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Fitness Myths: What You’re Being Told Might Be Hurting Your Results

The fitness industry, like any other, is flooded with misinformation.

The mainstream media is full of websites, magazines, books, and online experts that try to convince us of “quick fixes.”  There are quick fixes for rapid fat loss, trimmer waists, and looking our best with solutions that involve slaving away on treadmills, starving yourself, and using nothing but 5-10 lb weights.

And the misconceptions don’t surround just weight loss, the performance industry is growing every day with someone trying to convince us of their new “sport specific” power, speed, or agility program is the answer to elite level performance.  

We’ve all been there before.  

We leave the gym feeling crushed because we’ve been given the perception that that’s what it takes to achieve our goals.  But this approach is rarely sustainable, and more importantly, oftentimes unsuccessful.  

And the yo-yo continues.

While hard work, sweat, and leaving tired may be a component of improving body composition and power, speed, and agility certainly have a place in any good sports performance program, our focus is wrong.

Essentially, we are working on the frosting before we bake the cake.

Luckily, our understanding of what it takes to enhance your fitness and get in the best shape of your life has grown enormously over the last several years.  Scientific evidence is being produced that is showing us exactly what to do to achieve maximum results.

Unfortunately, sometimes this new information isn’t exciting enough to sell magazines.

 

Fitness Myths: What You’re Being Told Might Be Hurting Your Results

The secret to success is simple. 

The foundation of a successful, sustainable, long-term fitness or performance program must be strength training.  

 

Strength Training to Look and Feel Better

waltham ma strength trainingEvery one of us has a friend (or is the friend…) that is convinced the only way to look and feel better is to slave away on cardio machines or do intense high-intensity interval training (HIIT) every day.

They’ve learned to associate sweat and exhaustion with fat loss and accomplishment. Even worse, they’ve turned exercise into a punishment for poor nutritional choices in the past or a prerequisite for poor choices intended in the near future.

This negative association with exercise can largely be a result of a lack of results, which in turn sends these people deeper into a cycle of punishing workouts, poor nutrition and ultimately unhappiness from a lack of success.

What is missing for many of these individuals is a foundation of strength training off of which many of their goals to look and feel better can be achieved.

Simply put, fat loss occurs by changing your metabolism.

Noted author and strength coach Alwyn Cosgrove often discusses a hierarchy of exercises to perform to increase your metabolism and achieve optimal fat loss.  In this hierarchy, he includes:

  1. Strength Training
  2. High-Intensity Interval Training
  3. Steady State Cardio

 

Strength Training

Strength training should be the foundation of any program.  If you’ve ever found yourself scrolling through pictures on Instagram and admiring others, it’s probably those that had some strength and muscle tone rather than people that are simply “skinny.”

Strong is the new skinny.

Our goal should be to strength train all of our muscles groups.  This doesn’t mean become a bodybuilder, but rather to build some muscle to change our metabolism as much as possible.  

This not only burns an amazing amount of calories, but also increases your resting metabolism so you burn ever MORE calories throughout the day.  Studies have shown that you will burn more calories for the next 38 hours after a strength training workout!

More importantly, we have also learned that people who strength train lose 35% more weight than those who diet and perform cardio exercises, and 44% more than people who diet alone.

The science speaks for itself.

 

High-Intensity Interval Training

Once the foundation of strength training is laid, the next area to focus on is high-intensity interval training, or HIIT.  HIIT essentially means using quick sessions of high-intensity exercise followed by short periods of rest.

HIIT combined with strength training is an amazing combination.  Doing them individually is OK, but performing them together is powerful.

But again, let’s go back to the research.  Studies continue to show that HIIT burns more fat, results in greater weight loss, and decreases your waistline more than traditional cardio.

And there is even more good news – HIIT achieves all this in less than half the time of traditional cardio!  That’s right, studies continue to show that HIIT for 10-20 minutes is more effective than 30-60 minutes of traditional cardio on a treadmill or elliptical.

That’s a win-win.  Better results in half the time.

 

Steady State Cardio

Lastly, steady state cardio is what you would consider “traditional cardio.”  it’s going to gym and exercising on the treadmill or elliptical at an even pace for a long time.

Unfortunately, this is what most people do, often times while watching TV or checking in on Facebook.

Steady state cardio does burn calories but does little to enhance most people’s metabolism.  It can burn calories if you get after it hard enough, but hopefully, as you see now after reading the above, this is not nearly as effective as strength training.  

Traditional cardio is more of the icing than the cake.  In fact, at Champion, we use steady state cardio as a supplement to our clients’ programs if they have additional time.  It’s not the foundation.

 

Strength Training to Perform Better

personal training waltham maWhen we discuss strength training for performance, it really just comes down to physics.

  • Speed is the ability to move fast
  • Power is the ability to move a load fast
  • Agility is the ability to control and dissipate force fast

You need strength for all of the above.

Sure, there are great power, speed, and agility drills out there, and they work, but none of them are going to maximize your performance without the foundation of strength.

Going back to the science, strength training has been researched and shown to increase explosive power, sprint speed, and even 5K times.

Now imagine combining strength training with power, speed, and agility.  That’s performance.

So just like fat loss, strength training is the cake, and power, speed, and agility drills are the frosting.  They are necessary components, but better results are achieved when they are performed with a foundation of strength.

 

Strength Training is the Foundation

As you can see, the key to a successful fitness program is strength training.  Recent scientific evidence has shown us that strength should be the foundation of any program to improve how we look, feel, more, and perform.  

Your time in the gym is limited.  Maximize it by performing a program that gets results and is sustainable and stop the yo-yo.

Stop listening to the magazines that say to starve yourself, stop slaving away on the treadmill, and stop use tiny weights.  

It’s time to get strong, it’s time to get results.

 

Learn Champion’s 5 Pillars of Fitness Success

waltham personal training gymIf you’re interested in learning more, we have an awesome video presentation that you can download for FREE that discusses even more principles and overviews our approach to fitness.  In this video, we’ll overview our 5 pillars of fitness (can you guess that “Strength is the Foundation” is one of them???) that you can use to take your fitness to the next level.

If you are serious about getting more out of your fitness, you’ll get a lot out of our approach.  

 

 

Motivational Strategies for Successful Training

Hi everyone! If you are reading this, then you are probably searching for some information to help you stay motivated with your training. No matter who you are, whether you are a beginner just starting out or a seasoned gym veteran, everyone has reached a point where they have hit a wall (metaphorically, that is).

My Story

Greg's Transformation

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Greg Wilson. I’m a former intern, now strength & conditioning coach at Champion Physical Therapy + Performance. When I started out in early January, I was tipping the scales at a whopping 265 lbs.

Needless to say, I was a bit stout.

As time went on and my knowledge of training and nutrition began to develop, I started applying it to myself. My training became a lot smarter and my nutrition was getting better.

To make a long story short (and I mean long), after five months, I lost a total of 50 lbs. Now, as you can imagine, there were many ups and downs along the way and losing those 50lbs wasn’t easy. There were plenty of times when I wanted to give up and throw in the towel, but I managed to keep myself motivated and I kept moving forward.

Here are some strategies that I used to keep myself motivated…

 

Goal Setting

Goal setting is really important to me and should be important to you too! Setting a goal is a great motivator and successfully completing that goal is an even greater measure of success. Here are some important points to think about when setting goals:

  • Small Goals: Setting small goals allows you to generate more success for yourself. When you keep reaching your small goals, step by step, you gain motivation to keep going towards your biggest goal. Always set attainable goals.
  • Be Specific: Identify exactly what your specific goal is. If you want to improve your max bench press, don’t just say “I want to improve my max bench press”, give yourself a specific weight like, “I want to increase my max bench press by 10 lbs”. This will help further measure success.
  • Deadline: Sometimes you need to give yourself an end date to really get you going. If weight loss is a goal, tell yourself, “I am going to lose 10 lbs by October 31”. Make that your deadline and stick with it.
  • Measurable: This point can be related back to the Be Specific example. If you set a goal to improve your max bench press by 10 lbs, and you meet that goal, then that is a measure of success. Another example would be if your goal is to lose 1 lb in 1 week and you are successful, then that is measurable.

 

Other Strategies

Here are some strategies to keep you moving forward if goal setting isn’t working for you, or if you just want a little extra motivation.

  • Positive Attitude: I think the number one problem for most people is that they are always down on themselves. You can’t put yourself down. Always keep a positive attitude and block out the negativity.
  • Collaborate: If you know somebody who has similar goals to you, or if they have already done something that you are trying to accomplish, talk to them. They might be able to give you advice on something you’re having an issue with.
  • Keep an Open Mind: It is always important to try to keep an open mind, especially when beginning a new training program or diet. Always give it a chance, because you never know what could happen.
  • Remove “Can’t” from your vocabulary: People use the word “CAN’T” too often. Instead of  “I can’t”, try saying “I will”.
  • Never Give Up: No matter how hard something gets. Never give up. Keep chipping away at it, because eventually you will break through your wall.

I hope that some of this information helps you to stay motivated and to never stop pursuing your training and nutritional goals, no matter how long they take! I think Arnold Schwarzenegger said it best, “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength”.

 

5 Tips to a Better Lunge

Lunges are terrific exercises to train single leg strength, size, and overall performance. They are great for a beginner and can be progressed for the more advanced trainee. While there are many variations that vary in intensity, we are going to look at how to make sure we are getting the most out of any lunge variation.

Let’s take a look at a dumbbell reverse lunge. A reverse lunge is a variation we start most of our athletes and clients on. It is slightly easier to perform and is easier on the knees than a forward lunge because our body doesn’t need to decelerate quite as much. For a dumbbell reverse lunge we would hold a dumbbell in each hand, take a step back with one leg, tap the knee to the ground and stand back up.

Sounds simple, but let’s look at some tips on how to lunge better.

 

Tip #1: Stand with Your Feet Inside of Hip Width

Right from the start we want to be doing things right. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. We have all heard that before.

In this example, if we start with our feet to wide, we tend to move our leg out to the side and not straight back when initiating the movement. This can cause an uneven weight shift and can be troublesome to balance. Even if we start by moving the leg to the side but finish in hip width, we are just wasting energy that we need to correctly execute the lift.

Also, if you watch many younger athletes exercise, you will notice that they place their feet extremely wide on most movements. A wide stance leads to the feeling of more stability. That’s because they haven’t achieved stability yet in what we would consider a more sport specific stance.

 

Tip #2: Apply Pressure Through the Arch of Your Foot

After you have taken a step back and are ready to stand up tall, think about having your weight centered through the middle of your foot, or the arch of the foot. A cue we will use is to “push through your shoelaces.”

This creates optimal force production through your lower body. With the majority of our weight on our toes, our center of gravity has now changed and can throw off our balance. With weight to far towards our heels, we have a tendency to drive backwards before we move in a forward direction. Which brings us to our next tip.

Reverse Lunge Tips

 

Tip #3: Maintain a Neutral Spine

Take a step back, tap the knee, apply force through the arch of the foot and begin to stand up. The path we take in standing up is going to make the accent easier or harder.

As I mentioned before, having too much weight on your heel makes us drive backwards before coming forward. Even if our body weight is distributed in the right place, we aren’t out of the woods just yet. Maintaining a neutral spine means to keep the spine (back) flat. How do we do this?

On the way up from the reverse lunge, we want to make sure we have a deep breath to help brace and protect the spine. Along with breathing we want to squeeze the abs super tight. Pretend that someone is about to punch you in the stomach.

5 Tips for a Better Lunge

 

Tip #4: Think of the Reverse Lunge as a Forward to Backward Movement as Opposed to an Up and Down Movement

Tip 4 piggy backs on tip 3. Before we say “stand up”, let’s think of it as “move forward”. After all, we are performing a reverse lunge. The opposite of reverse is forward. You want to create a 45 degree angle with your torso and maintain a neutral spine in that angle. Think of the movement as momentum goes backward, then momentum goes forward. Backward and forward not up and down.

Creating a backward and forward motion helps to prevent excess pressure on the lumbar spine by not slipping into lumbar extension, our body’s number one compensation pattern.

 

Tip #5: Hold the Dumbbells with a Firm Grip

Not every lift requires an uncomfortable amount of tightness. But most do require some. I’ve tried to perform a lunge using every other tip except for this one, and it throws everything off. Your grip is your last line of defense.

If you have a lose grip, chances are you are going to be loose somewhere else which is going to create balance issues, lead to ineffectiveness of the exercise and increase your overall chance of injury. I’ve talked in a previous blog post about the Law of Irradiation; which states that when one muscle tenses, it creates tension in nearby muscles. Applying this principle helps prevent any energy leaks along the chain and keeps you safe.

 

If at any point in the reverse lunge someone is having trouble with any of these tips, it could also be that the weight being used is too heavy. When in doubt, decrease the weight, become proficient at a lower weight and then progress.  Master the movement first, then the exercise.

All of these tips can still be applied to other variations such as a forward lunge or walking forward lunge. For example in a forward lunge, you still want to maintain a neutral spine and have your whole body return to the start position together. As opposed to leading with your upper back, which causes you to extend at the lumbar spine and not allow for optimal anterior core firing.

Give these 5 tips a try the next time you are performing a lunge in the gym!

 

 

The Best Type of Exercise for Weight Loss

When most people think about exercising to lose weight, they think of grinding away on a cardio machine doing some sort of aerobic exercise.  Go into any traditional gym and you’ll be amazed at the sea of treadmills, ellipticals, and other traditional cardio equipment.

However, recent research has shown that aerobic exercise may not be optimal to lose weight.  The simple equation of calorie consumed and calorie burned is flawed.  For those that use the elliptical for an hour (while watching TV…) to only realize that they burned the equivalent of half of a cookie, this can be quite counterproductive in motivating you to continue to work so hard for such little reward.

 

Resistance Training More Effective than Aerobic Training

A recent research report from Harvard was published in the journal Obesity.  The researchers followed over 10,000 people for 12 years and compared resistance training and aerobic training and the impact on controlling belly fat.

The authors noted that strength training with weights had the largest impact on waist circumference.

 

Interval Training More Effective than Traditional Cardio Training

Another article publish in the Journal of Obesity in 2011 also discussed how aerobic exercise has been ineffective in controlling body fat.  The report discusses the effectiveness of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on body composition, which has been shown to increase aerobic and anaerobic fitness while being much more effective on reducing body fat.

HIIT is the type of exercises performed for quick bouts of time, similar to what you would find in a bootcamp-style circuit training program.

In the graphs below, you’ll see that both fat and waist circumference are significant reduced using HIIT (first column) in comparison to tradition cardio (second column) and a group that did nothing (third column):

The Best Exercise for Weight Loss

 

More importantly, HIIT training does all of this in significantly less time than traditional cardio!

One of the reasons many believe that strength training and HIIT are more effective for weight loss is the effect these exercises have on your metabolism throughout the day.  Your resting metabolism increases significantly in comparison to traditional moderate intensity cardio.

 

The Best Type of Exercise for Weight Loss

Metablic Strength TrainingBased on these recent reports and dozens of others, we feel it is important to include both strength training and interval training in our programs to maximize weight loss.  Can running on a treadmill help with weight loss?  Sure.  But this will not have the biggest bang for your buck and will be much more time consuming.

With this in mind, you’ll notice how our group training bootcamps and personal training programs include both strength training and interval training.  We refer to this as metabolic strength training.

Our goal is to get our clients stronger and ramp up their metabolism to lose weight.  We feel this combination is the most effective for weight loss, and many other long term health implications.  Plus, our #TeamChampion bootcampers will tell you that exercising like this in a group is WAY more fun than running on the treadmill!