January 31, 2013
You wouldn’t work your back and ignore your chest, or the quads while ignoring the hamstrings, and yet the calves usually get worked while the tibialis anterior rarely does. Tibi who? The tibialis anterior is the muscle that covers your shin and is responsible for pulling your foot upward to take a step. Exercising it is important to prevent lower leg muscle imbalances, especially for runners. Weak tibia muscles cause premature leg fatigue and can contribute to shin splints. Anyone who plays shin impact sports like soccer or contact kickboxing can also benefit from developing the tibial muscles because they absorb force and protect the shin bones. Women who wear high heels often develop weak tibialis muscles because the shoe, by design, discourages lifting the toes when stepping. Weak tibialis muscles cause people to walk slower during everyday life. The slower you walk, the less calories you burn. If you were to increase the strength of the tibialis muscle and increase your gait by only 15%, you could lose 5 pounds in one year. Seriously. By just walking through parking lots and grocery stores a bit faster you can lose weight this year without changing your eating or exercise routine. If you merely try to walk faster or take longer strides, you will notice that your tibialis anterior will have to work harder.
A good way to build tibia strength is toe tapping. Press your weight into the left leg and extend the right, resting on the heel as pictured. Being toe tapping the right foot. Slowly transfer some weight into the right heel. The more weight you press into the right heel, the harder the right tibia will have to work to pull the toes off the ground. Toe tap until the shin burns to fatigue. Work on tapping longer before fatigue and pressing more weight into the tapping heel to build strength and stamina. Once your tibialis muscle is stronger, you will naturally walk faster without effort.
March 9, 2012
Myofascial release is my new fitness focus. Fascia is the tissue connecting skin to muscle and muscle to bone. Fascia develops adhesions, that can feel similar to muscle knots. Muscle knots and fascia adhesions cause joint or muscle pain, decreased range of motion, declining performance and the normal aches all of us experience. The philosophy of myofascial release is different from stretching which elongates the muscles. The idea here is that connective tissue and muscle knots arise from general wear and tear, overuse, overtraining or from past injuries. Adhesions prevent smooth motion and make the body feel stiff or tight. This tightness can be confused with muscle tightness, but it is different and can’t be stretched out. As you roll out and hit a knot, rest on it for 30 seconds, and then roll back and forth over it in two-inch increments. This is not comfortable and can border on painful. If there is no discomfort, then you are not breaking up or releasing the knots. In fact, the more uncomfortable your rolling session, the more relief and mobility you will feel later. You want enough pressure to release the myofascial knot, but not so much that you are wincing. If you have no knots (everyone does), rolling would be painless. Rest assured, it does become less uncomfortable the more you do it. Rolling (as those of us who roll call it) is like applying your own deep tissue massage. There are two ways to apply pressure. The first is by using your body weight, positioning your body so more pressure is applied. For example, if you are rolling your calf, apply more pressure by crossing your legs and resting the other leg on top. The second way to apply more pressure is by type of roller. The harder the roller, the deeper you can work out those knots. If you are just starting out, opt for a roller with more give. White rollers are the spongiest; the blue/green and white marbled ones are stiffer. The black, High Density rollers are hard and the Trigger Point Quadballer is slightly softer than a rolling-pin. Advocates of rolling recommend it be done at least twice a week and up to everyday. I can personally attest that rolling has resolved many back knots, kinks between shoulder blades and neck aches. It also makes me way more limber. Sally of Club Sport San Ramon has been practicing myofascial release for years (and introduced me to the art). She advises that if you are limited on time, she would roll rather than stretch. You can roll before or after a workout. Roll before lifting weights for better range of motion and enhanced strength. Rolling the back is the most obvious, but the calves, quads, IT band, glutes and hamstrings will also benefit. Be sure you roll over muscle, rather than bone and avoid rolling on the kidneys too much. Try the positions above to get started.
If you are interested in learning more roller positions or more on the philosophy and biomechanics of rolling, visit Trigger Point Performance Therapy http://tptherapy.com/release-your-strength-intro-biomechanics.php
December 1, 2011
a fable about belly fat
If I remember correctly, the tortoise and the hare are in a race. The hare sprints out of the gate and gets so far ahead he decides to take a break. The tortoise is slow and consistent, keeping a steady pace through the race. After a few sprints the hare falls asleep, the tortoise passes him and wins the race. But who loses more belly fat? If both animals used their same strategy at the gym, the hare would lose more belly fat. Walking, jogging or running at a steady pace is less effective than doing speed walking or sprinting intervals. If losing belly fat is your goal, the hare is the example to follow. Focus on sprints and recovery, then take a nap. Well rested people lose more as well!
March 13, 2011
Take It Somewhere New
When exercise is a part of your routine it is easy to be consistent, especially if you have found activities you enjoy. What do you do when your routine has become routine? Take your workout someplace new. The same fitness program performed in a new location can revitalize the mind. Kickbox in a nature preserve to feel the challenge of body alignment with no mirror. Take your yoga mat to a park and you may have to concentrate harder. If you are lucky, your gym may take the spin bikes out of the studio and move them outside next to the pool for a day. You may find that performing just one to two workouts a year in a new location will refresh your enthusiasm for your routine. You are likely to find that thinking about your off-site experience will have lasting mental benefits when you are back to doing your same ol’-same ol’.
October 26, 2009
The Lat Pulldown is the most common exercise to be performed incorrectly. Probably 90% of people are using the wrong muscles to pull the bar down. Wrist wraps can be helpful if you are working on technique or trying to up the weight. Wraps tether the bar to your wrist, so that you barely have to grip the bar…your back will have to do all the work with no help from your arms. Put the wrap on as shown in the picture. Then place the bar between your hand and the wrap, flipping the end over the bar toward the thumb side of your hand. Then grip the bar on top of the wrap and crank like a motorcycle handle to tighten. Wraps really helped me master the Lat Pulldown. I had a hard time keeping my other muscles from assisting when my Latissimus Dorsi started to fatigue. Wrist wraps helped me to isolate the target muscle and gain strength. Lat Pulldowns aren’t their only utility, I find wraps to be helpful for many upper back exercises. An added bonus is that they protect your hands the same way gloves do, but because they don’t cover your hands, you stay cooler.
October 23, 2009
When performing various exercises such as pull-ups or Lat Pulldowns you may notice that your forearms fatigue before your target muscle does. Some gyms have grip strength machines or hand-held devices for squeezing. These exercises can be helpful if you need to open a jar or deliver a bone crushing handshake, however they don’t really help you develop the strength you need to perform other exercises. You don’t squeeze the Lat Pulldown bar in pulses. The issue is not grip strength, but rather forearm stamina.
Here is an exercise that will help you build forearm stamina: Get on a pull-up bar with an over handed grip. Get chin over the bar height, keeping elbows close to your torso and body relaxed and hang until your forearms give up. Work up to holding for 2 minutes. It is much harder than you think. This will give you enough forearm stamina to get through your sets and may even prove beneficial if you’re ever hanging off a building or cliff as so many Hollywood types so often find themselves.
October 7, 2009
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…
Looking in the mirror while exercising is not just for evil fairytale witches. Using a mirror can actually improve performance and enhance achievements. Unless you have a very acute sense of body awareness, a mirror will help you maintain proper form and keep better alignment when weightlifting. Using a mirror can be motivating as well. Even if you don’t necessarily like the shape you’re in now, over time you will notice small changes in how your body looks. Having hard work pay off is always motivating. Another benefit of gazing at yourself is that you will work harder with less effort. This effect carries beyond lifting heavier weights; even running faster and longer feels easier. I put a mirror up in front of my treadmill and it makes a difference. When I start getting tired while running, I use the mirror to correct my form and before I know it I am ready to increase the speed. Use the mirrors at the gym to your advantage and if you workout at home, hang a large decorative mirror on the wall.
September 10, 2009
Have you ever caught yourself tapping your foot when a great song came on the radio? Our body’s respond to sound emotionally and physically. Harness the energy of music when you workout. Subconsciously our body’s try to match the beat and intensity of music we are listening to while exercising. If you want to burn major calories, lift more weight or muster more stamina, listen to music with a fast beat and a powerful undertone. Even if music with a fast beat isn’t your favorite type of music, you will be able to exercise harder and with less effort. Listening to Margaritaville while exercising will cause you to unintentionally slow your pace and lessen your intensity. So turn up the volume and rock you next workout!
My favorite music is Sirius XM BPM-81
What’s on my MP3 player?
The World is Mine by David Guetta
Break You (The Club Guys Remix Radio Edit) by Ralph Falcon
Paralyzer by Finger Eleven
August 15, 2009
The 3 Ignored Elements of Fitness
When most people think of physical fitness, they think about endurance, stamina and strength. But I feel that balance, flexibility and agility are key measures of true fitness that are often ignored by the majority of exercisers. Even very athletic people can be unfit when it comes to these fitness elements.
Flexibility is the ability to move your joints and muscles through their full range of motion. With the exception of yoga fanatics, the majority of us devote little time to stretching, and even when we do stretch, we sometimes don’t take it very seriously. I have clients tell me, ‘oh I’m not flexible.’ Well if you don’t practice, you never will be…it is just like anything else. Stretching increases the range of motion of your joints, improves posture and circulation. While stretching done before exercise improves performance, stretching performed after exercise is more effective at decreasing injury risks and improving flexibility. Maintaining flexibility should be a top priority for seniors. As we age, muscles lose their elasticity and joints stiffen unless you do something about it. Regular stretching can relieve stress and is good for your mental health too. Hold each stretch position for 20 seconds and do not bounce.
Balance is the ability to maintain body stability. So most of us are pretty good on a flat surface with two feet on the ground, but how stable are you on one foot? Balance is the second most functional element of fitness, behind strength. The vast majority of people work muscle groups involved in creating movement, but are completely out of shape in terms of muscle groups involved in resisting movement –the stabilizing muscle groups. Balance training should be done progressively in a controlled environment because it does increase the risk of falling. However, it is essential for everyone to practice stability training to decrease your risk of falling in daily life. For those more concerned with strength training, balance is essential for taking strength to the next level. Think about throwing a punch while standing in a raft. The more solid you are on your feet, the more power you have to lift. Start small, stand on one foot holding the back of a chair. Then add more functional moves-like standing on one foot while brushing your teeth. Don’t train on a stability device until you are confident and solid with one foot on the ground.
Agility is the ability to change the body’s position efficiently, and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, endurance and stamina. You must first establish strong balance, strength and endurance before you can begin agility training. Having agility means you are a real fitness bad ass but it also gives you a functional edge. Catching a glass in mid air that has been knocked off a nearby counter is an example of how being agile can be helpful in real life. Agility training keeps your mind sharp as well. Your brain has to coordinate movements while triggering fast twitch muscles to create speed. Agility training burns more calories than vigorous cardio workouts. An example of an agility exercise would be to place a line on the ground and jump over the line both forward and backward as you jump rope for one minute. Then place your feet parallel to the line and jump over it going from side-to-side for a minute. Focus on how many jumps you can make in one minute rather than how high you can jump.