Archive for the ‘Exercise 101’ category

Weight loss vs Fat loss; is there a difference?

April 30th, 2014

Is there a difference between losing weight vs losing fat? And the answer is unequivocally and emphatic YES!!!
Most women and a few men who want to lose weight are interested in being smaller, meaning they want to fit into smaller size clothing; be this a work suit, evening wear or weekend outfit.
First we have to distinguish between weight vs fat loss. Weight loss is when we step on the scale and see a change in our OVERALL weight. Fat loss is when we lose fat while retaining or even increasing our muscle SIZE or DENSITY. This is known as the muscle to fat ratio. Btw; muscle size refers to an increase in circumference or measurement. Muscle density refers to thickness of the muscle from within. Here is an overview as to how many reps to “build” muscle.
1-3 reps – Pure strength & definition
4-6 reps – Mostly strength & definition with little gains in size
7-10 reps – Mostly size with little gains in strength & density
11-15 reps – Pure size
Therefore you have to determine your goals and objective. Look at those numbers listed; what is it exactly you want to achieve?
If you are orthopedically healthy, then there is a vast array of exercises you can pick from. If not, then choose wisely and you can still exercise at a high level.
Remember this: when it comes to your anaerobic workout, YOU NEED TO PICK A RESISTANCE OR WEIGHT THAT IS APPROPRIATE FOR THE AMOUNT OF REPS YOU WILL BE PERFORMING. In other words pick a resistance or weight that will be challenging enough to complete your reps in GOOD FORM.
As far as your aerobic or cardio phase, make it challenging, 20-30 mins/2-3 days per week. If at all possible, take it outside; run backwards, sideways from both sides, skip, use uneven terrain, preferably in a hiking type trail, etc. This way of training will allow you to work in not only a saggital plane (front and back) but frontal (sideways) as well. And by running backwards, you will stress the posterior chain as well.
Lastly, proper nutrition will allow you to achieve your goals quickly and safely.
Let me know how you make out.

Exercise Intensity: can it be manipulated?

March 22nd, 2014

The answer as whether exercise intensity could be manipulated is a resounding YES!!! There are several ways to do this and each has its own benefits. The overload principle is to exercise with ever increasing resistance, be it free weights, plate loading or selectorize machines, or even calisthenics using only your bodyweight. Also varying the sets and reps. But first; why do we need to intensify our intensity? Why not keep it the same? Our bodies are very efficient. It adapts to an exercise regimen very quickly. If we do not give it a reason to change and improve, it will not. It is also the same reason we should eat a variety of food from the different food groups; to get the most out of each and stay balanced.
Lets define resistance, sets and repetitions. Resistance is that which operates opposite the direction of motion of a body and tends to prevent or slow down the body’s motion; in this case an exercise piece of equipment or our own body. A set encompasses a series of repetitions (reps) Generally 1-6 are done by powerlifters, 8-20, done by fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders, or 20 plus done by extreme sports athletes for endurance. Most fall under the second category.
Having written the above, let me now state that exercise intensity is more important than the amount of sets and reps. If you do all the sets and reps with insufficient resistance, then your progress will come to a complete standstill. (interesting note: research shows there is no difference in doing 1, 2 or 4 sets per exercise when it comes to “strength gains” as long as the last rep or two are challenging) As a general rule, heavier resistance, lower reps; lighter resistance, higher reps. A track & field example would be the 100 or 200 meter sprinter vs a marathon runner. In the former, the athlete runs extremely fast, covering the distance in the shortest time possible. In the latter, the opposite occurs. The athlete needs to pace him/herself in order to conserve energy for the finish. Now observe the muscle mass of each. The sprinter is quite muscular because of the high degree of forceful muscular contraction. The distance runner is sinewy, muscles contracting rhythmically, but with much less force.
So again, you need to ask yourself, “what is it I want to achieve?” In my previous article, I stated a good rule to remember is do no more than 24 total sets and/or no more than 60-70 mins of total training. Remember this training rule: workout intensely, briefly, then leave the gym. Don’t let your training rule your life. I had a female client who exercised ONCE A WEEK with me for 8 months with incredible results. I encouraged her to exercise twice a week, and her gains were even more spectacular. Am I advocating brief workouts? No but what I am saying is we need to find what works best for us.
What about the speed of each rep? Arthur Jones, inventor of the Nautilus exercise equipment, believed in 1 set of 12 reps done in a cadence of 4 secs down, eccentric or negative, contraction, 2 secs up, concentric or positive, contraction. This he said would reduce the “momentum” factor. Dr. Ralph Carpinelli, prof at Adelphi University human performance lab in Garden City, NY, in the mid 90′s was advocating a 1 set, 8 secs up, 8 secs down, for 12 reps! I ran into him years later and ask him if he was still teaching this, he said no…now he teaches 1 set 10 secs up, 10 secs down! OUCH!! Told him he was SICK!! Both of us and our wives had a good laugh.
Bottom line; we need to:
1) work out with ever increasing intensity
2) vary the intensity from low, to med, to high
3) vary the sets and reps
4) vary the speed of the reps
5) vary the speed of the workout itself
6) vary the exercises
All of this varying will result in challenging workouts and steady progress.

Exercise Intensity: what is it?

March 19th, 2014

Exercise Intensity is defined as “how hard you are working during a given workout” or “how much energy is being expended during a given workout” In this post, I am going to concentrate resistance training. In a later post I will cover intensity as it relates to aerobic training.
As I was finishing my leg workout, literally 15 mins ago, I had all this these thoughts running thru my head; what is intensity? What is the best way to manipulate it?, etc. As you have already read, how hard you are training will dictate caloric expenditure.
Lets say you are thin (male/female, little difference) and your goal is to be more muscular, then your training regimen should reflect this. Your rep range will fall between 8-12 for your smaller body parts; chest, back, arms, shoulders, and between 12-15 for the larger ones; legs, butt. And you will do between 3-4 sets. There are authorities or exercise gurus who recommend either very high sets, up to 30 per exercise! or one set per exercise. Both are extreme. If you choose very high sets, be prepare to spend several hours in the gym. If you choose one set per exercise, you time in the gym will be very low, perhaps as little as 15 mins, however be prepared to work extremely hard on those few sets. Marathon vs very brief but intense workout. I have done both and if I had to choose would prefer the later, intense but brief. Both are taxing on the body. Is there a middle ground? Glad you ask.
Keep this in mind; as we train with heavier resistance, we grow stronger. however our ability to recuperate will lag behind somewhat. Remember the objective, to become muscular. Say you start with 10 lb dumbbell curls. You could easily do a second set 15-20 seconds later. Fast forward 3-4 months and you are up to 25 lb dumbbells. Chances are you will need a little longer rest between sets. Your muscles have the ability to grow some 300% stronger however your ability to recover is around 125%. When one first starts to exercise, we need a “break in” period, that time when our body is not used to exercise. Depending on age, more on this a bit later, break in period lasts between 1-2 weeks. Longer if you over the age of 45 and sedentary, sorry.
A good middle ground; no more than 24 total sets and no longer than 60-70 min workouts. This includes a brief cardio session. No knock on the high set proponents, but studies do bear out that doing more that 24 total sets and/or longer than 70 mins in the gym results in diminishing returns on your exercise investment. Think of it this way (and this is after the break in period); you walk into the gym, you warm up, you go thru your resistance training and you warm down. you SHOULD leave the gym feeling invigorated not exhausted. If you are barely walking out the door then you have just exercise too strenuously resulting in a longer and needless recuperation. Remember the 125%. The majority of gym members either train with little intensity, too much intensity, or are not consistent. My motto has always been: “get in, hit it hard and fast, get out” period. If you have to put on headsets to remove distractions then do it.
Final thought: as we age especially for those of us over the age of 40, our joints are not what they used to be even if we have been exercising all along. Our goals then need to reflect this. Men, we may feel as though we can lift the weights we once used to in our 20′s but is it prudent? Is it necessary? And women, as you age, osteoporosis is a major concern. Resistance training, specifically those done standing, work to reverse this condition. Keep in mind other health issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. Our exercise regimen and intensity to be in alignment.

Cancer & Exercise

March 16th, 2014

Before I begin, let me apologize for my absence from this page. My wife Sue, had been battling ovarian cancer last year and finally was given a “clean as a whistle” bill of health. Her mother Joan, passed on several years ago due to this insidious desease. At the present, there is no known early detection test only a blood marker called CA-125, which be 21 or under. (Sue’s was 233!!) So ladies, PLEASE do not forgo your annual OB/GYN and if you are experiencing any unusual symptoms, then make an appointment sooner, don”t hesitate. We were on a vacation when Sue started to experience bloating, gas and constipation. Upon returning home, she immediately went to her GYN on a thursday who recommended a MRI, done that sunday. Tuesday she saw an GYN/Oncologist who immediately scheduled her for surgery. Dr Eva Chalas, and avid cross fitter and who practices here on long island, ny, is a life saver!
Now to my post. Sue is finally feeling strong enough to do a full workout with little fatigue. Dr Chalas said whatever is tolerable then do without overdoing it at the beginning. I have her doing a series of exercises using the major muscle groups. For instances; bodyweight squats, smith bench press, pulldowns, stability ball crunches, two cycles. Then leg press, incline DB press, DB rows, exercise tubing twists, again two cycles. These basic routines, which I do vary, are done twice a week. She does the elliptical trainer 4-5 days per week, 30-40 mins. Heart rate does not exceed 70% of max HR.
As I trainer, I push all my clients into realms of fitness they thought were unachievable. However having experience what we went through as a couple, I have a new found respect not only the medical community but for life, especially one that involves being fit. You see, being fit is no guaranty one will not come down with a dreaded disease. It will however, give us a stronger immune system to tolerate whatever drug regimen the doctors prescribe and noticeably less muscle loss. All through chemo, which was once weekly for 14 weeks, not once did she “upchuck” The only symptom was tiredness. And of course, hair loss that started 3 weeks into. (I then buzzed her and she looked as beautiful as ever)
My final thought: remember to stay healthy with daily exercise activities and by eating a balanced diet full of natural nutrients. And if, God forbid, you come down with any desease, make sure to ask your doctor concerning continuing your exercise regimen.

60 Days till Spring

January 20th, 2012

So we finally got snow here on the island. Long Island that is. We’re supposed to get an additional 3 to 5 inches tonight into sat afternoon. So why all the talk on snow? Becauuuse…there is 60 days till spring!!! Yeaaahhh!! 2 months people.

It’s time to get moving. Hey, sixty days is not a lot of time. For those of us who have been exercising, great, keep going and improving. For those who haven’t, there is no time like the present, amen?

Okay, now what? You need to assess where you are physically. Look at where your calories are coming from. Next pick a time when you can exercise REGULARLY and CONSISTENTLY. The most important word here is consistency. Unless you can be consistent you’ll sputter and give up.

It takes 21 days or so to CREATE a habit, so those first 3 weeks are critical. DO NOT GIVE UP. THIS IS YOUR LIFE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE. Do not allow any distraction. Remember, you have established beforehand what is a good time and days. Yes, we understand stuations come up but you have to be determined to stick with the program.

If you’re a male, age is 45 or older or female 50 or older, consider visiting your doctor and getting a complete physical; this way you can proceed with complete confidence. Your physician could advice you as to whether or not there are any contraindications; in other words what exercises to stay away from.

Lastly, if you could, partner up with another so you can have a training buddy. This is a great way to stay motivated and add a little competition. You will also be accountable to one another. If one falters the other could pick him/her up and vise versa.

Remember the acronym KISS; keep it simple shweetheart (think H.Bogart)


August 4th, 2011

If you want to exercise consistently at a high level you must get in your “beauty sleep” A lot of us burn the candle at both ends. Young people do this by staying out late, hanging with friends, etc.

Older folks do this by staying up late watching their favorite baseball team JUST SWEEP A TEAM IN CHICAGO…Sorry; got carried away with ALL THE EXCITEMENT!!

Ahem..anyway, sleep is vital in the recuperation process. When we reach the “slow wave sleep” or R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) two stages during sleep, we allow our bodies to recover from bouts of exercise and everyday living.

According to Dr. Lindlahr, a famous naturopath, the two hours before and the two hours after midnight are the four most important hours when it comes to recuperation.

Recuperation occurs at several levels. Provided we’ve been feeding our bodies the proper nutrients, our recovery will be more complete.

I could write a book about sleep and its many benefits but I believe you get the picture. We adults need between six to nine hours. The aged need between five to seven.

Need to get some sleep now…it’s past my bedtime. Night night…don’t let the bed…

Why change your workout?

August 4th, 2011

There are times when we need to do something different; change things around. This is true at home, in relationships, place of employment, etc. Exercise in no different.

So, what are the signs indicating a change is required or prudent? Here’s a list of five:
1) Boredom
2) Loss of appetite
3) Insomnia
4) Lack of enthusiasm
5) Distraction

Boredom will occur when the workouts are no longer challenging; when the workout routine becomes…well…just that; “routinish”

Believe it or not loss of appetite is closely associated with boredom. When the exercise routine becomes monotonous it will drag you down.

Insomnia can occurs when your training too much or late at night. Your body gets hyped or pumped and you just can’t fall asleep. You may also be running on “nervous energy” or adrenaline.

Again a monotonous workout will lead to lack of enthusiam in which case a change is recommended.

When one’s distracted while working out, it can lead to injury or worse.

As you can see all of the above are closely related or intertwine.

Depending on your goals, you may need to do more cardio or more resistance training. Remember, you can keep your workouts fresh by incorporating exercises from time to time that are not in your ususal repertoire.

If you need assistance by all means ask a certified trainer for advice. We are here to help you get to where you want to go. We also have objective eyes and may see things the average person may not or didn’t know.

Exercise Frequency

August 4th, 2011

How often should one exercise? Your goals and objectives will determine how much time to invest. Many exercisers either exercise too often or not enough. You need to ask yourself what do you want to accomplish?

For general fitness, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says one should exercise “most days of the week” You should incorporate the four components of fitness; cardiovascular, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility. These four can be done individually throughout the week.

Cardiovascular or cardio, is define as any activity that raises the heart rate for a minimum of twenty minutes. A good barometer is the “talk/sing test” You’re able to talk but not sing. It should be SLIGHTY uncomfortable. Walking, biking, jogging, etc., are prime examples.

Muscular strength is defines as the ability of a person to exert force on physical objects using muscles. Free weights, body-weight exercises such as pushups or situps or selectorized machines found in gyms are good examples. These exercises helps with body alignment, performing everyday task with ease, relieves stress, etc.

If you’re sedentary, starting at about 35, we lose an average of about 3% – 5% of muscle per decade. This number jumps to 1% – 2% per year after the age of 50!! This is easily reversible thru exercise.

Muscular endurance is defined as the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to sustain repeated contractions against a resistance for an extended period of time. As with walking, biking, jogging, etc., are also prime examples.

Flexibility is the ability of your joints to move through a full range of motion. Having flexibility in your muscles allows for more movement around the joints. Stretching after your workout, when your muscles are warm and pliable, is a great way to increase flexibility and keep your body protected from injury.

If you’re a novice or would simply like a more well-rounded routine, please consult a certified personal trainer for proper technique.

To Move is to Live

June 23rd, 2011

Please accept my apologies for for the long absence. Life. So without further adieu here it is. People, we need to move in order to live. Sounds simple right? Well too many of us are not moving enough. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) states we, the average populace, should exercise “most days of the week for at least 30 mins” “Most” means 4 or more days.

Now this does not mean killing yourself with an intensity so high you’re exhausted after each session. Rather this means exercising at an intensity or pace that is slighty uncomfortable. What is “slightly uncomfortable”? Whether it’s aerobic or anaerobic (cardio or resistance workout) in nature, it should challenge you.

Here are some guidelines:
1) When doing cardio, follow the “talk/sing” rule meaning you’re able to talk but not sing.
2) When doing resistance training, keep your reps high; upper body 12-20, lower body 15-25
3) Physical limitations permiting, weight-bearing exercises, those done standing, are best for burning the most calories.
4) If you have to sit, or non weight-bearing exercises, for your cardio workout, make sure you push yourself. Too many times we start to talk and our intensity suffers.

You should also vary your workouts when:
1) It becomes routine or predictable.
2) It becomes monotonous.
3) Boredom sets in.

As a rule of thumb, allow 2 to 4 weeks before varying your workout. If workouts are varied too frequently, then the physical adaptation we’re after will not have a chance to occur. However, when ready, changing your walking/running route, the order of exercises or doing supersets with the same exercises, etc is enough to elicit a different physical response.

So to recap: exercise most days of the week, maintain your intensity and keep your workouts fresh with variety.

What’s in a Rep

April 18th, 2011

A “rep” is short for repetiton; reps then is plural. Any number of reps done in a continuous fashion, (no rest in between), constitutes a “set” Now HOW those reps are done can be a thing of beauty!

You can go really fast, which can be harmful to connective tissue if not doe with care; super slow (ten seconds up, 10 seconds down) which is tedious and painful but eliminates acceleration and deceleration, (a layman might refer to this as “momentum”) Or at a regular speed; one up, two down.

As I like to remind; consider your goals and objectives. A powerlifter may have very little to no use for low weights, high reps. A runway model may find lifting heavy weight, say four to six reps, might be detrimental to her career.  If general fitness is your aim, incorporating different rep styles will not only keep you motivated but keep your body from becoming stagnate.

Also your legs can withstand much more of a workload than your upper body. So go for a higher rep count, say twenty five…minimum. I’ve had female clients do 100 plus reps in a single set!! Yes it’s brutal, it works…but it’s not for everyone.

Part of my philosophy is variety. When it comes to exercise our bodies adapt fairly quickly. Changing our rep scheme will keep our bodies off balance; guessing as to what we will do next. Hence it does not have a chance to fully get comfortable which will eventually lead to stagnation. Should this occur, the best one can do is take one to two weeks off then begin anew.

Final point; whenever you change your workout, let the new regimen work for you. Give your body a chance to get positive results before changing it again. How long should one wait before each change has been debated. I find one to three months best. Why the big gap? Because sometimes there are exercises the body can tolerate better or longer than others. A shorter time frame might be good for explosive-type exercises such as plyometrics. A longer time frame might work best for exercise programs in the 65% to 75%  of  your max workloads.

However when you put together routines, always keep in mind goals, objectives and possibly any physical limitations you may have. Exercising should have elements of enjoyment as well as satisfaction knowing it’s doing you good…and it should be done pain free.