Saturday, November 2, 2013

Nerd Sesh': Good Reads

Research, articles, blogs, oh my! The internet is a phenomenal tool because I can find information on legitimately ANYTHING I want in a matter of seconds but with the popularity of blogs (yea I know, I fall in that category), video posting, fitness icons, and general "bro science" that's out there the water often gets a little murky.

I talk about this with almost every Freshman class I speak with at FAU, but I think one of the best things anyone can do is to become an educated consumer. Not just of products but of information. There are a few good people out there I really enjoy following, like Nick Tumminello, because of their focus on finding your way to logical conclusions and the importance of practical wisdom.

Build a framework for how you approach new information that will allow you to understand and take what you trust and believe from all the new information out there. Good friend and trainer Dave Crump said it best to me, that it's about creating and understanding your own personal lens through which you choose to view the world. New information can come and go and if you have developed a personal filter of sorts then everything can be useful based on how you choose to use or believe it. Always be open to altering your lens if need be but let it act as a guide in searching out and understanding new things.

Just added a couple of good articles I came across recently related to training, health, & fitness. Do with them what you will.

4 Reasons Why You're Struggling as a Personal Trainer

Personal Trainer Myths: Best Exercises for Building Muscle Mass?

Functional Training Myths: Raw Video of a Juan Carlos (spitting some truth)

5 Effective Supplements You Have Never Heard Of

Sweet Vs. Regular Potatoes

Psychological Side of Food and Eating Healthy

Brad Schoenfeld podcast on Strength Training for Fat Loss- scientific approach

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Low Carb: Key to Aging?

For thousands of years, as far back as the writing of Herodotus, humans have been searching for what we know as the "Fountain of Youth." In legends this has been described as a tangible spring with the ability to restore the youth of all who come in contact with it. Herodotus referred to this spring in reference to an ancient civilization known as the Macrobians who reportedly lived to upwards of 120 years long.

I don't know about you but I figure if Ponce De Leon and Indiana Jones couldn't find it....then maybe it just doesn't exist..........

Dr. Cynthia Kenyon, however, would tend to disagree.

Over the past 20 years Kenyon's research has been based on and progressed the concept that genes regulate the process of aging. This may not seem novel to some as many of us understand and believe that our genetics play an important role in health, disease, life expectancy, etc. What follows is some potential scientific basis for a number of "diets" and "fads" we are currently seeing in the health and fitness industry. If you don't feel like getting nerdy (shame on you) then feel free to skip to the good stuff and how you may apply this research to your lifestyle and nutrition further down.

Dr. Kenyon's most ground breaking research was a series of gene isolations done on a species of worm known as C. elegans, to investigate which genes may play a role in the onset of aging and senescence. Through what seemed to be absolute luck of the draw, one of Kenyon's lab rotation students stumbled across a mutant gene, dubbed daf-2 that made the worms live twice as long. In addition to the discovery that daf-2 may regulate aging it also plays a role in reproductive development, resistance to oxidative stress, thermotolerance, and resistance to bacteria. From this initial research Kenyon has also uncovered the integrative role that this daf-2 gene has on the insulin/IGF-1 pathway and rate of aging. In these studies, changes in IGF-1 activity caused IGF-1 receptors to initiate a cascade of events that deactivate the FOXO transcription factor, daf-16. This gene, which plays a nearly identical role in humans, is responsible for upregulating transcription of genes responsible for cellular protection such as heat shock proteins and antioxidants. This means that when daf-2 or resultant daf-16 activity is lower, then the C. elegans (and potentially humans) are less equipped to deal with environmental stressors and more likely to age, develop health conditions or diseases, and die.

So how do carbohydrates and insulin tie into this topic of conversation? Check out this comprehensive explanation of both the triggers and effects of insulin for more background information. The short version is that high carbohydrate diets and more specifically high sugar and processed carbohydrate diets lead to chronically higher insulin levels (and obesity). Insulin is a powerful storage hormone that works antagonistically to many other hormones in our body. ALL hormones play an important role in the body so I will include that no hormone, not even cortisol, is inherently bad.  Kenyon's research however suggests that chronically higher insulin levels may lower protective mechanisms and immunity to make us age faster.

In most eukaryotes, increased insulin levels activate this beneficial daf-2 signalling but research has shown that insulin actually inhibits daf-2 receptors in these C. elegans as well as humans. Connecting the dots has led many researchers and followers to conclude that decreasing carbohydrates in the diet to lower insulin levels will lead to a longer and healthier lifespan. Kenyon's further studies also support this theory as wild C. elegans fed a glucose free diet lived 20% longer than those fed a diet made up of 2% glucose.

It's fine bro, I'm bulking
Now I know what you are thinking....big deal Joe, too bad we aren't worms and I am not ready to give up my red velvet cake Pop-Tarts (really guys?). Remember, all research must start somewhere and although the external validity of animal studies to humans may be limited there are very strong similarities to the daf-2 gene sequence and multiple pathways in humans; including human insulin, IGF-1 receptors, and presence of the daf-16 gene. Is it enough to drop carbs and jump straight on the Ketogenic, Atkins, or Paleo bandwagon? No, but it does lay a scientific foundation of how controlling insulin levels through a diet rich in vegetables, protein, and fat may have a profound impact on health.

There is plenty of research left to be done on the topic but that is the nature of the beast because there WILL ALWAYS be more research that needs to be done. Maybe the Macrobians did have a fountain of youth....... or maybe they just knew how to eat? I am just as interested as you to see how all of this actually plays out in the human body. For now you can take what you like or hopefully what you have learned and choose to do what you wish. That is the basis of critical thinking.

I have had a number of conversations recently about ketogenic, low carbohydrate, and "paleo" dietary interventions and all of this research may be applied very differently based on your health and fitness goals, but hopefully it leads to more conversation or if I am lucky........maybe a good debate. Check out the video below for a solid TED Talk given by Dr. Kenyon and decide for yourself. Interesting stuff!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

LHAS Training: Country Boy Strength & Core Stability

Everybody knows someone or has a friend with that natural "country boy" brute strength. They might not put up big numbers in the weight room but ask them to lift a keg or throw a bale of hay (yes I am from the country) and they make it look easy.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are our routine lifters. You know the guys I am talking about; squat, bench, deadlift, press, pull, repeat. Do something for me, ask some of these guys to move a fridge next time you switch apartments and let me know how that bilateral equally distributed training plan transfers over.

Now don't get me wrong a lot of these guys could out lift the hell out of me in a weight room but put that weight outside their base of support or put them on one leg and it's over. Also, I have nothing against the aforementioned lifts, hell they should be the basis of just about every strength training program and have served as essential building blocks for decades. For them to be the only lifts you do, however, is a mistake in programming and somewhere down the road will either inhibit your progress or put you at a greater risk of injury.

Cue the L.H.A.S. Training philosophy. Although application may vary, the same principles apply for those with any and all strength, fitness, or even body composition goals.

Lift. Heavy. Awkward. Shit.

You have plenty of options because there really aren't any rules but let me clarify; I did not say Awkwardly Lift Heavy Shit.....that's what most of you are doing now and call lifting. I call it bad form and it's a sure path to injury as well as a low Swole Quotient.

I have been thinking about this for a while but the idea for this post came to me at the end of a Strong Man workout this weekend courtesy of friend and fellow trainer Alex Lavin. We were spent from the morning of work on the log, tires, and stones and as we were putting things away in our storage shed Alex handed me the prowler and I said something to the effect of "this thing isn't that heavy it's just awkward" (I may have left out a few choice words) but Alex replied, "that's the name of the game isn't it, lifting heavy awkward shit." Alex, I believe you were right on.

Strong Man workouts are an easy comparison and great example of LHAS philosophy because although your traditional big lifts are extremely important in training, they serve as more of a foundation. From that foundation you are forced to branch out with the main change being the position of your external load. The goal is still to maintain efficiency and form with these movements but it doesn't matter what you do on a log clean and press, the weight is still going to be much further forward than you are used to when pressing a bar overhead. This is why some of these guys have the strongest damn cores you could imagine and it doesn't come from intense direct core work, it comes from lifting heavy awkward shit outside of their normal base of support and occasionally being on one leg; i.e. 250lb stones, logs, cars, etc.

I know what you are thinking, I have no desire or chance of shouldering a 250lb boulder or suitcase carrying a small family and that's fine. This doesn't mean the LHAS philosophy should be the basis of your strength training program but it can easily be applied in your assistance work to complement the compound movements we all know and love. The easiest way to do this is move the external load. Movement of the load in front of or to one side of our center of gravity places an increased demand on the core musculature to maintain an upright "neutral" spinal position. Along with moving the load the occasional integration of unilateral training, like heavy single arm presses, is also a great way improve your body's ability to stabilize the spine and maintain proper positioning. Guys like Ben Bruno have helped spread this style of training, especially unilateral leg training like wildfire (check out his stuff) and there is a lot of support for strength transfer back to the bilateral movements. If you really want to get fancy.....pair both of those strategies together and now you are really hot shit. No need to go overboard with these types of movements but feel free to be creative and add some of these strategies to your supplemental exercises and see how it goes.

These strategies may not cause your bench, deadlift, or squat to shoot up but over time the development of quality spinal stabilization is going to prevent injury and allow you to maintain good positioning when the loads are heavy or perhaps.....the weight shifts. It's all great to be able to deadlift 400+ pounds straight up but if the next day you lean over to pick up a box with less than perfect form, sneeze, and herniate a disk....then all of that strength was for nothing. Spinal stabilization and it's importance in injury prevention and strength are a topic that deserves a post of it's own and will likely be up next so stay tuned and let me know if you have specifics you would like for me to tackle.

I leave you with just a few of hundreds of examples of some LHAS exercises that are easily integrated into your strength programs in a commercial gym. Strong man style training was a great example but that equipment is by no means necessary or appropriate for most people. Sky is the limit when it comes to applications but be smart and make sure to be able to justify what you are doing and why. Trainers, don't progress clients to some exercises like these until they have the appropriate body control and balance, progressing a client too early may be demotivating when you have to regress them later.

Try to ignore the ugly knee cave going on in the second two reps, almost didn't put it up but good for learning purposes. Keep those knees out when you drive up!!!

I use a lot of the offset loading exercises with clients, and those who are current clients and reading this should recognize some of these! Inspirational credit for this post definitely also goes to David Crump of DC-Training in Orlando, Florida. Dave is a great training mind and an amazing resource for anyone looking to learn the ins and outs of Personal Training. I have brought him to work with my trainers at FAU multiple times now and have plans to continue in the future. He introduced me to the variety you can get from the half kneeling position so check out his post for some more examples and application of the LHAS principle.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

An Intimate Relationship

They say there's a fine line between pleasure and pain and I'd have to say my favorite girl and I walk that line all too often. She's there and ready to go every morning when I roll out of bed.....and she never holds back. I make it home from a day of training and work and there she is....waiting anxiously for me just how I left her. Sometimes people look at me funny when we do it in the gym but I know they just don't understand. My name is Joe and I am in love with my foam roller.

For those who aren't familiar with myofascial release or "foam rolling" you are under performing and just don't know what you are missing out on. I have had an intimate relationship with my foam roller for about a year and a half and I don't plan on looking back. My mobility, recovery, muscle tension, and strength have all improved as a byproduct of my focus on tissue quality. Putting my anecdotal rants aside, myofascial release is well supported in the research world for enhancing muscle performance, pain free movement, and exercise recovery. Think of it as giving yourself a miniature deep tissue massage.

To give you a shortened explanation as to why I advocate foam rolling and myofascial release it might help to know what "fascia" really is. Fascia can be used to describe various tissues in the body but we will focus on the fascia that surrounds our muscle fibers. You can think of this essentially as a thin covering that wraps all of the muscles in our body. Most of you have probably seen this on a piece of chicken breast from the store, that thin film like layer that you find right around the muscle that isn't quite the skin but you can tell it's not part of the muscle either. THAT is fascia. This fascia is much like ligament and tendon in that it contains closely packed collagen fibers than run about parallel to the line of pull. The wave like alignment allows the fascia to resist relatively high unilateral pulling forces that in turn give your body and muscles more structure and force resistance.

When you don't consistently take care of this soft tissue via a sedentary lifestyle, repetitive movements/positions, intense training, or just lack of attention then the fascia develop adhesions, or "knots" as we all know them. This misalignment of the collagen fibers alters the normal wave like alignment and may be painful or cause limitations to a full ROM. These adhesions can either be an interaction of fascia to fascia or muscle to fascia; either way myofascial release techniques can effectively alleviate associated pain and mobility limitations.

Whether you are a trainer, athlete, recreational exerciser, or just want to feel better I urge you to give some of these techniques a try. The ideal scenario may be to go see a good massage therapist or tissue specialist but for those like myself who may not want to spend the money each week or get a massage before and after every workout, I have included some quality links to get you started on buying and using a foam roller. I have recently gotten more familiar with the lacrosse ball as well and.....WOW I can't even describe the pain....but always worth it.

My Girl ($30 at Sports Authority)

The Grid - about $35 on Amazon but maybe a little firm for beginners (my favorite)

Rumble Roller - while it looks like a medieval torture device and might be, this is a quality roller as well for about the same price.

High Density Roller - I would however recommend a beginner to start with something a little bit more like this until you build some good tissue quality and are ready for a little more pain.

Now that you have your roller, check out how to use it:

Mobility Link: John Alvino Great link for improving mobility and good quality video explanation.

I could go on and on with information and links but I will leave you to try it out for yourself because the best way to learn is through experience and experimentation. You are your own performance lab so get out there, give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nerd Sesh' : Good Reads

I could probably overwhelm you with 20 articles that I love and have come across this past week but I'll keep it short and sweet. Little bit of science, little bit of training, and a little bit of philosophy....pretty much encompassing the areas I like to include when I think about fitness and the human body. Enjoy!

Do Eggs Cause Heart Disease? This new research has been a hot topic and I appreciate the outlook these fellas take on breaking down the science and critiquing another misleading study exploited by our media and health agencies. I will continue to eat a dozen eggs in a day without blinking an eye.

Dietary Protein and Strength Athletes Have to throw a little bit of research in here as well. Refreshing to see a strength and power athlete investigation into a number of protein intake myths and recommendations by the NSCA Strength and Conditioning Journal. Take a look for a little education and take away on protein function and intake.

Sliding Single Leg RDL's Ben Bruno is constantly challenging my backside with some interesting variations. I like his creativity but its nice to see creativity with a purpose....not just to be creative and wow people with something that "looks tough" but like this one for example allows a progression towards less stable single leg training. Good stuff....felt it in my backside this week when I gave it a try

Breaking Down and Teaching the Hip Hinge This is a great little breakdown with some take-aways for someone wanting to understand or teach the hip hinge pattern for lower body movements. Sohee Lee is a trainer an NPC Bikini competitor interning at Cressey girl and not too hard on the eyes either.

5 Tips to Improve Your Deadlift Nothing totally earth shattering but I especially like Tony's tips on being strategic with what lifts you do throughout the week in relation to your work week/rest.

The Most Powerful Training Tool I really liked this article when I stumbled across it. More on training philosophy than anything but I love his two key factors for success. Who would of thought Arnold was soo big on the Mind Body Connection. I love it.
***and just in case you haven't seen Pumping Iron

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Educated Consumer: The Meat Myth

Everyone knows that red meat is bad right? Well if not then I don't know where you have been because the government and health agencies have been preaching it for years. I mean their arguments are backed by research involving over 120,000 men and women from 1980 to 2006 from the Archives of Internal Medicine. Results showed a 13% increase in risk of death for every 3oz increase in red meat consumption per day!!!

I don't know about you but when I sit down to a steak that baby better be at least 12oz to scratch the surface of my hunger so does that really make me 39% more likely to die???? Must be, because the government and media has never led us astray before. You can guess that I am calling B.S. on this one, and I am sure many of you would have to agree. The more I have gotten into reading research the more I am continually surprised by the assumptions and massive generalizations that are made in even the most reputable of publications. The first flaw that should stick out to anyone reading the research is that the information was obtained through food frequency questionnaires; meaning subjects were asked to make estimates about what they ate over the last 4 years (cue the massive amount of research identifying the fact that in general people suck at food self-reporting and recall).

Researchers almost had it right in at least differentiating partially between processed and unprocessed meat but somehow any and all forms of ground meat and hamburger made it onto the unprocessed list. Translation: as far as researchers were concerned your all too appetizing supermarket pink-slime hamburger patty was equated to grass-fed organic beef. Skim through the pink-slime link and I'll let you decide if ground beef is processed or not.

With all but the best of intentions I see what researchers and government organizations are trying to do but where is the responsibility to FULLY educate the people and allow them to make informed decisions? Unprocessed meat consumption should absolutely account for the majority of flesh you decide to inhale but meat profiling may be a faulty strategy. Fully educating them would involve discussing research that shows saturated fat and cholesterol consumption may show very little detriment to health when physical activity levels are sufficient. Now whether or not beef is sustainable is a whole other conversation.

To keep things short, this is nothing new to me, and I am sure to a lot of you, but gets at the point of maintaining a personal responsibility to become an educated consumer, not just of foods, products, etc. but of information. Find sources you trust and learn from those who are more educated than yourself but always question their methods and motives with curiosity and skepticism. This kind of ties back into an earlier post about not Drinking the Koolaid but taking what you can learn from different sources and creating your own picture, opinion, and understanding.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nerd Sesh'

I am a nerd at heart so in my search for knowledge I will try and occasionally share the things I like. Some of these links and articles are geared towards personal trainers but no matter, if you're looking to further your knowledge of the way the human body and psyche interact then check them out. Not sure this will be a weekly thing by any means but I love to share so here you go.

Core Rotation If you all have seen me in the know I love rotation. Todd Durkin hits you with a quick video on a ground based variation.

Cleaning Up Your Pull-up Technique Eric Cressey is the man when it comes to combining physiology/kinesiology principles and translating them into practical training knowledge. Take a minute and get some perspective on the pull-up.

Landmine Skater Squats I have definitely jumped on the Ben Bruno single-leg training bandwagon in the past year or so and love the variations he pumps out.

Maximizing Muscle Guest blog post I wrote for David Crump over at DC-Training in Orlando, Florida. Snapshot view of hypertrophy through the mTOR pathway.

Where do I start with my obese clients? This article resonates with me because within my experience over the past four years training, somewhere along the line I evolved. It's easy to get hung up on all that is sexy, new, trendy, and intense but ask yourself what is best for your client. These are a few good reminders that you are training a person and not just a body so act accordingly.