Tag: gym

It’s Just Physics

By Personal Fitness Trainer Amber Walz Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Physics is the science of matter and energy, intertwined with facets of everything that makes up the physical world. Force is proportional to the mass of something multiplied by the acceleration (f=ma). Every exercise you do is going to relate to how much force needs to be applied to overcome the inertia of the mass in order to create acceleration.

Gravity is fundamental to understanding kinesthetic principles that govern our bodies. Gravity is pulling on our bodies relative to where the fulcrum (pivot point) is located; usually this is at a joint. As an example, when performing a deadlift the fulcrum is at the pelvis and gravity is acting at the longest length of the lever (your head), so you would need to determine how much force would be need to be exerted to move whatever the weight is, or adjust how close the weight in your arms is relative to the body. The use of mechanical levers is used advantageously in the gym in equipment design like pulley systems and can be used in seesaw type lever mechanics by manipulating the lever arm so that you can maneuver a heavier weight at the opposite side of the fulcrum. This can be seen in dollies and tools like wrenches.

The rate of gravity at terminal velocity in free fall is 9.8m/s2. This gives us an understanding of how fast a weight will fall toward the ground once we have lifted it, how this will increase or decrease the difficulty of an exercise dependent on what position we are doing it in, and if we jump, fall, or throw something, what distance it will cover, in what time and with what force. We encounter another force that effects movement and that is friction, of greatest relevance, air resistance. A good example of the effect of air resistance is when we are running. The mechanical advantage is if there is less surface area for the air to hit. In this way, if we bend our knees and elbows at 90 degrees, we reduce the amount of surface area affected by air resistance. So, the study of kinesthetic mechanics dictates our movement through the atmosphere and has to account for both gravity and friction.

Thermodynamics is the conversion of thermal energy to mechanical energy, or heat energy congruent with work input versus work output. Though the first law of thermodynamics states energy can neither be created nor destroyed, complete conservation of energy determining work output does not biologically equate. In other words, energy that should be accounted for degrades, a quantity defined as entropy. The human body has about a 25% efficiency rate with heat energy being of greatest loss. How much we intake should be calculated based on this principle with the understanding of unaccounted for loss through entropy. Heat is a measurement of energy and temperature is an average measurement of energy. Temperature is an important factor when you are working out that determines if it will take more energy when it’s cold to keep your body temperature at homeostasis, or loss of energy through sweat when it’s hot to keep your body temperature at homeostasis. The design of sports clothing is specific to thermal insulation, reduction of water absorption (wick away), and compression for added support in susceptible areas (compression socks/ tights/ sports bras).

Amber WalzIf we are to better control our exercise experience, we can use physics to determine: how to best lift a weight to produce a specific goal, what food intake is needed for a specific workout, and how to best account for weather conditions and terrain. If you have any questions about how physics can be related to exercise contact Amber Walz.

It’s Only Human Nature

Have you ever wondered why knocking out 20 push-ups in front of your trainer is easier than when you do it alone? Could you swear sometimes that on the weekends when you workout at home you take twice as many rests as you normally do and the workout drags on and on? Is it possible that your squats can be done with 20 lbs extra with your girlfriend in the same room? If you are thinking there is something crazy going on don’t freak out just yet.

It’s true, a second pair of eyes will nearly always make you workout harder than you would by yourself. It’s true if you are in the weight room with 10 other people, if you are working out with a trainer, or if you are running a long run surrounded by a marathon of other people you will inevitably work harder and perhaps that work may even seem easier than when doing it by yourself. It’s human nature to do better, work harder, push more if there are other people around (watching you or not). This is why workout partners and trainers help so much with improving workouts. I’m not saying that if you and your co-worker get on an Elliptical next to each other and talk gossip for 30 minutes that you’ll be working out harder than you would on your own. There are certain ways that a partner can lessen your workout. But if you are keeping your eyes on the prize and working hard already, well then, a workout partner may be just the push you need to work that much harder.

Most people that exercise, whether we admit it or not, have a competitive streak. Some people have that on going challenge inside them and push themselves to do better than they think they can. Those are the lucky few, the few that have enough drive to work hard against themselves as opposed to the person on the bike next to them. But for the most of us a little competition or ever working out with someone who constantly lifts more, runs faster, jumps higher, goes longer can help inspire you to try and catch up. Even if you never are the best one you may find yourself stepping up your game as to not get left behind.

In addition to working out hard with a partner, having a pair of coaching eyes on you will also make a huge difference in the accomplishments you can make in the gym. Trainers do a lot of things for a lot of people. We coach, we encourage, we keep you safe, we design smart effective programming for each individual, we keep you accountable, we challenge, we push, and most of all, we watch. Having a scrutinizing pair of eyes on you will for sure drive you to do your best. The next time your boss comes around your office try surfing the internet instead of working super hard on your work. Let me know how that goes. It’s human nature to work harder with someone else’s eyes on you. So if you don’t have a workout partner, if you do not have the luxury of hiring a trainer, workout at a semi busy time (esp. helpful if you workout when all the hot ladies do) and see if you aren’t doing one extra rep, adding 5 more pounds, or running just a little bit faster. Just by having more than one or two people in the same room as you can ignite a little bug inside of you that says, “I don’t want to look like a weenie, I can do this!” People may not actually be watching you but just in case they are you’ll be ready!

The moral of the story is if you can get a workout partner (that wants to workout, not sit around and talk about the weather) you should! If you can workout with a trainer, I can guarantee you will work harder than you do alone. Or if nothing else maybe you wake up a half an hour earlier and workout when you know the gym isn’t a desert. If you are looking to improve your productivity and do better simple changes can be your answer. Try a group X class instead of working out alone. Come to the gym with your husband instead of staying home and going for a run. Motivation is a huge key in doing your best and working hard, find your motivation and get at it!

Tips to Increase Your Strength Safely

Back in January I wrote a goal card to deadlift twice my bodyweight by June 1. I’m very excited to report that I reached my goal by lifting 348 lbs for 1 rep. Over the last several months, I have put in a lot of time working on deadlifts so I thought I would pass along some tips on how to increase your maximum strength in deadlift or any other exercise.

Get in the Groove
Make sure your deadlift pattern is PERFECT under no load and under sub maximal load. Poor deadlift patterns put your vertebral health in jeopardy and hamper performance through inefficiency. The specifics of the deadlift pattern are beyond the scope of this post but check out this video (by one of my former professors) for some general tips. Take the time to develop the movement competency required to deadlift well and then invest in learning the pattern. Make sure to maintain the pattern by including sub-maximal lifts in your training.

Plan for Success

Set a reasonable goal based on your current level and experience. Then expect to spend at least 10-12 weeks working on it. Invest the first couple of weeks in learning the movement and sub maximal workouts. Spend around four weeks in a hypertrophy phase in which you try to grow muscle with sets of around 6-8 reps. Take a week to re-focus on technique and movement ability before starting the next four week sequence, this one focused on maximum strength by employing very heavy sets of around 3 reps and using long (120+ sec) rest intervals.

Try Complexes

A complex is a heavy lift immediately followed by an explosive, exhausting exercise. The explosive exercise is followed by 90-120 seconds of. I reaped great benefit from complexing medium-heavy deadlifts with kettlebell swings. The combination of heavy weight, lactic acid inducing explosive exercises and rest effectively stimulates testosterone and human growth hormone to help increase muscle mass.

Go Heavy-Medium-Light
Try to lift heavy one day per week. This is the day to try a strength workout like 6 sets of 3 or a hypertrophy workout with 4 sets of 6 at 95-100% of your effort. Lift at a medium intensity one day per week. This should still be a challenging workout but the top priority is to maintain perfect technique throughout. Lift light one day per week. Use just enough load that you are aware of it but it doesn’t come close to distorting your technique. Use this day to rest and prepare for your next heavy day and also experiment with any changes to your technique on these days.

Heavy lifting can be very rewarding and a lot of fun. Enjoy these tips and I hope they help you reach new heights! Please contact me if you need help with your deadlift technique: I can’t overstress the value of investing in your movement ability and technique before even thinking about lifting at a maximum intensity. Reach me at Hspencer@sacdt.com.

The truth about saturated fats

Have you ever avoided eating saturated fat, fearing it would hinder your weight loss goals and cause heart disease? If you said yes, or if had crossed your mind, you may want to see some newer data that shows this is not the case. Do not be afraid of fat. You should take pride in eating the fat off that juicy steak; below are a few reasons why to include saturated fat in your diet.

  1. Saturated fat does not cause heart disease:
    A meta-analysis was published in 2010 of 21 studies totaling 347,747 people. There was no association between saturated fats and increasing the risk of heart disease. (Patty W Siri-Tarino et. al 2010).
  2. Saturated fats can take the heat:
    Saturated fats do not oxidize as easily as unsaturated fats. When unsaturated fats are introduce to high heat and oxygen the fat becomes rancid and the oil is stripped of nearly all nutrients. Instead of using olive oil for eggs in the morning try using butter or coconut oil for a more satisfying and nutritious meal.
  3. Diets high in saturated fat are good for weight loss:
    Eating fat does not make you fat. Eating poorly makes you fat. A meta-analysis was carried out to study the effects of a low carbohydrate diet on weight loss and cardiovascular disease. Low carb diets, which are usually high in saturated fat, actually make you lose more weight than diets low in fat. LCD was shown to have favorable effects on body weight and major cardiovascular risk factors (F. L. Santos et. al 2012)

Bottom line… eat saturated fats, but in moderation as saturated fat is okay to eat and is necessary to have in our diets. You never want too much of anything. When I personally increased my saturated fat intake after I revamped my diet, I went from ~12.5% body fat to ~8.5% body fat. Not only do you have the data from the published articles to give you some guidance, but you also have my own experience and recommendation to add more saturated fats into your diet. Give it a try yourself and see how your body adapts to eating some bacon.

Variations of Jumping Jacks

Many people think of jumping jacks as an activity people did for fun when they were younger, just like jump roping. This is true, but they are still known as great cardiovascular exercises. I will be going through nine different types of jumping jacks to add some variation to your workouts. Some are more difficult than others, but most can be used for all fitness levels.

  • Standard Jumping Jack
  • Modified Jumping Jack
  • Cross-Jack
  • High Knee Jack
  • Split Jack
  • Squat Jack
  • Hop Jack
  • Plank Jumping Jack
  • Push up Jack
  • Burpee Jack

If you are bored of the standard jumping jack, here are some other types you might like to try within your workout. If you have any questions please contact Amber Gruger.

Live it up!

What is holding you back from achieving your goals? What keeps you from making the life changes you want to make? Here are a few things that may come to mind:

  1. I’m scared. I don’t want to be the new kid in class, I don’t want to try out a new workout, what if it’s too hard and I’m not able to finish it? Don’t be scared, how you will ever know what you are made of if you don’t try. You may not always be the best, you may look silly, it may make you feel like you are going to die, you may want to curl up in a ball and sleep for the next 10 days, but how in the world will you ever know if you can do it if you don’t at least give it a shot. Leave fear at the door and give that class/trainer/machine/piece of equipment a shot and embrace the fact that this is the first day, it will only get easier from here on out!
  2. Complacency. You come in, you get the same locker, you put on your favorite socks, you warm up on the same machine while you read the same newspaper, and then you do the same workout you’ve been doing for the past 8 years. Why? Why not push yourself and see what you can teach your body. When was the last time you changed up your workout, maybe not even completely? Maybe all you did was change how many sets of something you did or you added in an extra sprint. When was the last time you tried something new or decided to lift heavier? Why do the same old thing? If it hasn’t shown you improvement in the last 2 years why do you think it might tomorrow?
  3. I just don’t know how. You aren’t exactly supposed to so don’t feel bad about that. There are a few simple solutions, the first, hire a trainer. You don’t need to see a trainer every day for the next year to learn something. In one session, maybe even in just 40 minutes you can gain knowledge that will completely change how you exercise and show you more benefits than you’ve seen in years. Who knows, you might see such value that you sign up for more than just one session! You can always workout with some one else or join a program and really get yourself motivated and find the fun in working out!
  4. I don’t have enough time. If you think you need an hour or two to get a good workout in boy do I have news for you! In a whopping 10 minutes you can get a full body full cardio workout in. It’s not going to be a fun 10 minutes but it will be the most effective 10 minutes you’ve ever worked out! My point is, don’t say to yourself “Well I only have 30 minutes today, I guess I’ll skip it because there’s just not enough time.” There are plenty of ways to get a good workout in even if you only have a short amount of time. Think, keep moving, sprints, high intensity, full body, and jump!

Don’t let any of these things hold you back. You should walk out of the gym feeling proud of yourself, feeling like you’ve really accomplished something. If you aren’t currently feeling that way you are missing out. You should be satisfied with what you’ve done and maybe even so excited that you can’t wait to tell your co-workers/spouse/kids/friends, etc about what a rock star you are! If you need help moving forward and learning new skills contact one of our amazing personal trainers!

Swimming Circuit

Below is one of my favorite exercises in the pool because it is quick paced, but has a lot of variation in stroke. The individual medley was one of my favorite and best races; therefore I still like to practice all of my strokes when climbing in the pool for a workout. Freestyle is the most commonly used stroke, which is why I chose it as an individual set as well. It is important to practice the different components of a stroke, so adding kicks, pulls, and paddles into a workout is a huge advantage.

Warm up: 200 Freestyle

Set one:

  • 80 Kick
  • 100 Paddle
  • 140 Pull
  • 180 swim
  • X3 (rest for 60 seconds between each set)

Set two:

  • 40 Fly
  • 40 Back
  • 40 Breast-stroke
  • 40 Free
  • X3 (rest for 45 seconds between each set, 15 seconds between each stroke)

Cool Down: 200 Freestyle (easy)

Try this swimming workout today and let me know how it goes. If you have any questions please contact swim instructor and personal fitness trainer Amber Gruger.

What do you think about this research article?

Many of my clients love to send me the most recent research released online, or from the New York Times, and ask me what my thoughts are on it. I am always trying to keep current with research about where the health and fitness field is going so I love to look at anything someone sends me. When I look at these research articles there are a couple of key things I look for in order to make sure that it is in fact something I would reference back to.

First I want to find the actual peer review scientific research article; not the summary that newspapers and magazines write about and reference to. This is important because anyone can take one part of the research’s results and omit the other results in order to write their own summary. An example of how magazines can miss express research is as follows: the research could state – a group of men that took testosterone for 12 months had significant increases in strength but also had significant increases in blood pressure, joint pain and aggression. The magazine could easily state that research suggests to take steroids for 12 months in order to increase your strength. They are only reporting on half of the findings to make it fit their own needs.

Once I find the actual research article I need to go to the methods section and see how powerful the study is. A powerful study is one that:

  • Has a larger n (number of participants which should be in the hundreds)
  • There is a control group or pre-experience data (every study needs a base to reference)
  • Is a double blind study (neither the researchers nor participants know if they are the control group or studied group)
  • The methods are sound, correct and using up to date procedures/equipment
    If the study only has 8 participants in a single blind study using equipment from the 70’s and doesn’t have a control group it probably shouldn’t be considered valid.

After you have found that the study is powerful take a look at the data and/or conclusion to see what they found. The data from a study can only be correlated or concluded with the test group. If we look at the example study from above about the men taking testosterone, researchers cannot say that steroids would increase the strength of females because they were not part of the subject group. The also cannot comment on the effects of Human Growth Hormone on males after 12 months because they tested testosterone. They can theorize about those two examples in the conclusion and this would set up future research ideas.

If you have any research that you want me to take a look at shoot me an email or bring it in and we can sit down and break it down to see if it is valid. One should always strive to increase their knowledge base, but with correct and current research.

A Deeper Look at Squash Movement Patterns

Squash is a dynamic sport that requires a certain level of strength, stability, and aerobic fitness. Several key movements are repeated while playing. The muscles being used are at risk of overuse, and there are many that are underused that should be trained as a key to prevention.

Lunging has to be the most common lower body motion performed in squash. The hip, knee and ankle dynamically stabilize in the down position of the lunge as you are swinging the racket. This leaves the ankle susceptible to rolling, the knee susceptible to torque, and if the hip complex is not stabilized correctly, it can also be susceptible to hamstring, lower back and sacral issues. The major muscles involved that can be overused are the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and fascia such as the Illiotibial band (IT band).

During a forehand swing, the shoulder, elbow and wrist stabilize dynamically when making contact with the ball. This leaves the shoulder susceptible to strains and tears, and the elbow and wrist prone to tendonitis. Muscles that can become overused are the internal rotators, deltoid (anterior/medial), bicep, and flexors. The same susceptibilities are present during a backhanded swing as well. The rhomboids, external rotators, deltoid (posterior/ medial), tricep, and extensors are prone to overuse.

Functional analysis during a game shows the posterior and anterior oblique fascial lines to be most active (insert fascia strengthening and stretching blog link). Core muscles and spinal stabilizers are areas to focus on for strength, symmetry on both sides of the body, and ensure proper flexibility and recovery. Strength program development would work on activating the underused muscles involved in pushing, pulling, squatting, balancing and more isolated corrective work for the hip and shoulder. You can work on stabilization in a multiplanar lunge with an overhead press or the same multiplanar lunge with an overhead hold; to create the correct lengthening in the body. When working on the strengthening aspects of the program try weighted squats, chest press, and rows. During power with dynamic multiplanar movements remember to emphasize the lateral and transverse planes.

To prevent injury and perfect your game be sure to contact one of our squash instructors. For more specific squash program ideas or information on muscle imbalances please contact personal fitness trainer Amber Walz.

Genuine Movement Lunges

“Get under the ball!” Racquet sports athletes have probably heard this ad naseum from their coaches and with good reason. Getting low to receive and re-direct an incoming ball in squash or tennis allows you more control of your shot as well as help to control your momentum and change direction. Broken down to its essence, this movement is a lunge pattern. Yet when I screen beginning, intermediate and even advanced squash players I frequently see difficulty in getting into a lunge position as well as maintaining stability in a lunge. Test your self: Align your feet in a straight line with your feet about as far apart as the length of your foreleg. Lower down until your rear knee contacts the ground and your knees are both at 90 degrees. Return to the starting position. If you can’t get into the bottom position or if your chest is strongly leaning forward in the bottom position, you are immobile in this pattern. If you can get down to the bottom position but you lose your balance, you are unstable in this pattern. If either applies, your ability to stop, change direction, change elevation and bend to the ground are impaired for racquet sports, field/court sports and daily life. If you are immobile, go back and do the Genuine Movement Mobility Routine.

If you are unstable, don’t worry. The following exercises can help stabilize you and, with frequent practice, you will see a difference in your performance in 2-4 weeks.

½ Kneeling Cable Chops

  • Get in the ½ kneeling position: one knee down, opposite foot directly in front of the down knee
  • Use wooden dowel on cable machine
  • Chop across your body from high to low
  • Return to start by reversing the pattern
  • Don’t move hips, trunk or shoulders
  • 2 x 10

½ Kneeling 1 Arm Curl and Press

  • In ½ kneeling position, hold one DB in the hand on the opposite side of the front foot.
  • Curl and press DB while maintaining balance and position of hips and shoulders.

1 Arm Lunges

  • Stand with feet in a straight line
  • Hold DB in the opposite side of the front leg
  • Lower rear knee to floor to perform lunges with your feet in place
  • 2 x 10

1 Arm Lunges Overhead

  • Identical set up as 1 Arm Lunges but the weight is held overhead.
  • 2 x 10

Test yourself as you did previously to evaluate your improvement.

Practice these exercises about 2-3 times per week for 2-4 weeks and you should notice dramatic improvement in your lunge ability and your performance. If you don’t see an improvement, make sure to contact me to determine if another movement issue is preventing you from lunging. Please contact me at hspencer@sacdt.com for all your movement needs!