Author: Will Paton

Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Functional Fitness

Wednesdays | 6:00 pm (Ongoing),

  • Ready for a new and exciting approach to achieving your fitness goals?
  • Tired of the same old boring routines?

Functional Fitness is a total body strength and conditioning class designed to challenge you in new and exciting ways.

Plan on using a wide variety of exercise equipment such as battle ropes, kettle bells, jump ropes, TRX, agility ladders, and the sled. The goal of this class is to improve your cardiovascular fitness and leave no muscle unchallenged while making you feel stronger and more confident so that you can tackle any obstacles that life might throw at you.

  • Begin building endurance and full body control!
  • Enjoy a new and innovative approach to functional circuit training!
  • Improve core strength and stability!
  • Burn fat and increase lean body mass!
  • HAVE FUN!!

Meet at the south end of the SAC basketball court at 6:00 PM every Wednesday night!

  • $100/month or $30 Drop-In

For more information, please contact or to sign-up please, contact Personal Fitness Trainer, Will Paton at wpaton@sacdt.com or 206-443-1111 ext 288

Resistance Training for Children

For years there has been a belief that resistance training was inappropriate or even dangerous for children. This belief stems from a study performed in the 1970’s by a group of Japanese researchers that observed juvenile workers that were subjected to many hours of lifting and moving heavy objects. On average these children were shorter than their non-working counterparts. Through this observation they concluded that it was the heavy lifting at such a young age that had a negative effect on their epiphyseal plate, and in turn, resulted in a stunted growth. However, recently there has been a growing amount of evidence that suggests that resistance training for children is not only safe, but can be highly beneficial.

Researchers from the Institute of Training Science and Sports Informatics published a study that analyzed 60 years worth of studies involving children and weightlifting. The researchers found that virtually all of the children and adolescents benefited from weight training. Interestingly enough, although the older kids did have greater strength gains, compared to the younger kids the difference wasn’t significant. This study also found that, contrary to popular belief, there was no sizable difference in strength increases once the children hit puberty. There was however a difference in hypertrophy (increase in muscle mass) that was likely due to the amount of testosterone in the adolescent population. Because of the lack of noticeable size gains in children, many researchers in the past had concluded that weightlifting wasn’t an effective training method for the youth.

So how young is too young to start resistance training? The jury is still out on this question, though most scientific literature seems to point to ages 6-8. Resistance training at this age should involve body weight exercises or very light loads with emphasis on control and form. Squats using a wooden dowel or push-ups are a common method of training children at this age. Heavy loads (without proper progression) or exercises that involve ballistic movements should be avoided when training children.

For more information on youth resistance training please contact Will Paton.

Rethinking Your Cardio

One of the key components to any exercise program is cardio, however for most there is still a lot of mystery surrounding this topic. What machine works the best? How fast should I go? How much time is needed? As a result of this confusion most will tend to gravitate to one machine and perhaps even worse, remain at one pace and intensity for weeks on end. The goal of this article is to shed some light on this topic and leave you with some alternative ways to challenge yourself in a more time-efficient and fun manner.

How long should my cardio be?
There are many theories surrounding the topic of most effective duration of a cardio workout. It seems as if every year there is a new study claiming 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes, etc. is the key to the most effective cardio workout. With such a wide variety of options to choose from, all claiming to be the superior method, it tends to leave many overwhelmed and confused. There is however good news. What virtually all of these methods have in common is the inverse relationship of time to intensity. The more intense the activity, the shorter the time needed to produce or maintain a training effect; the less intense the activity, the longer the required duration. In short, if you find you only have 30 minutes to devote to cardio, rather than choosing a light jog, try adding in sprint intervals. This will in turn not only promote positive changes to your cardiovascular system, but will also have a significant impact on the total number of calories burned.

What machine works the best?
This is often one of most discussed aspects pertaining to cardio training and unfortunately there is no right answer. Regardless of the machine, all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, while the treadmill has the added benefit of forcing the user to exercise at a certain pace, it provides little to no benefit to the muscles of the upper body. The elliptical provides a low impact option to cardio training but leaves the intensity of the workout solely up to the user. All of these machines can have tremendous benefits but it is important remember to challenge your body in new ways regularly. Remember, there is no “perfect shape”, rather than always gravitating towards that same cardio machine, try a new machine each week. This will help keep your body balanced and prepared for whatever life throws at you.

Lastly, while we all know those certain individuals who absolutely love nothing more than spending an hour on a cardio machine, the reality is that this doesn’t describe the vast majority of us, myself included. Possibly the most difficult hurdle involving cardio to overcome is the mental aspect. All cardio machines revolve around a repetitive movement than can quickly become boring and monotonous. This is especially discouraging when the goal of a quality cardio workout is to challenge your body through intensities it isn’t used to. Here is a list of cardio workouts that will hopefully spark your interest, and in the process, might introduce you to a few new pieces of exercise equipment.

For more information on cardiovascular training or questions surrounding the four workouts, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Will Paton.

How a foam roller can help you

Over the last decade or so a dense cylindrical piece of foam made its way into virtually every health club, gym and athletic training facility; and for good reason. If you have ever seen a foam roller and wondered “what’s that used for,” you’re not alone. The goal of this article is to provide you with some answers surrounding this tool, and how it can play a crucial role ensuring that you stay injury free.

Before we can properly discuss foam rolling techniques, and the theories behind them, we must first have an understanding of fascia and its function as it relates to our muscles. Fascia is a structure of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, binding some structures together, while permitting others to slide smoothly over each other. Fascia is what gives each individual muscle its shape and works smoothly with the correlating muscles around it. Through injuries, improper technique, and inadequate recovery time, fascia can develop scar tissue. This scar tissue will inhibit a muscles’ ability to pass over another muscle, which can impair firing mechanics and cause inflammation. We can think of damaged fascia and healthy fascia as the two sides of Scotch Tape. If you rub the non sticky side of the tape across your arm it glides over the skin smoothly with little resistance. However if you try this with the sticky side (fascia that has accumulated scar tissue) you will find that it is abrasive and will pull the skin.

A common misconception about foam rolling is that it is meant to be a tool used for stretching. Foam rolling is designed to be a form of self-myofascial release (SMR). There are two basic neural receptors built into our muscles, muscle spindles and golgi tendo organs (GTOs). These receptors are designed to protect the body from being overstretched, preventing injury. Stimulation of the GTOs past a certain threshold inhibits the muscle spindle activity and in turn decreases muscular tension. Through SMR we can apply tension to specific parts of the muscle, causing the muscle spindles and GTOs to relax. This principle, known as autogenic inhibition, is the primary use of foam rollers.

A crucial component that will dictate the effectiveness of foam rolling is proper technique. Often, foam rollers are being used as an aggressive massaging tool by rolling up and down the muscle at a rapid pace, as opposed to proper technique. Proper technique, as defined by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, includes: slowly rolling down the muscle and stopping at each “hot spot” and waiting for the pain to diminish before continuing further down the muscle. These hot spots are often referred to as trigger points and typically require between 10-30 seconds of pressure before signals to the central nervous system can tell the muscle to relax. There are mixed opinions on when to roll, how long to roll, and how often, though common practices include both pre and post workout. Many performance coaches recommend foam rolling as a daily activity, regardless of whether or not the individual has worked out. It is also important to note that the proper amount of pressure plays a vital role in the effectiveness of foam rolling. Whilst the exact amount of pressure is hard to define, the process of foam rolling should never be extremely painful, as you could potentially cause further damage to the muscles.

Unfortunately the research surrounding foam rolling is scarce and inconclusive. There are very few studies covering the effects of foam rolling and most were performed with variables that could have lead to misleading results. For example, in 2006, a study published by the Journal of Undergraduate Research found that foam rolling the hamstring was an ineffective method of increasing range of motion. Some possible errors involved with this study, in my opinion, was the lack of warm-up prior to foam rolling, rolling only performed at a frequency of three times per week, and improper technique. That said there is a reason the foam roller has become a tool embraced by the athletic community and virtually every health club out there. For more information on foam rolling, please contact Seattle Athletic Club Personal Trainer, Will Paton.

3 Steps to a Quicker Start

All sports share a one common trait. Whether it is volleyball, basketball, swimming, or biking, all depend on the ability to perform a given task in the shortest time possible. For instance, the success of a tennis player relies on making split second decisions and having an explosive reaction. The foundation of this action is sprinting. Sprinting is often misunderstood; in that, the benefits of being able to sprint are not only applicable in the 100 meter dash, but are equally useful in virtually every sport. Below are three key points that will help improve your sprinting form and in turn lead to better sport performance.

  1. POSTURE
    One of the most crucial components of sprinting begins with correct body positioning. While maintaining a relaxed upright position, the head, torso, and legs should be aligned at all times. During acceleration the body should lean forward approximately 45 degrees and quickly move upright to a less than 5 degree lean upon achieving maximal speed. Your head should remain focused directly ahead during the entire movement. It is also important to note that weight distribution should be primarily on the ball of the foot or your toes. Variation of weight distribution between these two are typically considered to be a personal preference.
  2. LEG ACTION
    The first step to having an effective start is dorsi-flexing the foot (ankle at 90 degrees) and moving the heel directly toward your glutes following the push off. Your knee should come up as high as possible, ideally 90 degrees, as the other leg extends and strikes the ground using the ball of your foot as the first contact point. One of the most common mistakes that can dramatically hinder performance and even increase the risk of injury is over-striding. A common characteristic of over-striding is striking with your heel first followed by a rolling motion through the foot. Doing so eliminates one of our body’s primary shock absorbers (the ankle) and in turn causes the impact of striking the ground to reverberate through the tibia and fibula often leading to shin splints. A heel strike also means more time on the ground leading to a slower stride.
  3. ARM ACTION
    Sprinting is a full body explosive movement that requires the synchronization of both the arms ands legs in order to do so effectively. Here is a simple test that demonstrates just how important proper arm movement is; try sprinting with your arms held straight and down towards your hips throughout the entire movement. Instantly this movement should feel very unnatural and awkward. Now, this time during the sprint, hold your arms at 90 degrees and attempt to move them faster than the stride of your feet. This is very difficult to do and will usually result in your legs attempting to match the same tempo as the arms. A common error in arm movement during a sprint comes from too much flexion and extension in the elbows scene by a “chopping motion” with the hands. A good rule to follow is the “rule of 90’s” which refers to keeping both arms at 90 degrees once the body is in motion and has achieved the 5 degree lean. Hands should come in front of the nose but not across the body, any lateral arm movement (arms crossing the center line of the body) will result in energy lost and a slower maximal sprinting speed.

It’s important to note that before beginning any sort of sprint training a proper warm-up is crucial. Due to the high intensity nature of a sprint the likelihood of injury goes up dramatically if a warm-up is not performed. Also, corrections to form will lead to much greater improvements in speed over simply attempting to just run at maximal effort. For more information on sprinting technique and how it can benefit you please contact Will Paton.

Start Your Workouts with a Dynamic Warm-up

The dynamic warm-up is a crucial part to any strength and conditioning program. Not only does this reduce the risk of injury, it also has been proven to enhance performance by preparing the muscles, tendons and ligaments to be stretched and contracted at optimal rates. Over the last couple of decades the approach to warming up for athletic events has evolved through a better scientific understanding of the human body. Previously, both ballistic and static stretching were the preferred means of warming up. Today we now know that prolonged static stretching can actually increase your chance for injury and hinder performance. This is largely in part due to the decrease in elasticity of the muscles and ligaments that occurs during static stretching. This elasticity is crucial for optimal performance and ensuring the body isn’t overstretched causing pulls, sprains or tears.

So what is a dynamic warm-up and how is it different than a ballistic stretch? Although these may appear to be very similar activities, the key difference can be summed up in one word, control. Ballistic stretches force the limb into an extended range of motion when the muscle has not relaxed enough to enter it. It involves fast “bouncing” movements where a double bounce is performed at the end range of movement. Due to the uncontrolled nature of this type of warm-up, injury to vital muscles and nerves can occur. It is even possible for tissue to be ripped off the bone. A dynamic warm-up may use some of the same exercises as ballistic stretching but with reduction in speed in order for the movements to remain controlled and avoid a protective response by our body known as the Stretch Reflex. Below is an example of a dynamic warm-up.

Part #1 (Pre warm-up)

  • 3-5 minutes of mild-moderate cardio
    Examples: Jump rope, jogging, elliptical, rowing machine.

Part #2 (Dynamic movement)

  • Skipping
    -Emphasis on height not distance
    -Controlled landing
    -Make sure the arms are involved
  • Butt Kickers
    -Emphasis on repetitions not speed
    -Avoid excessive forward lean / keep chest up
    -Make sure you are striking the ground softly with the ball of the foot
  • Lunge W/twist (towards the forward leg)
    -Emphasis on a slow controlled movement
    -Emphasis on achieving greater thoracic (mid back) mobility

    -Control throughout entire range of motion
    -Watch for knees to stay in line of toes
  • High knee pull
    -Emphasis on hip flexors, glutes and calves
    -Avoid momentum while pulling knee back
    -Allow for you entire upper body to pull the knee, not relying on the arms
  • Monster walks (straight leg opposite arm touches toe)
    -Avoid rounding back when reaching for toe
    -Control the upwards faze (don’t try to punt the ball)

These are just a few examples of exercises that might be used in a dynamic warm-up. Ultimately the goal of a dynamic warm-up is to better prepare your body for the activity to which you are about to perform. Many of these exercises can be modified to become more sport specific or to accommodate for injuries. For more information on dynamic warm-ups or how to alter your current warm-up to become more sport specific, please contact Will Paton.

Picture Perfect Pull-up

One of the classic staples of exercise is the pull-up. Unlike the bench press or squat however, the pull-up can have the tendency to leave most with a giant question mark above their head. This is due to the nature of the exercise and some of the limiting factors that come with it. If you wanted to improve on your bench press the basic concept would be somewhat simple, start with light weight and slowly increase throughout the following weeks. Trying to apply this format to the pull-up usually bring up one big question “what if I can’t even do one?” The following is designed to answer that question and show how you can start a safe and effective progression in order to improve on your pull-ups.

STEP ONE:
Form form form. One of the hardest things to do in athletics is to unlearn bad form. This is why, even if you can already do several pull-ups, it is important to take a close look at your form to identify tendencies that might hinder your progression in the long run. One of the most common errors in performing a correct pull-up is what I refer to as “looking over the ledge.” This refers to over-using the abdominal muscles in order to assist in the movement. The problem with this is that bringing your body into a crunched position as you perform a pull-up will simultaneously take the stronger muscles of the back (latisimus dorsi/rhomboids) out of position to be the prime movers. One tip that can be helpful is to imagine a string attached to the middle of your chest and go through the range of motion as if someone was pulling you up by the string. Leaning back slightly while doing a pull-up will not only increase your power, but in the long run will enable you to perform more reps due to the increased muscle recruitment

STEP TWO:
Once you have identified proper form the next step is strengthen that pattern. To do this there are two exercises that I recommend; the first being the Lat Pulldown. With this exercise you can choose an appropriate weight that will allow you to focus solely on form as well as provide a clear path for progression throughout the following weeks. The other exercise that I recommend to begin with are called “jumping pull-ups.” To perform this exercise you will need a box to place under a pull-up bar. When standing on the box and holding onto the bar, your arms should have between a 25-45 degree bend in them. Squat down until arms are fully extended. While beginning the upward faze remember the goal is to use as much of your upper body as possible while still maintaining proper form. Aim for your chest to hit the bar (Note: Watch your chin on the way down!).

STEP THREE:
Once you are able to do 2-5 pull-ups while maintaining proper form it is time to add them into your routine. Start by doing as many reps as possible until you fatigue. Once you are unable to do another pull-up, switch to either the jumping pull-ups or the lat pull-down immediately after each set in order to fatigue the muscles even further. This progression should be used until you can perform 10-15 pull-ups with proper form.

Pull-ups are an important addition to anyone’s program regardless of whether or not your sport requires it. Adding pull-ups to your weekly routine will help ensure a balanced muscular structure by preventing the chest and shoulder muscles from being overdeveloped. Following this progression will help anyone, whether age 8 or 80, achieve a perfect pull-up without compromising form or increasing your risk of injury. For more tips on how to improve on your pull-ups please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Will Paton.

Reciprocal inhibition and how it applies to you

The term reciprocal inhibition might not mean much to you but there are few things that affect your body more regularly. The theory of reciprocal inhibition states that “When the central nervous system sends a message to the agonist (muscle causing movement) to contract, the tension in the antagonist (muscle opposing movement) is inhibited by impulses from motor neurons, and thus must simultaneously relax”, taken from Massage Therapy Principles & Practices by Susan Salvo. What this means is that our muscles act in pairs and coordinate with each other by simultaneously relaxing and contracting as a protective measure to help keep us from injury. If both opposing muscles were to fire simultaneously, not allowing the other to relax, a tear in the muscle may occur. A common example of this is running. The action of striking the ground will send impulses from the central nervous system to contract and relax opposing muscles (hamstrings and quadriceps) to ensure a fluid and safe motion.

Although much of reciprocal inhibition is controlled subconsciously, we can use this principle to “trick” the body during a stretch in order to achieve a greater range of motion. For example, if the goal is to stretch the hamstrings, contracting the quadriceps upon reaching a near end range of motion will allow for the hamstrings to relax further, thus increasing the stretch. Another example of this is during a stretch involving the chest muscles (pectoralis major/minor). Upon reaching the end range of motion of this stretch, contract the muscles located directly behind the shoulder (rear deltoid/mid trapezious) to send a signal to your body forcing the chest muscles to relax further.

Stretching should be an essential part of everyone’s workout, however simply stretching alone is not the most efficient way to ensure a proper muscular balance in your body. Although there are many different forms of stretching that can have dramatic effects on increasing range of motion, without addressing strength and tension imbalances of the opposing muscles, these results are often only temporary. If the goal is to stretch the muscles of the chest in order to correct a forward shoulder tilt, it is crucial to also strengthen the muscles of the back that are responsible for holding the shoulders in place. To correct the pelvis from excessive forward tilt, it would be important to not only stretch the hip flexors but strengthen the glutes as well. By strengthening these opposing muscles you will ease the pull created by muscles that are too tight, allowing for the range of motion gained through stretching to have a long lasting effect. If you would like to know more about properly balancing your workouts or more information on how to stretch effectively, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Will Paton.

Train Smarter, Not Longer

Out of all the excuses we use to avoid going to the gym one ranks above them all. It’s no secret that our lives are getting busier and busier and unfortunately this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. So the question is where can we find time to fit in that hour of exercise 4-5 days a week? What if I told you that you didn’t need an hour, or 45 minutes, or even 30 minutes for that matter? What if 4 minutes could be enough? Dr. Izumi Tabata challenges the traditional format of a workout with a specific variation of interval training designed for maximum output in a minimum amount of time.

Dr. Tabata performed a study in 1996 involving seven subjects who were put through 6 weeks of training with 5 workouts each week. Each workout consisted of a 5 minute warm-up followed by what is now known as the Tabata Training System. This system involves 20 seconds of work at maximum capacity followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated 6-8 times. In this study the control group performed a more traditionally accepted method of cardio which involved challenging the individual to complete exhaustion in 30 minutes. What Dr. Tabata found was nothing short of incredible. The Tabata Training group out performed the control group even when the total amount of exercise was only 4 minutes compared to the 30.

Why does this work? The overload principle states that training adaptations come about when the body is subjected to unaccustomed stress. The specific adaptation depends on the nature of the overload imposed. In other words, specific exercise overload brings about specific training effects. Traditionally people have geared training towards either aerobic or anaerobic conditioning. However with the Tabata Training protocol both aerobic and anaerobic can be overloaded. This Method also takes into consideration the mental aspect of working at maximum capacity. For the average individual it is nearly impossible to achieve maximum output for anything over 60 seconds. This becomes increasingly more difficult if we take into consideration the addition of multiple sets. Part of why Dr. Tabata’s training method is so effective is that it allows the individual to achieve maximum output, while at the same time, requiring minimal rest.

It is important to note that this training system is not recommended for an untrained individual. As with starting any exercise regimen, it is crucial to start off slow and gradually work your way up to ensure that you will stay injury free. It is recommended that before you begin using the Tabata Training Method you start with 1-3 sets and slowly work your way up to the full 8 sets. This method also shouldn’t be applied to exercises like box jumps or other high impact exercises due to the added risk of injury.

If you would like to know more about Tabata Training, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Will Paton.

3 Steps to Stay Injury Free

All of us go to the gym typically for the same reasons. To “get into shape,” improve on or get ready for a sport, or simply just to work off some stress from a long work day. The last thing on our minds is the possibility of injury because after all, we’re here to get healthier right? The unfortunate truth is that many people unknowingly increase their risk of injury by skipping some crucial parts of a truly complete workout. Adding a few simple steps into your workout can dramatically reduce your risk of injury, help alleviate pain from current injuries and believe it or not even speed up your results.

1. Warm-up
Possibly the most underutilized and arguably the most important part of anyone’s workout is an effective warm-up. Working out without a proper warm-up will eventually catch up to anyone regardless of current physical condition. But what defines an effective warm-up? (No, swinging your arms from side to side for 30 seconds before attempting to max out on a bench press doesn’t count). An effective warm-up should consist of at least 10-15 minutes of light-moderate cardiovascular exercise that ideally moves the body in all planes of motion with minimal impact. An example of this would be 5 minutes on a rowing machine, followed by 5-10 minutes of body weight exercises that involves the use of your entire body (i.e. combining pushups and squats or lunges and jumping-jacks). When in doubt, it is always better to play it safe.

2. Stretching
Another often neglected part of many peoples workout is stretching. Stretching should not be done as a warm-up to an activity as you could injure your muscles if stretching them when they are cold. At least 3 to 5 minutes of cardiovascular exercise is recommended to warm up the muscles sufficiently. Each major muscle group should be stretched slowly and with control, holding each stretch for 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 60 seconds. Hold each at the point of mild tension or tightness, not to the point of pain. Research has shown that the most effective time to stretch is post-exercise while you are “cooling down”. When muscles perform any exercise, they tighten and shorten as a result. Stretching them helps to restore and improve their length and in turn will help prevent imbalances in the body that can later lead to injury.

3. Imbalanced Workouts
This topic is typically dismissed when we lose focus on our primary goal. It is great to want to have legs of steel or arms that make Popeye look like a wimp, however all too often the approach to these goals comes with the sacrifice of a balanced muscular structure and in turn will lead to chronic injury. Remember that first and foremost we want stay healthy and injury free. One way to help protect against overtraining certain muscle groups is to use a push-pull technique that involves targeting the opposing muscle group in the subsequent set (i.e. bench press into seated row). Another method that has recently been gaining popularity, and with good reason, is functional training. Functional training breaks away from the mold of traditional isolation type exercises, commonly seen in the bodybuilding world, and challenges the body using multidirectional movement involving typically two or more major muscle groups. An example of this would be squats with a press or pushup and pike. For a balanced program it is recommend that you consult with a trainer. Often adding just a few exercises into your routine can help balance your workouts and help keep you healthy.

In conclusion it is crucial that when beginning an exercise regime that all of these points be addressed. Each has its own role in a performing a safe and effective workout and will in turn leave you feeling healthier and decrease your risk of injuries. If you are running late and consequently your workout time is diminished, rather than heading straight towards the dumbbells, reduce your total sets and include these steps. Your body will thank you! For more information on ways to ensure that your workouts are both safe and effective please contact Will Paton.