Month: March 2012

Mediocrity vs. Greatness

What is mediocrity? The state of being mediocre.

What is mediocre? “of only ordinary or moderate quality, neither good nor bad, barely adequate”

Well, I don’t know how that sounds to you, but who wants to be mediocre? Sounds like a boring existence.

How about greatness? Having greatness in your life does not mean you have to graduate magna cum laude, it does not mean you have to be a professional athlete or win the Tour, it does not mean you have to land on the moon or lead the human genome project…it means that you set yourself apart from the mundane of the day EVERY day and you do something above the best of your ability.

Bring greatness into your life by smiling at everyone you see on the street one day…imagine what others will feel as well. Bring greatness into your life by doing 8 reps in your workout with PERFECTION instead of just trying to hammer through 12 them. Bring greatness into your life by not giving your best… give more…go above…go beyond. You can, we are capable of much more than we believe and the human brain has more capacity than you can imagine.

So, set out today and do it right. Mediocrity MIGHT get it done…GREATNESS gets it done with purpose, pride and perfection!

To Squat or Not to Squat… That is Half the Question

Many people are afraid of performing a squat; saying it is bad on the knees, back and hips. Everyone has heard a horror story about someone hurting themselves doing a barbell squat. Well accidents do happen (usually from incorrect form), but with correct coaching the back squat rivals the deadlift as one of the best exercises for your body.

There are many benefits from doing squats, from correcting hips issues, back problems, strengthening joints and connective tissue, burning a ton of calories and many more. You can perform squats by using many pieces of equipment, like a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, your own body weight, cables, and resistance bands. Even within a squat there are two types, a front squat and back squat.

So let’s discuss the front squat, this is where the load (weight) is positioned toward the front of your center of gravity, usually on the front of your shoulders. By placing the weight more forward your body works more of the knee complex and quads during the movement, and creates move of an emphasis on your core (mid to lower back). This exercise is great for those people who need to try and strengthen their core (forcing an upright posture) more as well as strengthening ones knees (less forces on the knees for people with osteoarthritis, ligament or meniscus damage) and wrists (from holding the weight at the shoulders).

When we transfer the weight to the back of our center of gravity, the load (weight) usually rests on our back or is held by our hips (as with dumbbells). By placing the weight more backward your body works more of the hip complex and glutes during the movement, and creates move of an emphasis on how to engage your butt (one reason our backs have issues is that most of us doing know how to fire our glutes during a movement). This is a great exercise for people who need to learn how to strengthen their legs and use their hips for athletic endeavors, as well as open up their chest and create better posture (with holding the bar on your back).

As far squats being bad on the knees, a study by Escamilla (2001) looked at the biomechanics of squatting exercises on the legs and found that back squats activated more hamstrings and had higher compressive forces on the knees while front squats had more quadriceps muscle activation and lower compressive forces on the knees. They found that either squat would be good for people with ACL issues as for the low posterior shear forces. While another study from Andrews et al (1984) found that machine squats had a 30-40% higher shear force on the knees that barbell squats.

After all that what is the take home message? With correct coaching and form, you can gain a lot from squats including:

  • increased bone density
  • increased knee mobility and stability
  • stronger legs, hips and core
  • burn a lot of calories
  • it releases that muscle building hormone testosterone
  • one of the most functional exercises for every person
  • increase sports performance and overall fully body strength & coordination

If these benefits seam like something that interest you and you would like to be taught by one of the Seattle Athletic Club’s highly educated fitness staff please contact Fitness Director Jacob Galloway.

What you really should know about starting a workout routine!

How do you make sure that on your own you are doing what is best for your training? Beyond just having a great routine and pushing yourself, how do you make sure that your training is smart, effective, and safe?

Here are a few tips to make sure you are on the right path to success and health!

  1. If you don’t know for sure ask a professional. You can only learn so much from pictures from a magazine or from videos on YouTube. When in doubt always consult a fitness professional. Better to build good habits and perform movements correctly than guess and cause injury or teach your body wrong movements that will have to be undone somewhere down the road!
  2. Throw out the idea of “No Pain No Gain.” If something you are doing is causing you pain, making you uncomfortable maybe that exercise is not for you. You should be challenged and you should work hard but there is no need for actual pain. Getting tired, breathing hard, muscle fatigue, those are all good things to a degree but you should always avoid pain inducing movements and seek a professional for advice or modifications.
  3. Don’t be Hercules right away. If you are performing new exercises or a new type of routine you should make sure that you are using reasonable weights. The goal of a new program is to learn new movements and build upon the knowledge you already have. The goal is not to put up the heaviest weight you have ever lifted doing an exercise you have never done before. Be smart, learn the exercise before challenging yourself with weight.
  4. If you are getting too tired or too fatigued to perform an exercise correctly or safely take a break! Sometimes if you are racing the clock or your partner you may have the inclination to push yourself to the edge. This leads to muscle fatigue which will surely lead to injury eventually. Be smart, make sure that the form comes first and if and when you start to lose that it’s time for a break. Push yourself but always know your limits.
  5. Lift safely, always use a spotter with heavy weights or with a new movement. If you do not have a spotter than stay away from near maximal efforts. Better safe than sorry
  6. You’re gonna feel it tomorrow! Whenever you start a new program you are almost guaranteed to end up sore as all get out. So pace yourself with weight, reps, etc. when starting on something new. A little soreness is bearable but when you can’t even get out of bed the next morning you’ve gone too far. Your goal with a new program is to learn and perform movements correctly, not to take on the workout like it’s your purpose in life. So beware and don’t push it too much that first time around!
  7. Hard workouts are awesome but not every day! Make sure to mix in high intensity workouts with lighter stuff. 3-4 times a week of high intensity workouts are more than enough. Your body needs some down time so make sure you are getting some good cross-training in, whether that’s Yoga, basic cardio, basic circuits, or just plain old rest days. You need to make sure that you are giving your body workouts that are not always super demanding. This will decrease chance of injury, over used muscles, muscle depletion, and allow you to see the best results from all your work.
  8. Never skip warm-ups. This small but crucial amount of time should be put into every workout. You cannot expect your muscles or lungs to perform at their best ability cold. The warm-up doesn’t have to be extensive but you need to make sure that your muscles, lungs, and brain are ready for a workout. Warm-ups are crucial for staying healthy and injury free but they also allow you to get the most out of your workout!
  9. If you know you have an injury be extra vigilant about listening to your body. This goes along with, if it hurts, don’t do it. Most injuries do not magically disappear so make sure to avoid movements to any joints, muscles, bones, etc that you know you have injured. Consult with a PT or doctor before getting in over your head!
  10. Keep an open mind. A lot of times things are harder than maybe you expect them to be. Jump roping was so easy when you were 10, you could do it all day. Now you can hardly get over the rope 15 times before screwing up or feeling like your lungs are going to explode. Just remember everything takes time, learning, gaining muscle, gaining flexibility, gaining general muscle recruitment patterns, and increasing your overall fitness takes time. Just be ready for some things to be harder than you though. Don’t get discouraged.

For help designing a new workout, or information on planning modifications to your existing workouts, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer, Adriana Brown.

Effectively Utilizing the Body Mass Index

What is your Body Mass Index (BMI), and should it concern you?

BMI is as a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems. Basically, the higher your BMI, the greater your risk for the aforementioned health problems.

The BMI is generally considered to be successful as a health screening tool (particularly when considering large populations), but unfortunately BMI is not a very accurate body composition measurement tool. BMI does not measure body fat directly, it merely estimates using your body weight and height. Thus two individuals of the same height and weight will carry the same BMI rating regardless of their personal comparison of adipose tissue and lean muscle mass.

The bottom line is that while the BMI may be very effective at producing a general assessment of the obesity level of a given population, it fails to accurately estimate body fat levels for the average person. If you are interested in getting a body composition test consider a measurement of your subcutaneous fat using skin calipers, jumping into a hydrostatic underwater tank, or simply paying attention to how your clothes fit. All of these methods will fair better than the BMI.

If you have questions about how to plan your workouts based on body composition measurements, please feel free to contact Personal Fitness Trainer Damien K. Krantz.

One Reason Why You Regain Weight Easily After Weight Loss

There has been a lot of talk about weight loss with the start of the New Year! There was even a great article written in the New York Times called The Fat Trap which referenced an article by Sumithran et al (2011) that studied the long term changes in hormones from diet induced weight loss. They stated that although dietary restrictions will often result in initial weight loss, most obese dieters will fail to maintain this weight loss.

In their study they looked at a group of 50 overweight or obese patients who were put on an extremely low energy diet (~550 kcal per day). Food intake and energy expenditure is regulated by a lot of hormones released by the body; so they decided to measure these hormones & appetite before the low energy diet, at week 10 and again at week 62.

They found that when a person diets to lose weight the body releases a lot of hormones within the body to slow down energy burn, store energy, and increase appetite; and that many of these alterations in hormones can last for 12 months after the weight loss and even after the onset of weight regain. This would suggest that there is a strong physiological response to regain that weight after you lose it…but that does not mean you are doomed to regain the weight. What it does mean is that you MUST work to create healthy habits and lifestyle changes to combat the weight regain. An interesting part of the study is that they did not include exercise in the weight loss regiment. Exercise can release many hormones to create satiety and curb that hunger. Exercise will obviously burn calories and release hormones to break up those stores of fat and energy within your body. This is why most health professionals will recommend a weight loss including exercise and diet as a regiment.

Weight loss doesn’t come easy or fast, there is no magic pill. My old college football coach has a great saying; “Hard work works.” Get in the gym, eat right and try to create health habits; and no matter what your genetic make up or hormone issues, 99% of it will be taken care of through hard work. For more information about effective weight loss habits, please contact Fitness Director, Jacob Galloway.

Who doesn’t want to run faster, jump higher, feel stronger?

Speed and strength are vital components of fitness found in variable degrees within nearly all athletic and everyday movements. Whether you are a squash player, marathon runner, basketball player or golfer …simply said, the combination of speed and strength equal power. Over the years coaches and athletes have looked to improve power in order to enhance performance and prevent injury through plyometrics. Jumping, bounding, throwing and hopping exercises have been used in various ways to enhance athletic performance dating back to ancient Olympic times and is even more prevalent in training programs today. So you wonder, what are all these jump squats and lateral bounds I’m doing? Plyometrics!

What exactly is plyometric training and how can it benefit you as a fit person?
Plyometrics aka “plyos” is a type of training designed to produce fast, powerful movements, as well as improve the functions of the nervous system, elevate metabolism but more specifically for the purpose of preventing injury and improving performance in sports. Plyometric movements, in which a muscle is stretched and then contracted in rapid sequence, uses the strength, elasticity and stimulation of the muscle and surrounding tissues to jump higher, run faster, throw farther, or hit harder, depending on whatever your desired training goal might be. This type of training has been shown across the board to be incredibly beneficial to a wide span of athletes.

So, who can do plyos?
Well, anyone can see progress toward their goals by strategically adding them into a typical training routine, I often use them for a wide variety of clientele ranging from weight loss to athletic performance and low-intensity variations of plyometrics are often utilized in various stages of injury rehabilitation, demonstrating that the use of proper technique and appropriate safety precautions can make plyometrics safe and effective for most people. However, before you go jumping off boxes, it is necessary to make sure you have acquired an adequate strength and core foundation as this will guarantee that you get the best response.

So, if you are looking to push yourself that much further in your workouts or performance contact Personal Fitness Trainer, Christine Moore about incorporating some plyos into your program and feel the power!

Is your warm-up really warming you up?

Have you had to miss a workout due to an injury? Are you one of those people that don’t really warm-up before training or competition? Your warm-up or lack there of, could be the root of the problem.

Warming up is usually the first to go when an athlete or client is short on workout time and when I do hear of a warm-up it usually consists of sitting on an upright bike followed by static stretching. Most individual and team sports have updated their workout routines but many have continued to keep the outdated warm-up method of a linear jog combined with some static stretching on the field followed by a few drills before competition or practice. This “typical” warm-up does not adequately prepare athletes for the demands placed upon them in the session. Most injuries that occur at the beginning of a competition or training session are largely due to inadequate preparation for the activity. It is time for you to switch to a full body dynamic warm-up. A solid dynamic warm-up will help your muscles prepare for a workout, reduce your risk of injury, and increase your heart rate. The dynamic warm-up coordinates all of your moving parts- muscles, ligaments, and joints by challenging your flexibility, mobility, strength and stability all at once. Static stretching alone will not prepare the muscle and connective tissue for the active contraction and relaxation process that will occur during a dynamic sport or training session.

The Goals of a Dynamic Warm-up:

  • Increase core temperature.
  • Increase heart rate and blood flow to skeletal tissue which improves the efficiency of oxygen uptake and transport, as well as waist removal.
  • Increase activation of the central nervous system, which increases co-ordination, skill accuracy and reaction time.
  • Increase the elasticity of muscles and connective tissue, which results in fewer injuries.
  • Open up and lubricate your joints such as in the hips and spine.
  • Reinforce great posture.

This injury prevention warm-up can be used by athletes before they compete in any dynamic sport or even be used as a warm-up for your clients before they start a training session. The “typical” jog or spin on the bike is replaced with a more dynamic series of running drills or exercises that include multiple planes of movement to ensure a complete warm-up is achieved. Static stretching can improve joint range of motion and muscular relaxation and will help with recovery by assisting in waist removal. However, I personally choose to apply it during the cool down or after competition is finished. I believe the warm-up should have the athlete physically and mentally prepared to perform the dynamic actions of the activity at maximal intensity if required.

Examples of Dynamic Exercises:

  • Running Forward
  • Running Backwards
  • High Knee drills
  • Butt Kickers
  • Side Shuffle
  • Crossovers
  • Skips
  • Lunges with rotation

This active warm-up can take between 5 to 10 minutes. The key is to make the dynamic portion of the warm-up progressive and ensure the body is taken through the same ranges of motion that will be required in their training or game situation. Contact any of the personal trainers at the Seattle Athletic club to put together a warm-up routine that will help keep you injury free this year. For more information on developing your workouts to include a proper warm-up, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer, Jason Anderson.

Training the Hips

In every one of my clients that I evaluate, the hips are always lacking in strength. Either they are tight and weak or lose and weak. Both equal a serious set of problems. When the hips aren’t doing their job your quads, hamstrings and low back have to pick up the slack. Performance, posture and power output become seriously hampered. In addition this results in chronic soreness in the above areas and can lead to injury. Long story short, tight hips sink ships.

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The head of the thigh bone sits it on the socket of the hip. Ideally this rotates in all directions as well as flexes and extends. Lower body exercises (lunges, squats, etc) barely cover the myriad of ranges that hip is capable of. These also emphasize the quads and hamstrings which are already over trained. In addition the more commonly used hip exercises (hip machines, band monster walks) put the body in very stiff, robotic patterns and also do not involve the feet (don’t get me started on foot strength). Trying to strengthen the hip in unnatural movements doesn’t teach the hips how they should move outside the walls of a weight room.

Correcting this limitation does take time, precision and patience. One of my favorite recipes for combating hip weakness is the cable machine. The cables offer unrestricted movement. You aren’t confined to an apparatus or under a load. You can move the body fluidly, utilizing everything from your toe to your finger tip. Involving the hip in these full body natural patterns can create impressive gains in flexibility, strength, speed and power.

A few simple rules apply. Stay with low weight. Speed strength is the goal, not slow strength. Initiate from the core then activate the hips. Think of the body like a whip. Let the power flow through your body and don’t muscle through movements. If any ranges hurt, make the movement smaller. Feel for smooth efficient movements. We’re not trying to fatigue the muscles, just activate them. Most importantly, remember that true functional strength is a skill that takes dedication, repetition and drive.

2 sets of 10 per movement

  • Lateral Sweeps
  • Michael Jacksons
  • Kick Backs
  • Roundhouse Kicks

For more information about how you can optimize your training feel free to contact Personal Fitness Trainer, Curt Ligot.

Spinal Alignment and Positioning

Spinal alignment is key for proper development and activation when exercising. Most exercise is done with a neutral (can also be referred to as straight) spine, which is the maintenance of the natural s-shaped curvature when the spine is erect. Everyone has an anatomical variation; a slightly different degree of curvature. But, often the spine can get out of alignment from bad posture, trauma, or work- related stress. So when do we need to move the spine through articulation, and when do we need to stabilize it?

Several exercises will help develop the slow-twitch muscles directly along the spine; the multifidus and erector spinae. Increase in load of the exercise will also strengthen larger muscles responsible for spinal strength; core muscles, quadratus lumborum and psoas muscles.

Stabilizing exercises with a neutral spine:
Plank – The plank is arguably one of the best exercises you can do. It incorporates core muscles and spinal stabilizers in an isometric contraction (without movement). There is a lot of shoulder and scapular involvement, and will improve overall posture.

Side plank – The side plank is more intensively focused on lateral hip stabilizers, intercostals, and quadratus lumborum of the side closest to the ground. This can be helpful to correct or help dominance issues and scoliosis.

Bird dog – This is also called the quadruped opposite arm and leg raise. This exercise focuses on stabilizing the hips and shoulders from the core muscle structure while aligning the body parallel with the ground.

Bridge – The bridge is a great hip strengthener. It is directly targeting spinal stabilizers and there is the central focus of core contraction.

Strengthening exercises with a neutral spine:
Seated row – The seated row works on stabilization of the lumbar spine and scapulae through a retraction and depression motion that activates large muscles in the thoracic spine (rhomboids, rotator cuff muscles, latissimus dorsi).

Front weighted cable squats/ barbell squats – Require a more intense stabilization of the spine and core muscles through a movement. With the weight in front of the body or on the shoulders there is more load applied to the spine in particular.

Weighted hinge/ deadlift – This exercise is one of the most important to develop strong spinal stabilization. Most of the movement that is done throughout the day requires little to no stabilization so our movements tend to articulate and relax the muscles around the spine. This movement works on integrating large hip muscles and core stabilizers to move from, versus the back muscles. The motion itself is often inhibited in a lot of people and can be a challenge to teach the body, but worth it in the long run.

Prone cobra – The prone cobra directly targets muscles along the spine from the rhomboids of the thoracic spine to lumbar fascia and quadratus lumborum of the lumbar spine. This exercise puts the lower back into extension and opens the chest cavity; as well as, loosens hip flexors and activates hip stabilizers when done correctly.

Articulation is important to prevent nerve impingement between the vertebral discs. Pilates and yoga have the best full-body movement that articulates. In sport-related movements the initiation of a movement is stabilized and then progressions with follow through.

Spinal movement:
Cat/Cow – This is a yoga movement to fully articulate the spine through a gentle motion.

Spinal twists and lateral bends – There are several different exercise techniques that accomplish this. The exercise should start with little to no weight (added or body weight) and then progress to adding more load.

Light cable rows/ band rows – Doing a row with little to no weight will accomplish the same as the gentle movements if articulation is integrated, but will also strengthen the spine during this kind of motion in daily life.

Hinge/ deadlift with articulation – This will accomplish the same as the above exercise by allowing the spine a full motion and then engaging to increase strength.

These last two exercises are relevant to an athlete for increased performance and protection during the sport and less relevant to someone who is moderately sedentary for most of the day.

One of the best ways to improve posture and spinal stabilization and strength is learning to sit and walk with a straight spine. The muscles will have to fire more continuously and develop as a result. A general rule of thumb – nothing will improve posture better than working on just that, posture. If you have any questions concerning desk/computer alignment or an assessment of your posture and needs, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Amber Walz for further details.

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.