Thursday, January 29, 2009

How A Champ Warms Up

This coming weekend George St. Pierre, one of the best professional athletes out there in my opinion, puts his welterweight title on the line. GSP's trainer Jon Chaimbourg is one of the best in the business, in large part because he soaks up information from top fitness pros.

I got a kick out of this video of St. Pierre training because it uses some of the same movements all of my clients use. Good enough for my clients...I suppose it's good enough for a world champ ;)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fitness on Dysfunction

This past weekend I took the opportunity to attend the Perform Better training summit held in L.A.. The fitness pros PB brings in are among the best in the business and I always come away with knowledge worth it's weight in gold.

One of the themes this year appears to be using kettlebells, but that's a topic for another day.

One of the big ideas I came away with was from Gray Cook, co-creator of the Functional Movement Screen, the best way I've seen to assess a person's ability to move and stay healthy.

Gray talked about how vital it is to not put fitness on dysfunction. What this means is that if your trunk stabilizers (core) are not firing well, or if your hips are not as mobile as it should be, by continuing to push ahead you are running the risk of injury.

I'm a victim of this myself when I ignored my own stiff hips and thoracic (mid-back) tightness, which resulted in back spasms and lost days at work. Instead of fixing the issues I continued to train hard and before long - wammo. It took some Chiropractic and ART (Active Release Technique) to get me back on my feet, and I really learned a valuable lesson.

I see it all the time in the gym: A new member comes in a wants to get in shape ASAP, however their shoulders are tighter than a drum and they can't squat past parallel. What happens if this person simply started bench pressing and squatting hard is that bad movement patterns are re-enforced (putting fitness on dysfunction), and it's only a matter of time until they will have pain and be forced to back off or get injured.

Better to take a step back and fix the problems, and still get good workouts in the process, then to be forced to take 10 steps back due to injury. One of the analogies Gray used was continuing to run your car with a bad wheel - sooner or later larger problems will occur.

A poor trainer, in hopes of retaining a client, will often just keep hammering them with cool, trendy exercises while ignoring the underlying issues.

The smart trainer will begin each session with a few minutes of specific mobility work and dynamic stretching, then use exercises designed to help achieve better joint range of motion, posture, and core stability.

It doesn't take a Malcom Gladwell to figure out who will ultimately attain their goals and move without pain.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Keeping It Simple II

Recently I was catching up with some friends and we were discussing what is essential in getting fitness results. Is it programming, having a trainer or training partner, intensity, nutrition, sleep, drinking NoXplode, or all of the above?

We decided it's drinking NoXplode bro!

Just kidding. You'd be better off using that stuff to scrub the toilet.

What I've found is that a person must enjoy what they are doing. Think about it, if you don't really enjoy your activity of choice you are likely going to find excuses for skipping it, for not eating supportively, or any other factor that impacts success. Ross Enamait writes here about finding your passion, be it weightlifting, running, or anything else.

I've found that it takes some people six months or more of consistent training to begin to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Eating well, getting more activity in, and so on. But the key is sticking with it long enough to begin to see results. Often those results are self-motivating and helps get you to the next step.

Some people don't enjoy being in the gym, so go outside. Some people like cardio, some lifting heavy. Just realize that often in order to improve our performance, and how we look, we need to do things that we might not enjoy. That's just how it is. But doing those hard exercises is going to boost your performance and ultimately help you hit your goals, just like anything else in life.

If it's your diet that is holding you back then pick up a healthy cookbook, plan meals ahead, and use Calorie King to track your eating. It may not be fun (at first) but is necessary.

And when you reach the point that you look forward to exercising and the feeling you get afterward, and enjoy eating healthy, you will be there.

Now, before I get off my soapbox check out this video of Fedor Emelianenko, who is widely regarded as the best fighter on the planet. Listen to his attitude concerning training.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Use What You Got

I was catching up on some blog meat and ran across this post by Steve Maxwell, kettlebell guru, world champion Brazilian Jiujitsu player, and ultra-fit 50 year old.

In it Steve makes a good case for the importance of bodyweight training. That is no machines, barbells, or anything using external loading.

I too have found bodyweight exercises to often be the toughest for people that are either overweight, weak, or both. When someone reaches the point where they can do 10 chinups and more than 30 consecutive pushups (in good form!) then you can bet that person will not only look good, but likely have good core strength, healthy shoulders, and a strong back.

How about someone that can do a leg matrix (24 jump squats, 24 lump lunges, 24 squats, 24 lunges) in 2:30 or less? Chances are they will have strong legs and be in pretty damn good condition.

The same cannot be said for alot of guys you see in gyms benching and squatting.

So now if I may rant a bit if you happen to see someone doing pushups, chances are their form sucks, so let's lay out proper form:

The elbows should be tucked to a 45-degree angle to the body should actively “pull” himself down to the bottom position using back muscles (recruiting scapular retractors). The hips shouldn’t sag (leads to back pain), and the head/neck should be neutral, not letting your head drop forward. The chest, not the chin or hips, should touch the ground first.

At the top the arms should be straight - no significant bend in the elbow. In other words finish the movement.

Now the beauty of all this is that now you have no excuse to not train, no matter if you are traveling or don't have access to a gym. If you want to feel and look good consistent and hard effort is required. It's as simple as that.

Friday, January 9, 2009

It's A Miracle

I hope everyone's training is going well. The weather has been great and will be up in the 80's this weekend so you'll find us out in the surf or on the trails - get out there!

This post is going to be short as I want you to listen to this NPR interview with Mark Rippetoe.

I can't tell you how rare and refreshing it is to hear someone that knows what the hell they are talking about discuss fitness in the mainstream media.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A New Hope

Welcome to the New Year. I hope you all had some relaxing time off and are back and ready to hit your goals.

Yeah yeah, I know you are probably tired of all the ridiculous resolution topics we see in the media, but nevertheless goal setting is important so please bear with me.

Whether your goal is to get stronger, lose weight, improve joint health, or look better nekkid the most efficient way to do this is to think it through and come up with as specific a goal as possible. Then write it down.

If you want to lose weight then write down how many pounds of fat you will shed and by when you'll do it. Not doing this will only make it easier to cheat on your nutrition and training.

Having a concrete goal on paper makes planning a whole lot easier, both on you and your trainer *wink*. And make no mistake you do need a plan.

Have you seen all the new members wandering around your gym moving from machine to machine looking rather confused? If they don't hire a trainer or otherwise start working from a program, odds are they won't achieve much if anything and thus won't be there a few months from now. That is a fact, and one the big box gym industry banks on. This is why you see so many membership specials going on now.

But back to planning, let's say you decide you want to lose 10lbs of fat. Give yourself a timeframe, because nobody wants to keep trying to lose weight forever - it isn't much fun.

Let's be generous and give yourself until the end of February. That's roughly 8 weeks, which boils down to 1.25lbs per week. A very doable amount. In terms of nutrition 1lb equals 3,500 calories, which means that you need to burn roughly 4,375 MORE calories than you take in each week.

Break that down and you get 625 calories per day.

Now calculate your Resting Metabolic Rate. Just subtract 625 from your RMR and that is how many calories you should be taking in each day.

Of course training will impact this, so let's say you are getting in the gym twice a week do do weight training. Using a calculator will give you a rough estimate how many calories you burn, then figure that into your plan.

Though with a BIG caveat. Working at a high intensity for an hour from a program designed for fat loss will have a much bigger impact than just going in to the gym and doing some chest, arms, and abs (useless).

Figuring out your plan of action won't take any more time than reading this so what are you waiting for?

And remember to have fun in the process - exercise should be enjoyable and make you feel good.