Monday, August 31, 2009


So I went down to downtown Louisville last night with a couple friends to watch the finishers of the the IronMan. For those who don't know the IronMan is an event consisting of lots of swimming, lots of biking, and even more running. It takes some people 17 hours to complete this mess. To quote Fletcher Reede in "Liar Liar": "Why would anyone wanna do that!?"

OK, so before I start to piss everyone off I will say that I can respect the sense of accomplishment and the amazing effort and work it takes to complete an IronMan. But let's get real, what is the purpose of doing aerobic exercise for that long. There is no athletic skill, there is no carry-over to everyday life, and there is a lot of injuries that can and do occur. As I watched last night, a large number of the finishers were limping across the line only to just about collapse into the arms of the workers. It isn't unlikely that many of these people will have foot, shin, knee, or some other type of injury following this event. It just doesn't make sense to me.

”I play a real sport for real men, not trying to be the best at fucking exercising.”

Long distance aerobic exercise doesn't make us stronger, it doesn't build muscle, and it doesn't really even make us look better. If you look at most marathoners they look like skeletons. No muscle mass, no curves, no nothing. Just Bones and skin. Not very attractive. Not to mention they can't lift more than 20lbs. over their head. We as humans were not made for this type of movement and duration of movement. We were made to complete short bursts of quick and powerful movements. Our ancestors ran quick sprints to catch their food, then used strength to carry it home. They weren't off running around for hours at a time. They needed to be powerful and strong. Think about your everyday life...When are you ever going to need to run for multiple hours in row...NEVER. But when are you going to need to lift something? All the time. Whether it be your kid, your furniture on move in day, your girlfriend (or boyfriend), and a multitude of other things. As my buddy Rob has said over and over, "If a rock falls on me, I'm gonna lift it off. If it falls on you, what are you gonna do? You can't run then."

To add on to the use of these two different types of exercise, let's look at injuries. If you lift properly, there is a rare possibility of injury and with good programming you can prevent and even ease pain and previous injuries you may have had. Even with proper running form, doing it for hours upon hours can cause some serious problems. I know which exercise I'm choosing. Hint: it involves lifting heavy things.

Now, I am not going to say to never do prolonged endurance exercise. There is a place and time for it. Thirty minutes a couple times a week for those just beginning exercise, those who are older and can't do things such as sprint, and even for a time of recovery. But I see no real purpose behind multiple hours of running, biking, and swimming all in one day. You may disagree but that's cool...because I'm going to tell you you're wrong.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Different Goals, Similar Approach

Working with different people day in and day out I come across different goals and different bodies. These different goals include weight loss, "toning", body composition improvements, and muscle gain. These are all different goals but when it comes down to it the training methods are similar for each.

I tend to keep three main training methods in mind when working with my clients and myself. Strength training, metabolic training, and increasing muscle mass. All three are important for every trainee. Strength improvements will not only improve the other types of training but also performance of every day activities. Gaining strength makes life easier, makes the joints better, and keeps us independent for longer as we age.

Metabolic training comes into play when we think about burning fat. Everyone that trains wants to look good so fat loss is key to having defined muscles. For those focusing mostly on weight loss, this is very important and will make large improvements in body composition. For those wanting to gain size and muscle mass can use this type of training to keep a defined look as weight and size is gained.

Increasing muscle mass goes along with strength gains. Muscle mass gains will improve metabolism and a fat burning effect so for those who are trying to lose weight and better their body composition can benefit greatly from a gain in muscle mass. And of coarse those trying to gain some size will benefit from a gain in muscle mass as well as gains in strength.

All three aspects should be addressed whether your goal is weight loss, fat loss, or size gain. What you focus on most is the main difference between each group but all three should be incorporated to get an all around training effect.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just a Little Random

I recently got Internet and cable installed in my house so I should be on here some more, and not be writing blog posts once every decade like recently. I also want to mention how great cable TV is and how much I missed it. Don't worry, I still get my reading in every day.

Training for me is starting to pick up. I have added a couple more clients this week and am excited to get to working with these people. I plan on making a difference in their lives.

Been working on some more exercise videos so I figured I would post an exercise of the day. Here is the inverted row. One of the most underrated exercises in the personal training world. I learned this through my strength and conditioning work and use it with just about every client I have. Not only does it strengthen the major back muscles, it also works on the rear delts and scapular muscles and focuses on core stability. I highly recommend including it in your workouts for yourselves and your clients.

I have been noticing a lot of fatigue with myself lately and think that it is time for a really good deload. I have been going hard in my training, focusing on strength, for about 30 weeks now and I think my body is starting to wear down. I don't have the energy levels during my workouts like I am used to and my weights have not been increasing as much as I would like them. I also wake up very tired feeling in the mornings, no matter how much sleep I get throughout the night. Next week I plan on not lifting at all and just focusing on foam rolling, stretching, and mobility. Pay attention to your bodies. Only you can determine when you really need a deload. I have always incorporated deloads into my workouts about every 5 weeks but I feel that there is no magic number or time when deloads should be used. Instead just focus on your body and pay attention and you will be able to determine when you need a little R & R.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Oh Internet, How I Miss You!

I apologize for being MIA for that past week. My cousin and I recently moved into a house together and we are still without Internet and cable. Needless to say, I do a lot of reading. Anyhow, I made a trip out to my parents house to get my Internet fix. I caught up on some blog posts from fellow strength coaches and trainers, checked out some T-Nation and found a few articles that I plan on reading this week.

Had my first session at Urban Active earlier this week. Two older gentlemen who are looking to get in shape and build a little muscle. We talked and did some evaluations Monday and started training last night. They are both new to resistance training and haven't been as active as they would like over the past couple of years. I plan on getting these guys to where they want to be, starting with building a solid foundation. This means a lot of stability work in the core and mobility work in the hips and shoulders. Once I can improve these areas then we can start to really get into some good strength training. We did some basic exercises last night to check form and see where these guys are and the form is something we will definitely have to focus on. Both of these guys are really great and fun to work with so I am excited to see the progress they make.

I have also been training a 12-year-old for the past couple of weeks. He is involved in pretty much every sport he can get into and is just wanting to get stronger since he is nearing high school. We have been working a lot on coordination and body control. Many kids don't have the body awareness to notice how their body is positioned during movement. Basic strength exercises using minimal (or no) external load makes up the foundation of his workout. My main goal with him is to strengthen his shoulder and hip joints while keeping the large range of motion he has. At the same time we want to get him using proper form during these movements so that we can keep him healthy and moving properly during his athletic endeavours. He has been learning very quickly and form has dramatically improved each week. Since he is younger, I don't want to overload his joints and cause problems, but strength training with body weight at that age is a great way to improve performance and strength.

I don't know when I will have Internet at my house but hopefully it will be soon and it won't be 10 days before I post again.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

You're Training is Unstable!

As I have recently mentioned, I was just hired on at a local gym as a personal trainer. Over the past few days I have been observing some of the directors and top trainers, just to see how things are run at this specific location. I am also very interested in learning more about the business side of training so I am trying to see as much of the business interactions as possible. However, that's a different story. While I have been observing training sessions and talking with a bunch of these trainers I have learned a few things about this facility and its trainers. One thing, however, sticks out like a fat girl in a nudie magazine. This one thing I am talking about is the obsession these trainers have with Unstable Surface Training, especially with the BOSU ball. I am the type of person that when the end of the day comes I am going to do my own thing and not worry about the next, but this is an issue I wanted to address. Every trainer and every training session I have seen since I have been in this gym has used the BOSU ball. Whether it be standing on, kneeling on, one foot, both feet, this piece of equipment has been used. I have even made it clear to my bosses that I do not like the BOSU and I think it is worthless. We agreed to disagree, and that's fine with me but I wanted to give some info to the rest of you as to why the BOSU and other methods of Unstable Surface Training(UST) are pointless.

Before we get into "why not" let's look at the reasons "why". While talking to these trainers I was able to see why they used this type of training so often. They call it "functional training". Reasons for use include more core activation, balance improvement, strengthening of ligaments and tendons, and it is "fun". OK but...

I had my own thoughts, which have been formulated by the things I have learned through schooling as well as reading the thoughts and opinions of some of the best strength coaches and trainers in the country, but I wanted to do some research as well to have some science to back up my thoughts. So let's take a look:

  • One study by two doctors at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College found that there was an equal amount of core stabilizer activation in both stable and unstable surface training.
  • Another study showed that with UST there was a loss of power production.
  • With UST the body is not able to produce as much force because of the lower level of balance.
  • It has also been shown that balancing on a BOSU ball or some other type of unstable surface improves balance on that surface however that improved balance does not carry over to stable know, like the ones we walk on every single day. I don't know what place on Earth has a ground made of BOSU balls, but I sure hope I never have to go there, or I will be unprepared!

A few more issues that I have seen and thought about: core stability can be improved in many ground based movements such as squats, deadlifts, and RDLs, just to name a few. Not to mention stabilization training such as planks, anti-rotations, and other core movements also improve spinal stabilization and core strength. We can also get "creative" and perform basic strength movements such as a deadlift or a step-up with only one dumbbell, in order to demand the stabilizers to work. Another area of concern is that the majority of people getting training have trouble balancing well on the balls and therefore groove poor movement patterns, or fail to correct poor movement patterns, while performing these exercises. In turn, these people make themselves more susceptible to injury.

Let's review. Force production is lessened by UST therefore muscle mass cannot be built which in turn leads to lessened results. Power production is decreased. Whether you are an athlete or an elderly woman, you need power output. Higher speed of contraction can help prevent falling and there is also research showing that power training in the elderly can improve quality of living. Ligiments and tendons are also strengthened through ground based strength movements. They strengthen as muscles do and unless one takes a performance enhancing drug, muscle strength is not going to outpace tendon and ligiment strength.

The biggest thing in my mind is this: Athletes are in the best shape, from body composition to movement ability. So why not train in a way that athletes train. Sure, a sedentary individual needs to work into a program but the basic principles of strength training, corrective exercise, and movement training can and should be applied fom the start. Keeping that in mind, why not look at what the best strength and conditioning programs are doing. In my experience with collegiate strength and conditioning, as well as what I have read, there is not any UST going on. So why, as a personal trainer, would I want to do that!? Because it is the new fad? Because my co-workers are doing it? I am going to be my own and have reasons behind what I do, more than, Billy and Johnny do it with their clients, or, it is fun!

With all that being said, I hope I didn't offend anyone out there. I just wanted to pass on the knowledge I have accrued and point out some fallacies of these "exciting new workouts".