Do you move well? It impacts your fat loss!

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What’s up everyone! If you’ve read some my past posts over at the website, welcome here! This will serve as a dedicated blog site for Body Performance Fitness.

Today, we’re kicking things off talking about mobility because believe it (or not), how well you move actually can have a direct impact on your fat loss results!

So onto the goods….

Don’t you just love mobility drills and the warmup part of your workouts?!

No?

Weird, I guess it’s just me haha. (Full disclosure = that’s a lie. I look forward to deadlifting more than my warmups, but as “they” say its like eating your veggies)

Here’s why you SHOULD care if your goal is fat loss:

#1. If you have restricted movement, you can have a greater risk of injury as you progress in your fitness (via working out more intensely). You get injured = you miss time training = less calorie burn = fat loss slows/stops or WORSE: you get comfortable not exercising and are miserable for falling out of your once empowering routine.

#2. Restricted movement = reduced range of motion used on exercises (An example of this would be not going as low in a squat) = less muscular work = less calories burned during workouts = likelihood of reduced results from training.

#3. Restricted movement = less weight used in free weight exercises = less muscular work/effort = less calories burned during workouts = likelihood of reduced results from training.

It’s not always clear why flexibility and mobility drills are beneficial for a goal like fat loss – but that’s cool, at one time, people thought the world was flat – and things have turned out okay. Knowledge can be added to (via this blog…sorry, shameless/not-so-shameless plug).

See there is a reason to this mobility madness for all of you who want to get toned and look better J

Consider yourself primed and ready for the first Mobility of the Week installment comin’ so SO SOOOOOO SOON! (Hint= Friday!)

Warming up in warm-up sets

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We all know its safer to warm-up, but there remains the fact that we can get a lot of force production and/or force absorption stimuli out of these if we go in to them with a grander goal than just “warming up”.

In my mind, I’m specifically referencing the Olympic lifts (and their variations), as this is a trend I have seen with my clients. Here’s what we can really coax out of these sets:

1. Technique. We can reinforce good technique by focusing on performing the exercise exactly as we would with the heavier work-set weight. We cue “Jump, shrug, front squat” for hang clean or “Jump, shrug, punch up towards the ceiling” for the snatch. We want the warm-up sets to look to same technique-wise just faster. It ends up being additional reps of good technique or extra practice to keep moving toward exercise proficiency.

2. Power production. Power production is power training, and though we are ultimately working up towards heavier sets, we can get some power training stimuli from these warm-up sets. However due to their weight, maybe they fall more on the light-implement power spectrum (more akin to med ball throws) even though the weight used is somewhere between med ball and working-set weight. Regardless of the weight, the goal is to explode.

3. Practice like you play. Its easier to take the warm-up sets a little slower or with less effort since the weight used doesn’t require a lot of effort, but I caution that with the athletic quote “practice like you play”. To add another: “No plays off”. Regardless of whether the weight feels relatively heavy/normal/light compared to what the athlete is used to, its always possible to give 100% effort. Coaches look at for these intangibles too — are you always hard working? Do you always give your top effort? Do you ease up when given some slack?

So the take away here is to become aware of the potential benefits of warm-up sets beyond just a method to safely bridge the gap from the warm-up/speed and plyometric portion of the program to the weighted strength & power portion. Keep in mind that you can still work on perfecting technique, exploding powerfully, and showing that you’re serious about getting the most out of your training program.

Until next week!

What else are assessment results good for?

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Its common to be told from a trainer that the results of the assessment they do at the commencement of training will be used for helping to choose the right exercises and just help design the program. I say this too, so I’m not bagging on other trainers out there by any means. However here are some other reasons why I find my own assessment valuable:

1. Designing the warm-up.

Yes, the warm-up is designed like the rest of the training session. Its also true that other reasons for the warm-up are to increase body temperature, prepare muscles and joints for movement, etc. A strategy is still needed though. The assessment gives me “areas of awareness” — things to focus on so that a client feels better/reduces long-term training-associated injury risk so the warm-up is where I start addressing these areas. In essence, we start working on one’s “weaknesses” right from the start of the session.

2. Productive rest periods.

Sometimes rest periods will be used to rest (referring to my clients’ sessions). Most of the time, I get them working on their weaknesses here too. Something that does not tax the muscles or heart rate too much. We get more done in the session, and we get significantly more reps of drills that can reduce one’s injury risk.

3. Interpersonal effectiveness.

As common sense as this may sound, it gives me another opportunity to interact with the client. We may discuss more about goals, previous training, how their season or off-season is going, injuries, etc. In fact it is not too infrequent that other seemingly non-inportant previous injuries get mentioned which may end up giving me more help to accomplish both points 1 and 2 above.

Also after discussing the results of the assessment, we can be on the same page about how the results of the assessment contribute to an effective program for their goal and their life. Plus with all this “extra” information, I can do a better job creating a program that gets the client to their goals.

Until next time!!

Your protein powder and you

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Walk into a supplement store — Popeye`s and GNC are very popular up here in Toronto — and you will see walls lined with protein powders (and other supplements) from several different companies. Sure you may feel like I do (a kid in a candy store) but, in your immediate future lies a decision to be made.

Now to foreshadow, I am not going to tell you how to choose. I have a different lesson planned.

Anyways here`s the picture of the new protein powder I`m taking. It`s been great, plus I walked out of the store with some extra samples since it was just released!

As you can see its labelled as their “Probiotic Series”.

Why I switched was that the previous powder I was taking left me with some digestive issues, so I guess you could say I fell for the marketing and bought this one. I will say though that my digestion has been much better with this one — no complaints! Plus it meets all my protein powder basic needs: It tastes good.

So now for the lesson.

Many protein powders taste good. And depending on the quality they all have roughly the same grams per scoop. However also listen to your body — just like you would hopefully do with foods that you eat. If something is giving you unpleasant feelings, then listen to your body. Yes, even if it tastes awesome.

I do give this one a thumbs up though.

Hamstring strains and pulls: Maybe look elsewhere for fault

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Please note this doesn’t only have to be about hamstrings. The important thing is we are talking about preventable injuries. Preventable in that we can reduce risk with proper training. These injuries are characterized by occuring without physical contact with another object. An example is the baseball player who comes up lame while running out a ground ball — nothing touched him, so why did he get injured??

The obvious thought is the hamstrings weren’t strong enough.

This is logical, but it doesn’t mean its always true.

The body is a bunch of connected pieces,  so the answer lies somewhere amongst these connections as well. In other words its usually not an issue with one single aspect/muscle/imbalance.

Let’s look at the large leg and hip muscles which perform movements similar to the hamstrings:

If we look at movement, the hamstring does hip extension and knee flexion. The big calf muscle does knee flexion too. The glutes and adductors perform hip extension too. They key is the glutes are the main hip extender. And the hamstring “main job” is knee flexion. Sometimes though the glutes don’t do their job well (this is very common without proper training actually), so what happens? The hamstrings are dialed in to pick up the slack.

Well if they now have 2 “main jobs” because the glutes can’t fulfill their main role and main hip extender, there is a greater chance of hamstrings getting worked to the max. If they work more than “to the max”, the hamstring gets pulled.

Now, this doesn’t mean the best solution is to just get the hamstring stronger. The imbalance still remains: the glutes can’t fully perform their job, so they ask hamstrings to help out more than they should. Getting the hamstrings stronger just basically means next time there will be a higher threshold (for level of force) before the hamstring gets pulled. The problem is this doesn’t address the cause.

It will be far more effective in the long-term to determine the cause of the hamstring pull and address the necessary areas. This is where we look at these other muscles as well as what’s too short, too long, etc. The common things tend to be weak glutes and/or poor activation of them combined with tight hip flexors.

So remember, any injury not cause my body contact with another person or object, it is smart to look at all the connecting pieces as addressing the root cause of the injury lies is some issue(s) involving these other structures too.

Upcoming weekend in Beantown

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Its going to be an exciting couple of weeks here for me!
First off this weekend is a drive to Boston to attend the Perform Better 1-Day event in Beantown…Perform Better’s beginning of the year seminar ritual 🙂

I cannot recommend these events to any trainers I work with or have networked with, as it has given me the opportunity to meet so many reputable coaches which inspires me to elevate my game. My clients on the other hand, learn quickly that seminars usually mean new things when I get back.

I find this exciting. My clients are usually weary of this excitement….

Anyways, I will also be spending Friday afternoon at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning in Woburn checking out the new gym (I haven’t been since they were in the old Winchester facility). Its awesome to be able to email a mentor to come hang out at his (or her) gym. Always good for some extra education + Mike’s staff are top notch!

So I’ll be MIA over the weekend into next week when the craziness continues in Calgary. Time to load up some good music, mentally prepare for all those rotaries in Boston, and get my learn on!

Carries: When You Ain’t Got Kettlebells

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More on carries…

After last Wednesday’s post where I described some carry variations I use besides the popular farmer’s carry, I took some video of how I adjust some of them based on equipment I have available for myself or my clients. Dumbbells are great for farmer’s carries, so that’s a pretty logical implement, however for the heartbeat walks and bottoms-up walks I mentioned, kettlebells are usually listed as the equipment of choice.

Now, I will agree that I think for those two carries in particular, kettlebells seem to be the best tool for the job, but this doesn’t mean they are the only tool! So in the videos, I show how I get them done with typical commercial gym equipment.

Grab a protein shake and enjoy!

I didn’t mention a type of carry which you use or have seen somewhere? Drop a comment below and spread the word!

Its as simple as carrying weights!

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THAT'S a farmer's carry!

Weighted carries have gained substantial popularity in the personal training and strength & conditioning fields the last few years, much via the writings and teachings of coaches like Dan John. Coach John is one of those mentors of the mentors guys in the field who is brilliant at teaching and brilliant at the basics.

Coach Dan John

Weighted carries are one of those basics. They are a total body exercise which trains the muscles to stabilize proper posture during movement (walking), an incredible amount of core work, rotator cuff activation and shoulder stability (which is essential for anyone from asymptomatic fitness enthusiasts to throwing sport athletes to contact sport athletes), and heart rate training (aka “cardio”). So in other words: Do you want to be stronger? Do you want to be more powerful? Do you want more confidence on the field because you’ve worked on preventing injuries common to your sport? (I going to assume to want these things to take your game to the next level.)

A few of my favourite variations to use are the most basic: farmer’s carry, heartbeat walks, bottoms-up waiter carries, suitcase carries, and some hybrids which can be implemented. But in essence, each training session we are after a slightly different stimulus with the carries, and select them based on prioritization of client needs.

For example, if I really want to hit some dynamic rotator cuff and stability stability function, I look at heavy farmer’s carries and bottoms-up walks for decent yardage. Amazingly simple and amazingly effective!

I’ve have a follow-up with some video for how I’ve modified some of these lifts as kettlebells are a commonly prescribed tool. However, many commercial gyms do not have kettlebells except in group exercise areas, and that’s no reason to not try these exercises!

In the meantime, pick some weight up, walk, put it down. Be brilliant at the basics!

Train Hard, Train Smart!

 

Your T-spine and you

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So we’re delving back into T-Spine territory again after sharing a drill I’ve incorporated in my clients’ warm-ups.

Today we’re hitting the basics: “Why is this t-spine stuff so important?”

First, “t-spine” is short for thoracic spine. Please, if you want your body to be a lean, mean, elite athlete machine, learn a bit about it.

Usually its about looking out for your low back or your neck, or your shoulder, or your knee, but never t-spine…at least not yet! It is still important however because it is in between your low back and neck. And since everything in your body is connected, it exists in a functional interplay with these objects. Something out of whack with your low back or neck? You got it, the t-spine will have a resulting shift in stress as well.

Why else is it important?

 

Computer guy. ‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

 

Your scapular (shoulder blade) mechanics are altered in this posture since the shoulder blades cannot lie flat against the ribcage,and so they’re in a bit of anterior tilt. Well now your acromion is depressed, and so there is increased likelihood that as you lift your arm up overhead/go into shoulder hyperflexion or abduction, your humerus is smashing up against Mr. acromion, and its a party that could lead to having pain. Pain that affects your training and athletic endeavours.

Or, your t-spine becomes stiff from being in that hunched-seated position and now you pretty much get flexion and extension via your low back and neck. Cool, they need to do that, except your t-spine is stiff remember. So your low back and/or neck have to pick up some slack so you can still move normally. Now you’re hoping that the extra movement at one of these segments doesn’t cause some issues with the discs in the lumbar or cervical spine

Pretty healthy cascade of events right?

But in all seriousness, this isn’t just to get you down about spending too much time on Facebook . The message is simply to take care of your business. If you know you sit at a desk all day at work or school, then do your t-spine and the rest of your body some favours when you train, by giving it the movement it should have but may not get in those societally-influenced environments. Another factoid: We all have some level of dysfunction going on, the key is to keep it from becoming symptomatic i.e. painful. Particularly if you want your body to throw 90 mph fastballs or hit 400-foot bombs. That’s a ton of force to produce through your body…its also a ton of stress on it. Take responsibility and reduce your risk of injury.

Movement-wise what can we take from our beloved computer guy above, and make into good training information?

Well, we can see he’s rounded through the upper back, called kyphosis. If you’re this flexed, you gotta get working on your extension. Grab a foam roller, set it at the base of your ribcage, extend over it a couple times, move the roller a quarter roll up your back, and repeat until you reach your shoulder blades.

Img from Bj Gaddour's fitstream.com

If its also this flexed, rotating it usually isn’t so hot either, so that’s a focus too. The drill from Friday is great for this.

So the typical recipe is mainly extension and rotation. Add these into your warm-up, one set of each, and you’ve helped counter the sitting and hunching over your subjecting your spine to each day. Congrats, that’s an investment in making yourself a bulletproof athlete* (or at least just an athlete who’s managing their injury risk.)

Train Hard, Train Smart!

* – Much like Red Bull does not actually give you wings, doing t-spine drills does not actually make you bulletproof. Don’t try to be a hero.

I use Dr. Craig Liebenson’s T-spine drill

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This is Dr. Craig Liebenson’s version of the t-spine (short for thoracic spine) which he is coaching during a presentation here in Toronto last fall. I could not attend, but saw this posted by one of the attendees. Then I tried it out, realized it was tough, liked it, and starting coaching it like this with my clients.

Some things I learned were to get the forearm on the ground further forward, and lifting the head (really demanding extra extension at the tspine) at the top of each rotation. The main cue I use now then is “Rotate up, lift your head up”.

Use it in the warm-up. Most people are stiff through their mid-back so motion is created at the low back or neck. Sort of a path of least resistance scenario. I’m not a chiropractor like Dr. Liebenson, so I haven’t played with the rib mobilizations he discusses in the video, but I feel the t-spine drill is gold. Just do it right.

It will play a part in maintaining as low an injury risk as possible so you can a) keep training without injury related layoffs, and b) keep kicking butt on the field/court/ice! After all, playing (and winning) is the ultimate goal, and you can’t win from the bench!

I almost forgot: do 1 set for 8-12 reps on each side.