Monday, September 29, 2014

A message to coaches and fitness trainers and the people they work with

If you work with a personal trainer, fitness instructor, physical therapist or sports coach, please take the time to read and then forward it over to your coach.   

If you are in the fitness industry, this one’s for you....

There are many ways to “skin a cat”.  Meaning, there are many varieties of fitness.  One size does not fit all.  I am not going to sit here and tell you that one program is better than the other.  But, here is an important point to consider: Coaching fitness goes so much deeper than supplying just some workout.  I do my best to educate my clients and athletes on real world training and nutrition principles.  Supplying these principles can aide me in individualizing the program to fit each unique person.  I understand that what may work for one person, might not work for another.   

Always coaching and caring for your students is key.

A good coach creates an environment that molds the training session around the unique abilities of the students.  Poor coaches are constantly “shoving square pegs into round holes”.  This design sets people up to be unsuccessful in the training plan.    

This atmosphere is about "getting work done" more so than quality work.  
As a coach, it is so critical to educate each individual on how his or her body works and responds to movement and exercise.  Understanding each individual’s unique physiology (body structure) is critical to be successful.  By recognizing these parameters, now you can start pushing their limits.  Having the aptitude to scale workouts to each individual is very important to allow proper progression and improvement to happen. 

The worse thing I can do is put a client into a dangerous situation that will increase the chance of injury.  My job is to first, build a safe environment.  Fitness training should not cause injury, or at least the chances are very minimal.  If you are constantly getting hurt in the gym, you are doing something wrong.  I am always asking this question, “What are the risks versus rewards of this specific exercise?”  I then make a smart decision as to what is implemented into my program.  

What are the risks versus rewards of this exercise?

Risk vs. Reward?  Is there a better option?

Secondly, fitness coaches and personal trainers are put into a position to guide and encourage smart fitness training.  Coaches need to understand that just because a specific workout makes someone sore and tired, doesn’t mean the workout was beneficial.  Vomiting, extreme soreness and passing out are not positive affects to training.   

Not a good workout affect.

Are we randomly choosing exercises?  Do we have a planned training system?  Do we just find exercises that crush people?  Are we teaching the exercises correctly?  Is every workout extremely hard?  These are just a few questions to ask yourself regarding programming.  

Once we have created a safe training atmosphere, now the fun part begins.  Adding in motivational strategies to the training session is icing on the cake.  If the individual you are coaching is not motivated, odds are they will end up leaving your program.  Supplying motivational tools should be ongoing and a major part of the job.  Motivation is what assists people reach their goals.  Without motivation, progress gets halted.  

Motivational talk at the end of EVERY workout!  Inspire them to be better!

All in all, the fitness coach is put into a pretty important position.  We are fortunate to have an avenue to truly help people find their ultimate self.  But we must look at a training session more thoroughly than just giving a good workout.  The workout is the “nuts and bolts” but without the right tools, the coach will not complete the job.  Create a high-energy environment.  Be passionate every workout.  Listen to your members.  Always communicate.  Supply motivation.  Work on yourself.  These skills and characteristics will truly help you change peoples’ lives.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Movement is the Cure

We sit more, we move less and we have become sedentary.  Yes, this is now the society norm.  Why is active living the minority?  Why is the fit individual looked upon as unusual or “weird”?  Why do people think they cannot perform basic human movements that at one time were completely natural actions?  Squatting, crawling, climbing, hanging, throwing, running, twisting, lunging, pulling, pushing and lifting are basic human movements that we have been doing since the beginning of time.  But yet, in our current state we have defaulted into inactivity, limiting our movement capabilities.  This in turn, creates movement dysfunction, injury, obesity, disease and unhealthy living.  Simply moving more can cure many of these unhealthy issues.  

Prolonged sitting, TV watching, computer usage, video gaming and texting has become more popular than simply playing.  Parks are vacant.  Playgrounds are desolate.  Black court basketball courts are empty.  Ask your co-employee if they can climb a rope or fluidly squat to the ground.  The statistics say they cannot perform these tasks.  Why are we migrating away from demonstrating basic human movements?  Why would people rather sit all day than get up and be active?  Movement is the cure and can help decrease pain, improve lifestyle habits, and create a more enjoyable life, which will develop overall personal performance. 

Many people do not have adequate mobility to squat to the ground.

The deep squat used to be a natural human movement.

But we need a complete paradigm shift in our way of thinking.  Many people are reactive in regards to movement.  They wait until pain arises or their doctor tells them they “need to exercise more” or they have trouble walking a flight of stairs.  Please do not wait till something happens to move.  It might be too late if you wait.  

Moving erratic, with poor quality and high repetition is not the answer either.  Considering your personal movement capacities is such a critical component when prescribing a dosage of activity. 

Just because an activity makes you sore and tired doesn't mean it was good for you.  Once you have created an understanding of your own individual guidelines, get out there and express your movement. 

Work your mobility, which will improve your total range of motion.  Mobility is the ultimate aspiration, as we grow older.  Work your strength.  Strength doesn’t necessarily mean how much can you bench press or squat.  Strength is the expression of how well you can control your range of motion.  Strength is bodyweight management.  Strength is power. Strength is having balance.  If you can bench press 225 pounds but can not perform one bodyweight pull-up, it’s a problem.  

So here is my challenge for you: Weekly, do your best to move as much as you can.  There is no specific recommendation like “3 days for 60 minutes”.  The more you move, the better you will feel.  Daily movement is essential to quality living.  Squat, crawl, climb, hang, throw, run, twist, lunge, push, pull and lift.  Do these things in a fluid and quality manner.  Do not bash your body into the ground.  Movement should make you feel good, not beaten up.  Push your limits but recognize how far you should stretch those limits.   Add recovery strategies to promote blood flow, flexibility and decrease inflammation.  Eat sensible.  Movement and nutrition enhancement can change your life. 

Let’s take personal responsibility to create a shift in thinking regarding movement and exercise.  It’s for all of us.  We just need to find the right dosage required to upgrade our lives.  Now, go move!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The new rules of Core Training

"The idea of core strengthening is to 
build a shield to protect our lower spine."

I had a team meeting with our fitness coaches and the main topic of conversation was “core training”.  I wanted to challenge the thought of how we work the core and what would be the best exercises to increase core function.  I first wanted to talk about the function of our entire torso region.  This area of the body basically connects our upper body to our lower body.  Everything from our shoulders to our hips can be associated to our “core”.  Don’t just think abdominals.  Many people view the “6-pack” as the core but true core anatomy is the deepest layer of the human body.  In fact, the major core musculature will never be seen in a mirror.  The diaphragm (breathing muscle), pelvic floor (all of the muscles associated with the pelvis), transverse abdominals (internal weight belt) and the small spinal muscles known as the multifidis represents the inner core. 

Once we were on the same page regarding anatomy, then it was time to talk function.  What is the role of the core?  I began answering this question with a concept known as “shield training”.  To me, the idea of core strengthening is to build a shield to protect our lower spine.   

Let me explain.  The 5 lumbar vertebrae are very susceptible to various injuries.  Stenosis, sciatica, bulging discs, herniated discs and disc degeneration can all derive from poor core function.  When the muscles that surround these 5 lumbar discs are weak, unstable and are in poor positions, the low back becomes the main culprit, which can cause pretty serious pain.  Individuals that sit most of their day are more susceptible to low back problems due to the poor posture they are reinforcing on a daily basis. 

Look what happens to the low spine when posture is compensated.

Probably the worse position we can be in during the day. 

Traditional exercises like crunches, sit-ups, Russian twists and leg raises may not be the best exercises to create true function at the core.  In fact, repetitive crunching and twisting has been shown to put tremendous stress on the lumbar spine. 

I then started talking about surrounding areas to the torso.  “Core” training is also about creating good function in our hips, glutes, mid-spine and shoulders.  We need mobility in our hips and mobility in our mid-spine so that we can stay stable in our low spine.  Think about a golfer who has poor shoulder and hip rotation.  The low spine becomes the prime mover for the golf swing and this quickly can cause injury and pain.  The golf swing can generate tremendous force.  If this individual is not functioning correctly, this can have the low back screaming.  This concept can relate to basically all human movements.  The hips should be the power source so that the low spine can remain stable.  

                                 The Joint by Joint approach is a system that creates joint function.  If the hips and thoracic                                                spine are not mobile, the low spine will take the movement, thus causing pain. 

Ok, so now that we understand a little more about this “shield” idea, what exercises are best to help us improve our core function?  Let’s start with the hips.  We need hip mobility drills to improve or maintain our hip range of motion.  Remember, if our hips are stiff, the low back is likely to take the unwanted movement.  Bodyweight deep squats, leg swings, bodyweight split squats, bodyweight single leg deadlifts, hip lifts and side lunges can all assist in hip mobility. 

To improve lumbar stability, in my opinion, stay away from those mentioned traditional exercises above.

Start implementing:
Farmer Walks: grab 2 dumbbells or kettlebells and walk for 25-40 yards.  Stay “tall and tight”.   

Suitcase walks: same as Farmer Walks but with just 1 dumbbell or kettlebell. 

Birddog: Go to your hands and knees on the ground.  Without any torso movement, push out and extend your right leg to the wall behind you and extend your left arm to the wall in front of your.  Perform 10 repetitions then switch sides.  Maintain good stability in your low spine area.  

Planks/Side planks: Most people have seen these movements but do not perform them correctly.  You should have good posture and portray a rigid body.  No need to hold more than 30 seconds. 

Correct form.  Notice the rigid and aligned body.

Incorrect form.

Shoulder Touches: Get into a perfect push-up position.  Widen your feet and have your left hand touch your right shoulder.  Do the opposite side and perform 20 total repetitions.  Do not let your hips move side to side.  This will teach rotational stability.  


Start adding these exercises to your workouts and you will see a change in your core strength.   Of course, there are many exercises to choose from.  But the idea is to rethink what we know about training the core and dive a little deeper (no pun intended) into the true function. 

Oh by the way, if you do want to see a “6-pack”, that is a nutrition thing.  You get strong in the gym and lean in the kitchen.  You can do all of the “core training” you want but if you are not eating the right foods, you will not change your waistline. 

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