Making Cardio CVEasy

The benefits of increasing your CVE are too great to ignore so I wanted to share some thoughts on how to spice up your routine!

Today I’m talking cardio. More specifically I wanted to talk about cardiovascular endurance (CVE). This topic was spurred on by a meme that I saw earlier in the week essentially saying that people who only come to the gym to walk on the treadmill are wasting their time and money. To be clear, I think that cardio of any sort should be a part of a complete workout program and not the entirety of your gym experience. However, the benefits of increasing your CVE are too great to ignore so I wanted to share some thoughts on how to spice up your routine!
The First Step
The first thing you should do is assess where you are physically. This can be done several ways. You can see a fitness professional (like myself), you can track your workouts, you can take a ballpark guess, or you can just say “hey I’m a couch potato… I know exactly where I’m at physically” and go from there. What you will want to know overall is how to take your CVE to the next level without injuring yourself. Side note, the phrase “no pain no gain” is… dumb, silly, nonsense, asinine, dippy (I love my thesaurus).
Step Two
Assess what you need. That old pair of Chuck Tailors in the closet probably aren’t the best idea if you want to start a running program. So before you dust off the old bike, goggles, or roller blades on the way to a work out, make sure they are in good condition. Trust me when I say that investing $100 in your equipment is the BEST thing you can do for increasing your CVE. There’s nothing worse than a couple of forced weeks off due to injury.
Step Three
Look into activities that you already enjoy. There’s no reason to go running if you hate being on your feet. Make things easier on yourself by identifying things that you already kind of like doing and try them first. This will decrease the chances of you quitting early and increase the likelihood of you seeing actual gains. And always remember to gradually increase your workload. 
Step Four
Put one foot in front of the other (I love puns). You need to make it happen. Just knowing that 22 minutes of walking a day will decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer, and increase your overall longevity should be enough. But as a pragmatist I know that we all need help on days that we feel out of it. This is why I am such a fan of exercising in groups or with a partner to keep you accountable. 
Pro Tips
 – The fastest and easiest way to get in shape quick is high intensity interval training (HIIT). However, it is extremely difficult to do HIIT properly alone. There are definitely some great strategies to employ if you must do HIIT alone as your source of CVE training. You can also do a small group class like the awesome new GRIT classes that will be starting at the end of October (if you would like more information just let me know).
 – Not ready for HIIT? No problem! Running is a cheap and easy way to get increase your CVE. Check out this link for a fantastic review about everything you need to know to get started with running. While you’re at it you should also consider joining me at our Run Club every Saturday morning at 8am! (Note that we will be running an organized 5k as a group on 10/10/2015. Join by signing up here!!!)
 – Coming off of an injury and can’t do what you want? Check out this link for some ideas about how to modify your activities.
 – Never stop improving. Whether you’re just getting off of the couch and walking for 20m a day or starting a new butt kicking HIIT work out, it’s important to always strive to hit the next level. Even if it takes you years to get there, setting goals is an extremely important and effective way to stay in shape.  
 – Keep it all in perspective. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was this guy. We spend all of our lives getting to the point we currently are currently at. It take time to get in shape. So don’t reward yourself for exercising, and don’t expect immediate returns on your fitness investment. Stay the course and you will become an inspiration!

Weekly Workout Structure

Ways to structure your workout routine, variables to consider, and how to plan for those pesky, yet inevitable, life barriers.

While there may be more than one way to skin a cat, there are more than 1,000 ways to get in shape. No matter what your fitness goal is, there are loads of variables to take into account when we talk about exercise. So today I wanted to talk about ways to structure your workout routine, variables to consider, and how to plan for those pesky, yet inevitable, life barriers. For me, the crux of today’s topic really stems from a trip that I will be taking this week which will interrupt my regular exercise routine. I was briefly panicked by the thought of how much clothing I will need, the quality of the hotel gym, and planning around what I normally do. Then a sudden calm came over me as I realized that… it really doesn’t matter! Here’s why.
The Basics
For me, I want to train to be lean and have some muscular definition. Think Brad Pitt in fight club. So my exercise routine is intense, but not the best for maximizing muscle gain. Here’s my regular exercise routine; Monday – full body strength training barbell based exercises Tuesday– LISS training = running about 1 hour Wednesday – full body strength training dumbbell based exercises Thursday – HIIT I practice for the Grit class I teach as well as row/other high intensity stuff  Friday – full body strength training machine based exercises Saturday – Run club = 3 mile-ish run.
Does that mean your weeks worth of exercise should look like mine? NOPE! There are lots of reasons why not, but in short, I have worked up to this level of fitness and intensity. However, while you’re free to skin your fitness cat the way you like, all routines will in some way revolve around the FITT principle. FITT is an acronym standing for Frequency Intensity Time and Type. Each one of these components can be broken down into sub categories that would keep me at my computer for days. But instead of majoring in the minutia I will make sure go lay out the big rocks of each component.
Frequency is how often you perform the targeted health-related physical activity, and is by far the most crucial aspect of any workout routine. Consistency is king for all components of health. However, it is possible to over train so you need to find your own personal sweet spot. I will go over recommendations in detail in the “type” section, but what you need to know is that you should be doing some form of physical activity at least 5 days per week. 
Intensity is how hard you exercise during a physical activity period (measured in different ways, depending on the related health-related component). This component can not only make or break your chances of hitting your goals, but it can also make or break your body and mind. You need to record how intense your workouts are on some level. Whether it’s through writing down sets/reps/weight, heart rate, perceived excretion, mileage, or other forms of documentation. Because you can’t make adjustments without having some form of data on your own workouts.
Time is not only the length of the physical activity, but also the rest breaks. The former can be best described as time-under-tension (TUT)which refers to how long the muscle is under strain/resisting weight during each set (30s – 60s), duration of a stretch (30s > twice a week), or time spent doing aerobic activity (30m > per day). The latter is the amount of time recovering between set, between workouts, or between specific muscle groups. All of these factors can be manipulated for different goals but essentially if you want to get big and strong rest for 2-3m between sets. If you want to get lean, rest for only a few seconds.
Type or specificity, refers to the specific physical activity chosen to improve a component of health-related fitness. No matter what your goals are you should be training for strength (all muscle groups at least 2 x a week), aerobic fitness (2 hours and 30 minutes each week), and a form of balance and stability (daily). Throwing HIIT is a great idea because it will get you lean quickly and with shorter workout duration, but be careful. It’s easy to go overboard with HIIT and end up being “burned out” though over training or even hurting yourself.
Making Your Customized Exercise Program
To make your very own customized exercise program, you will need to start with a few basic self recognition tasks. Take a good look at your goals and ask yourself if what you need to work on. You may need to start with learning proper technique, asking your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for strenuous exercise, or maybe recognizing that you’re not working intensely enough. This step is best done with a fitness professional to guide you. However, if you feel you’re ready for some strength training (which most people don’t do even though they need it), here is a simple template to follow.
Because there are thousands of exercises to choose from, differentiating set and rep ranges, tempo selection, and dozens of other variable to choose from, I will just keep it simple. You want to focus on general body movements and place them in a sensible order to avoid injury and ensure progress. So here are the motions you want to consider and a few examples:
Upper Body Push – Barbell Press (Decline, Flat, Incline, Overhead) • Dumbbell Press (Decline, Flat, Incline, Overhead) • Single Arm/Alternating Press • Floor Press (Barbell or Dumbbells) • Pushup 
Upper Body Pull – Pullups/Chinups (weighted, bodyweight or assisted) • Lat Pulldown • Bent Over/Pendlay Row • Single-Arm Row (dumbbell or cable) • Chest-supported Row Note – I would advise choosing one vertical and one horizontal pull for the sake of evenly hitting all of your back muscles
Lower Body Push (Knees Bend) – Back/Front Squat • Safety/Cambered/Speciality Bar Squat (if your gym has these) • Box Squat • Paused Squat • Split Squat (Front or Rear Foot Elevated) • Walking Lunges • Leg Press/Hack Squat 
Lower Body Pull (Hips Extend) – Conventional and Sumo Deadlifts • Hip Thrust/Glute Bridge Variations • Single-Leg Deadlift/Romanian Deadlift • Two-Legged Romanian Deadlift • Reverse Lunge • Kettlebell Swing • Back Extension • Glute Ham Raise/Nordic Curls 
Beach Muscles – Upper Back Isolation (face pulls, pull-aparts, rear delt flys, YTWs) • Bicep/Tricep Isolation • Calf Isolation • Core/Abdominal Work
There are a few ways to structure your workout program based on how many times you plan on going to the gym. The most important part here is planning enough rest between each gym session. So if you plan to exercise on Monday Wednesday Friday like me, you can be confident there there is adequate recovery time in there. But if you’re going to strength train 4 days per week, well it will take some wise exercise choices. For the examples below, scattering in beach muscle exercises at your discretion is recommend to be done at the end of each workout. Leaving the gym with a good pump always feels awesome.
Upper Body Day  Push/Pull
Lower Body Day  Bend/Extend
Upper/Lower Day 1  Push/Extend
Upper/Lower Day 2  Pull/Bend
Lower Body Day 1  Extend
Upper Body Day 1  Push
Lower Body Day 2  Bend
Upper Body Day 2  Pull
Using a simple template to track your workouts is a great way to go. Simply write up your plan for the month, take it to the gym, and you’re on the way to muscle city. See below for an easy to use program design. You can use the exercise example seen above, but I encourage you to explore the gym and learn new exercises to love!

Day 1





Lower Body Push Variation 1



Pull Variation 1



Lower Body Pull Variation 2



Press Variation 2



Beach Movment



Day 2





Lower Body Pull Variation 1



Press Variation 1



Lower Body Push Variation 2



Pull Variation 2



Beach Movement



While there are a million different ways to go about exercise, there are also a million different excuses. Even if you’re busy, there will always time to exercise and improve your health. When you’re stressed it’s hard to breathe and your joints can feel stiff as a board, but there are ways to feel better and loosen up. If you feel the effects of jet lag and don’t feel like working out, there are ways around it. And even if you know you will struggle to find ways to complete your regular routine while on the road… well the occasional rest can do you right while you figure new ways to skin a cat 🙂

Take Control of you LBProbems

From young athletes, to chair bound adults, to golden year seniors, almost everyone will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. For this reason I decided to break down LBP into what it is and what to do about it!

Today I am talking about the dreaded lower back pain (LBP). From young athletes, to chair bound adults, to golden year seniors, almost everyone will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. For this reason I decided to break down LBP into what it is and what to do about it!
The Major Malfunctions
There are dozens of reasons why someone would have LBP. Even different illnesses can cause it. So to avoid writing a whole book I’m going to cover the biggies. 
In young athletes, the problem is often in the bones of the spine. In fact 47% will have a spondylolysis fracture with only 11% of LBP being caused by disc issue in this population. This differs from the adult population where 48% of LBP is disc related. So in young athletes the problem is often caused by repetitive extension and torsion of the spine, where as in adults the issue is typically due to sitting posture. Take a look at the picture bellow to see how changing your body position affects the load on you spine
Inline image 1
So clearly much of the problem has to do with… well… you! Do you sit too long? Do you sit with crap posture? Do you move well? All of these questions are important ones to ask yourself. But the good news is that you’re in control!
What To Do About It
Before I go into detail about exercises and stretches to help, I will tell you that you need to see a doctor if you experience any of the following issues:
Do you feel any tingling or numbness?
● Do you have any loss of sensation?
● Do you have any loss of motor control, such as an inability to raise your arm over your head?
● Do you have or have you ever had a loss of bowel or bladder function?
● Do you have severe immobility or an inability to walk?
Answered no to all of the above? wonderful, please read on at your leisure. In fact stand up, walk around, then sit back down and read on. Because Tip 1 is to start by sitting for no more than 30 minutes at a time. It’s the most simple and easiest way to help control that back pain. Now that you’re sitting Tip 2 is to now get into a proper sitting posture. So feet flat, chest up, core contracted, and eyes straight ahead. And finally Tip 3 breath from your belly. Not only will this help relieve stress (another cause of LBP) but it will engage that protective core musculature.
The Exercises
Here’s the problem with recommending exercises. Everyone has different needs!!!! Not everyone is going to be weak in the same areas. Not everyone is going to need stretching of the same muscles. For instance, if your back rounds out like a turtle when you sit down, you may need to stretch your hamstrings. However, if your back arches when you do a squat or sit down then that’s the opposite of what you want to do! So please come see me if you want some specifics on what to do to help correct your posture. In the meantime, you can try some of these exercises which are generally safe and effective for most people.
1. The Glute bridge. A simple and easy exercise that you can do anywhere. It activates the tooshie as well as the wonderful core muscles.

2. The hip flexor stretch. A wonderful pairing to the glute bridge is a stretch of the hip flexors. This stretch will allow the butts and guts do their jobs.

3. The plank. Abdominal bracing is all the rage this fall. So make the plank a part of your workout wardrobe.

4. Leg swings. This will help mobilize the hips so you can use your booty!

5. The fire hydrant. This exercise uses your mobilized hips to further strengthen them glutes.
When it comes to back health there is a lot to take into account.To be honest I have barely scratched the surface on this topic, but I feel like this post has gone on long enough as it is. So sit up straight, work on glute and core strength, and get out of that chair! 

There’s One Oar Two Benefits to This Exercise!

This piece of equipment is far too underutilized even though it has oodles of benefits for noodle arms (or nearly any other weak body parts).

Today’s post is all about the row machine! This piece of equipment is far too underutilized even though it has oodles of benefits for noodle arms (or nearly any other weak body parts). It gets you strong, utilizes the whole body, crushes calories, and best of all… you get to sit! So let’s dive into the wonders of rowing.

What Could Be Better?

There’s almost an innumerable amount of benefits to rowing. How could one machine be low impact, strengthening, and cardio all in one? Well, here’s how:

Rowing uses around 86% of the body’s muscles including the upper back, arms, legs, and, yes, even core, which means more calories burned, great heart health, and tremendous bang for your buck.

Depending on how you us it, you can develop power (short pieces), endurance (long pieces), and strength endurance (middle distance pieces).

It has great crossover effect, which means it can be used to develop aptitude in other exercises such as the squat, dead lift, or other weighted rowing motions.

Also, it’s super safe due to minimal impact loading, so it is safe for those with a history of ankle, knee, or hip injuries.


What to Know Before You Go Row

There are three key things to know about the row machine for those beginners out there. They are 1) the Damper setting 2) Flex Foot position, and 3) Performance Monitor adjustment. The damper setting affects wind resistance and subsequently the speed of the stroke: the lower the setting, the less wind resistance and faster the stroke. So basically, the harder you pull, the more resistance will be felt with each stroke – making the workout more challenging. Depending on your goal, you will need to play with different settings, record results and “tweak” as needed. The flex foot is where the feet are fixated, and it needs to be adjusted according to foot size. Just make sure that the anchor strap is secured directly over the ball of the foot for optimal performance. The performance monitor is an essential component to rowing and displays quantitative information for you to analyze the performance of each row. Key features include time, distance, speed as time per 500 meters, watts, and calories per hour. The time per 500 meters is my favorite to watch because it represents to a rower the same as what time per mile represents for a runner.


As with any other exercise, technique is crucial for attaining benefits and shunning away the bad stuff like injuries (just like Gryffindor’s sword). So here are the step by step instructions for a beginner.

1 – Turn the machine on, set resistance to low, secure your feet so they don’t move around as you slide, and grab the handle using an overhand grip, but don’t hold too tightly

2 – Pull the handle with you as you slide to the end of the machine. Your legs should be straight, but knees should still have a slight bend in them so they aren’t locked. Lean back slightly and pull your hands up to your chest, holding the handle so it is right below your pecs, with elbows pointing down against your sides.

Inline image 1

3 –  THE RECOVERY is when you start to come forward towards the starting position. To do this properly, move your arms out first, followed by your upper body. Your back should always stay straight, not slumped, with shoulders back and abs engaged as you follow through. As your arms extend out, your upper body position will go from slightly angled back to slightly angled forward.

Inline image 2

4 – THE CATCH is when you make your way back to the starting position. As your arms extend and body leans forward, slide your body forward on the seat by bending your legs. Once you are at the top of the machine, your arms will be fully extended and legs will be bent.

Inline image 3

5 – THE DRIVE is where the magic happens. This is where you push off with your feet first, so that your legs straighten, but your arms are still extended and your body is still slightly leaning forward working the leg and core muscles the most.

Inline image 4

6 – THE FINISH starts when your torso begins to lean back, followed quickly by your arms; as your upper body angles back, pull the handle and bend your arms so that the handle ends up back to touching the front of your chest, just like how you started.

Inline image 5


Here are a few things to look out for. DON’T grip the handle too hard; the power should be through your legs. Using too much force while pulling the cable can cause hand blisters as well as back problems. DON’T slump forward because the core muscles must act to keep the spine in neutral alignment so that power can be transferred from low to high and high to low through the kinetic chain. DON’T move your arms up and down as you row because raising and lowering of the handle during recovery is inefficient, involves more work and should be avoided for optimal rowing. DON’T push the seat away from the flywheel and then follow with the hands and torso. Instead, at the very beginning of the drive phase, make sure the seat and the handle move together for approximately ¼ of a slide, at which point the torso starts to hinge followed by the arm pull. DON’T lean back like you’re taking a nap in your car (or Fat Joe) because it increases the workload on the abdominals, slows pace and decreases overall performance. DON’T chicken wing by raising the elbows vertically at the finish of the stroke like you’re going to choke yourself with the bar.


Here’s the fun part… the workout options! There are a few basic options. I like to row for 10 minutes and see how far I get. You can do the reverse by seeing how long it takes you to get a certain distance (500m for beginners). I like to also use a Fartlek style of training where you go slow for one minute, medium pace for 45 seconds, and all out sprint for 15 seconds for 5-10 rounds. Once you have some experience under your belt, you can try an interval training plan such as this one, or place it strategically into a workout plan like this one. To sum it all up, rowing is a workout that you need to try. Once you master technique, you will be able to take on just about anything (except water)!

Lifting For… Losses

Lifting for gains (muscle/strength) can also equal losses.

Today I wanted to talk about getting shredded to lose weight. Because I know everyone is concerned about how they are going to burn off all that BBQ they will be eating this weekend! So that’s why I wanted to talk about why lifting for gains (muscle/strength) can also equal losses.
But first, a clarification. Weight loss is not the main topic of today’s post. Why? Because weight loss can be achieved through amputation, osteoporosis, stomach flu (though intestinal parasites will do in a pinch), coma, chemotherapy, shaving all your hair off, lobotomy… you get the point. Weight is not a great indicator for health or fitness, so what we are really talking about is fat loss. Because we all know muscle weighs more than fat, we know that weight may go up while your pant size goes down. This is why all of my clients take more pride in their bio-electric impedance (fat mass) numbers rather than the numbers on the scale. They know that their body composition (lean mass compared to fat mass) is what’s really important.
The old-school way of thinking was that low intensity cardio burns fat, therefore you lose fat. But we now know that this just isn’t true. Without getting into science nerdy stuff too much, burning fat only means your using fat as fuel source. And unless you’re an ultra marathon runner,this doesn’t really matter. Although cardio is beneficial in many ways, it won’t do a great deal to help you lose fat. Oh and fasted cardio? Well… listen to this podcast that reflects my thoughts on this ridiculous practice.
Why Weight Lifting is Better
Picking up and putting down heavy things does more than you know. It places large amounts of stress on not only your muscles and tendons, but your bones and nervous system as well. Everything has to adapt to stress. As a result of this adaptation, your muscles will store more myoglobin (sugars), bones will become more dense, and your body will know to send more blood to these areas to help with the repair/replenishment of nutrients. Although your weight may go up a bit from these adaptations, it in turn means your metabolism grows as your muscles do! So class. What do we burn when we are at rest and our metabolism is high? Fat! This scenario is how we lose fat. Research continues to show that placing greater amounts of metabolic stress (like weight training) will result in greater fat loss and muscle gains.
Where To Start
Now for some of you, I know that the thought of weight lifting is daunting. Images of bench pressing meat heads may even be dancing around in your mind. But getting started on a weight lifting program doesn’t mean you need to learn how to grunt like an animal while squatting. What is important, however, is that you get started and stay consistent. Here are some key thoughts on how to do this:
Make the Process Fun – Experiment around the gym. Find what you like to do, then do it. It’s that simple.
Set Mini Goals – Long term goals progress slowly. To avoid going crazy, set short term goals as well. It can be as simple as doing a real push up by the end of the month.
Have An Accountabilibuddy – Nothing gets you in the gym as easily as a buddy. It’s much harder to say “no” when there is someone to push you along the way.
Don’t Get Carried Away – The “more is better” approach is rarely a good thing. Layer things on slowly and you will stay sane and injury free.
Feeling stressed out? Who isn’t these days?! Check out this link for tips on how to train when stressed.
Final Thoughts
I’m not saying cardio is bad by any means. In fact, it should be a part of your training program. But if your trying to look strong and/or lose weight, it should not be the main strategy. It’s also important to remember that everyone will react differently to resistance exercise. There is no magic bullet to all of this. Make sure you are placing the big rocks first and results will come. A high protein diet and consistent metabolic stress from resistance training will get you the results. Just be patient and keep the faith and you will see your body composition change! Still need help getting started?

Cultivating Mass

The WHY and the HOW to cultivate muscle mass. If you don’t think this topic pertains to you, I will politely say stop being a jabroni. Ultimately, developing muscle mass is going to be one of the most important outcomes of exercise.

Today I want to talk about the WHY and the HOW to cultivate muscle mass. If you don’t think this topic pertains to you, I will politely say stop being a jabroni. Ultimately, developing muscle mass is going to be one of the most important outcomes of exercise. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, play sports, prevent/recover from injury, or even sport a bikini this summer, gaining muscle mass is critical.
Building muscle is critical, especially as we age. Building, and maintaining, muscle mass becomes increasingly difficult as the dreaded sarcopenia starts to set in. So starting the muscle building process as soon as possible will do several great things now and for your future self. It will keep us looking and feeling young, increase our confidence, boost our sports performance, ramp up our metabolic rate (although not significantly), and promote bone health. This last point of bone health is particularly important for women as they are more susceptible to poor bone health with age. It’s crucially important for females to lift heavy weights and knock this “toning” crap out. Trust me, you won’t get “too bulky” or “manly” if you lift heavy. So before you move on to the next part I want you to do three things that I hope will get you inspired. Write down all the things you wish you could do, if you were fitter. Write the obstacles that are keeping you from getting there. Write down how you’re going to get around those obstacles.
The first thing you need to do is just start lifting things that are uncomfortably heavy. It doesn’t even have to be at the gym. Just start taking in groceries instead of having your husband do it (cough, my wife, cough), moving furniture, or even doing some body weight squats at home. 
The second thing you need to do is make a plan of attack. This is a crucial step for several reasons. Making and sticking to a set schedule will ensure you don’t suffer an over use injury. It also ensures you know what your weaknesses are. If you don’t know proper technique well maybe getting some professional help is in order. If you realize that you exercise schedule is missing a muscle group well then you can now make a place for it. More on this step later.
The third thing you will want to do is look at your exercise selection. This is where it gets tricky. Your exercises need to suite your goals, your fitness level, your skills/abilities, and should be enjoyable. In general, I recommend using compound movements and super sets for a quick efficient workout. For beginners this means you may want to start with partial movements (i.e. half squat/wall squat) to master technique. And of course if you’re looking to shake things up there’s always wild and crazy exercises out there to try.
< 18 years: 0.6-0.8 grams per pound of body weight
19-40 years: 0.8-1.1 grams per pound of body weight
41-65 years: 1.1-1.3 grams per pound of body weight
> 65 years: 1.3-1.5 grams per pound of body weight
Dos and Don’ts 
Here is my final list of some things to maximize your exercise efforts, and some things that are not so wise.
Focus on progressively increasing our performance on a handful of movements, and actually track your performance. Consistency is literally the king of gains.
Base your training on big compound movements. For each lift, figure out which muscle is holding you back and add isolation or assistance work for these weak points.
Change the specific exercises/make slight variations often. Do this by either varying grip, stance, bar type, or the conditions you’re performing the lift in (tempo, pauses in the movement, using chains, etc.).
Aim to train muscle groups 2 to 4 times per week.
Just get into the gym. It doesn’t matter what time of day you go, just get it done.
Bro split your routine (i.e. only training muscle groups once per week).
Put an unnecessary time-cap on your workout.
Train every muscle the same/train every muscle directly.  Not all muscles respond best to the same type of stimulation.
Do more than four intense sessions per week.
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Fit Quick

A few tips to keep your workouts integrative and dynamic while being short and sweet.

Today I’m taking a break from bashing fad and bad diets to talk about some basics of exercise programming. Almost any gym you go to will be rife with fancy and expensive exercise equipment. If using machines is your only mode of strength training, then you are extremely limited to your exercise selection. And heaven forbid someone is on your favorite hamstring curl machine on leg day! So here are a few tips to keep your workouts integrative and dynamic while being short and sweet.
Whats The Point?!?!
 If you read these emails frequently, you know that I am a huge fan of weight lifting. As for cardio… not so much. This is because cardio is not as effective for achieving health goals like strength gains, muscle mass gains, weight loss, or even heart health as compared to a quality weight lifting program. So what’s the point of a weak sauce machine based exercise program (I’m talking to you treadmill only walkers)?!
Keeping It SUPER Simple
 To be clear, cardio isn’t bad. It’s just not a great use of time. So to break the boring and ineffective cycle, try using super sets! A super set is when one set of an exercise is performed directly after a set of a different exercise without rest between them. Think pull ups then push ups. This style of weight lifting is a great tool to use for almost everyone. Even if you’re restricted to machine based programs due to health issues, super sets have a lot to offer including;
 – Saving time
 – Maximal muscle activation
 – Increased metabolic stress
 Exercises are easy to super set and can be placed strategically within a workout to maximize your goals. Here are a few exercises to try out if you’re new to the concept.
Barbell Curls – 2 x 10-12
Dips – BW x Max reps
Front Squat – 3 x6-8
Cable Pull-Throughs – 3 x 12-15
Keep It Real
 If you’re still afraid to get off the bicep curl machine because you don’t know what else to do, I would recommend keeping it real. By this I mean do real world activities as exercise. One such exercise is the weighted carry. This exercise involves you picking up heavy weights and walking with them (think carrying the groceries in from the car). This exercise requires you to stand with good posture and to walk mindfully. And when done right, it is a wonderful full body exercise. I’m also a fan of the front squatbecause I don’t usually carry heavy things around on my back (think crock pot, load of wood for the fire place, or even children). Finally, consider using the kettle bell swing to enhance your ability to do powerful movements (picking something up from the ground and placing it up high). This exercise is also wonderful for driving up the heart rate as well as the metabolism.
 Remember, no one strategy will get you to your goals. It takes a variety of methods and exercises to optimizes health and fitness. So be sure incorporate these strategies into your fitness tool box, but don’t rely on them solely. And always remember that safety comes first! So make sure your form and exercise progression/selection is right for you.

Death Taxes and Sarcopenia

Starting around age 30 we all start to lose muscle mass and there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. Might as well accept your fate right? WRONG!

This week we are talking about how to minimize sarcopenia. What the heck is sarcopenia you ask? Well as the title of this week’s post implies, it is the inevitable decline in the strength and size of our muscles as we age. Starting around age 30 we all start to lose muscle mass and there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. However, several factors can exacerbate sarcopenia to extremes. In fact, it can cause loss of mobility and function, decline the ability to perform activities of daily living, increase risk of cardiometabolic disease, and increase chances of falls and hip fractures.
So the only things in life that are guaranteed are death, taxes, and sarcopenia. Might as well accept your fate right? WRONG! Here are a few key factors to keep your muscles, and consequently your lifestyle, from wasting away.
I’ll start with protein because I know you all are protein pros! Protein is essential to muscle function. So it should come as no surprise that if you are under consuming amino acids, you will be at greater risk to suffer from advanced sarcopenia as you age. It’s important to note here that we need more protein as we age. So don’t be a part of the 50% of the elderly population who doesn’t get enough protein. Shoot for 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight per day (calculate here).
Antioxidants are in the media constantly. They are touted as being the miracle source of all sorts of health. The reality is that they only play a role in our overall health. What they do is reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is responsible for all sort of things, not all of them bad. So for some the key is moderation, and for others it is supplementation. So how does it affect sarcopenia? Well in several ways, but really the most important way is that it reduces or even can reverse anabolic resistance. Now this is extremely important because anabolic resistance basically means your muscles can’t use proteins, and thus they will wither away.
By far the most important factor in reducing sarcopenia is resistance training exercise. I think this point is even more important for women because in addition to sarcopenia they are more likely to suffer from bone diseases like osteoporosis. What resistance training does is force the body to adapt to the stress placed upon it. So your muscles get bigger because they need to adapt to lift more weight, and bones get bigger to support the added stress from the muscles. This is why I always encourage women of all ages to lift weights. It’s also why I cringe when a women tells me “but I don’t want to get too bulky”. James Fell wrote a fantastic piece on this very topic and I encourage everyone to read it here.
So whether you need help on increasing your protein intake, antioxidants, or figuring out an exercise program, I’m always here provide assistance.