Often something takes me over a tipping point and years of pent up frustration spill out. The fitness industry in general often has this effect on me!
I was recently was sent a photo by a friend off another fitness facebook page in my town. The photo depicted a person doing bicep curls, standing on a BOSU ball, while wearing ankle weights.
Yes, apparently you can still buy ankle weights. Who knew?
This post apparently caused quite the moral outcry. How could I belittle this trainer? Why was I bullying the trainer? How arrogant of me to say what another fitness trainer was doing was poor training!
Seriously? Shut the fuck up.
Here is an overview of the truth. If you are going to call yourself a professional and step into the public eye as an authority then you better have your big person pants on and be ready for critique. Because that is what the professional world is like and more importantly that is what the professional world SHOULD be like.
Every blog I write, video I post, and social media comment I publish is open for scrutiny. It should be. I am a professional. Like any researcher, doctor, lawyer, nurse, physiotherapist, or banker I must be held accountable and held to a high standard. I have to backup what I preach with physiology, biomechanics, and other pertinent science. Period.
If I can’t support it then I deserve to be ripped apart on it. Period.
The fitness world truthfully, is a disaster. It is an unregulated industry predominantly populated with people who do not have a level of understanding of scientific principles requisite to be allowed to take charge of other human’s HEALTH and LIFE.
That is what it really needs to come down to. Fitness trainers, coaches, and instructors are the front line in the health industry. There is more ability in the health industry to change the population for the better than in any other aspect of health care. Yet it is the wild west of the health care world.
Anyone can call themselves a trainer and start charging people. They then give out workout advice, attempt to heal client’s injuries, and provide nutrition programs. It’s a fucking joke.
It’s a disgrace. It is one of the reasons I have such a hard time building a professional network. How is a doctor or physiotherapist supposed to refer out to a fitness trainer and know that they are releasing their client to someone who is going to be able to help? Or at the very least not do harm?
Because the truth is that the human body is intricately complex. It has been studied for centuries in microscopic detail and we still learn new things everyday! And we still don’t understand everything about how the body works and functions!
Fitness is NOT as simple as doing some exercises and going paleo. IT IS NOT. If you are going to be a fitness professional you must be held to a higher standard of accountability. You must be constantly learning and researching. You must be attending professional conferences and clinics. You must be learning from mentors. You must understand the underlying physiology of EVERYTHING you do and everything you prescribe.
And on that note I will get on the 6 things I think need to change in the fitness industry.
The 6 Biggest Problems in the Fitness Industry
#1 – Just Because You Got Fit and Workout You Can Be A Coach
I see this, ALL. THE. TIME.
Person gets interested in fitness. Joins a gym or a fitness program. Loss weight or maybe competes in a fitness event such as a marathon, triathlon, or physique show. Person then believes they can train other people to do the same thing.
No. No you can’t. Just because you train does NOT mean you are now able to train others.
Have you ever been sick and gone to the doctor? Did they give you advice, maybe a prescription, and help heal what was ailing you? That is really great and I am glad that you are now happy and healthy. Does this also mean that YOU can now heal other people with the same ailment?
Surviving cancer doesn’t qualify you to treat someone else’s cancer.
No, that analogy isn’t too far fetched. We are talking about your health. Being fit will LITERALLY save your life.
If you want to be a fitness professional you have to go to the next step. Getting in shape or training is a great starting point. But then you have to start and continue to educate and train yourself.
Certifications, mentors, books, conferences, clinics, and research are
all imperative to becoming a fitness professional. If you are not doing these things on a regular basis (should be monthly at the least) then you ARE NOT a fitness professional. You are a hobbyist and you have no right or authority to be taking other people’s health into your hands.
So to all the fitness ‘pros’ out there who put a squat rack in your garage and charge people to train with you on the weekends because you really love it – stop it. You are either in or you are out. You are either a professional or you are a hobbyist.
#2 – You Have to Have a 6 Pack To Be a Fitness Coach
Seriously. This is the most ludacris argument in the fitness industry today.
Your outward appearance is not indicative of your health or your ability to coach others. We are talking about coaching and teaching not about a person’s ability to create a chiseled set of abs on themselves.
I have never had a six-pack. I never will. I do not have the dedication to my diet or enough of a desire to have a six-pack to do what it takes to be that lean. Does this have anything to do with my ability to coach fitness?
Is an oncologist who smokes less capable of treating your cancer?
No. They know better and are making a poor choice but they are not inept.
I don’t have a 6 pack. I can deadlift 400lbs, my blood pressure and cholesterol are awesome, I can pack my camera gear anywhere in the world with ease, and I am injury free. Guess what? I am healthy.
Having a hot body does not a fitness professional make.
Should someone be morbidly obese and eat fast food every night? No, that is something different. But there is a range of healthy and more health markers to monitor your health than what your stomach looks like.
If you are choosing your fitness professional simply by their physical appearance I can promise you that you are NOT guaranteed to get a quality provider.
#3 – You Want to Be a Fitness Expert, But You Don’t Actually Coach
You have to be working in the industry you purport to be an expert in.
The Internet is rife with ‘fitness coaches’ and ‘business coaches’ who don’t actually train anyone or run a business.
Be very leery of this. If you are going to hire a fitness coach you need to make sure they actually coach people. Regularly. Not 5 years ago they used to train people and now just read about it. Do not take advice from anyone who doesn’t actually do it for a living.
The same goes for all those supposed coaches out there who want to help you grow your personal training business who doesn’t actually run a personal training business. You would think that is logical. You wouldn’t believe how many people seem to ignore this simple fact.
The fitness world is constantly evolving and if you are not working in it on a regular basis then you have no business teaching others how to be operating.
#4 – The Lack of Regulation Scares the Shit Out of Me
The fitness industry is totally unregulated. Doctors, lawyers, physiotherapists, massage therapists, mechanics, nurses, and even financial planners all have colleges, associations, and regulatory bodies that they must belong to and that set standards of education and updated skills.
The fitness industry has nothing.
Anyone can train people. Teach fitness classes. Give out nutrition advice. There is absolutely no protection whatsoever for consumers and the general public to ensure that the person they are hiring and investing their health, their LIVES, in is in anyway competent to be their coach.
People get fit and then put a squat rack in their basement and start training others. No certs. No mentors. No updated education. They just put them through all the workouts they were put through, because hey, if it worked for them it will work for everyone else.
Other people have amazing inspirational stories about how fitness changed their lives and in some cases saved their lives. I think that is fantastic! Awesome! Change the world, help and motivate others, share your experience.
But that does not qualify you to be a fitness professional. Can you be a fitness professional? Absolutely. But you have to continue to hone and further your skills. As I have already stated – education, certification, clinics, courses, conferences. You have to keep learning and make yourself a professional. An inspirational story is just the beginning of that process.
It is scary. No regulation. No regulatory body. There really needs to be one. Unfortunately, the industry itself fights against regulation. I believe it is because more than half the ‘professionals’ in the industry wouldn’t have a hope of passing evidence based regulation.
But until it happens we can never be taken as serious professionals. And those of us who are truly dedicated to advancing the industry with evidence-based practice have an uphill battle proving ourselves.
#5 – Critiquing is Not Bullying
Critiquing is not bullying.
There is a serious issue with online bullying and people using the anonymity of the internet to belittle and rip apart others. I am a strong advocate for creating ways to prevent this.
But sometimes it goes too far. Too far.
Professional critique is not bullying. It is professional critique. And if you want to be a professional you must be held accountable to critique from other professionals. THAT is how we maintain a professional standard.
Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power.
Bullying may be defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally or emotionally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person. (Source: Wikipedia)
So often in the fitness world true critique is labeled as bullying. There is a strong difference. Personal attacks and slugging insults is inappropriate and uncalled for. However, critiquing exercises, blogs, videos, pictures, or other publically posted links is a necessary part of a profession.
We have to change a lot of what happens in the realm of fitness. We NEED to crituqe each other and make everyone accountable. And this critique needs to be limited to fitness and must not be personal or attacking a persons character.
#6 – Fitness Needs to Become Professional
The industry needs to change. We need to become a regulated profession.
There has to be a set of standards created. There has to be a regulatory body that oversees the entire industry. There has to be a certification process that has a clear path for people to follow in order to obtain the certification. There has to be an education credential that ensures a high standard for fitness professionals.
I preach this because I care. I care so much I have dedicated my life to setting a high standard of what a fitness professional should be. Not because I am a narcissistic asshole but because I hold myself to the same standard that I hold others to.
That is what a professional does. Maintain a high standard and make sure everyone else in their industry also meets the same standard.
This topic seems to be a hot button all over the fitness industry. Recently, I have been catching some flak with regards to recent articles on running and fat loss. Most specifically, on running being a poor fat loss method.
Yes, I said it. Running is bad for fat loss. So is most ‘cardio’ exercise. The facts of the matter are that these exercise modalities are not the best fat loss methods out there.
I am going to get to the biggest myths but first a little background!
This isn’t the first time I have written on this topic and if you want to read a little more after this blog, feel free to skim through the archives!
First I think we need to define the term cardio – it is a term that is horrendously misleading. We term low intensity, high volume exercise ‘cardio’. Jogging, swimming, cycling, and elliptical machines are usually what come to mind when we hear the term ‘cardio’. It is such a misleading term. These exercises have come to be associated with cardiovascular work and have perpetuated a belief that in order to keep a healthy cardiovascular system, ‘cardio’ exercises are the best way to train.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. For many years now the research has shown time and again that low intensity, high volume training has an initial positive benefit to cardiovascular health in untrained people but that this quickly reaches a limit. After that there is actually a DECREASE in cardiovascular health markers with continued participation in the same activities.
So for the purposes of this blog, we will use the term ‘cardio’ in the way it is commonly known – as a descriptive term for low intensity, long duration exercise; running, jogging, walking, swimming, elliptical machines, and indoor or outdoor cycling.
Oh, but you do intervals, so it isn’t low intensity exercise. I don’t want to burst your happy little bubble but no, it is still low intensity. Without getting into too much physiology I will grossly oversimplify this for you. High intensity work requires the use of your glycolytic system and creatine phosphate system. The longest either of these fuel systems can work is around 1 to 1 and a half minutes in highly trained individuals. Any work that goes longer than that moves into aerobic metabolism, which cannot sustain the same power and strength output (read that as intensity).
So if you do not take an equal break to work interval you end up automatically decreasing the intensity. Sorry spinners, but spin class is not high intensity training; it is a cardio workout that relies mostly on aerobic metabolism.
Don’t take this the wrong way. I need to clarify because I can see the nasty messages coming my way. I am not saying you cannot get a good workout from cardio-based training. I am simply showing you how it works and letting everyone know that you should not make this the ONLY component of your training!
How do I coach cardio? Why don’t you take a look!!!
#1 – Cardio Does As Much Harm as Good
Like the term ‘organic’ doesn’t mean healthy, *SHOCKER ALERT* cardio doesn’t mean it is good for your cardiovascular health.
Yes that’s right. For all the benefits of ‘cardio’ exercise, there are just as many negatives. Somehow, the fitness world has come to think of cardio as safe and not requiring much coaching. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you look at the biomechanics of cardio exercise we see one common theme – lack of full joint range of motion. Look at the hips and knees during cycling and jogging, they move in a very limited portion of their full range and they move through this shorter range hundreds or thousands of times during the course of a workout.
What is this potentially harmful about this? Prolonged decreased range of motion leads to tightening of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles around and related to those joints. So people who participate in just these cardio activities will experience decreased flexibility and range of motion over time.
This can be counteracted with a well-designed strength and conditioning program! But some basic warm-up and cool down stretches ARE NOT ENOUGH to counteract thousands of repetitions of these limited range movements. So when people get all or even most of their training via cardio we see a lot of muscle imbalances and eventually injuries happen.
Overuse injuries are extremely common with ‘cardio only’ enthusiasts. As I just mentioned, the body goes through thousands of repetitions over the course of a single training session, which over time leads to all sorts of overuse problems. Just ask runners to list their injury history: low back, knees, ankles, and hips usually take a battering.
Lastly, let’s chat cardiovascular health. Everyone wants to make sure that their heart and lungs are healthy and fit. Cardio exercise shows positive improvements to cardiac markers for the first few weeks of a program up to the first few months (depending on the previous fitness of the individual). After the initial stage, everything changes and your cardiac response plateaus. And in a lot of cases, some will actually see decreased cardiac health – because the body becomes more efficient and doesn’t have to work as hard to perform the exercise.
#2 – Cardio is Not Efficient for Fat Loss
Efficiency: thestateorqualityofbeingefficient, orabletoaccomplishsomething withtheleastwasteoftimeandeffort;competencyinperformance.Cardio is efficient for fat storage.
Most people do not understand that your body’s goal is to use the least amount of energy possible. Always. In everything it does.
What is an efficient metabolism? And efficient metabolism is a slow metabolism that burns as little energy as possible. The longer your body can function using less and less energy the better. Everything in your physiology is designed to keep as much energy storage as possible. We store energy as body fat.
You see having fat on your body is good. Your body likes that. It’s like a life jacket, or a safety vest – your body want’s body fat storage. That way if food becomes scarce it has reserves!
When you start asking your body to go longer and further it prepares by getting energy output as low as possible. If this goes on more and more frequently your body will do its best to create more safety energy storage at every opportunity it can get.
“But my friend runs all the time and has no fat at all!” Very possible. They eat well and the exercise is burning a lot of calories. Their body is still trying to store as much fat as it can, they are simply burning too many calories for the fat storage to happen. This doesn’t mean that their metabolism isn’t slowing down.
Ever seen a runner get injured and quit running but not modify their eating habits? Ever watched what happens to all those people rocking the elliptical machines when they ‘fall off the wagon’ and stop using the elliptical?
They typically gain a whole lot of fat very quickly. Why? Because their calorie output is gone and they have taught their bodies to store as much fat as possible when the opportunity arises.
I am trying to not delve too deeply into pure sciences here so I won’t go to in depth about hormone levels. But if you do a little research you will understand that growth hormone, testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol are all directly connected to health and fat metabolism and storage.
High levels of growth hormone and testosterone are good. More energy, more muscle, better recovery, and lower fat levels.
High levels of estrogen and cortisol are associated with increased fat storage and increased cellular breakdown. Ever wonder why women have more fat then men and typically store more of it? Higher estrogen. Ever notice how people who are chronically stressed and grumpy seem to get sick and injured more often? They have high levels of cortisol, which does really horrible things to your body.
Guess what? Cardio training tends to decrease testosterone and growth hormone and coincides with higher levels of estrogen and cortisol.
High intensity style training and pure strength training is exactly the opposite.
I will let you draw your own conclusions.
#3 – Cardio Will Destroy Your Strength
Yes. It is true. Long duration, low intensity exercise will decrease strength. Get a marathon runner and a 100m sprinter into a gym and see how much they each squat.
No, I do not think the squat is an ‘end all be all’ exercise so don’t bother writing me about that but it is a good way to test the strength of an individual. I promise you that you will see a huge strength difference between the marathon runner and a 100m sprinter.
Why? Because to go longer and longer outputting energy your body needs to minimize how much of that energy is needed. The more muscle you have the more energy is required to move. The less muscle you have the less energy is required to move.
If you need to move a lot for a long period of time it is better to have less muscle. Your body will find a balance of the least amount of muscle it can have that will still allow it to complete what you are asking it to do. It will eat up the rest!
Less muscle means less strength. Less strength means the demands on your joints, ligaments, and tendons are increased. Those tissues and areas take over doing as much work as they can so you can get away with having less muscle, thus saving more energy.
That is why cardio destroys your strength. I am not saying you will have NO strength. And if you haven’t trained for years or have never trained you will get some strength from cardio training. You still need strength to run. But it will be far less than your body is capable of developing.
#4 – Cardio Doesn’t Build Sexy
Now, I guess this is subjective because sexy is in the eyes of the beholder. But let us assume for a moment that the vast majority of people find a little less body fat, a little bit of muscle tone, and being strong to be sexy.
I think this is a safe assumption as after 12 years as a trainer and coach with the thousands of clients I have trained, these goals come up about 95% of the time.
Lose weight. (I say lose weight because that is what people say – I – and they – really mean lose fat).
See some muscle definition.
Well guess what? If you have read everything so far none of these goals are best served by traditional cardio exercise.
If you want a firm ass that fills out those new jeans and arms that make people want to touch you (which CAN get awkward) you need to be focused on strength and interval based training.
Arghhhh you are saying. ‘So what SHOULD I be doing for fitness?’
First, know your goal. If your goal is to change your physique, get stronger, and have less body fat, then you want high intensity strength based interval training.
If your goal is to run a marathon or do a triathlon, then you want to be doing some cardio training and some high intensity strength based interval training.
Second, you have to know your experience level. If you haven’t been active in a long time you need to work into higher intensity training slowly. Starting with some lower intensity cardio training can be a good first step before moving into higher intensity strength based work.
What is the moral of this story?
Cardio isn’t what people think it is. I am not saying do not do it or that it is bad for you. But you need to be informed.
If you passionately want to run a marathon or going out for a run turns you on, then go for it. But train smart and know that you HAVE to be doing strength based full range of motion training as well.
If you just want to be healthy, fit, active, strong, and fit into a sexier pair of jeans then cardio is NOT the best way to do that. High intensity interval based strength training is by far superior for those goals. With the added benefit that it takes less time and lasts longer if you have to take a break for any reason.
How long it is doesn’t matter nearly as much as how good it makes you feel.
What am I talking about?
I am talking about the length of your workouts.
I have spent some time thinking about this – how and when did workouts become set at 30 minutes or 60 minutes? Most of you are nodding your heads – yes obviously – workouts are an hour. Quick ones are a half an hour. Really hardcore people workout for 90 minutes.
Why? Where did this come from?
It isn’t based in science. There is no physiological rule that states maximal positive results occur at 60 minutes of training time. There is no physiological rule that proves training over 60 minutes will diminish your results and increase your injury risk.
When we examine the scientific literature you might be inclined to argue that we see these time intervals for workouts used regularly. Yes you will but that is because researchers simply use the standard protocols for fitness in the industry in order to conduct the research.
Your body doesn’t work in 30, 60, and 90 minute intervals. These are limits imposed on our fitness programming because of the typical way we break down our lives. Appointments, meetings, school sessions, and pretty much everything else we do is based on a 24 hour interval divided into easy to schedule blocks. Don’t get me wrong, our lives have to be scheduled like this in order to keep everything running smoothly.
But don’t confuse these lifestyle induced time blocks with any kind of meaning towards how long your workouts should be.
The goal of training is to fatigue your body. To push it a little harder than you did the day before so that it is forced to adapt. To get a little stronger and be a little better for the next time you put it through a training session.
Physiologically, we are looking at using up all of your glycogen storage and challenging your cardiovascular system at higher than previous levels in order to make it adapt and become stronger and more efficient.
Time is not the most important variable here. Sure, you have been told that it takes 30 minutes to burn up your glycogen storage. That is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard.
Maybe not the stupidest, I have heard a lot of dumb shit.
But 30 minutes isn’t a set and hard rule. If you go on a 30 minute walk or you spend 30 minutes rock climbing you will go through glycogen at VASTLY different rates. Someone with a very low amount of muscle will run out of glycogen LONG before a well trained and highly muscled individual will. Why? Because glycogen is stored primarily in muscle – the more muscle you have the larger the tank. The larger the tank the longer you can go.
So, no – there are NO time limits on good fitness. Everything is a variable and none of the variables are time.
Obviously, your workouts will have to fit into your schedule, so 30 or 60 minutes is probably what you will allot. Do not confuse this with the EFFECTIVENESS of your training!
You can get a far more beneficial training session in 20 minutes if you put in the intensity than you can in 60 minutes if you half ass it.
The effectiveness of your training is not based on the length of the training session; it is based on:
The intensity that you put into the workout
The quality of exercises you are performing
How experienced you are
The quality of the program design
Your attitude towards training
If you are putting in 30% effort to a few reps and then checking your snapchat you are going to have a vastly different training session than if you are working at 80% of max effort and focused on the proper breathing techniques between sets.
Quality of Exercises
What exercises you choose are WAY more important than how longyou train. Train. Trust me. Get on the leg curl machine for 4 sets of 12 with 60 seconds rest between sets. Next grab a kettlebell, say around 24kg and do 150 swings. Divide it up however you want, rest as long as you want. Just get it done.
Tell me which was a better workout.
Yes, that is right, the more experienced you are at training the better the workout you can get. Novice sprinters are learning technique and adapting the body to the demands of the activity. World class sprinters can put out max effort in under 2 seconds. Both people get a great workout, however, the more experienced sprinter gets a better workout faster.
Quality of Program
Not all programs are created equal. Old school exercise programs that divide the body into specific parts (shoulders, arms, legs, etc.) are terrible for the average person. They are designed for bodybuilders. If average Joe who plays pickup basketball on Saturdays follows this program they are NOT getting useful results and are setting themselves up for increased injury risk.
For most people a quality program consisting of full body complex movements is vastly superior for their life and overall health. Old school type programs usually take an hour or more, while a well crafted complex movement full body program can crank your fitness through the roof in workouts that take under 30 minutes.
Yes, this is a huge factor. Your attitude towards your training has far more effect than the amount of time the session takes. If you are pumped up and feeling a session your body will respond! If you are depressed, don’t feel like training, and hating every minute of it, your body won’t respond as well.
What is the purpose of your workout? Is it to fill time or is it to make your body work hard. Because I can tell you that they are two totally different things.
If you are judging your workouts effectiveness by how long the training session is you need to sit back and re-evaluate.
What should you be looking for then from your training session?
You should feel tired by the end. You should be breathing hard and asit down rest should seem like the best idea ever. You shouldn’t have enough energy left to add another 15 minutes of exercise. Your clothes should need to be washed because they smell like a gym locker. You should be leaving sweat angels on the floor. A blast of cold air in the face should be the next best feeling to a great sneeze.
Those are the markers of a great training session. It doesn’t matter how long it is, as long as it made you feel good.
I have been getting a LOT of questions asking what exercises I think are important for everyone to do. While I do not believe there is any such thing as a one size fits all approach, there are definitely some exercises that I feel everyone will benefit from.
One of these is the Kettlebell Turkish Getup.
This exercise does it all: strength, coordination, flexibility, range of motion, and stability. Every joint and every muscle in your body go to work at some point during this movement.
The key with this exercise is that you are not out to maximize the amount of weight you can lift! Correct technique is the primary focus and once that is developed you can start pushing up the weight to really challenge your strength!
What if you don’t have access to kettlebells? No problem – hold any weight in your hand. While kettlebells are ideal don’t shy away from this exercise just because you don’t have them! The goal is to keep the arm vertical with a weight in the hand – so go for it with a dumbell or other weight if that is all you have!
What about injuries? Won’t this destroy your shoulders?
Oh – you want me to elaborate. One of the best things about the TGU is that it forces the shoulder and the muscles supporting the shoulder to get really good at stabilizing while the joint is going through a full range of motion! This is exactly how we prevent shoulder issues!
Like anything, if there is a pre-existing injury, the rules all change. If there is pain doing a movement, stop, get assessed by a professional, rehab, then go back to the movement. It is not rocket science – if it hurts – fix it before doing it.
This exercise is a fantastic full body exercise. If you cannot perform it – start learning! Once you have it down add it into your training program regularly.
We use this in our programming as a warmup exercise. Every single person we train does this every single time they train as a part of their dynamic warmup. We also program the exercise into other parts of the programming with a lot more weight for those who are competent at the movement.
I really believe that lunges are one of the most fantastic exercises out there, however, I believe that they are also one of the most improperly performed exercises.
Scroll down to check out an awesome (yes, because I made it!) video going through how lunges SHOULD be coached. Or if you can’t wait – Click HERE.
I think I can understand where the bad cueing and coaching came from. A couple of decades ago lunges somehow became a ‘women’s exercise’ and were relegated to cardio based aerobics classes. It still isn’t often you walk into a gym and see the squat racks filled with strong people doing lunges.
Because it is necessary to keep cueing easy in a group setting, it just seemed safer to tell people to keep a straight back. And this has left us with a butchery of a VERY effective exercise.
The ‘straight back’ idea somehow became ‘upright posture.’ I understand that a neutral spine (maintaining the normal curve) is important. But I do not believe that a vertical posture is right!
Think athletic stance – forward lean, weight distributed through the whole foot, shoulder width stance, and proper stride length. This is a powerful position and makes best use of the glutes, quads, and core.
When we take the posture vertical we lose a lot of this strong, powerful position, and can overly load the spine. Not what we are looking for.
I use lunges with all of my clients, yes, even those with knee and back issues. How? By using a better position than what is typically seen.
For those of you who like science and numbers – check out this blog. I co-wrote this with my staff physiotherapist. While it is a response to women and whether they should do lunges – it is a great science based article explaining the reasoning behind my belief in a non-vertical stance lunge position.
For the more visual among you – I put up a YouTube clip explaining it all!
I really think that lunges are a fantastic exercise that should be included into any great strength and conditioning program. Making sure the form is on point is the best way to really maximize the benefit of this truly powerful unilateral exercise!!!
As always – if you have questions or comments I love to hear from you!
I have been getting a ton of feedback after my video showing everyone how your abs and core REALLY work. Everyone wants to know, if I don’t like crunches and sit-ups, what do I use to train clients?
So here you go! The top 6 ab/core exercises that I am using day in and day out with my clients!
If you prefer reading then here they are as a list:
Stir the Pot
For descriptions of each and to see how they are done – check out the video!
Some of you will be asking, ‘but I don’t feel my abs burning during these exercises?’ No, for most of them you probably won’t.
I do not believe in any ab isolation exercises. Check the abs on my two staff in the video – guess what? They do not use any ab isolation exercises!
Seeing your abs is all about getting your body fat down, which is mostly mediated by your diet! Not by what stomach exercises you throw into a program. In fact, most ab specific exercises are REALLY terrible calorie burners. And frankly, when you want to see your abs you want to be crushing calories and revving up your metabolism!
These exercises challenge your abs and core in positions and motions that those muscles are meant to be working in.
Remember, your spine wasn’t meant to be crunched repeatedly and your ab muscles weren’t meant to do that crunching! Your core musculature is meant to keep your spine erect and supported. So you should be training them that way!
And to add a little extra to the list – my 3 top exercises of all time for a strong core? Squats, deadlifts, and step-ups! All with as much load as you can safely manage!
If you didn’t catch my video explaining how your abs and core actually work – check out my YouTube channel!
Questions or comments? Feel free to drop me a line or comment below!
I was simply going to make a Facebook post about this. But it kept getting longer and longer. So blog it is!
While purusing my usual fitness blogs and feed this morning I came accross this little gem of a video. I mean, I know it is Fox News and they are notorious for showing terribly inaccurate bullshit science, but I was still flabbergasted by this one.
Maybe not even so much at Fox News as I am blown away that a so called ‘professional’ physical therapist would actually go on national television and put his name behind such blatant scientifically inaccurate BULLSHIT.
Getting Rid of Cellulite.
Here is a link to the segment in question so you can see for yourself.
We have a cultural need to villify cellulite and call it ‘unsightly’, as the news host states in the video, or, as she goes on to mention, ‘even the most beautiful hollywood celebrities SUFFER from it,’ ‘it look’s like gravy.’ [emphasis added by me]. We tell young girls and women as they age that it makes them less attractive. This is great for people marketing products to get rid of cellulite.
Creams, exercises, products, and special foods DO NOT GET RID OF CELLULITE.
Cellulite is simply the way your body stores body fat. Some people the fat is stored closer to the skin so you can see it, other people have fat stored deeper under the skin so you can’t see it. Period.
This is why you will see some obese people with perfectly smooth skin, while at the same time you will see professional models with barely any fat that have visible cellulite. If you don’t think that is true you don’t understand photo editing 🙂 Trust me, I am a published photographer, I have seen this over and over again.
The only way then to get rid of cellulite is to decrease your overall body fat. The only way to do that is to eat well and exercise. Period.
But we are forced to listen to this stupid garbage from pseudo-professionals that are marketed directly at the uneducated consumer. I do not mean consumers are stupid – simply that most people watching this news segment are not formally educated in biology and physiology. That is OK! That is what professionals are supposed to do – interpret the science.
What has me so riled up from this news segment? Let’s see….
1. They state that cellulite is there because the muscle underneath is not active.
False. I don’t really have much to say about this. Because it is simply not true or based on any science at all. Bullshit.
2. You must release muscles first before you can activate them.
True-ish. Tight muscles can impair muscle function. Loosening restrictions in the muscle can improve it’s function. This, however, has NOTHING TO DO WITH CELLULITE.
The physical therapist then goes on to talk about the muscle being able to actively lengthen and shorten to work properly. Ok. True-ish. But again, THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CELLULITE.
Stop throwing around science terms to attempt to legitimize the bullshit that you are spewing.
Want to hear the truth about cellulite? Click the picture to listen to my podacst Episode 12 – where I discuss cellulite!
3. Doing wide stance squats will get rid of cellulite.
No. It won’t. The physical therapists referes to the squats in the clip as inner thigh squats. WTF is that. Wider stance recruits more glutes – that is science. The inner thigh muscles might work a little harder but they most certainly are NOT the primary muscles involved.
Oh – and when asked if you should add weight to these squats – ‘only every other day’ is his recommendation. Argh. Doing a ton of ‘inner thigh squats’ with bodyweight every day will NOT get rid of your inner thigh cellulite.
Go ahead. Try it. Let me know how that works out for you.
4. Push your knees outside your feet during a wide stance squat.
This is just fucking stupid. This is everything that we tell our clients NOT to do in order to make sure that don’t ruin their knees.
Please, DO NOT push your knees outside of your feet during ANY sqauts and especially when you are in a wide stance position.
5. Tight hip flexors ‘shut down your abs, thighs, and glutes.’
Turns them off? How the fuck did you walk into the building to film this segment then? If all those muscles are turned off your spine would collapse and you wouldn’t be able to walk anywhere. Seriously.
What do I see during this segment?
A physical therapist willing to say whatever is necessary to get on TV. Maybe he is friends with Dr. Oz…..
I also find it funny that all of the areas just happen to be the ‘problem spots’ women are told they have. You know, abs, butt, thighs, back of the arms, and back of your legs. What a great way to appeal this segment to a large audience.
Here is the facts. Cellulite is fat stored under your skin. If you don’t want cellulite you must decrease body fat. And for some people this will not matter because your body fat is stored very close to the surface of your skin.
No amount of foam rolling, muscle release, or muscle activation will do anything about any cellulite you might be able to see.
And finally, be very careful with what you see on TV. Go share this with anyone you know who just might be doing these things to decrease cellulite. And throw out their cellulite reduction cremes as well!!!
I am somewhat aghast that I am writing about this…again. But, alas, the misconceptions and downright fictional ‘truths’ seem to abound and voices of reason attempting to teach facts are all too often lost in the background noise.
Is it safe for youth and teens to train with weights?
For some reason this question abounds. There is overwhelming evidence both researched and anecdotal answering this question I am dumbfounded when I am asked.
Yes. It is perfectly safe.
Not only is it perfectly safe it is much safer than if this population did not strength train! That’s right, NOT strength training is far worse for youth and teens than getting their bodies stronger actually is.
I am going to attempt to keep this article short. Attempt.
Here are the main arguments people give when they spew off the dangers.
It will stunt their growth and ruin their growth plates.
It will wreck their joints
It isn’t safe to be lifting too much weight
Let’s break it down (go back and read those last three words again, I busted out a sick hip hop beat and rapped that when I wrote it – I would like if you did to).
There is so much misinformation out there when it comes to training it is amazing anyone actually does anything.
The ‘core’ and ‘abs’ is probably one of the best examples of how a lack of basic physiology knowledge contributes to REALLY shitty training.
Here is a video – yes a little longer than I intended – that will show you HOW the ab muscle works and WHAT it is supposed to be doing!
Why is all of this important? In order to know how to train yourself, or for you trainers and coaches out there, your clients, it is extremely important to understand how things work.
Once you understand how the muscle functions and what it is supposed to be doing then you are in a far better position to know what advice you should be taking and what you should throw out with the latest Kanye mag. Just not worth your time.
Here are the 6 key points you need to know:
Feeling a muscle burn doesn’t mean the exercise is good.
That’s right. Just because you feel an isolated ‘burn’ in a muscle doesn’t mean it is a better exercise. In fact in my training with clients there is almost NEVER an isolated burning feeling. I do not believe any of your muscles are meant to work in isolation.
As we have seen in the video and I describe below, most ab exercises actually overwork the hip flexors. The reason you feel the burning in your abs is because you are isometrically flexing them – holding them tensed.
This is NOT how they are designed to work. So just stop it.
Your abs are not supposed to be ‘crunching’ your torso
More detail in the next point – but I really want to emphasis that your abs are not designed to crunch or to do a sit-up. These are just shitty exercises that over time have come to be associated with ab training.
Will these exercises ruin your life? Probably not. Could they? Yes. Over enough repetitions crunches will ruin your spine. Will you ever do enough? Maybe yes, maybe not. If you want to risk it, go for it.
Check out the work of Dr. Stuart McGill. He is THE MAN when it comes to spine health. Want to learn the science: here is an awesome 12 page article by Dr. McGill – there are very few pictures.
Your abs actually work as anti-extensors/rotators and to stabilize your spine
Really should check the video for this point. The gist of it is that your abs job is to stop you from twisting around too far and bending too far backwards. Additionally to this, they are there to stabilize the spine during movement, you know, like walking, throwing, swimming, and getting up out of bed.
Your abs are designed to stabilize during movement
Planking is good. But it isn’t the best. There is no movement to it. And your abs are designed to stabilize during movement. This is why we use a variety of carries and anti-rotation exercises to train the core.
Overhead carries and cable chops are some of the best!
Most ‘ab’ exercises are actually overworking the hip flexors
Easy to see. What is moving: the hip joint or the torso. Think you are training your abs? Look at the body move.
If the distance between the ribs and the hip bones barely moves but the hip joint itself gets larger and smaller – BAM! – more hip flexor than ab muscle. Your abs feel it because they are holding a flexed status.
Do you want to be training your hip flexors? NO.
We spend WAY too much of our lives sitting. Seriously. Work. Car. Eating. TV. Watching sports. You name it – we are always sitting. This is very bad for you.
This flexed hip position wreaks havoc on your hip flexors. Why o why then are you working those hip flexors even more when you train? Argh. Stop it. Overworking the hip flexors exacerbates so many hip, knee, and back issues. It is terrible for you.
Get rid of anything that overworks your hip flexors.
But you want a sweet set of sexy awesome abs you say?
Anti extension/rotation, lots of carries, deadlifts, squats, and stir the pot is everything you need to achieve that goal. Well, and you have to have great nutrition to slop off all that fat covering your abs.
They say the proof is in the pudding.
Well here is one of my clients who used to have a soft pudgy mid-section. I think you would agree things have changed. And guess what? No crunches. No hip flexor dominant exercises. In fact we NEVER do ANY ab specific training.