Tag Archives: weightloss

Twinkie Diet

I know I am a week late on this one but I have been receiving emails since my last post where I included a link to the story of the Kansas State professor who went on the Twinkie diet and lost 27 pounds.  You can read the CNN article here but I just wanted to share a few of my opinions on the consumption of this male bodypart-like non-food product.

A breakdown of the actual diet that Mark Haub went on to drop 27lbs in 2 months consisted solely of sugary vending machine delicacies such as Ding Dongs, Snowballs, and Twinkies.  In order to maintain some basis of health, he also consumed a daily protein shake, multi-vitamin and miniscule serving of canned vegetables.  He cut back from his usual consumption of 2,600 calories per day to sub 1,600 calories per day.

What does not surprise me is that fact that he lost weight.  It has already been proven that VLCD or very low calorie diets causes weightloss in most people.  I say most because in almost every study there is always an exception to the rule.  Just look at the curious case of Benjamin Button.

What did surprise me was the fact that he improved such biomarkers of good health such as a decrease in LDL and an increase in HDL cholesterol (LDL think “lousy” and HDL think “happy”…that is how I remember it), as well as a decrease in blood lipids.  What this proves is that by decreasing your overall body fat, you will decrease your susceptibility to these health risks.

The problem with this study that it is not actually a study at all since the results come from one man.  What people shouldn’t go out believing is that this diet is healthy or will give them the same results as the professor.  The fact is that you only get a small window (2 months) into what this diet will actually do to your body.

What I am more interested in when it comes to health and fitness is longevity.  What do you think would happen to the professor if he stayed on this diet for 6 months?  What about for 6 years?  I think it’s safe to say that the consumption of all of those non-food products would eventually take their toll on your body and new problems other than being overweight will arise.  Think: “If you run through a dynamite factory with a lit match and manage to make it out the other side, that doesn’t mean your not an idiot”.

Here are the basics of calorie consumption and weight loss:

  1. Depending on your exercise habits, multiply your bodyweight by 10 to 13 to get your daily calorie intake.
  2. Follow rule 1 every day…not most days (when someone tells me this I assume they mean never).
  3. Don’t eat too little calories.  This will slow down your metabolism.
  4. Every 10 days have a “cheat” or refead day.  Don’t gorge on junk food, but do eat something you like and consume a few exta calories.
  5. Try to eat 4-6 “meals” or “feedings”.  Taper your meals as well eating a slightly larger breakfast and smaller dinner.

For example, say you currently weigh 14o pounds and exercise 3-4 times per week.  You would multiply 140 by 12 which would give you a consumption of 1680 calories.  If you try to eat 6 meals a day, divide your calories by 6 which would give you approximately 280 calories per meal.  To put this in perspective, that would be one package of snack cakes or one bottle of soda.

Sidenote: The average American consumes 680 calories per meal.  We also on average consume between 2,000 and 4,000 calories per day.

I am not going to get into what you eat because you should know the difference between healthy food and lets say a Twinkie.  All I can say is put actual “food” in your body.  If you do not know what that is then pick up Food Rules by Michael Polan to learn how to distinguish between a potato and a potato chip.

If anything, I tell my clients to begin with the caloric formula and then gradually improve the quality of the food that they eat.  It is extremely hard for the average 40-50 year old who is trying to make a change to completely eliminate the foods that they have been eating for decades.  It is more feasible to get them to alter their calorie consumption by giving them this simple formula.


PR’s, Perfect Pushup, Shift + Click and My Thoughts on “Cheat Meals”

Today is going to be more of a random thoughts post which I haven’t done in a while and I have a few thoughts I wanted to share.  It is a little rainy and the fall weather has finally arived but all in all it is going to be a great week as I survived a weekend of the first round of this year’s cold/flu season. 

Luckily (enough) it came at the end of my last 2 month training cycle of the 5-3-1 program where my max lifts skyrocketed.  My deadlift saw the greatest improvement and went from a measly (relatively speaking) 335 to 405.  My bench (which I didn’t focus on for months) went from 245 to 285 and my squat (also didn’t do for months) went from 280 to 345.  And with all thier powers combined (reference?) I joined the 1000lb club.  To some in the lifting community this may be minute but for myself powerlifting is new and that is one badass PR (personal record) to hit in 2 months.  (parenthesis parenthisis)

  • This is a little off topic from the exercise stuff but I just found out that if you hold down the Shift key while clicking on a link then it will open up in a new window.  I don’t know how I figured it out but I think it may have come to me in a dream.  Try it out.  For me it will save mucho time of clicking through to various articles and clicking back to the previous page.  Awesomeness.

A few weeks ago I was sent a question from one of my clients regarding the Perfect Pushup and whether or not it is a sound investment.  My initial response was that they change the range of motion but are no better than doing good old fashioned hand-on-floor pushups.  I actually bought a set myself a few years back and may have used them only about a dozen or so times.  Well I finally found the research to back me up because there is no difference in muscle activation when it comes to using them or doing regular pushups.  Here is the abstract at PubMed.com. (use the shift + click, pretty sweet huh?) Therefore the only good to come out of the Perfect Pushup is it may have gotten people to do pushups more regularly since they had bought the equipment.  I myself, did not get my money’s worth.

Do not fall for glorified claims!!

The last topic I wanted to get into today is on the so-called “cheat meal”.  Football season is back in full swing and for many of you guys out there that means huddling in front of your 47″ plasma with a smorgasboard of wings, buffalo dip, beer, and chips.  And in your mind it is ok to go to town on pounds of this stuff “because it is Sunday” and you worked out all week. 

This is a mindset that is setting you up for failure right from the beginning as is the phrase “cheat meal”.  By using the word cheat your are making that little indulgence a dirty little secret like you don’t want anyone to find out (especially your trainer).  When I think of the word cheating what comes to mind are people with gambling problems, people who don’t pay attention in class taking tests, and unfaithful spouses (bastards).  Is this something you want to associate with the food you eat?  Of course not.

Now I eat clean, unprocessed foods most of the time but if the opportunity arrises and it corresponds with my current goals then yes, that slice of Reese’s cheesecake is going straight down my piehole.  It’s often a topic of conversation when I eat out with family or friends because I am a personal trainer.  Funny how because of my profession I am not allowed to eat a bacon cheeseburger (not fastfood, I do not believe that is real meat).

Honestly though, food is food is food and shutting yourself off from certain foods will place them on a pedestal in your mind and make you crave them more so when you do decide to “cheat” you will gorge.  The best way to approach food is nutrient timing and moderation which I will get into in another post.  And of course eating proper nutrition to fuel your body, especially if your goal is to lose weight, gain weight, get stronger, perform better, live longer, and be healthy.  Oh wait, that is everybody. 

Check out this article by Leigh Peele for her view on “cheat meals” as well here (shift + click, fun isn’t it?)  She gives a great insight into what happens in your mind and body when you deprive yourself of something you crave then “cheat”.

REMEMBER:  If you are fueling up with a variety of whole fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, and beans then those minor indulgences will be few and far in between. 

ASK YOURSELF: Will eating this triple meaty deluxe with extra cheese pizza move me closer or further from my goals? Be honest with yourself, it will pay off in the long run.

Exercise of the Week: Band-Assisted Pullups etc…

One of the main rules when it comes to strength is that if you can’t perform one (or all) of the basic movements (push,pull, squat, bend) to perfection then you should not be doing supplementary lifts such as bicep curls, tricep presses or hamstring curls (I hope to never see any of you using the hamstring curl machine or so help me….).  Very simply, if you can’t do a pushup to perfection then you have no right lying on a bench trying to press a weight.  If you can’t squat then you should not be using the leg extension machine.  And the one I see the most often is pullups.  Well, actually I see it least often because people just don’t do them (most women) and the rest don’t do them right (most men).

In my opinion, if you are unable to do a single pullup there is no reason you should be over on the lat pulldown machine racking the weight.  Or even doing a biceps curl exercise for that matter.  Be honest, how many of you have biceps curls in your weekly repatoire and have never even attempted a pullup.  Thought so.

Hands down, pullups are one of the best upper body strength exercises but unfortunately they are hard as hell to do as I’m sure many of you realize.  This exercise not only works your lats (that muscle on your back that you may or may not feel under your armpits after an intense workout) but hits your core and arms pretty hard as well.  But just like any other exercise that may be difficult to master, there are progressions.  I have been working with many of my clients and my groups on perfecting band-assisted pullups.

  1. Take one of the super-bands and loop around the pullup bar on the cable machine.
  2. Standing on a plyo-box or step stool, place the bottom of the band around the middle of your foot.  A partner or spotter may come in handy until you are comfortable doing this on your own.
  3. Lower yourself into the hanging or bottom position and straighten out your opposite leg.
  4. Pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar in a controlled manner then lower and repeat for as many reps as you are completing.

If that made no sense then here is a video that will demonstrate: band-assisted pull-ups.

Another variation that I recommend before even thinking about using the pulldown machine would be to use negatives.  This is where you jump to reach the top position and slowly lower yourself down the the bottom position using a 5 count.  This will help strengthen your lats eccentrically until you are able to perform pullups with a band or on your own.

A good routine to follow at first would be to “grease the groove” by doing at least one pullup every time you are in the gym.  This will teach your body to recognize the pattern neurologically as well as build up a little strength in the process.

You could also do multiple sets of low reps such as beginning with 10 sets of 1 pullup and increasing each set by one additional pullup each week.

  • week 1: 10 sets of 1 pullup
  • week 2: 10 sets of 2 pullups
  • week 3: 10 sets of 3 pullups
  • week 4: 10 sets of 4 pullups
  • week 5: 10 sets of 5 pullups

If you can perform more than 5 sets of 10 pullups with the band then move the band from your foot to your knee or use a lighter band for less resistance.  We only have so many bands so the next progression is to get rid of the band all together and start doing real pullups.  Badass.

Exercise of the Week: Box Squats

If you have been working with me this year or following along with the blog you have probably figured out that there are a solid 5 movements that I like to include in every program.  These have been and always will be squats, deadlifts, back extensions, pushes and pulls.  These do not include your stereotypical “core” exercises because each exercise requires core strength to perform and therefore you will receive a core training effect.  That is not suffice to say that you should not include them in your program and you would be a big dummy not to.

Today I wanted to get into an exercise that I myself have been getting into and working in many of my clients programs.  In a perfect world, everyone would be able to perform a perfect squat but that is far from the case.  One way I have found to help those with poor squat mechanics to improve is to add a box or a bench below to sit on before you come back up.

I have done these in the past but not on a consistent basis so I have done a bit of research for all of you as well as myself.  Whether you are an athlete, weekend warrior, gym rat, stay at home mom, powerlifter, or just someone who wants to look good nekkid, I believe you will benefit from this move.  

From a safety standpoint, box squats are much safer than squats as you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in “the hole” and if you traditional squat sucks then this may be safer for your back and knees as well.

Other benefits of box squats include:

  1. Enforce proper technique. You can’t cheat depth and you are able to sit back by moving your hips first.  Box squats also improve upon hip mobility.  The hardest part of squatting for beginners is using the proper muscles and sitting back as their hamstrings and glutes are not properly developed.  Box squats will fix that in no time whereas regular squats could take months.
  2. Develop hip power: They allow you to use more of your squatting muscles (hips, glutes, hamstring) and take much stress off of the quads.  They also cause you to start in a dead stop in the bottom position which will help you develop a strong posterior chain.
  3. Safer: Rounding your back on back squats is common.  While you can do it during box squats, it is much harder and goes away much quicker.
  4. Proper depth: You never have to guess how low your squatting because it will always be the same.  Especially for males, the more weight you add the less depth you get so by hitting the proper depth, your weight will increase and you will maintain proper form.

There are a few changes you should make if you are used to doing traditional back squats and if you have never back squatted before then pay attention because this is important.

  1. Start with the bar lower on top of your scapular spine rather than your upper traps.  This can be achieved by using a narrower grip which will pull your scapulae together.
  2. Use a wider stance than normal, outside shoulder width.  Also turn your feet slightly out 30 degrees.
  3. Chest up, eyes forward, and brace your core just like a traditional squat.

Now that you know how to stand there with a bar on your back I guess I will teach you how to actually perform the squat.  Keep in mind, your shins and knees should barely move as you want all the movement to come from your hips.  If you are not able to do this then give up, you fail.  Kidding!  But in all seriousness there could be many reasons that I have not written about yet so email me and we will talk.  Back to the descent:

  1. Lead with your hips by pushing your butt back as far as you can.  Think about sitting on a toilet.
  2. Keep your shins perpendicular by using your hips to push yourself back.
  3. Keep your knees over your toes by pushing them out.  This will save your knees from much pain.
  4. Sit on the box in a controlled manner.  You are actually going to sit, not tap, so you need to stay tight and not relax to avoid injury.
  5. Use your heels and press up on the outside of your feet to begin the ascent.  The flatter your shoes the better, I prefer barefoot but Chuck Taylors work well.
  6. Explode up to develop strength and power.

If you have been paying attention then you should be able to box squat with perfection after a few sessions.  Here are some absolute don’ts when it comes to this lift:

  1. Don’t bounce off the box.
  2. Don’t relax on the box.
  3. Don’t bring your knees forward.
  4. Don’t press off your toes.
  5. Don’t rock forward.
  6. Don’t lean forward.
  7. Don’t let your knees cave in.
  8. Don’t A.C. Slater the box. (I hope you all know what this means)

check out these videos:

Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell describes this exercise in full.  Louie started developing this exercise back in the 60’s and is still doing them today.  Nuff said.

EliteFts Box Squat here is just a video of a heavy ass box squat.

Natalie Smith box squats 270lbs, I don’t know this girl but I already like her.

Hip Flexors and Crunches Time Machine

One of the things I want to start adding to my blog are posts commenting on recent or past studies either bashing them or singing their praises.  With all the books, magazines, articles, internet, blogs and other forums there is so much information out there on almost every topic under the sun.  Whats even worse is that for each good piece of information there are over a hundred bad ones.  So for your sake I want to separate the gold from the turds.

In today’s post I just wanted to share an excerpt from Muscles: Testing and Function by Florence Patterson Kendall, P.T. and Elizabeth Kendall McCreary.  Yes, I am a nerd and yes, I read books like this in my leisure.  And yes, I just said “in my leisure”.  The book was published in 1983, hey I was born that year!  Anyways, the section I wanted to share with all my readers is the introduction to the section on trunk muscles.  It gives a great explanation on why you should not be doing many crunching or situp exercises.  I touched on this a few months ago in this post.

Here is some gold from the past:

Proper exercise is an important part of preventative medicine and the public has a right to know which exercises are beneficial and which are harmful, and to know the reasons why.  It is the purpose of this chapter to provide accurate information of a technical nature in a manner that will help make the material useful to many people in the fields of healthcare and physical fitness.

The public is bombarded with fitness programs that include exercises that are supposed to strengthen abdominal muscles.  Many of the exercises are inappropriate or ineffective, and some cause harm.  Attention should be focused on the following concerns:

Subjects with marked weakness of abdominal muscles cannot perform trunk raising in the correct manner of curling the trunk, and, consequently, they do it incorrectly with the low back arching forward, subjecting the abdominal muscles to stretch and strain.

Subjects who do the curled-trunk sit-up correctly (with legs extended or flexed), but do it to excess in frequency and/or duration, may develop excessive flexibility of the back, and shortness of the hip flexors.  These adverse effects may be more pronounced from doing the knee-bent sit-up than from doing the sit-up with legs extended.

In many exercise programs, sit-ups are the only abdominal exercises included.  The programs fail to include proper pelvic tilt exercises that strengthen the muscles most needed to hlep maintain good alignment of the trunk and pelvis in standing.  Furthermore, when pelvic tilt exercises are done, they frequently are done without any action on the jpart of the abdominal muscles.

This is basically saying that most people crunch and/or do sit-ups because that is the only thing that they know how to do.  In most cases this is doing more damage than good, mainly because or hip-flexors are super strong and tight from sitting at a desk all day and a couch all night.  Most people that I see in the gym doing crunches or variations are doing them wrong in the first place.  Even worse is that damn plate loaded “frog” crunch machine that is even further helping to wreck people’s lower backs.  Bravo Hammer Strength Company.

Kendall continues on muscle imbalances (which you may hear me yap about from time to time) and some of the confusion about what your trunk or “core” muscles are:

…muscle imbalance frequently exists between abdominal and hip flexor muscles in trunk-raising forward from a supine position, as in the sit-up.  Hip flexors usually are strong, not infrequently abdominal muscles are weak, and have less endurance than hip flexors.  Whenever there is muscle imbalance there is a tendency for stronger muscles to substitute for weaker ones in movements that ordinarily involve both groups.  Because the hip joint moves through approximately 80 degrees of flexion during the sit-up, irrespective of the position of the trunk or of the lower extremities, it is possible for the hip flexors to perform the trunk-raising when abdominals are weak.

Many people become aware of abdominal muscle weakness because of a painful low back, because being unable to get up easily from a lying position, or simply because they are concerned about their appearance and posture.  The traditional exercises of sit-ups and double-leg-raising have been offered as the panacea for strengthening these muscles.  Unfortunately, they are not the “cure-all” that they are supposed to be.  Much of the confusion has been  caused by failure to distinguish the action of the abdominal muscles from that of the hip flexors during these exercises.  People with strong abdominal muscles can do sit-up or leg-raising exercises without harmful effects; those who have weakness are often affected adversely.  When there is marked weakness, use of these two exercises should be avoided because they can further weaken and strain the abdominal muscles, instead of strengthening them.  There is evolving a better understanding of the uses and abuses of double leg-raising and sit-ups but indiscriminate use of these exercises still persists.

A good personal trainer or physical therapist should be able to locate these imbalances and prescribe proper exercises to correct them.  If they are not constantly assessing your posture and form you may want to reconsider their services.  I have been in this industry long enough to see some pretty bad practices among some so-called professionals to say that all trainers are not created equal.

Don’t forget this was written in the early 80’s so wtf have we been doing since then?!

I can’t stress enough how important it is to stretch your hip flexors and strengthen your posterior hip extensor muscles like your glutes, hams, and lower back if you work a desk job.  This alone should help keep you mobile well throughout your glory years and keep your back pain free.  Seriously.  Focus on posterior chain exercises like back extensions, hip-thrusts, and bridges as well as total body exercises like squats and deadlifts.  I have even read that proper pull ups activate your rectus abdominus or “six pack” muscles more than doing crunches.  Hmmm.

My best advice if you want to see your six pack muscles is to keep your hairy ass out of the fridge.  

Peace, love, and quit doing so many crunches damnit!!

Part of a Complete Breakfast

Today I am going to share one of my favorite breakfast recipes as I am still having people tell me how hard it is for them to eat in the morning because they are rushed out the door.  My simple solution to that would be get up 30 minutes earlier.  I wake up each morning and am in the kitchen cooking up a storm by 5:15 and listening to Strenghtcoach Podcasts or other audio clips and taking notes.  Seriously, every day.  Give me one good excuse why you can’t get up a bit early to shove some good, nutritious grub down your gullet.

There is an occasional morning when I am either pressed for time or just not down to cook the usual egg white omlette with fresh chopped peppers, red onions, diced garlic, fresh thyme, and mushrooms (chopped fresh every Sunday morning) with an oatmeal sidekick with blueberries, walnuts, and cinnamon.  Don’t forget the half a grapefruit that I meticulously cut triangles out of each morning.  Yes, I eat this most days of the week but when I am rushed I usually have pre-made quinoa breakfast salad waiting for me in the fridge.

Cooking quinoa is easier than trying to figure out how to pronounce it (KEEN-wah).  This small, quick-cooking grain bullied me into first purchasing it years ago with a nutritional profile I couldn’t ignore.  High in easy-to-digest fiber and tops in protein, it has an encyclopedic vitamin and mineral profile and is positively brimming with properties thought to promote cardiovascular health, stave of certain cancers, tame headaches and migraines, provide antioxidant protection, and on and on.  This is the grain credited with keeping Incan armies strong and resilient.  Because the protein in quinoa is considered complete, it’s an ideal grain for vegetarians concerned about getting enough protein.  It includes all of the essential amino acids and is a rich source of the amino acid lysine, which promotes tissue growth and repair and supports the immune system.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • handful berries
  • tbsp. honey
  • handful walnuts
  • dash or two cinnamon

When preparing the quinoa, I always use 1 part quinoa to two parts water.  It prepares just like oatmeal and cooks in about 10 minutes so start by gently boiling the water then adding the quinoa.  Once the water starts to evaporate, stir by fluffing the stuff with a fork until it is all soft and fluffy.  You will know when it is finished because each seed will become clear and you will be able to see the germ.  Next transfer to a tupper-ware or other container to be refridgerated.  For extra antioxidants I then add a handful of blueberries or any kind of fresh berries (tis the season) or frozen berries work really well also.  Crush some walnuts with your bare hand and add some of them also which are full of Omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats.  I add clover honey for sweetness  but although delicious, this is optional.  Dash on some cinnamon for flavor as well as increasing glucose tolerance and better fat burning which I explained in my post “Spice it Up With Cinnamon“.

With this breakfast ready to go in your fridge you have no excuses to get super energized each morning with slow burning carbs.  Protection for every day stressors and wear and tear from super antioxidants.  Countless benefits from Omega-3 s for your brain, hair, skin, fat burning, joints, etc, etc.  And improve every aspect of your body’s ability to burn fat.  Still want to skip breakfast?

What I Find Sexy

Life is all about motivation and hustle to create the best you.  As you all know I like to read like crazy and am able to dedicate a huge proportion of my life to staying fit and learning more about fitness due to the fact that I love my profession, I WILL be the best at what I do one day, I’m not married with kids, and I don’t watch any television anymore since LOST has finally concluded.  I teared up a few times but f.y.i. personal trainers only cry when their clients reach the highest of their goals.

On a daily basis, I wake up and get right to work – reading magazines, online magazines, books, journals, blogs, watching videos, listening to podcasts, responding to emails, participating in forums, checking Twitter and Facebook, and writing new articles and blogs.  And believe it or not I do all this before 7a.m. when I get to work at Fitcorp where I’m either running my new kick-ass outdoor bootcamp or working with my clients to fix their imbalances, erase their weaknesses, and transform their bodies to that of the Greek Gods.  You want Aphrodite, you got it.  Or do you?

What most people want is a body to be comfortable in, to be healthy and to be sexy enough to be desired by the opposite sex.  We are all vain whether we admit it or not.  I haven’t played sports since college and yet I still train like I would train my top athletes.  Why?  Because I like the way my body moves, feels, and I want to look good.  I’m pretty sure if you are still reading this then you are in the same boat.

I know what sexy is for me, strength and flexibility in movement.  I want to be strong as hell in every aspect of movement without looking like a bodybuilder and moving like an action figure.  You know, like a pile of body parts that only move in one direction at a time and are as flexible as a piece of plastic.  Strong, yes.  Sexy, no.

And I can’t speak for all of man kind but I find the exact same sexiness in women.  Nothing makes me drool more then watching a petite little flower move a 135lb. barbell like it was her bitch.  I’ve touched on this in past articles and I will say it again girls: lifting heavy weights does not make you look bulky like a man.  If you still don’t believe me then check out this clip of model Katie Cole training hard with personal trainer Brett Contreras: Dead F***ing Sexy .

Notice that she is doing many of the same exercises that I have been doing with you all since day one.  Hmmm.  “If we do the same exercises then why don’t I look like her?”.  Good question young grasshopper.  Which brings me to my next point.  Lift heavy.  Challenge yourself.  Stay motivated.  Basically you have to push past your limits and crush that mental road block of “I can’t do that” or “Thats too hard!”.  Do you want to look good?  Eat better and train hard.

And if you missed that link to Katie Cole’s workout I am going to post it again here: Best Butt.  And here: Wowza.  And watch her form on many of the exercises.  The knees stay back and the hips stay solid and move behind the body allowing her to stay safe and use correct form.  This is VERY important.  And holy butt-blaster Batman, look at all that weight!

Stay sexy Boston and have a great Memorial Day weekend.

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