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
That pain in your arm or hand could be coming from somewhere else. Read Mike O’Hara’s article, Changing Locations to find out more. Jeff Tirrell gives nutrition tips and Mike discusses the benefits of using an agility ladder.
Stay independent longer by increasing your stair climbing capacity. Mike O’Hara shows you how in his article, “Keep Climbing”. Mike also discusses standing desks and the many benefits of standing while working. Jeff Tirrell explains the effect of exercise on appetite.
Our June issue brings information on preventing neck pain by strengthening your neck. Mike O’Hara describes and demonstrates in a video exercises that will help strengthen the muscles of your neck. In another article, Mike tells how grip strength can be a predictor of early death in some patients. Be sure to read Jeff Tirrell’s article on performance based training.
Movement You Should Master
Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer. Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body. An exercise that I have found to be efficient and effective is a Weighted Carry.
Very few things are more functional than a carry. You’d be hard pressed to get through daily life without having to carry something at least a few times per week. While basic, a carry is an efficient and effective full body exercise. Depending on the carry you choose, the load is virtually limitless. Performed for time or distance, carries will always improve gait and core stability. Depending on which version you use, they can also be an effective tool for improving shoulder mobility/stability, grip strength, balance, and overall awesomeness. Watch the video and give it try: https://youtu.be/PaP4-IlVAOA
Coach Chad demonstrates my top four carry picks:
1) Farmers Walk (gait, core stability, grip strength, upper back, legs)
2) Suitcase Carry (gait, core anti-lateral flexion, grip, upper back, balance)
3) Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder stability, balance)
4) Double Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder mobility, shoulder stability, balance)
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1
Grip, Rip, And Lift
An Introduction To Sandbag Training
Every training tool in the gym is solid and fixed. Kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbell implements are symmetrical, balanced, and have handles that make for efficient maneuvering of the load. In life and athletics, the forces you face are asymmetrical and come at you from all directions. No convenient handles are attached to your opponent, bag of groceries, grandchild, or grandma. Fitness activities that carry over to real life are what you need in your gym programming. Sandbag training meets all of these needs.
Farm Boy Strong
An implement that is unstable in your hands is more valuable than an implement that is unstable under your feet. Sandbags are inherently floppy–the load moves as you maneuver the bag through space. This requires coordinated recruitment of the core, shoulder, and pelvic girdle stabilizers. Central nervous system (brain) neural recruitment also increases as more muscular coordination and co-contraction is brought into play. Lifting, carrying, and gripping a sandbag is the same type of training that makes the farm boy strong.
Gripping a sandbag works all of the muscles of the forearms and hands. In real life, you must be able to maintain a strong grip in order to express any of the strength you have gained in the gym. Research has linked grip strength to longevity.
All Angles Are Covered
Josh Henkin has created a superior product called the Ultimate Sandbag. These modern sandbags come in a variety of sizes and have a durable vinyl covering. The shape of the bags and the multiple handles enable movement of the bag through all planes of motion. Unilateral and triplanar loading are what happen in the real world.
Be A Better Shock Absorber
In life and athletics, the ability to absorb an impact and remain upright, stable, and uninjured is crucial. Sandbags are much softer than any other implement in the gym. When they impact your body, they do not produce pain or tissue trauma, but your body feels the force as it travels to the ground. Sandbag shouldering, cleans, and snatches are just some of the drills that require you become more efficient at absorbing an impact.
Starting With Sandbag Activities
Start with one or two exercises and work on perfecting your technique. Sandbags work well for metabolic complexes–you perform multiple exercises in a row without putting the bag down. Watch the attached video for some examples of my favorite sandbag training exercises.
At Fenton Fitness we have 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 85 pound sandbags. Start with an easy weight and work your way up. See the video for demonstration of Sandbag Training.
Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS