Tag: strong

Why Lift Heavy Weights?!

Say what…put on weight? That’s rarely the goal. Well I’m here to tell you perhaps it should be more of a goal than you think. I mean, let’s lift some heavy weights! Add an extra 5lbs to the bar, go up 10lbs in your dumbbells, push yourself and let’s move something heavy!

Why? Why not! Lifting heavy (I don’t mean that if you are shoulder pressing 8lbs right now that you should try and press 45lbs the next go around), or what you would consider “heavy” will really help you gain strength quickly and efficiently. Usually when I tell people to move heavy weight, especially women, the first thing I hear is, “But I don’t want to bulk up.” Oh my Lord, if ever there was a misconception! The “bulking” that most people think of when lifting weight comes from many hours in the gym, a high protein diet, heavy heavy weights, and some good genes! To become The Hulk you would really have to put in serious amounts of time and effort. This will not be happening to your average gym goer. But still I hear some people say, “When I’ve lifted heavy before I did seem to get bulkier.” This would come from a lack of fat loss, a lack of a decent diet, and a misconception about what is “bulking.” My guess is the 2 times a week you lifted “heavy” did not in fact give you raging thighs, instead it was the other things you were or were not doing outside of your exercise.

So why lift heavy? There are a multitude of reasons why pushing yourself with the amount of weights you lift is a good idea:

  1. Increase lean muscle mass which = a higher metabolism. The more lean muscle mass in your body the more calories your body burns every day. Unlike cardio, lifting weights and stressing your muscles will burn calories for you while you are doing the exercises, for an hour after, and the many hours after that. While cardio may burn 400 calories in the hour you are running your body soon loses that spike in metabolism and ends an hour after you finish. So while the number may look good on the machine, if you had lifted you would have burned nearly (if not in some cases more) that many calories in 45 minutes and will continue to burn more throughout the day. Muscles need fuel and worked muscles need extra fuel to repair and grow.
  2. Increased strength quickly and efficiently. Squatting with the 10lb dumbbells in your hands 20 times might make you feel like you have gotten a lot done in a short amount of time but in fact we’ve done just the opposite. If burning calories, increasing your strength, and spiking your heart rate is your goal you need to cut the high reps and increase your weight. The heavier weight will push your muscles more (gaining strength), push your heart rate higher (to pump more blood to your strained muscles), and give you much more benefits in half the time (think 5-10 reps instead of 15-20). Your calorie burning will shoot much higher and your body will work much harder in half the reps!
  3. Increasing your mental toughness. It’s hard to lift heavy, not just for your muscles but also for your mind. Telling yourself to try something new, pushing yourself to move up in weight, pushing yourself to keep going even though the back of your mind is telling you it’s too heavy, is so much about mental strength. It’s the old saying, “If I can do this I can do anything” kind of mentality. Work your mind and your body and finally be proud and impressed with what you can do!
  4. So helpful in the real world. I don’t know about you but I have yet to find the 5lb bag of bark/cement mix/bricks at Home Depot. If you can lift it in the gym, when you go to tackle that new retaining wall in your back yard it will be no problem! Long gone are the days of waiting for your husband to come home to move the couch/washing machine/lawn mower/etc, your a strong lady, do it yourself!
  5. It’s fun, it’s hard, it’s mental, it’s a huge accomplishment. I realize it’s not everyone’s goal to deadlift one and a half times their body weight but it should be your goal to be strong, efficient, fit and healthy. Lifting heavy is one of the best ways to accomplish all of those things!

The only draw back to lifting heavy? It’s hard to do if you aren’t sure about your form. It’s hard to do if you aren’t sure about how much you should move up in weight. It’s hard to do some of your exercises without a spotter. My advice…grab a trainer, ask some questions, get a session, and/or join a weight lifting class. If you aren’t comfortable on your own get some help or free advice, that’s what we are here for! The best way to start is move up 2.5-5lbs in the exercises you normally do (lat pull down, dumbbell bench press, lunges, etc) and cut your reps. If that seems too easy for a set of 10, go up another 10lbs. The goal should be to use heavy enough weight that by the time you get to 10 reps you shouldn’t be able to do another. If you aren’t stressing yourself you aren’t lifting heavy enough. This is hard work. It will make you wish you were downstairs running endlessly on the treadmill! Eww.

Have questions? Looking for a good way to get started on strength training? Then please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Adriana Brown.

Will Your Muscles Be Able to Save You?

My muscles have saved me on numerous occasions and they can help save you too! When I give into that chocolate croissant or feel like doing nothing but watch football on Sundays, my muscles save me! When I lock myself out of my house and need to climb in through the second story window, my muscles save me! Or, when I need to move my TV all by myself up four flights of stairs, my muscles save me. Muscles can also change your body composition and give you those solid shoulders, shape a sexy back, and lift your butt. Who wouldn’t want to reap these benefits? Muscles Rock!

It’s very important, when building lean muscle, that you are performing each movement correctly. If you have never done resistance training before, it is a good idea to work with a fitness professional. They can help you develop a routine and build a foundation for your specific type of training.

So grab your gym face, and your sneakers too. Its time to hit the weights! For more information on muscle building or toning please contact any of our qualified fitness staff. If you are interested in setting up a training session please contact the SAC’s fitness director Jacob Galloway.

Add Olympic Lifts to Your Workout

Olympic-style and/or Power weightlifting is a long-established and commonly misunderstood form of resistance training. When performed correctly, Olympic lifts can be some of the most beneficial exercises that exist today, and may likely have a place in your regular workout routine.

What are “Olympic-Style and Power Lifts”?
Olympic lifts are exercises where you move relatively heavy weight over your head in a quick, concise movement. Where as power lifts are exercises involving back squats, deadlift, and bench press.

Traditionally only the snatch and the clean & jerk are considered to be Olympic lifts, as they are used for Olympic competition. In non-completive environment, however, similar lifts such as the power clean, push jerk, as well as many variations involving subtle shifts in grip and body position also qualify.

Do not be afraid!
Olympic/Power lifts often take a backseat with the general population because of fears surrounding accidental injury. Fear not! When done correctly, Olympic-style lifts are some of the safest activities available in the weight room, including those sit-down resistance-training devices.

Olympic/Power lifts have unique advantages: they utilize the entire body, require complete core involvement, promote strength and power development, teach you to generate force utilizing muscles in sequence, and accustom the individual to distribute and accept force correctly.

Also, the extension of the hips, knees, and ankles utilized in Olympic/Power lifting exists in virtually all athletic activities. For those who value power production, which translates to moving quickly, jumping higher, hitting harder, and the like, Olympic lifts are right up your alley.

Before you get Started…
You need to log some serious hours training in the weight room. If it is your first week back to the gym in a few years, Olympic and Power lifting may not be best for you. It takes a certain amount of structure (created with hypertrophy training) as well as requisite strength to perform an Olympic/Power lift effectively. It is a good idea to become proficient in some simpler exercises that utilize the components of Olympic and Power lifts, like the back squat, deadlift, Romanian deadlift, bench press, and overhead press before beginning an Olympic-style routine.

Safety First!
As stated earlier, Olympic and Power lifting, when done correctly, is a very safe activity. As with all exercise, there are risks inherent to the performance of Olympic and Power lifts, so do your research! To mitigate the risk, ensure you put in the necessary training hours prior to beginning an Olympic and Power training program, begin with a reasonable weight, make sure you have enough room, familiarize yourself with appropriate spotting and escape techniques, and attain the correct equipment.

There is no substitute (this article included) for instruction from a qualified professional. If you are interested in learning about Olympic and/or Power lifting consult a strength coach or an experienced and qualified personal trainer.

Basic Gymnastics Workouts, No Spandex Singlets Necessary

When you think of gymnastics maybe you think of little girls doing flips or young men doing the pummel horse. Whatever the case may be, I’m sure you see it as something that is specialized and not for you. But I’m here to tell you this is not the case. The great thing about adding in basic gymnastic exercises is that you get to test your strength, range of motion, balance, stability, and core strength. You need little to no equipment and you get to be creative and use your body as a weight. Some amazing basic movements you can try are;

  1. The gymnastic push-up. This is a variation of the push up, finger tips face back towards your toes and hands move from directly under your shoulders to a new position closer to your hips. This allows you to build strength while at the same time increasing wrist flexibility, shoulder stability, and core strength. The closer you can get your hands to your waist the harder it is.
  2. Pistols also known as a one legged front squat. In this exercise the goal is to lower yourself down all the way to a full squat position (butt to heel) while keeping your foot flat, spine extended, and all the while keeping the other leg fully extended in front of you. This exercise is great for balance, increasing range of motion in your ankle, knees, and hips, increase of strength in the quad muscles, and can really elevate your heart rate. If you can’t get to full depth or can’t descend to the bottom position without the heel coming up you can use the TRX for assistance.
  3. Handstands. If you think this exercise has nothing to do with your goals of strength and looking good you couldn’t be more wrong. A handstand is a great tool for opening up your shoulders, using your core for stability, increasing balance, and of course improving your full body strength. I recommend starting against a wall plant hands no more than 2 inches away from the wall, making sure to press out of your shoulders, keep your toes pointed, keep your hips tight and core engaged, and keep the top of your head pointed towards the floor. There are many variations and other ways to increase the difficulty of this exercise before you move away from using the wall.
  4. Ab roll-ups. In this full body exercise you will be focusing on using your abs to generate force and power, this is not your basic crunch! Starting on your back pull your knees into your chest (using your abs) and then throw your feet down to the floor and finish the movement by using that force and speed to stand up. The main keys here are to keep your abs engaged, use the power from your tuck, and make sure to stand up with your hips down and chest up (think a good full range of motion squat, don’t dump your chest forward or round your back). To make it easier use a medicine ball to add more weight and increase speed and to make it harder keep your hands on your chest and don’t let your arms punch forward.

In addition to these body weight exercises there are endless basic exercises you can perform on gymnastic rings, everything from ring dips to pull ups to skin the cats and back levers. Learning the basics of gymnastics can open a new door to more fun and challenging workouts and can help you make leaps and bounds towards increasing core and joint strength. Seems that Mary Lou Retton really knew what she was talking about. Be strong, be powerful, learn how to move your body through a full range of motion, and finally you can use that chalk!

Lunch Box Express 45 Minute Workout

Last year Personal Fitness Trainer Adriana Brown talked about the benefits of High Intensity Training. Her latest “Get It Done” lunch time workout applies these principles in a quick 45 minutes.

If you are ready to take your lunch workout to the next level contact Adriana today!

Training Tips for the Skinny Guy

Most gym goers are people looking to shed a few pounds and tone up problem areas. However, there are also those guys and gals who want to put on some mass and gain some size. For those people it may seem like no matter what they do they can’t gain any weight. When I started playing college football I was 6’5” and only weighed 180 lbs; I was going against guys that were 140 lbs heavier than I was. By my senior year I had gotten up to 255 lbs, all through the gym and eating. Now many of you may not want to gain that much weight in the gym, but here are some types to help start the process of adding muscle to your frame.

Get in the weight room and out of the cardio room. If you are starting off without much body fat and trying to add muscle, cardio will hinder you in every way. Doing cardiovascular exercises will zap you body of the needed energy required to build muscle. Try cutting your cardio sessions down by one or two days and making those days weights days.

While working out, concentrate on working the larger muscle groups in full body exercises such as squats, deadlift, bench press and shoulder press. By activating the larger muscle groups your release the largest amount of testosterone (your natural muscle builder) into your blood stream; which is then transported to all your other muscles, to be utilized during the rest of your workout.

Train in lower reps with higher weights and more sets equals muscle building. You should try to be from 6 to 1 rep per set, from 75% of your one rep max and 3 – 5 sets of each exercise (you will need larger rest periods). This will help you build muscles and strength.

Eat, muscles burn three times as many calories as fat; meaning they require a lot of good sources of protein to allow them to grow. Studies have shown that the optimal time to ingest protein is within 45 min of finishing your workout. Now don’t cut all the carbs completely out too, protein is going to utilize that to help build muscles as well. Keep fresh fruit and veggies available as you eat your protein.

Finally probably the most underutilized muscle building aide is sleep! Our muscles and body repairs itself during REM sleep. Meaning that if we don’t even get close to the recommended 8 hrs of sleep our body does not repair itself fully, leading to sickness and injuries as well as not fully healed muscles. Try to get as much sleep as possible, allowing your muscles to fully recover and grow.

For those of you who have tried over and over to gain muscle, it can be done. It takes training correctly for muscle gain (commit the time in the gym and you will see results) and making habit changes that will aide you in every aspect of your life. Try adding the tips above to your workout and see where your body goes! If you need any help with any of these tips or want to hire a trainer to get you going in the right direction please feel free to contact the Fitness Director Jacob Galloway at jgalloway@sacdt.com.

Correct Breathing for Stronger Lifting

Do you ever wonder while you are lifting weights, when to exhale? Is it when pulling or pushing? Well, it can be both. It depends on which muscle group you are targeting and which aspect of the muscle’s contraction you are in. There are three types of muscle contractions: concentric, eccentric, and isometric. An isometric contraction is when there is no muscle fiber movement. For example, many yoga positions are isometric contractions. Holding a plank position is an isometric contraction for numerous muscles. The concentric contraction is when the muscle fibers are shortening, while the eccentric is the reciprocal and the fibers are elongating. In this dynamic movement, you will want to exhale on the concentric contraction of the muscle group you are targeting and conversely, inhale on the eccentric. In using a chest press for our example, which utilizes the pectoralis major (pecs), one would inhale lowering the bar to the chest because the pecs’ muscle fibers are elongating (eccentric) and exhale as you push the bar away from the body which contracts or shortens (concentric) the muscle fibers in this muscle group. If we are using the seated row as an example of the opposing muscle group exercise utilizing the latissimus dorsi (lats), then one would exhale while pulling the weight towards the body shortening the lats’ fibers and inhale when eccentrically releasing the weight away from the body.

So to sum it up, exhale when you’re doing the work part of the movement and inhale for the non-work part of the movement. If you are ever questioning which muscle group your exercise is targeting or if it is a pushing or pulling exercise, please do not hesitate to ask any one of our training staff. We love to educate.

Rock Solid on the Hill this Winter

Every ski season brings the opportunity to be better than the last. If you continually tell your self you will get into ski condition but wait till the season actually starts you will end up in the same rut as last year, and not finishing out the whole ski season. If you give your self enough time, and with a proper foundation in fitness, you can make this ski season one of your best and longest.

The first step to ramping up your fitness starts with a solid strength training program. The first six weeks of a strength training program should be spent building a foundation. Start light and focus on proper form. Lift twice per week, with 48 hours of rest in between each session. To see significant results, put in and hour per session, in which you do two sets of 12-15 repetitions each, resting only 30-45 seconds between each set.

Because skiing is a whole-body sport, you’ll want to do whole-body strength workouts. Thinking of your body as a series of components simplifies planning a workout. Target the following muscle groups: Legs (ankles, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes), torso ( chest, back, and abdominals), and arms ( biceps, triceps, and shoulders).

Also keep in mind that muscles don’t work independently. Each muscle group has an opposing group and can only lengthen when the other one contracts, so it’s important to develop both equally. For example, the quadriceps extends the leg (straighten the knee), while the hamstrings flex it (bend the knee). If only one group is strengthened, the imbalance can lead to injury.

After six weeks, crank the workouts up a notch. Try to do three sets instead of two, start lifting to failure (the point where you can’t lift any more) and incorporate eccentric lifting. Each weight lifting move has two parts: the concentric (lifting and shortening) part of the motion and the eccentric (releasing and lengthening) component. In an eccentric move, you add 10 pounds to the maximum weight you can do 15 reps. A training partner helps you lift the weight, and then you slowly lower – or resist – it on your own. This method helps simulate the forces your body has to deal with while skiing. As you ski your body is resisting forces during turns and bumps more than it is trying to produce force. So when you put on a huge amount of weight that you can’t push, that you just have to resist, it trains the muscles and allows you to be so much more efficient that you don’t get tired.

After 10 weeks of lifting , add ski specific exercises that demand not only strength, but balance and quick reflexes, too. Plyometric jumping exercises and training on unstable surfaces are often added in to workout routines twice a week with two days of rest between sessions to ramp up your intensity. Plyometrics will make you quicker, more balanced and lighter on your feet. Plyometricss include any exercise, from jumping rope to tossing a medicine ball, in which a muscle is contracted eccentrically and then immediately contracted concentrically. To picture it, think of the muscle as a rubber band that is stretched and then released. The faster you can switch from a stretch to a release, the greater your explosive power and the better your reaction time on the hill. This would also be the time to add in unstable surfaces such as bosu balls or gym balls to increase activation of stabilizing muscles. Most strength workouts are done on a firm surface, giving the stabilizing muscles a break but if you move your workout to exercise balls or unstable balancing surfaces this will force the smaller muscle to work during your workouts similar to the demands of skiing. Plyometrics will make sure you are not fazed by powder, crud or anything else mother nature throws at you.

With the ski season right around the corner it is time to get started with your conditioning program. The Seattle Athletic Club offers a ski conditioning class right now on Mondays at 6 pm with Joel Mitchell or for more information on sports training please feel free to contact any of the training staff at the Seattle Athletic Club to help get the best out of your next season of skiing.

Why Strength Train

The goal of strength training isn’t always to be Hulk Hogan, sometimes it’s to “tone up” or keep your muscles strong for sport. Whatever the case may be there are plenty of reasons for strength training;

  1. Increase in muscle mass. This isn’t just great because you look beefy or toned, it’s great because increasing your body’s muscle mass essentially increases your ability to burn calories. The extra muscle fibers will burn more calories than fat, that’s just by having them, they can burn even more when they contract!
  2. Strong joints. Increasing your muscle mass also helps to maintain strong joints. Increasing joint strength means less injuries, better range of motion, and keeps you pain free.
  3. Bone density. By increasing the weight of our bodies and pushing against the floor our bodies will naturally increase bone density. So it’s not only for muscles!
  4. Improve posture. Loading the body while going through a full range of motion will force you to use core muscles to keep good posture and to achieve the full movement of the exercise.
  5. It’s fun! Pushing yourself and being able to lift heavy weights can be not only challenging but fun. It’s surprising what your body can achieve given a little bit of stimulus.

The reasons to strength train are vast. The best thing about strength training is that it keeps you lean, keeps your strong, and keeps you healthy. If you are a marathon runner, the more muscle fibers you have in your legs the easier it will be for you to run up hill and the more endurance you will have over all because there is more muscle mass to help you move. So it helps greatly in all aspects of your life, sport, general fitness, longevity, and a higher metabolism. So if it’s been a while since you’ve pumped some iron, get yourself back in the gym, pick up something heavy and see what kind of goals you can accomplish! If you have any questions about strength training or ways of starting please contact the Seattle Athletic Club’s fitness director Jacob Galloway.