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Training For Less Fat, More Muscle

How To Induce A Growth Hormone Response

Human growth hormone (hGH) has been a newsmaker because of athletes’ illicit use of synthetic versions of this hormone to help them perform better on the baseball diamond, football field, or bicycle race.  Bodybuilders inject synthetic hGH to help sink bodyfat levels to single digits, all the while maintaining optimal muscle mass. The last ten years of exercise science has shown what type of fitness activities induce the greatest natural growth hormone response.  Specific exercise and recovery activities have a positive effect on our body’s daily hGH production.

Human growth hormone (hGH) is secreted in a pulsatile fashion throughout the day.  A number of physiological stimuli can initiate hGH release, the most powerful of which are sleep and exercise.  Human growth hormone has many varied roles throughout your life.  For adult athletes and fitness clients, hGH helps increase fat metabolism–you get leaner, enhance muscle recovery from challenging exercise or injury, you stay stronger, and produce a healthier body composition as you age.

Resistance Training

Resistance training produces a significant exercise-induced growth hormone response (EIGR) that can last for 24 to 36 hours.  The response is greatest with full body training sessions that involve multi joint lifts and carries.  EIGR is not limited to traditional barbell or dumbbell training, but is also produced with the performance of bodyweight resistance training.  The post training hGH response gets better as the trainees became more proficient (gets stronger) with strength training.

Anaerobic Exercise

The exact mechanism that causes EIGR with anaerobic exercise is not known, but it appears to be related to higher lactic acid levels in the blood.  The activities that produce the greatest EIGR are high intensity exercise intervals lasting at least 30 seconds.  The researchers’ current recommendations for optimal EIGR are six to eight 30 second intervals of high intensity activity.  Bicycle sprints have been the most commonly used exercise modality in research studies, but other activities can be used as long as your joints and muscles can tolerate the stress.  Treadmill, stairclimber, rower, as well as track sprints and hill runs are good interval training choices.


Human growth hormone is released in response to our natural circadian rhythms.  If your sleep-wake cycle is disturbed, the cyclical release of hGH is blunted.  Maintaining good sleep hygiene is important for optimal hGH production.  Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol before retiring to sleep.   Falling asleep and waking at consistent times creates more consistent hGH blood levels.  Just a few nights of interrupted or decreased sleep duration have been shown to reduce fat metabolism, slow muscle recovery, reduce insulin sensitivity, and decrease hGH levels.

Natural HGH Production Activity

Inducing optimal human growth hormone production is easy:  Get adequate and consistent sleep.  Every week, perform two or three high intensity interval style training sessions for six to eight sets of 30 seconds duration.  Two or three times a week perform a full body strength training program made up of full body multi joint exercises.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Less Is More

Understanding The Requirements Of Rest

The weight room at my high school was small and had only basic equipment.  It consisted of two Olympic weight sets, some mismatched dumbbells, a squat rack, and a chin up bar.  In the gym, we had a pegboard and a rope for climbing.  No bench press, curl bar, or pulldown machine.  It was the ultimate blessing in disguise.  We did not have the temptation of exercise variety for variety’s sake.  What we did have was solid instruction on basic lifts.  We performed the same exercises repeatedly and became more proficient at squats, hang cleans, overhead presses, and pull ups.  Four simple activities performed consistently with an effort to add weight to the bar on a regular basis.  The results were magic.

The television fitness gurus have brought forth the latest craze of “muscle confusion”.  You change your exercise activity often in an attempt to stimulate a greater adaptation response.  The problem is that you never get the chance to practice the exercise long enough or with enough resistance to get stronger.  Getting stronger is the performance parameter that preserves muscle mass, speeds up your metabolism, and makes you more durable–less likely to get hurt.

I never want any of my muscles, nerves, joints, or any other part of my body to be “confused” when training.  I want the bodies of the athletes I train to perform better at every session.  My suggestion is that you pick five or six exercises and set a goal of getting better at each of them over the next six months.  The exercises you chose do not have to be a barbell or dumbbell exercise.  Bodyweight exercises will work just as well and are a better choice for most fitness clients.  Keep a record of your performance and work on improving the number of inverted rows, pull ups, or push ups you can perform.  Single leg strength training is a good choice for nearly everyone and works wonders for athletes. Athletes should choose exercises that not only improve strength, but also mobility—front squats.  Long term dedication to the mastery of an exercise will reward you with better body composition, enhanced mobility, less pain, and the strength you need to perform in athletics and daily activities.

This training approach requires mental toughness and a willingness to at times be bored.  Toughen up and get after the challenge.  Read this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “We Need To Relax Like Roger Federer”.   Better yet, go out and buy the book Starting Strength.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

That Office Chair Can Be Keeping You From Your Fat Loss Goal

the-new-york-timesFor many years, I have been preaching about the negative impact prolonged sitting has on our metabolic health and musculoskeletal system.  All the research has demonstrated that adaptive shortening of connective tissues and weakening of muscles occurs with as little as two days of prolonged sitting.  New studies of daily movement patterns demonstrate that sitting has an even more severe impact on our ability to metabolize body fat.  Take the time to read the article “Keep It Moving” by Gretchen Reynolds in the December 9, 2016 issue of the New York Times.

Once again, the answer is to get up off the Aeron, Barcalounger, La-Z-Boy, or setee and move around.  Every twenty minutes, stand upright and defy gravity with some good old fashioned ambulation.  Do not exercise in a seated position–train in a standing position.  More and more we are learning that consistent daily movement is an essential element of human health.

Read the NY Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/09/well/move/keep-it-moving.html

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS


Fitness Freedom For All


This election marathon drones on, and neither of our present candidates has expressed an interest in the health or fitness of the average American citizen.  “Making Americans Strong Again” is the slogan of my candidacy and this is my platform.  All of these programs would cut the costs of health care, battle the obesity epidemic, and more equitably share the fitness wealth.

Triple the tax on all tobacco products.  Nicotine is the most addictive chemical on the planet and it produces a tremendous burden on the American health care system.  Use the tobacco tax dollars and the health care savings achieved with a reduction in the number of addicts to pay for all aspects of my program.  Currently 19% of the USA population admits to smoking and conservative estimates are that tobacco users add another 210 billion dollars a year to our health care costs.

Outlaw every aspect of tobacco advertising–no exceptions.  Tobacco is a horror that should have been dealt with years ago.  Spend some time with a patient afflicted with esophageal, tonsil, tongue, or oral cancer and you will understand.

I thank Dr. John Ratey the author of the 2008 book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain for the Brain Function Equation.

Consistent Exercise + Healthy Metabolism = Better Mental Function

More of the brain is devoted to movement than language.  If we wish to fully develop our intellectual capacity, we need to work on maintaining optimal “physical literacy”.  Dr. Ratey has documented how school programs use consistent exercise to produce better test scores in all academic subjects.

The healthy metabolism portion of the above equation is driven by nutrition.  Ask any coach who has worked on body composition goals with fitness clients and they will tell you that meal preparation is a lost art.  Cooking classes, instruction on portion size, and how to use an appliance other than a microwave would go a long way to improve the average American’s health.

The government should support the participation of its citizens, young and old, in health promoting activities.  The school systems are too stressed with the demands of teaching standardized math, science, and the latest version of history.  Americans should be given a tax incentive or vouchers toward instructional classes and training programs that are supplied by private businesses.  As physical literacy improves and the average citizen’s metabolism becomes healthier, perhaps we will become capable of picking better candidates.

America’s military readiness is impacted by the physical weakness of our citizens.  It is estimated that only one in four Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 meet the requirements for service.  The big barriers are obesity and fitness related health concerns such as hypertension and diabetes.  The US Army and Navy scaled back the physical performance requirements and are still unable to find soldiers that can pass the new standards.  As a nation, we need to address the profound loss of fitness in our youth.

Allow all Americans to fully deduct the cost of gym memberships for themselves and their families.  Permit businesses to fully deduct the cost of memberships for their workers.  We know citizens that exercise stay healthier, require less medical care, and place less fiscal stress on the American health care system.  Gym attendance makes health care in America more “affordable” by keeping citizens fit.  The government should reward the good behavior of the citizens attempting to take care of their health.

Our elected officials in Washington are provided with access to fitness facilities and trainers.  Separate facilities for the House and Senate complete with pools, basketball courts, saunas, and steam rooms are provided for past and present politically elected officials.  Our Senators and Representatives utilize state of the art fitness centers and their constituents (you and me) subsidize the payment for these facilities and services.  Our political leaders value fitness and have deemed it a necessary occupational benefit.  Let them help their fellow countrymen share in the benefits of fitness.

The technology exists that will turn off a mobile phone if it is moving in a car.  Please read the recent article in the New York Times* by Matt Richtel.  As your new president, this app would be beamed into every automobile.  The most dangerous thing an average American does in their day is climb into a car.  Mobile phones have made automobile travel much more dangerous.  For many people, the mobile phone is an impulsive addiction they are unable to control.  We will never get compliance without blocking the device.

I know, I am a technophobe, social media hater, and an old geezer who is just now using e-mail.  What I do hate is the driver who kills or injures a fellow American because they are distracted by the twitterverse.  Blocking the mobile phone while traveling in a car may have the unintended consequence of restoring the lost art of conversation–you remember talking, don’t you?  While cruising along on this brief bit of magic we call life, you do not want the final sound you hear to be the beep or ring from your cell phone.

There are many professions in which a person’s physical fitness is directly related to job performance.  Fire fighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and construction workers all have physically demanding jobs that require a higher level of strength and mobility.  It seems logical that maintaining a strong, well functioning body would be an occupational expense not dissimilar to many of the other permissible tax deductions currently available to business.  A yearly fitness voucher for these professionals would decrease the cost of worker’s compensation, improve job performance, and enhance productivity.  These vouchers could be used to hire fitness professionals or pay for gym memberships and fitness programs.

A “shovel ready” project that requires little in the way of engineering and creates ongoing health benefit is bicycle path construction.  A bicycle path keeps riders and runners a safe distance from cars and encourages a fitness activity that is also very “eco friendly”.  Most European countries have invested heavily in this infrastructure, and the use of bicycles is far more prevalent in areas that have developed a bicycle path system.  I propose a USA Pathway Project that would create jobs, make Americans healthier, improve bicycle rider /pedestrian safety, and reduce our carbon footprint.

Many Americans live in what I call “fitness deserts”.  There is no safe place to walk, no park, no gym, and no recreational facilities.  I was fortunate to grow up in a town that had a city run summer recreation program.  We had access to basketball courts, tennis courts, and playgrounds with swings, monkey bars, and slides.  Elect me your next president and construction would begin on day one.

If exercise could be packaged as a prescription pill, it would be the most widely utilized medication in the history of health care.  Doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants counsel their patients that they need to exercise, but they are unable to provide the type of instruction and support the patient needs to be successful.  Our health insurance companies face mandates for medical coverage of many diseases and illnesses that would be reduced or alleviated with consistent exercise.  Insurance companies should have to pay for the medically prescribed exercise programs as part of our new “mandatory health care coverage”.

The elected representatives that have given us mandatory health insurance coverage should have to live with the same plans now available to the average American citizen.  Let them enroll in the programs available in the states they represent.  Let them pay yearly 15 – 25% increases in premiums.  Let them carry a $4000 – $8000 deductible for each member of their family.  Let the Congressman and Senators families wait for a pre- approval of diagnostic tests and specialists.  Instead, they are provided with a lifetime of the finest medical coverage while the citizens they represent must figure out how to manage shrinking benefits and rising costs.  This simple piece of legislation would greatly improve the level of attention given to the quality of health care coverage in this country

I have been sharing these ideas with politicians for years but have never gotten any response.  They are probably very busy working out at the gym.

*The New York Times, “Phone Makers Could Cut Off Drivers. So Why Don’t They?” by Matt Richtel, September 24, 2016. View the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/25/technology/phone-makers-could-cut-off-drivers-so-why-dont-they.html?_r=0

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

In a recent article on interval training, I mentioned my preference for “Crash Free” training modalities. Since that article, I have gotten several requests for more information on training methods that produce an optimal metabolic response with limited biomechanical wear and tear. The long-term goal of any fitness program should be to enhance movement and keep you in the fitness game for a lifetime. Training should never accelerate joint breakdown or destroy your ability to move. Take the time to read the May 16, 2016 Wall Street Journal article by Allan Ripp, “The Accidental Running Guru.” These are my top five Crash Free Cardio choices.

Continue reading

The holidays can be a very busy and stressful time.  We are consumed by travel, shopping, family, and eating which makes it difficult to maintain our usual exercise routine (if we had one to begin with). The combination of less activity, unlimited supply of high fat, high sugar, calorie dense foods, accompanied by higher stress levels is a recipe for weight gain.  While you can’t out exercise the kids’ Halloween candy or a pumpkin pie, extra energy expenditure in the form of intense exercise will help minimize the damage.  This exercise series will focus on ramping up your metabolism by incorporating time efficient workouts that use multiple muscle groups (the more used, the more calories burned) and keep you moving.

Try this last 20 minute workout on for size to help those pants fit this holiday season:

Butts and Guts

This workout is another simple one requiring only your body and 1 kettlebell (KB). Just like our Push/Pull/Jump workout in this series, we will use a timer. Pick a KB weight that 20 swings with will be very challenging. The two exercises are the KB Swing and  the Plank Jack. These two exercises compliment each other very well. While KB Swings work the grip, hamstrings, glutes, and entire back, Plank Jacks work the anterior core, hip flexors, triceps, and shoulders. This workout will run 15 minutes long. On the minute, for the entire 15 minutes, you will perform the prescribed reps of Plank Jacks and KB Swings. Whatever time is left for that minute will be used for recovery.

Advanced: 15 swings, 20 Plank Jacks on the minute for 15 minutes

Intermediate: 10 swings, 15 Plank Jacks on the minute for 15 minutes.

Novice: 10 swings, 10 Plank Jacks on the minute for 15 minutes

Click on the link below to see video demonstration of the Butts and Guts workout:

-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS, Pn1

Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove are the authors of the very successful New Rules of Lifting series. Their latest release is STRONG: Nine Workout Programs for Women to BURN FAT, BOOST METABOLISM, and BUILD STRENGTH FOR LIFE. They have targeted the audience that will benefit the most from consistent strength training.9781583335758

Every woman should read Part 1: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why We’re So Confused. The authors dispel the myths that keep many people from reaching their fitness goals. Over the last fifteen years our understanding of fat loss, metabolism, strength training, and successful aging has grown substantially. If we are going to make good fitness decisions we need this information.

We all have limited time to exercise so choosing activities that produce the most benefit for the time we invest in training is important. Alwyn and Lou guide us through the drills and movements that produce the most benefit. The equipment you need is minimal but you may need some coaching on proper performance. You will not see any yoga, machine training, elliptical riding, BOSU bouncing, or recumbent biking—so be prepared.

Most overweight people are not so much over fat as they are under muscled. The simplistic notion of “just losing weight” fails to improve health and fitness because it accelerates muscle loss. This muscle loss is the catalyst for many of the illnesses that plague us later in life.

Give STRONG a read and then get to the gym.   Please, do not read this book while walking on the treadmill.

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

The holidays can be a very busy and stressful time. We are consumed by travel, shopping, family, and eating which makes it difficult to maintain our usual exercise routine (if we had one to begin with). The combination of less activity, unlimited supply of high fat, high sugar, calorie dense foods, accompanied by higher stress levels is a recipe for weight gain. While you can’t out exercise the kids’ Halloween candy or a pumpkin pie, extra energy expenditure in the form of intense exercise will help minimize the damage. This exercise series will focus on ramping up your metabolism by incorporating time efficient workouts that use multiple muscle groups (the more used, the more calories burned) and keep you moving.

Try this 20 minute workout on for size to help those pants fit this holiday season:


Stepping OH Medicine Ball Throws 10 reps

Lunge Step Throws 10/side

Rotational Medicine Ball Throws 10/side

Run through this circuit 5-8 times based on your fitness level. Try to complete it as fast as possible, with no more than 2 minutes rest between each round. You can add weight to your lunges, to make it more challenging. Make sure to focus on throwing the ball as fast as possible on your MB throws to get the most out of them.

To view video demonstration of Throw/Lunge/Throw, click on the link below:

-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS, Pn1

Join us, Thanksgiving morning, for a festive, glycogen depleting training session that will elevate your heart rate, boost human growth factor, and ready your muscles for an avalanche of toasted turkey tryptophan. This workout session is designed to empower your metabolism to handle any and all Thanksgiving Day feasts. Be ready for 90 minutes of appetite enhancing exercise—8 am Thanksgiving morning. See you there!

Be Strong. Be Fit. Be Together.



The holidays can be a very busy and stressful time. We are consumed by travel, shopping, family, and eating which makes it difficult to maintain our usual exercise routine (if we had one to begin with). The combination of less activity, unlimited supply of high fat, high sugar, calorie dense foods, accompanied by higher stress levels is a recipe for weight gain. While you can’t out exercise the kids’ Halloween candy or a pumpkin pie, extra energy expenditure in the form of intense exercise will help minimize the damage. This exercise series will focus on ramping up your metabolism by incorporating time efficient workouts that use multiple muscle groups (the more used, the more calories burned) and keep you moving.

Try this 20 minute workout on for size to help those pants fit this holiday season:


Push ups (Handstand, traditional, or on bar) 7 reps

Pull ups OR Rows (can be inverted) 7 reps

Squat Jumps 7 reps

Perform the Push/Pull/Jump circuit on the minute for 10-20 minutes depending on your fitness level. At the start of every minute, you will perform this circuit. Whatever time is left over will be used for recovery. This gives you an incentive to finish quickly so you get more recovery time. Keep in mind that the fatigue will be cumulative so, if it doesn’t feel too hard at first, just wait. By the end, you will have performed 70-140 reps of each exercise with a total of 210-420 total reps.

To view video demonstration of the push/pull/jump circuit, click on the link below:

-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS, Pn1