Tag: Weight Training

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.

Strong is the new SEXY! Women and resistance training.

Many women have similar goals and fears associated with resistance training (i.e. lifting weights). Most commonly we find that women express the desire to lose fat and improve muscle tone, but fear getting “bulky.” This often leads women to avoid the weight room altogether, and in our opinion is one of the primary reasons why there is a gender barrier between the cardiovascular and resistance training equipment (stereotypically boys lift weights and girls take cardio classes). This is a minor tragedy, as cardiovascular exercise is an ineffective and inefficient means to losing fat and improving muscle tone. Regular cardiovascular exercise is critical to maintaining overall health, but it is called cardio for a reason: it is primarily for your heart.

The fear that many women have regarding becoming “bulky” is unfortunately dynamic and deeply rooted, but we can overcome it. There are two primary sources of this trepidation: a general misunderstanding of female physiology and psychosocial stress.

The physiology is relatively straightforward. Put simply, lifting weights gives women the tone look and feel that they desire. Resistance training (geared toward improving muscular hypertrophy) increases metabolism and improves muscle tone. Women receive a tone look (as opposed to a bulky look) not due to a difference in training methodology, but a difference in physiological tools. Women are born with less muscle fibers (typically about 70% of that found in men). Additionally, the female endocrine system plays a significant role in keeping women small. Primarily responsible is the lack of testosterone, but also hormones like estrogen and progesterone generally prevent dramatic increases in muscle mass.

The psychosocial aspect of why women want to look a certain way is a little more complicated. Pressure to be small and skinny comes from all around us (e.g. family, friends, television, and fashion magazines). Whatever the source, they are largely sending a similar message: women should be small, un-athletic, and devoid of muscular definition. Sadly the picture that is commonly painted of what is, or what should be, a desirable feminine form is generally unattainable and is incompatible with fitness. Healthy women are not frail and skinny. Healthy women have curves and definition. Healthy women are strong, fit, and well-built. Healthy women can do a push up. And healthy is sexy.

Cardiovascular exercise is great for your heart, but the rest of your body needs attention too; some of which can only be attained in the weight room. So ladies, we urge you to set aside your misgivings, ignore the looks and the naysayers, and set a new trend. Join the increasing amount of women who believe that “strong is the new skinny” and that being fit is sexy.

Take Back Control of Your Body: Increase Your Metabolism!

Do you remember back in your younger days when you could eat anything you wanted and it not add a single pound to your body, or back when you could hit the gym once a week to lift weights and your body still look tone? Does the expression “It’s my metabolism’s fault” sound familiar?

If you find each year that you are carrying some extra pounds and struggling to lose them, it may be because of a sluggish metabolism. Some doctors say that by the age of 40 our metabolism slows by five percent each decade. That means we start to pack on extra pounds each year as our bodies become less efficient at burning calories.

It’s time for you to take back control over your body and increase your metabolism! Basically, your metabolism can be thought of as the rate at which we burn calories and ultimately it determines how quickly we gain weight or how easily we lose it. Your metabolism is influenced by your age (it decreases by 5% after age 40), your sex (men generally burn more calories at rest than women), and by the proportion of lean body mass (the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism rate tends to be). There are plenty other factors that can affect our metabolism such as illness, motherhood, certain medications, and metabolic disorders.

The good news is we can fight back! Here are a few key things you can do to help boost your body’s calorie burning power at any age:

Strength Training is Ultimately the Key

We may be better off spending less time on the treadmill and more time in the weight room. While cardio exercise benefits the heart and lungs, strength (resistance) training builds lean muscle mass and lean muscle mass is paramount to a fuel efficient body. The more muscle we have, the more calories we burn, even in our sleep.

Eat Protein and Eat Often
Never eat fewer than 1,000 calories per day. Our metabolism thrives on food. Eat three protein-packed meals and two protein snacks per day. Snacking will actually give your metabolism a boost while protein provides a thermal (fat burning) effect superior to that of carbohydrates. Eating enough protein also helps to build and maintain muscle mass, another important factor in revving up the metabolism. Eat as often as every two to three hours and never allow more than five hours between meals. Fish, turkey, nuts, low-fat cheese, avocados, and eggs are excellent choices. And don’t forget to spice it up! Many studies have shown that spicy foods, like hot peppers, can boost metabolism.

Stay Hydrated

Your body depends on water for survival. Water makes up more than half of your body weight. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to function correctly. For example, your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints. Water is essential for good health. Drinking six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, is a reasonable goal.

Some people are at higher risk of dehydration, including those who get a lot of exercise, have certain medical conditions, are sick, or are not able to get enough fluids during the course of the day. Older adults are also at higher risk. As you age, your brain may be unable to sense dehydration and send the signals for thirst.

Adequate Amount of Sleep

Get to bed earlier! We need at least eight hours of sleep per night for our bodies to function properly during the day. Research shows that people who don’t get a sufficient amount of quality sleep tend to gain weight. The quality of our sleep affects the hormones leptin and grehlin, which control hunger and metabolism. Being tired also causes us to reach for empty calories like sweets.

It is the beginning of a new year so be sure to make it a priority to take care of your self and contact the fitness department at the Seattle Athletic club to talk with one of our personal trainers. We will help get you started on a wellness program that will allow you to take back control of your body.

Try ActivTrax

If you are new to resistance training and are not interested in spending time with a Personal Trainer then read on, as ActivTrax may be a great way for you to get started.

ActivTrax combines your goals and your current level of fitness to produce a safe and realistic program for you to follow as often as you wish. ActivTrax is not perfect, but if utilized appropriately it can provide you with accountability, variety, and the motivation to try something new.

ActivTrax is quite customizable and will continue to change your workout as you progress. It can easily be adjusted as your goals and abilities change to help you avoid the impending plateau.

Additionally, ActivTrax does a very good job at exposing users to new exercises, so if you have been lifting for a while, ActivTrax may have something to offer you as well.

If you are interested in getting started, stop by the fitness department to schedule a complimentary appointment or stop by www.activtrax.com to check it out.

Single Leg Dead Lift for Greater Performance, Strength and Balance!

When designing strength training programs for a variety of clients there are a few key exercises and movement patterns that should be addressed in most training sessions. Some of the things that I attempt to use daily include the following…

  • Thoracic Mobility Exercises/Stretches
  • Single Leg Dead Lift Progressions
  • Glute Activation Exercises
  • Squatting/Lunging Patterns
  • Core Stabilization

As specific movements go, one that I like to use as either part of the warm-up or as a strength exercise is the Single Leg Dead Lift. While all of these concepts should be touched on, I believe the SLDL is crucial to incorporate for the following reasons…

Full Body Muscle Recruitment
When performed correctly the single leg dead lift requires the recruitment of all of the muscles up the posterior chain. The calf works to stabilize at the foot and ankle. The hamstring group is stretched at the same time it is working to stabilize the knee joint, while the glutes concentrically extend the hip. During all of this our lumbar extensors work to keep the spine neutral while the upper and mid back work to stabilize the scapula and keep the thoracic spine in extension.

Functional Posterior Chain Strengthening
We have the ability to both stretch and strengthen the hamstring and recruit the glute for hip extension. Hamstring pulls are often a result of poor glute function and over-activation of the hamstrings as a hip extensor. If we are able to train single leg hip extension with the glutes while strengthening and stretching the hamstring than we are killing two birds with one stone!

Balance and Body Awareness
When using the single leg dead lift in the warm-up it can serve as an especially great balance and proprioception exercise. Have you ever seen someone perform their first ever SLDL? More often than not they almost always fall over. With some repetition and coaching however a client often improves quickly. The ankle stabilizers such as, the lower leg and calf, all must fire to help maintain balance in response to the movement of the upper body. The SLDL can serve as a great drill overall for body awareness and balance for clients/athletes of all ages.

How to perform an SLDL:
The first progression for the single leg dead lift is simple and needs no equipment. Start by squaring your hips, with a slight bend in the knees. Begin by balancing on one foot, keep the shoulders back, abs in, head up and back straight, from here tip from the waist and reach hands towards the floor. The key here is to reach the rear foot as far back as possible while also reaching down and maintaining a FLAT back. Be sure to keep a slight bend at their knee so that you are not overstressing the hamstring and neglecting the glutes. The difference in glute function from a straight leg to a slightly bent leg will be significant!

Start with 2-3 sets of 10 on each side, once that becomes easy try adding weight by holding a dumbbell.

Are Your Joints Making Noise?

Many of us who have stepped into the gym are probably familiar with the popping sound most commonly found in the elbow, shoulder, wrist, back and knee. Do you wonder the reasoning for this and if it could be something to worry about?

Noises in the joints can be quite disturbing and cause concern. Good thing is often, these noises are not an indication of any underlying problem. Knee cracking and popping usually sounds much worse than it is. Such noise often persists for years without any real problem developing. The key is if there is no pain with cracks or pops, you can assume it is being caused by the soft tissue in a joint. The tendons snap a little like plucking guitar strings. Another reason is because of a release of gas dissolved in the fluid of the joint. Sometimes joints make crunchy noises due to small bone fragments in the joint, like sand under a steel wheel. Joints can also make popping noises when they dislocate but are usually associated with extreme pain.

The bottom line is this. If you hear pops and clicks with no associated pain in a joint, you may want to begin some conditioning exercises to improve the overall integrity of the joint. If the muscles are strong, they will take the weight off of the joint and relax the pressure on those articulating surfaces. If there is pain along with those joint noises, there may be structural damage building in the joint, and it would be wise to see a physician for a proper diagnosis.

A proper warm up before exercising; as well as looking into taking some glucosamine and/or fish oil (which are supposed to increase the synovial fluid within the joints; your joint’s grease!)should help reduce the popping sound and stiffness of the joints. If you have any questions please feel free to contact any of the fitness staff at the Seattle Athletic Club.

Training to be the Perfect Athlete

When the word “athletic” comes to mind I envision an individual who is competent in all aspects of fitness (strength, flexibility, endurance, agility and coordination). Though excelling at all of these is a rare and difficult task, being competent in each of them builds an amazing foundation for a healthy and active life.

On the other end of the spectrum, neglecting one or more of these components can be a detriment to your performance and health. Being incredibly strong but inflexible is the cause of many overuse injuries (tendonitis, arthritis, etc). Being flexible and lacking strength can lead to the exact same ailments. Concentrating on endurance alone (i.e.: running or swimming) without a proper base of strength and flexibility will cause hormone imbalances and will wreak havoc on your joints.

Through creating a foundation in all these areas seems difficult, but here at the Seattle Athletic Club we offer a myriad of classes and opportunities to become the “Perfect Athlete”. With a wide variety of group classes, you can easily add several tools to your fitness arsenal with no additional cost. If you want to take things to the next level, any of our highly qualified Personal Fitness Trainers can help you fill in any gaps you may have in your regimen.

Here are a few examples of how to develop each component.
Strength

  • Weight Training
  • Bodyweight Exercises
  • Resistance Bands
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

Flexibility

  • Yoga
  • Band Stretching
  • Pilates
  • Active Range of Motion (Leg swings, etc)

Endurance

  • Running
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Circuit Training
  • Spinning
  • Martial Arts
  • Squash

Agility + Coordination

  • Squash
  • Basketball
  • Jump Rope
  • Olympic Lifting
  • Martial Arts

If you have any questions or want more information please take advantage of our educated staff to help guide you with your fitness needs.