Monday, June 21, 2010

Read This and Get Stiff

Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics and one of the world's foremost researchers into matters of core and back health recently published an article aimed at personal trainers that breaks down the hows and whys of core training and back health.

This week I'm using this topic for my last educational forum at Equinox, because it never ceases to amaze me the number of trainers I see having clients do set after set of crunches when I know damn well those trainers know better than that.

Yes I know people may demand "cut abs" and still buy into the broscience regarding core work. But we as fitness professionals are supposed to educate our clients, not acquiesce to something we know is counterproductive.

Back to Dr. McGill's article, he states that repeated spine flexion (crunches) are commonly believed to be a good way to train the abs. However the rectus abdominis and abdominal wall do not function optimally to bend the torso, but rather to brace the spine and transfer power from the hips to the upper torso. Or as he puts it a "elastic storage and recovery device."

In other words your six pack is used to stabilize and stiffen the spine, not flex it.

Further, Dr. McGill says that our lumbar discs can only take so many reps of flexion before injury and pain happen, so you'd better save them for tying your shoes rather than endless reps of crunches that do literally nothing for developing a strong, healthy core.

As to why some people can tolerate crunches and some can't blame your parents. We all know people that are naturally lean or strong, or those that have done crunches for 20 years with no problem. Those are the lucky few. Why keep rolling the dice and wasting your time?

This is only the tip of the informational iceberg regarding McGill's work on intelligent core training. For more info consult his latest article in the June 2010 issue of the Strength & Conditioning Journal. Also check out an audio interview and video clips here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

This Is Your Body On TV

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Diatetic Association if Americans ate only what was advertised on TV we would all end up looking like the guy to the far right above, or worse.

Results suggest that a diet consisting of observed food items would provide 2,560% of the recommended daily servings for sugars, 2,080% of the recommended daily servings for fat, 40% of the recommended daily servings for vegetables, 32% of the recommended daily servings for dairy, and 27% of the recommended daily servings for fruits.

The really scary part is that ads during Saturday morning cartoons figured prominently in the study. Is it any wonder that there is a rapidly growing obesity problem among kids?

We all know kids watch way to much TV, not to mention that Phys Ed. is becoming a rarity in schools.  That all adds up to serious health concerns such as type II diabetes becoming more common even among teens, something unheard of a couple decades ago.

Among adults the health concerns are of course no less dangerous. Diabetes, heart disease, and any number of potentially fatal issues are associated with obesity.

People are naturally influenced by what is pitched to us on TV. Advertising firms are full of very smart people that do nothing but figure out how to exploit our brains in order to get us to want what they sell.
Therefore the best option is to not watch TV. Or at least channels that do a lot of this sort of advertising.

It's funny how many people I hear say they don't have time to get in 3 hours of physical activity a week, yet can give you all the details on any number of TV shows.

The way I deal with this is to say fine, pick a few shows you like to watch but stretch or get on the foam roller while watching, and don't snack.  And that they MUST schedule regular times to exercise, as this is the only way it's likely to get done - much the same as people know when their favorite shows are on, know ahead of time when it's your time to focus on your health.

Pretty soon I notice those clients begin to like exercising more, have less stress, and of course become more fit. Funny how that works.