Archive for the ‘strength training’ Category


Spring is here and summer is right around the corner.  Pool season is coming upon us.  Outside events and dinner parties wearing sun dresses and shorts.  You’ve probably been going at it hard for awhile or maybe you are just starting.  Either way, right now, your decision to get lean and in shape for the warm weather is decided now.  Maybe you’ve been try to lose weight and have been working hard to sculpt those shoulders but just haven’t found the right mix to get it done.  Use these strategies as they are the Keys to Getting Lean.

  • Get the proper amount of sleep.  Aim for 7.5 hours a night.  The human body requires fuel in order to function correctly.  Just as a machine would malfunction if you take away an essential part, the body fails to operate in a competent manner if you remove an essential component. Sleep is a crucial element to retain energy and stamina throughout the day.  In addition, sleep supports the maintenance of balancing in hormone levels, which significantly affects body weight and body fat.  A good night’s sleep allows the body to restore the physical and mental stresses of the day and provides the body with the vital means to function correctly.


  • Be consistent. Make a commitment and continue to strive for excellence.  Even when you don’t feel like the scale is reflecting the effort you are putting in, keep pushing.  Don’t rely on a number.  Instead, base your results on how you feel with regards to energy and stamina.  The scale may not have changed but your clothes are fitting better.  Remember, this is a process and it takes time to achieve your goals.  Stay motivated and remain consistent.


  • Nutrition is very important.  How’s the saying go: “Nutrition is 80% of it.  Results are based on the quality of foods you put in your mouth.  Abs and lean bodies are made in the kitchen.  You are what you eat.  If you eat cookies and doughnuts, you’re physique is going to look and feel like them, soft and round.  You want results, start eating better.  Incorporate lean proteins from lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish, preferably organic and wild caught.  Cut out all your sugar, bread and other processed food items from your diet.  You don’t need them.  Energy is minimal if you make those choices.  Eat a lot of veggies and fruits in moderation.   Also don’t forget your healthy fats.  Sources such as avocados, nuts, and Omega 3 oils.  Drink plenty of water.  Your body cannot burn fat without proper hydration.  Limit the consumption of alcohol.  If the liver is metabolizing alcohol, fat burning is non-existent.


  • Strength train 2-3 times a week.  Focus on all the major muscles groups.  Stay away from machines and use your own bodyweight, dumbbells, functional apparatus like bands, kettlebells, and the Trx.  Add a little muscle and your body becomes a more efficient fat burner.  Do not, I repeat, do not go all out on your cardio.  Chronic cardio will only raise your stress hormones.  Higher stress hormones (cortisol) cause more carbohydrate consumption.  Hormonally your body doesn’t know the difference between you having fun running on a treadmill or you fleeing a predator.  Chemically, the system sees it as a fight or flight response.  Instead, be active and do some light activity throughout the day.  Continuous movement and walking are the best ways to burn energy.  


  • Write stuff down. Write your goals down, write your measurements down, record your workouts, write it down or keep track of it with online tools.  There are many websites and applications you can use.  Two that I like are myfitnesspal and lose it.  Seeing your daily progress serves as an inspirational motivator.  Studies have shown better weight loss results and goal achievement with those individuals who keep a diary.

Look at this as a lifestyle, a journey with continuous change.  There will be times when you falter.  But, remember, it’s only a mere bump in the road.  Have a strong reserve and move forward with a consistent valiant effort and you will achieve excellence!


I see and hear alot of trainers talk about Function Training with new, perspective clients.  Why not? There has been a big buzz the last few years about this type of training.  Before joining a gym and choosing a trainer, make sure you read the following article and understand what Functional Training is before you invest your hard-earned dollars.  It’s funny how a trainer can have someone do a bicep curl and throw them on a BOSU and say, this is Functional Training.  We’ve been an advocate of Functional Training for years and this is not the way.  Take a look and develop your view with the following article:

 Functional Training: An old concept with a new name


 Juan Carlos Santana, MEd, CSCS

The hottest phrase in the fitness and conditioning field is “functional training” (FT).  FT has been to the 90s what “Plyometrics” was to the 80s, a buzzword that everyone used, but few understood. This article will discuss the basis of FT and give fitness professionals a rational for its use and a direction of focus.
First let’s try to describe what “function” is.  Function can easily be defined as “performing a duty for which a person/thing is intended for”, “a normal or characteristic action of anything – a duty, utility or purpose”.  Function is how the body moves everyday.  Therefore, FT would be to train the body for the movement it is intended for and performs everyday, or exercise that more closely mimic normal body movements – not necessarily a a muscle developing exercise

FT is not a new concept, it has been around since the beginning of time.  If one wants to get better and stronger at an activity, one would instinctively rehearse the activity, or at least parts of that activity.   In sports we always say, the best functional training for a particular sport, is that sport!  Although this is an oversimplification of the concept of functional training, it is its essence.   As my colleague Vern Gambetta points out, “FT trains movements, not body parts”!

Sounds easy enough, it is common sense, right?  One would think so, but “the problem with common sense is, it’s not so common”.   One look into any gym and you will see 99 percent of the people training in a non-functional manner.  In fact, many gyms spend as much as 75-95% of their equipment investment on non-functional equipment.  Next time you go into your gym, check out how many people are doing machine leg extensions, machine leg curls, machine seated-calf raises, machine rowing, machine pressing, machine everything!  These pieces of resistance-training equipment are the most popular in most gyms, and the gauge by which many people evaluate the “productive worth” of training facilities.  “The more machines the more better”!  Why is this happening?  Believe it or not, it may be due to “too pure of an academic view”!

At first glance, functional biomechanics and academic anatomy do not always coincide.  For example, in an anatomy class you are taught that the quadriceps extend (i.e. straighten) the knee and the hamstrings flex (i.e. bend) the knee.  Therefore, every time we look at a movement where the knee is being extending, we think the quadriceps is doing it.  Conversely, every time we see the knee flexing during a movement, we think it is the result of the work of the hamstrings. What they forgot to tell us in the anatomy class is that the quadriceps extend the knee and the hamstrings bend it only when the foot in hanging in mid air; not planted on the ground.  Other than your occasional seizure, or brake-dancing episode, the foot is in contact with the ground during almost all “functional force production”! 
Take running/walking for as an example.  During the “swing phase”, the knee extends and flexes.  According to our anatomy class, the hamstrings would perform the flexion and the quadriceps would perform the extension of the knee.  However, they do not!  During the swing phase, the knee is mostly extended and flexed by momentum.  Then, as Gary Gray, PT says, “when the foot hits the ground, everything changes”.

Without getting into a complex biomechanical analysis of running, let us look at basic quadriceps and hamstring function during forward locomotion (i.e. walking, stair climbing, or running).  The quadriceps’ primary role in running is to decelerate the leg’s collapse (i.e. the system’s pronation) during the plant phase, stabilize and accelerate propulsion (i.e. the system’s supination), and decelerate hip extension at the end of propulsion. The hamstrings decelerate hip flexion and knee extension during the swing phase, and stabilize and accelerate propulsion.

This oversimplification does not accurately depict all of the tri-planar rotational, stabilization and counterbalancing components involved in locomotion.  Nor, does it represent the complexity and importance of the entire kinetic chain, and its loading and unloading mechanisms (referred to in functional terminology as “pronation and “supination” of a system).  However, it does illustrate the shortcomings of an exclusive single joint approach, as a means of enhancing an integrated movement. Probably the most important observation one needs to make is that, human locomotion is a “ground-based, one- leg, tri-planar, counter-balanced” event.  That is, only a single leg is in contact with the ground, and the body is simultaneously counterbalancing and moving in all three planes.

Now, with better appreciation for the functional nature of locomotion, would you select a leg curl to condition or rehabilitate the hamstrings, or a leg extension to condition or rehabilitate an ACL?  I hope not!  If these exercises were functional and effective, hamstring and ACL injuries would not exist.  Most athlete performs leg extensions and leg curls.  Yet, athletic training rooms across the country are plagued by these injuries!   You can isolate all you want, but if you do not soon integrate the move into its functional pattern, you will cause faulty neural recruitment that could actually lead to an injury.

This is just one example of the discrepancies between the traditional academic view of rehabilitative-anatomy, and the practical approach of functional biomechanics.  FT follows functional biomechanics, not academic anatomy.  This is modern concept orthopedic and rehabilitative medicine still grapples with.  Leg curls and leg extensions are still part of ACL rehab protocols, despite the detrimental (i.e. dysfunctional) shear forces research has demonstrated they impose on the knee.

FT revolves around two very basic principles.  The first is the “kinetic chain”, which simply illustrates that the body never moves a single joint in isolation.  Rather, the kinetic chain is a series of joints working synergistically through multiple planes.  Rehearsed, multi-planar movements, such as a golf swing, are engraved in our brains as neural patterns, not isolated muscle movements.  By design, we are functionally, integrated beings.
 The second main principle of FT describes the physical world it deals with gravity, ground reaction forces and momentum.  These three physical factors act upon all movements and thus training.   Gravity is the basis of resistance training.  Everything we do requires that we overcome, or at least neutralize this force.  For most activities, ground reaction forces are the genesis of force production, and thus power.   For ground based activities, all power comes from the ground and we must capture, and transmit it, through ground contact.  Momentum is the result of overcoming inertia (i.e. the tendency of an object to stand still until a force acts it upon).  Momentum allows the body to move its parts with minimum energy requirements.  We saw this phenomena in the flexion and extension of the legs in the running example above.  We constantly use gravity, ground reaction forces and momentum to “load systems” so that we can generate power, such as in a jump or a throw.
Now, lets look at some important considerations we need to take into account when we are implementing functional training.  You will see that all of these points deal in one way or another with the kinetic chain principle, gravity, ground reaction forces or momentum.  Functional training must:
1)    Be specific, or mimic, the target activity.  This includes all of the appropriate joints, as well as the speed and amplitude of movements.  The principle of specificity dictates that you “train like you play/live”. 
2)    Not be restricted or supported by external means.  No machines or artificially stabilized positions.  If you are going to isolate and support for the sake of improving isolated strength (“your means”), integrate it ASAP and regularly into its functional/integrated role (“your end”).
3)    Eventually integrate a significant amount of controlled chaos into the training.  Sports, and life in general, are chaotic and unstable in nature.  The more chaos an individual rehearses, the better they will react under unrehearsed-play conditions.
4)    Deal with multi-joint, multi-planar movements.  In real life, especially sports, movements do not occur along a single joint or a single plane of motion.  Therefore, the kinetic chain must engage all three planes simultaneously. 
5)    Approach loading and development from the inside out.  Load the system internally (i.e. bodyweight) first, then add external resistance.  Develop the core of the body first, then develop the extremities.
6)    Have “causative cures” as a rehabilitative, or conditioning goal.  That is, the cause of an injury must eventually be part of its cure, or prevention.  For example, if planting a foot and rotating to change direction injured the ACL, then, planting and rotating must eventually be part of the conditioning program to prevent the injury from reoccurring. It is specificity at its simplest form.
7)    Have an evaluation criterion that is incorporated into the training.  That is, the tests must be part of the training and the training part of the tests.  This way a “test/evaluation” is merely seen as training by the athlete.  Again, specificity of testing and evaluation!
8)    Be progressive in nature.  Basic conditioning and skill acquisition before advanced conditioning and skill execution.  Slow and controlled to fast and chaotic.
9)    Be fun and make sense.  If it is not fun, then compliance will suffer and so will results.  If it does not make sense, chances are it’s not functional and not optimally effective.
Functional training is the most effective approach to performance enhancement.  However, not to the exclusion of all other approaches to training. YES, this includes bodybuilding and machine work. Everything has a place in the overall training scheme.  Functional training must dominate that scheme within an integrated paradigm. Remember, train for go – not show! Go for function and you will never go wrong!

Juan Carlos is one of the best-known trainers in the country. He runs the Institute for Human Performance in Boca Raton, Florida. He has worked with numerous college, pro, and Olympic athletes.  He definitely puts the word Function on the map with his style of training.  If you’re interested in learning more or would like to challenge yourself here in the Cincinnati area, check us out at


Skinny-Fat! click

I wanted to share this article from Mark’s Daily Apple.  Check it out.  Click the link above.  Sometimes you cannot judge a book by its cover.  Just because someone may appear to be skinny on the outside, doesn’t necessarily mean they are.  I see alot of people go on these extreme crash diets.  Yes, they lose weight on the scale.  Some of this weight loss is fat but a good portion is also muscle.  Then, they tend to have that little bulge in the middle.  What’s happening here?  Well, the lack of quality nutrition is putting harmful stress on the body.  The body is an amazing machine.  It begins to protect itself and stores belly fat to ensure safety to the vital organs.  With the increased muscle loss from the under consumption of calories and/or too much exercise, the body’s metabolism begins to slow.  In turn, eat less and workout more.  And, as we all know, the body will not survive this way.  At some point, the diet will fail and the gorging will set in.  In other cases, certain diseases and conditions will begin to take place.  So, what should you do? For one, eat when you are hungry.  Consume balanced, whole, all-natural meals with lean proteins, limited grains, large amounts of fruits and veggies with some healthy fats.   Incorporate daily exercise with an active lifestyle.  Get adequate sleep. Enjoy life and be happy!!

From time to time, you have to step it up a notch.  Here’s a little Tabata protocol: 20 seconds all out effort, 10 seconds recovery and complete 8 cycles.  You can do a Tabata with any exercise movement from push ups to squats to bicep curls.  We used 4 different compound movements in this sequence.  I applaud Stacy for allowing me to shoot her in this video.  She previously finished an intense 45 minute workout prior to recording.  This is not intended for the de-conditioned!

Any takers?

I don’t understand why I see people at the gym for hours at a time.  Unless, you are a bodybuilder trying to put on mass with multiple sets and a large volume of exercises.  Or, maybe a person training for an Ironman.  For the average workout buff, looking for general conditioning and fitness, an hour tops is all you need. But, a 20 minute workout having the same impact as a typical long winded session at the gym really appeals to many.  Fast fitness that targets all the major muscle groups, makes you sweat, torches tons of calories, boosts the body’s overall metabolic rate, and still leaves time for a shower? Where do you sign up?  I’m talking, of course, about HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training.
How does HIIT get powerful results?  The answer is in the science behind it all.  The goal of HIIT is to hold an anaerobic state over an accumulated amount of time.  This creates a high VO2 max and greater effect on EPOC(exercise post-oxygen consumption).  In layman’s terms, a longer calorie burn for hours after the workout.  It’s designed with rest intervals to allow you to do longer and harder bursts during your workout.  An example of a HIIT workout:  5 minutes is generally spent with warm up and a cool down at the end (essential for preventing injuries & not over-working your heart!), and 15 is spent with the workout.  Of the 15, the majority of the time will be spent in bursts or sprints – depending on your fitness level.  Another popular HIIT workout, is the Tabata method.  With the Tabata protocol, you pick an exercise and perform a 20 second intense work period, followed by a 10 second rest period. And, you do 8 cycles of the exercise.  I’d choose a multi-joint compound movement like a burpee so you get more bang for your buck. 

Check out the video below :



You’ve probably heard that for “every pound of muscle, your body will burn an additionally 50-100 calories a day.” I’m not sure these numbers are totally accurate but I do believe adding muscle will help you burn fat. Muscle is more of a metabolically active tissue than fat. Muscle needs more energy expenditure to move. Meaning is requires more calories to be maintained. Fat is completely the opposite. It simply sits there, waiting in case it is needed in the future.  Fat does not require any calories to be maintained.  It is energy itself.  Fat is emergency stored tissue, while muscle allows you to move, bend and stretch or leap tall buildings in a single bound like Superman! Muscle is what you’re after if you want a shapely, defined, and toned body.

If you’re not pumping iron already, then, I suggest you start a program as soon as possible. Cardio alone is not going to get the job done. Actually, an overabundance of cardio could repress your fat loss.  We’ll discuss that in another segment. So, join a gym, buy some weights, or hire a trainer. Start lifting. But, don’t jump too heavily into a weight training program because you could be overly sore, possibly injured, and inconsistent. Gradual is the key. Muscle is built over time involving many factors: progressive resistance, proper nutritional balance, hormone regulation, adequate sleep, to name a few. I’d shoot for a minimum of 2-3 days a week of weight training. Choose compound movements that require multiple muscle groups. Mix up the program into different cycles to create muscle confusion and prevent the possibility of a plateau and boredom. Stay tuned for the next fat loss tip!