Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

It's no debate that Americans always gain weight this time of year.  Heck even Santa puts on a few pounds.  But how much do we really gain?  And more importantly, can it be avoided?  Many experts believe we gain anywhere from 1 to 5 pounds from Halloween to New Year's Day but the good news is there are things you can do to limit or avoid any weight gain during the holiday season.

Hopefully you are not still eating Halloween candy; but, if you are, it's time to get rid of it.  Take it to the office, have your kids take it to school, or give it to our homeless Americans.  Furthermore, remember Thanksgiving DAY is only one day.  No need to stuff yourself like a turkey for more than 1 day or 1 meal for that matter.  Third, Christmas is the holiday of giving...not of eating. Granted there will be lots of delicious goodies at your disposal. Just remember to taste everything but don't indulge on anything!

Exercise is also important during the holiday season.  Most gyms are still open around the holidays.  If you don't have a gym membership, I believe it's still free to walk around your neighborhood.  What great weather we are having this fall!  As a bonus, exercise has been proven to reduce holiday stress and control blood sugar if you have eaten too many sweets.

Moreover, New Year's Eve is just not about consuming 1 or more adults beverages; it's also about setting new goals for 2014.  What a great way to start off the year with an exercise session on January 1, 2014!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Stay Hydrated This Summer

It's easy to get dehydrated in the summer sun if you exercise outdoors.  Drinking plenty of water is essential to staying hydrated.  It is the most abundant and most important nutrient in the body.  Our muscle weight is nearly 75% water.

We receive most of our water from liquids although we do get some from food.  On the other hand, we lose most of our water through sweat, exhaling, and urine.  Dehydration starts at 1% body weight loss due to sweating.  A person working out can lose as much as 3 liters of water per hour during a very strenuous workout.

Most experts suggest that a sedentary person should drink at least 2.5 liters of water per day.  On hot days and/or during exercise, water intake can be as much as 5 to 10 liters.  Proper hydration will help you maintain your workout intensity.  Studies have shown sports performance begins to drop with dehydration levels of only 1%.

So stay cool and hydrated this summer for better workouts and a healthier body!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Is Functional Training?

More and more people have goals of improved everyday life rather than big gains in size and strength.  A new style of training includes exercises that mimic everyday movements called "functional training."

Most traditional exercises involve single muscle groups in a single plane.  Functional training utilizes more muscles groups in several different planes.  While traditional training will enhance absolute strength and hypertrophy, functional training will improve functional strength, stability, and coordination.

For example, someone who picks up a load of laundry and places it on the washing machine may perform a medicine ball squat with a twist (pictured) to utilize similar muscle groups and planes.  Another example is performing asymmetrical step-ups with a medicine or dumbbell on one side to closely resemble carrying a child up a flight of stairs. 

Not ready to give up your traditional exercises?  No problem!  You can combine traditional exercises with functional exercises to design a well-rounded routine.  For example, a back squats followed by asymmetrical step-ups OR bench press followed by one-arm cable press.  Just remember, when performing functional exercises, always progress from a more stable environment to a less stable one. Also, increase the difficulty by involving more muscles groups and more planes.

For beginners, some of these "functional movements" may initially seem awkward.  However, after repeated bouts of the same exercises, your muscles will coordinate and adapt to the challenge of functional training.  Good luck and happy lifting!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bone Health

Many people know that resistance training is very beneficial for muscles; but, did you know resistance training is also very beneficial for your bones?

Many studies have shown that weight training builds stronger bones.  In fact, bones that undergo resistance training become bigger and stronger; while bones that do NOT experience exercise become weak and brittle.

The same way your muscles adapt to the weight training stress is very similar to how your bones adapt to weight lifting.  Exercise signals your body to make changes in the bone structure.  With a proper diet of calcium and vitamin D, weight training will build bigger, stronger bones.

Stronger bones is the key to preventing osteoporosis and minimizing fractures at the more common sites like the hip, spine, and wrist.  Moreover, bone density is site specific. Which means that although runners may have strong tibias (lower leg bones), they may be weak at the hips, spine, and arms.  Therefore, everyone should participate in some type of weight bearing exercise for all the major muscle and major bones of the body.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lat Pulldowns: front or back?

There is an ongoing debate whether we should perform lat pulldowns in front of our heads or behind our heads. Personal trainers should always consider the safety and effectiveness of an exercise before they include it in a resistance training program. A study by Signorile et al (2002) compared muscle activity in the latissimus dorsi using different hand positions and techniques.  EMGs were connected to 10 subjects using 4 different hand positions: wide grip anterior, wide grip posterior, close grip, and supinated grip.

The study concluded that the wide grip anterior (front of the head) grip produced significantly greater muscle activity in the latissimus dorsi than any of the three other grips.  Furthermore, there was more activity in tricep, teres major, pec major, and posterior deltoid during pulldowns in front of their heads than behind their heads.  Also, most experts believe that anterior pulldowns are safer than posterior pulldowns concerning neck and shoulder joints.
Therefore, it is concluded that anterior pulldowns are not only safer, but this study has proven that anterior pulldowns are also more effective in recruiting latissimus dorsi and other muscles than lat pulldowns behind the head.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Leg Press Tips and Technique

The Leg Press is one of the most popular machines in the gym.  It is a single plane machine which means it really targets the glutes, quads, and hamstrings if used properly.  To use all three big muscle groups, your feet should be placed near the center of the plate.  If your feet are placed too high, you will recruit more glutes/hams than quads.  If you place your feet too low on the plate, then you will recruit more quads than glutes/hams.

Another important facet to the leg press is the lower back.  As with most exercises, it is very important to keep a neutral spine throughout the movement.  Some exercisers will lower the weight too fast causing their lumbar spine to curve.  Make a mental note to keep your low back on the pad.  A curved lumbar will produce a posterior pelvic tilt which may lead to low back pain or injury in the future.

So next time you're at the gym and the angled leg press machine is available, try experimenting with foot position.  High on the plate for glutes/hams, low for quads, and wide for adductors.  But regardless of your routine, make sure you maintain proper form to prevent injury.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Recruiting the Pectoralis Minor

Most people know how to recruit the pectoralis major.  In fact, Monday is what most people at the gym call international "chest day."  Some of the best exercises for pectoralis major are chest press, pushups, and cable crossovers.  But do you know how to properly recruit the pectoralis minor?

The pectoralis minor is a smaller muscle beneath the pec major.  While the pec major inserts into the humerus, the pec minor inserts into the scapula or shoulder blade.  Therefore, the two muscles have two different functions.  In order to properly recruit the pec minor, there must be a separation of the shoulder blades or rounding of the back.  Next time you do cable crossovers, try rounding your back at the end of the movement.  This will ensure that you are recruiting your pec major and your pec minor during the same exercise.

Happy lifting :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fat Loss Tips for 2013

Millions of Americans began a new health and fitness journey on January 1.  We wish everyone luck on their health and fitness goals.  If you can make better activity choices and better food choices, the journey will be successful.

Simple things you can do to add activity to your daily routine:
·         Take the stairs
·         Park far away
·         Walk during your lunch break
·         Walk to check your mail
·         Walk your dog
·        Play outside
·         If you “need” to watch the latest reality show, do some crunches or pushups during commercials.

Making better food choices is almost impossible with all the goodies everywhere; so:

·         Eat at home
·         Eat more fibrous fruits and vegetables
·         Do not leave your home hungry
·         Pack healthy snacks to go just in case
·         Avoid long periods between snacks
·         Drink water with your meals
·         Drink alcohol in moderation if at all

Another important aspect of your journey is your support team.  Surround yourself with friends that have similar goals.  Also write down your goals and share them with some of your friends.  Together, you all will help each other reach your 2013 health and fitness goals!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Improve Speed and Agility

If you or your client is looking to improve speed, quickness, and agility, you may need to add hip flexion exercises to your leg routine.  Most athletes know to train their glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.  But many athletes forget to train the hip flexion muscle group which includes the psoas major and iliacus. 

Dean et al (2005) showed that subjects improved both 40 yard time and shuttle times after an 8 week hip flexion resistance training program.  There were no improvements in the control group.  Results were published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning.

A simple hip flexion exercise is lying leg raises.  Make sure your lumbar spine stays flat against the floor when performing this exercises.  A more advance exercise is hanging leg raises.  These exercises will challenge your core along with the hip flexor group.

In summary, everyone should follow a total body, all joint action, exercise routine.  If you are missing a few joint actions in your weekly routine, you may be shorting yourself athletic improvement or even worse, creating muscular problems that may lead to injury down the road.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween Candy

Do you still have Halloween candy?  No doubt eating that candy will not only add a few extra calories into your diet but it will also give you somewhat of a guilty conscience.  Well don’t worry, there’s a way for your guilty pleasure to make its way into your muscles.

After workouts, your muscles have used up muscle glycogen and are starving for sugar to replenish your glycogen stores.  An influx of sugar and protein will stimulate an extra uptake of glucose and amino acids into your muscles.  A good ratio is 3 to 1 or about 45 grams of candy (sugar) to 15 grams of whey protein depending on your workout.

So remember, fast acting sugar plus a fact acting protein makes for a wonderful post workout snack.  But also remember that you need to resume your normal diet shortly thereafter.  Candy should only be used as a treat AFTER your workout! Enjoy J

Monday, October 8, 2012

Balance and Stability Training

Balance represents an ability to stabilize and maintain a desired body position.  A balanced body is thought to represent a correct or efficient positioning of a body part or entire body.  Balance training has shown not only to improve balance but also strength.  With improvements in strength come improvements in sports performance.

Furthermore, balance and stability training continues to grow and is a mainstay as a cutting edge method in conditioning and performance training programs.  There are many ways to incorporate balance training into your fitness program.  You can warm up with a few balance movements, use them throughout, and/or finish your workout with them.  Always start with easier movements and progress as your neuromuscular system improves.

Moreover, once the body is properly balanced, movements are more energy efficient, safer, and feel more natural.  Studies have confirmed more muscle activity in more muscles during balance training with equipment such as the Bosu Ball (pictured).  Everyone gets benefits from balance training especially the elderly and those just beginning a fitness program.  It’s not only beneficial to everyone, but it will be a fun way to challenge your body in a different manner.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Personal Training Jobs on the Rise

According to the Department of Labor, the number of personal trainers grew by 44 percent in 2010 and 2011. That's why so many unemployed Americans are trying to transform their passion for fitness into a new career.

Surprisingly, the fitness industry is one of the few growing businesses since the recession began adding nearly 10 million jobs and gym members since 2007.

With the obesity problem in the United States continuing to rise, the demand for personal trainers also continues to rise.  Health and fitness isn’t a fad, it’s here to stay.  Almost every gym in America along with many other medical facilities is looking for certified personal trainers.

Along with a good base salary, many personal trainers enjoy the flexible schedule.  The flexibility allows for many trainers to spend more time with their families as either full time or part time trainers.

Source: Human Kinetics and ABC News

Monday, August 27, 2012

Kettlebell Training

The Kettlebell is an old Russian training tool that has been recently rediscovered for full body conditioning.  Kettlebell workouts are said to improve strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination, and balance.

But does a kettlebell workout provide enough resistance to improve strength over traditional weight lifting?  Does a kettlebell workout improve cardiovascular endurance better than traditional cardiovascular exercise?

The American Council on Exercise did a study on the workout intensity on kettlebells versus treadmill running.  As expected, the kettlebell workout was intense.  Heart rate and oxygen consumption increased rapidly.  The average caloric expenditure was 20 calories per minute with the kettlebells.  The intensity was high but VO2 max was higher during the treadmill run.

Furthermore, kettlebell training does improve strength and power for your beginner clients.  But experts agree in order to improve strength and power for your experienced athletes, traditional weight training may be more beneficial.  Moreover, you will have to incorporate other traditional exercises to really target some of those muscles that kettlebells don’t fully incorporate.

In summary, if you are looking to change up your routine, give kettlebells a shot.  Similar to circuit training or cross training, you will receive some strength benefits along with very good cardiovascular benefits.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dehydration and Sport Performance

Staying hydrated in the Texas summer heat is very important for sport performance. There have been numerous studies on the effects of dehydration and exercise.  Most experts agree that 2% dehydration will lead to a drop in sport performance of up to 21%.  Furthermore, a decline in cognitive function occurs at 2% dehydration including skill sports such as soccer.

There are several reasons for the drop in production.  As you start to dehydrate, there is a decrease in plasma volume.  This causes a decrease in stroke volume and a decrease in skin blood flow.  With less blood going to the skin, it becomes harder to sweat and cool your body.  Ultimately, your core temperature rises which begins to take a toll on your body which may cause cramping and heat exhaustion.

I've seen several people wearing extra clothes or "sweat" suits to try and lose more weight.  The truth is, those people will lose more weight BUT it is mostly water weight which returns as soon as they are properly hydrated.  Instead of focusing on weight loss for the afternoon, focus on performance and intensity.  Proper exercise will benefit you more in the long run than "sweating" out a few extra water pounds.

Therefore, expert recommend properly hydrating yourself before your activity.  Drink at least 4 liters of water 24 hours before your activity if not every day.  Drink another ½ liter 1 to 2 hours before your event.  Then drink plenty of fluid during your activity and include a sport drink if you are exercising for more than 1 hour to replace any electrolytes lost in the sweat during your activity.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Building a Strong Core

Which ab exercise is most effective for building a strong core?  Everyone has their favorite.  They all seem to work well but let’s look at the science behind these exercises to see which ones may have an advantage.

Clark et al (2003) concluded that the stability ball crunch was more effective than 5 other ab exercises including leg raises and traditional crunches.  More specifically, Sternlicht et al (2007) was able to show that placing the stability ball near the lower back versus the upper back, activated the abdominals more than the traditional crunch.

Escamilla et al (2006) tested 12 different ab exercises.  The exercises that kept finishing near the top were the Power Wheel roll-out, the hanging knee-up, and the reverse crunch on a 30 degree incline.

In conclusion, a strong core is important for athletic performance and the prevention of low back pain.  Train your abs as you would train your other muscles: 1 to 2 times per week.  Use a variety of movements and try one or all of the following exercises: stability ball curl-up, Power Wheel roll-out, the hanging knee-up, and the reverse crunch on a 30 deg incline.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Upper and Lower Abs

Should you train lower abs differently from upper abs?  There have been numerous studies that tried to answer the same questions for years.  Most studies agree that every abdominal exercise excites the muscle fibers of the lower and upper abs equally.  But a few at least one study supports the notion of adding reverse curls to your ab exercise routine.

A study by Clark et al (2003) tested the upper abs and lower abs from 8 healthy subjects.  Using electrode placement on upper and lower abs, the results showed no significant difference between upper abs and lower abs on six different ab exercises.

On the other hand, a study by Willet et al (2001) reported small differences between lower abs and upper ab activity in their study.  For example, the curl-up and reverse curl both produced similar results for the upper rectus abdominis; but, the reverse curl seemed to excite the lower rectus abdominis more than any other exercise.

In summary, most experts agree that all ab exercises will strengthening your abdominal wall and minimize low back pain.  But if you want to play it safe, doing both curl-ups and reverse curls will ensure your entire ab wall is strong and mobile.  Now showing off that abdominal wall is a different story.  Those six pack abs will only begin to show with a good diet and cardio plan as well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Salty Killer

Hypertension (high blood pressure) has become a major problem in the U.S.  Sodium (salt) is a major factor in the hypertension (high blood pressure) epidemic.  A recent article by the National Council on Sports and Fitness detailed the problems of the "salty killer."  Nearly one in three U.S. adults is battling hypertension and half of those Americans are losing the battle.

On average, U.S. adults consumer 3,266 mg per day. Most of the time, we are consuming foods high in sodium without noticing.  The recommended dietary allowance for sodium is less than 2,300 mg per day.  Foods are packed with sodium because it adds flavor and is a great preservative.  Popular foods with high salt content include deli meats, chips, crackers, and many condiments.

The easiest thing we could do is make a conscience effort to cut out excessive sodium.  So instead of fast foods or processed foods, better choices would be fresh foods from the market.  Hypertension is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease.  Minimizing salt intake will greatly reduce the chance of cardiovascular disease.  Education is the first step to winning the battle against hypertension.

Source: NCSF News

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Don't Use Your Microwave

Don't use your microwave!  At least that's what we've all heard at one time or another.  Many concerns are radiation leaks, toxic foods, and/or changes in the food's nutrient value

Microwaves heat your food by vibrating molecules, mostly water molecules, which produce friction.  Since radiation is not used in microwaves, radiation does NOT pose any health threats.  Furthermore, there have been no studies that confirm that microwaved foods have resulted in sickness or disease.

On the other hand, microwaving foods can change vitamin and mineral content; but, so does traditional cooking.  The decrease in the amount of vitamins and minerals occurs because of the heat and not the source of the heat.

Microwaving (or cooking) your food in plastic is a whole other topic.  But if you use glass or most ceramics, there shouldn't be any danger in using a microwave to heat your food.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fish and Shrimp for Joint Pain?

We've all know by now that fish and shrimp are a great source of protein.  Many of us also know that fish and shrimp are a great source of essential fatty acids.  But did you know that fish and shrimp can also help with joint pain?

Many people suffer from joint pain whether it's arthritis or tendinitis.  Pink colored seafood like salmon, lobster, crab, and shrimp also have anti-inflammatory properties that will aid with joint pain.  Many people warn against the over consumption of seafood because of the possibility of mercury poisoning.  Therefore, eating 2 or 3 servings of seafood per week should be beneficial to your health and your joint pain.

If seafood is not your style, you can always turn to fish oil.  Many people buy fish oil to ensure they are receiving they proper amount of omega-3s in their diet.  Taking 1 or 2 tablespoons of fish oil per day, whether in liquid or pill form, will also improve your overall health and aid with joint pain.

If you have attended PFTA Personal Trainer Certification School, and you would like more information, please visit our website: www.PFTAschools.com or call 800-994-7382.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Does Honey Help With Allergies?

On my drive to work, I sometimes see road side vendors claiming they have the cure for allergies.  Their signs boast of their honey coming to the rescue of allergy sufferers.  But are their claims true?  I looked deeper into honey and the claims of allergy relief.

The theory behind honey and its allergy relief lies within the bees little feet.  As they fly from flower to flower collecting nectar, they also carry different types of pollen on their limbs.  When they go back to their hives, the pollen is mixed in with the nectar to make honey.

When the beekeeper takes the honey, it has many of the allergens causing problems among the local residents.  It does not have so much as to cause problems but just enough of the allergens for your body to make antibodies.  In theory, one tablespoon of local honey per day will help your body make antibodies to these allergens...very similar to a flu shot.  The trick is...it has to be local honey.  Buying honey manufactured many counties and/or states away may not carry the same pollen causing you problems.  Many people swear by local honey so if you are suffering this spring...it may be worth a try :)