Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Don't Be Old School

Don’t Be Old School
By: Justin Levine

Why do people still perform crunches? Why do people still get on the leg press machine? Why do people still believe in long slow distance training to “burn fat”? Well, this is what we knew 20 years ago. Things change and so must people. Fitness has transformed over the past 20 years. There are many concepts that at the time we thought were the most efficient ways to get fit. We no longer live in a bodybuilding world where we design body part splits for our workouts. You know the workouts: chest/triceps, back/biceps, and legs/shoulders. If you are still doing this you are “old school”. Program design has changed to training specific movements for proper function. We will get into that a little later in the article. The body is meant to function a certain way. Check out Michael Boyle’s article and dvd, “A Joint by Joint Approach”. We need mobility in certain areas and stability in others. If the hips do not move properly our low back will hurt. Does anyone out there want to blow a disc in their lower back? I am sure no one will answer yes but every time I walk into a “big box” gym people are always performing crunches, back extension and leg press exercises. Dr. Stuart Mcgill, a low back specialist, states that “any flexion or extension will create a disc to blow.” It might not happen the 1st, 2nd, or 50th time you perform these exercises, but eventually your low back will “hurt”.
This article will cover many old school concepts and methods that you should not be doing anymore. If you are just stop. I will also get into some specific cutting edge theories that you need to implement into your program design. Remember, you need an open mind when it comes to fitness. If you want to continue to get results you must learn to change your program. There is so much education out there for us to learn. Do not do the same thing you were doing 5-20 years ago. Step out of that bubble and step into the new age of fitness training and continue to learn.

Crunches are old school. Again, if you want a low back disc to blow then continue to perform crunches. The movement of crunching puts the spine into flexion. The spine does not want this load. The function of the spine is meant to be stable. When we move at the spine we cause low back pain. Read any of Stuart Mcgill’s research. This guy is way smarter than I am and these are the concepts he talks about. Another exercise people need to eliminate from their program is back extensions. Start thinking stability exercises for the “core”. Examples are plank variations, side plank variations, cable stabilization exercises, core rollouts, medicine ball training and cable chops and lifts. If you want a “6-pack”, change your diet. If you want to lose weight, change your diet. Doing “abs” at the gym will not get you leaner. It is a mix of a properly designed workout program, consistent healthy nutritional habits and proper rest and recovery. We need to promote good postural habits and doing crunches puts our body in poor position for good posture. Stabilize the spine, stop doing crunches and you will see the difference in the way you move.

Bodybuilding splits are old school. In fact bodybuilding splits are probably close to 20 years old. This is what people did in the 80’s and 90’s. We went to the gym to work our chest for an hour. Then the next day was arms. Good ole biceps and triceps for the entire workout. We would leave the gym with a massive pump in our arms. Then the next day we worked back and shoulders. Then we would finish the week with a ridiculous leg routine. Some leg workouts left us unable to walk and we were sore for days after. If you are still working out like this, STOP! This is not an efficient way to get fit. You must incorporate specific movements and interval conditioning (I will get into that one on #4) into your workout routine. Horizontal and vertical pressing and pulling movements, bilateral and unilateral knee dominant and hip dominant movements and core stability exercises. Do not make it too complicated. Add balance to your routine. If you have two pressing exercises (bench press and push-up) you need two pulling exercises (chin-ups and DB row). If you have two knee dominant exercises (split squat and lunge) you need two hip dominant exercises (deadlifts and hip lifts). When you have imbalances it leads to injury. Who wants to get injured? Nobody! If you are trying to get fit, do not lift like a bodybuilder. Structure your workouts with these new concepts to build an ultimate fitness level.

Leg press, leg extension and leg curl machines are old school. In fact if you are working out on any machine, unless it is a Keiser cable system, then you are outdated. Machines do not build function. Your movement is constricted on a machine. Remember the old school Nautilus machines when they first came out. What year was that? 1976. Back then Nautilus was the “cutting edge” of fitness training. But we do not live in the past, we live in the future. Time to step into the new age of training. If your program is loaded with machine exercises and non-functional training then change your program. Implement deadlifts, squat variations, chin-ups, rows, push-ups, presses and core stability work. You will get results. In fact you will get the best results you have ever seen.

Long slow distance “cardio” for fat burning is old school. I was a culprit of this when I first started training clients. I would have my clients do cardio on their non-weight training days for at least 45 minutes. I wanted them to stay in the “fat burning zone” the entire time. Sound familiar? With the knowledge of guys like Alwyn Cosgrove, Mike Boyle and Mark Verstegen, I finally figured out that this was not the answer. I started having my clients do intervals. There are many different interval protocols. For deconditioned individuals an interval might be a walk on a treadmill at a 5% incline for 30 seconds and then back down to 1% for 1 minute. For fit athletes I usually choose the Tabata protocol. These are very intense and can be done as a medicine ball circuit or on a treadmill or bike. I do not use the word “cardio” to my clients anymore. We call it conditioning. Cardio is the word people use when they get on a treadmill for an hour at the same pace. Conditioning is when I have my clients perform 15 intervals of 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off. It sounds better. At the completion of every training session I add conditioning to the workout. It could be a metabolic circuit, treadmill sprints, or bike sprints.

The “5 minute walk on a treadmill” warm-up is old school. Do not walk on a treadmill for 5-10 minutes and think you are warmed up. You need to implement a dynamic warm-up to your workout routine. Not just once in awhile. Every time you workout you need to perform a dynamic warm-up. A proper warm-up will prepare you for your workout, increase flexibility, increase mobility, and elevate your heart rate. A walk on a treadmill only covers 1 of those traits. Your workout will be more intense and you will reduce injury.

Ok I saved the best for last. If you are still participating in step aerobics you are very old school. This was a fad in the 80’s. All step class is going to do is give you knee pain. Yes, it is good that you are moving and staying active but there are better options than “step class”. If you like group classes choose a strength training or circuit training class. At least now you can get some interval type training.

So the moral of the story is that things change. What we used to do does not work anymore. And what we know now may change. With the beauty of science and education we as fitness professionals continue to study the body and learn the most efficient ways to get fit. I personally will continue to learn the rest of my life. Thank you so much to guys like Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Mark Verstegen, Gray Cook, Stuart McGill, Todd Durkin and Martin Rooney who are always willing to share their knowledge to the world.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Make the time work for you

I Don’t Have Time – Let’s Make Time

Instead of making this excuse, be the person that can make time for your health and wellness. Once you can make going to the gym and eating healthy food a habit, it becomes part of your life, will take less effort and you will regain that rockstar energy! Just remember, you cannot make the day any longer but what you can do is make your time use wiser. I am going to show you how easy adjustments in your day and better use of your time can give you more time to spend on your health.

Wake-up 30 minutes earlier than normal. You do this for an entire year and it adds up to 182.5 hours. Even 30 minutes a day designated for a workout or activity can tremendously increase your vitality and way of life.

Cut your TV time in half. The average American watches 5 hours of TV per day. This adds up to 1,825 hours in a year! Cut it in half and there you go, 912.5 more hours a year or 2.5 more hours per day you just gained from turning off the TV. Now you have time to workout.

Prepare most of your foods on Sunday night. Doing this can save you 20 minutes per day. Chop of your vegetables for the week, prepare a few pieces of lean chicken, and boil up some eggs and you will be more likely to have a healthy week and save daily time. Taking the time on Sunday can save you valuable time during the week.

Grab your gym bag before you leave for work. Head directly to the gym immediately when you get off work. This saves time by skipping the drive back home. Plus, you won’t get caught up at home “doing something else”.

Workout early. Get to the gym early and get your workout in before any of your daily activities begin. Once you get it in, you feel better, have more energy and have the whole evening for other activities.

Take advantage of 10-15 minutes of dead time. Perform some bodyweight squats, jumping jacks, planks and push-ups to speed that metabolism and give you a boost of energy during the day. Just like above, 15 minutes a day can add up to 91.25 hours a year.

Spend less time on the computer. I know we need our computer time but many of our hours on the computer are used for junk searching. The Average adult spends 3-6 hours per day on the computer. Let’s drop 1 hour a day and you now have 365 hours extra during the year.

Moral of the story, a week as 168 hours and we all have 4-6 hours in our week for exercise. Create the habit and make it part of your life and never again make the excuse, “I don’t have time.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

20 Ways to make the last 90 days EPIC!

Are you ready to get rolling with major motivation and drive to finish this year on a high note? What's stopping you? We have arrived to the last quarter of the year. Today we have 87 days left of 2011! These last 3 months are crucial to get re-focused and inspired so we can create major impact as we end the year. To me, this is a make or break time of year. With just 87 days left of 2011, we can either get stagnate and not get better or we can tremendously enhance our life with constant improvement and personal development. You should want to get better in the gym. You should want to improve your eating habits. You should want to increase your strength and fitness levels. You should want more education. You should want better relationships. Always wanting a little more can internally drive and motivate you everyday. But usually it is a lack of desire and/or settling into bad habits or laziness that keeps us from conquering our goals. It's time to kick it up a notch! Don't be that person who is saying, "Nah, I am good, I am happy where I am at." This mindset will lead to stagnation which will cause a lack of motivation and desire to get better. Below is a very important list of things that when done consistently will make the last quarter of the year very EPIC! But it is entirely up to you to do these things. Be serious about them, and go for it to the end of the year!

  1. Write down your goals. Even if you wrote down goals at the beginning of the year (good job by the way), write down your goals that you want to achieve over these last 87 days. Goals become real when they are written down. The next step is repeating them every morning when you wake up. "I will lose 20 pounds." "I will read 4 books." Say it with conviction and passion and start working.

  2. Don't dwell on the negatives. Pessimistic people are destined for failure. Just by changing your attitude you can start accomplishing so much more in your life. But this doesn't happen over night. Conditioning the mind takes work and needs focus each and every day. Wake up with a mindset to take on each day with 100% effort. For the next 14 days, every morning wake up, look at yourself in the mirror and repeat, "Today, I will be my best, give my best and do my best. It will be a strong day."

  3. Workout. We have 168 hours in the week. You must have 4-6 hours for yourself. Don't make the excuse of "I don' t have time". What you don't have is good time management. Turn the TV off and get moving. We have time for exercise, the key is making it a priority. Don't wait because when you age, it gets tougher and tougher to get results. Stay on top of your health and vitality.

  4. Spend time with your loved ones. Life is short and before you know it 3 years, 5 years and 10 years have gone by very fast. We don't want regrets. Spending plenty of time with the people you care most about is critical. This is the time of the year where we do spend time with family and friends but this time around, really cherish the time you have with your crowd. Relationships are critical for life enhancement.

  5. Be organized. Every Monday morning write out your "to do list" and highlight the most important tasks and start knocking them out. Get a calendar or use your phone calendar and write in all of your appointments. Put in your workouts, your family time, your reading time, your social time, your spiritual time...pretty much everything that is important to you, add it to your calendar. We actually have a lot of time, it's just how we use our time that matters. Take advantage of 15 minutes here and there for reading and/or recharge time. 15 minutes each day over a year can add up to 91 extra hours. Don't say you don't have time!

  6. Wake up 30 minutes earlier than normal. Just like the point above, doing this over the next 87 days will give you 43.5 extra hours! This is a tremendous amount of extra time that can be used for working out, reading, writing, time with family, praying, whatever you do that will improve you.

  7. Get sleep. Consistent sleep is the foundation of health and vitality. Sleep is not overrated and very few people can perform at optimal levels with less than 5 hours of sleep every night. The key is consistency. Try and get 6-8 hours of solid sleep every night and you will have more energy, your brain function will increase, you will be able to give more at work or school and you will just feel better.

  8. Send flowers or a box of mixed nuts to a special friend. Sometimes we take for granted the relationships that we have built in our lives. Do this randomly. Don't wait for a special holiday - it means more on a random day when no one will expect a gift.

  9. Eat more fresh and healthy foods. What you eat will dramatically change your energy levels and your daily vitality. If your diet is full of saturated fats, high sugar and processed foods and empty calories, you will feel like crap! Become optimal with optimal nutrition. It doesn't take any more effort to eat healthy than it does to eat unhealthy. You just have to build the habit into your life. Just remember, fresh food is the better choice!

  10. Volunteer your time. Hit up your favorite charity or shelter and spend some time with people that could really use a friend or a laugh. Just writing a check to a charity is not volunteer work, get out there and lend a helping hand.

  11. Challenge yourself. Stepping outside your comfort zone is hard but is needed for self improvement. Don't stay in the confines of your comfort space because you will never get better this way. Whether it is in a workout, reading a certain book, bettering a relationship or improving your mindset, be comfortable being uncomfortable.

  12. Repeat this every morning with your goals, "Thoughts become words, words becomes action, action becomes habit, habit becomes character, and character becomes your destiny." Remember this phrase before you are about to do anything. It all starts with a thought but it's what you do after the thought is what makes the difference.

  13. Have quiet time during the week. Recharge your thoughts and get re-focused with 5 minutes of quiet time. It can be as simple as closing your eyes in your car before you head into the office. These 5 short minutes can get you super charged and dialed in on the tasks at hand so you are more prepared to have great days.

  14. Have a genuine positive mental attitude. Be the person that is considerate to all people. Don't worry if someone is grumpy and gives you attitude, give them a smile and a hello and continue on with your day. It is totally up to you to create this mindset. The right Attitude can positively change many things in life.

  15. Take a risk. Successful people take more risks than non-successful people. They get out of their comfort zone and work their butts off to accomplish their goals. It's not easy but with hard work and discipline you can achieve very gigantic goals.

  16. Surround yourself with highly positive people. If you want success, if you want to get in better shape, if you want to quit smoking or drinking, if you want to lose weight, whatever it is...then it is mandatory to have people around you that will support your objectives. Negative influences will literally suck the positive energy right out of your veins. Look around you, if you hang out with losers and people that are going down the wrong path, you better take a look in the mirror and change your friends.

  17. Do something spontaneous. Spontaneity drives adventure and that adrenaline feeling. Out of the blue, pack your bags and head out of town on a weekend trip. No planning, just call it a free for all trip. Life needs excitement and living by the book all the time will get boring.

  18. Focus on you. I am not saying be selfish, in fact I want you to work on the exact opposite. I want you inspiring others and doing things for other people but listen, if you are not 100%, if you are not healthy, if you do not have energy, you will not be able to do anything else for other people. You will not be able to give full efforts to other parts of your life if you are overweight, sick all the time, and not 100%. So pay attention to you, eat the right foods, be active everyday, go get a massage and become optimal! Love yourself first so you can spread more love throughout.

  19. Start small and grow big. Think about this one for a minute....If you put $2.00 away in a savings account everyday, that's $14/week, $63/month, $756/year and $7560 in 10 years! Moral of the the story is that it takes small efforts done over and over to make huge gains. It started with just $2.00 and built to over $7k just by doing something so small everyday. It goes for many things. Working out, eating healthy, reading more books, brushing your teeth....It's not the one time you do it that matters, it's the long haul of consistently repeating these healthy habits that will dramatically change your life for the better!

  20. Live one day at a time. Once you know your goals and you know where you want to go in life, you must live one day at a time. Remember you can't do anything about yesterday and tomorrow but today affects the future! So live today big. Do more, be more and you will get more out of life.

87 days left today, next week 80, in 1 month 57 days and in two months 27 days! They will go by fast and it is up to you to make each day count. So let's go for it and get what we want. No excuses just plain ol' hard work!

Leave a comment and let me know what you will do.....

Past writings