Target Zones: Training the Shoulders

Aesthetically speaking, the shoulders can be a very underrated muscle to work. People always talk about having a nice chest or big arms but in my opinion nice shoulders will make the upper body look much better.

The shoulder is a very complicated area consisting of a lot of muscles. Within that one joint you have the 4 rotator cuff muscles and the chest an lats also insert in that area. The large muscle that we generally refer to when discussing the shoulders consists of 3 heads, the frontal, medial and lateral heads. It is important to understand this when working out the shoulders.

The first thing to take into account is that she shoulder joint is a very complex joint which assists in just about every upper body movement. Because of this, it serves many different and sometimes conflicting purposes. For this reason, it’s always important to exercise safely when working on the shoulders.

As I mentioned before, the shoulder joint is the home to the rotator cuff muscles, which rotate the arm internally and externally as well as assist in stabilizing the joint. I like to begin a shoulder workout by working (lightly) on the rotator cuff muscles as a way of reinforcing my shoulders stability for the heavier lifting.

The deltoids consist of 3 heads, the frontal (located on the front of the shoulder), the medial (located on the middle of the shoulder) and the lateral (located on the back of the shoulder) heads. In order to fully develop the shoulder one would need to work all three. Front raises are great for the frontal head. Lateral raises and upright rows are great for the medial head. Rear delt flys and reverse pec dec flys are great for the lateral head. Exercises like shoulder presses are also very effective because they require all three muscles working together as well as assistance from the rotator cuff muscles.

When training the shoulders, it’s important to look at it as a complicated joint which needs it’s parts worked both individually as well as together to get the best results.

Weekly fitness Journal

As I planned way back in March, I finally began training at the Wat in September and I’m now a month into it. Training has been great so far. As someone new to training with a group, I started by taking the beginner classes and they have been very challenging. Kru Phil Nurse personally teaches the total beginner classes and there is a real mix of skill levels in the class. After a week or so I started taking the beginner- intermediate classes and have definitely noticed that I am playing catch up with the more experienced people.

Though I have a ways to go, I have noticed my running is really paying off. My conditioning is far better in the classes than I would have expected. I always feel fresh and ready to go which has been a big bonus. I’m really excited, already in a month I have noticed significant progress.

Workouts
Since I’m now taking Muay Thai classes 4-5 times a week, my running has tapered off a bit. I’m running 3-4 days a week. I work out with weights about 2-3 days a week.

Exercise of the week: Jackknife

The Jackknife is a great abdominal exercise which requires a good amount of strength to perform.

Muscles used: rectus abdominus, psoas, obliques

Start: you should be lying supine (on your back) on a mat. The arms should be extended behind you and on the floor and the legs should be fully extended and together.

jackMovement: the movement consists of two movements performed together. Part one is to curl your upper body up with your arms guiding the body through the movement. You should only need to curl up a couple of inches off of the ground. (a common mistake is to sit up too high, be careful of that)
Part two of the movement is to simultaneously lift the legs up in the air. Keep the knees as straight as possible. Attempt to touch your toes, ankles or knees.

After touching, go back to the starting position and repeat.

Weekly fitness journal

So it’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks both in my business and personal lives. Add to it the pressure of making weight and I had a pretty stressful week. The goal for the past 2 weeks was basically to get my weight to 160 by the time of the photo shoot. Fortunately, I was able to make weight an the pictures came out great. We haven’t finished deciding which pictures to use but here is an example of what came out of the shoot.

Diet: With it being two weeks out and my weight at 169, I basically went to a no carb diet. As I have mentioned in the past, no carb diets are not good unless you have a specific date in mind and you understand that you will put the weight back on once you introduce carbs. Once I got to about a week out, I started to eat very low calories which meant no carbs, and very low fat. I also drank a lot of coffee to help boost the metabolism and give me some energy.

Sample diet:

Breakfast- Coffee and 2 hard boiled eggs.

Snack- Chicken Breast

Lunch- Turkey Chilli

Pre workout- Coffee and oatmeal

Dinner- Ground Turkey

Exercise
The exercise pretty much stayed the same for me. With re focus being weight loss, I was focused on cardiovascular workouts. In the days leading up to the shoot, I did focus more on workouts that would give me more of a pump.

Results:

I made the weight. I was at 160 lbs for the photo shoot so that was a 25 lb drop over the past 6 weeks. I will be updating the website with those photos over the weekend so be on the lookout.

Journal entry:
Strangely enough, the last two weeks were not as bad as I had anticipated. When I took a look back at my diet, in shocked that I was able to manage. I really had no bad urges and never felt too hungry. Even on the last day when all I had was some mixed veggies and tuna, I was perfectly fine. I guess it’s because I can get very focused on the task at hand and the hunger becomes a very minor thing for me. I was very happy with the result. The photographer was awesome and we got some really cool shots. It was definitely worth the struggle. I was also able to celebrate that night by going to my favorite Brazilian Steakhouse and I ate like a monster.
The next step for me is to work on a new goal and to keep moving forward. I’m happy with where I’m at now butbi need to fight against complaciency so there is a real need to determine a new goal and work towards it. Thanks for reading.

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.

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.

Ask the Trainer: “Tone up without building too much muscle”

Question: “I am a woman and would like to tone up my arms without bulking up. Is there a way to build lean muscle without getting too big?”

Answer:  This is a great question which I am asked frequently. There are many misconceptions regarding women strength training and hopefully I can clear those up while answering this question. First, in order to answer this question, it is important that you understand what muscle tone really is. Simply put, muscle tone is the activation level of a given muscle while at rest. Even when we are not exercising, our muscles are active on some level, the more a muscle is trained and used, the greater the activation level. This level of activation, combined with  low bodyfat will result in the muscles appearing more defined or “toned.”

The second thing to note is the idea that there is a difference between lean muscle and bulky muscles. In reality, muscle tissue is muscle tissue and there is no way to train a muscle to become longer and leaner, your body will dictate how a muscle developes, this is in your DNA and there is no way to change that.

Now that we have those two things out of the way, I can better answer your question. In order to build muscle, we need a combination of resistance training and testosterone. Women don’t have the level of testosterone that men have so it’s very hard for a woman to put on a lot of muscle. Obviously this isn’t the case for everyone but generally, you won’t have to worry about putting on too much muscle.

In order to have “toned” arms, you will need to train with weights in order to build some muscle on the arms and again, you will likely not put on excessive muscle. Secondly. you will want to lose bodyfat. The lower the bodyfat, the more your lean muscle tissue will show. Cardiovascular activity along with a low fat diet will assist in dropping the bodyfat.

The combination of exercise and diet will assist you in becoming more toned but if you want to take it to the next level then here is a great way. Train like an athlete! Athletes are toned because their bodies are trained to react immediately, powerfully and explosively. If you are healthy enough, I incorporating a lot of explosive movements, powerlifting movements, bodyweight exercises and high intensity work. This level of training will increase the activation levels of your muscles and you will look far more defined.

Hope this helps.

Exercise of the Week (Single Leg Squat)

leg_dum-173The single leg squat is a great exercise which is effective in many ways. It’s a great exercise for the glutes as well as the quadriceps and there is a huge balance element which is great for your core as well as coordination.

The Setup

Start by Standing with the feet together. This can be done with or without weights but either way, keep your hands at your sides. Lift one leg off of the ground and kick tha leg back at the hip.

The Movement

Brace your abs and slowly sit back into a squat. Make sure to lean forward at the hip and keep your foot flat on the floor. Once you reach a comfortable depth, drive up through your heels and press back up. Try not to let the raised leg touch the ground until you finish your desired number of repetitions.

This is a great exercise and if you have trouble balancing throughout, don’t be discouraged, it takes time to build the balance.

Ask the Trainer #2 “Correct an imbalance…”

Question: “My left shoulder and chest have a muscle imbalance. I played baseball for many
years and pitched. I naturally did a lot of exercise to build my armstrength and neglected my left arm. What solution can you give me to balance my left side muscle (shoulder/chest)?”

Answer: It is inevitable that an athlete will experience some form of muscle imbalance or another. Baseball is one of the best examples of this. Many baseball related training regiments are ancient compared to the wealth of information that we have resulting in imbalances as well as shoulder injuries. In your case, a positive sign is that you don’t have any serious injuries to the right side. Rotator cuff injuries and imbalances are very common among pitchers. Assuming that there are no injuries to worry about, balancing the two sides should not be too hard. The first thing to look at is your posture. Since you are dominant on the right side, more likely than not, your right trapezius muscle will be significantly more tense than the left side. The right side of your chest will likely be more tense with your right upper back being loose.

The first thing I would work on is making sure that both sides are balances. Work on strengthening the right side of your upper back and stretching the chest. Also work on stretching the right side of the traps as well as strengthening the left side.

Secondly, I would work on stabilization exercises for both shoulders but specifically the right side. Pitching causes some extreme flexibility and stability is very important for someone who is going to weight train.

Finally, when training with weights, I would focus on dumbbell exercises as well as cable movements as long as each arm works independently. Machine exercises and bar exercises may exasperate the problem since you may be able to compensate for the imbalance by using the stronger arm.

Following these simple tips should bring the two sides closer together. Your right side will always be a little bit stronger but that is natural. Possibly a more important issue may deal with the muscle imbalance within the right shoulder. Here is a good article discussing that topic:

http://bjsm.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/38/6/766

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