The Core. What is it? And why should you care?

Core exercises are an important part of any strength training program, especially for those just starting out. Many people think that the occasional crunch will be enough to solve any issues they have when it comes to a lack of core strength, however this approached leaves many muscles of the core neglected. Let’s find out why…

What is the Core?

The core is often thought of as just the abs, which makes it understandable as to why sit-ups are seen as the go-to exercise. Unfortunately, it is not that simply. Think about the core as a muscular box where the abdominals make up the front, the paraspinals and gluteals sure up the back, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the floor.

This intricate construction can be understood simply as the body’s foundation for movement. It is the central region providing a girdle of strength and connecting the abdomen with the lower back and hips. These muscles, together with the spinal muscles, create a stable base for generating strength and providing support for all movement.

Core Anatomy:

  • Abdominals – the abdomen is a group consisting of four muscles: The rectus abdominis, also known as the “six-pack” is a superficial muscle sitting on the outermost layer of the core and is mainly involved in flexion. The transversus abdominis, which rests under the rectus abdominis, wraps around the core holding it together like a girdle and works to maintain good posture. Often times the in people with lower back pain the transversus abdominis is very weak. The internal obliques are deep muscles that help the body to rotate and flex to the side. The external obliques are another superficial musculature of the core just above the internal obliques which are important for rotational movements and side flexion.
  • Paraspinals – made up of two major groups of lumbar extensors: the erector spinae and the “local” muscles (multifidus, rotatores, and intertransveri). The erector spinae is a group of three long tendinous muscles that run the entire length of the spine which provide support for spinal flexion (bending forward), extension (bending backwards) and aid in stabilizing the spine against lateral movement. The “local” muscles, mainly the multifidus is set deep and attached to the spine so that they may work to keep the spine straight and help stabilize through maintaining good posture.
  • Hip Girdle & Gluteal Musculature – playing an important role within ambulatory activities such as stabilization of the trunk and pelvis and by transferring force from the legs to the pelvis and spine. The hip musculature consists of the psoas muscle group and the gluteus muscle group. The psoas, also referred to as the hip flexors, control flexion movements at the hip such as walking, running and climbing stairs. And for the gluteal musculature is made up of three muscles: the smallest being gluteus minimus, which lies beneath the gluteus medius, and works to lift the leg outward (abduction) as well as to internally rotate the hip. The gluteus medius sits just above the minimus, it assists with abduction, rotation (both internal and external) and provides stability to the pelvic region. The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three, it works to abduct and extend the hips in addition to stabilizing the pelvic region.
  • Diaphragm & Pelvic Floor – The diaphragm serves as the roof of the core by providing stability to the lumbar spine via contraction during breathing. The pelvic floor musculature is coactivated with any transversus abdominis contraction and assists in stabilizing during movement.
  • Quadratus Lumborum – A large, thin, quadrangular-shaped muscles that directly inserts into the lumbar spine. The quadratus lumborum works to stabilize the spine against lateral movement, lifting heavy objects and carrying items in one hand.

Why should we care about strengthening the core?

Strengthening the core musculature fights structural imbalances leading to such discomforts as low back pain which is one of the major forms of musculoskeletal degeneration in the adult population, affecting upwards of 80% of all adults. Research has shown that lower back pain is predominant among those who work at a desk, as sitting for long of time in a chair can cause the important muscles of the core to atrophy. Therefore, developing strength within this musculature is essential for maintaining a healthy posture, and leading a pain-free life.

What is an example of a core strengthening exercise?

Sliding Rollout from Knees

  1. Assume a kneeling position. Place both hands out in front of you on something that can move freely. An ab wheel, a Swiss ball, floor sliding discs or small hand towels will work. Think about squeezing all those muscles we just learned about and keep the head and neck in a neutral position.
  2. Lower your body under control by extending the hips and flexing the arms until your body approaches the floor. Keep the core and especially the gluteals contracted forcefully.
  3. Rise back to the starting position.

*The rollout is one of the best core strengthening exercises for beginners. If you use proper form and keep the core contracted, preventing the pelvis from rotating forward, your lower abdominals will receive even more of a workout. Break into this exercise gradually and make sure you keep the body in a straight line at the bottom of the movement. Many people sag at the hips or allow too much anterior pelvic tilt during the rollout exercise.


Just remember, core exercises should be seen as ones that not only help your “six-pack” but strengthen your pelvis, lower back and pelvis. Having all these work together in harmony leads to better balance and stability, whether you’re on the field playing or completing daily activities. 

What is Functional Strength Training?

Do you live to exercise? Unless you are an athlete, you probably answered no to that question. Most people are simply looking to improve their quality of life and would likely say that they exercise to live. And that is the focus of Functional Strength Training – to develop a foundation of strength and mobility within the body so that it may accomplish daily activities more easily.

What is Functional Strength Training?

Functional Strength Training exercises are designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities, such as carrying groceries, picking objects up off the ground, or playing a pick-up game of basketball. A typical workout will incorporate various movements using muscles from the upper and lower body, as well as everything in between.

What is an example of a Functional Strength Training movement?

Functional exercises tend to be multi-joint, multi-muscle movements. 

A squat is a functional strength exercise because it trains the muscles used when you rise up and down from a chair or pick up low objects. You can see that it is both multi-joint and multi-muscle; incorporating the joints of the ankles, knees and hips, and the muscles such as the quadriceps and gluteal muscles. By training your muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks, you prepare your body to perform well in a variety of tasks.

What are the benefits?

The benefits are multifaceted. Functional Strength Training, properly applied, will allow for a better quality of life by making everyday activities easier. With an increase in muscular strength, your body will become more functionally sound leading to improvements in balance, agility and help reduce the risk of falls.

Is Functional Strength Training for everyone?

Yes! Functional Strength Training is for everyone, as it can be adapted to any fitness level. If you are just starting out, you may only need to use your own body weight for resistance. As you become more fit and ready for more of a challenge, you can progress to using weights as your primary form of resistance.

What is the payoff?

 As you add more functional strength exercises to your workout, you should see improvements in your ability to perform your everyday activities, and, thus in your quality of life. That is quite a return on your exercise investment.

For more information on how you can get started with a Functional Strength Training routine please contact: Stay Strong | Strength & Conditioning today!

For Fat Loss & Building Strength - Sprint Don't Walk!

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#1: Burn More Belly Fat with Sprint Intervals
A large number of convincing studies show that high-intensity interval training is the best conditioning strategy for losing belly fat. In contrast, one research group that has conducted a number of experiments comparing aerobic and anaerobic training for belly fat loss write, “Disappointingly, aerobic exercise protocols have led to negligible fat loss.”

The reason anaerobic interval training works so much better is that it requires the body to adapt metabolically—your body is forced to burn fat to sustain the level of intensity being asked of it. It also elevates energy use for more than 24 hours post-workout, which has a dramatic effect on belly fat loss.

For example, a 2008 showed that a 6-week program increased the amount of fat burned during exercise by 12 percent and decreased the oxidation of carbohydrates—obviously, a favorable result for losing fat.  More impressive, a 2007 study showed that in as little as 2 weeks, active women who performed interval training experienced a 36 percent increase in the use of fat for fuel during exercise.

Interval training is so effective for fat loss because it taps into different energy pathways than aerobic exercise. Simply, aerobic exercise tends to burn carbohydrates first and activate pathways that are degrading to muscle, whereas high-intensity exercise such as weight lifting and sprinting will burn a greater percentage of fat, enhance the body’s production of enzymes involved in fat breakdown, and activate pathways that lead to muscle development.

The other reason anaerobic intervals are superior for belly fat loss is that they increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) a huge amount. A 2006 review showed that protocols that are more anaerobic in nature produce higher EPOC values than steady-state aerobic training because the trained muscle cells must rest restore physiological factors in the cells, which translates to a lot of energy expenditure.

Additional research on high-intensity training (HIT) programs noted that “the effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible” whereas research into high-intensity exercise “indicates that it may be more effective at reducing subcutaneous and abdominal (visceral) body fat than other types of exercise.”

One study that compared the effect of high-intensity exercise (60 sprints of 8 seconds each, 12 seconds rest) with aerobic exercise (60 percent of maximal oxygen uptake for 40 minutes) found thatHIT resulted in significant decreases in overall fat mass, while the aerobic exercise group had a fat gain of 0.44 kg on average. The HIT group also had a significant 9.5 percent decrease in visceral fat, whereas the aerobic group had a non-significant increase of 0.2 kg or 10.5 percent. Of related interest is that the HIT group decreased fasting insulin significantly more than the aerobic group (31 versus 9 percent).
 
A second study found that in men with type 2 diabetes, an eight-week program that mixed aerobic and anaerobic exercise (twice a week of 45 minutes of aerobic exercise at 75 percent of max, and once a week of 5 sprints for 2 minutes at 85 percent) had a significant 44 percent decrease in visceral fat, with a 58 percent improvement in insulin sensitivity. They had no change in bodyweight but did have a 24 percent increase in thigh muscle cross sectional area, indicating muscle development, which accounted for the fact that they didn’t decrease bodyweight.

A third study performed on obese women compared a 16-week low-intensity protocol with a high-intensity protocol, based on rating of perceived exertion—not a very scientific indicator, but I’ll mention it anyway. The protocols produced comparable volumes of work as well as almost equal calories burned and miles completed. Despite this, only the HIT protocol yielded significant changes in metabolic markers or visceral fat loss. They lost significantly more total and visceral fat than the low-intensity group. Interestingly, both groups had similar exercise adherence to the program with 80 percent of each group completing the study, indicating that the high-intensity protocol was not too demanding for an obese, previously untrained population.
 
High-intensity exercise is effective because it increases exercise and post-exercise fat burning and may yield decreased post-exercise appetite. During exercise and after HIT, fat burning increases to remove built up lactate and hydrogen ions. Elevated growth hormone also supports fat burning and is a result of HIT programs.

#2: Lose Belly Fat With Sprint Intervals: The Proof
The following are examples of the superiority of anaerobic interval training for belly fat loss from the research:

  • A 12-week high-intensity interval training program produced a 17 percent decrease in belly fat in overweight young men. Subjects lost 1.5 kg of belly fat and 2 kg of total fat, while building 1 kg of muscle. Fat burning was increased by 13 percent due to the 3-day a week program of 20-minutes of cycling in which the subjects sprinted for 8 seconds and then did 12 seconds of recovery, repeating these intervals for a total of 60 sprints.
  • The same 20-minute cycling interval program produced 2.5 kg of fat loss in young women in 15 weeks, and the majority of the fat loss come from the legs and abdominal area. The sprint intervals were compared to a steady-state aerobic program that produced no fat loss.
  • A 16-week study had trained athletes perform either a sprint interval protocol or steady-state running four days a week. The sprint interval protocol varied each day, but an example of one of the workouts used was 10 intervals of 30-sec sprints with 90 seconds rest. The sprint interval group lost 16 percent or 1 kg of visceral fat as well as 2 kg of total fat, compared to the endurance group that lost no belly fat, but did lose 1.4 kg of lean mass. The belly fat loss appears to be small, but be aware that subjects were lean, trained athletes to begin with and had less belly fat to lose than overweight subjects.
  • An 8-week interval program using both high- and moderate-intensity intervals decreased belly fat by 44 percent in middle-aged men with type 2 diabetes. Subjects increased quad muscle size by 24 percent and improved insulin sensitivity by 58 percent—a dramatic improvement that highlights the other mechanisms involved in belly fat loss (muscle building, insulin health & blood sugar management).

#3: Sprints Take Less Time than Aerobic Exercise
Not only do sprints help you lose MORE belly fat, they help you lose it FASTER and with LESS training time. Repeatedly, studies show that more fat loss is achieved in high-intensity programs that use 20 to 25 minutes of training time than those that use 45 or 50 minutes of aerobic training time.

Scientists write that anaerobic intervals are overwhelmingly preferable to aerobics for producing belly fat loss, and that the estimated optimal dose of aerobic exercise necessary to lose belly fat appears to be 3,780 calories expended per week. This is an enormous volume of exercise that would require 1 hour of moderate intensity aerobic cycling 7 days a week to burn 550 calories a day so that you could lose even a pound a week!

In less than half the time you can get better results with anaerobic training. A 1994 study is indicative of this: Participants did either 20 weeks of aerobic training or 15 weeks of intervals (15 sprints for 30 seconds each) and lost nine times more body fat and 12 percent more visceral belly fat than the aerobic group.

What is so interesting about this study is that the energy cost of the aerobic program over the whole study period was 28,661 calories, whereas for intervals it was less than half, at 13,614 calories. In less time, the interval group lost much more weight—nine times more weight. How do researchers explain it?

Aside from greater fat oxidation and higher EPOC, hormone response plays a major role…

#4: Sprints Improve Hormone Response for More Belly Fat Loss
Sprint intervals and anaerobic exercise in general improve your entire endocrine system. Both training modes enhance the cells’ sensitivity to insulin, making anaerobic training a successful treatment for diabetes.

Perhaps most important, anaerobic exercise also elevates growth hormone (GH) —a powerful fat burning hormone that helps restore tissue and build muscle—much more than aerobic training. GH is released by the body in greater quantities in response to physical stress above the lactate threshold, which is the reason heavy, sprints are so effective.

Another hormone called adiponectin that is released from fat tissue during exercise also helps burn fat. Emerging scientific evidence shows that any time you perform forceful muscle contractions, adiponectin is released, and then your body produces a substance called PGC1 that is like a “master switch” that enhances muscle and metabolic functions, thereby burning belly fat. Naturally, anaerobic training is most effective for increasing adiponectin and PGC1 to burn fat since sprints and especially weight lifting require extremely forceful muscle contractions.

#5: Anaerobic Training Produces Less Cortisol For More Belly Fat Loss
Cortisol is the stress hormone that is elevated when you are under both physical and psychological stress. Research shows cortisol is chronically higher in endurance athletes—one study found that aerobic athletes had significantly higher evidence of cumulative cortisol secretion in their hair than controls.

In addition, cortisol is generally elevated more following aerobic training than anaerobic training. Part of this has to do with the fact that strength training and intervals do elevate cortisol, but they also elevate anabolic hormones such as GH and testosterone that counter the negative effects of cortisol.

If GH and testosterone are not elevated, cortisol overwhelms tissue, having a catabolic effect that leads to gradual muscle loss and fat gain. By doing aerobic training without strength training, you will lose muscle, lower your metabolic, rate, and gain fat.  Worst of all, high cortisol causes chronic inflammation, which lead to belly fat gain over time—all-around bad news!

#6. The more aerobic volume, the more your brain ages. Therefore, senile dementia in Olympic athletes is proportionate to the annual volume of aerobic works.

#7. Slow long distance aerobic work is not a guarantee of cardiac health. Actually top cardiologist Dr. Bijan Pourat considers it “junk exercise”. He espouses resistance training for cardiac patient.

#8.  Aerobic training can help you lose fat if you are just starting to exercise. Although it is not the most effective type of exercise for fat loss, aerobic-style cardio can work if you are new to exercise.

The Duke study used sedentary, out of shape, overweight people. The aerobic training they did was fairly intense (80 percent of max heart rate), so it's no surprise that they lost body fat.  Being overweight and out of shape, and then exercising at that intensity for 40 minutes 3 times a week for 8 months can clearly lead to fat loss.

#9: In the long run, aerobic training is useless for fat loss. In a Duke study the aerobic group only lost an average of 1.6 kg of fat (not much!) and they didn't build any muscle, which is where we see the fault in the plan. By decreasing body weight, the aerobic group lowered metabolism, while improving aerobic conditioning.

They were “in shape” and thinner, but no stronger, and they had decreased their resting energy expenditure. In order to maintain that fat loss, they would need to eat less, change their macronutrient proportions, or exercise longer and more intensely.

For example, in the 2006 study of runners, only the runners who tripled their weekly mileage from 16 km/week to 64 km/week did not gain fat over the 9-year study. That's a huge increase that would naturally triple the amount of training time required to prevent fat gain.

#10: Doing smart anaerobic training, you can lose more fat quicker, while building muscle so that you raise your metabolism. For example, in a study of women that compared an anaerobic resistance training program with an aerobic protocol, the heavy load training group lost nearly 5 kg of body fat, gained about 3 kg of muscle, and had dramatic increases in strength. The women who did the high rep, aerobic-style lifting program had no change in body composition.

The benefit of building muscle is that your hard work lasts longer if you quit exercising: A study that tested what happens when subjects stopped exercising for 3 months after doing aerobic or resistance exercise found that a resistance training group maintained improvements in strength, muscle, and cardiovascular fitness longer than an endurance group.

The benefit of resistance training is even more pronounced for people who are in shape. In trained male athletes, a 6-week heavy load strength training program with multi-joint lifts (deadlift, squat, military press, chin-up, and bench press) allowed them to lose 1 percent body fat , while gaining 1.3 percent muscle mass for a dramatic improvement in body composition.

Compare that to the Duke study: The aerobic group also lost 1 percent body fat but gained no muscle, resulting in a less valuable body composition; the resistance group lost 0.65 percent body fat percent and gained 2 percent muscle; the concurrent group lost 2 percent body fat and gained 1.4 percent muscle mass.

The most favorable body composition was seen with the concurrent group, but it took double the time. When you consider the long-term effect of such a time-consuming, stressful program, it certainly is suboptimal.

The Facts About Strength Training and Managing Chronic & Age Related Conditions

If you have a chronic or age related conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, asthma, osteoporosis or back or joint, strength training can have positive benefits. However, it is always important to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise routine as they may have advice on what exercises are safe and any precautions you may need to take while exercising.

How can strength training improve my condition?

If you have a chronic or age related condition, regular exercise accompanied with strength training can help you manage symptoms and improve your health.

Being physically active can help you improve your heart health and endurance. Strength training can improve muscle strength and make it easier to accomplish daily activities, slow disease-related declines in muscle strength, and provide stability to joints. Mobility or flexibility exercises may help you to achieve a greater range of motion within your joints so they can function better.

For example:

  • Heart disease: Regular exercise can help improve your heart health. Recent studies have shown that interval training is often tolerated well in people with heart disease and can produce significant benefits.
  • Diabetes: Regular exercise can help insulin more effectively lower your blood sugar level. Physical activity also can help you control your weight and boost your energy. 2
  • Asthma: Often, exercise can help control the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
  • Back Pain: Regular low-impact activities can increase strength and endurance in your back and improve muscle function. Abdominal and back muscle exercises (core-strengthening exercises) have been shown to reduce symptoms by strengthening the muscles around your spine. 3
  • Arthritis: Exercise can reduce pain, help maintain muscle strength in affected joints and reduce joint stiffness. 4
  • Depression: Regular exercise has been proven to be beneficial for symptoms of depression, resulting in a happier mood. 5
  • Osteoporosis: Incorporating resistance training, such as lifting weights has been proven to build bone density and reduces the risk of falls by improving stability. 6

What exercises are safe?

Your doctor might recommend specific exercises to reduce pain or build strength. Depending on your condition, you might also need to avoid certain exercise altogether or during flare-ups. In some cases, you may need to consult a physical or occupational therapist before starting to exercise.

If you have low back pain, for example, your best bet is to start with low-impact activities such as walking or swimming. Strength exercises are more specific but could consist of back extensions or abdominal work.

If you have diabetes, for example, you can start with a basic body-weight strength training routine that includes chair squats, or farmer walks.

If you have osteoporosis, for example, the exercises that will be best for you all depend on if one area of the body is more affected than another. A hip issue is different than a back issue. Just remember resistance is the key to success — weighted exercises are always going to be better than resistance bands.

How often, how much and at what intensity can I safely exercise?

It should always be understood that before starting an exercise routine, it is important to consult your doctor about what is best for you. If your doctor clears you to start exercising here are a couple things to keep in mind.

  • How often: Beginners, of good health, can generally tolerate more work than more advanced trainees. It is important to be active in some way every day. Walking can be done daily, while strength training should be kept to 2-3 workouts a week.
  • How much: If you haven’t been active for a while, start slowly and build up gradually. Your body is the best barometer, rest when you are tired and workout when you’ve recovered. The more you engage in exercising the better you will feel.
  • What about intensity: Start moderate, don’t overdo it!

Do I need to take special steps before getting started?

Depending on your condition, your doctor might recommend certain precautions before exercising.

If you have diabetes, for example, keep in might that physical activity lowers blood sugar. Check your blood sugar level before any activity. If you take insulin or diabetes medications that lower blood sugar, you might need to eat a snack before exercising to help prevent low blood sugar.

If you have arthritis, be sure to never skip a warm-up before you exercise. The heat the body generates from warming up can relax your joints and muscles and relieve any pain you might have before you begin.

What else do I need to know?

Starting a regular exercise routine isn’t as tough as it may seem.

To help you get started, consider seeking a professional, like the ones at Stay Strong | Strength & Conditioning.

Getting Started with Weight Training

You see your friends are going to the local gym and getting results from their hard work — improved physique and muscle tone. You’d like to start a program to replicate the results, but do not know if you have the time or where to start. It’s not as hard as you think!

What is Weight Training?

Weight training is a type of strength training that uses weights for resistance. Weight training provides a stress to the muscles that causes them to adapt and get stronger, similar to the way aerobic conditioning makes you more fit.

Weight training can be performed with free weights, such as barbell and dumbbells, or by using weight machines. You can also increase your strength through other types of resistance exercises, such as by using your body weight or resistance bands.

When it comes to Weight Training, how much is enough?

You do not have to be in the weightroom for 2 hours a day to see results. For most people, short weight training sessions a couple times a week are more practical than extended daily workouts. Chances are, if you are at the gym for more than an hour you are making friends and not working out!

You can see significant improvement in strength with just two or three 30 minute weight training sessions a week. This frequency also meets activity recommendations for healthy adults.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends incorporating strength training exercises of all the major muscle groups into a fitness routine at least two times a week.

Weight Training is all about technique?

Weight training offers important health benefits when done properly. But it can lead to injuries, such as sprains, strains and fractures if it is not done correctly.

For best results, consider these basic weight training principles:

  • Learn proper technique: If you are new to weight training, work with a trainer to learn correct form and technique. However, even advanced athletes can benefit from an occasional brush up on their form.
  • Warm up: Cold muscles are more prone to injury than are warm muscles. Try a moderate aerobic activity such as riding on a stationary bike or elliptical for 5 minutes prior to engaging in a weight training routine. Other equally effective warm-ups consist of dynamic stretching or simply doing a few light weight sets of a giving exercise to get the body primed to use a heavier weight.
  • Looking at repetitions: Theories on the best way to approach weight training abound, including countless repetitions and hours at the gym. But research shows that novice weight trainees can benefit from 2-3 sets of 12 repetitions.
  • Use the proper weight: The proper weight to lift will be heavy enough to tire your muscles within those 10 repetitions. If you get to rep 12 and feel like you can do another 5 reps, the weight is too light! You should be exerting a high level of effort to get up that last rep.
  • Start slowly: If you’re a beginner, you may find that you’re able to lift only a few pounds. That is okay, we all need to start somewhere. Once your muscles, tendons and ligaments get used to weight training exercises, you may be surprised at how quickly you progress. Once you can easily do 12 repetitions with a particular weight, you are ready to gradually increase the weight.
  • Take time to rest: To give your muscles enough time to rest, take one full day between exercising each specific muscle group.

What are the rewards of weight training?

Lean muscle mass naturally decreases with age. If you don’t do anything to replace the muscle loss, it’ll be replaced with fat. But Stay Strong is here to help you reverse the trend, no matter your age.

As your muscle mass increases, you’ll be able to lift weight more easily and for longer periods of time. You’ll also help to maintain your bone density, better manage your weight, and improve your body’s metabolism. So don’t wait. Get started today!


Stay Strong | Strength & Conditioning 
21690 Red Rum Drive Suite 117
Ashburn, Virginia 20147

Working Out? Remember to Drink Enough Water

If you are exercise or engage in an activity that makes you sweat, be sure to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. How much? For short bouts of exercise (<30 minutes), an extra 15 to 20 ounces of water should suffice. During longer (>30 minutes) or more intense bouts, consider adding BCAA's to your water. This will allow you to stay stronger for longer by maintaining a high level of intensity, as well as to aid in recovery. Also, remember to continue to replace fluids after you're finished exercising.

Check out Body Systems Labs - Complete Amino Acid Training Formula in the Stay Strong Store.


Stay Strong | Strength & Conditioning 
21690 Red Rum Drive Suite 117
Ashburn, Virginia 20147

Sitting Will Not Kill You... But Inactivity Can Hurt

Let's get this out of the way at the beginning and say that while sitting isn't an ideal way to spend the day it isn't going to kill you. Unless, that is, you park your ass somewhere it shouldn't be, like this guy.

 
 

Aside from this being a genius spot to place your favorite in-laws for the upcoming holiday dinner get-togethers, it isn't the sitting that is going to kill Uncle Rico, it is his inaction. Perhaps this is a bit of an extreme example but nonetheless illustrates the looming dangers of inactivity. 

The average cubical commando powers through long bouts of sitting unbeknownst to the fact that for every hour you sit at a desk you spend about 20 fewer calories than if you were to stand. This is because you are using less muscles; you are no longer tensing muscles in your legs, back or shoulders as you support and shift your weight. Standing for eight-hours a day adds up to 160 calories, which is the equivalent to a half-hour walk. Extrapolate this over weeks and years and you can see that the energetic difference between mostly sitting versus standing presents a significant difference. 

Diving further into the problems affecting Uncle Rico and the prime reason he can't throw a pigskin a quarter mile like he did back in 82, is the result that sitting for hours upon hours has on muscle atrophy, especially those which support the back and abdomen enabling stability of the trunk. If we look at it in terms of muscle activity, sitting in a comfortable chair isn't much different than lying in bed and it is universally accepted that prolonged bed rest has many deleterious effects on the body, including a weaker heart, muscle degeneration, bone loss and elevated levels of tissue inflammation. Sitting in a comfortable chair with a backrest, a headrest and an armrest should be seen as a very similar scenario and while this will not kill you it does nothing to promote optimal health. The price you pay for comfort is paid in the deterioration of those muscles within the buzz worthy "core," all of which are minimally active for the duration of sitting. 

 
 

Another kind of atrophy plaguing Uncle Rico and those enduring endless hours of sitting, is muscle shortening. As you sit in a fixed position for a lengthy period of time immobilizing joints, the muscles that are no longer stretched can become shorter or tight. When sitting in a chair, your hips and knees are flexed at right angles, a position which shortens the hip flexor muscles that cross the front of you hip. Sitting in this position repeatedly, day in and out can functionally shorten the hip flexors. Then, when you stand your shortened hip flexors are so tight they they tilt the pelvis forward leading to an exaggerated lumbar curve and low back pain. 

 
 

Fortunately, none of the aforementioned problems are permanent and can be overcome with a properly instituted program of stretching and mobility work, as well as strengthening those muscles that have become weak. And remember that while sitting will not kill you, inactivity can. It is always a good idea for anyone spending long hours in a chair to get up, move and stretch regularly. 


Stay Strong | Strength & Conditioning 
21690 Red Rum Drive Suite 117
Ashburn, Virginia 20147

GABAMAG is back!

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Are you stressed? Having trouble sleeping? Suffering from anxiety? You may, like 99.32% of all other Americans, be deficient in magnesium. Not to worry! Fresh off the slow boat from Australia, GABAMAG is here to help.

Among a host of other advantages, magnesium has a calming effect on your body’s nervous system and relaxes the muscles, which in turn will help you to fall asleep easier. A deficiency of magnesium is also sometimes responsible for the nervousness that prevents sleep as well as restless legs syndrome. Magnesium may also improve the length and quality of slow wave sleep. Additionally magnesium binds to and activates GABA receptors. GABA is short for gamma aminobutyric acid, which is your most major relaxing neurotransmitter (brain chemical). Normalisation of brain GABA levels leads to a reduction in stress, anxiety, nervousness, depression and an improvement in insomnia resulting in a more restful night’s sleep.

Don't fear the future. Don't regret the past.

"Don't fear the future and don't regret the past."

This seems like an easy aphorism to apply to life, but never really has the impact it should as everyone inevitably thinks about the choices they made. However, if we think about it in terms of bettering ourselves in the gym, rarely do we find anyone who regrets where they started and instead embraces all aspects of progress, including the choices they have made, that took them from the place where they may have thought less of themselves.

Life shouldn't be any different. So no matter what you do, every decision and subsequent outcome is simply the sum of every prior decision you have ever made. Hence, every decision you made was the "right" one and everything that happened after that was supposed to happen so you can be the person you are. So live your life and never look back because it's all working out how it was meant to be.

Stay Strong

Are you doing it wrong?

Who doesn’t want to look lean and have the strength to back it up?

There is plenty of research to show that aerobic exercise, or cardio, produces negligible results when it comes to fat loss whereas anaerobic modes of exercise such as strength training and sprint interval training are exponentially better tools for optimizing body composition because they burn fat and build muscle. Yet it is still a common practice for people to go for a nice jog. Why is that? In order to avoid the continued confusion, the following four points clarify how to use different types of exercise to achieve the best results.

#1: Aerobic training can only help you lose fat if you are just starting to exercise or significantly overweight.

I must say that this isn’t the most effective type of exercise for fat loss but if you are just starting out, this something is better than nothing. However, the window of results for this is relatively short; you can expect to see composition changes for about six weeks, beyond that progress tapers rapidly.  

A recent study from Duke University took sedentary, out of shape, overweight people through a fairly intense (roughly 80% of max heart rate) aerobic exercise for 40 minutes 3 times a week for 8 weeks and they lost a significant amount of weight. The total weight lost should be examined as sustained aerobic training is detrimental to strength and muscle gain (which helps burn fat). So yes, they lost weight, but how much of that weight was wasted muscle?

The key to getting results with aerobic training if you are a novice is to be consistent and monitor food intake to make sure you don’t compensate for the exercise by eating more. Additionally, adding a strength training program to your routine will help you keep off any fat you lose after those first six weeks.

#2: In the long run, aerobic training is useless for fat loss (pun intended).  

In the Duke study the aerobic group only lost an average of 3.5lbs of fat and they weren’t able to build any muscle to keep that fat away, which is where we begin to see the faultiness in this method. By decreasing their body weight and improving their “fitness” the aerobic group actually lowered metabolic rate (ie how fast we burn calories). They were “in shape” and thinner but no less frail and in turn decreased their resting energy expenditure. In order to maintain that fat loss, they would need to eat less, change their ratio of fats/carbs/proteins proportions accordingly or exercise longer and more intensely. No fun!

In a 2006 study of runners, it was found that only the runners who tripled their weekly mileage from 10 miles/week to 30 miles/week did not gain fat over the 9-year study. That’s a huge increase, in not only mileage but time spent training.

#3: Smart anaerobic training burn fat quicker, while building muscle so that you raise your metabolism

In a study of women that compared an anaerobic training program with an aerobic protocol, those that were in the anaerobic training program who lifted moderately heavy weights, lost nearly 10lbs of body fat, gained about 6lbs of muscle and had a dramatic increase in strength. The women who did the high rep, aerobic-style lifting program with the light weights had no change in body composition, and no increases in strength.

The benefit of building muscle is that your hard work lasts longer if you quit exercising. A study that tested what happens when subjects stopped exercising for a period of 3 months after doing a cardio/endurance or a resistance/strength training protocol found that the resistance training group maintained improvements in strength, muscle and cardiovascular fitness longer than the endurance training group.

The benefits of resistance training are even more pronounced in people who are in shape. In trained male athletes, a 6-week heavy load strength training program with multi-joint lifts (deadlift, squat, military press, chin-up and bench press) allowed them to lose 1% of body fat, while gaining 1.3% muscle mass for a dramatic improvement in body composition.

If we compare that to the Duke study: the aerobic group lost 1% of body fat but gained no muscle, resulting in less than favorable body composition change.

#4:  The bottom line is to lift weights and do anaerobic intervals to improve your physique.

It’s pretty simple really, focus only on an anaerobic style of training and give it all you’ve got. It will not only take you significantly less time to accomplish but the results are exponentially greater.

Resistance training paired with anaerobic intervals, or sprint training, appears to be the most effective way to not only look good naked but to develop your strength optimally. A popular 20-minute sprint cycling workout has been found to lead to between 3-5lbs of fat loss in the overweight, untrained men and women. This is the protocol that was used: 8-second sprints with 12 seconds rest. Its very simple, but grueling. Try it!

More experience trainees will benefit from running sprints on a track. A Canadian study found that trained individuals who did six 30-second all-out sprints with 4 minutes rest lost an impressive 12.4% body fat after spending less than 45 minutes of actual work. Compared to an aerobic group only lost 5.8% body fat but they spent a total of 13.5 hours training:

Suggestions for developing the best resistance program include the following:

  • Multi-joint lifts such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, split squats, step-ups, chin-ups and chest presses in every training session.
  • Training with a higher volume – work up to more than 4 sets per exercise. Shoot for between 20 and 30 total reps per training session.
  • Train with a higher intensity – include some training in the 70-85% of your one rep max range.
  • Include short rest periods (30-60seconds) and count tempo for every lift so that you apply a specific amount of tension to the muscles. In general, opt for longer than (4-seconds) eccentric tempos and short or explosive concentric tempos.
  • Shoot for 3 to 4 hours of total training time per week , which includes resistance training and a few short sprint sessions.