Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Woman's Worth

I just thought that I'd share with you one of my favorite videos. Absolutely amazing! This should be required viewing for every little girl (and boy) in America, if you ask me. We need to, as a culture, start embracing the concept that a woman can be strong, powerful and feminine, with both beauty and athleticism all at the same time!

For clarification, in case you're not familiar with Olympic Weightlifting or bumper plates:

*White plates: 5 kilos/11 pounds
*Green plates: 10 kilos/22 pounds
*Yellow plates: 15 kilos/33 pounds
*Blue plates: 20 kilos/44 pounds
*Red plates: 25 kilos/55 pounds
*Women's Bar weight: 15 kilos/33 pounds

Never underestimate the power of a woman, fellas...



-Jonathan

Thursday, June 21, 2007

All's Fair in Love and War

Ok, I’ll admit it: I’m definitely not looking my best right now! After a month of schoolwork and stress, I thought that I could finally take it easy for a little while. Instead, I’ve been busier than ever with upcoming projects, clients, and preparation for my clinical residency this summer. Along with a fantastic weekend trip up to Boston to visit my girlfriend Jenny’s brother and sister-in-law, along with a few date nights in New York, it’s safe to say that it’s been a “do as I say, not as I do” past few months for my clients!

Of course, I haven’t been alone, either. Jenny routinely works 60 hours/week or more as a financial consultant and MBA student, and finding time to eat properly and to work out can be more difficult than balancing million dollar portfolios!

In other words, “Life Happens.” All of us go through times where our schedules get in the way of our lifestyles, and for those of us that make health and fitness a priority under normal circumstances, it can be a real disappointment when we realize that we’ve allowed ourselves to lose sight of our personal goals. Even for those of us who are paid to, among other things, look good and exercise, finding time to do everything “right” can be a real challenge.

Trying to get “back on track” with eating and exercise by ourselves can be a daunting task, but by including others in your way back to healthy living and exercise, it can be a lot easier and more enjoyable too! That’s why Jenny and I have started the First Annual “Get Off of Your Ass and Stop Eating Like a Pig” Challenge (a.k.a. GOYASELP)! For the next 2 months, she and I will be making sure to keep each other in line and to get back to our normal, healthy lifestyles.

I’ll be writing our workouts, of course...As for the nutrition, I’m leaving that to Mike Roussell and his outstanding book, Your Naked Nutrition Guide: Nutrition Stripped to the Essentials. What I like the most about Your Naked Nutrition Guide is that it’s easy to follow and full of great information, so that both Jenny (a layperson) and myself (a health professional) can each find points of interest and appeal while reading and learning from Mike’s techniques. More than just another diet book, Mike gives you the tools and knowledge to make real and lasting changes in the way that you eat and feel. If you haven’t taken a look at Mike’s outstanding book on nutrition, body transformation, and health improvement yet, I can’t recommend Your Naked Nutrition Guide highly enough! In the first week of sticking to Mike’s “Six Pillars of Nutrition,” I’ve already lost 3 pounds, and my lifts have improved across the board! That’s real-world results, and I couldn’t be happier or more impressed with how easy it’s been to follow and stay committed to Mike’s teachings.

The rules for our Challenge are easy: 90% adherence to our programs, including my workouts and Mike’s nutritional guidelines, with the person with the greatest adherence being declared the winner. The prize: the loser buys the winner a free meal at a restaurant of the winner’s choosing.

But no matter who wins the Challenge, we both win.

Have a great week, everybody, and good luck with whatever may challenge you.

-Jonathan

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Beyond the Norm: Advanced Training Questions for Advanced Trainers

Recently, I had the opportunity to contribute to another fantastic special report, put together by my friend Leigh Peele as part of bonus gift to all of her newsletter subscribers.

This is a great compilation, and the topics discussed are in-depth and cutting-edge. Beyond the Norm covers all types of unique and important subjects, from postural assessments, allergies in relation to fat loss, increasing fast twitch muscle fibers, whether swimming as cardio can actually make you gain fat (that was my topic), and much more.

The very impressive author list includes:

Lou Schuler
Mike Robertson
Alan Aragon
Tony Gentilcore
Geovanni Derice
John Izzo
Eric Cressey
Jimmy Smith
Robert dos Remedios
Bill Hartman
Christopher Mohr
...and me!

If you aren't a subscriber already, head over to
Avidity Fitness. and sign up! You'll get a link to download the manual, as well as receiving Leigh's excellent Avidity Fitness newsletter.

As always, I hope that you all enjoy the report!

-Jonathan

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

You're Getting Warmer...

One of the more flattering aspects of my work is that I often get asked for my opinions on exercise and training by people that feel that I can help them. This was part of an email that “Y.K.,” a new and eager trainer, sent to me. I thought that it was an excellent question, one that I’m sure many of you have wondered about in your own workouts (or those of your clients) too:

What's the best way to utilize warm up sets in a program? How many do you do and do you need to do them at the start of each exercise or just for the bigger movements or just for the initial exercises/movement patterns? Also, how do you account for time when working them in? I've read a lot of stuff on program design and almost all of it seems to totally ignore the time required for warm up sets and just focus on filling up the hour with working sets. So drawing from your experience, what is the best way to implement warm up sets in a program and especially in a program with tight time restrictions?

-Y.K.

Honestly, warm-ups can be fairly specific to the program as well as the individual. Normally, I'll write in anywhere between 3-6 mobility/activation warm-ups to start a workout (stuff like scap pushups, glute bridges, etc), depending on the client's needs. Which exercises I use, and how many exercises I chose will depend on what I find in the evaluation (for online/distance clients, I will have to rely more heavily on postural assessment, and understanding what muscles will normally be weak or imbalanced to cause the posture or as a result of the posture itself). It’s almost *certain* that your client will have an issue with scapular positioning and proprioception, as well as hip mobility, so those are usually good places to start.

For the specific warm-ups themselves, I'll usually look at 3 specific warm-up sets for workouts that are 6 reps or fewer/set (possibly one more warm-up set for 1-2 RM loads, but that also depends on the client: some need more warming up than others), 1-2 warm-ups for sets of 8-10, and possibly a single quick warm-up for higher rep sets.

When you write specific warm-ups, you should be steadily increasing the loading while decreasing the number of reps, so that you slowly get to (or close to) the weight desired, but not so slowly or with so much volume that you become tired before your first set. For example, if I’m warming up a client to a 5 rep set using 100 pounds, I might write the warm-up this way:

1x4@75 lbs
1x3@85 lbs
1x2@95 lbs

If it's a full-body workout, I warm to every unique primary movement, but if it's a push/pull routine (all pushing motions one day, all pulling motions the next day), for instance, where I might have them do an upper body push (heavy) in the beginning of their workout followed by an upper body push (light) at the end, I don't always warm to the light sets (they will already be warmed from the previous, heavy lifts)...but of course, that's just a general rule: everyone has the *potential* to be different and I'll tweak the approach to suit their needs.

Remember that specific warm-ups not only prepare the actual joints and muscles for the exercise (by increasing synovial fluid saturation and blood flow/agonist blood vessel dilation, respectively), specific warm-ups also “activate” our Central Nervous System (CNS) in preparation for the movement and weight. In the “real world,” our bodies would become activated through the “fight or flight” response to danger, and all of the goals of the warm-up (increased blood flow, neural activation, heightened sensitivity, etc) would be produced by a hormonal response to an outside stimulus which represented a threat to our well-being (after all, if you’re Barney Rubble and you see a T-Rex running towards you, you want your CNS to be fully “activated” so that it can “turn on” all of your muscle fibers, allowing you to run at top speed so that you can escape from becoming someone’s dinner…or something like that…). In the gym, we don’t have this occurring (probably a good thing!), and so we have to artificially recreate that response with gradual and specific preparation.

Evaluate the effectiveness of the specific warm-up by how your client feels afterwards. If they feel strong and ready for their work sets, then change nothing. If they feel stronger after their first or second work set, then you may want to add in an additional warm-up set (they probably needed more time/warming up in order to be prepared). Conversely, if they felt weak, either remove a warm-up set, or decrease the reps in each warm-up (they became overworked). It can sometimes be a little trial and error, but a good warm-up is worth the effort!

As far as time concerns, I would never want to skip out on the warm-ups. Not only do they aid in activation and general preparation, but they’re an integral part in injury prevention and making sure that you have a safe and effective workout. The majority of your workout effect will come from the first few sets, so when in doubt, I’d rather drop the last set from each exercise (performing a 4x5 or 3x5 routine, for instance, instead of a 5x5) rather than cutting out the warm-ups and risking an injury or even just having to use less weight in the movement because the client wasn’t sufficiently prepared to lift heavier.

Although technically your warm-up and cool-down is not part of actual workout time, in reality it has to be part of your time-management. Using tools like supersets, giant sets, or having the client come in a little earlier to begin their general warm-ups can help you to save time and increase the amount of actual training time that you have available in your training sessions.

Thanks for the excellent question, Y.K.!

-Jonathan