When males enter the gym they generally enter with the same mentality:to become bigger, faster, and stronger. When females enter the gym they generally enter with the mentality of becoming stronger, toner, and… fitter? In all honestly a female is very unlikely to come to a gym in hopes of becoming bigger. Many women tend to stray away from any form of resistance training for this very reason. Typical comments among women include, “I do not lift weights because I do not want to build big muscles “or “I only do cardio because if I lift weights I will get bulky and look like a man.” It is a common misconception that resistance training creates gigantic muscles. When in actuality women do not possess the necessary amount of the hormone testosterone needed to have the muscular gains comparable to that of a man.
A study conducted by The European Journal of Applied Physiology involved 20 men and 20 women who performed heavy resistance training for 30 minutes sessions (2). Hormone levels were measured both before and after weight training. Results revealed that both males and females experienced increases in testosterone levels, but males experienced a 43% higher increase than females. In other words, because a man’s body contains more testosterone, they experience greater muscle growth. So the chance of looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger is highly unlikely ladies. Need more proof? The American Physiological Society also compared the effects of strength training in men and women (1). Participants completed a 9 week long 4 days per week heavy resistance leg training program. Results concluded that men appear to have a greater capacity for muscle mass gain than women.
It’s time to hop off that bicycle, elliptical, or treadmill ladies and pick up a set of dumbbells!! Weight training builds muscle, and muscle burns fat and increases metabolism (metabolism refers to all chemical reactions that take place in our body such as digestion). Although cardiovascular exercises such as running or biking burn calories when performing the exercise, weight training burns calories during the exercise AND long after completion of the exercise! This is because muscle tissue is torn when weight lifting and repairs while resting. The repairing of muscles requires energy, and energy requires metabolism. Meaning… even when you are sleeping or watching The Bachelorette your body is still burning calories! Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it!!?? In addition to increased overall caloric burn, weight training is also great for one’s bones because it increases bone density. Resistance training also puts additional pressure on bones which stimulates the bone tissue to become denser. Increased bone density can prevent osteoporosis and fragility of bones. As women age they are at higher risk for osteoporosis.
This does not mean you need to completely give up running or biking; cardiovascular exercises definitely have great terrific for your body as well. My suggestion is to slowly incorporate strength training into your exercise routine. Preferably 3-4times a week in 30minute sessions alternating between upper and lower body exercises. If you have any questions regarding strength training or exercise concerns please feel free to leave a comment below or ask me and I will be more than willing to assist you! Also I suggest visiting GGS (Girls Gone Strong) (I DON’T KNOW HOW TO LINK THAT ADAM!), which aims to “redefine what it means to train like a girl.” This website offers how to videos, workouts, and inspirational stories about how heavy weight lifting has changed women’s lives everywhere! GIRL POWER!!
Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, stick your chest out. These are all things that we have heard when people speak about correcting bad posture. These postural cues are effective at getting people to recognize their bad postural habits, however they do not fix the weaknesses or dysfunctions in the body that cause poor posture. We can address this issue with specific exercises that can alleviate pain and lead to better overall well-being.
I myself was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis at a young age, a disorder that causes severe curvature of the spine. As a result of this disorder, I had the posture resembling the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Following surgery I focused on maintaining my corrected posture through numerous exercises and stretches. To this day my posture has improved tremendously by using some of the exercises I will share with you below.
Poor posture is typically brought on by the effects of poor daily habits that are displayed in the musculoskeletal system. These habits can include chronic sitting or staring at the computer, prolonged driving, lack of exercise, backpack use, working only your mirror muscles or an overall lack of activity. Muscles on the back side of the body are typically under worked, while muscles on the front side of the body, the mirror muscles, are overworked. As a result of these imbalances your head starts to lean forward, your shoulders round, your pecs become tight, and your hips loose alignment. Any one of these issues can force the body to compensate by recruiting other muscles, which over time can develop into larger issues and possibly even an injury.
Pain is commonly displayed in the neck, shoulders, lower back, knees and heels. Your body is programmed to avoid pain, so the body tries to regain the strength and stability that should be present from the muscles in the posterior part of the body by tightening the posterior muscles to protect the body from injury. This is one of the main reasons the majority of the population claim to have tight hamstrings and calves. If we can strengthen these muscles while increasing their flexibility, your posture will improve. Thus, the pain in problem areas will go away and your overall feeling of well-being will improve dramatically.
Pain in the neck can be attributed to lack of strength in the musculature surrounding the neck and upper back. As we sit at the desk all day, our head slowly starts to drift forward. These muscles from our neck, down to the middle portion of the back become fatigued and are not strong enough to support the head. Neck pain is typically located in the upper traps or levator scapulae, whose function is to hold the head in a upright position. Strengthening these muscles will help alleviate neck pain and allow you to maintain an upright posture.
Try these exercises to strengthen the muscles of the neck.
Weakness in the muscles that pull your shoulder blades together contribute to rounded shoulder posture. This also occurs if you train the muscles of the chest more often than the muscles of the back. By training your back muscles more often, specifically your rhomboids and lower traps, while stretching your chest muscles you can correct your rounded shoulder posture. Generally a ratio of 2 back exercises to 1 chest exercise is recommended to correct muscular imbalances.
Try these exercises to strengthen the muscles on the back side of your body.
Try these stretches for your chest
Lower back pain is a complaint that the majority of the population will have at some point in their life. This commonly occurs because the glutes and hamstrings are not strong enough to support the body and keep the pelvis in proper alignment. Weakness in the posterior chain (the muscles located on the back of the body) causes the pelvis to rotate away from a neutral position, which puts excess stress on the lower back to maintain an upright posture. If you experience lower back pain, strengthening your glutes and hamstrings will help take the stress off of the lower back by keeping the pelvis in a neutral alignment and keep your back healthy.
Do these exercises to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings
Poor posture is something that plagues us all. Life is stressful and the stress of life can manifest in your body and lead to chronic issues if your poor posture is left unchecked. Luckily the majority of postural issues can be corrected with simple exercises a couple times a week. These exercises alone will help you target the problem areas, however if you do not change your daily habits, postural issues will plague you for the rest of your life. So get up off the coach or from behind your desk and get moving, ride a bike instead of drive to work and work all the muscles of your body not just the ones you can see in the mirror. Most of all enjoy what you are doing, because if you do not find a feeling of enjoyment from exercise it will always feel like burden.
Falling off the wagon and failing to get to the gym on a regular basis is common and occurs for many reasons. They may include an approaching deadline for work, a recent injury, family commitments, or a general lack of motivation. Getting back into an effective exercise routine can be easy but it requires patience. You will be more successful starting slow and being patient than if you dive in full speed ahead with unrealistic expectations. A reference to a popular children’s story seems to help people in this situation. In the story of the tortoise and the hare, you want to be like the tortoise. He consistently worked to the best of his abilities to get to the finish line, whereas the hare whom may have been able to jump out to a larger lead out of the gate was distracted and could not consistently perform to finish the race.
Time away from the gym effects your body on many levels. First, when you stop exercising you are simple not burning off as many calories as if you are working out. Because you are burning fewer calories your body will be begin to store them as fat. Also the more time you take off from the gym the less efficient your cardiovascular system becomes at performing its function and subsequently the lower your VO2max will be. (more on this later) Because the cardiovascular system does not perform as efficient as it did in the past you can not workout as hard and gain the benefits of those efforts.
Another issue that occurs is less stored energy in your body called glycogen. Glycogen is a complex form of energy that is stored throughout the body primarily in the muscle cells and in the liver. Glycogen is one of the primary sources of fuel you use when you are exercising. Also occurring at the cellular level is a decrease in mitochondrial density within your muscles cells. The mitochondria is the power house of a cell, it produces the energy needed for the cell to carry out its specific function. A person with a higher mitochondrial density will be able to exercise longer and at a higher intensity than one with a lower density. This allows you to burn more fat and sculpt the body you are striving to achieve
All of these issues can compound and contribute to a lower fitness level once returning to the gym. Typically when returning to the gym following a layoff you may feel dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, short of breath, or a general weak feeling. These symptoms occur due to the reasons I have highlighted above. First your body has become less efficient at bringing in and using oxygen and less efficient at dispersing the byproducts of exercise: carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Lactic acid is generally associated with the burn you feel while exercising. The more you workout the more efficient your body becomes at eliminating these byproducts of exercise and subsequently you can exercise at a higher intensity longer to burn more fat. Another adaptation of exercise is the bodies ability to store glycogen more readily. Having higher storage levels of glycogen enables you to workout for longer and harder.
As I stated above, when you take time off from the gym your VO2max decreases. This is a measurement used in the exercise physiology field to describe a person’s highest level of oxygen they can use during sustained aerobic efforts. A higher VO2max is generally correlated with having a higher level of fitness. Intense exercise whether it is cardiovascular in nature or resistance training derives adaptations in your body to become more efficient. In general your body gets better at bringing oxygen to the cells and taking the carbon dioxide out. All of these adaptations allow you to exercise at a higher intensity for a longer period of time. This in turn burns more calories and helps you come leaner.
The best plan of attack to returning to the gym is to start at a lower intensity in which you can complete a specific workout. From there you can establish a baseline fitness level and progress your workouts.Workouts can progress by increasing any of the following: duration, workout intensity, and workout frequency. An effective method to progress your workout routine is by manipulating your work to rest ratio. For any given exercise you may work at a 2:1 work to rest ratio. Meaning your work for twice as long as you rest. For example, if you were performing step-ups a proper work to rest ratio would be 2:1, meaning you would perform the exercise for twice as long as you rest; thus, if you exercised for 60 seconds you would rest for 30. As you become more fit you would change the ratio to where you are working much more than you are resting. For someone returning to exercise a 1:2 ratio would be appropriate. You would then progress to 1:1 and so forth. This method can be utilized with any type of exercise whether it is resistance based or cardiovascular in nature.
Another very effective method of exercise progression is lactic threshold training. Using lactic threshold training you exercise using a progressive program that gets harder the further into the workout you get. I like to describe these workouts in terms of pushing back a curtain, an expression I learned from Juan Carlos Santana a strength and conditioning coach who trains several high level athletes. The curtain is your highest perceived level of exercise you can reach. The workouts in which you are pushing back the curtain you push yourself to the point of reaching the curtain and pushing it back slightly. Each day you push this curtain back a little further. However you do not want to break through the curtain because more than likely you will not be able to complete the workout which will not allow you to be progressive.
Returning from a layoff can be physically and mentally challenging. You return ready to work at the same intensity as you left, however your body has changed and you may not be able reach the same levels.Take it slow at first, to gauge your fitness level, and then continue to progress from there. You will be more successful than diving headfirst into the same routine expecting to pick it back up instantaneously. The most important piece of information you can take from this article is to be patient. Patience and consistent hard work will lead to the results you are looking seeking. Always remember the story of the tortoise and the hare.
Goal Setting for the New Year
As we move through the holidays, inevitably the words “New Years Resolution” will come up in conversation. It’s usually something we KNOW we need to do, but is usually synonymous with “Seems Like a Good Idea at the Time”. It’s a half-hearted attempt to accomplish something we haven’t managed to do last year so why not give it a shot in a new year? Quit Smoking, Eat More Veggies, Read More, Learn A New Language and Lose Weight are all popular Resolutions. For the purpose of this post, we’ll focus on Weight Loss as a Resolution.
The month of January is like a 5K race with a lot of unprepared racers participating. They haven’t worn the right gear, trained, hydrated or even looked at the course map. Everyone sprints out of the start feeling great, moving fast and thinking, “If the whole 5K is like this, it’s going to be a breeze!” only to realize that it’s not possible to sprint a whole 3.1 miles at the speed they’re going. They get tired, sore, out of breath, and quickly drop down to a walk and don’t accomplish what they set out to. A similar thing happens with Weight Loss Resolutions – a lot of unprepared people will likely come out of the gates on a huge high only to drop out after a few days/weeks when they realize how unready they are for the task and they fail for another year.
Fortunately there ARE ways to ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOALS. If you’re calling it a New Years Resolution, so be it, but in reality all you are doing is expressing a goal of yours for a new calendar year.
Step 1. Write It Down
Don’t say you’ll do it, write your goal down and post it on your bathroom mirror, on your car dashboard, on your computer desktop, on your phone wallpaper, and since it’s food related – ON and IN your refrigerator! You want to be constantly reminded of WHY you’re sacrificing things and WHY you need to stay the course.
Step 2. Plan
Want long-term success? PLAN for it by researching best practices and tips and preparing your life for your new goal. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll probably want to not have Oreos in the house on January 1 when you’re trying to start strong! And I’m not talking about the latest “Miracle Hollywood Pill” or any gimmick or gizmo that’s supposed to be a cure-all. Want to lose 30lbs? Find someone who has and ask them for advice.
Step 3. Set a Timeframe
Don’t just blindly plunge into it for “2012” because you’re not going to accomplish everything at once. Set up smaller 4-, 6-, or 8-week goals and use those in conjunction with Step 2. Plan each timeframe and what it will take to get the job done. Overall goal is 20lbs? Ok so in 4 weeks a reasonable weight-loss sub-goal is 8lbs.
Step 4. Tell Everyone
Seriously. Everyone. Use your friends, family, and social media to help you. If everyone knows about you wanting to lose weight, then people will hold you accountable when you want to give in. The same goes for food – use your real-life friends, online “Friends” and especially relatives. All of those people care about you so use them! If they don’t care about something that’s important to you then are they actually friends? But I digress.
Step 5. Post your progress
Facebook, Twitter etc. are all wonderful ways of mass-communicating how you’re doing. And you’ll be surprised at the snowball effect your small successes have when people congratulate you for the little things. Trying to lose 40lbs? Well if you post that you lost 4, people give you such a warm response that it is great positive reinforcement to KEEP GOING. So use your support systems!!!
Hopefully you’ve found these 5 Steps helpful in planning for success – At FX Fitness, we are in the business of helping people reach their goals. We have a wonderful 6-Week start-up package called New Year: New You so check it out and good luck in 2012!
Adults and Fat Loss
Do This, not That
Brett Klika C.S.C.S.
It has helped us humans stay alive during hard times for thousands of years, but now we have too much of it and it’s hard to get rid of. I’m talking about the extra “meat” around the middle, the “baggage” on the butt, and the “thunder” on the thighs. The battle to shed body fat is not one that youngsters need to concern themselves with. They need only to eat real food and play like kids are supposed to and they should be fine. Youngsters need fat for the maturation process. As youngsters reach the end stages of puberty and enter into adulthood, excess body fat can create a decrease in their health and quality of life. Many adults fight the battle to lose body fat as they age.
For adults, losing body fat is a matter of forcing the body to get rid of something that it perceives as necessary for survival. For thousands of years, man was err to the cycle of feast and famine. Sometimes there was plenty of food, other times there was none. Storing body fat helped man stay alive when there was no food because the stored fat could be broken down and used as energy. Only recently have we been faced with a situation in which we have an over-abundance of food. The body still thinks it needs to “save up” for when there is another famine.
Many try in vain to lose this extra “trash pile” of fat. Unfortunately, these unsuccessful, frustrated masses are basing their program on outdated or inaccurate information. Considering what we now know about fat loss, it’s surprising that so many still succumb to old, unsuccessful methods.
To replace old, ineffective methods for fat loss with an updated, scientifically proven program try the “Do this, don’t do that” approach to your exercise and nutrition outlined below.
- Do This: Resistance training
Not That: Cardio only
To burn more calories and fat, you need more lean muscle. Resistance training is how you get it. Lean muscle works like a car’s engine to use fat as fuel. If you have a small engine, it doesn’t matter how hard you do cardiovascular exercise, you can only burn so many calories. Doing whole-body, large muscle group resistance training creates a bigger lean muscle engine to burn calories and fat both while exercising and resting. Add 2-4 days of resistance training to your program every week.
- Do This: Whole-Body Metabolic Resistance Training
Not That: Body-Part Splits (chest, shoulders, triceps, etc)
Body part splits became popular with bodybuilders as they allow for focus on certain muscle groups, in addition to ample recovery days in between training. For the average adult trying to lose maximal body fat in minimal time, this program comes up short. In comes “Metabolic Resistance Training”.
Pair your exercises with opposite movements together into “supersets”. For example, you can pair a lower body exercise with an upper body exercise, an upper body exercise with a cardiovascular exercise, or a “pushing” exercise with a “pulling” exercise. Perform each exercise for 30-50 seconds, and then go to the other exercise immediately after. This type of resistance training not only aids in increasing lean muscle mass, it elevates the heart rate to burn extra fat and calories. Try this 2-3 times per week.
- Do This: Focus your time on large muscle groups
Not That: Focus your time on abs, arms, and other smaller muscle groups
Working smaller muscle groups is not “bad”. When time and fat burning efficiency is of the essence however, these smaller muscle groups do relatively little to stoke the metabolism to create more lean muscle mass or burn fat and calories.
Focus your work on the legs, chest, and back with movements that incorporate the entire body like squats, lunges deadlifts, push variations (push-ups, bench press), pull variations (pull-ups, 1-arm rows). As you will see, these exercises are much more taxing to the system and do a lot more for your fat-burning goals.
- Do This: High Intensity Cardiovascular Interval Training
Not That: Sustained Intensity “Jogging”
Again, sustained intensity cardiovascular work is not bad. It is just not as effective and efficient as high intensity work. Research has found that high intensity intervals burn the same amount of calories and fat as longer sustained bouts of activity, in about half the time! Try doing a 3 minute extremely hard, 3 minute easy cardiovascular piece for 4 cycles. In 24 minutes you’ll burn more calories than your 45 minute jog. Try to add high intensity work 2-3 times per week.
- Do This: Eat Real, Whole Food
Not That: “Fat Free” or Other Modified Food
Natural, whole foods exist to give us energy from their combination of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, and other essential components of nutrition. When humans start overly processing what we eat, the quality of that food is significantly decreased. Additionally our body needs various forms of fat to function optimally. Fats from nuts, fish, avocados, and other natural sources are essential to many metabolic functions. Eat real food and listen to your body.
Brett Klika C.S.C.S., Director of Athletics at Fitness Quest 10, is a world renowned human performance specialist, motivational speaker, author, and educator. In his 14 year career, Brett has accrued more than 20,000 hours of training with youth, athletes, executives, and every day people. He uses this knowledge and experience to motivate individuals and audiences around the world through his writing, speaking, DVD’s, and personal correspondence. To contact Brett, send correspondence to email@example.com.