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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.  

 

 

3 Keys to Restoring Shoulder Function

Y ExerciseEach day I treat many shoulder and elbow injuries in all types of athletes. Whether it’s a Crossfit athlete, a professional baseball pitcher, or just someone looking to improve their overall shoulder function, I often see many overlapping similarities.

No matter the situation, the key is to restore their functional range of motion and strength through a well-designed program targeting the implicated tissues.

Each case presents a new challenge for me but there are definitely many overlapping issues that I see on a regular basis. Typically, if we can address these and introduce an evidence-based exercise program, then the athlete can quickly return to their sport at the same, if not higher level.

Common Issues We See

I wrote about Restoring Shoulder Soft Tissue Mobility In Baseball Pitchers on some of the ways I use manual therapy to help restore shoulder soft tissue mobility. Mike and I also published a study on Changes in shoulder and elbow passive range of motion after pitching in professional baseball players  showing the acute effects of throwing on shoulder motion. We know these acute changes need to be addressed to restore normal movements and allow the athlete to perform as needed.

Knowing this, I always insist on empowering the client to do most of their exercises at home with the goal of having complete control.

3 Keys to Restoring Shoulder Function

If I had to target 3 key areas to improve a client’s overhead function, it would definitely be:

  1. Thoracic spine mobility
  2. Shoulder soft tissue mobility
  3. Rotator cuff and scapula strength

 

Thoracic Mobility

Foam RollMost people lack adequate thoracic mobility and have to compensate with lumbar spine extension or push their shoulder into a position that may be symptomatic.

By improving thoracic mobility, we can potentially take stress off of the lumbar spine and shoulder joint. This can also help to restore improved scapula position, as the scapular is highly influenced by the thoracic spine.

Someone with a more flexed thoracic spine will have excessive scapular protraction and anterior tilt. This often leads to a decrease in the joint space where the rotator cuff tendon sits and can potentially lead to issues of pain or dysfunction if not addressed.


Shoulder Soft Tissue Mobility

Lax Ball Post CuffWe briefly talked about the importance of maintaining good shoulder motion and the issues we often see in our athletes. There are specific movements, that we use daily, to help the client regain or maintain their motion.

The soft tissue restrictions, if not treated on a regular basis, can lead to adaptive changes that may put the shoulder in a disadvantageous position. Often times, we can address these issues with some simple drills which can help restore or improve the athlete’s range of motion.


Cuff and Scapula Strength Exercises

Shoulder ROMAnd finally, we definitely would be remiss if we didn’t address any strengthening activities for our clients. It’s easy to work on shoulder and thoracic mobility but all may be lost if we don’t attempt to lock in these gains with a good rotator cuff and scapula stabilization program.

We often see that our clients have been working on the bigger, sexier muscle groups but ignoring the smaller, stabilizing muscles. Remember, you’re only as strong as your base of support so we’ll maintain that your rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers are as important.

Download Our Home Exercise Program

Combining the 3 key factors above can often unlock lost potential and allow the athlete to return to their sport at a higher level. Careful consideration to improve thoracic spine mobility, shoulder soft tissue mobility and rotator cuff/scapula strength will lead to improved shoulder function.

Click below to download an example of a home program we often use for people with these needs:

 

 

The Truth Behind Building Six-Pack Abs

Hours of crunches and sit-ups may have you feeling like you’re crushing your abs, but it’s definitely not the best way to build a six-pack. Building functional strength and developing a better body composition is the key to success.

To really get your abs right, you must understand the difference between two things:

  1. Core function and strength versus core endurance
  2. Muscle versus fat

 

Function and Strength

Every muscle in your body is made to function a certain way. Your core is a series of muscles used to stabilize your trunk, lower body, and upper body. These muscles work together to help you function through your day-to-day routine.

Without a strong core your spine makes up for any instability in your lumbar spine and pelvis. This can lead to lower back pain and injuries. Over-time a weak core can lead to postural problems and develop many more health risks.

Therefore, doing crunches all day with a weak core will put more stress on other areas of your body. Build strength first, then you can add more bodybuilding techniques to focus on core development.

To train our core for strength we train it to brace or hold against movements, such as rotation. The fitness world is starting to focus more on “anti-” core exercises opposed to traditional crunches and sit-ups. These exercises help to teach your core how to stabilize your trunk.  There are three types of “anti-“ core exercises that we focus on to work in all different planes of movement.

 

Anti-Extension Core Exercises

Common exercises like planks and rollouts teach your core to hold against linear extension of your lower back. These exercises are an integral part of core training.

A physioball rollout is a great exercise starter point for any type of rollout. A regression of an anti-extension exercise would be a plank. Perform 3 sets of 8 or plank for 60 seconds.  

Anti-Side Bend Core Exercises

Another common exercise like the Side Plank holds your body from moving laterally. Unilateral (one-sided) carries like single arm farmer’s walks help the body account for uneven loading building oblique and abdominal strength.

Walk with one dumbbell by your side for about 40 yards. The goal is to the bring the weight away from your body and walk in a straight line. The weight will pull you in one direction. Brace your core to gain strength against this lateral force. Repeat for 3 sets.

Anti-Rotation Core Exercises

Anti-rotation exercises may be the most important and uncommon category of “anti-“ core exercises. These exercises create the highest abdominal musculature load of any of these other groups.

Most core muscles function cross-sectionally (diagonally) to brace the core against rotating. Exercises like a band anti-rotation press teach the core to brace against a rotational load.

Tie a band to a stable anchor or piece of equipment in the gym. Bring the band to your chest. Inhale through your nose and exhale hard through your mouth. This will brace your core tight. Press the band straight and hold for three seconds. Squeeze your belly as hard as you can to hold from the rotational force. Repeat for 8 times on each side.

 

Endurance and Hypertrophy

Bodybuilders understand that to build muscle, you must train to build strength AND size. Strength is generally performed by a few strong contractions of a muscle. Think of bench-pressing 225lbs 5 times. Size, also known as hypertrophy, is developed by the amount of time a muscle is under stress. Think about doing 100 continuous push-ups. The more time the muscle is under tension the more muscle growth.

Focus on these anti-rotational movements before you focus on core endurance. Your core must be able to function correctly first before adding long duration stress.

Think to get your core strong to stabilize your trunk from exercises like weighted planks or high resistance anti-rotation presses. Then add more advanced endurance based exercises like high rep sit-ups or long duration planks.

Examples of these endurance or hypertrophy (size based) exercises would be planks for time and sit-ups and crunches. Although sit-ups and crunches are not the most ideal abdominal exercises for your lower back, they can be great to build the size and endurance for your abs. Can you do 20 sit-ups then rest a minute and repeat for 5 rounds?

Tip: Once you have a strong core in all three of these planes of movement, split up core training days by focus of strength and endurance. On day 1 do 3 sets of 3 different “anti-“ core exercises. On day 2 do 3 sets of more core endurance based exercises.

 

Body Composition

So, why exactly is building muscle and strength in our core so important when it comes to looking good? Two words: body composition.

The worst thing a person can do when trying to build six pack abs is cut calories. Very few crash diets work. This is because when you cut calories you are depriving your muscle with the protein and nutrients it needs.

Have you ever heard the phrase “muscle weighs more than fat?” That is not completely true.

A pound of fat is the same weight as a pound of muscle. But, as you can see in the photo below, 5lbs of fat is a lot bigger than 5lbs of muscle.

muscle v fat

When you restrict your body of calories, you are losing much more muscle than fat. This makes your abs much smaller and less visible regardless of the small amount of fat you have cut on the surface. Because of the size and weight of muscle compared to fat, many people that focus on proper nutrition and proper training actually gain weight. Take a look at the pictures below to see what I mean.

Therefore, if you want the most elite six-pack possible you should try to gain as much muscle as possible. This will involve a good balanced diet with a lot of protein. Your goal should be to eat like an elite athlete and body-builder.

Tip: Eat a lot of protein and vegetables. Most people don’t get the daily requirement of protein, vitamins, and nutrients if they are training. I would also recommend a daily multi-vitamin and whey protein shake everyday for everyone.

Remember, no amount of training can beat a bad diet.

 

 

 

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”.