Weekend Reading: Incredible Edible Eggs, Beautiful Badasses 2 and Core Interviews

I know I wrote about this months ago but I finally had time the other day to sit down and watch Avatar.  Yes, I am slightly behind the curve on this one as I find it hard to devote 3 hours to blue humanoid crusades on planet preservation but holy crap.  My only regret was not going to see it in IMAX 3D.  Harry Potter 17 is next….haha just kidding (not really).

It has been a while since I have shared some of the great things I find on the interwesz so here are a few things to read over the weekend that is more exciting than me and the girlfriend watching Chocolat on HBO.  Johnny Depp is truly amazing.

The first order of business is to praise the food of the gods: eggs.  I am not sure of how many I have eaten in my lifetime but a few dozen a week for the past 10 years should paint a good picture.  Slowly but surely I have adopted the belief that the yolks are perfectly healthy and will not make me a fat ass.  Honestly, I spent 9 out of the past 10 years separating the white from the yolk and trashing the most nutritious part (the unborn chicken baby).  Here are Tony Gentilcore’s views on whats worse: eggs or men’s figure skating? Here is another egg article by Mike Geary on whether whole eggs or egg whites are better for you.  

My current favorite egg creation is a scramble with mushrooms, spinach, rosemary, herbed goat cheese and 4 whole eggs.  This has been my breakfast for 1 week and running…along with a potato, oj and milk.  Want to gain muscle?  Eat.

Want to lose muscle?  Go on the Twinkie Diet.  Yes, this is a real diet that helped a nutrition professor lose 27 pounds.  Good research, shitty diet.  Here is the original and here is Mike Nelson’s response.

While we are on the subject, Cassandra Forsythe wrote a great post on the great saturated fat debate.  The American Dietetic Association held their 93rd annual meeting in Boston last weekend and Cassandra helps break down some of their talks.  Check it out.

Yes, with my busy schedule I still have time to cook breakfast every day.  Early to bed and early to rise and all that jazz.  I am awake and doing work when most tigers are dreaming of mauling zebras and Halle Berry in her catwoman suit.  The truth is that most people come up with thousands of excuses for not getting shit done and one of the more popular excuses is that they don’t have enough time.  Rog Law broke it down in an epic post in the No-Excuses Guide to Getting Things Done.  My first client is typically around 6a.m. and I still wake up about an hour before I even have to leave in order to let my brain adjust to the new day by listening to a seminar or the Fitcast followed by reading on the train on my way to Fitcorp.  What do you do before 6a.m.?  Chad Howse also wrote a recent post on how to get your schedule in order, great stuff.

Next I want to redirect your attention to some videos ofBeautiful Badasses.  This series has become popular on Nia Shanks’ site, the BodyFat Solution.  It shows beautiful women lifting heavy things and just being totally badass.  Kudos to Nia for inspiring women across the world to drop their preconceived notion that women who lift heavy things will become bulky and mannish.  In reality, this is f*$&ing hot.  What do you do women to do be a beautiful badass?

Here is a post of Jason Ferrugia’s beautiful badass breaking her old pullups pr by 4 reps at a grand total of 17.  That is a truly amazing feat for any woman so props to Jen.  Here is how she did it.

Last night, my beautiful badass ditched the light weights and entered the wonderful world of deadlifting and barbell front squats.  After working with her for the past month on prep work to get her ready to handle some weight.  At 110lbs, she nailed the barbell front squat and banged out a couple sets of deadlifts with 95lbs.  On a scale from 1 to 10 on hotness that ranks up there with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore a clay pot.

For your viewing pleasure:

The last thing I want to share with you is a series of core interviews on anything and everything that will help you build the core that have always dreamed of.  My friend Mark Young is giving away these priceless interviews on his site for free.  I am appalled daily at the stuff that I see people continuing to do in the gym to train their mid sections hoping that someday a 6-pack will magically appear.  Download this series of interviews here if you are seriously looking to improve your core knowledge and training.  Enjoy!

Have a great weekend and if you don’t check back in have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


AAAHH!! Real Core Training

Working in a commercial gym I lay witness to some pretty horrific training practices.  Some so terrifying that I have nightmares of pink dumbbell monsters tying me to an eliptical and forcing me to watch Sweating to the Oldies as everyone around me is doing crunches and 1lb bicep curls.  Trust me, I have had this dream before and woke up in a cold sweat.

I know it is part of my job to educate and inform of the benefits and proper practices of exercise and strength training but there are many who are unwilling to trade in their beloved crunches for stability exercises such as planks.  There are some that I have converted to the faith of core training but they have done so begrudgingly.

Now, keep in mind that I am not bashing the crunch.  Just like any exercise there is a time and place as well as a right and wrong way to do it.  The problem is that most people lack the internal hip mechanics to properly perform a crunch as well as neglect their nether region (glutes) to keep their hips in proper alignment.  Most people sit all day in the flexed position and doing crunches may will add insult to injury.

I’m also not saying that the plank is the end-all-be-all for core training either.  Just like the crunch, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.  If your ass is up in the air (insert joke here) then your hips are in that deleterious flexed position and you are neglecting the proper posture.  When I have my clients plank, I make sure that they are squeezing the shit out of their glutes the whole time to maintain alignment and train glute function.  Believe me, this is a whole different ball game.

Now that you know where I am coming from it is time to maybe shift your paradigm a little when it comes to core training.

The first thing that I cannot stress enough is that your 6-pack (or lack there of) is NOT your core.  In actuality, there are two layers.  A deep layer that attaches to your spine and pelvis as well as a superficial layer that is targeted by doing things like crunches.  The deep core muscles which should be your focus are targeted by dynamic and stability exercises as they aid in spinal and pelvic stability.  You mean crunches don’t aid in stability?!  Hmm…

While we are on the subject of your superficial core and 6-pack muscles I cannot stress enough that you ALL have them.  The problem is that they are buried beneath layers  of processed foods, french fries and fried chicken.  Under this premise doing gazillions of crunches is doing little to no help in digging those bad boys out.

Actually, when it comes to core training it is more beneficial to focus on performing 10-15 repetitions with perfect form than to do 100 bobbing-neck crunches on a stability ball (I see this daily and a little piece of me dies each time).  Taking a minimalist approach and focusing on quality over quantity is much better than trying to impress your friends.  Slow controlled movement of the proper muscles will give you the results you are looking for.

Learning how to plank and control stability is only the first piece of the puzzle.  The rest is learning how to use that stability functionally during exercise and activity.  The core needs to be dynamic and ready to handle whatever is thrown at it in any situation to prevent injury and keep you safe.  With that in mind, do you think that just doing crunches or even just doing planks is enough to train your core?

The fact is that there is no single exercise that will train your core better than the next and you must integrate many different core exercises into your program.  There are specific core exercises such as planks, side planks, anti-rotation exercises, cable raises, cable chops, leg raises, and yes even crunches (but only if your good at the other stuff).

What most people don’t realize though is that exercises such as lunges, squats, pushups and deadlifts train your core and posture as well.  It takes a lot of core control and stability to perform these exercises and perform them well.  One of my female clients hit a PR on the deadlift yesterday of 165lbs.  Do you think she has a strong and functional core?  You better f*$#ing believe it!

One of my personal favorite core exercises (besides deadlifting) is the Kettlebell Turkish Getup.  It is one of the few exercises that trains the entire function of the core as well as hip and shoulder stability and control.  You begin lying flat on your back with a challenging weight above head and sequentially move to a standing position with the weight remaining above head.  Here is one of my 47 year old clients performing a getup as part of his metabolic circuit at the end of a session.  Do you think he has a strong core?  It is f*$#ing bulletproof!

A lot has changed in the world of core training in the past decade and even in the past 5 years.  Heck, I think it might be safe to say that the science behind core training has even evolved greatly in the past year.  One thing that has not changed though is the fact that crunches appear to be deleterious to your core if you don’t already have good core function and pelvic control.  I wrote more about that here.

My final question to you is “Has your training evolved?”  I mean, look at your technology: Iphones, laptops, Blueberries, Ipads, and Kindles.  Look how much it has improved over the past 10 years.  Why shouldn’t your core training?

Some Soft Tissue Tidbits

It still amazes me how many people are aware of the benefits of soft tissue work such as self myofascial release (SMR) and yet when I ask them how often they foam roll all I get is crickets chirping.  My next question is why not to which I am answered: I don’t have enough time.  If you have time to do biceps curls while standing on the BOSU and then 60 minutes on the eliptical then I hate to break the news but you have more time than you think.

I wrote a post several months ago about Foam Rolling For Health that includes links to proper technique that is worth checking out.  Today I wanted to reiterate a few of those benefits and go over a few more.  Just like any other exercise, foam rolling is a skill and now that it is finally being recognized by the media there are a whole slew of people just throwing themselves on the foam roller and flopping around like a fish out of water.

The importance of fascia and it’s interconnectedness to our physiology goes deeper than just a “Saran Wrap” that covers the muscles as I have heard it referred to as.  I hate this term.  People such as Thomas Myers, author of Anatomy Trains, have spent their lives focusing on “facial fitness” and relating this relatively new science to modern techniques.  Or is it new?  Ida Rolf began her studies on postural release, or Rolfing, back in the 1950s with great success.

“Fascia is the organ of posture. Nobody ever says this; all the talk is about muscles. Yet this is a very important concept, and because this is so important, we as Rolfers™ must understand both the anatomy and physiology, but especially the anatomy of fascia. The body is a web of fascia. A spiderweb is in a plane. This web is in a sphere. We can trace the lines of that web to get an understanding of how what we see in a body works. For example, why, when we work with the superficial fascia does this change the tone of the fascia as a whole?”
-Ida P. Rolf PhD

Here are some of the basic benefits of using SMR prior to activity:

  • Decreases muscle tension via autogenic inhibition.
  • Breakdown of soft tissue adhesions.
  • Breakdown of scar tissue.
  • Provides greater benefits when done prior to stretching.
  • All of these help to prevent injury.

Some more benefits of SMR:

  • Increases vasodilation which facilitates nutrient delivery and waste removal.
  • Reduces tissue viscosity which can allow better quality muscular and joint actions.
  • Decreases sympathetic tone.
  • Improves respiration.
  • Decreases feelings of anxiety and fatigue.

Here are some general guidelines to foam rolling:

  • Roll Slowly.
  • Hold on tender areas/sore spots for 30-60 seconds or until discomfort dissipates by 75%.
  • Eliminate 2-3 sore spots per targeted muscle.
  • Keep pressure manageable.
  • Do 5-15 min before athletic activity and before stretching.
  • Do 5-15 min post activity to aid in recovery.
  • Perform on “off” days to optimize recovery and aid in tissue health.

Using the foam roller provides a cheap, effective and easy way to improve your soft tissue and overall health but just like anything else it requires your attention and time.  You should be able to experience some of the acute benefits immediately but it will take some diligence to receive the full benefits.  Improve your soft tissue to improve your posture and your health.  Believe me, your body will thank you for years to come.

Rainy Day Workout

I am not feeling very witty or clever today so I am going to keep this post short and sweet…kind of like some people’s attention span during thier workouts.  You know the type, do a set, get a drink of water, think of the next exercise, think about last night’s premier of Conan, watch my client’s actually training and getting work done, then watch sports center on t.v. before starting thier next…oh wait, what was I doing again?

I know it’s rainy out but that is no reason to get lazy by skipping a workout or sitting around the gym pretending to workout.  Both are equally as lame as Justin Beiber live on broadway. 

Here is an idea great workout for a rainy day like today and don’t worry, snow is right around the corner.  As always begin by warming up by foamrolling,

5 Min Warmup

  • One-leg glute bridge                                               10/side
  • Lateral mini-band walk                                         10/side
  • Walking spiderman with overhead reach        5/side
  • Reverse lunge                                                           10/side
  • Lateral Lunge                                                              5/side
  • Jumprope                                                                    2 minutes

15 Min Metabolic Circuit

  • Side plank with weighted fly                                       10/side
  • Jump split squat (or bodyweight split squat)     10 reps (10/side)
  • Kettlebell swings                                                             10 reps
  • Yoga pushups                                                                   10 reps
  • Kettlebell suitcase deadlifts                                       10/side
  • Squat and press                                                               10 reps
  • Reaching plank                                                                 5/side

Complete the circuit and repeat 3 to 5 times resting 1:30 in between sets.  The first round may seem easy, the rest will not.  This is a great mindless workout to get you in hear and training hard with little to think about to kick the habit of standing around.

In other news, since my blog has grown over the months (much thanks to you all for reading and sharing my humble blog) I will be adding video to my posts in the very near future.  I am working hard on getting video of various exercises to help you guys learn while I am away.

Any suggestions on what my first video should be? (get your mind out of the gutter please, this is a family site)

Say Hello To My Little Friends

I don’t know if you have noticed but over the past year or so there has been a ton of new marketing focused on yogurt and smoothie products containing “live cultures” or more specifically probiotics.  I mean c’mon, you must have seen that commercial with all the Jamie Lee Curtis and skinny women running around singing Activia!, loving life and eating yogurt.

Jamie Lee Curtis

But what exactly are probiotics and are they all that they are supposed to be cracked up to be?  Are they necessary?  Can we get enough of them from whole food or should we take a supplement?  Will they really help our digestive system so we don’t need a full lenght novel like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo every time we go to the bathroom?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer to any of these questions nor have I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but I plan to do my research to share with all of you.  I could use a little fiction and microorganisms in my life.

I have always been a huge supporter of yogurt and the new front runner greek yogurt for not only the great protein and calcium content but also the live cultures.  You know, the L acidophilosaurus rex an the B bacterium instomachus yum.  (What did he just say?)

The one thing that I do know about intestinal flora is that it contributes to digestion and absorbtion of nutrients and protects our innards from evil tummy bugs like E. Coli and salmonella.  The indoor plumbing where these healthy bacteria reside is your large intestine which covers over 75% of your body’s immune system. 

Over all, there are over 400 known species of these microbes living in your digestive tract helping to protect your immune system.  It is a very important job and your first line of defense against viruses and other stomach bugs.  Think the Battle of Mordor from Lord of the Rings going on in your intestion: good vs. evil.

Good food sources include yogurt of course as well as fermented foods like saurkraut, kimchi and kombucha.  Another great source of probiotics which I have recently added to my diet is kefir, which is a probiotic yogurt-like drink.  I have been drinking the Lifeway brand plain kefir throughout the day to aid in digestion since I have been taking in extra calories lately…not always to the liking of my stomach.  Believe it or not, after a week the probiotics made a huge difference.

Things that can affect the healthy bacteria are changes in diet, stress, hormones, radiation, pollution, antibiotics, infection and Jillian Michaels.  All things that I’m sure effect you in one way or another.  And a decrease in the good guys means an increase in the bad guys which will cause poor digestion, poor nutrient absortion and a lower immune system.

I have not taken probiotic supplements but I know a few people who have and had great success.  Tablets, drinks, chewables and acidophilus pearls are available for your supplemental pleasure. 

Another great way to make sure that your little squirmy dudes are doing their job is to make sure you are eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods that may irritate the lining of your intestine.  Just another good reason to stock up on fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains.

Post your questions and comments below, I would love to hear your take on probiotics.

Recovery…. From Training, Life and Tackle Football

Maybe not one of the best ideas I’ve had in a long time but yesterday I went back to my alma mater to play in my alumni vs. actives flag football game.  It was all in good fun and regardless of what shape each of us was in I don’t think we were prepared for the hurt that was to follow.  Blood, sweat, a wet field, a black eye, and a potentially broken collarbone later we are all layed up today.

All in all I’m happy with my 2 TDs for the day and multiple tackles.  On the down side I am finding it difficult to move my legs and do things such as standing up.  Now I know how Jay Cutler feels having no offensive line.  Needless to say I will be on the couch all day where I belong watching the Pats take on the Browns.  Although I will not be playing in the Super Bowl anytime soon I will own this year’s Tecmo Bowl.

Since I plan on doing as little moving today as possible I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on recovery.  It is something that I did little of in my early days of lifting which is something that I totally regret.  I got results from completely hammering my body 5-6 days a week but looking back and knowing what I know now my results would have been far superior had I recovered properly.  I mean it is what we do outside the gym and on our off days that helps your body grow.

Whether you are an athlete, a runner or just a weekend warrior recovery is important to help prevent injury, strengthen your immune system, and get you the results you are looking for.  Sleep, diet and proper training all play a role in how your body recovers.

One of the first questions I ask all of my clients when we meet is how much sleep they get and how well they sleep.  It is one of the easiest places to improve not only your training but also your quality of life.

Here are a few easy ways to increase the quality of your sleep:

  1. Take a shower before bed to warm the muscles and help you relax.
  2. Do some static stretching or soft tissue work to help the body relax.
  3. Don’t watch T.V. in bed, rather do some easy reading or listen to soft music.
  4. Make sure your room is dark.  Cover the windows and turn off the electronics.
  5. Don’t drink caffeine or Jager bombs before bed.
  6. Try to get in a routine.  Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each night.
  7. Use clean sheets (my girlfriend appreciates this one).

Your nutrition also plays a huge role in your body’s recovery as well.   After all, you are what you eat.  Do you think that if you continue to suck down diet sodas and house desserts and fastfood that your body is going to look and perform how you want it to?

I’m sure you’ve all heard the term post-workout nutrition but what exactly are you refeuling with after your workout?  What do you have for breakfast when your body is starving for quality calories?  What is the last thing you put in your body before you go to sleep?  Everything you put in your body is going to aid in recovery.

Here is a sample day of eating:

  • Breakfast: 2 egg omlette with peppers, onions, and garlic.  A banana and a glass of orange juice.
  • Meal 2: Oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts and a glass of skim milk.
  • Pre-workout: smoothie -1 scoop of whey protein, 1/2 cup milk, frozen berries, banana, 1 cup spinach, chia seeds, and 1/4 cup oats.
  • Post-workout: 1 scoop of whey protein (or chocolate milk…I prefer organic) and a banana.  Gatorade also works well for recovery.
  • Meal 5: A sandwich…lean meat, pb&j or whatever floats your boat.  Throw some veggies in there too, baby carrots for an added crunch can be satisfying.
  • Dinner: Meat and veggies.
  • Pre-bedtime snack: Yogurt as it contains probiotics which aid in digestion and is also a good source of protein to aid in recovery.

You can substitute most of these food items for something of equal or greater value but try not to stray too far from the recipe.  The nutrients and frequency of meals all aid in proper recovery whether you are trying to get stronger, lose weight or perform better.  I eat the same foods whether I am bulking up or trying to burn fat, it makes food choices easier and I know I am getting proper nutrition to reach my goals.

For those of you who train and train hard every week it is extremely important to take a week to deload or decrease your training frequency at least every 4-6 weeks or so.  It may not be as important  for beginners as it is for intermediate or advanced lifters but you should still be finding time to decrease training intensity by either sets, reps or number of days.

I also prefer my clients as well as myself to take a day off in between training sessions to allow for full recovery.  Now I don’t mean doing nothing at all but rather not lifting heavy things repeatedly 5 days in a row.

A good recovery “off-day” could still be used for focusing more on soft tissue work, mobility drills, light body weight training and cardio such as a metabolic circuit or interval training.  Instead of playing contact football on your day off like I did, play something like basketball or another sport with your friends that will not have you layed up the next day.

Tomorrow I plan to do some extra foam rolling as recovery from using my body as a human battering ram in yesterday’s game.  As for the rest of today?  I plan on doing as little moving as possible.

Movement Wisdom

All too often people focus on strength and stability training as a way to improve their fitness and appearance.  But what happens when an individual’s  initial dysfunction is being caused by something other than  a muscular weakness?  What if that supposed weakness is actually muscle inhibition?  What if the weakness in a prime mover is the result of  a dysfunctional stabilizer?  What if tightness is actually protective muscle tone or inadequate muscle coordination?  What if Lindsay Lohan actually went through rehab and got clean?

Hopefully all of these questions have raised a few eyebrows (except the last question….we know that will never happen) because even today, there are very few professionals who look at movement as a standard for human fitness and performance.  The problem is that these sciences may be the key to unlocking the mysteries behind injury and dysfunction in the human body.

My industry as well as others that deal with human movement such as physical therapy, athletic training, chiropractic medicine, and orthopedics seem to be moving towards this direction as our science has evolved over the past decade.

What may seem complex atually takes a minimalist approach as we look at the body and it’s systems as a whole and break it down to the most primitive movement patterns.  The goal here is to allow your body to relearn the movement patterns that were available at birth and work from there.

As an attempt to create an industry standard, Gray Cook’s new book Movement: Functional Movement Systems begins to simplify many of these quandries in an attempt to create standard operating procedures for our science and industry.

I have been following Gray for a few years now and have adopted the Functional Movement Screen or FMS as a standard for working with all of my clients.  Although every one of my client’s goals may be different, the one thing that every human has in common is movement.  Our job is to not only locate faulty movement patterns but to bring back mobility and stability before attempting to build strength on top of dysfunction.

Here are a few pearls of wisdom from this epic book:

    • Pain affects motor control in unpredictable and inconsistent ways.  This, coupled with poorly planned and poorly  reproduced exercises, gave the average patient little chance of reestablishing authentic motor control.
    • What we see as low general fitness may be the extra metabolic demand produced by inferior neuromuscular coordination and compensation.
    • Mobility must precede stability.
    • Those with a weak core might develp tightness in the shoulder girdle or neck musculature as a secondary atempt to continue functioning. 
    • Those with chronic low back pain and stability problems may develop tightness in the hip flexors and hamstrings as secondary braces even if it reduces mobility.
    • As we age, grow and become self-sufficient-and then as we decline and lose some capabilities-we must always maintain some degree of our original functional movement patterns or we will be disadvantaged.
    • Breathing connects all parts of the movement matrix, but it remains the most neglected aspect of the Western approach to exercise, athletic conditioning and rehabilitation….Correct breathing provides power through a central drive of energy supported by the matrix.
    • Once appropriate levels of movement pattern function have been established, performance and skill can be investigated.  If these are prematurely investigated without an appropriate movement pattern baseline, poor performance and skill testes may actually be attributed to a faulty fundamental movement pattern.
    • Many rehabilitation approaches do not revisit the fundamental movement patterns that walking is built upon when older individuals lose balance or have difficultywalking. Instead, many seniors are placed on recombent bikes or given resistance exercises for their thighs under the assumption that weakness is the only problem. 
    • However, we must consider that coordination, patterning, reflex stabilization and timing also play a role, and these will not be reconstructed with generalized strengthening or cardio exercises.

I have barely scratched the surface on some of the wisdom that Movement  has to offer but hopefully this will help cause a paradigm shift on how you view exercise and movement rehabilitation.  As we move closer to a time that is ruled by science and logic, this field will continue to grow and evolve for the betterment of those we work with. 

The sad truth and the largest obstacle that I face is that the media and advertising interests have greater influence on the fitness culture than the professionals dedicated to fithess, athletic development and rehabilitation.  This is the only reason that anyone would ever buy a workout DVD from that asshat “The Situation” or a Kettlebell DVD from “actress” Jillian Michaels.

What is the world coming to?

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