Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bodies- Check'em out!!... No, seriously

There are two different ways you can work out these days. One way is to do your exercises and finish them as quickly as possible, which is basically just "going through the motions". The other way is to take some time, focus on each muscle moving, and understand how your body works together. This is better than just "going through the motions" because you can engage your muscles more efficiently for a better work out.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to go to the Bodies exhibit this past weekend with a good friend of mine (also a fantastic client and triathlete). The bodies exhibit is a collection of cadavers that are arranged in all types of positions. Each cadaver showcases different groups of bones, muscles, and areas of the circulatory system and nervous system.

To actually see the origins and insertions of each muscle is amazing! Understanding where muscles connect to the body can help us understand each muscle's role in movement. So, if you see the Latissimus Dorsi muscle at the exhibit, you'll now know what muscle to visualize and focus on when you are doing a Lat Pull Down. Understanding how muscles connect to the body also help us critique and correct our form. If we want to do a bicep curl (once seeing where the biceps attach) and your body is moving a lot more than just the bicep, it is now safe to say that the form of the exercise may be compromised.

The bodies exhibit is an interesting trip. It can really define a new perspective about how the parts of the body have to work together in order for us to move and live. There are several Bodies exhibits scattered around the US. Here's a link to their main page for a location nearest to you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Core Muscles-- they don't just stem from abdominal crunches

Plank, Side Plank, Bridges, Trunk Twists ... These are all Core Muscle exercises that engage a lot more than just your rectus abdominis . There are many muscles that require activation if you want to train your "true core". Your "true core" is comprised of various muscles such as the transverse abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, rectus abdominis, multifidus, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, which are surrounded by supporting muscles (psoas major, psoas minor, glutes and more).

The benefits of core training exceed much more than a flat stomach or defined 6 pack. Core strength helps with postural alignment, back pain, core stability, balance, and almost every single sport. Core strength helps prevent core muscles from fatiguing. When those muscles do happen to fatigue, your body is much more prone to injury. Unfortunately, injuries in the core area affect your whole body. (If you have lower back pain, it can feel like your whole body's natural movement is compromised.)

Core Training should be the first priority of full body strength training, which should then be followed by training of the extremities (arms, legs, etc). Whether you are running a marathon, deadlifting 400 lbs, or cycling in the Alps, you need your core muscles to maintain stability. Think of what will happen to your body if you run with a weak core. Your spine will not be supported, which can result in common aggravations/injuries to the lower back.

Core strength can be best measured by how well you can stabilize your core muscles (torso area) while moving your extremities. For example, lift your leg while in plank position and see how well you can keep your hips stationary and squared to the ground. If you can't keep your back flat and your hips stable, it may be because your core muscles aren't strong enough to support your hips. Once you do strengthen your core, your body will be able to efficiently support itself in full body movements. This can help you run/swim longer (due to the absence of lower back pain), movements such as squats, lunges, and jumping jacks will be easier, you'll have better posture when strength training, and you can transfer energy better in full body movements. Think of what your core does while swinging a baseball bat or golf club... it's so much torso/trunk rotation!

Here are some foundational exercises that you can do a couple of times a week to strengthen your core.


plank with leg lift

v sit

Russian twists


Try all of these for 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets each every 2 or 3 days.

enjoy your core!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Prevent a New Year Resolution!

--Much apologies for the posting delay of this blog. Priority Fitness' move was a lot more demanding than expected. Thanks for waiting. Ok, enjoy!--

We have all turned a corner. Summer is now over. Yeah, I said it. Some of us still may be in denial... but it's the truth. The transition from long sunny days to longer, colder nights is now in effect. It's ok. We've all been through this before. But there's a catch... We are about to hit a change in our lifestyles. As the weather gets colder, and the days become shorter, we naturally stay indoors more. Even the types of food that we eat differ. We naturally gravitate towards heavier and more weight bearing foods (meat, potatoes, etc.). It's even apparent in our festive holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Some of you may be saying, "Ben, you're crazy. We are so far away from any of those holidays". Well, the "crazy" part I'm used to, but the whole holiday thing I disagree with. I've seen it. Our exercise activity (and motivation) naturally decreases at a steady rate until we hit January’s spark of New Year resolutions. But why do we allow ourselves to reach a point where we must "resolve" our fitness goals at the beginning every New Year? It's a lot easier (and way healthier) to maintain a fit lifestyle rather than play catch-up in January. Now is the time when we can create a healthy foundation of exercise and nutrition to guide us through the colder weather and incredibly unhealthy holidays.

So here we are... Footsteps away from a new challenge of staying fit. How do we fight the cold weather and holiday pounds?

I suggest starting off with getting a calendar and flipping the pages all the way to January 2010. Pick a goal - it can be anything - lose 10 lbs, run a 6 minute mile, or even workout 5 days a week consistently. Think about where you want to be in January and the activity it requires. For example, if you want to run 6 minute miles, you should be running anywhere from 3-5 times a week (each week consistently getting faster as the months go forward). Now you can take your aspiring activity level/regiment and start working backwards through the calendar. Let’s go to the last week of December on the calendar. What do you see yourself doing? What do you want to be doing? If it's running 4 days a week or alternating cardio and resistance training 5 days a week, pencil it in!! Make it as detailed and realistic as you want. Continue doing this every week until you reach the present day. As the weeks you fill out become closer to today, the workouts that you are filling in per day should be progressively conforming to what you are doing now. You should end up with a workout routine that maintains a consistent progression towards your goal as time moves forward.

The whole point of this is to see things in the big picture. There are going to be some days when challenges will face us. Whether it be rain, snow, or just the plain cold; if we have something to take us out of our current situation and remind us to keep our eyes on the future, we'll be able to stay on the right track.

This way, when we hit January 1st, our resolution will already be resolved…