The Truth About Core Training

The Truth About Core Training

What if we told you everything you know about core exercises is wrong?  Straining your neck and back doing hundreds of sit-ups, trying to get a “shredded six-pack,” is a complete waste of your time. Sure, you may feel “the burn” in your abs for two to three days after your workout, but that won’t compare to the burn you will feel in your back five years later from bad posture, due to those high repetition ab routines you used to do.

It is time we challenge the status quo when it comes to fitness and performance. I challenge you to be inquisitive and question the fitness content you consume in magazines, articles, blogs, social media, personal trainers, and performance coaches.

There are a lot of great well-educated fitness professionals out there, but the reality is, the fitness, strength, and conditioning industries are becoming over-saturated. A simple test must be taken in order to receive a personal training certification, but should that be enough to be considered a professional?

Technology and the advancement of social media have made it easier for people to share their thoughts, experiences, and opinions with a wider audience. This can be great in some cases, however, when individuals are given misinformation on effective exercise prescription, it can have a snowball effect on your health and wellness. This could potentially lead to muscle imbalance, joint pain, dysfunctions, and ultimately chronic injury or illness.

After reading this, you will have a clear understanding of what your “core” actually is and its purpose. You will also have information on effects your core strength has on your everyday life and insight on why you should change the way you train your core. You will also be given our top five functional core exercises.

What Exactly is Your “Core”?

Your core is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs. It is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body. Your core is comprised of the following muscle groups:

Pelvic floor muscles, Tansversus abdominis, Multifidus, Internal and external obliques, Rectus abdominis, Erector spinae (sacrospinalis), Erector spinae (sacrospinalis), Longissimus thoracis, Diaphragm, Latissimus dorsi, Gluteus maximus, Trapezius, Gluteus medius, Psoas major, and Serratus anterior.

Train your core the right way to prevent bad posture and other dysfunctions. The true purpose of your core is to stabilize your joints, which prevents unwanted movement and transfer of energy forces from your extremities.

Your core most often acts as a stabilizer and force transfer center rather than a primary mover. We often isolate our core with exercises like crunches or back extensions versus functional movements like deadlifts, overhead squats, and pushups, among many other functional exercises.

By training your core the right way, you can optimize the major function of your core. You will also enhance movement efficiency, strength in your muscles, and joints. Strengthening your core will help your tendons to prevent injury and future pain, which will aid long-term health.

How Strengthening Your Core Will Impact Your…

Everyday Life

A strong core enhances balance, stability, and energy transfer. Thus, it can help prevent injuries during day-to-day activities and sports injuries. Core strength directly correlates to exercise and sport activities like walking, jogging, sprinting, throwing, squatting, jumping, and swinging motions. The stronger your core is, the more efficient you will be at these activities. Through strengthening your core, you will see an increase in your performance as well as minimize your risk for injuries.  

Everyday Activities

Bending to put on shoes or scoop up a package, turning to look behind you, sitting in a chair, or simply standing still. These are just a few of the many mundane actions that rely on your core and that you might not notice until they become difficult or painful. Even basic activities of daily living bathing or dressing, for example call on your core.

Work Place

Jobs that involve lifting, twisting, and standing all rely on core muscles. But less obvious tasks like sitting at your desk for hours engage your core as well. Phone calls, typing, computer use, and similar work can make back muscles stiff and sore, particularly if you’re not strong enough to practice good posture and aren’t taking sufficient breaks to stand and go for a walk.

Sports and Other Activities

Sports comprise of a series of explosive complex movements that require a lot of core strength and satiability. Think of sports like golfing, tennis, baseball, and softball. The rotational nature of these sports causes the spine to twist and coil up just to be rapidly released in the opposite direction. Without good foundational core strength, these movements can cause serious harm to your body.

Other sports like basketball, football, hockey, lacrosse, and soccer require speed, agility, coordination, strength, and balance. All this qualities are built on and enhanced by having a solid core. Even recreational sports like running, swimming, kayaking, rowing, skiing, and snowboarding heavily rely on your core.  So, it is important to consider training your core when participating in these hobbies we love.

Good Posture

Good posture decreases wear and tear on your spine and allows you to breathe deeply. Good posture also allows you to perform everyday task easily and more efficiently saving you time and energy.

Weak, tight, or unbalanced core muscles can undermine you in any of these realms. And while it’s important to build a strong core, it’s unwise to aim all your efforts at developing rippling abs.

Overtraining abdominal muscles while snubbing muscles of the back and hip can set you up for injuries and cut athletic prowess. If washboard abs are your holy grail, it’s essential to trim body fat through diet and aerobic exercise and build strong abdominal muscles through frequent core exercise sessions.

Why You Should Change the Way You Train Your Core

When you think of a core exercise, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Sit ups or crunches, right?  These exercises are very popular because they give you that burning tightening feeling in your abdominal which is the problem area for a lot of us.

Lets dig deeper. The abdominal muscles play a key role in protecting the inner organs. They also assist in respiration breathing and work together with back muscles to stabilize the spine for good posture.

When performing a sit up or crunch you’re engaging your rectus abdominus (abs). But, you are also using other muscles groups that assist in hip flexion sush as the iliopsoas, tensor fasciae latae, rectus femoris, and Sartorius.

The Problem

Over exerting your hip flexors during a sit up or crunch is a common error due to lack of engagement of your abs. Overtime you will develop a shortened tight, hip flexors which pulls your torso forward when standing. This puts excessive strain on your lower back. Individuals, who sit for long periods of time daily, are also at risk of developing tight hip flexors.

According to the American Medical Association we sit on average 7.7 hours a day! The long-term effect this has is, bad posture, movement dysfunction, pain, chronic injuries, and high medical bills from physical therapist and doctor visits.

When performing a sit up or crunch you’re engaging your rectus abdominus (abs). But, you are also using other muscles groups that assist in hip flexion sush as the iliopsoas, tensor fasciae latae, rectus femoris, and Sartorius.

Top Five Core Exercises

Choosing the right core exercise can be overwhelming. To simplify, we have provided you with 5 functional exercises to strengthen your core to improve your performance and long-term health.

3-Way Plank: Pron Plank

    1. Get into a prone position on the floor, supporting your weight on your toes and your forearms. Your arms are bent and directly below the shoulder.
    1. Keep shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle in alignment.
    1. Squeeze your abdominals and glutes to engage your core
  1. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and increase by 5 to 10 seconds each workout

3-Way Plank: Side plank

  1. Start by lying on your side with your elbow under your shoulder.
  2. Keep shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle in alignment.
  3. Squeeze abdominals and glutes to engage your core
  4. Repeat on other side and hold for 15 to 20 seconds and increase by 5 to 10 seconds each workout.

Medicine Ball Dead Bug

    1. Begin lying on your back with one hand extended above you toward the ceiling and the other pinning the medicine ball against your opposite knee.
    1. Bring your feet, knees, and hips up to 90 degrees.
    1. Exhale hard to bring your ribcage down and flatten your back onto the floor, rotating your pelvis up and squeezing your glutes. Hold this position throughout the movement. This will be your starting position.
    1. Initiate the exercise by extending your free leg and arm, straightening the knee and hip to bring the leg and arm just above the ground.
    1. Maintain the position of your lumbar and pelvis as you perform the movement, as your back is going to want to arch.
    1. Fully Stay tight and return the working leg and arm to the starting position.
  1. Repeat on the opposite side.

Alternating Glute March

    1. Start by lying on your back with your hands at your side.
    1. Bend knees to approximately 90 degrees with feet flat on the floor.
    1. Initiate the movement by driving your heels in to the ground and fully extending your hips in the air by squeezing your glutes.
  1. Pause briefly at the top then lower hips back down to the ground and repeat.

Superman

    1. To begin, lie straight and face down on the floor or exercise mat. Your arms should be fully extended in front of you. This is the starting position.
    1. Simultaneously raise your arms, legs, and chest off of the floor and hold this contraction for 2 seconds. Tip: Squeeze your lower back to get the best results from this exercise. Remember to exhale during this movement. Note: When holding the contracted position, you should look like superman when he is flying.
    1. Slowly begin to lower your arms, legs and chest back down to the starting position while inhaling.
  1. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions prescribed in your program.

Half Kneeling Wood Chop

  1. 1. Attach a rope or pulley handles to the high cable pulley
  2. Begin in a half kneeling position with your side to the machine, your inside knee down, and outside foot on the floor with your leg at 90 degrees
  3. Holding the rope handle with your inside hand palm up and your outside hand palm down. In one fluid motion turn hips and shoulders away from the machine, pull the handle down towards apposite hip while keeping arms relatively straight.
  4. Rotate shoulders away from the machine and then towards it with each repetition. Prevent unwanted movement other than the rotation of the shoulders and bring arms down towards hip.
  5. At the end of each repetition, your chest should be up, your shoulder blades should be back, and your stomach should be tight.

Congratulations on taking the first step to learn how to train your core properly to enhance your performance and long term quality of life.  I challenge you to put this information into action and implement these exercises into your daily workout routine to strengthen your core the right way! We assure you with time and constant effort you will see and feel a difference in your core strength.

I would love to help you further develop your core strength with online personal training. Get handcraft personalized exercise programs tailored to your needs so you can accomplish your goals faster! If this sounds like a good fit for you lets connect so I can learn more about your personal goals to set you up for success! There is no better time than now, get started today!


Why You Should Become a Yogi

Why You Should Become a Yogi

Yoga has been around for thousands of years and it’s not going anywhere.  Yoga is actually becoming more popular and here’s why you should be adding this workout into your routine.

No, you don’t need to do Yoga every day, but doing Yoga at least once a week will allow you to reap the benefits.

In todays world, mobility and stretching is something that often gets put on the back burner.  People are limited on time, especially when it comes to working out, so they want to make the most out of their workout time and unfortunately people don’t think stretching and mobility is valuable.  I could go on and on about why mobility and stretching are super important, but let’s keep it short: If you want to continue to do the things you love (working out, playing with your kids, walking around, etc.) we need to take care of our bodies in order to do that!

Let’s keep in mind that there are several different types of Yoga.  Some Yoga classes are more relaxing and holding stretches for a long amount of time.  Some classes are faster pace and more of a sweaty endeavor.  Some is active stretching.  So, when picking out a Yoga class to attend make sure to work with a Yoga instructor to see what style would best fit where you are currently at and what your goals are.

The Benefits

So, why Yoga then?  Yoga has both physical and mental benefits.  Let’s go over the physical benefits:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased muscle strength and overall tone
  • Improved respiration
  • Improved energy levels
  • Maintain a balanced metabolism
  • Weight reduction
  • Cardio and circulatory health
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Protection from injury

As you can see, there are several physical benefits to practicing Yoga and this is why Yoga is becoming bigger among athletes as well.

Let’s check out the mental benefits:

  • Helps manage stress
    • Stress can reveal itself in many ways: back and neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse (including caffeine), and an inability to concentrate.
  • More positive outlook on life
  • Create mental clarity and calmness
  • Increase body awareness
  • Relieve chronic stress patterns
  • Relax the mind
  • Center attention
  • Sharpen concentration

Are you stressed?  I can guess that the answer to that question is yes! Life is hectic, and it seems to continue to get even more busy.  Yoga can be a way to get to a healthy state of mind and allow you to enjoy life, even when it’s stressful.

Yoga is for every body!

Yoga is a very accessible workout for anyone and clearly there are several great benefits to this type of exercising.  Whether your just starting out or have been working out for several years, Yoga should be part of your routine.

Now, get out there and get your Namaste on!


Mobility vs. Flexibility: Which is Better?

Mobility vs. Flexibility: Which is Better?

Mobility is not synonymous with flexibility. People use the terms flexibility and mobility interchangeable, but recently fitness professionals have made a push to separate the two concepts.

Most people know that stretching is good for you for multiple reasons, this is usually based on how they feel after stretching. The reason why you may stretch is to relieve stiffness or tightness. What most people don’t understand is there are multiple factors that may contribute to tightness. There are also many ways to address tightness. Generally enhancing your mobility and or flexibility will help you move properly without restriction or pain. Your probably wondering, whats the difference between mobility and flexibility? These two terms seem to be used interchangeably, yet actually have different meanings. Let’s distinguish the difference between the two.

What is Mobility?

Mobility is our ability to take our body through a range of motion, before being restricted, with control. Mobility is having strength within your flexibility.

Mobility is needed to perform everyday activities and it’s especially important when working out or participating in sports. Our ability to move without restriction or pain means that we can comfortably perform daily activities and strength train. If your body isn’t moving through its natural movement patterns, you’re at risk of injury. If you think about your shoulder joint, which is shaped like a ball-and-socket, it’s designed to move in all directions. If your shoulder can move like it should, the joint is healthy and mobile. If you have restricted movement in one direction or another, like you can’t raise your arm next to your ear, then you a lack shoulder mobility. This increase your risk of pain and injury, especially when loaded.

What is Flexibility?

Flexibility refers to soft tissues (muscles and tendons) ability to temporality elongate. Our connective tissues are like finger traps; the amount of material doesn’t actually change, you can’t lengthen it, but you can contract it. Flexibility is passive. It’s your ability to move connective tissue with the help of a another person or tool, while their muscles passively allow the movement to happen. Flexibility means the soft tissues are stretchy and elastic.

Think of a rubber band. If you pull both ends, and it stretches like any good rubber band should, it’s flexible. If it doesn’t stretch, it’s inflexible. It’s the same thing with muscles, which actually have elastic components designed to help the muscle stretch.

Flexibility is important because when your body is restricted by inflexibility and you can’t move through your natural range of motion, pain can occur. Lack of flexibility can make all activities more difficult.

What’s the Difference?

The biggest difference between mobility and flexibility is that in order to move a joint through its range of motion with control (mobility), you need strength.Which is why mobility is a better indication of how well and efficiently we move. Flexibility is one part of mobility. But strength, coordination, and body awareness are also elements of mobility. Flexibility is a component of mobility, extreme flexibility usually isn’t necessary to perform most exercises or activities. That means that mobility can be limited by flexibility, but super-flexibility is not necessary for most people or strength athletes.

Someone with great mobility may be able to squat below parallel while maintaining joint integrity and posture with no restrictions of range of motion. A flexible person may be able to break parallel, but they lack the ability to maintain joint integrity and posture because they may not have the strength, core strength, balance, or coordination to perform the same motion.  Someone with poor mobility may be able to complete a partial rep with decent posture but does not have the range of motion necessary to break parallel. There are a number of possible muscle imbalances that can cause lack of mobility and flexibility,  but these problems can be fixed with a combination of soft-tissue work (foam rolling/massage), stretch, and strengthen.

Both mobility and flexibility are important. You need your muscles to have the strength to support your movements, and elasticity which allows you to move without restriction. Luckily, you can work on improving flexibility and mobility.

Here’s why you should be doing flexibility and mobility exercises.

  1. Eliminate joint pain or injury
  2. Perform movements with great range of motion
  3. Increase muscle recruitment
  4. Burn more calories
  5. Move with freedom
  6. Perform wider range of movements
  7. Prolong quality of life
  8. Increase strength
  9. Increase stability
  10. Increase speed/power
  11. Enhanced joint health

How to Increase Your Mobility and Flexibility?

To enhance your flexibility and mobility, start with areas that you are really tight or areas affected by bad posture. This may include the neck, mid/low back, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles.

3 methods to increase mobility: 

  1. Foam Rolling: foam rolling is essentially a self-massage technique to help you release trigger points or “knots” in your muscles.
  2. Mobility Drills: These are exercises that are specifically geared towards training your range of motion around joints.
  3. Stretch: This isn’t always necessary, especially if you’re a naturally bendy person stretching can make your joints more vulnerable to injury than if you just left it out. But if you’ve always been fairly stiff, and it’s stopping you from performing exercises correctly, you may benefit from a few short stretches as part of your warm up, and longer stretches for after your workout.

Now that you know everything you need to know about mobility vs flexibility, here is a short routine that you can do daily to enhance your flexibility and mobility for better workouts, enhanced performance, and overall health/quality of life.

 


Optimize Your Time at the Gym with These 4 Training Methods

Optimize Your Time at the Gym with These 4 Training Methods

Michol Dalcourt developed the 4Q Model after years of research.  Who’s Michol Dalcourt?  He is the founder of the Institute of Motion, inventor of a piece of equipment called the ViPR (see picture below), and co-founder of PTA (Personal Training Academy) Global.

Now that you know Dalcourt’s credentials, let’s take a look at the 4Q Model:

As you can see in the graph, there are 4 quadrants of training:

  1. Loaded Linear Training
  2. Unloaded Linear Training
  3. Loaded Movement Training
  4. Unloaded Movement Training

There are also X and Y axis.  The X axis is linear movement and transitional movement.  Linear movement is one-dimensional movement along a straight line.  Transitional movement is moving from one position to another.  Think about babies for this one – yes, babies.  For instant, a baby rolling, getting up to standing and getting back to the floor from standing, etc.  The Y axis is Loaded and Unloaded – meaning weighted or non-weighted.

So, now that we have clear understanding of what the 4Q Model is, let’s dive in deeper to each quadrant:

  1. Loaded Linear Training: This is probably the most common training you would see in a gym, more specifically in the weights area.  This type of training is linear, movement from front to back and side to side (Frontal and Sagittal Planes of Motion).  It is loaded, meaning that you have some type of weight during this type of training methodology.  As you can see in the model this includes exercises such as Bench Press, Deadlift, Hang Clean and Bicep Curl.
    • Benefits of this method:
      • Greater muscle Hypertrophy
      • Time under tension
      • Increase hormonal release
      • Improvement in Stability / Strength / Power
      • Improved intra-muscular coordination
  2. Unloaded Linear Training: Very similar to Loaded Linear Training, but unloaded (so no weight).  Some examples, as see in the model, are running, cycling and swimming.
    • Benefits of this method:
      • Re-education of neuro-muscular system
      • Stability / Mobility training
      • Weak Link Activation
      • Targeted tissue improvement (i.e. muscle)
      • Improved intra-muscular coordination
      • – Cardio and motor efficiency
  3. Unloaded Movement Training: This is multi-plane, unloaded training.  Think about the baby – crawling, rolling, standing from a seated position and getting back to seated from standing.  Some examples, aside from the ones in the model, includes yoga.
    • Benefits of this method:
      • Rapid NS activation
      • Mostability training
      • Improved Motor learning
      • Speed, agility, quickness improvements
      • Increase functional reaction capabilities
  4. Loaded Movement Training: This is multi-plane and loaded.  Examples of this method include warding patterns and ViPR training (tool pictured above).
    • Benefits of this Method:
      • Greater adaptations in muscle, nerve, skin, fascia
      • Less compressive forces
      • Increase hormonal release
      • Improvement in multi-directional Stability / Strength / Power
      • Improved inter-muscular coordination
      • Whole body integration

So, what method is the best?  There’s not one training method that is better than the other and creating a program that’s comprehensive with all of these methods is ideal.  There are several benefits to each method and if you want results, having a combination of all of these will get you there.  With that said, you can see how Loaded Linear, Unloaded Linear and Unloaded Movement Training are all rather popular.  Loaded Movement Training, although it’s becoming more popular, it’s still a method that is challenging to ensure you train.  The reason why you want to train using this method is because it will create a more resilient human body.  If you think about it, we do things such as carrying groceries from the car to the house.  We carry toddlers on our hips.  We reach down on the ground to pick something up or reach up to get something out of the cabinet.  We are constantly in  multi-planes with load throughout our lives.  So, if we also train in this way, we create a more resilient human body!  Try adding this to your next workout routine.  If you can’t get your hands on a ViPR for training, try adding some of these movements to your workouts:

Weighted T-Plane Squat

Weighted Halo Chop

Wood Chopper

Squat with Figure-8

Those are just a few to get your head in the right mind space.  Get creative!  If your wanting help creating a comprehensive program that includes all 4 methodologies of the 4Q Method, let us know!  We’d be happy to help.

*Reference: Michol Dalcourt, Institute of Motion: Loaded Movement Training

Why High Intensity Interval Training is a Big HIIT.

Why High Intensity Interval Training is a Big HIIT!

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is some version of a brief period of all-out effort followed by a rest period.  Here’s everything you need to know about HIIT Training and how you can reap the benefits from this sufficient workout method.

Why is Hight Intensity Interval Training a big HIIT?

  1. Efficient: HIIT Sessions are short, but definetly not sweet.
  2. Effective: Studies have proven this method as extremely effective.
  3. Multi-Purpose: No matter what your goals are, this training methodology is for you.

Efficient: Why is HIIT such an efficient method of training?

To answer this question, first we must look at what types of work-to-rest ratios we should be using:

1:1 – example: 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off

2:1 – example: 40 seconds on, 20 seconds rest

3:1 – example: 45 seconds on, 15 seconds rest

For beginner HIIT athletes, start off with a 1:1 work-t0-rest ratio and incrementally increase as you become more conditioned.

The key is to ensure that your all-out effort is truly all-out.  So, the length of your training can vary as well. Length of time should be determined by your all-out effort.  So how long should your HIIT sessions last?  It’s time to quit when you can no longer maintain an all-out effort for the designated work time frame.  Typically, this time frame is no longer than 45 minutes.  This is why this method has gained its popularity.  If you are short on time, it’s a great way to be efficient with your time.

Effective: 

Studies have proven that HIIT training helps you burn more fat for up to 24 hours after your session.  This method puts your body into overdrive with repair processes, therefore, your body burns more fat while in repair mode.  Studies have proven HIIT to be an effective way to lose weight, while also not sacrificing muscle.  More muscle on the body means that you burn more fat at rest as well.  Not only that, but HIIT increases the production of your Human Growth Hormone (HGH).  This increases caloric burn and also reduces the aging process.  These are just a few benefits of HIIT training, which only proves this method even further.

Multi-Purpose: 

Whether your have goals of fat loss, increasing muscle while maintaining a lean physique, or athletic performance, this method may be used to help you reach your goals!  This is a big reason why this method has gained such popularity.

Some things to mention about HIIT:

Adding 2 sessions a week is an ideal amount to reap the benefits from HIIT training.  Why should I do it only 2x a week if it’s so effective and efficient?  The whole idea of HIIT training is to shock your central nervous system and constantly challenge your body to adapt in new ways, meaning you will get results.  If you were to do HIIT training every day, the body would adapt and it would become less effective, so keep this in mind while developing your workout routine.

As you can see, HIIT is a great tool to add to your regimen!  Find a beginners HIIT workout below.  Go get ’em!

Beginners HIIT

Exercise 1: 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest + Exercise 2: 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest; each round 3x

Round 1: Push-Ups + Burpees

Round 2: Squats + Side to Side Squat Jumps

Round 3: Plank Shoulder Taps + 4 Cross-body Mountain Climbers and 4 Jumping Jacks

Round 4: Reverse Lunges + Split Squat Jumps

Round 5: Bicycle Crunches + Shuffle side to side


Periodization: The Key to an Effective Workout Program

Periodization: The Key to an Effective Workout Program

Have you ever experienced stagnation or boredom with your workout routine? Have you hit a plateau where no matter what you do, you just feel like you’re not making progress? Have you experienced long term exhaustion physically, mentally, or even sickness? These are all symptoms of a manotineous workout program  that is not well planned or a program that you have stuck to for too long. With strategic periodization, you can avoid training plateaus and overtraining. Here’s how to break free and take your training and your results to the next level.

What is periodization?

Strength and conditioning programs cause an alarm phase that provokes our bodies to respond to external stimulus (strength training or cardiovascular training). Our bodies responds by adapting the stimulus so the next time it encounters the same stressor, we will be able to better deal with the stress. This is referred to as general adaptation syndrome (GAS). Homeostasis is our bodies baseline or equilibrium, so anytime we encounter a stress whether physical or psychological we experience a physiological adaptation. This is why it is important to constantly adjust variables of stress (workout routine) through periodization.

To promote long term training and performance improvements, a good training program should include preplanned, systematic variations in training specificity, intensity, volume, and load organized in periods or cycles within the overall program. This allows you to optimize adaptations made from training either from strength training or cardiovascular training.

Periodization for Strength

So, you have to disrupt homeostasis with a progressive overload to cause the body to adapt.  Here are three key training parameters that will drive gains in strength and muscle. 

  1. Mechanical tension: external forces put on the muscles by the weights, resulting in muscle contraction. Lifting a heavy load in big compound exercises (squats, chins, rows, bench presses etc.).
  2. Metabolic stress: the accumulation of metabolic byproducts, referred to as metabolites (e.g., lactate, hydrogen ions, and inorganic phosphate) during and following resistance exercise, which indirectly mediate cell and muscle swelling. Using higher rep sets with shorter rest periods and intensification techniques such as, drop sets, supersets, rest pause and occlusion training.
  3. Muscle damage: referring to micro tears accrued from deliberately lifting weights, usually accompanied by DOMS. Exercises which place a big stretch on the muscle like Romanian Deadlifts, are great at achieving this. Eccentric overload training is also excellent. So, using a weight heavier than you can lift and just doing the lowering phase (you will need a spotter for this). 

Periodization for Cardio

You should also periodize your cardiovascular training for the same reasons—to further challenge your body while still allowing for adequate recovery time.

If, for example, you’re a recreational runner, running for fitness, fun and the occasional short race, you’ll want to allow for flat, easy runs, as well as some that incorporate hills and others that focus on speed and strength.

What you don’t want to do is complete the same run every time. If you run too easily, and don’t push yourself, you won’t progress. And chances are you’ll get bored. Conversely, too much speed or high-intensity training will lead to injury or burnout, and most likely, disappointing race results.

Training Variables to Consider

Here are 5 key variables to consider that will impact your workouts. Now that you know the importance of altering your training program, here is how periodization manipulates these variables. A change in your program doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change all of the exercises, sets, reps, and weight periodically. In some instances, that may be the case, but a change in your program can be as subtle as increasing or decreasing the volume. Or maybe you increase the weight in your strength training routine. Maybe, you increase the weight and decrease the volume respectively. There are many ways that you can alter a program, the most important thing is that your program is adjusted periodically with the end goal in mind so that you get results.

Here are 5 key training variables:

Volume: The number of repetitions per set, or the number of sets of each exercise 

Load: The amount of resistance used and cumulative effective of stress from your workout physically and psychologically.

Frequency:  How many days a week you train a muscle group, movement pattern, or energy system.

Intensity: Rest period between sets or bouts,  exercise type, order of the exercises, types of exercises, weight used for the exercise, and speed at which you complete each exercise.

Specificity: exercise selection that is specific or non specific to your goals

How Frequently should you switch up workouts?

Macrocycle: Traditional periodization models divide the overall program into specific time periods. The largest division is a macrocycle, typically (6-12 months)

Mesocycle: Within macrocycle are two or more mesocycles, each lasting several weeks to several months. The number depends on goal and peak time periods. (2 weeks – 6 months)

Microcycle: Each mesocycle is divided into two or more microcycles that are typically one week long but could last for up to four weeks, depending on the program. This short cycle focuses on daily and weekly training variations. (1-4 weeks)

With this in mind. It is recommended that you adjust your training program at least every 4 weeks to avoid plateaus and negative effects of overtraining.

Types of Periodization

Here are 3 types of periodization methods.

Linear: Most frequently used. Best for beginners. training plan that gradually increases volume, intensity, and work by mesocycles in an annual plan. Progressive overload is a major key to success here.

Non-Liner/Undulated: Relies on constant change in stimuli throughout training cycles. As opposed to a linear periodization that focuses on gradual increase of one variable, this style manipulates multiple variables like exercises, volume, intensity, and training adaptation on a frequent basis. The time frame for these manipulations can be daily, weekly, or even bi-weekly. Non-linear periodization is more advanced than linear and incorporates multiple types of stimuli into a training program.

Block Periodization: Block periodization is arguably the “newest” periodization style. The concept of block periodization focuses on breaking down specific training periods into 2-4 week periods. Each block encompasses three different stages: accumulation (50-75% intensity), transmutation (75-90% intensity), and realization (90%> intensity). The goal behind these smaller, specific blocks is to allow an athlete to stay at their peak level longer.

Periodized training will ensure that you continue to make measurable progress, which will keep you energized and interested in reaching your goals

As you incorporate periodization into your fitness program, keep in mind your body will need adequate rest as well. It’s important to track your workouts and record sets, reps along with the amount of resistance you used. This long-term plan will allow you to stay focused on different goals throughout the year and will support continued and measurable progress.

 


Surviving Fall Festivities: Healthy Style

Surviving Fall Festivities: Healthy Style 

‘Tis the season of wine, cider beer, caramel with apples, and pumpkin spice flavored everything.  So, how do you stay on track with your fitness goals when it’s this wonderful time of the year?

First, a lot of us may be thinking “why worry so much about what I eat this time of the year, it’s going to be winter and I won’t be showing as much skin.”  Here’s the deal—fitness and health are all about a lifestyle.  Summer bodies are made year-round.  You can’t expect to put in a few months of work before Spring Break and get lasting results.  So, with that in mind, here’s a few ways to stay on track this Fall season.

  1. Find Alternatives.  If you enjoy pumpkin flavored everything, invest in some sugar free Pumpkin Spice syrup and go crazy: coffee, protein shakes, etc.  Here’s a Pumpkin Caramel flavor from Amazon: Click Here to Shop.  Do you have a sweet tooth? Instead of candy, go for fruit instead.  Instead of a cookie, check out our German Chocolate Cake Power Ball Recipe (listed below).  These are super easy to grab and go!
  2. Don’t go to Parties Hungry:  This is a good rule to follow in general, no matter the season.

 

German Chocolate Cake Power Balls

Ingredients

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

5 Scoops 1st Phorm Level-1 Protein, German Chocolate Cake Flavor (get Here)

1 cup extra-crunchy peanut butter (or smooth, your choice)

1/2 cup raw honey

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons flax seed

Water

Directions

  1. In a food processor, pulse the oats, Level-1 Protein, peanut butter, honey, chocolate chips, sunflower seeds and flax seeds until fully combined. Add water as needed to ensure Protein is mixed/power balls are the right consistency.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Form balls from the mixture (about 1 1/2 tablespoons each) and place them on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

 


3 Tips to Be Consistent with Your Workout Routine

3 Tips to Be Consistent with Your Workout Routine

Studies have shown that at least 50% of the people who start a fitness program do not make it through the first three months, many more will discontinue the program before the end of twelve months. A large number of people never exercise, or have ever joined an exercise program, despite the fact that regular exercise and physical activity is necessary for health–both physical and emotional.

So, what makes people stay with an exercise program?

Studies have indicated that there are psychological variables relevant for someone to stay with an exercise program. The main variables include the following:

1. Take Responsibility

The ability, to take responsibility for what happens in your life. If you are not satisfied with your current health and fitness, think  of how you got to that point. Did you stop exercising after high school or college? Decreased your fitness when you started family? Never tracked or cared about your diet? Never learned how to exercise and you don’t know where to start? Should you do cardio, strength or both?

If you can eliminate blame, you can eliminate excuses. If the blame or excuse plays repeatedly in your mind, you are shifting responsibility for your decisions to others. When starting an exercise program, do it for your own health benefit and you will be more likely to succeed.

2. Have a Clear Goal in Mind

Sport and exercise can be essential to health and adherence. When most of us train without a goal or purpose in mind, exercise becomes very monotonous and mundane. If you like to do cardio for exercise, I encourage you to sign up for a 5k, triathlon, or marathon with a specific goal time in mind to stimulate your drive.

If you like to lift or do HIIT training, I encourage you to join a lifting or CrossFit competition. It sounds scary from the outside looking in, but they do a very good job of scaling for all levels. The anticipation and slight anxiety about sporadically signing up for a competition should be enough to spark your inner athlete and help you stay committed to your health for many, many years.
At the very least, track the time and distance of your runs, biking, swimming, weight lifted during a workout, time to complete a HIIT workout, etc. This way you can create a competition against your future self, and you are able to further specify your workouts.

3. Know Your Abilities and Fitness Level

Knowing your fitness level is all about the perception you have of your exercise ability. It is important to build a good exercise base when starting an exercise regimen. For example, if someone wants to start exercising after a hiatus, they should not start on an intense exercise program that they have seen online. This creates a high risk of “falling off the bandwagon” and stopping altogether. A sedentary person getting into exercise has a much high risk of injury, which also deters adherence to a program. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to a coach or trainer that can help you start at your individual fitness level. A good coach will help you build a foundation, making exercise attainable for your individual needs within a timeframe suitable to you.

Your exercise needs may change based on whether you work out in the morning or evening if you can workout 2, 3, or 5 times a week, and what type of exercise you enjoy doing. If you have struggled with being consistent with your workout routines, I suggest working with a trainer to get on track and stay accountable so you can reach your goals and have better health and fitness. There are several options out there to work with a trainer that will help you stay consistent. You can work with a trainer at your local gym, or online personal training which is a convenient and cost effective way to work with a trainer virtually. No matter what you choose to do, keep in mind that consistency is the key to getting results. So remember, take responsibility for your fitness, set goals, and know your abilities.


Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, like Keto, is becoming a buzz-word in the fitness community. It has become a huge trend because of the results people are achieving. Many studies show that intermittent fasting can cause weight loss, improve metabolic health, protect against disease, and perhaps even help you live longer. Are you curious about trying it? Here are the things you need to know before trying it for yourself.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. There are several different methods that we will go over below. The reason this is a fast-growing eating pattern is because it’s an easier way to live life, and there are several health benefits as well.

Health benefits 

  • Weight Loss:Naturally, if you fast, you will eat less. If you eat less than your output energy, you will lose weight.  That is, assuming you don’t compensate during the times you are not fasting, as in “making-up” for the lost time.
  • Insulin Resistance:Fasting lowers your blood sugar and can help protect from Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Inflammation:If you are someone that often experiences inflammation, fasting can help reduce this painful swelling.
  • Heart Health:Fasting may reduce “bad” cholesterol and other risks to heart disease.
  • Cancer:According to animal studies, it is suggested that fasting may prevent cancer.
  • Brain Health:Fasting increases the brain hormone and may aid in the growth of new nerve cells.
  • Anti-Aging:Fasting in rats extended their life-span, so this could be a positive effect for you as well.

As you can see, there are several benefits to trying intermittent fasting. On the flip-side, there can also be harmful effects. Always consult your physician before switching your diet and/or if you experience negative side effects.

Fasting methods

  • 16/8 Method16 hours of fasting and an 8-hour window to consume food. For example, skip breakfast and eat lunch at 1:00 pm, a snack around 4:00 pm, and eat dinner before 9:00 pm.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: 24-Hour fast 1x or 2x a week. Example, not eating dinner one day until dinner the next day.
  • The 5:2 Diet:You consume only 500 – 600 calories on 2 non-consecutive days a week, but eat normally the other 5 days.

 

How fasting affects your cells and hormones 

  • While fasting, your body adjusts hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. This can cause weight loss.
  • While fasting, your cells initiate important repair processes.

Now that you know the facts, how do you decide which method is right for you? Or is fasting for you at all?  If you think about it, our bodies were built to survive. We were hunters and gatherers.  If we did not hunt or gather food, we did not eat.  We are busy people.  Much busier than we ever used to be. So, if you are constantly on the go, fasting can make your life a little easier when it comes to food. It’s also less expensive, because you’re eating less. My recommendation to determine which method works for you is to ask yourself which method would make your life easier? Also, what category do you fall under:

  1. 16:8 Method:For dedicated gym-goers who are looking to lose fat and gain lean mass.
  2. Eat-Stop-Eat:Healthy eaters looking for an extra boost.
  3. The 5:2 Diet:  Disciplined dieters with a specified goal weight.

Maybe you don’t fall under any of these categories right now, and that’s okay! My recommendation would be to start with small goals. Making incremental changes over time will help make this a lifestyle. And making it a lifestyle will ultimately make you successful with any health and wellness goals you have in mind! If you don’t fall under these categories, start off by eating healthier. Once you fall into one of these categories, then test out each method until you find one that works for you.

If you are interested in the 16:8 Method, find more information here about meal planning around workouts and what to eat during your feeding window.

These are not the only methods of fasting. If you want to learn about other methods and more about what might work for you, click here.

 


How Improving Your Sleep Quality Can Significantly Improve Your Health and Fat Loss

How Improving Your Sleep Quality Can Significantly Improve Your Health and Fat Loss

 

When you think of ways to improve your health, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Exercise? Diet? Sleep isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind but it has a significant impact on your health. The fact of the matter is that sleep may be more important than both diet and exercise when it comes to general health and fat loss. The average adult in America gets 6-7 hours of sleep per day, which is less than the recommended amount suggested by the National Sleep Foundation. Sleep debt and sleep deprivation have a significant impact on your biochemistry affecting your hormones, brain waves, and nervous system which can alter your metabolism creating an environment that allows your body to store more fat than normal. The good news is that there are a few simple steps you can take to enhance your sleep quality so you can feel more rejuvenated, energized, and even burn more fat.

 

What is sleep deprivation and how does it affect your body?

Sleep deprivation occurs when an individual gets less sleep than they need to feel awake and alert. People vary in how little sleep is needed to be considered sleep-deprived. Some people such as older adults seem to be more resistant to the effects of sleep deprivation, while others, especially children and young adults, are more vulnerable. Stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from electronic devices—interfere with our “circadian rhythm”or natural sleep/wake cycle.

Body functions affected by sleep deprivation:

  • Immune function
  • Heightened risk of respiratory disease
  • Body weight and body fat
  • Higher risk of diabetes
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar
  • Inflammation
  • Hormone production

 

Hormone response from sleep deprivation

Endocrine System: Your HPA axis and thyroid are known to regulate our body’s ability to burn fat. Your diet and exercise does not impact your ability to burn fat as much as sleep does. Your ability to burn fat and store fat is regulated by your endocrine system and your hormone function.

Thyroid: The thyroid acts on the body to increase the basal metabolic rate, affect protein synthesis, and increase the body’s sensitivity to catecholamines (such as adrenaline) by permissiveness. The thyroid hormones are essential to proper development and differentiation of all cells of the human body. These hormones also regulate protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism, affecting how human cells use energetic compounds.

Sleep deprivation slows the function of the thyroid and its ability to metabolize protein, fat, and carbs.

Leptin: The hormone leptin is intricately involved in the regulation of appetite, metabolism and calorie burning. Leptin is the chemical that tells your brain when you’re full, when it should start burning up calories and, by extension, when it should create energy for your body to use.

During sleep, leptin levels increase, telling your brain you have plenty of energy for the time being and there’s no need to trigger the feeling of hunger or the burning of calories. When you don’t get enough sleep, you end up with too little leptin in your body, which, through a series of steps, makes your brain think you don’t have enough energy for your needs. So your brain tells you you’re hungry, even though you don’t actually need food at that time, and it takes steps to store the calories you eat as fat so you’ll have enough energy the next time you need it. The decrease in leptin brought on by sleep deprivation can result in a constant feeling of hunger and a general slowdown of your metabolism.

Ghrelin: The purpose of ghrelin is basically the exact opposite of leptin: It tells your brain when you need to eat, when it should stop burning calories and when it should store energy as fat. During sleep, levels of ghrelin decrease, because sleep requires far less energy than being awake does. People who don’t sleep enough end up with too much ghrelin in their system, so the body thinks it’s hungry and it needs more calories, and it stops burning those calories because it thinks there’s a shortage.

Also, not only does ghrelin cause you to eat more, but it also makes you crave foods high in carbohydrates. So by not sleeping, we’re setting ourselves up for a lot of struggle.

Cortisol: This is the stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels are one of the first signs of sleep deprivation. High cortisol levels can cause weight gain, stress, and anxiety. However it is an important hormone in your body. The problem arises when cortisol is produced in the wrong amount and at the wrong time. When your stress levels are high, your body senses danger, so it stocks up on energy, storing fat as protection.

Lack of sleep causes your body to spend more time in a sympathetic state or “alarm state.” Our bodies need sleep to relax and recover allowing us to shift from a sympathetic state to a relaxed parasympathetic state. If you’re sleep deprived, your body doesn’t make that switch, which elevates cortisol levels at night and for an extended period of time.

Insulin: Insulin is your body’s major fat-storing hormone. Studies show that just one night, a twenty-four hour period (which is a short debt of sleep deprivation), can make some people as insulin resistant as a Type II diabetic.

It really has some dysfunction with your insulin’s function and causes extra circulation of sugar in your blood which can get processed in your liver. The sugar will more than likely get stored as belly fat. This is a classic sign of insulin resistance. So we really start to change the function of insulin when we’re sleep deprived.

Human Growth Hormone: HGH is an important part of the body’s endocrine system. It is especially active in the growing child’s maturation. HGH is released by the brain into the bloodstream during sleep, and its release is part of the repair and restoration function of sleep.

Human growth hormones promote a healthy metabolism, enhance your physical performance, and may even help you live longer.

Melatonin: This is a sleep hormone that regulates your body’s circadian timing system (24 hour internal clock). Melatonin requires two factors. It requires an environmental darkness, and it requires a cyclical pattern. It needs to get established and it’s looking for a cycle for it to be produced optimally.

Melatonin increases your body’s ratio of fat burning fat. Brown adipose tissue burns white adipose tissue. We’re putting ourselves at a metabolic disadvantage if we’re not getting sleep, if we’re not allowing our body to produce melatonin.

 

 Relationship between fat and sleep

There are two types of fat and both are hormonally driven. Subcutaneous fat is a layer of fat below the skin. The other type of fat is visceral fat, also known as omentum fat. Visceral fat is fat stored around your organs and it tends to hold around the waistline. Visceral fat is especially dangerous and can lead to disease.

There is a joint publication of the Sleep Research Societyand theAmerican Academy of Sleep Medicine, and the results found that subjects who slept less than six hours a night over the course of the five year study had a 32% gain in visceral fat in comparison to those who slept for more than six hours per night who had an average increase of 13% in visceral fat. This is more than twice as much visceral fat accumulation due to sleep deprivation. As you can see, there is a positive correlation between sleep deprivation and the accumulation of body fat.

 

Signs of sleep deprivation

Now that you know what sleep deprivation is and the effect it has on your body, let’s identify common signs of sleep deprivation:

  • Yawning
  • Caffeine dependent
  • Overweight
  • Moodiness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty learning new concepts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to concentrate or a “fuzzy” head
  • Lack of motivation
  • Clumsiness
  • Increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings
  • Reduced sex drive

How to avoid sleep deprivation

You can avoid sleep deprivation by simply decreasing your sleep debt. If your body needs 8 hours of sleep to function optimally (everyone is different), and you get 6 hours of sleep, this puts you at a sleep debt of two hours. In order to prevent the long term effect of sleep debt, you will want to catch up on the sleep you lost in order prevent sleep deprivation.

To pave the way for better sleep, follow these simple yet effective healthy sleep tips,including:

  • Relaxation (meditation and mindful breathing techniques).
  • Stick to a sleep schedule,even on weekends.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Exercise
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
  • Get more sun exposure in the morning between 8am – 10am (circadian timing system).
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Beware of hidden sleep stealers,like alcohol and caffeine.
  • Turn off electronics before bed.
  • Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed.
  • Medicinal Mushroom Rishi has been utilized for thousands of years and it has a tremendous amount of clinical data to back it up without side effects.
  • Increase overall sleep time (recommend 8-9 hours/day).
  • Get through all sleep cycles.

 

Sleep cycles

Stage One:  Within minutes (sometimes even within seconds!) of nodding off, your brain produces what are called alpha and theta waves and your eye movements slow down. This introduction to sleep is relatively brief, lasting up to seven minutes. Here, you are in light stage sleep, which means that you’re somewhat alert and can be easily woken. It’s during this stage of sleep that people often indulge in brief “catnaps.”

Stage Two: During this stage, which is also fairly light, the brain produces sudden increases in brain wave frequency known as sleep spindles. Then brain waves slow down. If you were to schedule a “power nap” you’d want to wake up after this stage of sleep.

 Stages Three and Four: This stage is the beginning of deep sleep, as the brain begins producing slower delta waves. You won’t experience any eye movement or muscle activity. At this point, it becomes a little harder for you to be awakened because your body becomes less responsive to outside stimuli. The brain produces even more delta waves and you move into an even deeper, more restorative stage of sleep next. It’s most difficult to wake up during this stage. This is when the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep:  You generally enter REM sleep about 90 minutes after initially falling asleep, and each REM stage can last up to an hour. An average adult has five to six REM cycles each night. During this final phase of sleep, your brain becomes more active. This is when most dreaming occurs, your eyes jerk quickly in different directions (hence, the name!), heart rate and blood pressure increase, and breathing becomes fast, irregular, and shallow. REM sleep plays an important role in learning and memory function, since this is when your brain consolidates and processes information from the day before so that it can be stored in your long-term memory.

 

Sleep recommendations

New recommendations from National Sleep Foundation

  • School age children (6-13):Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17):Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25):Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64):Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+):Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

 


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