Foam Rolling to Perform and Feel Your Best

When you are short on time for a workout or stressed and just want to get started, foam rolling is typically the first thing to get cut from your workout. Right? This can prevent you from getting the most out of your workout and feeling your best. Watch Mike as he explains how to effectively roll before a workout.

 

If you have never foam rolled before a workout, start. If you typically skip it, don’t. Pay attention to how you feel during your workout. Let us know what you think!

Cressey Press

 

Anti-rotational movements are extremely important for not only core strength, but spine health as well. Practicing anti rotation regularly helps to defend against torque that might be put on the body. Torque is essentially any twisting motion of one part of the body against another part of the body that is trying to remain stationary. For example, if you are in your car and reach over to the passenger seat to grab something you are putting torque on the body. This can be a problem as usually this force ends up causing injuries more often than not. Anti-rotational movements can keep us stable during these times and along with proper strength training. Check out this move we learn from Eric Cressey, hence the title Cressey Press.

Level it Down!

By: Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Don’t risk it, level it down!

We love it when people come to the studio ready to work and ready to put all their effort into their training session. We love the dedication and the desire to improve. However, when that effort and dedication is combined with a lack of body awareness, lack of knowledge of form, and/or fatigue it can turn it into a bad thing. This is where form begins to fail or was never there in the first place. The moment that bad form happens, if it can’t be fixed it right away, taking a step down and moving backwards to reteach yourself a movement or lock in good form could actually allow you to get better results. No matter what we read or what we see on TV leveling down or performing a regressed version of a movement is NEVER a bad thing.

Like I mentioned, when someone works as hard as they can in a workout, form can start to go to the wayside. When this happens, it really doesn’t matter who it is that is doing the work or attempting the movement, when the body starts to fail at a movement it is time for a change. This is where forgetting your pride and adding a little bit of knowledge can come in handy. Level it down!!! Take the time to do it right and you will be SOOO much better for it. Consistently doing exercises in poor form just to pump out another rep or to protect your pride can be disastrous to your body. However, if you level down at the appropriate time you can prevent injuries and get better results. Leveling down an exercise goes so much farther than just physical aspect.

One experiment I like to do with my clients is a quick one. I’ll give you 5 seconds to think about the worst thing that happened to you in the last 48 hours, GO!!! Ok, now think about the best thing that happened to you in the last 48 hours, 5 seconds, GO!!! I have found that people can recall a bad memory faster and in more detail in 5 seconds than they can a good one. I’m not going to get all scientific, but think about that. What do you think happens when you attempt an exercise in poor form? Your brain remembers it, and it can become that much more difficult to re learn the proper version. These ‘bad reps’ are learned when we have either not learned properly or we have become fatigued during the back half of a workout.

In the same sense, doing an exercise improperly can in fact mean the difference between a quality life and painful one or a lack of results or one filled with great results. Even some of the strongest people I know lessen the weight they lift when they know it doesn’t feel right. The difference between them and the person doing that push up that looks like it may actually be killing them is the fact that they know taking a step back at that moment will allow them to go farther in the end. We are all about pushing yourself and doing your best at each training session. To us that means working your hardest while keeping good form through the entire training session.

Mandatory Monday

By: Mike Klaus RKC, FMS

MondayWhat is your opinion of Monday? It is typically seen as the worst day of the week, the day most people dread. However, there are some who see Mondays as a springboard start to a productive and successful week. No matter what your profession is, you have an option to stew in misery or make the very best out of each day and opportunity. The same is true with health and fitness. Imagine the difference in your week if you do or do not workout on Monday. Are you more likely to get more workouts in? How would you sleep that week? What about your food choices? Would your mood be better?

For the most part, gyms are full on Mondays. This is a good thing! These are people who are getting a jump start on their week. This is a practice I whole heartedly believe in. Health and fitness does not happen overnight, it is a process. The work has to be put in and like anything else, getting started is the key. There are many benefits to making your Monday workout “mandatory.” Here are my top 5 reasons why you MUST train on Monday!

  1. You are more likely to train throughout the week. After starting your week with a productive workout, odds are you will continue that trend.
  2. Sleep improves. Mondays are usually packed with tasks. Having 45 minutes to an hour in a workout where you don’t think about work or other stressors will help to ease your mind. You will also be physically tired and in need of recovery.
  3. Nutrition will more likely be a priority. It has been proven in studies that people who work out make more of an effort to eat better. Are you more likely to choose fettuccini alfredo and rolls for dinner or grilled chicken with roasted veggies and goat cheese and beet salad?
  4. Your mood improves. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel good. A morning workout can start your day off right. An evening workout can help you burn off steam. Also, in my opinion it is a great tool to help with depression or anger. Do yourself and everybody the favor of talking your aggression out on the iron!
  5. Erase a weekend that was less than optimal for your health. Did you put down a couple of cocktails? Were queso dip and chips  on the menu for dinner? Work that wild or lazy weekend off!

Make your Monday workout mandatory and set yourself up for success the rest of the week!

Stop Winking at Me

By: Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Every person that I know wants to have a glorious back side. Why? Because, they all want to look great in their favorite pair of jeans. They want to know how people like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez do it! So they search online and find the “best” articles they can on how to do the perfect squat. And what do you know, everyone starts squatting to get a little lift behind them. Here is the problem: most people either don’t squat down far enough OR they squat too far. Yes, there is such a thing as too far, especially when talking about a healthy spine. This is where we get what most fitness professionals call the ‘Butt Wink.’

No, no. Don’t be flattered. This isn’t the kind of wink that the guy or girl from across the bar gives you that makes your heart flutter. This is the kind of wink that can leave your lower back debilitated for quite some time. It occurs in your hips when you have gone past a certain range of motion in your squat. This ‘winking’ is when you drop too far into your squat and your hips tuck under causing stress on the disks in your lower spine. Doesn’t sound too fun, does it? If you answered “not at all” then you would be correct. Now the question is how do we fix it?

As we have all heard in the past, the key to fixing any issue is addressing what the problem might be. When talking about ‘Butt Wink’ there can be quite a few underlying causes, but for the sake of time, I’m going to only talk about the two most common causes. These two are tightness in the hip flexors (front of the hips) and a weak core that can’t help hold you upright. More often than not, when these two things begin to be corrected, squat form becomes better.

Now here’s how we can correct it. When hip flexors are tight, they can keep a person from being able to sit back into their squat, keep the weight in their heels, and ultimately prevent the muscles in their backside from engaging. We can remedy this by simply adding a heel lift. Squat with your heels on a pair of 10 pound plates and you will see a difference. The weights will displace your weight forward and allow you to lean back farther. It’s a simple fix. Now, you might ask, what happens when my core doesn’t turn on? Luckily, it’s another simple fix.  When your abs don’t turn on in your squat, it will have the same effect as tight hip flexors: you will lean forward. In order to get the core to engage, hold a weight in front of your body instead of behind your neck. This will not only act as a counter balance to make you sit back farther but your core will turn on as well.

Adding these two simple things to your squat can be a HUGE game changer. It can greatly increase the range of motion in your squat and allow you to get deeper without that ‘Butt Wink’. Will they keep you from ever winking again? No. Even while using these tools it is highly recommended to stand sideways to a mirror and watch your hips as you go down. If your hips tuck or ‘wink’ you have simply gone too far. My advice is to stop just before that happens. Stopping at that end range and adding these tools to your squat will keep you healthy and build that beautiful backside you’ve always wanted, or just use them to watch your squat numbers increase!

Warm It Up and Cool It Down

Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Beautiful woman doing stretching exerciseAs far back as just about anyone can remember, especially in places like your elementary school P.E. class, we have been taught to warm up before activities were done. It wasn’t long after that we started learning about something called a cool down. It is no different now than it was 15, 20, or even 30 years ago. They are absolutely essential parts of making sure that your body is ready for what you are about to put it through and then ready to recover afterwards.

 We all remember having that one teacher who made sure you stretched before the class started. A classic example would be the hurdle, or runner’s stretch. And while stretching does have its place, we have come a long way from static stretching. Nowadays we know that using dynamic movement is probably the biggest key to unlocking the body before strength training, and even cardiovascular training. If I had a dollar for every person that I’ve seen not warm up and say, “Eh, I’ll be fine,” and then ‘tweaked’ something in that workout, I would have, well, a lot more money than I do now.

One part that some people don’t understand isn’t so much the fact that you are moving your body through ranges of motion, but the fact that you are connecting your brain neurologically to the different joints, bones, and tissues involved in each movement. If your brain is asleep, especially you morning gym goers, it is imperative to make sure that you wake it up with dynamic movement patterns before you start adding large amounts of weight.

There is always one question that goes along with the whole ‘brain’ explanation. Why? The best explanation that I have is to think about when you first roll out of bed. Is the first thing you think of doing a deadlift or stretching REAL big to get your body going? I highly doubt it. If you didn’t stretch, you wouldn’t break up connective tissues that get stiff while you sleep. Same thing goes for a workout. If the first thing you think of when you get to the gym is doing heavy deadlifts and nothing else you set yourself up for failure.

The second part of this is the cool down. The same way you get your body warmed up is almost the same way you want to cool down. Taking your body through some very low intensity dynamic movements and breathing patterns is perfect for getting your heart rate down. Adding some soft tissue work to the mix can help with relaxing any muscles that feel a little tense. Possibly the most important part of the cool down is the breathing though. Again, it goes back to the brain and making sure that you are taking your body out of that heightened state in order to start the recovery period.

Not doing either of these things and rushing into and out of a workout can actually end up being a recipe for disaster. Some people think that saying you could get hurt is just a way to scare them into warming up and cooling down. These are the same people that see it as a waste of time. I’ll also bet that most of these people don’t see the results they wish they could have. Why? (There’s that question again.) When the body is in a heightened state and hasn’t been properly warmed up or cooled down, you are in this constant state of flight or flight, which leads to prolonged recovery periods, plateaus and other not so fun gym terms. Do yourself a favor, warm up before and cool down after. Your brain and body will thank you, and you may just see more and better results than you did when you weren’t doing those things.

Recovery: Fitness that Doesn’t Come from a Gym

By: Nick Lape

Time to Recover - ClockJust about every person that I meet asks me what I do for a living. After I tell them I am a trainer, they all respond with what they are currently doing at the gym. More often than not I hear something similar to, “Nick, I just started a weight training program. I work out like 5 or 6 times a week and I hit ALL my muscles every day. I love how sore I’m getting BUT, I can’t seem to lose any more weight or get any stronger. How can I change things up?” When I ask them how much water they are drinking or how many hours of sleep they are getting on average, a huge look of surprise overtakes their face. Many people fail to realize that recovery outside of the gym is just as important, if not more important than their training inside the gym.

The number one thing that seems to be over looked in a training program is the rest or recovery phases. Without these, you will hit plateaus. Fat loss will begin to slow and strength gains will stop happening. You will be stuck because your brain and body are on overload. They don’t want you to do any more. You might tell it to push harder, but at some point your body will say “No.” It will worry more about surviving in this state of overload than losing weight or building muscle. It won’t matter how much harder you push yourself at this point, your body won’t progress until it has a chance to recover. Then you will be back at square one asking someone what to change.

In all honesty, if you are looking to change something there is a good chance that it has nothing to do with the gym. It is something that I personally tell people all the time. Most of your strength and physique changes happen in your kitchen and while lying in your bed, when your internal processes are hard at work. An example of just one of these processes is the release of Human Growth Hormone that helps repair our body as we sleep. All you did with your workout is shock these systems into working more efficiently. If you aren’t getting enough sleep or your diet isn’t feeding your metabolism the way it should, you may as well just concede to your plateau. It won’t be going anywhere for a while.

Recovery, though you may not want to, could mean taking a day off or the gym and just foam rolling or breathing silently. It could also mean adding more veggies, water, and protein and taking out sugar and processed foods. Maybe it means turning off the TV an hour earlier and getting an extra hour of sleep in.  Everyone is different. Everyone will react differently to changes that they make. Plateauing is a common sign of overtraining. That means TOO MUCH training. Change things outside of the gym first and then worry about the next phase of your training.

Could Your Beer Belly Really Be Anterior Pelvic Tilt?

By: Mike Klaus ISSA, RKC, FMS,

Hi. My name is Mike, and I have an anterior pelvic tilt (APT). Most people do, but mine is excessive and has been the cause of my training plateaus and low back injuries. It also makes me look like have a gut, which is not the case. (I am right around 8% body fat.) So, if you have any of this going on then you may be suffering from APT as well.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Anterior refers to the front side of your body and ‘pelvic tilt’ referrers to the pelvis being tilted to one side. APT tilts forward, like in the image below.

Mike Anterior TiltWhile researching APT I came across a wide variation to “acceptable” degrees of APT in men and women. I have come to the conclusion that optimal range for men is between 8-12 degrees and 12-16 in women. Of course each individual is different and more or less could be beneficial. You can estimate your own tilt by putting your back against the wall and measuring the space between the small of you back and the wall. A hand is the ideal amount of space. Significantly more could be problematic.

Initially my remedy was to simply rotate my pelvis externally and tuck my rib cage. I did constant checks and after a couple of weeks did notice an improvement in my posture. However, when I did anything physical my body would default back to that awful APT.  I needed to do more than walk around in neutral. My body needed to be trained so that deficient muscles could hold up to the required resistance I would ask of it.

There are several causes for APT and they include weak hamstrings, weak abdominals, weak glutes, tight hip flexors, and tight spinal erectors. Hip flexors are a group of muscles near the pelvis that move the hip forward during walking and running. Spinal erectors are group of muscles in the back that supports the spine.

In order to fix the problem and bring the pelvic tilt back to acceptable levels you will need to make the hamstrings, deeper abdominals, and glutes stronger and stretch the spinal erectors and hip flexors. Here are a few exercises that have helped me. (Of course be sure to check with your doctor before you diagnose yourself or try to do these exercises.)

  1. American Deadlift – Focus on and over emphasize the pelvic motion using a lighter weight than your typical barbell hinge. The movement ends with the pelvis in a posterior pelvic tilt really squeezing the glutes at lock out. 2-3 sets of 10.
  1. The Posterior Pelvic Tilt Hip Thrust – This is simply a bodyweight hip thrust using the glutes and emphasizing pelvic motion. 2-3 sets of 20-25.
  1. The RKC Plank – Setting up like a normal plank, only the focus is the squeezing of the glutes to achieve PPT. 2-3 sets of 3-5 :10-15 reps.

An anterior pelvic tilt can prevent you from progressing past a certain point in your training, cause injuries, and make you look like you have a big gut. It may require you to take a step back in your training program it is totally worth it in the long run.

The Heart is a Muscle

heart health artworkBy: Nick Lape BS, HFS, FMS, IYCA, CRBC

The media and grocery store are not shy about telling you what to eat for heart health. But, what about what you should physically do to improve your heart? If you think about it in one way it can be very easy to understand. The biggest trick is realizing that the heart is a muscle. In order to make it stronger you must use it. Because, everybody all together now, if “You Don’t Use It You Lose It!”

What does this mean? I guess one example would be to say that in order to make any muscle stronger the tissue must be able to expand and then contract in on to itself. Adding speed and/or overload is where these muscle fibers begin to get stronger.

No, technically, you can’t hand your heart a dumbbell and say go, but what you can do is make it beat faster or add speed. The electronic impulses of the heart can be sped up through cardiovascular exercise (cardio = heart). Many people achieve this by running long distances and while that may work, one of the best ways that I have personally found to strengthen the heart is through short bursts of speed followed by a little rest. This allows the muscles of the heart to pump hard and then rest as if you were asking it to do one set of reps. And again, just like any other muscles, we do multiple sets of exercises. When it comes to the heart you can’t treat it any different.

We look constantly to media sources in order to see what we think our body should look like on the outside, but what about the inside? If we don’t allow the muscles of our heart to work as hard as the muscles in our arms or legs then we are missing a HUGE part of our overall health. The next time you exercise, add a little speed to kettlebell swings/snatches, sprints or any of your exercises — any of these can increase your heart rate. A simple change in your workout can increase your heart health. Let us know if you need our help!

Don’t Train Before You Do This

By: Mike Klaus ISSA, FMS, RKC and Suzanne Doerries RD, LD, FMS

What is the FMS?

ffjune-205The FMS or Functional Movement System is the screening tool used to identify limitations and/or asymmetries in seven fundamental movement patterns crucial to everyday living. These are movements that not only allow you to train to your full potential, but ones that you do every day. Whether you are walking, carrying your child, moving equipment, gardening, getting up and down off the ground, or going up stairs, you are using at least one of the seven fundamental movements. The FMS shows us if there are any weak links in those movement patterns. It allows us to see how well your body is able to perform basic motor and stabilizing movements. It does this by placing you in positions where weaknesses and imbalances become noticeable if appropriate mobility and motor control is not utilized.

Can you fail the FMS?

No, the FMS is simply a screening tool that allows us to see how your body moves. It helps us to give you the best training possible. We re-screen our members every two to three months to see how their movements have changed. This allows us to make sure your training is current and relevant.

Why screen our clients?

Would you go to an eye doctor that didn’t test your vision before handing you a pair of glasses? Probably not. When you decide you want to start an exercise program, get over a plateau, or set personal records, it is crucial that you are doing movements/exercises that are helping your body, not hurting it. If you don’t have a solid movement foundation you will not be able to reach your full potential. Just like a crack in the foundation of a house, a crack in your movement foundation can cause problems. After we screen you we will know if there are any “cracks,” or exercises that will cause you more harm than good. We will also be able to give you exercises to help improve those movements. When we re-screen you we will hopefully find that those cracks have been repaired and you no longer have issues with that movement. It doesn’t matter if you choose semi-private or group training, every person who walks through our doors will be screened and get an exercise program that is fitted for them.