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fitness program failure

Fitness Program Failure: Top Five Reasons

Fitness program failure happens for a reason, and with so many out there, both online and at local fitness facilities, you need to understand the top five reasons why programs can fail – as it will improve your chances of starting one that will work for you. That said, let’s paint a picture…

You just saw this great online program, or maybe it was a flyer at the gym. You know the one…it states you can get (fill in the blank) results in 12 weeks? The fitness guru on the material is in great shape, the sales pitch sounds great, you see lot’s of testimonials, fitness technical terms were all over…you buy it, you sign up, you download it, all excited, and in a month you’re wondering how anyone does it. You’re not alone, and you have probably encountered at least one of the five top reasons for fitness program failure…

1. Time

Having the proper time to follow a fixed workout program can be one of the most challenging aspects. To make the program work, you have to follow its schedule, both in terms of days of the week, but also in duration. For example, say it’s a 90-minute routine, five days a week, for 10 weeks…Can you do that? Many individuals look at plans online, and come away with the age-old “I can do that” and then find out it’s not so simple. There is also no real answer to this challenge outside of the one that you bring to the situation: Either you have the time, or you do not (and do not forget proper rest!). But that is the issue time brings to your efforts to follow a fixed routine, and why you are setting yourself up to see less than expected results if you cannot put in the time the program assumes.

Take away – you are going to struggle to follow the program, and get expected results, if you cannot provide the time the program requires. This is true whether you are using the local gym or working out at home. Do some real research into the program’s time requirements, and lean conservative in your schedule assumptions. And if you are working a home-based program, and do not live alone, then others might affect this too.

2. Acces

Do you have access to the equipment the program calls out? If it is a home-based program, do you have everything you need at home? If not, can you get them? Do you have space for them? Before you think the gym is safe for this element, think again. How many times have you been to the gym and it was packed? You could not get anything you wanted that night? Well, this plays out more so in a fixed fitness program – in that, say it’s leg day on your program, and every squat rack, leg press, leg extension, and leg anything is in use. And it’s the only time you have that day…You see where this is going. If your program is not built with alternative plans for when this happens, it can create a disappointing day.

Take away – consider the equipment and space access expectation of the program. Nothing at home…are you OK with shelling out extra costs to acquire the gear? Have a gym membership…how packed does the gym get during your available workout times? You need to consider how well you can access the program’s needed elements throughout the duration of the program. Even the “at home, no equipment required” program can have access issues – can you access space to workout each day?

3. Program is not for you

This is simply making a poor program selection. It can be for various reasons, but we need to be thinking about how our body responds to types of training, and whether a program we want is a program that will work. This is not a repeat of the Time and Access issues noted above, but rather that the program is not suited for your physiology, personality, etc. If you are not fond of resistance training, then “Muscle Mike’s 10 Week Bulk Up Blitz” might not be your thing…in that are you going to bring the drive to get each workout done? Are you going to follow the program? Will obstacles easily make you put off a session? Or, perhaps the program reflects what you were, but no longer are? That is, maybe that program would have been perfect for the you fresh out of college, but is it perfect for your late 40s and family life? In the end, your ability to avoid fitness program failure is also partly driven by how well it suits you.

Take away – know thyself and choose wisely. Your program is likely not going to have a trainer to adjust it as you progress or have issues – but is a “buy and follow” deal. So take the time to think about what you really can handle and are in the mood to do. While the program is intended to change your body, you need to start by looking at your body. Be real with age, injuries, likes, dislikes, etc. The more honest you are, the better you will pick a fitness program you can follow. You can always build on success.

4. Nutrition

This is where we just need to have some brutal honesty. Your dedication to your fitness program is all thrown into the waste bin if you blow the nutrition side of the process. Hitting every workout, full intensity, week after week is great until you hit the local fast-food drive-through five nights a week. If you look at most of the programs out there, they are going to talk about nutrition. Now some may be trying to get you to buy certain foods, etc – but the bottom line is they are saying the full benefits of the program are only found when the nutrition backs it up.

Take away – there is an old saying: abs are made in the kitchen. That very acutely sums up this point. You need to understand your fitness is made of your nutritional intake as well, and you undermine any fitness program if you cannot maintain proper nutrition. Moreover, you need to look up what is needed for your program too – maybe it’s a high protein, high-calorie, low carb, gluten-free, etc – you might find it’s not easy to follow.

5. The program is…garbage

Well, you knew this one was coming. There is a lot out there for fitness programs. Some are created by educated and trained individuals or teams. They base their routines and instructions on proven and safe processes and information. And there are a lot more from that person who goes to the gym, looks great, can drop a lot of cool-sounding fitness buzz words, recite advice they heard from an expert – but actually are not trained or certified in what they are putting out. In short, they are putting out pseudo-science garbage and setting you up for fitness program failure. And sometimes, it can be dangerous. So if the program is garbage, it’s not going to work. Worst case, it can also risk injury.

Take away – do not be fooled by what the marketing looks like. Take the time to check up on the credentials of the program. Just because someone can pay to have ads always in your face, does not mean they are a quality fitness program creator.

In the end, this is not telling you not to purchase a fitness program. Quite the opposite – a fitness program is a great tool to develop your performance and improve your health and we encourage you to go for it! But, what we want you to be tracking is that there are many reasons these programs can fail, and we hate to say it, but often the reason falls on the buyer, not the program. Do your research, consider our top five tips, and as always…

-Train Hard!

Dumbbell goblet squat at the gym

Ten Great Dumbbell Exercises You Need to Have In Your Routine

Dumbbells…a gym staple and an item found in many home kits. They’re not as effective on overall muscle and strength development and body composition (fat) management as performing heavy, barbell based, compound movements – but are still an important tool in your performance efforts. So, are you bringing dumbbell training exercises into your workouts?

Dumbbell exercises have been shown to activate a number of different muscles and stimulate muscle growth, help improve both muscle force and flexibility, and promote coordination and stability for muscles and joints. Even more, you can use them for a variety of exercises, ranging from simple mobility work to intense resistance training.

While in theory, you could often just replace a barbell with dumbbells for a motion – using dumbbells provides more than just a change in weighted item – dumbbells bring additional muscle action into play – notably in stabilization, that will not only improve your overall physical performance – but will help address muscle and mobility imbalances. They also allow you to introduce more range of motion resistance moves into your kit.

Before we get into our list of dumbbell exercises you should have in your routine toolkit, we also want to make sure you lift properly with them – improving your performance takes a set back with injury, and we want you to keep progressing!

There are two issues that many have found out the hard way by not controlling the dumbbells. First, in some motions, it is easy to get “swinging” with a dumbbell. This motion could involve a limb, joint, or both. As with all weights, movements are supposed to be controlled – you control it up, you control it down. Watch out for “out of control” weighted motions that run the risk of joint injury. Second – watch the joints when using dumbbells – they are not made to hold up well against strains that leverage against their natural alignment. Dumbbells can quickly fall to the side, wrenching an arm or leg in an angle that wrists, elbows, knees, shoulders, ankles, etc are not made to move. Performance is about being a mindful athlete and using a controlled effort in your routine, not throwing around metal for ego.

That said, you better have these dumbbell exercises in your routine kit!

1. Incline Dumbbell Press

incline dumbbell press

Muscles worked: The clavicular head of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and and the triceps

Benefits: Targets the smaller, often underemphasized clavicular head, which isn’t as powerful as the sternocostal head but is nevertheless key to the muscle’s overall power. The exercise forces each pectoral muscle to work independently, so your strong side can’t compensate for its weaker counterpart, helping to prevent and correct muscle imbalances.

2. Shoulder Press

dumbbell shoulder press

Muscles worked: The anterior and lateral deltoids, triceps brachii, pectoralis major, serratus anterior, and external oblique

Benefits: Works all aspects of the deltoid muscle; dumbbells activate more of the anterior deltoid than when using a barbell. Whether from a seated or standing position, the dumbbell exercise engages the core for stability. Avoid locking your elbows, as this transitions to emphasis to your triceps, rather than keep it focused on your deltoids.

3. Bent Over Row

dumbbell row

Muscles worked: The posterior deltoid, brachialis, brachioradialis, middle and lower trapezius, infraspinatus, teres minor, teres major, and latissimus dorsi

Benefits: This motion targets your back and shoulders in the same motion. As a functional exercise, it is a great way to develop muscles and motion used throughout the day when picking up things. Knowing how to properly position your back and brace your abs can protect you from strain.

Alternative to increase difficulty: Assume a plank position to engage your core. You will likely have to decrease weight and or reps.

dumbbell row from plank position

4. Tricep Kick-Back

tricep kickback

Muscles worked: The triceps brachii, and posterior deltoids

Benefits: This helps build a stronger tricep muscle, working all three heads. This will help you not only in daily functional movements, but also support other pressing motions in your training, such as chest and shoulder presses.

5. Twisting Bicep Curl

dumbbell bicep curl

Muscles worked: The biceps brachii (short and long heads), brachialis, and brachioradialis

Benefits: The simple process of starting with your gripped hands facing your body and then moving to the traditional supinated position during the curl helps work both the long and short head of the bicep, while also bringing the brachioradialis into the effort. In short, you activate more muscle fibers that a full range supinated curl, or hammer curl alone.

6. Goblet Squats

goblet squat

Muscles worked: The gluteus maximus, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, biceps femoris, erector spinae, vastus intermedius, sartorius, rectus femoris, medial deltoid, anterior deltoid, and biceps brachii

Benefits: Removes the tension and risk to lower back that a tradition barbell squat might cause, while maintaining focus on your quads and glutes – the major muscles in this exercise.

7. Pullover

dumbbell pullover

Muscles worked: The latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, pectorlis major, triceps brachii, and teres major

Benefits: The motion beings into play many stabilizer muscles throughout your body, such as abs, upper back/scapular region, and the gluteal muscles. This in turn helps develop key strength in muscles critical in supporting many full chain body motions. You can help stabilize the motion by contracting your chest and elevating your ribcage, contracting your gluteals, and keeping your feet flat.

8. Weighted Lunge

weighted lunge

Muscles worked: The vastus lateralis, rectus femorus, gluteus maximus, vastus medialus, adductor magnus, and soleus

Benefits: Adds more functional complexity to the training, and thus can offer more all-around development than quadriceps-focused motions. This dumbbell training exercise uses the gluteus maximus, adductor magnus of the inner thigh, and the soleus of the calf – in short, a compound motion. You also will need to bring in your stabilizer muscles in your back and legs to sustain your balance.

9. Lateral Raise

lateral raise

Muscles worked: The anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids, trapezius, and supraspinatus

Benefits: The motion primarily targets the deltoid’s lateral head, with some activation of the anterior and posterior heads. As an isolation dumbbell exercise working the lateral head of the delts, it helps strengthen your shoulders and can help correct strength imbalances between your right and left sides. Make sure the movement comes from your shoulders, not your neck. Avoid shrugging or “jerking” the dumbbells or flexing or extending your elbow as your arm is raised to keep proper form.

10. Fly (Regular or Reverse)

incline dumbbell fly
bent over dumbbell fly

Muscles worked regular fly: The pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid, and coracobrachialis

Benefits: While helping with all-around pectoral development, the motion opens up your chest muscles, which may may help reduce upper back pain, increase range of motion, and reduce tightness in the upper body. Be careful with the weight you use to help obtain a full range of motion without overextending. Avoid bending your elbows excessively as the weight descends or flattening them as the weight ascends to avoid strain on your shoulder joints.

Muscles worked reverse fly: The anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids, triceps brachii, rhomboid, and trapezius

Benefits: Helps with a scapular retraction or pulling your shoulder blades in toward each other – which counteracts risks to posture caused by excessive chest training or prolonged periods of work at a desk or driving that tend to round the shoulders. Research indicates specific strength training such as the reverse fly is an effective tool to reduce pain and disability in neck and shoulder areas.

As with all exercise planning, if you have a shoulder, neck, or back injury, talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out whether this exercise is appropriate. Dumbbell exercises are a great tool, but can also easily pull a joint, torque your body, or cause other unexpected movements if not properly handled. A key item to remember is to only lift manageable weights you can control in both eccentric and concentric phases, and that heavy weights (beyond what you can control) can result in poor technique. If you feel any pain during the exercise, slowly lower the weights and end the exercise. Additionally, beware of over-training risks with dumbbells, as their use may seem minimal compared to other motions, but overuse can risk fatigue, plateau, or injury. As with any fitness program – safety first.

– Train Hard!

Top Winter Performance Tips

You are not alone if you struggle to maintain your fitness routine during the winter months. Your routine faces shorter daylight hours, harsher weather, holiday events, family gatherings, and of course, lots of food. If you feel like you have to choose between performance and the season, then let’s do a reset on that mentality, and then get down to work with our top winter performance tips!

First, it’s all on you. If you want your routine, then it’s not a choice at all – you just get it done. With the proper performance mindset, you will find you can easily sustain your performance during the winter months.

Second, you are going to have to make some adjustments to deal with the variances of the winter months. Proper planning is about adapting to life’s events to keep you on your performance track.

Third – with all the winter events, you better have some fun and down time in there. Performance is balance. As hard as you push and focus on your plans, you need mental health as well. Time with friends and family, a day or two of rest, and other items are just as important to sustaining your performance as squeezing out one more AMRAP session.

We’ve done cold-weather exercise before – but this time, we’ve selected three tips for each of the performance triad elements – fitness/movement, nutrition, and rest/recovery, to focus on key areas to keep your performance on track.

Exercise

For this part of the performance triad, in the winter months, there are three key tips to keep you on track:

  • Stay Active: Keeping active is the key to coming out of the winter months with your performance levels intact. No matter what the schedule, travel plans, weather forced closures, etc, you can run, jog, walk, do home workouts of bodyweight exercises, yoga, callisthenics, etc. By keeping active, you will keep your metabolism fired up, which will help in many areas: weight management, stress management, hormone balance, and sleep patterns.
  • Dress for the Weather: It can be tricky or at times deceptive to dress for winter exercise. Too much, and you can develop hyperthermia, too little and you risk developing hypothermia. Layering is the best approach. We can break it all down, our send you here, where Very Well Fit has a great article on cold-weather layering.
  • Join a Class: One of the best ways to stay motivated is to develop a means of accountability. If you find yourself wavering during the winter months, a class is a way to impose a sense of accountability to your efforts. Whether because you spent the money, or you do not want to be a no-show in front of others – class membership has been shown to help in fitness routines. If commitment is not an issue – then try taking a class in something you would not do the rest of the year when you are on your normal routine. Yoga, spinning, CrossFit, and others are great ways to keep active, make new fitness friends, and have fun.

Nutrition

With all the food choices, most of which are carb and sugar loaded, it can appear challenging to sustain a performance diet – but we can help with these tips (which all directly tie together):

  • Plan Your Meals: This is a tip that is a constant year round, but likely more important during the winter months when gatherings, family meals, and sweets abound. It can be easy to get caught up in all the food – but this is where meal planning can save you. By planning your meals, you can ensure you sustain proper nutrients, and not face the cravings of an empty stomach vs plate of winter sugar cookies! Planning your meals does not mean you cannot have sweets or those other holiday meals – rather, by planning you will ensure that you are getting proper nutrition at all other times, and not over-indulging when those festive times come.
  • Limit Sugar: Excessive sugar intake is one of the quickest way to add to fat storage. Now this might be hard during the winter season – this is one where you need to focus on keeping your sugar intake under control. But if you plan your meals, as noted above, then you will help keep your body fuelled and it will be easier to resist sugar and all the excessive calories that come with it.
  • High Protein Intake: Protein is a key tool in diet management. It keeps you satiated – meaning you are less likely to indulge in excess eating, and helps your body burn calories by being a denser material to digest. Ensure your meals contain good sources of protein, such as chicken and fish, and you will help control your desire to eat excessive amounts of unhealthy food items.

Rest/Recovery

The third part of the performance triad, and often most neglected is rest and recovery. Your winter performance routine needs to have adequate rest and recovery to ensure you are maintaining a balanced performance pattern. Here are three tips to support your efforts:

  • Get Adequate Rest: While the nights may be longer, many do not get adequate sleep and rest during the winter months. Limited and insufficient sleep can have even more effects on your body than muscle health. If you are one who puts off getting adequate rest, you risk impaired concentration, mood changes, weight gain, and a weakened immune system – something you do not want at the peak of cold and flu season! We’ve listed tips before, here, to help you get your proper rest and recovery time.
  • Stretch/Do Yoga: Recovery means resting your muscles. Not only through sleep, but also through stretching and exercise such as yoga. These techniques will help your muscles rest and recover from resistance training or hard cardio training. By giving your muscles care, you not only reduce the risk of injury, but also aid in their ability to recover and provide sustained performance training. If you are looking for tips on specifics, you can check out our other work on adding yoga to your routine.
  • Vitamin D: Make sure you get as much natural sunlight as possible. Natural sunlight exposure is the easiest and most reliable way for most people to get vitamin D – and the hardest to maintain in the winter months. Normal exposure of the hands, face, arms, and legs to sunlight 2-3 times a week for 10-30 minutes is sufficient time to produce enough vitamin D. The necessary exposure time varies with age, skin type, season, time of day, and other factors. During periods of sunlight, vitamin D is stored in your body fat and then released when sunlight is gone.

If you just finished reading, and are thinking these top winter performance tips sound easy – they are, but at the same time, so many people fall off their performance routines during the winter months because they do not follow these simple steps. So easy yes, but yet not done by so many who come out of winter wondering how they got out of shape!

In the end, do not confuse a performance mindset with difficulty. It’s the dedication during the winter months that makes your performance, not the difficulty. Follow these tips, and watch how you charge into spring weather!

– Train Hard!

Density Training: Performance Results In Less Time

Time is likely never on your side when it comes to scheduling your fitness routine. So how can you maximize your workout efforts to see performance gains? Welcome to Escalating Density Training…

What is Escalating Density Training

First, Density Training is a measurement of workload vs time. Escalating, in the sense of this training, is taking one of those components, and increasing (workload) or decreasing (time) in order to escalate the effect on your training. Rather than focusing purely on the weight you lift, this will target sets and reps to perform as much work as possible in the amount of time you allot for your workout.

Let’s go over this using a simple barbell bench press:

Say you can press 150 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps, in 5 minutes. So in this, your density is 150x3x10 = 4,500 lbs in 5 minutes.

The escalation can occur in various ways:

  • Sustain the time, and work in an 11th rep on each set. 150x3x11 = 4,950 lbs in 5 minutes
  • Shorten your rest interval, and do the same weight in 4:30 minutes.

This is to give you an example of how the density math works. However, the reality is this is going to be applied to your entire workout. When implementing this, you will measure and apply this to each exercise throughout the whole workout.

Density Training Application

Implementing the process into your routine is simple – but beware of underestimating the intensity of this process. It’s going to involve pushing your muscle groups, and as you want a decent rep range, focus on the technique.

Follow the process below, and you will see improvements in your performance:

  • You’re going to have to do a workout at least once, to establish the baseline for your density measurement – keep a good journal for this, either on your phone or old school pen and paper.
  • Start with a weight you can complete full sets, for the first 2-3 sets – you do not want to be hitting failure in your first couple of sets, but it is okay if you do hit failure in later sets of your routine.
  • Use opposite pairing for your muscle groups for Density Training; for example, if you are going to work on the chest with dumbbell presses, then pair it with a leg extension or seated row. Mix it up – you need to be able to keep pushing your muscle groups throughout the whole workout.
  • Get a wide range of reps into the program; do not stick with the same rep ranges or set counts throughout your routine.
  • This is about reps and time driving density volume – not adding weight. If you feel you have more in the tank, do more reps, or shorten the rest intervals.
  • For each session, plan on rep increase, or time decrease to target density escalation, and record your results. Do not figure it out as you go.
  • Remember, even 1 rep is an improvement – if all you get is one more rep in the same amount of time – celebrate, you increased your density. Same with time – if you could only do the same volume in 10 seconds less, you still increased your density.

5 Key Training Benefits

Following the Escalating Density Training process, you should find improvements in 5 key areas:

  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Hypertrophy
  • Fat burning
  • Time (more efficiently spent in the gym)

You can build your entire program around this for a whole cycle, but this is very taxing to your body, so we do not recommend this as your standard training regime. Use it as an effective tool to boost your fitness performance, but as with all intense programs, give your body proper rest and recovery before resuming another cycle.

– Train Hard!

Best Triceps Exercises to Develop Size and Strength

The best triceps exercises to trigger growth and development are old fashion staples – ones you’ve seen in the gym dozens of times. But in a sea of online workout fads, we wanted to get back to basics and call out five exercises to develop your triceps.

The triceps muscle is the triceps brachii and is located in the back of the arm between the elbow and the shoulder. It consists of three heads and makes up about 75 percent of the arm. For most, it responds well to resistance training, it with reasonable work, you can add shape and size to your arms through triceps training.

So let’s get to the exercises:

close grip bench press

1. Close Grip Bench Press

This will put the emphasis on your triceps, although your chest is still working on this. Proper form is to keep your elbows in, hands closer together on the bar, and focus on the extension and squeeze of your triceps.

Recommended tempo (starting with the lowering phase): 3010

triceps push down

2. Cable Tricep Pushdown (Extension)

This will put the emphasis on your triceps – the key is to keep elbows by your side and not jerk the cable when you start the motion. It should be smooth, up and down, all triceps. Focus on contraction when extended, and slow eccentric motion as you allow the cable to raise.

Recommended tempo (starting with the triceps contraction phase): 1130

triceps dips

3. Dips

Another triceps motion that also activates the chest, but also your shoulder (deltoid) muscles. Whether you use a regular dip bar as pictured or an assisted machine – be careful on this one, as lowering too far can strain your shoulder joint. Keep this one focused on your triceps, and squeeze with each raise.

Recommended tempo (starting with the lowering phase): 3010

 

overhead triceps press

4. Overhead Dumbbell/Barbell Extension

This really isolates your triceps and gives them a good full stretch during each repetition. Proper form is to keep your elbows in and forward; an e-z grip bar will work best for this if you want to use a bar versus a dumbbell. For a dumbbell, recommend using one, holding with both hands, as shown. You can also use a cable machine if you have the proper attachments. Focus on the contraction when you reach full extension.

Recommended tempo (starting with the raising phase): 1130

5. Diamond Push-Ups

diamond push-ups

This really isolates your triceps and gives you an option to keep working on your knees if you hit failure using a full plank pose. As with the other exercises, focus on the contraction when you reach full extension.

Recommended tempo (starting with the lowering phase): 3010

Triceps appear to benefit from weights between 30 to 85 percent 1RM range, which comes to a weight that will enable 5 to 30 reps on a first set taken to failure. Working all the triceps heads, by varying exercises will also add to growth and size. Vary between low to moderate weight with higher reps, vs heavier weight for fewer reps. Additionally, try to keep your triceps exercises to no more than three per session – more is unlikely to add substantial development, and risks delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Whether you combine triceps into your “push” routine, or an “arms” workout, is up to you.

– Train Hard!

7 Tips for Training with Problem Spots

Problem spots…the trick joint…old sports injury…

We know these by many names. They are parts of our bodies, that while not injured, pose challenges for those trying to workout and keep fit. These are not active injuries, rather part of the body that just do not work at 100% any more (likely from an earlier injury).

So how can we keep fit, and deal with these problem spots?

  1. It’s a problem for a reason. Something happened, and part of your body was forever affected. This is where we all need to work with our physician to ensure we understand the mechanics of the issue. Guessing at why something is an issue is not the same as taking effective training steps based on solid knowledge.
  2. Do not confuse a problem for an injury. Listen to your body on this – pain, swelling, immobility, etc are signs you have an injury. Maybe minor, maybe not. But you never train on an injury. You seek medical advice, rest, and recover. But you’ve had a bad knee for years – OK, but today your knee decided to upgrade its issues. Be smart, put aside the ego, and treat the injury.
  3. Warm up the area. Get the blood flowing in the the area through simple stretches, and low intensity resistance movements. Keep it simple and slow, until, and if, your problem area is ready to go. For example, you have a tricky shoulder and its chest day… Try doing 10 reps of just the bar, followed by 10 reps of 30% 1RM (One Rep Max) – this will warm up the shoulders, and put just enough tension to let you see if they are OK to add weight. Push-ups? Do them on your knees to decrease the weight. You get the idea.
  4. Apply progressive levels of exercise, vs large jumps. That problem area is going to benefit from steady, progressive adjustments in difficulty, speed, or resistance. Manage the increase in slow amounts. This will keep the area active and warmed up, but also not shock it with in increase that could result in injury. Remember, there is a reason that area is a problem.
  5. Know when to quit. Again, get the ego out of the workout. If you have a problem area, and it acts up – before or during a workout – call it a day with that area. We bet there are other parts of your body you can exercise. Or, change exercises. We want to stress, without control, ego can turn a sore joint into something worse.
  6. Apply proper rest. Have we mentioned those areas are problems for a reason? They will need more attention that other areas after the workout. Foam roller, muscle creams, ice, adequate time off, etc are all critical to ensuring that problem areas have time to recover and rest before your next session with them.
  7. Eat a healthy diet. Your body as a whole, not just the problem area, will benefit from the macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals a healthy diet provides. Keeping beneficial fuel in the tank is vital to helping problem areas rest, recover, and get ready for your next workout.

With these steps, you should be able to manage exercising with a problem area. But remember – one, never, never, exercise on an injury, and two, your best source of advice on this is going to come from a medical professional who can diagnose your specific issues.

-Train Hard (and Smart)!

Time Under Tension: Attacking Your Muscle Growth

Time under tension (TUT) is the amount of time that a muscle or group of muscles is under stress during a set. The reported advantage from TUT is that by focusing on the duration muscle fiber is under stress, rather than a movement repetition count, the intensity will result in gains in muscle size and strength.

The general consensus is that increasing TUT will maximize hypertrophy by increasing the muscle fiber breakdown that occurs during the workout. Thus, hypertrophy may improve if one lifts lighter weights for a longer period of time than to use heavy weights for fewer reps.

How does TUT do this?

TUT’s results may be through creating a hypoxic environment in the working muscles. The premise follows as such:

  • Resistance training with weights produces a buildup of metabolites in the body,
  • At the same time, muscle contractions cause blood vessels to condense and restrict the blood flow to working muscles

It is the lack of blood flow oxygen that creates a hypoxic environment for your muscles, and a 2010 study from the Mie University Graduate School of Medicine showed that hypoxic muscle environments actually enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy.

Applying TUT to your workouts

  1. Focus on the eccentric part of the muscle movement. Eccentric is the lowering, or “anti-contraction” part of the muscle movement. Slowing your eccentric motion will cause an increase in micro-fiber muscle damage, thus encouraging more growth.
  2. Focus on intensity. You need to be lifting heavy enough to fatigue the muscle. Consider ranges 60-80% 1 RPM.
  3. Drop sets until fatigue. It’s about time, and failing to finish a set works against it. So if you hit your limit too soon with the weight, drop to a lower amount, and keep repping out until you finish the set.

Apply TUT to bodyweight movements centers around slowing down the eccentric part of the movement. For example, lower yourself in a push-up using a 4-6 second count, before exploding back up. Same with a squat – slow lower, power back up. Resistance bands work for this too.

Hopefully you now understand enough include TUT in your fitness toolkit.

-Train Hard!

 

Dress for the weather

Cold Weather Exercise

Exercise should be enjoyed year round. The colder winter months should not stop your efforts to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. However, with the onset of colder and wetter days, you need to be aware of steps to take to ensure you are protecting your body from risks associated from cold weather. With a few simple steps or changes to your exercise routine, you can be sure to continue your fitness goals through the winter. Moreover, exercise in the winter can offset the feelings of boredom or depression known to be associated with shorter days, and increasing amounts of time inside.

So here are some ways to stay safe, so you can exercise through those colder days:

  1. Dress in lose layers. Tight clothes can restrict blood flow, making it harder for your body to regulate its temperature. Moreover, loose layers offer the advantage of trapping pockets of air that act as natural insulation against cold weather and enable you to quickly make small adjustments to your insulation (by removing layers) should you find yourself overheating.
  2. Wear an outer waterproof layer on wet days. Winter is not like the summer, when wet days can feel good against rising temperatures. In contrast, wet clothes in winter months or cold weather can work to speed up the process by which your body loses heat, and increases your risk of hypothermia.
  3. Wear reflective elements. Colder months are known for shorter days. If you are out during darker hours, be sure to stay safe by wearing either reflective clothing or items.
  4. Wear a hat, scarf, and gloves. Be sure to insulate all the areas where your body can lose heat. There are several brands of outdoor exercise clothing lines that offer insulated gloves, hats, and scarves for exercise that are both light weight and easy to carry if you over heat and need to take them off.
  5. Take adequate fluids prior to exercise. You may not realize it, but even in colder weather your body loses moisture in sweat. To avoid the risk of dehydration, be sure to consume adequate fluids prior to and during exercise. You may not feel like you need fluids in colder weather, but you do.
  6. Check the weather conditions. Last thing you want in colder weather is to be colder or wetter than you planned. Always check the weather conditions for your intended exercise time, and plan appropriately. And accept that there are some conditions that will make it smarter to remain inside.
  7. Warm up prior to exercising. Unlike warmer weather, your body can be stiffer with less blood flow in colder weather. Stretch out your muscles, do some low intensity jumping jacks, or high knees – just get the blood going, and thus warming your body, prior to hitting the cold weather. This does not mean work up a sweat – just spend a few minutes loosening and warming up.

Hypothermia Risks and Detection

As with any exposure to cold weather, even if properly prepared, you need to be aware of the risks of hypothermia. Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature, usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. The risk of cold exposure increases as the winter months arrive. However, you should be aware that any time you are exposed to cold temperatures, such as a mountain hike in spring or cold wet winds during a summer ocean sailing trip, you can also be at risk of hypothermia.

Normal body temperature averages 98.6 degrees. With hypothermia, core temperature drops below 95 degrees. In severe hypothermia, core body temperature can drop to 82 degrees or lower.

Hypothermia symptoms for adults include:

  • Shivering, which may stop as hypothermia progresses (shivering is actually a good sign that a person’s heat regulation systems are still active. )
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Drowsiness or exhaustion
  • Slurred or mumbled speech
  • Loss of coordination, fumbling hands, stumbling steps
  • A slow, weak pulse
  • In severe hypothermia, a person may be unconscious without obvious signs of breathing or a pulse

Hypothermia is a potentially life-threatening condition that needs emergency medical attention.

If medical care isn’t immediately available:

  • Remove any wet clothes, hats, gloves, shoes, and socks
  • Protect the person against wind, drafts, and further heat loss with warm, dry clothes and blankets
  • Move gently to a warm, dry shelter as soon as possible
  • Begin rewarming the person with extra clothing. Use warm blankets. Other helpful items for warming are: an electric blanket to the torso area and hot packs and heating pad on the torso, armpits, neck, and groin; however, these can cause burns to the skin. Use your own body heat if nothing else is available
  • Take the person’s temperature if a thermometer is available
  • Offer warm liquids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine, which speed up heat loss. Don’t try to give fluids to an unconscious person

In the end, cold weather should be anything but a barrier to your fitness efforts. Plan, adjust, and be smart. And most importantly, know the risks. So throw on your shoes, layer up properly, hydrate, warm up, and…

-Train Hard!

The Work vs Fitness Battle

It’s that challenge we all face – balancing work, life, fitness, and eating well within limited hours in the day. If you feel like that is an impossible goal, you are not alone. Between the hours we work, time commuting, errands, family time, and all the other parts of our lives, how do we manage a successful fitness regimen? If you move away from fixating on what cannot get done, and instead focus on how to balance realistic fitness goals in your available time, you will find that you can win the battle between work and fitness.

First, accept and understand your realities. Second, accept that you have time to work out. Third, accept that working out does not always mean being in a gym, pounding out weights or cardio sets.

Do not think of your workout as an “all or nothing.” Starting with that mentality will set you up for failure. Instead, strive for a realistic routine that accommodates your schedule. Moreover, planning is an important part of maintaining fitness against a busy lifestyle. Lastly, be creative in how you exercise and look beyond the gym.

So let’s take a look at how this can be applied…

Fitness Options Outside of the Gym

Maybe you have not realized it yet, but you can work out anywhere. Whether at home, stuck in the office, or traveling between hotel rooms, you have options. Here is a basic list to consider for training outside of the gym:

  1. Body weight exercises. These require only you, and sufficient floor space. Think back to your days at school and you know most of the exercises – push ups, jumping jacks, burpees, abdominal crunches, mountain climbers, running in place, and others. These all use nothing more than your body, and if you put together a circuit, you can get a good 20 minute workout into any schedule. It will make you feel better, keep you mentally focused, alleviate stress, and work towards your fitness goals.
  2. Cardio anywhere. Have a pair of work out shoes? Guess what, then you can do cardio anywhere. Take a brisk walk, run through a park, do stair intervals, and just be creative. Again, you might have your preferences, but if you throw on some gym clothes and your shoes, you can get in an easy 20 minutes of cardio into your day.
  3. Yoga. We’ve talked about the benefits of yoga before. But yoga is also an easy fitness element to incorporate into a busy day. It takes little space, and if you use the basic moves we suggested in our yoga article, you can get a solid 20 minute yoga workout done.
  4. HIIT. Perfect for a 20 minute workout, the idea is that you do short periods of all-out work followed by short periods of active rest to make the body work harder than it does during steady-state cardio. You can factor this into body weight exercises, cardio, or a combination of both.
  5. Portable fitness gear. You’ve seen these – straps, bands, door attachments, etc. They are low cost, easily fit into your car trunk, suitcase, office drawer, or any small spot. A small investment, but they offer more options and can be brought out and put away in little time.
  6. Stretch at the desk. Push your keyboard away, relax, and go through a stretching cycle at your desk. Work on your neck, shoulders, and back. Stand up and stretch out your arms to expand your torso. Breathe steady, and repeat. Do this for 10 minutes. You will feel fresh, mentally alert, and you will help maintain healthy blood circulation.

Time

Now you’ve probably noticed we keep mentioning 20 minutes. That is not by chance. While not an optimal time for a workout duration, it is highly likely you have 20 minutes in any busy day you can put towards a fitness program. So think of it in that matter – get your mind around 20 minutes. Stop thinking about the 90 minute routine you cannot get done, and feeling defeated. Think small, and start there. We are willing to bet that after figuring out how to get 20 minutes into your day, it will grow to longer times very quickly as you find ways in your schedule to make fitness happen.

Speaking of schedule, you need to be be mindful of your schedule, and plan ahead if you want to win the fitness vs work battle. What do we mean? We mean the little things that can derail your efforts. No clothes on hand – then pack your bag the night before, so you do not forget when rushing to get ready for work – and put it in your car or by the door. Prep your meals and pack a lunch. Can you eat at your desk? Can you avoid the time it takes to go get food during the day that you could otherwise give to a fitness routine?

Oh, and is your favorite show on? Well push the coffee table to the side, and break out into a series of exercise mini-circuits. Make it fun – every commercial is butterfly kicks!

Just remember, you have the time.

Food and Nutrition

As busy as our days can become, we need to keep mindful of a healthy diet, particularly if we plan to incorporate a fitness program or exercise on any level. While easy at times, this can be more challenging when you have long work days. You need to keep your body fueled with proper, macronutrient balanced meals. If not, you will feel sluggish, possibly slowly develop health risks, and in those busy hours, likely have little energy or inclination to squeeze in a fitness routine.

If you plan your meals, you can avoid this. Wait, you say, I do not have time to meal prep! Relax, we said plan your meals, not prep the meals. Again, we know you are busy, but you can still think ahead. Keep healthy snacks in your bag or desk. Protein powder tubs have a nice way of finding spaces to hide. Stop ordering the greasy double cheeseburger for lunch – go for the healthy option. No not salad, but we’ll bet there is chicken or fish somewhere on the menu too!

Sleep

Sleep is your body’s primary recovery mechanism. You need it on both a physical and mental level. All your hard fitness training is best achieved with adequate sleep. So whether you are hitting the gym, or doing shorter versions to accommodate your schedule, remember to always get adequate rest.

Remember, you can build muscle and keep the fat off even with a competing schedule. Your fitness efforts do not have to lose out. Make your workout something you will enjoy, and tell yourself you will get it done – schedule it, plan it, and make it happen. Every exercise, every rep, every session – whether in the gym, or at home at the end of a long day is a step towards achieving and maintaining your fitness goals.

-Train hard!

Simple Yoga to Improve Your Fitness

You lift, run, and do cross-fit – but what about yoga? Not for me, you say? Well have you considered that incorporating yoga into your fitness routine has the following benefits:

  1. Improves flexibility
  2. Builds muscle strength
  3. Improves your posture
  4. Prevents cartilage and joint break down
  5. Protects your spine
  6. Improves bone health
  7. Increases blood flow
  8. Drains your lymphs and boosts your immunity
  9. Increases your heart rate
  10. Lowers your blood pressure

Interested? Good.

What Is Yoga?

First, yoga is not stretching. Most yoga postures are a series of focused isometric contractions coupled with specific breathing patterns that yield gains in flexibility, mobility, and strength.

Anyone can start yoga, and if already training it can greatly benefit your overall fitness results. Even more, you do not need to dedicate all your fitness time to yoga  to get the benefits. You can incorporate yoga into your routine any day, and even on rest days, using dozens of variations and preparatory poses that can meet you where you are at, regardless of age, injury, or athletic goal.

A Routine Anyone Can Follow

You can bring yoga into your routine anytime. However, in order to utilize yoga postures for the purpose of gaining strength and increasing performance, practice them after your training session so that your body has at least 24 hours to recover from the poses. While restorative, yoga is still a very intense physical practice and your body, especially your nervous system, needs time to recover from it.

Recommended Routine For Strength Training

After your workout, or on rest days (if resting at least two days), find a good spot with room to perform the asanas (poses), and hold each for 30 seconds. Rest, and repeat for a total of five cycles. Remember to keep your breathing steady throughout the poses.
  1. ChairChair yoga Pose
  2. Warrior IIWarrior II posture
  3. Warrior III – this is especially good to increase balance and strengthen legsYoga Pose Warrior 3
  4. Extended triangle – uses blocks as needed – strengthen legs, abs, especially lateralsYoga Extended Triangle Pose
  5. Extended side angle – uses blocks as needed – strengthen legs, abs, especially lateralsExtended Side Angle Pose
  6. Plank – whatever variation works – abs, arms and shouldersDolphin Plank yoga pose
  7. Downward dog – lower back, arms and shouldersYoga pose downward-facing dog
  8. Sphinx – lower back and counteracts the downward dogSphinx yoga pose

As with all fitness routes, you might need to invest in some basic equipment to help out such as yoga mats, blocks, or straps.

 

CoreTek Fitness always stresses: consider your medical condition and check with a physician if you are concerned about the impact of any fitness program.
Try this basic routine, or go online and build your own. There are plenty of qualified sources you can study to create a yoga program that fits your needs. The goal is to improve your fitness, and that means doing what is best for you. Yoga, if properly incorporated, is one of many ways to achieve your goals.
-Train hard!
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