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

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Alternative Exercises: Choosing the right exercises for your body

Today’s guest post comes from my friend, Matt Immerman. Matt is a recent graduate of The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Mercer University in Atlanta, GA. Matt has been in the health and fitness industry for ten years. He started out as a trainer helping people to get stronger, and more fit. Like many trainers, Matt had to work around his client’s various limitations. Knowing what exercise is appropriate for you (or your client) is vital to long term progress and injury prevention.


Picking the right exercise for your body

Who this article is for:

Those who are new to weight training or exercise.

Or those who have had a history of problems with their knees, back or shoulders and want to continue strength training without further aggravating old injuries.

So you have decided to pick up weight training! Right on! The benefits of lifting relatively heavy weight are too innumerable to list. However, the other side to this coin is that there are potential risks (like with any physical activity) when you engage in weight training. Fortunately, there are many ways to minimize this risk by picking the right exercise for YOUR body. With a little knowledge you can enjoy the many benefits of strength training while minimizing the potential risks that come with it.

In this article, I will offer alternative exercises to the “staples” of weight training which include barbell squats, deadlifts, and shoulder presses. Now, before you completely tune me out, please know that I am a HUGE fan of these exercises. When done correctly with proper form they can be extremely beneficial in building strength, improving bone density, helping with balance, and the list goes on. However, not everyone is able to perform all of these exercises for a myriad of reasons… whether it’s a previous injury, tight muscles and joints, bony anatomy, or even lack of space or proper equipment available at your gym. And that’s okay! Just because something may be preventing you from doing squats or deadlifts or presses doesn’t mean that you still can`t train hard!

What follows are a few of my favorite alternative exercises which I like to perform which target similar muscle groups and still provide an awesome bang for your buck much like the aforementioned “staples.”

Walking Lunges

These are great for working the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings. You can also add plenty of resistance to this exercise simply by holding dumbbells in each hand. Unlike the back squat, your torso is vertical and the weight is down at your sides which means the lower back is not having to work as hard as it does in a back squat which means you can work the legs as hard as you want while `working around the back.` This is a great option for those whose backs don’t tolerate the back squat as well especially as the weight gets heavy.  As an added bonus, the walking lunge can also challenge your balance and ability to decelerate which is key for sports as well as just staying fit and healthy.

Sled Pushes

Sled Pushes

The sled push is an awesome exercise which also is fairly easy on the joints because it is purely concentric in nature. Furthermore, it is very easy to make sure your back remains nice and straight and that you are only using your legs to push the sled. This exercise is great for building lower body strength and as added bonus it gets you breathing pretty hard! Plus there is nothing more satisfying knowing you just pushed a ton of weight across the gym! Be careful on these though…get too good at these and all your friends will start calling you when their cars are stuck in the snow!

Landmine Press

Landmine Press

This exercise is great for hitting the same muscles that you would target with a traditional shoulder press but with the different angle, you are much less likely to impinge some of the smaller muscles in the shoulder. Furthermore, it is much easier to keep your back straight and abs tight with this exercise thereby ensuring you are working the shoulder and not putting undue stress on the back by over -arching.

Those were just a few examples of alternative exercises you can play around with and see what works best for you. Ultimately the best thing is to see a professional trainer who can help you along your path to fitness! Thanks for reading!

Matt Immerman  PT, DPT, CPT

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.

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.