Increase lean body mass
  • Training Strategies for clients at Level 2, Phase 2 areModerate weights and repetitions (8-12)
    • Supersets (one strength exercise followed by one stabilization exercise)
  • Goals for clients at Level 2, Phase 3 areAchieve optimal levels if muscular hypertrophy
  • Training Strategies for clients at Level 2, Phase 2 areHigh volume, moderate to high loads, moderate to low repetitions (6-12)
  • Goals for clients at Level 2, Phase 4 areIncrease motor unit recruitment
    • Increase frequency of motor unit recruitment
    • Improve peak force
  • Training Strategies for clients at Level 2, Phase 4 areHigh loads, low reps (1-5), and longer rest periods

Level 3 Power Level:

This level of training focuses on the development of speed and power. The goal of this level is to perform a traditional strength exercise with a heavy load and superset it with a power exercise with a lighter load as fast as possible. This trains the muscles to exert maximal amounts of force in a minimal amount of time (rate of force production).

  • Goals for clients at Level 3, Phase 5 areEnhance neuromuscular efficiency
    • Enhance prime mover strength
    • Increase rate of force production
  • Training Strategies for clients at Level 3, Phase 5 areSupersets (one strength exercise followed by one power exercise)
    • Perform all power exercises as fast as can be controlled

Let’s recap!

3 Levels: stabilization, strength, and power.

Level 1 is comprised of Phase 1: Stabilization Endurance Training.

Level 2 is comprised of Phase 2: Strength Endurance, Phase 3: Hypertrophy Training, and Phase 4: Maximum Strength Training.

Level 3 is comprised of Phase 5: Power Training.

This type of training program provides an easy to follow, systematic approach that minimizes injury and maximizes results. It ensures that you will be properly and safely progressed to reach your goals!

Is Your Routine Helping You or Hurting You? Benefits & Barriers of Exercise

Do you want to better your mood? Reduce stress? Improve sleep? Reduce depression and anxiety? Then exercise! We’ve all heard the hype about the health benefits of exercising regularly, but let’s take a closer look at what those benefits actually look like.

Benefits

Promoting Positivity

No, you don’t need to channel your inner yogi for this one. Many people report feeling good after a workout. Feeling good can mean different things for different people. Feeling good can give you satisfaction, make you feel energized, give you a positive outlook, enhance your alertness, improve your focus and concentration, and even promote relaxation.

Reducing Stress

Stress can manifest itself in many ways either physically or emotionally. Either way, exercise has been shown to reduce stress and provide immediate and long term results. Ask yourself “What time of day would be the most beneficial time for me to exercise and reduce stress?” For some people, exercising in the morning might prepare them for the day ahead. Some people find exercising during their lunch break helps disperse the stress throughout the day. Others find that exercising at the end of the day decreases their stressors and leaves them feeling refreshed by the end of the day. Exercise should reduce your stress, not increase it due to scheduling. Case in point, find what works best for you!

Improve Sleep

Exercise has the ability to help people fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and feel more refreshed in the morning. By getting better sleep you’ll experience a higher resistance to stress-related illnesses, have higher immune function, and feel energized and refreshed in the morning.

Reduce Depression and Anxiety

Worry, self-doubt, and fear, these are the feelings of anxiety. Whether you experience trait anxiety (a personality trait) or state anxiety (a temporary feeling), exercise has been shown to decrease these feelings. Hopelessness can accompany the feelings of anxiety and lead to depression. “Research has shown that regular exercise has the greatest impact on depression and is comparable in effectiveness to psychotherapy and medication for mild to moderate depression” according to the National Academy of Sport Medicine.

Barriers

So now that you know how your lifestyle can help you, let’s examine how your lifestyle can hurt you. Do you have a busy schedule? Do you want shredded abs by next week? Do you sometimes have low self-confidence? Is working out inconvenient? All of these are potential barriers when starting out on your fitness journey and can be avoided.

Time

Time is the most widely used excuse for not exercising. If you have time to watch TV, scroll through Facebook, or browse Pinterest, then you have time to exercise! Take a step back and ask yourself “How much time am I really spending on these activities?” and “Where can I cut back to make more room for working out?”

Unrealistic Goals

You can’t make up for days, weeks, or years of not exercising by jumping into an intense exercise program to “undo” the damage. You will end up starting way too fast, and create way too many unrealistic goals, leading to lower motivation and a decreased self-esteem. Hiring a personal trainer can help you create SMART goals, and set up a plan to reach your goals in a realistic and healthy way.

Social Physique Anxiety

You’d be surprised to learn how many gym goers overemphasize the difference between their body type and the body type of the people working out around them. So, if you’re feeling more out of shape than the person next to you, chances are they’re thinking the same thing. Try finding a gym partner so you have someone there to support you. If you don’t have a gym partner, try to meet people with similar body types who you’re able to relate to.

Convenience

Sometimes a gym may be out of reach for people due to their physical location or their financial situation. Examine all options available and then decide what your priorities are. Would you rather exercise at home? Invest in an at home workout routine designed by a personal trainer. Would you rather spend money at the bar or put that towards your health by hiring a personal trainer? For this barrier, ask yourself “Are these barriers real, or am I making excuses?”

Block your barriers so you can bring on the befits!

What Phase of Life Are You In? The 5 Phases of Change

Change goes against what is familiar, stable, and routine. For most people, change is uncomfortable, scary, and unpredictable. This is why, unless there is a really good reason to change the behavior, most people do not change. When there is a good reason (AKA a problem) the change process can begin.

Phase 1: Precontemplation

People in this phase do not exercise, and do not intend to start. People in phase one may have negative thoughts about exercise and believe many myths about exercise. If you are in this phase ask yourself “How do I feel about exercise?” and “Why do I feel this way?”

Phase 2: Contemplation

People in this phase do not exercise, but they are considering it. Misconceptions about fitness may still be present. People in this phase of training should ask themselves “What are the pros of exercise?” and “What are the cons of exercise?”. People in this phase should also ask themselves “What motivates me to become more?”

Phase 3: Preparation

People in this phase exercise occasionally, but are planning to begin a regular exercise routine. They believe in the benefits of exercise. If you are in phase 3 ask yourself “Are my goals and expectations realistic?” and consider building a social support network to help keep you motivated on your new journey.

Phase 4: Action

People in this phase are active, and have started keeping a regular exercise routine. If you are in this phase ask yourself “Do I have a plan to overcome any barriers or disruptions?” some examples of this are a fat loss plateau or a muscle gain plateau, even time can become a barrier. Figure out what you need to do to be successful! Hiring a personal trainer can help redesign your exercise program in this phase.

Phase 5: Maintenance

People in this phase are active and have been active for quite some time. Some may be tempted to return to old habits. If you are in this phase ask yourself “Do I have a check-in plan to monitor my progress?” and “Am I changing up my workout plan?”. If you are struggling in this phase, consider hiring a personal trainer to strengthen your motivation, provide social support, and design a program to fit your personal preferences.

So figure out your starting point and get ready to get after it!

Why Hire a Personal Trainer? The Essential Eight

My goal as a personal trainer is to design safe and individualized programs for each person. I consider your goals, needs, and abilities to design a program that will get you there in a systematic way. I want to provide you support so that you are able to self-manage a healthy active lifestyle. My “Essential 8” reasons to invest in yourself and consult a personal trainer are:

  1. Safety. Hiring a trainer will help you learn the proper form and technique. A personal trainer can also assist, and correct you during your workouts.
  2. Individualized Programs. What works for others may not work for you. A personal trainer will provide you with a fitness program tailored specifically to your goals, needs, and abilities.
  3. Set Goals. Learn how to set goals and create a dialed in vision to achieve success!
  4. Needs. Do you need to lose weight? Do you want to build muscle? Do you need to rehab an injury? Working with a personal trainer can insure you stay on the right path.
  5. Abilities. Not sure where to begin? Being assessed by a personal trainer can get you started on your fitness journey by measuring your true abilities.
  6. Systematic Approach. Maximize your time in this crazy world by performing workouts designed for you to reach your goals quickly and efficiently.
  7. Support. A personal trainer is not there only to take care of the outside, but to also take care of the inside by offering emotional support, companionship, and information.
  8. Self-Management. Learn to manage your own energy, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions to change whatever is not working for you!