Tag: tips

The Importanct of Evidence-Based Practice: The Example of Exercise for Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis and osteopenia are common issues that affect the life expectancy and quality of life in nearly 40 million Americans. These conditions, which both indicate a decrease in bone mineral density, which we can consider as bone strength, occur in men and women of all ages but are most predominate in post-menopausal women. People affected with osteoporosis or osteopenia have reduced strength and resiliency in their bones leading to an increased likelihood of fractures. Fractures are linked to significantly increased all-cause mortality in older women as well as impaired mobility and quality of life so it is imperative that bone health be maintained.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is through exercise. With every muscle action and every contact with the ground, bones have some force exerted against them and they respond by becoming stronger. Increasing the amount of activity and exercise is therefore a viable way to increase bone strength. But what type of exercise will work best? A review of randomized, controlled trials evaluated various types of exercise to see which would have the greatest impact. The results varied based upon the body part. We will discuss the impact on two common sites of osteoporosis: the spine and neck of the femur. In the spine, bone mineral density responded positively to two types of exercise: Weight-bearing low force activity such as walking or Tai Chi and non-weight-bearing-high-force exercises. In the neck of the femur, a positive effect was observed in response to non-weight-bearing high force exercises. Non-weight-bearing high force exercises include exercise machines (such as the leg extension, leg press, hip abductor, hip adductor and hamstring curl) performed with almost as much weight as possible.

Look at that list of non-weight-bearing high force exercises again. If you have read my other posts or talked with me before, it is obvious that I am not a fan of those machines. In fact, some of them are on my list of top things to avoid at the gym. The motor patterns reinforced by these machines seem unproductive to me and they develop strength in very limited, non-functional actions. Worst of all, these machines allow you to develop more strength than your body can handle, which can lead to terrible movement habits and possibly injury.

In my mind, well coached and well-performed squats, deadlifts, hip hinges and farmers walks would be way more helpful for developing bone density. But, the evidence is right there, pointing at me, saying that these much-maligned-machines may have some usefulness after all. Perhaps the machines were only helpful for the subjects tested because they didn’t have good coaching. Perhaps the researchers simply found it easier to compare exercise machines. Perhaps I am a good enough coach that I can overcome these obstacles and increase my clients bone density without using the machines. So, I find myself in a quandary: Follow the evidence and use the machines or trust my own education, intuition and instinct. The question is best answered with humility. I honestly don’t know if better results can be obtained without using the machines. It seems likely to me but at the end of the day, there is not evidence to directly support it. So, I would like to take a moment to apologize to all machine advocates out there and also endorse the use of these machines for increasing bone mineral density in the spine and neck of femur.

If you have osteoporosis, osteopenia or are at risk, this discussion was likely very useful for you. But if you don’t, it still offers a valuable lesson. No expert can know everything. Even strictly within the field of exercise, there are countless complicated decisions that cannot be answered through logical reasoning and intuition. When it comes to your health and fitness, you deserve to know that you are making the best decision. Always ask your trainers, instructors and health care providers why they are doing what they are doing. Ask about the evidence they have supporting them. There are a lot of things that don’t have clear evidence-based answers but it never hurts to ask. It will make you a better client and make us better trainers.

It’s Plyo Time!

This morning instead of my typical run, I decided to get a plyo workout in! It went a little something like this:

Warm – up:
20 knee skips to chest
20 outward knee skips to the side
20 butt kicks
20 knee to chest, kick outs (hamstring stretch)

30 sec walk (4.0 speed)
1m sprint (7.0 speed)
30 sec walk (4.0 speed)
1m sprint (7.0 speed)

20 squat jumps
20 wide jumps
20 narrow jumps
25 crunches on bosu ball
Repeat 3 times

20 squat throws with medicine ball on the wall (8-10 pounds)
20 side step squats (with bands around thighs)
20 switch lunges
25 bicycle crunches
Repeat 3 times

Cool down on treadmill
1m Walk 4.0 @10 incline
1m Walk 3.8 @7 incline
1m Walk 3.5 @5 incline
1m Walk 3.0 @0 incline

Give it a shot & let me know what you think! If you have any questions about this workout or getting into the figure and fitness competitions look for Stephanie at our Tuesday night professionals from 6 pm to 8 pm.

Let’s swim quickly

The below workout is one of my favorites because I think it is important to have a variety in the workout. It’s good for your body to changes things up a bit. Move your arms in different directions to avoid repetitive motion. A rotator cuff injury is hard to come back from especially as we age. If we sit at a desk working on a computer all day typically leaning forward and then swimming all freestyle (crawl stroke) keeps you in the same position. Pull those shoulders back be proud of who you are!

Warm Up
140 swim & drill, 120 kick, 200 pull

Main Set
4 x 100, 1:35/1:45
3 x 200, :10 – :15; rest descending 1 – 3
5 x 160, :10 rest; fly/free/back/free/breast/free/free/free
10 x 40, :05 rest; 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 kick / 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 pull (sprint)

Cool Down

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.

The beauty of a crystal clear swimming pool

All swimming pools have pretty much the same rules. One rule in particular will be at any swimming pool you go to, that is “Please shower before you enter the pool”. This rule is there for a very specific reason. And no it’s not to annoy you. Pool chemistry can be a tricky thing. If you get in without showering your perfume, sweat, make-up and what the day has proceeded to leave on you can throw off the chemicals of the pool. You might think I haven’t been anywhere I haven’t done anything to cause the pool chemistry to go off balance. If everyone has that thought then the pool will never be clean.

In order to help keep the pool chemistry in balance is that everyone showers prior to getting in. So, keeping that in mind on your next visit to the pool please remember to shower before you get in.

8 tips to make cardio easier and more fun!

The holidays have come and gone and some of you might have put on extra weight that you want to lose. Or maybe your New Year’s resolution is to drop 10 pounds in the next three months. If this is you; I have some tips to making cardio more enjoyable and easier for you.

8 tips to make cardio easier and more fun:

  1. Start out slow
    When beginning cardio, most people seem to want to hop on the elliptical, put the resistance up, and go as hard and fast as possible to burn those calories. This is okay to do, but can quickly tire you out and make you not want to do cardio as often or at all. My advice is to hop on the elliptical, treadmill; etc.and put the resistance to a light to moderate setting and start slow. Once you get more comfortable with this resistance and speed, you can slowly progress both resistance and speed.
  2. Pick good music
    When you’re listening to music you enjoy, you will want to continue your cardio workout for a longer period of time. Pick music that is quicker paced and keeps you pumped up. Music plays as a distraction while exercising because you are not paying attention to the time as much when you’re enjoying a good song. This is definitely a great method to making cardio go by faster.
  3. Mix it up
    Most of us choose one machine that we like to do and stick to it; for example the elliptical. If you are getting bored of cardio because you are using the elliptical every other day for 30-60 minutes, then switch it up. Try the elliptical for 15 minutes and then the treadmill for 15 minutes. If this still isn’t enough, you can add in the stair stepper or the stair climber as a third machine of use.
  4. Add it into your strength training routine (Circuit Training)
    If you are lifting weights upstairs, take the time to add in a minute sprint on the elliptical or bike between each set of exercises. This will keep your heart rate up as well as blood flowing throughout your muscles. It is easy for individuals to totally forget about cardio, so to make it easier and shorter, just add it between different sets of what you do enjoy.
  5. Interval Training
    If you get bored of jogging on a treadmill at 5.4mph for 20 minutes, then switch up the speed and time frames. For example, walk for a minute at 4mph and then run for a minute at 6mph. Repeat this about five to ten times to keep that heart rate up. If you would like more of a challenge, then increase the speed after each set. For example, walk at 4mph for one minute, run at 6mph for one minute, walk at 4.2mph for one minute, run at 6.2mph for one minute; and so forth.
  6. Find a Buddy
    There are days when we just don’t have the motivation to come into the gym. Therefore, everyone should have that friend that will help motivate you or visa versa, to go to the gym or for a walk outside. When exercising with someone else, you can carry on a conversation and forget you are even working hard or sweating. If that friend is competitive, that is a great way to get incentive to beat each other’s time or distance or whatever the goal may be. This is also another way to make time go by a lot quicker during cardio exercise.
  7. Take a group exercise class
    If you don’t do well by yourself and on the same machine every week, try taking a group exercise class. There is an instructor in each class along with a group of members just like you to keep you motivated and on top of your game. The Seattle Athletic Club offers many different types of classes involving great cardiovascular workouts. Some of these classes are Power Cycle, Zumba, and Step Aerobics.
  8. Jump Rope!
    Most of you probably learned how to jump rope in elementary school at Recess. We think of it as something we did when we were kids for fun, but people forget that this can actually be a cardiovascular exercise. Try it for a minute and see how tiring it can actually be. Jump roping is a great way to keep your cardio workouts fun and effective.

Analysis of Posture Cueing

As a trainer, there is a lot of information to convey in a short period of time and in a way that is easily understood by the client. The largest role a trainer plays is as a teacher. Sometimes it can be a challenge to communicate effectively in a concise way using as few words as possible. Each trainer has there own style of communication and usually uses verbal and kinesthetic tools. This said, there are a few cues that trainers use more consistently that will be explained in detail in this blog to provide more clarity.

Shoulders back and down-
This is a cue that most people are familiar with; however, there is a lot of confusion around its interpretation. The action of back and down is a description of the shoulder blades in an action of retraction and depression. One reason this is so widely used as a descriptor among trainers is because the shoulder joint is susceptible to injury when it is unstabilized. These actions of the shoulder blade give the joint a stabilized position to work from when manipulating heavy weight. Another reason this is used is because it counteracts the position of excessive kyphosis (rounding of the thoracic spine) to bring the spine in a neutral alignment.

New research has shown that the lazy posture brought on by sitting too much leads to weakened muscles in the upper back, but without creating this excessive curvature. When the shoulder blades are retracted and depressed this can overcorrect the posture and cause other ailments. If the shoulder blades are in the proper position the shoulder joint should not be anteriorly rotated and the blade should be in the shape of an upside down triangle with the apex pointed slightly out. This allows the proper curvature of the thoracic spine. Your trainer should be able to help explain and show this too you so you can ensure you are putting yourself into the right posture.

Squeeze your glutes-
The gluteal muscles make up a large system of muscle on the back side of the hip joint that stabilize, extend, and protect the hip joint. For adequate stabilization during certain exercises, increased core activation and protection of the knees and lower back squeezing your butt muscles is important.

This cue can be enhancing a posterior pelvic tilt in many people. This is when the pelvis is curled under and usually accompanies a forward shearing motion at the head of the femur. The important thing when squeezing is to maintain a float inside the hip joint, contract without tucking or thrusting forward, and focus more on the internal hip stabilizers and lower part of the glute complex.

Draw in your core-
The core muscle system includes 29 different muscles that perform big and small motions of the hip, sacrum and lumbar spine. Many of the muscles protect the organs and act as a hammock for the pelvis. To contract these muscles in preparation for movement the muscles perform and upward and inward motion; primarily in smooth muscles such as the transverse abdominus. This gives the muscles a contraction that acts as a support structure around the lumbar spine to protect it when heavy weight and when impact is applied.

The problem with this cue is it is often associated with sucking in, or can be misinterpreted to include diaphragmatic musculature. This tension can travel through the body, make your breathing improper, your spine tense, and impede movement.

Although these are common cues trainers use with clients, a deeper understanding of them can give you a better understanding of proper movement and positioning. For further information contact Personal Fitness Trainer Amber Walz.

Just How “Full Body” is Rowing Really?

Do you ever get tired of hearing that just about every such-and-such an activity is really great because it’s “Full Body”? What does “Full Body” mean anyway?

If you consider that using multiple joints at a time in multiple planes of motion for a given exercise is probably getting close to “full body” then there really are a lot of activities that fall into that category. Golf, Horse Shoes, Tennis, Gardening, Swimming, Food Fights… you get the idea. The real question is not whether a given activity is “full body” or not, but how to do it well, with efficiency, balance, power and stability. Any body can throw food in the cafeteria, but few can do it well and even fewer can do well and cause someone else in trouble for it. And, really, that is the goal of honest food fighting.

So maybe mastering the art of full body food fighting isn’t on your top-ten list for the New Year. But I’ll bet that Rowing is! And guess what, its “full body!” It requires muscles throughout the body to be primary drivers in one moment and stabilizers in the next. It requires tremendous core stability to control the slide on the recovery and to connect all the powerful muscles of the legs, back and arms during the catch, drive and finish of the stroke.

Not only that, it also requires both anaerobic power and aerobic endurance to sustain a given workout or race. And, if done well, there is virtually no injurious stress on the knees and shoulders. The web site for Concept 2 has a great explainer of what muscles are used when and how. You can find it by clicking here and an even more detailed description by clicking here.

Seattle Athletic Club has very good Concept 2 rowing machines. Take some time to learn how to use them well and start to feel the “full body” benefit of this great sport. If you would like more information on how to use this machine in a true full body motion please contact personal fitness trainer Nathan Palmer or watch his YouTube video.

Pain vs. Pleasure: how do you workout?

Many gym goers will go to their gym, run to the weight room, sit on a machine and read a news paper and think they are working out and doing their body good. I would say that yes they have taken the first step to getting healthier…they have gotten to the gym. But my question would be are they really making any changes in their body that will make them healthier and improve their quality of life? Here are some tips to help you make sure you are getting the most out of your workout time:

  • Make sure to change into proper workout clothes you can sweat in.
    In order to really push your body and workout so that you make progress you need to wear the appropriate attire to accomplish this. This means actually get a locker and change out of your diesel jeans and into clothes that allow you to move freely and perform exercises without hindering your range of motion. Changing into gym clothes should be able to change your mind set and allow you to focus on the tasks at hand…starting a great workout.
  • Make sure your muscles reach fatigue; this is not a comfortable feeling.
    When working out using weights to goal is usually to over load the muscles; this in turn will break down the microscopic muscle fibers. If your body senses a weaker muscle because of the broken down muscle fibers it will try and build up bigger and stronger muscle fibers to resist the stimulus. Your body will continue to do this each time you add enough weight to stress the muscle fibers, so as we workout we need to make sure that we have heavy enough weights to stress our muscles safely. If you can do a chest press or any weighted exercise and hold a conversation with a friend or space off and think about your day the weight is not heavy enough. Your weight is heavy enough to create a positive adaptation to your muscles when you need to concentrate on that movement specifically; recruiting all the muscle fibers to finish all of your reps…and when I say finish all of your reps it should be just barely finish all of your reps. You should look for the last two or so reps to be very challenging where your muscles you are working are shaking and/or burning. This feeling can be slightly uncomfortable but if you are looking to change your body and muscle tone you need to create this feeling.
  • Make sure that you are challenging your heart muscle.
    Your heart is composed of different muscle than your body; it is cardiac muscle. It is very fatigue resistance and involuntary…it is the only muscle in your body that will never stop working as long as you live; which is why we need to make sure that we are working it out properly and ensuring that it is functioning at full capacity. In order to really work the heart muscle we need to make sure we are stressing it; as it needs stress from exercise in order to become a stronger pumping machine. When doing cardio (standing for cardiovascular training – training the heart, blood vessels and lungs) we need to make sure that we are creating enough stress on this system. Sitting on a bike and reading a paper is not enough stress to create an adaptation needed or wanted. At the bare minimum you should try and get to the point where holding a conversation is hard (you should have somewhat labored breathing) and you should be sweating (a by product or work is heat, your bodies defense against raised by temperature is to sweat). If you have never been able to achieve these two tasks while doing cardio try upping your RPM’s or resistance. Going for a longer time at the same pace will not get you to sweat and have labored breathing as much as increasing the intensity or resistance.
  • Make sure your workouts are finished with you being tired
    This is an easy point to discus, in order for your body to grown and get better at anything you must give it enough stimuli to change. This stimulus could be adding more weight to your workouts, increasing the intensity of your elliptical, play a better squash player than yourself, try a more advanced yoga class, swim more laps in the same amount of time…and the list could go on and on. Just remember that by the time you finish your day at the gym you should have known that you were at the gym, you should be putting your gym clothes in one of those plastic bags because they are sweaty and you should have some muscle fatigue where your body feels comfortably tired.

Remember that the goal of going to the gym should be to provide your body with a stimulus and hope for some kind of adaptation. This could be playing squash and working on foot speed, grabbing some dumbbells and hoping to increase your bicep size or swimming in the pool and hoping to increase your speed. The underlying theme is that you should want your body to change for the better; and this will not happen if the effort is not there. This effort is not always comfortable but nothing worth having ever comes to use easily.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pull the Pedal Up or Elephant on the Wunda Chair

Purpose: To develop abdominal control, scapular stabilization and strengthen shoulder girdle. This exercise is 100% Powerhouse, making it difficult to perform. A trained professional must spot throughout exercise.

Starting Position: Face the pedal & place the palm of your hands on the edge of the chair with fingertips hanging off. Step 1 foot on the pedal to press it down, step the other foot on. Glue your heels together and lift so you are balancing on your tip toes.

  1. Inhale; Keep scapulae stable and round the trunk in a pike position, scooping your abs. Float your head between your shoulders.
  2. Exhale; with Powerhouse strength, lift pelvis up towards ceiling allowing weight to shift into hands. For 3 counts, lift pedal higher to top of its range.
  3. Inhale; lower pedal down with control. Bring pedal just above base (not quite to the floor), maintain the pike position.
  4. Complete 3-5 reps, lower pedal all the way down. Step 1 foot left; then the other, not letting the pedal rebound.

Visualization: Imagine your are floating upward – levitating.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid sinking through shoulders
  • Keep head aligned with spine, think of dropping top of head toward floor
  • Stabilize around shoulders and through arms to avoid losing control
  • Don’t let your body rock or your hips move from side to side

Modifications: Omit the 3 count pulses.