Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You Are What You Eat

Whenever I design a training program for a client, regardless of what that client's particular goals might be, I know that a lot of that client's success will depend on his/her nutritional choices. I could write the most amazing, original and brilliantly planned workout ever devised (don't I always?), but without a solid nutritional program backing that up, the results will only be so-so at best.

Just like exercise, nutrition can be fairly simple and incredibly complex all at the same time. As the body changes through the course of exercise and structured eating, the solutions that once worked to keep us moving in the right direction can stop us dead in our tracks or even worse, reverse our progress later on. It can be frustrating, confusing, and make us want to dive head-first into a box of girl scout cookies (at least, that's what I tend to do). Luckily, guys like Mike Roussell are around to make sure that you won't be lost spinning your wheels from nutrition even as you sit spinning your wheels in your spin classes!

Mike recently launched The Naked Nutrition Network as a resource to answer all of your nutritional questions and to give you the latest, up-to-the-minute, evidence-based information on how you can look and feel your best from your time in the kitchen. The best part is that it's all free. No catches, no commitments, and no charge.

And that's a no-brainer.

-Jonathan

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Plain Talk About Movement Planes

I admit it: I love this geeky science stuff. By understanding the “how’s” and “why’s” of what we do in the gym, exercises take on an entirely new meaning and an entirely new world of possibilities opens up before us.

One of the most basic, yet important areas to understand is biomechanics and kinesiology, which is the study of how we move. The first thing that we learn about in any biomechanics class is what we call the “Cardinal Planes of Movement.” These three primary planes, the sagittal (straight out in front or behind the body, like a front delt raise), frontal (out to the sides, like a dumbbell lat raise) and transverse plane (rotation around the center, like a Russian twist) make it possible for kinesiologists (people that study human movement) to break down all of the movements that we are capable of producing in sports and everyday activities alike. From an uppercut in boxing, the breast stroke in swimming, or the swing of a baseball bat, biomechanics is the language of our body and exercise.

Most movements, however, don’t actually occur in only one plane, but are usually a combination of two or even all three of these planes. So why is this important? Take a good look at almost any traditional exercise, and you’ll quickly realize that they only train in the sagittal plane. Squats? Sagittal. Deadlifts? Sagittal. Bench press? Sagittal. Rows? You get the picture! It becomes obvious that most of us have a major imbalance in the up/down, forward/back motions from most gym equipment and exercises in our routines. Even most cardio exercises, such as the bike, stair climber and treadmill use mainly the sagittal plane.

To take this one step further, because we rarely if ever exercise in the frontal or transverse planes against a resistance, we are not prepared for the sudden, lateral movements which are part of most recreational sports, nor are we conditioned for the rotational component of most sports, either. Skiing and racquet sports are excellent examples of how we require the ability to control lateral movements, and anything from the aforementioned swing of a baseball bat or boxing uppercut uses strong rotational forces to produce power. Even in less obvious activities such as jogging, we must stabilize the rotational component of our hips and pelvis as we cycle through our strides to move efficiently and properly. Without adding these aspects of movement into our workouts, we risk decreased performance and an increase in injuries.

So how do we correct this and become more balanced in our workouts? It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think: By moving out of the standard bilateral exercise “trap” (using both arms or both legs at the same time), we are forced to stabilize ourselves not only in one direction (front and back in the sagittal plane), but from side to side in the frontal plane, too. Adding a rotational component to many standard exercises, such as at the end of a lunge or standing overhead press, will force us to control our bodies dynamically in the transverse plane, too, and will also add a diagonal component to our movement as well. Throw in a standing Russian twist with a pulley, or a lateral medicine ball toss against a wall, and now you’ve got a complete and total workout.

This doesn’t mean that we should get rid of those squats, deadlifts and all the other tried-and-true gym exercises; rather, by being aware of our biomechanics and using these techniques as part of our total workouts, we can produce better, more complete results in the gym. Did I mention that love this geeky science stuff?

-Jonathan

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Get LOST in your workouts

One of my favorite shows (and one of the few that I actually make time for in my never-ending schedule) is LOST. If you're not familiar with the show, LOST is the story of the survivors of flight 815 after their plane crashes on an island somewhere in the South Pacific.

As I sat here anxiously waiting for tonight's episode to start, it got me thinking: what would I do if I were lost on a tropical island? I'd probably have lots of time on my hands to spend working out, but without my nice squat cage and dumbbell rack, what would I do with the time between catching fish and trying to get myself rescued?

More importantly, what would you do? If you're like me, then you've already got visions of pushups on the beach and tree-branch pull-ups, lifting rocks and single leg squats, swimming circuits in the ocean and even a jungle obstacle course. If you're like me, you already love bodyweight exercises and mixing up your workouts, trying different things for a new stimulus, a new challenge, and a new way of training to keep things fresh, effective and fun.

So what would you do if you were trapped on a tropical island with plenty of fish, coconuts and time on your hands?

-Jonathan

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Eric Cressey Newsletter

Speaking of Eric Cressey, I contributed a few tips to his newsletter this week. If you haven't seen it yet, I don't blame you: he's a Red Sox and Patriots fan. But we can't all be perfect, I guess...luckily, Eric makes up for his poor choices in teams to root for by producing one of the best newsletters in the business!

And after you read the tips, don't forget to stop by
Eric's blog too for a great cause and great discounts on all of his and Mike Robertson's awesome materials!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

-Jonathan

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Making a Difference

Just a quick note to let you know that Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson are offering 25% off of all of their products...the only thing better than getting their incredible materials on sale is the reason for the sale itself: being able to help support vital research and to save lives.

Together, we can make a difference. Check out Eric and Mike's offer and learn how you can take part in helping to find a cure, and get a discount on some great products, too: Help Charity, Help Yourself: Great Sale for a Great Cause

-Jonathan

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Back...to the Future!

Wow...time sure flies, doesn't it? Ok, ok, so I haven't exactly been great about blogging lately...ok, make that not-so-lately. Sometimes life really can get in the way of our best intentions. That might mean interrupted plans to exercise, or being less-than committed towards keeping our diets...and sometimes it might even refer to updating a blog...yeah, it happens to all of us once in a while.

But that should never mean that you just give up and forget what you had dedicated yourself to before you got distracted from your goals. So here I am: refocused, reorganized and recommitted to keeping this blog fresh and updated...this time on a regular basis! And for those of you that might have given up on those New Year's Resolutions, or had one too many big family meals during the holidays and never really "recovered," now is as good a time as any to recommit yourself to your goals and your healthy lifestyle...it's never too late.

The good news is that in between then and now, there's been a lot of great stuff going on, and I've been working on some pretty cool things that I'm excited about...hopefully you will be too. So thanks for keeping an eye on the place while I was away, busy being busy, and stay tuned: I've got lots of good things to share with all of you in the months to come!

-Jonathan