Life is a Bell curve


As I am about to come up on my first full year without school I began to notice a lot in the world. The biggest thing I have notice is that the bell curve still applies to just about everything. The one topic in particular is the abilities of trainers. I have had the chance to visit and talk to many trainers from different walks of life. Each bring something unique to the table. But i still notice that even in the same facility trainers will still stay true to the bell curve. I find that trainers that share the same certifications will have completely different skill levels when dealing with clients. I see one trainer who walks his clients from machine to machine and basically becomes a human rep counter. The other will take a similar client and teach them how to use free weights. I can’t say which is wrong or right because sometimes you won’t be able to do a lot of exercises due to limitations(personally lean towards teaching clients how to move properly). How can a professional who have the same certifications perform exercises that are detrimental to their client. I guess I haven’t been in the business long enough to understand why those trainer decide that it’s important to take their clients money like that. I guess it shocks me because I expect better from professionals in this field but I guess people will always fall under the bell curve.

What is Functional Training?


It’s been a while since I have last written Life has taken control but it is starting to calm down a little bit.  What comes to mind when you hear the term Functional Training.  Most people will think about balancing on Bosu balls or balance boards while performing exercises to force people to adjust to every shifting environment. You also may think of Crossfit in which it is randomized workouts so that everyday is something different so that you will be prepared for anything that you may come across in your life.  I am still young in my career to determine say whether one is better than the other. My interpretation of Functional Training is looking at Human Anatomy and develop a program to help  those muscle perform there function better. That can include Strength training, power training,  flexibility and mobility work.

Strength Training
Strength is very important  if muscles are not strong enough to resist gravity I can bet you will have a hard time in life. If your legs can’t support your own body weight your will have a difficult time in life. Think about all that you do with your legs. If you can squat then it will be very difficult to get in and out of cars, chairs, off the ground. Sometime there are imbalances between muscle group. An example is an imbalance between chest to upper back strength. Most people are able to bench press a lot more than they can pull.  When you have a great imbalance between muscle groups you are more susceptible to injury.  Strength training is very important to make sure your body is strong enough to propel itself and to resist gravity. When muscles are strong you will decrease the chance of injury.

 

Power Training
Power Training is very important in everybody. As you age strength will decrease. Whats even worse a person’s ability to produce power decrease more than their strength.  What is an everyday power exercise that everyone does daily? It is very simple getting out of a chair.  Sit in your chair and try to get out of it slowly without using your arms to help you up. I bet that it was impossible( if you were able to do it then either your cheated or you’re a beast and you must post a video of you doing it).  A power movement can be anything from Olympic lifts, Box Jumps, Bounds, Kettle bell swings, skipping, Anything that forces your body to move quickly. If you perform a power exercise daily you will feel a lot better.  Power is defined by Force x Distance / Time  or Work/Time. It is creating a force in the shortest amount of time possible.

Flexibility and Mobility
Picture yourself as stiff as you have ever been. I can bet you felt awful.  Now think that some people bodies are like that all the time. If you take those people and you stretch and work on their joint mobility(ankles, hips, and thoracic spine) They will have a new lease on life.  Make joints that are supposed to be mobile move  and that will allow the other joints to perform their jobs better.  Also working on connective tissue length as will also help with flexibility and mobility of those joints.  Foam Rolling  and Mobility exercises to help increase Joint range of motion are vital.  A rule of thumb for how many decades you are alive that’s how many days of mobility  work you need a week.

Functional training does not have to be some super creative outlandish exercises just try to make people strong enough to resist gravity, develop power, and have as much range of motion as possible in their joints. It is very simple. Do those things and you will change people lives.

My top 5 Core exercises


To add to my list of favorite exercises I will go ahead and name my Top 5 favorite exercise for the “Core” All the exercise may incorporate the entire body which is fine because you can’t move your body without the core being involved one way or another. Most of these exercises I still use because they will help keep me strong and flexible for the rest of time.

5). Single leg sit-up
The single leg sit-up is a regression to the very popular Turkish get-up This is a great exercise that can hit your Core and both sides can be worked evenly. It is an exercise that can easily be loaded and when loaded help turn the exercise into a great shoulder stability exercise as well. It is a fantastic exercise that needs little set up just get in the traditional Sit up position on the floor. Extend one leg straight and perform sit ups. Did I mention that the 1 leg sit-up is also safer on your lower back? With one leg extended it causes people not to round the lower back which take a lot of shearing force off of the disk which protects your spine.

4).Suitcase Carries

Suitcase carries is the Farmer walks city slicker cousin. Instead of walking with two weights just grab one weight. Now the goal is to walk in a straight line( at least 20 yards) and keep your shoulder square and try not to lean.  Keeping yourself up right will be more than enough to wake up those obliques.  Not to mention there is a dynamic implementation when you walk. If you ever wanted to learn how to brace your core try a farmer walk. It is an exercise that teaches you how to perform it correctly while performing the exercise.

3). Turkish Get-up

I mention the single leg sit-up as the regression for the Turkish get-up. The Turkish get-up is not an exercise your want to play around with.  This is exercise should honestly come with an instruction manual. This exercise will remind you how awful it can be to get up off the ground.  But doing this exercise will show you your weaknesses and help strengthen them at the same time.  If you wrestle, judo, ju-jitsu, or any other martial arts this is the exercise for you. I think all contact sports need to incorporate a Turkish get-up.  Fantastic exercise give a shot.
2). Med ball Tosses( all directions) 
Get exercise for thrower, golfers, fighters,  and just about all sports.  This exercise can also be used to work on power in athletes. There are so many variations but it teaches you how to generate power from your hips up through the mid section and out through your arms.  It keeps emphasizing that kinetic chain. How to transfer energy created from your legs and move it through your abdomen to your arms. If your core is weak you will lose a lot of power throughout the movement. I prefer if you can throw the ball against. So I can throw the ball without worrying about injuring another person.

1). Planks (Front, Side, and all other variations)

Planks are a simple exercise to train your abdominal, hips, and shoulders. Just get in a push up position on your elbows. Keep your body in a straight line from head to toe. Hold that position like your life depends on it. Very good exercise to work your core correctly which to make a stable platform in which you can move your limbs from. Very simple with lots of variations. This is a must include exercise. If you’re able to hold for at least a minute you are doing big things. If you can’t then… get to work.

Top 5 Favorite Upperbody exercises


These are my top 5 upper body exercises. In my experience lifting I have done several different exercises and out of all of them these exercises come to my mind first. Now I did include some back exercises but that is fine because it’s my list.

5) 1-arm Dumbbell Bench Press
This exercise is fairly new to my inventory of exercises but I love it no less. Grab a dumbbell( just one dumbbell) grab a bench and push away with one arm. This is a great horizontal pushing exercise that will force you to embrace your abdominal and force you to make a solid platform so that you can push the weight up. If you don’t believe me then  give it a try yourself( you may want to drop the weight some)

4) Pull ups/ Chin ups 
I think this exercises is one of the best exercise you can perform in the gym. It is a great back and lats and even bicep exercise I you want to help develop you back strength then you should try to incorporate pull-ups and chin ups into your program. I can tell you that I am terrible at pull-ups but I try to do a set every time I go to the gym because I know it will make me better.

3) Inverted Rows 
I did not start perform rows until I got to college but none the less it is a fantastic back exercise to work your traps and posterior deltoid   If you can’t do pull ups/chin ups this is a great exercise to help strengthen your back. It is a very simple set up have a bar rack  just outside your arm reach while laying on the floor. Grab bar  and pull your chest to the bar. It’s a reverse push-up if you think about it.

2). Standing/Kneeling Cable bench press
A great exercise that I personally think will translate better to life situations. Most of the time we are pushing an object standing up. Your legs and torso will have to create a stable platform from which you are able push-off from with your upper body.  Not every one has a fancy cable machine but if you have resistance bands that will be just as good.  Fantastic exercise usually causes me to cramp(charlie horse whatever you call it) due to how hard I have to brace. Less than half you weight is a good starting point for this exercise.  You can do this exercise standing, Tall kneeling(both knees) or 1/2 kneeling.  I recommend 1 arm at a time.

1) Standing Military Press
If you want to get strong then do Standing Military press.  Don’t do Military presses sitting down because they basically become a high incline bench press when you’re fatigued. Do them standing and you feel a huge difference on how much is involved to push weight above your head.  This is my favorite exercise to do It will strengthen your shoulders, upper chest, triceps, Traps abdominal, just about everything. They are a pain in the butt. If you are having problem with benching then start doing Military presses and that should help you improve your bench dramatically.
Honorable mentions
Curl to shoulder press
Barbell Bent over rows
Dumbbell Bent over rows
3-ways shoulder raises
Push ups

My Favorite Lower Body Exercises


I have been exercising for a majority of my life and throughout my time in gym I have been partial  to a few exercises. When I see those exercises on my program I get excited like a young teenage girl about to see Hunger games.  So in the Post I want to show My 5 favorite Lower body exercise I recommend given them a try if you haven’t already.

5. Back Squat/Front Squats
 I truly believe that this exercise will withstand the test of time. This is the basic exercise to build strength in your lower limbs.  I usually only go to 90 degrees( upper thigh parallel to floor) but I have at one period of time squat ATG(Ass to Grass).  There is a big myth that squats are bad for your knees but I haven’t had any problem with knees. Having a strong lower body will greatly improve the quality of your life.  I was first introduced to back squats in the 8th grade. I had a very good strength coach who taught me great technique and it was easy for me to do.  If you don’t squat you should think about incorporating them into your program.

4. Trap Bar Deadlift
The Trap Bar Deadlift is a variation of the traditional dead lift which is a great exercise to develop the Posterior chain of the body( Hamstring, Glutes Back extensors). The hex bar is move of a manly hula hoop  that you can add weight to. The trap bar dead lift is supposed to be more back  friend rather than traditional dead lifts. Because the back level is shorter than traditional deadlift. Professionals are now starting to consider the Trap Bar Dead lift and hybrid exercise due to the amount of knee flexion compared to traditional deadlifts.  Great exercise I completely recommend it.

3. Walking Lunges
I have always hated walking Lunges because I would almost without fail be very sore the next day.  It is a very dynamic exercise That requires power, stability, strength. If you want a great lower body exercise walking lunges. Sometimes I still have flash back from the first time I perform walking lunges properly. I couldn’t sit right for a week.

2. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats
RFESS  also known as the Bulgarian(Romanian whatever country) split squats.  I used to perform this exercise as a supplement exercise for my legs. Up until early 2011  I was learned that you can also perform this exercise pretty heavy not to mention there is a huge stability component of this exercise. I found that you can work you legs just as hard if not harder than the back squats without putting too much weight on your back. The limiting factor in the back squat is not your legs. It is your back you’re only able to squat as much weight as your back will allow.   But by going to single leg you can load up more weight on your body one leg at a time.  When I first started performing RFESS I was working with  135 lbs on my back and honestly it was kicking my butt. Now I can do 205 lbs comfortably and I noticed that my legs feel stronger than they have in years.

1. Pistol Squats 

I take pride in my leg strength it was something that I was naturally good at and I worked hard at trying to improve. In college I was able to squat 565lbs. I was a beast but when we got a new strength coach he felt my squat was strong enough in the bilateral since but he wanted see how strong we were unilaterally. So he started incorporating pistol squats and Single leg Dead lifts The first day I tried to do a pistol squat I could not go anywhere near parallel. It was unbelievable. How can a person with a 500 lbs squat barely perform an average pistol squat. It made me angry but at the same time open up my eyes as to how strength is relative to your goals. I see power lifters throwing up huge numbers. I see body weight people able to perform muscles ups and Full ATG Pistol squats it is truly amazing to how the body can adapt to stimulus.

Honorable mentions
Single leg Straight leg Deadlifts
Stability ball Leg Curls
Hip Thrusters
Traditional Dead lifts.

Forward Lunge vs Reverse Lunge


Now this is a little issue that has been on my mind for about the last week or so. The forward lunge vs the Reverse lunge. Two exercises that look very similar on the surface but target different muscles in the legs. Now if you were to tell someone  they will look at you like you’re crazy. IT is the same motion just one stepping forward the other stepping backwards.  But lets look at in-depth

Forward Lunge
 The Forward lunge from a standing position you want to step forward which will cause center of gravity to go forward as well when your front foot hits the ground your glutes, Hamstring, and quadriceps will contract eccentrically to slow your momentum hip stabilizers will fire to keep the knee in line.  As you descend down you will get more glutes and hamstring activation especially if you are pushing through your arch to heel on your front foot. Towards the bottom end of the movement you will get more glutes  and hamstring activation. On the concentric portion of the movement most of the work is through quadriceps. The last bit of the movement is knee extension. Think about when you’re doing dynamic lunges(alternating lunges) you have to kick a little with your front leg to get you back to the standing position. What major muscles are responsible for knee extension? The answer is quadriceps.  Many people usually don’t go the full range of motion in the Lunge and that is why they really feel the burn in the quads because they stay in the range were quad activation in greater. Even in the picture I believe the woman can go even further down and have her back knee touch the ground.  Front Lunges will target your quads better than Reverse lunges.

Reverse Lunges
 Lets take a look at the Reverse Lunge it start the same way as the Front long instead of stepping forward you take a step backwards.  First thing you notice is that you body starts to move in reverse. Second thing you notice is that it is a slightly slower movement. Let think about it for a second with the forward lunge you are shifting the weight from the back leg to the front. In the reverse lunge the weight doesn’t shift in the beginning instead the support leg( the leg that did not step back) has to control your body weight and lower you through the motion. As you lower yourself though the motion your glutes and hamstrings are engage immediately  to help lower yourself down.  You lower until your knee touches the ground then you stand back up. The up motion is completely different from the front lunge  The front lunge ended up being a pushing motion. The reverse lunge on the way back up is a pulling motion through the hip.  You are pulling yourself forward, it basically the same motion when your running and walk.  Hip extension is controlled by the glutes and Hamstrings.  Some people will argue that you push-off the back the back leg to get forward. Yes there is some help with a push to help get your momentum forward but I will argue that your hips are more involved in a reverse lunge than the front lunge. Why do you think women who want to tone they hips and buttocks do reverse lunges over front lunges.  IF you still don’t believe me grab some dumbbells and do a couple of sets of reverse lunges and tell me what hurts 2 days later. I bet it will be your glutes.

Conclusion

If you’re trying to make a decision between forward and reverse lunges it will depend on what muscles(movements) you’re trying to target.  If you’re going for a knee dominate  quadriceps movement go with the Forward lunge. If you are looking more Posterior chain movement then I suggest the Reverse lunge  it will hit your hamstring and glutes more.

Random thought about Health and Fitness


Random thoughts this is what I’ve been thinking about in the last week or so.

My girlfriend has posed a question last week that got me thinking. She asked why there isn’t any uniform or standard that all fitness and health professionals agree upon. For example a doctor will tell a person they need to go for a walk occasionally. While a fitness professional will say that walking will do little to nothing to improve your health. Why is that? Couldn’t all the professionals come together and agree upon a standard that all people follow. I was thinking that would be way too difficult because the definition for fitness or being healthy is subjective.  There are many people who believe that being able to run  10+ plus miles as being in shape. Others believe that being able lift double your body weight in different exercises is a sign of being in shape. I personally consider being in shape doing being able to perform in my sport without problem. With so many definitions of Fitness it is hard to develop a standard without conflicts with another group.  If I had a choice between cardiovascular exercises and resistance exercises. I would choose resistance exercises. Others would choose cardiovascular exercise. Is there anything wrong with either choose? I don’t think so people will argue. I think if you are in good health if you’re able to perform daily activities without problem.
Another problem is that there are several different certifications that you can find throughout the world each certifications have different recommendations, and standards of practice.   The major Personal trainer certifications are ACE, NASM, ACSM, NSCA, NCSF, NFPT, NESTA, and IFPA.  8 different certifications that are recognized in the United States alone what about the international companies. Each of the companies have different standard and practices. Not to mention there are several other major certifications that do not fall into those 8 groups as well. Not to mention people go to universities to study Exercise science,  and Kinesiology. It is honestly pretty ridiculous because for all these groups to come together to come up with a standard is most likely not happening.

Are you afraid of Failure


This is something that has been on my mind for a while.  No one wants to fail in life or anything in that matter. In the fitness word you always being tested whether it’s the stepping on the scale. Getting timed in running drills and/or distances. Finding out how much weight you can move in a certain exercise.  I think when it comes to Health and Fitness I think failure is associated with a limit.  When you find out your max on a squat it now becomes a definitive number to how much force you can apply in that exercise( if it’s you true max). That means if we load the bar with 10 more lbs you will not be able to lift the bar and you fail at the lift.  The interesting concept with that is When it comes to strength you can improve. Speed and agility will plateau out. That is why you always see people in power lifting and bodybuilding always putting up outrageous numbers. It just that the body can take so much stress and strain from lifting for years and years.  But people should not be afraid of failure. Like today I was doing my conditioning program running hill sprints on the treadmill( 10% elevation at 10 mph 20 seconds sprints followed by 40 sec rest) my goal was to do 12 sprints I could only do 11 before I called it quits. I failed to complete my workout. Most people would probably consider myself a failure, but I look at it as an opportunity to learn how my body reacts to certain exercises and how to better prepare myself to make sure I am able to reach new PRs in my workouts.  You learn more from failure than you do from success.  So embrace failures in your life as an opportunity to learn something new.

How to pick a personal trainer


I have seen a lot of trainers I have seen some good trainers and some bad trainers. I will give a list to help you pick the good from the bad. This is all my own opinion so take it as it is.

1. Overweight personal trainer
If your personal trainer has a gut or is overweight you may want to consider picking a new trainer. If there philosophies on exercise has not helped them get in shape.

Ideal fitness leader
she follows her own advise

How can they help someone else. Yes this may seem a little shallow and you should not judge someone by how they look if they were serious about there jobs or had a passion to help people get better they would be in good shape themselves.  Would you allow someone who is broke to manage your money?

2. They Bosu ball people to deathIs he really using 8lb weights
IF your watching a trainer train a client and they use the Bosu Ball/balance board like its the cure for all diseases. It will be time to find a new trainer.  I don’t know where this crazy for unstable ground training came from but the general population does need to use bosu ball for every exercise.  Train on the surface in which you live or perform on. It is very simple. I have send countless people standing on a bosu ball shaking trying to perform bicep curls with 8lb weights.  The bosu ball makes people think that they are working harder than they really are. Especially when people are doing simple movements like curls or partial squats

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Machine weights
If a personal trainer has taken your money and promptly walks you over to the machine weights just kindly ask for your money back. Machine weights for the most part are idiot proof.  Look at the picture guide select your weight and perform Do you really need someone to show how to use these machinesthe guided movement in the machine. If most of you workout consist of weight machines then ask for your money back. I believe that trainers need to not only show you a proper work out program but also teach you skills with using free weights as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Don’t advocate good technique
If your trainer does not mind keep reminding to have good technique when performing an exercise then they don’t really care.  I have seen many personal trainers what clients perform partial squats.  Teach people to go full range of motion or make sure they are doing an exercise proper and safely. If they can’t perform full squats on a bosu ball have them do it on the ground it is plan and simple.

Still did not reach full range of motion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Still perform sit ups and crunches
This is relatively new but none the less if your personal trainer is keeping up with the current research  they would know that sit ups and crunches cause more problems to the lumbar vertebrae. So why are they still subjecting their clients to this torture. There are several other ways to Strengthen the core muscles. You have planks, med ball tosses, farmer walks, suitcase carries x band walks, Pallof presses, land mines and etc. These exercise are more friendly on your spine and get better results than crunches and sit ups.

In conclusion if your personal trainer is overweight, makes you use the bosu ball and Machine weights for a lot of your exercises, doesn’t advocate good technique and is still making you perform good sit ups and crunches its time for you to find a new trainer or a new gym in entirety.

Tough Mudder essentials


I will keep this short and sweet. I have done two mud runs one 5.5 miles in the Fall( in South Carolina) and a 12 mile tough mudder in the Winter( in Georgia). From those two runs I have learned a lot and if you want some advise on clothing and what too bring I will list it out for you.

1. Gloves– A good pair of gloves is essential. During the winter time they will keep your hands warm. Warm hands function better than cold hands. Also they protect your hands from splinters or little nicks and cuts that can occur.

2. Plan for the worst weather and hope for the Best In cold weather make sure that you minus another 10 – 15 degrees for wind and water obstacles. You may think that you will be warm from running but submerging your body in cold will cause your core body temperature to drop so keep that in my  I recommend some long sleeve shirts and or long tights to wear. Not only will they help you stay warm they will help protect form cuts.

3.  Bring at least two towels and simple clothes to change into after the race.  In both races afterwards they had a designated area to change clothes and the ground was so muddy that it was difficult to stand or they had gravel which was painful to stand on barefoot. Bring an extra towel one to dry off  the other to use as a mat to change on. It will make everything a lot easier.

4. Have family/Friends members carry water and meet you at certain parts of the race to give you nourishment and or water. Some races provide bananas and other snacks but if you have a picky stomach its best to stay with snacks that you are familiar with and have family or friends meet you at certain obstacles to provide you with those snacks. In one mud run the provided water but they ran out during my wave( I ran at a later start wave).

5. Shoes with wide/deep Tread  this is important as you run up and down through the nature trails remember after water obstacles the trails will be come slick. If you have low tread on shoes they will be packed with mud and become very slick. It will be similar to driving a car with slick tires on ice.

Shoes with good tread

6.  Practice running up and down hills. When preparing for a mud run make sure to get some hill running training because that is what you will be doing unless you are in the middle of nowhere.

7.  A watch – this is optional but for me it helped keep me on track and on pace. The first one I ran I didn’t have a watch and I lost track of time the second one it was a lot better but that is based on preference

8. Have Fun – When in doubt keep your spirits positive and you will have a great time. IF you didn’t have teammates before the run you will afterwards be positive and help others.