Supplements:

Supplements! At one point or another, most of you have probably wondered or even tried various kinds of supplements to help fuel your workouts, aid in your recovery, or just help you get mad yolked swole. In any event, there’s a few things you should know before you embark on the Wild West that is the supplement industry. Supplement companies promise easy weight loss, a tight round booty, muscle mass gains beyond your wildest dreams, a big chest and arms, and a shredded six-pack – and all of this can be yours for just three easy payments of $19.95! Plus shipping and handling of course…

That moment you realize you forgot your pre-workout…

 

When it comes to supplementation, one thing needs to be understood above all else, and that is that you CAN NOT expect progress if your diet is not on point. Trying to use supplements before getting your diet in order is like trying to snatch before you can deadlift. Not very smart or effective.

Don’t be this guy

 

Enough with the sensible talk, let’s get into some supplements! Rather than try to cover the vast array of supplements available, I’m going to only focus on a few supplements that are actually backed by science, and have true value for you based on your goals.


Whey Protein Powder:

 

Whey protein powder is a protein supplement that is derived from milk. Whey is one part of milk protein, and casein is the other part. The two proteins are separated from milk by using a coagulant which gives us whey, and curds (casein). Now that we’ve got that covered, lets discuss why this stuff may be worth your hard earned dollars.

 

Why take it?

  • Whey is useful in aiding hitting your daily protein goal.
  • Whey is absorbed faster than other types of proteins, and is therefore great for increasing muscle protein synthesis (muscle protein synthesis is the driving force behind adaptive responses to exercise and represents a widely adopted proxy for gauging chronic efficacy of acute interventions).
  • Whey contains a large amount of L-cysteine, which helps aid against developing a deficiency associated with diabetes and aging.
  • Whey protein has been claimed to aid in fat loss, but it is in fact the inintake of protein itself that aids in fat loss, not just the supplement alone.
  • Whey protein does not harm the kidneys, but if you have a damaged liver or kidneys, it may exacerbate the condition. You should speak to your physician not only if you are considering supplementing with whey protein, but are considering increasing your protein intake drastically.

 

How much should I take?

So now you know the benefits of supplementing with Whey protein. Next question, how much do you need to take? Well, the science says that there is no benefit from taking in more than 0.55g of protein per pound of bodyweight. So, a 175Lb athletic male would only truly need 96g PER DAY. The minimum requirement for protein intake is 0.36g per pound of bodyweight for sedentary individuals, or 63g for a 175Lb sedentary male. None of this is set in stone, and taking more than .55g/day won’t hurt you if there is a need for it depending on your needs.


Fish Oil:

 

Ah fish oil, our stinky inflammation fighting friend. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the many benefits associated with taking fish oil. So what’s the deal, and why should you bother looking into this stuff?

 

Fish oil is really just a term used to refer to the two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fats are most typically found in fish, phytoplankton, and other animal products (Vegans, you’re out of luck there). Fish are the most abundant and cheapest source.

 

Enough science! Why would it be good for you to take this? Well, the typical American diet is terribly disproportionate in our omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid ratio. Basically, we eat a lot of eggs, meat, etc. Consuming more omega-3 fatty acids helps bring the ratio back into balance, which should be 1:1. So why is fish oil worth considering?

 

Why take it?

  • Fish oil can help reduce high levels of triglycerides in people that have elevated levels, but it can also increase cholesterol levels. So if you have cholesterol problems, consult your physician.
  • Fish oil can help decrease the risk of diabetes, and several forms of cancer – including breast cancer.
  • Fish oil has been shown to be as effective as pharmaceutical drugs in combating depression.
  • Fish oil is associated with decreasing muscle soreness (most notably – DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness).

 

How much should I take?

The recommended dose for “general health” is 250mg a day. The American Heart Association recommends 1g a day. For those of you looking to use it to reduce soreness and inflamation, 6g a day (spread out throughout the day) is the recommended dose.


Vitamin D: (Vitamin D3)


Vitamin D. This is another one you’ve probably heard plenty about. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin/nutrient, and is obtained from sunlight and food sources such as fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products. The body produces it from sunlight exposure and cholesterol.

 

Why take it?

  • Increased cognitive function
  • Immunity boosting properties
  • Bone health
  • Reduction of the risk of: Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis
  • Increased testosterone levels


Looks pretty good, right?

How much should I take?

The current RDA for Vitamin D is between 400-800IU/day. For adults, the recommended dosage is 2,000IU/day. The safe higher end dosage is set at 10,000IU/day. Dosage based on Bodyweight is set at 20-80IU/kg of bodyweight per day (1,600-6,300IU/day for a 175Lb male).

It is best taken with meals containing fat to help aid with absorption. It should also be noted that Vitamin D3 is the preferred form of the nutrient due to better effectiveness.

 

Creatine:

 

Creatine is one of the most studied supplements out there, but is also misunderstood by many. Lets put an end to that right now. First off, what is it, and what does it do? Creatine is molecule that is found in foods such as meat, eggs, and fish. It is also produced in the body. That’s right, you make it on your own. The main role of creatine within the body is that it stores high-energy phosphate groups, aka – phosphocreatine. The body uses these phosphate groups to aid in the production of energy during periods of stress (exercise, going HAM, etc). In plain English, it means it supplies energy to your cells and makes you stronger!

 

What is creatine, and what does it do?

Why take it?

  • Creatine increases power output and exercise intensity.
  • Creatine increases lean body mass

Creatine is safe and effective when supplemented properly. If you are going to take it, creatine monohydrate is the most cheap and effective version. Just make sure you are getting plenty of water while supplementing with it.

 

How much should I take?

If you’re going to go through a “loading phase”, the recommendation is to take about 20g/day for the first 5-7 days, and 2-5g per day after that. It should also be noted that taking high doses of creatine can cause nausea, cramping, and “digestive issues”. So, just make sure you stay within the proper dosage levels.

So hopefully now you have a better understanding of some supplements that are actually backed by science. Just remember that in order for you to get any benefit from any of these supplements that you have to begin with a sound diet.


 


References:

 

Atherton PJ, Smith K. Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise. J Physiol (Lond). 2012;590(Pt 5):1049-57.

Adequate Protein Intake

Creatine

Fish Oil

Whey Protein

Advertisements

Proximal stability for distal mobility:

There are many times I can think of when a new client comes in and is complaining of stiffness in the hips or shoulders, or their calves are tight. When I ask them what they’ve been trying to do in order to correct this issue, I usually hear something like this…

“I stretch it occasionally. You know, just try to loosen it up so it doesn’t bother me”.

After assessing and screening these individuals, I often find that they lack core/spinal stability. Tissues may be “tight”, but it’s imperative to find out WHY they’re tight to begin with.

What these poor souls don’t realize is that aside from possibly having some true tissue stiffness, they also possess a lack of core stability. What needs to be understood is that a lack of stability in the core has an impact on the other joints (hip, shoulder, neck, ankle, ect).

image

image

What happens over time is that these joints basically “pick up the slack” for the lack of core/spinal stability, and in turn the body creates an artificial stability by “locking down” the tissues at that joint. That joint becomes unable to proficiently transfer any sort of load or force back towards the core because the body realizes that the core can’t handle it. This can happen up and down the kinetic chain.

image

image

…Nerd alert!

If we take a look at how each of us develops from an early age, you’ll see that we are born with mobility. It’s through exploring movement as infants, trial and error and a LOT of reppetition that we gain our stability. Gray Cook explains this very nicely in the video below. I especially like how he talks about kicking your kid so that he or she has to keep getting back up to truly gain the ability to stand and eventually, walk.

Here is an image of the progression of gross motor control. Remember the good ol’ days?

Started from the bottom, now we here.

Life has a funny way of changing this. As we age, we pick up bad movement habits, we sit more and we move less. The body is incredibly good at finding alternatives and adapting when something in the chain isn’t working properly. This brings me to my next point, which is… Stretching is NOT always the answer when stiffness/tightness is present.

You can stretch and foam roll all you want, but if that joint is unstable, or there’s an unstable joint in one of your myofascial lines (Thomas Myers anyone?), your body is going to b**** slap you right back to where you were before – TIGHT, WEAK & UNSTABLE.

For example. I routinely see people with “tight shoulders” who also present very poor scapular control/stability. I have them perform exercises that focus on joint centration and stability and the tension may subside. Of course this isn’t always the case, and things aren’t typically that simple. This is why it’s imperative that we look elsewhere for issues that may be contributing to the problem. The point is that stretching should not be your go-to whenever tension is present. Investigate, assess and correct.

Kettlebell training can be especially beneficial if executed correctly for shoulder stability. The turkish get-up is one of my absolute favorite exercises for this. Of course, whether or not they are safe for you or a client is subjective, but when learned correctly they are an invaluable tool for shoulder health and performance. Bottoms-up kettlebell variations are also a simpler alternative for working shoulder stability.

Turkish Get-Up:

Bottoms-up Kettlebell Carry:  Eric Cressey

“Failure of the rotator cuff and the scapular stabilizers to maintain the humeral head in the glenoid fossa can lead to excessive humeral head migration and either increased tensile stress on the tendons 10, 15 or compression of the tendons from abutment of the humeral head on the undersurface of the acromian.” (1)

External rotation much?!

 

Eric Cressey on anterior humeral glide in a common rowing motion:

So, to quickly recap:

  • If your core is weak/unstable, surrounding joints/tissues can & will pick up the slack and create tension at those joints/tissues
  • Unstable joints are sloppy joints. They under perform and can often cause discomfort or pain for the individual depending on the severity
  • Working on joint centration and stressing osteokinematics as well as arthrokinematics is vital to your joint health & overall performance

Osteokinematics:

  • Gross movements of bones at joints
  • Flexion / extension
  • Abduction / adduction
  • Internal rotation / external rotation

Arthrokinematics:

  • Small amplitude motions of bones at joint surface
  • Roll
  • Glide (or slide)
  • Spin

 


 

References:

(1)  Tovin BJ. Prevention and Treatment of Swimmer’s Shoulder. N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2006;1(4):166-75.

 

Pick up something heavy.

The Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex, Part 1:

Today I’m fortunate enough to have my very first guest post by someone who I respect and admire in this industry – my brother, Brandon McCary. Brandon is a Rehab Specialist who holds certifications with NASM (PES), Functional Movement Systems (Level-2 FMS Expert), and ISSA (SSN) – just to name a few.
If you’re a trainer, than this is a great post for you. So with that, enjoy!
_________________________________________________________
The Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex, Part 1.
The core is comprised of two stabilization systems, the local and global core systems. The core is made up of muscles and connective tissues of the lumbar spine, pelvic girdle, and hip joint, which constitutes the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex. The core is where the body’s center of gravity is located and where all movement originates. Active individuals with a stable core can prevent abdominal tears, by activating the local core prior to extremity movement, such as during a soccer strike.

 

 

File:Football iu 1996.jpg

 

 

A neuromuscularly efficient core is needed in order to have optimal neuromuscular control of the human movement system. A stable, strong, and powerful firing core prevents injury and allows for acceleration, deceleration, and stabilization during dynamic movements.

 

 

File:Plank on a pair of medicine balls.jpg

 

 

The Local Stabilization System The primary muscles that make up the local stabilization system are the diaphragm, transverse abdominis, internal obliques, multifidus, and pelvic floor musculature. The local core muscles attachdirectly to the vertebrae. These deep muscles of the spine are primarily slow twitch muscle fibers, fibers with optimal endurance for maintaining posture and respiration. Muscle spindles are abundant among the local core muscles, muscle spindles are sensory receptors which detect the rate of change in muscle length.Inline image 5
Intervertebral Stability (deep stiffness) 

Intervertebral Stability (IVS) is only possible through training both types of intervertebral stiffness. The first type of stiffness is achieved by co-contraction of the transverse abdominus and multifidus by performing an exercise known as “Drawing-In”. Next up, performing exercises that increase intra-abdominal pressure, like “Belly Breathing” will also increase IVS. These exercises can be progressing through three different postures: Fundamental, Transitional, and Functional. A great example of transitional phase belly breathing is in the sphinx position (more on this cool stuff in part 2). By having both forms of core stiffness trained, you will have 100% local core stability achieved, which allows for optimal IVS, which then limits excessive compressive, shear, and rotational forces between spinal segments.

 

Core Stabilization Mechanisms The core is also stabilized during functional movement by two core stabilization mechanisms, one being the fascial nextwork that acts as an auxiliary core stabilizer by dynamic engagement, the thoracolumbar fascia mechanism. The second auxiliary core stabilizing mechanism is the intra-abdominal pressure mechanism, which activates the diaphragm and pelvic floor.

Inspiration and Expiration

Inspiration and expiration is also achieved via local core activation. The muscles required for inspiration and elevation of the ribs are your “principal” and “accessory” muscles. The principal muscles are the diaphragm, external intercostals, and the accessory muscles are the scalene group, sternocleidomastoid and pectoralis minor. The muscles required for expiration and rib depression are your “active breathing” and “quiet breathing” muscles. The active breathing muscles are the internal intercostals, abdominals and quadratus lumborum. As for quiet breathing, the expiration results from passive, elastic recoil of the lungs, rib cage, and diaphragm.


 

Diaphragm, Intra-abdominal Pressure, Pelvo-
Ocular Reflex

 

 

 

The “roof” of the local core, is the diaphragm. Since the diaphragm is located between the thoracic and abdominal cavities, learning to build intra-abdominal pressure will cause diaphragmatic elevation and pelvic floor contraction, which allows for decreased compressive forces across spinal segments. Simply being able to contract your diaphragm can help you prevent injury, and produce optimal movement! Learning to breathe with the diaphragm/abdomen rather than the chest/accessory musculature is extremely useful in pain relief and performance. Chest breathing can actually alter your head position due to the hypertonic/tight accessory neck muscles. The “pelvo-ocular reflex” theorized that one’s head position can have an effect on one’s pelvic position. If your head migrates forward, the pelvis reflexively rotates anteriorly to readjust one’s center of gravity, which will cause even further problems with thoracolumbar fascia pain of the low back. In part 2, exercises for diaphragmatic breathing and both the local, and global core will be discussed.
Inline image 3File:Facet Joints.png

Thoracolumbar Fascia Mechanism 
The thoracolumbar fascia (TLF) is a fascial network of noncontractile tissue that is engaged dynamically by contractile tissues that attach to it, such as the erector spinae, multifidus, transverse abdominis, internal oblique, gluteus maximus, latissimus dorsi, and quadratus lumborum. Training the local core achieves increased spinal stiffness/stability which decreases translational and rotational stress at the spine. The multifidus is the local core’s multisegmental “spinal glue”, and from the cervical region all the way down to the sacral region, the multifidus runs deep within each spinal segment, stabilizing each facet joint from the neck to the tailbone.

 

  Inline image 4Inline image 1

 

 

 

Pelvic Floor Mechanism, Stress Incontinence 

 

 

The pelvic floor is considered the “floor” of the local core, and is activated when intra-abdominal pressure is present. Having weak pelvic floor musculature is common among adults, unfortunately, if it goes unnoticed for too long, pelvic floor dysfunction can set in. Also, common among females is stress incontinence, but the good news is, it can be easily treated with core stability exercises and functional movements. The deep squat exercise is actually great for recruiting the pelvic floor, and should be part of ones rehab program once local core stability has been worked on.

 

 

 

  The Global Stabilization System

The global core muscles are the quadratus lumborum, psoas major, external/internal obliques, rectus abdominis, gluteus medius, and adductor musculature. These muscles transfer loads between the upper and lower extremity and provide stability between the pelvis and spine.

Lumbo-Pelvic Stability (superficial stiffness) 

 

 

By simultaneously activating the abdominals (rectus abdominis), lower back (quadratus lumborum), buttock (gluteus medius) at the same time, you achieve what is called co-contraction of superficial musculature of the spine, which is known as an exercise called, “bracing”. Just like with drawing-in and belly breathing, there are also three different postures for core bracing: Fundamental, Transitional, and Functional. When the muscles are contracting, they are increasing stiffness between the spine and pelvis. A great example of a functional brace is when you stand up from squatting, and simultaneously brace the abs, low back and glutes in effort to stabilize the lumbar spine (the thoracolumbar fascia mechanism also has a role in this).

 

Optimal Movement Optimal neuromuscular control of movement is made up of several factors. We are already learned the local and global core systems role in movement, now it’s time to learn what other factors need to be considered for optimal movement.

 

 

 File:Muybridge disk step walk.jpg1. Length-Tension Relationships

Having an optimal gamma efferent system, which is achieved by having optimal force generation in relation to a muscles “tone”. Neurologically, normal muscles aren’t hypertonic (overactive/tight) or hypotonic (underactive/weak+tight). For ex. When running, having the ability to generate force/tension in the hamstrings without spasticity (muscle spasm) occuring!

 

 

 

 File:Lion stretching at Ouwehands 2010.JPG2. Force-Couple Relationships

Another necessary factor for having optimal neuromuscular control is having normal force-coupling relationships, or the ability to activate groups of muscles at once. A great example would be during a baseball pitcher’s throw, the upper and lower trapezius muscles have to activate together in order to stabilize scapular upward rotation.

 

File:20070616 Chris Young visits Wrigley (4)-edit3.jpg

 

3. Joint Arthokinematics (Joint Centration) Lastly, having normal joint arthokinematics is the ability to maintain joint position through all planes of motion, for ex. as seen in the photo below, the ball and socket joint-the shoulder joint should be able to move from flexion to extension without the humeral head gliding anteriorly.

 

 

 

 4. Buttressing Your Truss (Spinal Stability)

 

As the eminent Biomechanist, Dr. Stuart McGill once said, “Create a truss”. Think of your core as a stable bridge, the deeper the truss, the more stable the bridge! How do we make our core “deep” in effort to become more stable? We train not only the global/superficial core, but also the local/deep core! When both core systems are stabilized, we then have….optimal Spinal Stability! Intervertebral Stability + Lumbo-Pelvic Stability = Spinal Stability
Inline image 1Inline image 2Finally…Optimal Neuromuscular Control!

All of these factors: spinal stability, length-tension relationships, force-couple relationships, and joint arthokinematics have to be normal in order for there to be symmetrical, powerful, and optimal movement!

 

 

 

 File:Eadweard Muybridge 2.gifNext up!  

In part 2, the local core, “drawing-in/belly breathing” exercise progressions, and static/dynamic global core “bracing” exercise progressions will be discussed, and demonstrated.

Post-Workout Nutrition: Does the “Anabolic Window” really exist?

Anyone who’s tried to gain any appreciable amount of muscle mass is most likely familiar with the concept of the “anabolic window”. You know, the first 30-or-so minutes following your workout where you sprint to the locker room and inhale that tasty protein shake (tasty being subjective of course).

Why do you do this?
– It’s all about the gains, man! Right?…

image

Batman was most likely just under-caffeinated that day…

Well, what’s been observed from the collection of studies covering this very subject is somewhat conflicting.

While its been widely accepted that in order to gain muscle mass, a protein/carbohydrate supplement should be consumed within the first 30-60minutes following a workout; it turns out it’s not quite that simple…

image

Public service announcement from supplement companies

Current research is conflicting, but shows that rather than focusing primarily on post-workout nutrition/nutrient timing that the duration between pre and post workout nutrition may play much more of a significant role than post-workout nutrition alone. A recent article (1) written by Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld shows us that the timing of your meals surrounding your workout has a much greater impact on gains in muscle mass/protein synthesis. There are some exceptions though.

Here’s what you need to know:

– Consuming a pre-exercise meal/amino acid or protein supplement can be enough if it is ingested within 1-2 hours prior to training

– Minimal-moderate pre-exercise supplementation has been shown to be effective in elevating blood amino acid levels (6g of Essential Amino Acids taken immediately pre-workout elevated blood and muscle amino acid levels by 130% for 2 hours)

– If there is a 3-4 hour gap between your last meal and your workout/training, then consuming a protein supplement before training is recommended to create an anabolic environment

– If you train first thing in the morning/in an overnight fasted state – then consuming a protein/carbohydrate supplement before training is beneficial to create an anabolic environment in the body

– Glycogen replenishment is necessary for athletes who train the same muscle groups twice a day within an 8 hour period

– Consuming a post-workout meal 1-2 hours after training is sufficient as long as the previous meal was consumed 1-2 hours prior to training. There is overlap!

image

So what’s the take home message from all of this? In a nutshell, as long as you’re eating well and getting enough protein throughout the day, you should be fine. The point here is that you don’t need to obsess over your post workout shake. Instead, pay attention to what really matters – YOUR DIET!

References:

(1) Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):5.

Pick up something heavy.

The Goblet Squat:

Anyone who’s engaged in a resistance training program has most likely heard about the multitude of benefits obtained from squatting. The squat is an amazing exercise capable of building copious amounts of muscle mass, increasing total body strength, burning body fat, maintaining and enhancing mobility/stability/flexibility, and improving just about every aspect of our physicality.

Basically, doing a set of squats is like taking a sip from the Holy Grail – You remember what that did for Sean Connery in The Last Crusade, right?

image

“Oh good, some pre-workout. Junior, throw 405 on the bar!”

However, despite the cornucopia of benefits and super powers squatting bestows upon us, there is a time and a place for everything. Barbell squatting may not be the best choice for everyone, even if it is the most badass. With this in mind I would like to direct your attention to an incredible exercise for both beginners and advanced trainees – The Goblet Squat.

image

The goblet squat is an exercise created by Lifting and Throwing coach, Dan John. This squat variation is typically much easier to perform as a beginner, but can be made challenging enough for advanced trainees. The squat is a complex movement pattern that blends strength, stability, mobility, and flexibility together. Despite the many benefits of performing this exercise, the reality for most people is that if they don’t “groove the movement pattern” regularly, they lose the ability to perform it correctly over time. This is unfortunate, because squatting is awesome. It is for this reason that the goblet squat can and should be performed often, even daily if possible.

Performing the goblet squat is fairly simple compared to its counterparts (Back Squats and Front Squats). The way the weight is positioned and loaded through the body makes it a more comfortable exercise for beginners. It can be performed as a warm-up exercise and as an alternative to traditional squats. Of course, you typically won’t be able to use the heavy loads that you would in a traditional barbell squat, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging or beneficial (split squats anyone?).

Bret Contreras is a certified strength and conditioning specialist who wrote a great article detailing the goblet squat; which can be found here. I would highly recommend you check out his website and blog if you haven’t already. Seriously, do it now

If you are a beginner, the goblet squat should be a staple in your exercise program. One of the biggest mistakes a new lifter can make is to jump right into barbell squatting (Back Squats or Front Squats) too soon.

image

He chose…poorly…

If you don’t currently possess:

– Ankle mobility (dorsiflexion)
– Hip mobility
– Strong Spinal erectors and thoracic extensors
– Core strength/stability
– Strong/responsive Glute function
– Strong Quadriceps

Then you have no business performing a barbell loaded squat yet.

image

Let’s take a closer look at why each of the above attributes is vital for squatting:

– The ankles must be mobile to allow the knees to travel forward
– Mobile hips to allow for adequate depth and hip flexion
– Strong spinal erectors and thoracic extensors to maintain a neutral spine, keep the chest up, and to maintain lumbopelvic stability throughout the movement
Core strength/stability to keep from folding forward (excessive forward lean), maintain neutral spine, and to support the load
Strong glutes are needed to keep the knees tracking properly, the eccentric load stable, and to extend the hips as you come back up
– The quadriceps have to be strong to aid in the ascent and to help maintain an upright posture

If you’re lacking in these areas, you should address those issues first, and then try the goblet squat. All too often I see people performing a barbell squat that have no business performing the movement yet. It’s well worth it to put in the time developing the movement pattern correctly, rather than to jump right into a squat rack and getting under a barbell. Don’t get me wrong, the absolute last thing I want is to shy people away from working with a barbell, but if you’re new to lifting and your squat pattern is poor – you need to start with the basics. If you’re a trainer, simply cuing the bejesus out of your client may actually do more harm than good. Especially if they’re new to lifting in general. You need to take the time to address the deficiencies in the movement pattern first.

When performing the goblet squat, focus on the following:

– Keep the weight (Dumbbell or Kettlebell) close to the chest
– Feet should be positioned just outside of shoulder width apart
– Feet can be turned out up to 30 degrees
– Keep the chest up and core musculature braced
– Sit down into the squat position
– Keep your elbows in
– Keep knees out, tracking over the feet
– Push through your heels

Doing goblet squats regularly will help you improve and maintain the mobility, flexibility, stability and strength required to perform them. Depending on your goals and limitations, goblet squats may be an introduction to barbell squatting. Either way, whether you reach the promised land of the power rack or not, goblet squats should always be a tool in your training regiment. Now excuse me as I majestically ride off into the sunset wearing my fedora.

image

To the squat rack!

Pick up something heavy

Why the floor beats the Bosu: A look at “balance training”

So, I originally wasn’t going to write about this, but a recent “discussion” came up between a few individuals and myself on the use of “balance training” in the gym setting. Mainly the use of a Bosu trainer or foam pad. For those of you who may not be familiar with the Bosu, it’s essentially half of an exercise ball with a flat plastic surface underneath. There is a legitimate time and place for using unstable surface training, and it’s typically in the rehabilitation setting. Lets take a simple look at how balance works. Mechanoreceptors are sensory organs found throughout the body that respond to mechanical stimuli such as tension, pressure and displacement. Proprioceptors are receptors within the body (specifically in our muscles, tendons, joints, and inner ear) that detects motion or position of the body or the limbs by responding to the stimulus within the organism. Proprioception is defined as “The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. In humans, these stimuli are detected by nerves within the body itself, as well as by the semicircular canals of the inner ear”(1).

image

Observe the evil that is the Bosu…

So, what started off as a healthy discussion quickly became a somewhat heated debate. The argument for utilizing the Bosu or balance training went something like this… “I use the Bosu because my elderly clients benefit from the proprioception and core activation that comes with Bosu/balance training. They fire muscles they haven’t used in years when they’re on an unstable surface”. Sounds good, right? It would make sense that training on an unstable surface would offer increases in balance, proprioception, and coordination. The thing is, it DOES – but its biggest benefit is for those who have lost most of their proprioception, strength, and stability. One study (2) conducted on institutionalized elderly individuals found that introducing wobble board training for 9 weeks increased their standing balance. That’s great, but again, we typically don’t come across elderly clients who are in need of being institutionalized.  Although, I’m sure some trainers DO come across this population from time to time, but again – this type of training and population is found in the rehabilitation setting. Typical “balance training” that we see in the gym, or as I like to call it, “Swiss ball circus maneuvers” is best used for those of us looking to join the Ringling Brothers.

image

They wanted me to go to rehab, so I said yes yes yes…

My stance or “mantra” has always been to work as hard as you can within the confines of your ability/physicality. This doesn’t mean I’m going to have a 70-year-old severely kyphotic man deadlift 600Lbs – although that would be awesome. Instead, we do what we can with what we have, and try to improve to the best of our ability. So, with this mindset my argument against the overuse/overly prescribed Bosu/Swiss ball training was to utilize other means of creating instability while operating on a stable surface. Stability, balance, and core activation can be improved by standing on both feet while on a stable surface. The main benefit from working on a stable vs a non stable surface is that force production increases while on a stable surface. A study (3) was conducted comparing the activity of the muscles of the core in 12 trained men. Each participant performed the back squat, deadlift, overhead press, and curl lifts on stable ground and on a Bosu. Guess what? They concluded that core activation was greater in the group that performed the exercises on a stable surface. Floor wins, your move Bosu… Another study – free PDF download (4), showed that when stable and unstable environments were used to test unilateral balance on healthy individuals, that the stable surface produced greater gains in balance (See page 6, figures 3-6).

image

Goblet Squat…On the floor…FTW.

Simply put, there are better ways to improve stability and balance without having to stand on a Swiss ball or Bosu. Trust me, you weren’t really cut out for the circus life anyway. Instead, try offsetting the load and performing exercises such as: suitcase deadlifts, bottom-up kettlebell variations, in-line chops/presses, and pallof presses. I love the supine pallof press shown here by Tony Gentilcore (5) (He’s awesome, and you should read his stuff if you aren’t already). You can improve proximal and distal stability, core strength/stability, and total body strength. In doing so you will be – strong and stable!

So the next time you see someone squatting on a Bosu or curling 2.5lb dumbbells while kneeling on a swiss ball, just remember. You have better options available to you. Offsetting loads and performing Squats, deadlifts,  and overhead presses are all great ways to build stability and balance throughout the entire body. When performing these exercises on a stable surface, your force production and core activation increase, and you can lift more weight (6). I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty great.

Pick up something heavy.

References:

(1)  proprioception. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Retrieved January 13, 2014, from Dictionary.com website: http: dictionary.reference.com/browse/proprioception

(2) Ogaya S, Ikezoe T, Soda N, Ichihashi N. Effects of balance training using wobble boards in the elderly. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(9):2616-22.

(3) Willardson JM, Fontana FE, Bressel E. Effect of surface stability on core muscle activity for dynamic resistance exercises. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2009;4(1):97-109.

(4) Journal of Sports Rehabilitation, 1993. Copyright 1993 Human Kinetics Publishers Inc. Unilateral balance training of noninjured individuals and the effects on postural sway. Emily D. Cox, Scott M. Lephart, and James J. Irrgang: https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.pitt.edu/~neurolab/publications/1992-1996CoxED_1993_JSportRehab_Unilateral%2520balance%2520training%2520of%2520noninjured%2520individuals%2520and%2520the%2520effects%2520on%2520postural%2520sway.pdf&sa=U&ei=sSLUUqKMM6OiyAH42oCQAw&ved=0CAUQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNFoVKS604QDgb8uQbkPwxEBjNi5pQ

(5) Tony Gentilcore: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/exercises-supine-pallof-belly-press/

(6) Kohler JM, Flanagan SP, Whiting WC. Muscle activation patterns while lifting stable and unstable loads on stable and unstable surfaces. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(2):313-21.

Ringing in the New Year, with barbells!

image

As 2013 comes to an end and many individuals find themselves making a pilgrimage to the gym for the first time, I’m preparing myself for the inevitable. Pretty soon the gym will be alive with the hum of ellipticals and the heavy heel striking of newcomers on the tricked out treadmills.  I’m not bashing these people, instead I’d like to try and shed some light on one of the most common misconceptions that new gym-goers encounter -“cardio”.

image

Year after year, people come into the gym seeking to improve their health and change their bodies. One of the first things they often seek out is the “cardio area”. Don’t get me wrong, if you enjoy running, jogging or hiking, more power to you; but if you’re looking to change your physique and truly improve performance, traditional cardio isn’t going to cut it. That’s right, the 30-60+ minute monotonous cardio sessions aren’t going to miraculously change your body, but there’s hope!

image

"I'd rather be deadlifting..."

In order for the body to change, you have to present it with a catalyst that will facilitate adaptation. Or as I like to say, “Give your body a reason to change”. If your goal is to burn fat and improve body composition, then you’re going to have to present the body with an environment and a stimulus that will give it no other option than to adapt accordingly. Hill sprints, pushing a prowler/sled around, lifting weights – faster, a kettlebell circuit, and interval training are all great simple alternatives to “traditional cardio”. The point here is that there are other ways to elevate your heart rate and give you more “bang for your buck”. In the process, you’ll be adding lean muscle mass to your frame, which in turn will elevate your metabolism, and generally make you a more awesome person 🙂

image

So, if you’re looking for a great way to burn fat and improve your physique, do yourself a favor and give these alternatives a try! Besides, most of the cardio equipment is going to be occupied for the next few months anyway. In the meantime, PICK UP SOMETHING HEAVY!

Please feel free to like and share!

Like us on Facebook!