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Eight Habits for Long Term Fitness Success–#1 Move Daily

There are thousands of different workout programs and methods to use to become more fit.  These range from at home workout videos, to aerobic or yoga classes, to bootcamps and group functional training workouts.  Methods, benefits, and risks/drawbacks could be debated until our last breath and often are among fitness professionals.  One thing I’ve come to learn in my twenty years in this industry is that dogmatic approaches rarely pan out, and you are better off steering clear of anything or anyone who claims any one method of training is optimal and a cure all for everyone under every circumstance.  However, I do believe that there are some universal habits that will vastly improve someone’s fitness.  For the sake of this article, I will stick with habits which only involve movement, with an understanding that nutrition, rest, recovery, stress management, and body weight all impact fitness as well.

To know what habits will best improve long term fitness, we must first define the term.  There are three definitions of fitness. The first (and newest, brought on by the growth of the fitness industry) is “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” This definition misses the mark as it uses the root of the word in it, and doesn’t really tell us anything.  The second definition is “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”  This definition is a little bit better.  We can see here that the fitness required to be an NFL offensive lineman and the fitness required to run the Ironman in Hawaii is much different.  This still doesn’t get to what most of us think of when we describe someone as being fit.  The third definition, and the one I find to be most relevant to the general population, is “an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.”  Put differently, your ability to reproduce and pass your genes onto the next generation.  At first glance, this may seem like a poor definition.  If we go back 100-500 years to a time where modern technology and medicine couldn’t “fix” everything, this definition is ideal.  If someone is over or underweight, they struggle with fertility.  If someone has major health complications, injuries, etc. they would have a hard time attracting a mate, defending themselves/home, or feeding themselves.  Certain lifestyle choices will absolutely reduce fertility rates (smoking, drinking, stress) therefore decreasing one’s fitness.  Operating with the biological definition of fitness, I find that the following eight habits will set you up for a lifetime of greatness.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Move Daily

This is so simple, yet like many things in life, the simplicity of this basic habit causes it to get overlooked or ignored.  This is by far the most common habit among fit individuals.  Don’t over think it or complicate it–just move.  It doesn’t have to be strenuous or difficult.  When looking at the small number of individuals who are successful with long term weight loss, researchers have seen that doing 4-5+ hours/week of planned exercise/activity is a staple.  This comes out to 30-60 minutes per day.  Walk, ride a bike, kayak, paddle board, roll, carry, crawl, do a movement flow (as seen in the video) or whatever.  Just get off your butt and move around at least 30 minutes each day.  It doesn’t have to be all in one shot, but make it happen, and make it intentional.  Daily movement helps manage stress, regulate hunger, and has big cognitive benefits as well.  The only stipulation I would make is to avoid activities with high risk of injury.  After all, if you get substantially injured it makes daily movement a bit more difficult.

See video of some simple movement patterns: here

Five Fitness Numbers You Need to Know

Scale bodyweight, bench press maximum, some “girl name” and a time are all fitness numbers your hear in the gym.  If you are interested in optimal performance and health, I have the fitness numbers we all need to know.  Focusing on these numbers will keep you active and independent for a lifetime.

1) WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE

The location of bodyfat is far more important than the amount of bodyfat.  Visceral fat, the kind stored in and around the belly, is the hormonal driver of metabolic syndrome; the precursor to diabetes, elevated blood lipids, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease.  To optimize health, you need to monitor the diameter of your waistline.  The number you want to know is your waist to height ratio.  You want your waist to be less than half your height.  If your waist size is greater than one half your height, then reducing your waist diameter should be the primary goal of your fitness program.

2) SLEEP TIME

Sleep is the ultimate exercise recovery activity.  One or two nights of sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce gym performance by 25% – 40%.  We need seven to eight hours of restful sleep, each and every night.  The most important benefits of exercise are neural and hormonal.  Sleep reboots our neural software and replenishes the hormonal system.  Medications, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, and obesity all can interfere with sleep patterns.  Fixing these health issues and developing better sleep habits produces magical progress in the gym.  Read the book, Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.

3) FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT SCREEN SCORE

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS), developed by Physical Therapist Gray Cook and Athletic Trainer Lee Burton, is a seven-step dynamic movement based test that has become a standard of practice in physical therapy and sports performance centers.  The FMS helps prevent injuries before they occur by identifying risk factors.  Movement indicates how a body works and lets us know how the brain is controlling the body and how the joints and muscles communicate.  Just like a good medical work up, the FMS permits the trainer / therapist to make the proper decision about the clients’ most urgent needs and avoid gym activities that are detrimental.

4) GRIP STRENGTH

Recent research has demonstrated that knowing your grip strength is as important as knowing your blood pressure.  The PURE research of 140 thousand individuals revealed that a drop in grip strength is a strong predictor of mortality from all causes.  We will all face health battles and the stronger body wins while a weaker body loses.

5) NUMBER OF TRAINING SESSIONS PER YEAR

Exercise is ineffective absent consistency.  Even a haphazard program of exercise is beneficial if you perform it on a consistent basis.  The experts say a good goal is 150 training sessions per year.  That is three times a week for 50 of the 52 weeks in a year.  Link together several years of the consistency habit and amazing changes happen.  Most people overestimate the value of a month’s worth of exercise and greatly underestimate the value of a year’s worth of exercise.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Seven Habits for Long Term Success–Part 4

There are hundreds, if not thousands of diets that have been used throughout history. The intent of most diets is to lose weight and bodyfat. Diets that “work” will reduce your intake of calories. This can be done by reducing or eliminating certain food groups, types of food, or macronutrients. If the diet reduces caloric intake enough, then an individual will lose weight and body fat. A good diet will encourage the intake of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean proteins, but these aren’t mandatory for weight loss and fat loss. The problem with dieting alone is that good nutritional skills and habits are not typically emphasized so they do not last. Once the “diet” ends, then we revert back to old broken habits and lose all of our progress.

At Fenton Fitness, we utilize the Precisions Nutrition system of habit-based nutrition coaching. We know that in order to change, our actions need to change. And in order to make lasting changes, actions need to remain changed. This is where a habit-based approach comes in. Most people know how to eat better or what they can do to lose weight. What they lack are the skills and action steps to make that a reality. With our Nutrition Coaching clients, we have a 52-week curriculum that helps clients work through obstacles and motivations. We introduce new habits every two weeks along with daily lessons that reinforce and teach the importance of each habit. Each habit builds off of the previous one, mastering one before moving on. For most people, two weeks is a good time frame to get a good grip on each habit, but If there is difficulty, we simply spend more time on that habit until the client is ready to move on.

The six habits which back up the foundation of our program will take most of our clients twelve weeks to work through. These six habits will serve anyone looking to improve their eating habits and can be adapted to virtually any food preference and goal. This series will describe the basics of our program.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Healthy Fats and Portions: (week 10-12)

Healthy fats help with hormone synthesis, recovery, key metabolic tasks, regulate appetite and satiety, and make food taste good.  Healthy fats are best found in whole, minimally processed foods.  We need a balance of healthy fats to feel and function at our best.  This is an “easy” habit to understand, but a little harder to do properly since it’s easy to overeat fats.  It’s important to understand that there are different types of fat with different effects in the body.  Add healthy fats to your shopping list choosing which healthy fats/fat-containing foods you like and will eat.  Buy, prepare, and have healthy fats/fat-containing foods on hand, easily available.  When setting up your menu make sure you incorporate healthy fats at each meal.  Understand what an approximate serving size is.  Women: 1 thumb of fat per meal, Men: 1-2 thumbs of fat per meal.  Portion sizes may need to be adjusted based on activity level, goals, and meal frequency.  Understand that healthy fats, while nutritious, are still energy-dense and should be used sparingly.  It is easy to overeat this energy dense macronutrient.

Closing Thoughts

Keep in mind long term change requires skills and habits.  These skills must be practiced daily.  Most people will need to spend a minimum of 2 weeks on each habit before becoming competent enough to build and add on the next habit.  The Precision Nutrition system that we use  at Fenton Fitness allows us to guide you each day of the journey with your habit and a daily lesson to help you practice, understand, and troubleshoot difficulties.  Though initial progress may be slower, long term progress and sustainability put this habit based approach far ahead of any other system or diet plan in existence.  If you’re  interested in more information about our program and to see if we have any current openings, please feel free to contact us: jeff@fentonfitness.com

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1 

Seven Habits for Long Term Success–Part 3

There are hundreds, if not thousands of diets that have been used throughout history. The intent of most diets is to lose weight and bodyfat. Diets that “work” will reduce your intake of calories. This can be done by reducing or eliminating certain food groups, types of food, or macronutrients. If the diet reduces caloric intake enough, then an individual will lose weight and body fat. A good diet will encourage the intake of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean proteins, but these aren’t mandatory for weight loss and fat loss. The problem with dieting alone is that good nutritional skills and habits are not typically emphasized so they do not last. Once the “diet” ends, then we revert back to old broken habits and lose all of our progress.

At Fenton Fitness, we utilize the Precisions Nutrition system of habit-based nutrition coaching. We know that in order to change, our actions need to change. And in order to make lasting changes, actions need to remain changed. This is where a habit-based approach comes in. Most people know how to eat better or what they can do to lose weight. What they lack are the skills and action steps to make that a reality. With our Nutrition Coaching clients, we have a 52-week curriculum that helps clients work through obstacles and motivations. We introduce new habits every two weeks along with daily lessons that reinforce and teach the importance of each habit. Each habit builds off of the previous one, mastering one before moving on. For most people, two weeks is a good time frame to get a good grip on each habit, but If there is difficulty, we simply spend more time on that habit until the client is ready to move on.

The six habits which back up the foundation of our program will take most of our clients twelve weeks to work through. These six habits will serve anyone looking to improve their eating habits and can be adapted to virtually any food preference and goal. This series will describe the basics of our program.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Eat at least 5 colorful servings of Fruits & Veggies: (week 6-8)

Eating more colorful fruits and vegetables improves nutritional quality and helps you feel more satisfied with your food because of the fiber and nutrient content.  Like the previous habit, we are adding food instead of taking it away, reducing any sense of deprivation.  This is another relatively “easy” habit. Most people are pretty much sold on this one even if they struggle with it. Very few will ever argue about the value of vegetables.  Strive to “eat the rainbow”, getting as many colors as possible.  Create a shopping list before going to the store with all the fruits and veggies that you enjoy.  For now, it doesn’t really matter what specific foods you choose as long as you get into the habit of “eating the rainbow”.  Prep food that requires prepping ahead of time so that convenience is never the limiting factor when it comes to getting your fruits/veggies.  Look over your weekly menu and ensure you are incorporating fruits and veggies into each meal. Understand what an approximate serving size is–Vegetables: 1 fist, Fruits: 1 cupped handful.  As you get better at this habit, try to venture outside of your comfort zone and try some new fruits and veggies, experimenting with different ways of preparing them.

Smart Carb choices and portions: (week 8-10)

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap over the last decade largely in part of some popular and trendy diets such as Paleo, Keto/Atkins, and Carnivore diets.  Carbohydrate dense foods have lots of great health and performance benefits.  What’s important to understand is what carbohydrate sources are best for you, have the highest nutritional value, and how much you need for your goals.  Almost all clients benefit from having some carbohydrates in their diet.

“Smart carbs” are slower-digesting, higher-fiber, and nutrient-rich. These include such foods as: whole grains (e.g. brown or wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.), beans and legumes, fruits and starchy vegetables (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas and plantains, etc.).  This is a “difficult” habit for some people that comes after two “easier” habits.  “Low-carb” is not ideal; most people look, feel, and perform better with some carbs in their diet, even if they’re trying to lose weight /fat.  Not all carbs are created equal: slow-digesting, high-fiber, nutrient-rich “smart carbs” are a great nutritional choice and not the same thing as highly processed sugars.  Just like the previous two habits, create a spot on your shopping list for healthy carbs that you enjoy and make sure they are in your house.  Come up with at least 4-5 different carb sources that you enjoy and are willing to eat.  At first, it doesn’t really matter what specific foods you choose as long as you get into the habit of choosing smart carbs.  Buy, prepare, and have smart carbs on hand, easily available.  When planning your weekly or daily menu, find a way to incorporate your carbohydrate sources.  Understand what an approximate serving size is: Women: 1 cupped handful per meal, Men: 1-2 cupped handfuls.  Portions may need to be adjusted based on goals, activity level, and food tolerance.

Seven Habits for Long Term Success–Part 2

There are hundreds, if not thousands of diets that have been used throughout history. The intent of most diets is to lose weight and bodyfat. Diets that “work” will reduce your intake of calories. This can be done by reducing or eliminating certain food groups, types of food, or macronutrients. If the diet reduces caloric intake enough, then an individual will lose weight and body fat. A good diet will encourage the intake of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean proteins, but these aren’t mandatory for weight loss and fat loss. The problem with dieting alone is that good nutritional skills and habits are not typically emphasized so they do not last. Once the “diet” ends, then we revert back to old broken habits and lose all of our progress.

At Fenton Fitness, we utilize the Precisions Nutrition system of habit-based nutrition coaching. We know that in order to change, our actions need to change. And in order to make lasting changes, actions need to remain changed. This is where a habit-based approach comes in. Most people know how to eat better or what they can do to lose weight. What they lack are the skills and action steps to make that a reality. With our Nutrition Coaching clients, we have a 52-week curriculum that helps clients work through obstacles and motivations. We introduce new habits every two weeks along with daily lessons that reinforce and teach the importance of each habit. Each habit builds off of the previous one, mastering one before moving on. For most people, two weeks is a good time frame to get a good grip on each habit, but If there is difficulty, we simply spend more time on that habit until the client is ready to move on.

The six habits which back up the foundation of our program will take most of our clients twelve weeks to work through. These six habits will serve anyone looking to improve their eating habits and can be adapted to virtually any food preference and goal. This series will describe the basics of our program.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Stop when 80% Full: (week 2-4)

This is the second “anchor habit”. To lose fat, clients usually have to eat less than they do now.  “80% full” is not a specific number, but rather an idea: Eat until you are “just satisfied” or “no longer hungry” but not full or stuffed.  This habit continues to teach appetite awareness, building intuitive understanding and control of hunger/fullness. Over time, you will learn to sense your hunger and satiety cues properly, as well as distinguish physical hunger from cravings.  This habit helps you analyze eating habits as a process (rather than something that “just happens”). You can identify situations/cues that contribute to your eating habits and improve mindfulness.  This habit puts the burden of action on you–you have to struggle to figure this out.  This is a “hard” habit: harder to do, but simpler to understand so give yourself time to figure this out. This can be mentally, emotionally, or physically uncomfortable.  At first, you may not be able to feel hunger or fullness or any stomach cues. Try to keep learning, and pay attention to any signs that you are physically hungry or full, such as hunger cues, fullness cues, and satiety cues.  Hunger cues include “hunger headache”; light-headedness or “spaced out”; being “hangry” (hungry + angry); growling or empty-feeling stomach; etc. Over-fullness cues (ate too much) include feeling stuffed/bloated; heartburn; feeling nauseated or gassy; feeling heavy and sluggish; etc.  Satiety cues (ate just enough) include feeling energized and no longer hungry; feeling generally satisfied; feeling as though you could get up from the table and do something (such as go for a walk); etc.

You may need to learn what “100% full” or even “120% full” is first, before you can get to “80%”.  Once you learn your cues, you can learn to stop short of “stuffed” or plan to eat before you get too hungry to make good decisions. Rest assured that although you should start working on this anchor habit now, there is no time frame that you must have it mastered by. Those with chronic stomach upset may find that this habit plus the previous one actually help your condition, possibly to the point where you cut down or get off stomach medications.

Eat Lean Protein at Each Meal: (Week 4-6)

We need protein for almost every metabolic process in the body. Making sure to get enough protein will help preserve lean mass (i.e. bone and muscle), as well as help you feel fuller longer.  This is an “easy” habit that is easy to understand and generally well accepted as do-able by most individuals.  This habit clicks with most people, as it finally feels like you are getting a nutritional strategy by being told what to eat. This habit adds food instead of taking it away, which helps people feel less “deprived”.

One of the biggest aspects of this habit is learning and understanding what foods are actually high in protein (it’s not almond milk, nuts, or bacon).  Having a shopping list before going to the store with protein rich foods you enjoy is a must when doing your grocery trip.  At first, it doesn’t really matter what specific foods you choose as long as you get into the habit of adding protein to meals.  This habit is most challenging for vegetarian and especially vegans.  In these cases, more thought and planning will be needed to set up meals.  Buying, preparing, and having high protein foods easily available will greatly improve your success with this habit.  Try to create a menu for your week so you know and understand how you will incorporate protein dense foods at each meal.  Understand what a serving of protein looks like (1-1.5 palms for women, 1-2 palms for men).  Servings size may need to be adjusted based on meal frequency, goals, and food tolerance.

Sister Hermeta Saved My Soul and My Spine

Tall Kneeling Core Stabilization Training

During my parochial grade school education,  I was taught how to kneel in church.  Eyes forward, hands together, spine tall, and no leaning on the pew.  You maintained the kneeling posture for extended periods of Father Furlong’s mass.  I believe the good sisters were on to something.  Despite every one of them being well past 100 years of age, they all possessed excellent posture and remarkable mobility.  As a physical therapist, I am convinced that a daily dose of sustained kneeling helped keep the Felician Sisters in fighting form.  I have some tall kneeling training suggestions you can add your fitness routine.

Get to Know Kneeling

Many people will benefit from some sustained tall kneeling.  Protect your knees by placing an Airex pad under your knees.  In and ideal situation, you will have a mirror for feedback on posture and alignment.  Keep some space between your knees and line the feet up with the knees.  Pull the head back, lift the chest, and reach the top of the head to the sky.  Many people have difficulty getting into a fully upright position in kneeling.  The most common problem is a forward lean at the hips accompanied by complaints of tightness in the lower back and front of the thighs.  Holding a pvc pipe or dowel overhead while performing some deep breaths can help reduce muscle tone in the hips and torso.   Perform two or three, thirty second holds at every training session for the next six weeks

Tall Kneeling Pallof Press

The tall kneeling Pallof press is an anti rotation core stability exercise that helps recruit the postural muscles that keep us upright and tall.  Lack of isometric strength-endurance in the spinal muscles is a primary contributor to back injuries.  This exercise will improve that component of spinal function.

Place your knees on an Airex pad and set up in kneeling position.  Use either a cable unit or resistance tubing set at a level even with your sternum while you are in the kneeling position.  The tubing should be directly to your right and slightly behind the body.  Use a double overlap grip on the handle and hold at chest level.  Press the tubing out to arms length and then back to the chest.  Select a resistance level that permits execution of fifteen repetitions without losing the set up posture.  Rest and then repeat on the other side.

Tall Kneeling Anti Extension Holds

The pelvis is a bowl and the torso rests on the top of the bowl.  You need a pelvic position that makes stabilization of the torso over the pelvis effortless and automatic.  The tall kneeling isometric hold aligns your pelvis under the torso.

Kneel on an Airex pad.  Hold a kettlebell, dumbbell or Iron Grip Plate behind your back.  It is difficult to prescribe a load.  Twenty pounds may be too easy and five pounds may be too much.  My suggestion is that you err on the lighter side of the load equation.  Stay in the loaded kneeling position for at least thirty seconds.  Lower the weight, walk around, and take inventory of how you feel.  Repeat for another thirty seconds.

See video demonstration of these exercises: here

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Seven Habits for Long Term Success–Part 1

There are hundreds, if not thousands of diets that have been used throughout history. The intent of most diets is to lose weight and bodyfat. Diets that “work” will reduce your intake of calories. This can be done by reducing or eliminating certain food groups, types of food, or macronutrients. If the diet reduces caloric intake enough, then an individual will lose weight and body fat. A good diet will encourage the intake of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean proteins, but these aren’t mandatory for weight loss and fat loss. The problem with dieting alone is that good nutritional skills and habits are not typically emphasized so they do not last. Once the “diet” ends, then we revert back to old broken habits and lose all of our progress.

At Fenton Fitness, we utilize the Precisions Nutrition system of habit-based nutrition coaching. We know that in order to change, our actions need to change. And in order to make lasting changes, actions need to remain changed. This is where a habit-based approach comes in. Most people know how to eat better or what they can do to lose weight. What they lack are the skills and action steps to make that a reality. With our Nutrition Coaching clients, we have a 52-week curriculum that helps clients work through obstacles and motivations. We introduce new habits every two weeks along with daily lessons that reinforce and teach the importance of each habit. Each habit builds off of the previous one, mastering one before moving on. For most people, two weeks is a good time frame to get a good grip on each habit, but If there is difficulty, we simply spend more time on that habit until the client is ready to move on.

The six habits which back up the foundation of our program will take most of our clients twelve weeks to work through. These six habits will serve anyone looking to improve their eating habits and can be adapted to virtually any food preference and goal. This series will describe the basics of our program.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Take Time:
I hear it over and over from our clients: “I’m busy, I don’t have time to eat right.” I get it. You’re busy, we’re busy too. When you’re busy, you need to have a plan to get the important stuff done because getting into shape won’t happen by accident. Remember, nobody is going to “give” you time. You have to take that time. Create time, carve it out, grab it, defend it like a mad man once you’ve got it. Because that time is an appointment with YOU.

Here’s what a many people find about setting that time aside. Making time puts YOU in control.
Whatever your reasons for being busy (and rushed), I’m sure they’re good ones (except maybe that netflix or social media binge time). And whatever your reason, today is the day you start a new relationship with “busy”. Today, by making time, you start to take control back. Control of your life, and your time. The kind of control that will eventually make you feel more focused, more confident, more in charge, and ultimately… happier.

You need time to change your body. One more reason to make time: getting healthier, fitter, and in better shape is a slow process. You’ve got to put in the work, be patient, and persistent. But remember: If you want to change your body, being consistent is more important than anything else. So get in the habit of making that time, consistently, starting today.

Slow Down: (week 1-2)
It’s so simple, you won’t believe it, but it works. At every meal today, eat more slowly than you normally do. Today, and for the next two weeks, focus on doing this habit. Keep doing your first habit (making time). In the PN Coaching system, habits are cumulative–they build on each other, one by one. So a new habit doesn’t mean ditch the old one. A new habit means you simply add one more tool to your tool belt. In other words, keep doing your first habit: making time.

How to eat slowly: At each meal today, take a few extra minutes to simply pause (Here’s where your “make time” habit comes in handy.). Put your utensils down between each bite. Take a breath. When you take a bite, notice, and enjoy the taste and texture of the food.
Then put down those utensils again, and take another breath, or a sip of water. Relax, wait a few more moments before picking up your utensils again and repeat. That’s it. Quick tip: Try a timer.

If you’d like to track your progress with this habit, try simply timing yourself today.
Check your watch before you start eating. Or start a timer. When you’re done eating, see how long you took. Now you have a baseline for improvement! If you add only one minute per day, by the end of two weeks you’ll have added nearly 15 minutes more. Smooth ‘n’ easy.

Help yourself succeed. Eating slowly is one of the most important habits of the PN system. But in a rushing-around and busy society, it’s hard to remember at first. Changing a habit will take a little extra effort in the beginning, and that’s OK. That’s why we recommend at least two weeks on this habit. Here’s how to stay on track:
1. Make a note of your goal to eat slowly on a Post-it note, your computer, or your phone.
2. Put it somewhere that you’ll see it often, especially before you eat.
3. If you’ve used your computer or phone, set a reminder to go off before your regular meal times.
4. During your meal, try using a timer to check how fast you’re eating.
5. You can also use an app. Here is one we like: EatSlowly (for iphone)
6. Having a bit more information about what you’re actually doing can help you track your improvement with this habit over the next couple of weeks.
7. Even if you add only one minute per meal, that counts as progress!

Will That Machine Help Me?

Home Gym Hints

Television ads, holiday gift giving, and the return of frigid temperatures brings out the “What cardio machine should I purchase for my home?” question.  Is it the bike with an internet trainer, the fat blasting high intensity elliptical trainer, or the Euro designed Nordic ski machine?  Many of these units sell for over $3000 and they wish to choose wisely.  Most of the questioners have no experience with any of these gizmos.  I have some pre-purchase questions they need to answer before buying that expensive cardio machine.

Can you currently walk for thirty minutes without stopping to rest?

If you answer no to that question, do not bother purchasing a treadmill, bike, or elliptical unit.  Focus all of your efforts on developing the strength and skill necessary to walk for thirty minutes without resting.  If pain is a limitation, get to the physical therapy clinic and resolve the problem.  Walking is the essential neuromuscular activity that keeps a body healthy and out of the assisted living center.  Leaning over on a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or recumbent bike is very likely to worsen those walking woes.

Do you have a prior history of consistent exercise?

Just owning a new high-tech training machine will not make you thinner or fitter.  You must use the machine three or four days a week for the next year.  Many people believe that locating the machine in the dwelling will jump-start the exercise habit.  If you answer no to this question, I have concerns that you will not develop a relationship with your internet connected mechanical friend.

Is fat loss the primary reason you are purchasing the home exercise machine?

The fat loss the exercise motto everyone needs to learn is; “familiarity breeds failure”.   The human body is a master at adapting to a physical stress and the forty-five minute spin class that burns 440 calories in February only consumes 180 calories in August.  The sad truth is that the same amount of exercise time and effort produces a weaker fat loss response.   The crucial components for fat loss are long duration meal preparation and high intensity portion awareness.  After you get those under control, progress to activities that you find challenging (difficult, not good at, loath, hate) and change the training modality on a frequent basis.  Using the same exercise device month after month will not produce optimal results.

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Real Core Training Part Four

Anti-Rotation

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Rotation

Tall Kneeling Pallof Press: Grab some elastic tubing or a cable (anchored to something sturdy) and assume a tall kneeling position.  Hold with both hands and press outward away from body.  Do not allow your body to twist or rotate.  Increase load or stretch on tubing to increase difficulty.  Work up to 12 reps per side.

Half Kneeling Pallof Press: Set up in a half kneeling position.  Use the same execution as the tall kneeling version.  Make sure that you don’t allow your legs/hips to lean or twist.  Work up to 12 reps per side.

Standing Pallof Press: Assume an athletic stance with your feet just outside of shoulder width, slight bend in the knees, and slightly flexed at the hips.  Execute the same movement as you would for the tall or half kneeling Pallof press. Work up to 12 reps per side.

One Leg Pallof Press: Stand on one leg with the other leg flexed at 90 degrees at the foot, knee, and hip.  Execute the Pallof press the same way as the standing Pallof press. This is a much more a balance and overall body stability drill.  Tension/resistance will need to be reduced.  Be slow and gradual with your increases in load, volume, or frequency to allow your knee time to adapt.  Work up to 12 reps per side.

PUPP with alternating arm raise:  Assume a push up position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width.  Raise one arm out in front of your body while maintaining spine and pelvic positions.  A wider feet position makes the movement more stable and easier, while a narrower foot position increases difficulty.  You can also slow the movement to increase difficulty.  Remember, top priority is no hip/spine movement before trying to increase difficulty.  Work up to 10 per side.

Landmine Anti-Rotations:  Place a barbell in a landmine and assume an athletic position.  Press the landmine away from your body and slowly make a rainbow arching pattern moving the barbell from one hip to the other.  Make sure that only your shoulder/elbow joints move, everything else stays stiff.  Work up to 10 reps per side.

Crawl: Get on your hands and knees with your toes dug into the ground.  Lift your knees slightly off the ground.  Keeping your back flat and stable, move your opposite hand and foot to crawl forward or backward.  Work up to 50 yards.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Real Core Training Part Three

Anti-Extension

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Exension

Supine Bent Knee March

Lay on your back and lift your legs off the ground with your knees and hips at 90 degree angles.  Posteriorly tilt your hips so that your low back is pressed firmly into the ground.  Slowly lower one heel to the ground keeping your knee at 90 degrees and not allowing your low back to lift off the floor.  Bring this leg back up and repeat on the other side.  Work up to 10 reps per side.

Bent Leg Dead Bug

Assume the same position as the previous exercise.  Reach your arms straight up to the ceiling.  Keep your low back pressed into the floor and straighten one leg, getting the heel as close to the ground as possible without touching.  Simultaneously reach the opposite arm overhead without quite touching the ground.

Straight Leg Dead Bug

Lay on your back with your legs and arms all reaching up toward the ceiling.  Keep your leg straight. and slowly lower it toward the ground while simultaneously reaching overhead with the opposite arm.  Don’t allow your foot or arm to rest on the ground, and keep your low back pressed into the floor.

Hollow Body Hold

Lay on your back and press your low back into the floor.  Lift your feet, shoulders, and arms off the floor, keeping your low back pressed into the floor.  Keep your feet and arms as close to the ground as possible while also keeping your low back on the ground.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Plank

Lay on your stomach and place your elbows under your shoulders.  Put your feet together and lift your hips off the ground.  Maintain neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine positions. Contract your glutes, pull your ribs down with a forceful exhalation, and try to pull your elbows toward your toes (they won’t actually move) to engage your lats.  Try to create maximum full body tension.  Hold for up to 30 seconds.

Long Lever Plank

Use the same set up and execution as the plank, except that the elbows will be farther out in front of the shoulders.  The farther forward the elbows, the harder this will be.  Work up to 30 seconds.

Body Saw

Use the set up the same as the plank only with carpet sliders under your toes.  Use your shoulders to slide yourself into the long lever position and then slide back.  Make sure you maintain spinal and pelvis positioning during the whole movement.  Work up to 12 reps.

Physioball Rollouts

Start in a tall kneeling position with a Physioball at arm’s length in front of you.  Pull your ribs down and engage your glutes.  Allow your body to fall forward by letting your hands and forearms roll up onto the ball.  Once you feel you are going to break lumbopelvic positioning, reverse the movement to get you back to your starting position.  Work up to 10 reps.

TRX Fallouts

Use the same set up as with the physioball, but use a suspension trainer instead.  Set up with straps at mid-thigh height.  Execute in the same manner.  Lower the strap starting position to increase difficulty.  Work up to 10 reps.

Ab Wheel/Dolly Rollouts

Set up on your knees with your hands on an ab wheel or dolly and place your hands directly under your shoulders.  Begin to fall forward by flexing the shoulder (overhead) and extending the hips.  Go forward as far as possible without losing spinal positioning and then reverse movement back to the start.  Make sure shoulder and hip joints extend/flex at the same speed.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

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