Exercise of the week: kneeling rollout

Kneeling roll out

The kneeling roll out is a great abdominal exercise which can be used for training in-home. It does require that you have an exercise ball. This is great because it works all of the muscles in the core as you have to stabilize in order to stay straight.

Muscles used
Primary- Rectus abdominus, internal/ external oblique, erector spinae
Secondary- sertatus anterior, lattisumus dorsi,

Start- before starting the exercise, make sure to be on a soft surface because this can be hard on the knees. Start by kneeling on a mat and make sure to keep the body straight. The back should be straight and you should be able to draw a straight line from the knees, through the hips through the shoulders. The arms should be bent with the forearms touching the ball.

Movement- your bodies positioning here is key so pay close attention. First, make sure that the back is straight the entire time, this can be accomplished by bracing or tightening the abdominal area. Slowly roll forward by extending the arms at the shoulder. Your weight should be forward and stop rolling before your chest touches the ball. When you get to the end of the movement, pause and hold for 2 seconds and then roll back into the starting position.

The importance rest in an exercise program

A common misconception about fitness is that more is better. It’s an idea that one must work out 6 or 7 days a week and never take time away from working out. This cannot be further from the truth and in fact, adequate rest it just as important to a fitness program as actual time spent working out. A person who does not rest adequately risks both a physical and psychological breakdown due to the level of stress placed on the body.

To understand the importance of rest, it is important to understand how our bodies develop when involved in a fitness program. Contrary to common beliefs, the actual act of exercising does not build muscles. Exercising actually does the opposite as it causes tearing within the muscle. When we work out we are essentially breaking down and tearing muscle tissue. The muscle building is a result of the bodies ability to adapt. Once we have broken the muscles down, the body needs to repair them, our bodies will adapt to this new stress by repairing the muscles stronger than before in order to meet the new requirement for strength. Adequate rest is crucial for this process to be successful as we repair our muscle tissue during rest.

Lack of rest also increases the potential for injury. If a person works out 6 days a week, they are essentially breaking their body down without giving themselves enough time to recover. Often times, this will eventually result in an injury as the person does not have a chance to recover from the constant stress.

In addition to the physical requirements, there is also a psychological advantage to resting. Unless a person is a professional athlete on a strict schedule, it is common for people to overwork themselves to the point of physiological exhaustion. There is tremendous guilt associated with rest and eventually the person breaks down and has to stop working out all together. A proper understanding of the importance of resting would result in a more manageable program.

It’s not hard to see this in practice. Professional athletes, for example, work out for a living in order to be in peak condition. Most athletes need 2-3 off days a week. In addition, for sports like boxing, mma where they are training specifically to be at their peak on a specific day, athletes will take a week off of rigorous activity immediately before the competition in order to recover and reach their peak.

When it comes to requirements, it’s going to vary from person to person but generally I would say 2-3 days off a week. It’s always best to schedule the days off if possible as it tends to keep a person committed to the workouts. In addition to taking the weekly breaks, it’s also important to take a week or so off every few months. This is also a good way to recharge the batteries and stay excited about fitness.

Keep in mind that good fitness is about balance, so hard work needs to be complimented with good rest. Don’t feel guilt about your time away from the gym because that is when your body really gets to work.

Weekly fitness journal: Do as I say…

It’s kind of ironic that last week I posted an article about the importance of not losing too much too fast. I should have prefaced that with a rule saying that extreme measures should only be taken if there is a very specific goal in mind and then only if you are prepared to gain the weight afterward. The irony is that I have a photo shoot scheduled in 3 weeks and I need to be at my goal weight by then. My goal weight is 160 and I now weigh 173 so extreme measures must be taken.

Diet- I’m now in a position where I need to cut 13 pounds in 3 weeks or about 4 pounds a week. From a dietary standpoint it means doing something I preach against, cutting carbs. I’m at a point where I limit myself to carbs at breakfast, before I work out and a little at lunch. This also means blame foods with little salt or seasoning an lots of water.

Sample diet
Breakfast- oatmeal w/water raisins and splenda
Snack- 3 slices of smoked turkey
Lunch- baked chicken w/ vegetables and a 1/2 cup of rice
Pre- workout- smoothie with strawberries, blueberries
Post workout- protein shake with skim milk
Dinner- ground turkey

Exercise- this week I’m pushing the calorie burning part of the workout so I have cut out any heavy strength training and replaced it with cardiovascular type work I’d interval training.

Sample workout
1.5 mile run
20 minutes of tabatas
1,000 jumps with a jump rope
6 rounds of bag work

I can be very motivated when there is a goal so I should be fine. The real challenge will be that last week but I’m up for the task. As long as I’m prepared, the diet isn’t all that bad. I eat regularly so I’m never hungry. The workouts this week have been fun. I’ll never be the type to run 6 miles but my style of cardio is very effective. It intense and leaves me feeling like I just got run over by a truck. I will be at 160 by the end and kids, do as I say, not as I do ūüėČ

Feel free to comment

Ask the Trainer: Creatine supplementation

Question- So lately I have been looking into Creatine supplements. I am vegetarian (and mostly vegan) and currently take a raw vegan sprouted rice supplement. I am seeing results but I still feel that my meat eater friends have an edge on me. I am dairy-intolerant and thus stay away from whey supplements.

Answer- This is a very good question especially considering the amount of vegetarians and vegans in our society today. Being a vegan/ vegetarian and trying to build muscle is¬†a challenge but it’s not impossible. Meat is obviously a very easy source of protein as most meats contain¬†large amounts of it¬†so those of us who do eat meat, have no problem taking in an adequate amount of protein (and creatine, which I’ll get to). There are many sources of protein from which a vegan can choose but the problem is they aren’t as dense as meat. Beans, for example, are a great source or protein¬†but one would have to eat an entire bag to get an equivalent amount of protein from a small piece of chicken. The key with a vegan or vegetarian is in the approach to the diet. The person has to pay more attention to the diet and focus on variety and eating frequently throughout the day. I know that the question had more to do with creatine supplementation but the proper creatine supplementation also requires proper protein intake so I felt that it was important to mention that first.
Now, onto the creatine. There are all kinds of conflicting information on all of the different supplements, including creatine. In my experience as well as from the reading that I have done, creatine does work. Creatine is an organically produced substance in the body. Creatine essentially assists in the force production within the muscles. Creatine doesn’t directly create strength but rather gives a person a little bit more energy for their workouts. The extra energy expended during the workout will then result in increased strength and muscle mass so this is where creatine helps. While creatine is a supplement that works, it’s not a miracle product and you should carefully follow the directions as excessive use can cause a strain on the liver. Creatine monohydrate has been shown to be the most effective synthetically produced creatine product on the market so I would go with that if I were going to start supplementing with it.
As I mentioned before, creatine is produced naturally¬†but it is also found in meat and fish. This makes it especially hard¬†for you on a vegan/ vegetarian diet as you¬†lose out on a major source of creatine. Creatine supplementation can be very beneficial for you specifically because you may be at a creatine deficiency. In addition to the creatine, I would recommend a few things to compliment it’s use. As I mentioned before, try to have protein regularly throughout the day, amino acid supplements, specifically L-Glutamine is also recommended. I’d also recommended a multivitamin supplement be included as well. Creatine will initially give the appearance of extra size because it does cause the muscles to retain water so just be sure to drink lots of water. I hope this helps.

Exercise of the week: Sword Draw

The sword draw is a very versatile exercise. Is can be used for rehab, strength, ROM and posture.

Muscles used
Primary- deltoids (medial and lateral), infraspinatus, supraspinatus
Secondary- trapezius, rhomboids

Start- you can use a band, dumbbell or no weight for this movement. Stand with your knees slightly bent and the abdominals braced. The arm will start across your body next to the opposite hip.

Movement- while keeping the elbow locked, pull the arm up and across the body. Make sure to rotate the arm in the direction you are lifting so that your thumb is pointing behind you when you reach the top of the movement.

Weekly exercise journal

Diet: this week, my goal was to focus on the frequency of my diet. I had been feeling extra hungry for some time now and I believe it’s because I’m not eating frequently enough. Since my days can be very crazy and erratic, planning is key. So every day, before bed I looked at my schedule and created an eating plan that would fit. It’s a tedious process but it seems to have worked as I’m definitely not getting the bouts of hunger.

Exercise: this week I was focused on turning my sessions up a notch. I followed a compound set routine which is basically doing back to back exercises using the same body part. After strength training, I would follow that up with 1,000 jumps and 5 rounds of kickboxing with the bag. Much to my dismay, I even went for a one mile run.

Results: Weight- 175 (no change)

Journal: this was a frustrating week. I worked my butt off and had nothing to show for it. Obviously I understand why and intellectually, I get it but it doesn’t make me feel any better. It just goes to show that even with a professional, it’s very hard to handle not making progress especially when you have worked hard. I might be a little too focused on the weight loss but it’s my goal at the moment and I need to see some more pounds drop. The increased intensity felt good. I’m definitely not in the shape I was last year but I’m getting there. I did solid rounds with the bag and jumped rope. My goal next week is to lose a couple of pounds and get 5 solid workouts in. Until next week.

Illustration of why it’s better to lose 1-2 pounds a week

Last week, I wrote about the importance of losing weight slowly and consistently versus a rapid weight loss program. This week, I am going to give an example of what frequently happens when someone loses weight too fast versus someone who does it at a consistent clip.

As I mentioned before, the body is only capable of losing 1-2 pounds of fat per week so any more than that comes from lean body weight which is weight that we don’t want to lose. For this example, we are going to take a person who is 200 pounds and 30% body fat. This means that the person has 140 pounds of lean body weight and 60 pounds of fat. I am going to go through two separate scenarios with this person to show my point.

Scenario 1- This person decides to go on a crash diet or a very low calorie diet. This person could very easily lose 30 pounds over the span of¬†5 weeks. If we average this weight loss out to 5 pounds a week, then in a best case¬†scenario, this person would have lost¬†8 pounds of fat and 22¬†pounds of lean weight. ¬†What results is that this person is actually less healthy at 170 pounds than he was at 200 pounds because his body fat percentage is still 30% and he has lost 22 pounds of valuable lean weight. What makes this example even worse is what happens next. 95% of the time a crash diet will fail within 6 weeks and the person puts back on all of the weight that was lost. In this case, if this person puts back on 30 pounds, he won’t put on 22 pounds of lean weight and only 8 pounds of fat. The likely outcome will be the reverse and he’ll put on 20 pounds of fat weight and¬†10 pounds of lean weight. The result will be that this person will be back to 200 pounds but with a body fat of 36%. He will have gone from 60 pounds of fat weight up to 72 pounds of fat weight because of the crash diet.

Scenario 2- The same person follows a program which includes a balanced and healthy diet with strength training. If the person is focused on losing 1-2 pounds a week the after 6 weeks, this person will only have lost 10  pounds but it will all be fat weight. After 6 weeks, this person would be 190 lbs but his body fat percentage would have dropped down to 26%. Another 6 weeks and 10 pounds of fat later, his body fat would have dropped to 22% and finally another 6 weeks and 10 pounds later and his body fat would have dropped to 17%.

As you can see, scenario 1 lost 30 pounds in 5 weeks but paid for the rapid weight loss by losing mostly lean weight. He also had the added negative  benefit of gaining back mostly fat. Scenario 2 took 18 weeks to lose 30 pounds, almost 4 times as long but this person was able to lose 12 percent body fat and 30 pounds of fat in that time.

Feel free to comment or ask questions. Any involvement would be greatly appreciated.

Ask the trainer, “Treadmil or Bike or Elliptical”

Question: I recently started going back to the gym and would like to know which machine provides the best workout, the treadmill, bike, elliptical or the Stepper?

Answer: This is actually a very common question which has both a simple and¬†more complex answers. The simple answer is no, there isn’t a difference but that answer still comes with a * next to it. A lot is going to depend on a person’s goals as well as their physical condition and this is where the complexity comes into play. If the goal is simply burning calories, then there is no real difference. If you work out with your heart rate at 150 on a treadmill, you will burn the same amount of calories as if you did it on a bike or a stepper. It’s not the machine but the intensity level that matters and here is where it can get a bit complicated. A treadmill is great because you can’t really cheat. When a speed is set, you must keep up with it so you can get your heart rate up quickly and keep it there. On an elliptical or a bike, you can adjust the pace more easily than a treadmill so a person has to be really motivated and push themselves to reach the desired intensity level that they want. The stepper is somewhere in between as you can cheat a little bit but the stepper focuses so much on the legs that sometimes the legs will fatigue prior to reaching the desired time commitment.

A person’s physical condition also plays a role in deciding the right piece of equipment. Someone with knee or hip problems will probably be better suited using an elliptical as it provides an impact free workout when compared to a treadmill. A person with severe calf pain will likely not want to use the stepper as it will exacerbate the problem. If there are no physical injuries then take goals into account. If you are looking to build leg power then a stepper of treadmill will be best. If you are going to run a marathon then a treadmill is probably best and the same can go if you plan on a biking vacation. If there isn’t a set goal then it really comes down to personal preference. At the end of the day, fitness is a significant portion mental and if you don’t like a particular piece of equipment, you are going to be unlikely to keep it up. Just make sure that you are able to keep your heart rate up and you’ll be fine.

Treadmill: It’s high impact so it’s not good for those with joint pain or injuries. It’s the most functional of the machines because it mimics a real life movement. Hard to cheat with a treadmill so most people find it to be more intense than the others.

Bike: Low impact and the resistance can be adjusted. It can be easy to fall into a comfort zone so a person needs to push him or herself a little when using it. Safe on the joints. Lower body focused so fatigue in the legs is a possibility.

Elliptical: A great total body machine. Very low impact for people with joint problems. Very easy to fall into a comfort zone so like the bike, proper motivation is required to get a good workout.

Stair master: Very lower body focused to it’s possible to fatigue quickly. Can be very intense to it’s great for intervals but it’s hard to sustain an intense level for 30-45 minutes. Not good for people with lower leg tightness or hip problems.

Weekly Exercise Journal 3

Diet: This weeks goal was to build back some structure to my diet. Due to my hectic schedule, I’m constantly eating on the go which is a waste of money and way too many calories. This week was about going back to basics for me. I made a trip to trader¬†Joe’s and got a ton of food. I prepared ground turkey, chicken breasts as well as sliced steak. I also got tons of fruits and healthy snacks. I’m making sure to have something to eat every 3-4 hours and for me I’m munching on whatever is in my refridgerator. I’ve been able to keep to it this week.

Exercise:The focus this week was to include some cardio. I was happy with the frequency last week but strength training is not enough. My goal this week was simple, one 1.5 mile run.


Weight- 175 (-3)

Bodyfat- 9.4 (0)

Journal: I absolutely hate running, it’s the bane of my existence. It must be a combination of thngs for me. First of all, I have asthma so I get short of breath quickly but that’s not a real excuse as I have no problem playing basketball for hours or sparring for 5 rounds. Second is after about 5 minutes of running, my body starts to itch sometimes violently. I’ve read articles about this being a medical condition but sometimes I think that it’s my mind messing with me because of my hatred of running. Finally, running is just boring and I don’t have the attention span to keep it up for an extended period. Even with all of these reasons not to do it, I realize that if I want to lose the weight quickly, I’m going to have to suck it up and run. This week I set a modest goal of 1.5 miles. I decided to do it outside as it was a nice day so I took my ipod, put on a sweatshirt, shorts and went out. About .5 miles into the run, the itching began and I started to feel winded. I was very much inclined to quit right on the spot. A minute later the itching got more intense and I could sense that I was mentally starting to give up. I had reached to proverbial fork in the road, I was either going to quit and likely not run again or I was going to push through and get past this barrier. I decided to put on my favorite song (Rosetta Stoned by Tool) put my head down and made the decision to push through. I made the 1.5 miles and hated every minute of it but in the end I was very proud of that accomplishment. It was a big moment for me to finish that run and I’m more excited than ever about what the future holds for me.


Please feel free to comment. Thanks for reading.

Exercise of the week: Calf Circles

Calf circles

Muscles used
Tibialis anterior (primary)

Exercise type
Posture/ correctiveflexd_leg-53

Why are they good?

Calf circles are a very simple but effective exercise. Often times a person will feel pain in the front of their lower leg by the shins. This usually happens after beginning a running program or a longer/ faster than usual walk. People usually refer to this as “shin splints” but this is often not the case. The real culprit is an imbalance between the calves on the back of the leg and the tibialis anterior on the front. Most of us, especially those that play jumping sports and those that wear heals, have overly tight calves. This causes the tibialis anterior to grow underdeveloped. When the tibialis anterior is overworked, we will end up feeling pain and soreness. This exercise is a great way to develop the muscle.

The start
Begin by positioning yourself like the first picture. Lie on your back and pull one leg towards your chest

The movement (a)
Following the second picture, you are going to perform foot circles in one direction. Make sure to go through as full a range of motion as you can. Once you have completed 15-20, move on to the next step.

Movement (b)rm-03
Now you are going to perform foot circles in the opposite direction. Again, go through as complete a range as you can. After 15-20, move on to the final portion.

Movement (c)
The final movement will be to dorsi flex and plantar flex the foot. This means that you are going to flex your foot as much as you can and then extend the foot as far as you can by pointing the toes. Alternate between the two for 15-20 reps each and then switch legs.

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