Archive for March, 2012

If his transverse abdominus doesn't activate quickly enough when catching this punt, he could end up with some major low back pain

Building a strong core is important because the core has to stabilize the spine.  If the spine isn’t supported, then we are extremely limited in what movements we can do.  Just ask anybody with low back pain.

A strong core largely comes from motor control.  A lot of people who have low back pain have a dysfunctional transverse abdominus (TA).  The TA is extremely important to spinal stabilization because it acts like your body’s own weight belt.  Often, the problems of low back pain result from the TA taking too long to activate.  In a normal person, the TA should activate first to stabilize the spine before any type of movement is initiated.  In a lot of people with low back pain, their other muscles will react first and the TA will activate too late to protect the spine.  As a result, your spine won’t have the stability that it needs, and you will get hurt. Continue reading

How to Train Leg Power

I’ve done a lot of box jumps over this last year, and I got to the point where I had to only do them single-legged because there is no way for me to stack up enough Reebok steps and 45lb plates to get the stack high enough for two-legged jumps at my gym.  I stacked them up until they were the height of my navel and was able to land on top.

Looking back, that might not have been the best idea, and I almost hurt myself doing the single-legged box jumps at my gym yesterday.  Thankfully when I tripped on the plate, I didn’t hurt my toe or foot.  My only injury was a little bruising on my right ring finger from catching myself.  Really, that particular fall was no big deal.  The problem would come if I wrote a book and a bunch of people started doing box jumps and started getting hurt.  Although part of the problem was that I had a less stable platform to jump onto because I had less Reebok blocks to work with (curse you, aerobics room), I’ve figured out that I need to have a safer approach to train single-legged power. Continue reading






I’ve been approached by people trying to sell me protein powders at the gym a couple times.  This is all well and good as long as they realize that a protein powder is almost entirely just like any other protein.  Yes, there are proteins that are digested faster than others, and that may be helpful for post-workout nutrition.  But what’s really the difference between the “Ultra Pump-You-Up Xtreme Freak!” protein powder and a chicken breast?  Well, very little.

Here’s a quick chemistry lesson straight from my college General Nutrition and Sports Nutrition textbooks. Continue reading

Exercises to Prevent Falls

Earlier, I wrote an article called Exercise for Older Adults 101.  In it, I talked about the importance of single-legged stability/balance.  I found this today and had to share it for the sake of my grandparents.  I love you guys.


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Never Give In

“Never give in.  Never.  Never.  Never.  In nothing great or small, large or petty.  Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.  Never yield to force.  Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” – Winston Churchill

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How To Beat Lower Back Pain

Regardless of who you are, you probably know someone with lower back pain.  While the causes are numerous, one of the major contributors is a weak core.  This is something I’ve learned the hard way myself.  I’ve had minor lower back pain from heavy lifting, and I watched my best friend end up with a permanent injury from a herniated disc.  Thankfully, although he can’t do some exercises, he can still fully function in everyday life because he has been training his core strength.

Keep in mind that what I’m about to say is only an exercise science perspective.  I’m not in a position to prescribe exercise for someone with a serious injury.  If you have a serious injury, call your physical therapist.  I am, however, in a position to tell you how to make your core strong so that you can prevent future or alleviate current non-specific lower back pain. Continue reading

In the fitness realm, a lot of people ask about exercises and programs, but the question most people are curious about is diet.  I’m sorry to say that a lot of the fad diets out there don’t really work and most are just out to get your money.  When giving nutrition advice, I like to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables.  Think of the colors of the food.  The colors of the food are the paints in which you are painting your life. Continue reading

BOSU Responsibly

This is something I try to remain respectful of largely due to the extreme popularity of BOSU balls.  For whatever reason, it seems like most personal trainers have a love affair with this workout tool.  Today, I watched a trainer have his sixty year old clients jump from one BOSU ball to another that was about four feet away.  Seems like a good way to permanently injure someone to me.  My framework of thought makes me want to avoid them because they don’t train normal human movement.

BOSU balls are designed to be used for increasing joint stability, proprioception, and largely core stability.  So, that is their purpose.  No more and no less.  The problem comes when people start using them excessively or in dangerous manners. Continue reading

Meet America’s Strongest Man

Strongman competitor Derek Poundstone has been one of my favorite athletes to read about and watch videos of.  Although he’s enormous, he has a really down to earth personality.  Also, it’s fun to listen to him because he has thoroughly studied the sport of strongman.  If nothing else, checking out a couple of his videos should provide some entertainment by looking inside the life of a real-life giant.

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Since I’ve started running again, I’ve had to re-read my textbooks about the concept of Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation (OBLA).  Essentially, OBLA is the point at which your body shifts from burning primarily fat to burning primarily carbohydrate.  The significance of this is that when your body has to burn a lot of carbohydrates, it gets overwhelmed and fatigued.  However, if you’re able to keep your body in fat-burning mode, you are able to keep your body from fatigue.  This is because when the body burns fat, it’s a fairly sustainable process.  The body can do it for a long time.  However, whenever the body shifts to burning carbohydrates at a high rate, it eventually builds up a byproduct called lactate.  When your muscles can’t get rid of lactate fast enough, it builds up in the blood and creates fatigue.

OBLA occurs at different levels of exertion for each person.  A sedentary person can typically only get up to about 55% of their maximal exertion before it sets in and starts fatiguing them.  However, a trained athlete can get up to around 85% of their maximal exertion before OBLA sets in.  Obviously, it’s advantageous for any runner to know how to delay their OBLA response in order to maximize their performance. Continue reading

Look Strong By Being Strong

So far, our articles have typically focused on getting women into the free weights section of the gym.  While those articles are definitely needed, this one is for the Generation Y (16-29) guys who have figured out that they need to lift, but they aren’t getting the results they’re looking for.  The good news is that there is a solution.  The bad news is that it’s hard.

After about ten years of trying every type of workout I could find through books and the internet, I’ve found one major principle that has worked every time I have tested it.  That principle is that if you become strong and powerful, your body will look strong and powerful.  You really don’t have to look much farther than natural bodybuilders, olympic sprinters, and strongman competitors.  They are all very strong individuals, and their bodies merely display that attribute. Continue reading

Maine Hiking

The concept of functional exercise came from a bunch of exercise physiologists and physical therapists who noticed the obvious.  They noticed that doing leg extensions in a machine didn’t help their patients walk again.  They noticed that a lot of what we do today in gyms doesn’t really help the body function in its natural environment and therefore doesn’t really help us much other than by gaining muscle mass.  There’s nothing wrong with gaining muscle mass, but if that’s all you do then your training is incomplete.

For my own story, I got to a point where I was deadlifting over 450lbs and only had about 8% bodyfat.  But when I went to play some recreational soccer, I found out that I couldn’t change direction well at all.  I was slow and uncoordinated.  This confused me because I was the strongest I had ever been.  Strength in the gym automatically means strength in real life, right? Continue reading

Well, I’m finally getting back into traditional cardiovascular training again.  Before, I had just been focused on extremely short, extremely intense conditioning.  So, I’d do something like thirty burpee pullups.  I do several different exercises like that, and they all take around three minutes.  I largely did them to avoid running.  Without any type of cardio, my resting heart rate can get up to around 70 beats per minute.  With running, I’ve gotten it down to around 48.  With just my current three to four minute bursts of activity, I’ve gotten it down to 55.  Since Lisa worries about me when it’s above 60, I’m happy that my little three-minute conditioning sessions get me to 55.  Ha.

But now I’m in a position where I’m starting to get back into running shape for the sake of aerobic endurance rather than simply to keep my resting heart rate low.  I’m writing about physical training for the military, and in order to write it I want to be currently going through what I’m going to ask them to go through.  That means being able to run two miles quickly. Continue reading

Exercise for Older Adults 101

Lisa and I have been talking about our grandparents quite a bit recently, and I’ve been researching some about current training methods for older adults.  I’m not sure why, but the current methods that I’ve seen so far haven’t been focused on the best activities for maintaining independence.

Before we can set up any kind of exercise program for a person (regardless of age), we have to look at what activities that person is training for.  For older adults, most of them want to be sure to maintain their independence.  So, if we think about the activities that entails, they want to be able to get their mail, walk around the mall, do their own laundry, get into a car easily, put up their groceries, etc.  While all of us need to be able to do these activities, our retired friends are typically the ones who acknowledge the importance of being able to perform activities of daily living. Continue reading