Does It Really Make A Difference

It seems like forever ago when I first started going to fitness expos. I think the first one I ever attended was the Mr. Olympia in Phoenix, Arizona. Since then I’ve attended the LA Fit Expo and the Mr. Olympia on several occassions.

Just being in that atmosphere seemed to provide a significant amount of motivation. Now with COVID having impacted so many things in the way that it did, those expos haven’t been as available as in the past.

It’s odd though, because even while being at the gym I would experience a sort of familiarity to those expos, yet the motivational change was not present.

Now as I work out at home, or even at the gym, or wherever it may be I find that intrinsic motivation to be more present in contrast to previous circumstances.

I think that’s why it’s most important for each individual to find what motivates them for themselves, and not rely on other sources for that motivation. It used to be that I had to set myself in a specific routine in order to “optimize my workouts”. None of that truly matters in the whole scheme of things, rather putting in the work and understanding where you’re headed is what makes the biggest difference.

Even today I was considering going to the gym for my workout, but I’ve decided to simply head home for a workout there and utilize my Nova Gym and Base Blocks. It’s been a while since I’ve really worked on calisthenics anyway.

I would be interested in understanding what each of your points of motivation is and really start to gauge how each person is driven. Drop a comment or send me an email.

Since this is more of a rant post, I’ll mention a few things about fitness tech, or fitness products. I’ve somewhat grown tired of them if I’m to be honest. I’ve always loved to track data and understand various metrics. I was even so upset when my Fitbit broke because it went in water, in spite of being water resistant marketed by the company.

It turns out, I think I liked the idea of having the data more than the data itself. I currently just use an inexpensive, yet still high quality, Wyze watch and couldn’t be happier with my choice.

Just take this as a friendly reminder to be conscious of what you’re doing or what you’re buying and ask yourself, “is this really going to make a difference to my health and fitness?”.

15 Simple and Effective Exercises to Lose Belly Fat

Losing belly fat is not easy. The lifestyle with a sitting office job of 9 to 5 has added to the problem. Nobody likes those love handle around the waist. The outward projected tummy poses a health risk as well as damage to our posture by affecting our backbone. Belly fat is often linked to heart diseases, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It also creates some self-esteem problems too. Your clothes don’t fit anymore and when they do, they don’t look that good. A hectic lifestyle adds to the problem when you don’t get enough time for a workout. But don’t worry, it’s a more common problem than you think. With patience, consistency, and the right amount of exercise you can lose this belly fat in no time. The key is to keep it simple and effective.

Let’s talk about 15 simple and effective exercises that you can do to lose that belly fat. Start your routine with 15-20 minutes of a speed walk. This will help in warming up your body as well as effectively burn few calories.

1)Leg Raise

A great exercise to start your workout. It’s simple and very effective. It activates your core muscles and prepares your body for the upcoming exercises. Shoot for 3 sets of 10 reps.

2) Leg ins and outs

It is a core exercise that targets your abs. It improves the strength and flexibility of your hips and back. A very vital exercise if you spend a lot of time sitting in the office. As a beginner, aim for 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

3) V-ups

It is a full-body move that targets your core, legs, back, and shoulders. This exercise tone your upper and lower abdominal muscles simultaneously. By performing this exercise, your lower abs will be strengthened and extension muscles will become more flexible. Do 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.

4) Crunches

Start with abdominal crunches. They are a great way to lose that belly fat and strengthen your core muscles. There are many variations of crunches that you can do which targets specific parts of your belly. Start by 20-30 repetitions and slowly increase the number as you build your strength.

5) Russian Twist

This exercise specifically targets your core and shoulder. It helps with your rotational movement. It’s a simple exercise that requires a lot of strength which ultimately leads to good results. If you are looking to tone that midsection of the body then it’s a must-do exercise. Do at least 10-15 repetitions in 2-3 sets.

6) Mountain Climbers

It is a great exercise to work up your core muscles and burn a good amount of calories. It works as a full-body workout too and will improve your mobility. This is a great exercise for beginners and more experienced ones can take it up a notch with different variations. Repeat for your desired number of repetitions or time duration.

7) Reverse Crunches

A must-do exercise if you want to burn that belly fat. It targets the transverse abdominal muscles which are the deepest muscles in the stomach. These are the muscles that make up your “Six-Packs”. It’s a very effective exercise to lose lower belly fat. Repeat for at least 10-12 times and with successive sets increase the number of repetitions. It’s also a good exercise if you are having difficulties in doing crunches.

8) Bicycle

This exercise targets your upper abdominal muscles as well as tone your hip muscles. The unique thing about this exercise is to perform it at a slow pace. It’s easier when done faster. At a slow pace, it greatly stimulates the abdominal muscles and produces far better results. Perform at least 20 repetitions in each set with 10 repetitions on each side.

9) Burpees

The main aim behind performing this exercise is to burn a high amount of calories. It’s a full-body exercise that focuses on building muscles, gaining strength and endurance in both the upper and lower body. If you can’t perform a full burpee, use a flat bench to push off instead of the ground. You can also use a medicine ball instead of the bench. Start slow and slowly increase the number of burpees you can do in 1 minute.

10) Sprawl

This exercise is like burpees on steroids. It works up many muscles throughout your body and burns a huge amount of calories that will tone up your upper and lower body with a special emphasis on your abs.

11) Planks

When it comes to losing belly fat, nothing beats the planks. Planks are performed in different variations that will target specific parts of your abdomen. Apart from working your abdominal muscles, this exercise works almost all muscles in your body. After performing a traditional plank, switch over to the side plank with leg raise. This exercise greatly affects your side belly and love handles. It also builds strength in your outer thighs and hip abductors. Hold your plank posture for 60 seconds and repeat it 3-4 times with short breaks.

12) Flutter Kicks

This is a good exercise that works your lower abdominal muscles and hip flexors. This exercise mimics the swimming strokes but on the dry land. If done in medium and high intensity, this is a great exercise to lose that belly fat. It works like cardio and will help you burn a considerable amount of calories. Perform this exercise with 15-20 repetitions with a 30 seconds gap between each set.

13) Jumping Jacks

Like planks, it works every muscle in your body. It’s a great high-intensity cardio exercise that will help you lose belly fat faster. It has many cardiovascular benefits as it improves your heart rate and blood flow through your whole body. Perform 20 Jumping Jacks in sets of 3

14) High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Conventional thinking was that a steady cardio workout was the best possible way to burn fat. But the thinking is changed, now short bouts of movements or exercises with all-out effort are much more effective. A good example of it is to go for a walk at a normal pace and alternate between slow walking and sprinting for a short time.

15) Crab Toe Touches

It’s a great cardio exercise that develops core strength, boosts weight loss, and speeds up your metabolism. It also improves your aerobic fitness. Perform this exercise with 2-3 sets of 12-16 repetitions.

Citrulline Malate

Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that the body is capable of producing it on its own. However, when it is combined with external consumption, there are some real health benefits associated with it. This amino acid is present in foods like watermelon. Let’s explore more about it.

How does citrulline malate work?

When supplemented, the kidney converts citrulline into arginine. Arginine further gets converted into nitric oxide, which flows into blood vessels to increase the blood flow. Citrulline malate is actually L-citrulline with malate, from malic acid, added to it. Citrulline Malate increases Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP production. ATP is the energy powerhouse our muscles use during a workout. Citrulline Malate is also responsible for enhancing the regeneration of creatine phosphate. What this means is that an athlete or a gym buff will be able to recover quickly in between the sets. With citrulline malate, you get dual benefits of increased blood flow due to nitric oxide from L-citrulline plus energy production from the malate component.  

What are the benefits?

Arginine is not that impressive in getting absorbed in the body by itself. Citrulline boosts that absorption rate significantly. It can enhance exercise tolerance and performance, allowing you to push yourself harder for a longer duration due to increased blood blow. Vasodilation is another benefit coming directly from the citrulline’s ability to expand blood vessels, giving you that pump in the gym. This, in turn, helps more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to the muscles. Citrulline is also helpful in treating erectile dysfunction because of the increased blood flow function.  

When to have it?

If you are a gym-goer, you can consider taking 5 grams of this supplement as a pre-workout, an hour before. This will help you achieve the desired pump and vascularity during the workout.

Caffeine Anhydrous

Caffeine is a stimulant that helps to give you an energy boost. Present usually in coffee, caffeine in your drink can help charge you up, so you are ready to get going to take on the challenges of the day. Caffeine anhydrous is essentially a dehydrated form of caffeine. It is available in the form of a powder. The main feature of caffeine anhydrous is that it is concentrated in nature. It is obtained from natural sources like the coffee plant or tea plant. It can also be made in the lab using urea and chloroacetic acid.

Types of caffeine anhydrous

Caffeine anhydrous comes in the form of a powder or pill. It is available as a stand-alone product that can be taken to provide an energy boost. It is also present in different supplements that include:

  • Colas.
  • Caffeinated sodas.
  • Energy bars, energy drinks, etc.
  • Supplement powders that are taken prior to a workout.
  • Supplements used to burn fat.
  • Pills used to help in weight loss.
  • Pills that help a person to stay awake.

Benefits

Caffeine anhydrous has many benefits, which is why it is used in different products. Some of the benefits include:

  • It helps in improving alertness and concentration.
  • People suffering from tension headaches can get relief by consuming this chemical.
  • It can help in fat burning, thus aiding the weight loss process.
  • It is known to help in boosting resting metabolism.
  • Caffeine anhydrous helps in improving strength and muscle power and is thus used before exercise and also by sportspersons.

The medical limit for caffeine anhydrous may be around 400 mg for some or much less for others. Consuming this product over this limit can pose a health risk with many side effects. It is best to avoid this product in pure powdered form. Instead, supplements containing the product can be consumed to experience its benefits. It is best to consult a medical professional on dosages for a substance such as this.

Beta-Alanine

If you are a fitness enthusiast hitting the gym regularly or an athlete, chances are you have heard of Beta-alanine. It is a naturally produced amino acid in the body, specifically in the liver, to promote muscle endurance. This amino acid is not one of those essential building blocks of proteins. Beta-alanine can be consumed externally through foods like meat, fish, and poultry. The most common method of intake of this compound is through supplements available in the market. Health and fitness retailers market it as a sports product in the powdered supplement form as an independent product.

How beta-alanine works

Beta-alanine, when consumed, works with another amino acid called histidine in the body to produce carnosine.

1. When you work out, lactic acid starts building up in the muscles and breaks down into hydrogen ions. 

2. These ions increase muscle acidity and reduce muscle contraction.

3. When muscles are no longer able to contract, fatigue sets in.

4. The carnosine now buffers these hydrogen ions, helping muscles to contract for a longer duration and delaying fatigue.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), in its study, concluded that daily consumption of 4-6 grams of beta-alanine for a period of 2-4 weeks significantly enhanced levels of carnosine in the muscles.

What are the benefits of consuming?

The main benefit of taking beta-alanine is increased strength, power, and performance. This is directly related to an increase in performance during high-intensity exercises. Regular consumption for three weeks is responsible for adding some lean muscle to your body. Studies have shown that beta-alanine mitigates stress and muscle fatigue in much older adults. Beta-alanine in higher quantity is much effective when taken along with other health supplements. It is important to note, however, that the enhanced performance is visible only for few minutes.

Shoulder Injury Mystery Solved, Maybe

Many of you may not know that my original background is in Mechanical Engineering with a Masters Degree in Business Analytics. I really just go back to school online for enjoyment which has turned out to be quite the worthwhile experience.

In one of my assignments this week we were asked to provide input to a discussion board on personal experience we’ve had related to the bench press exercise. I chose to share about a shoulder injury of mine and what impact it had:

“I’ve personally dealt with some shoulder issues that had a significant impact on my ability to perform the bench press. Almost ten years ago I worked up to a relatively high one rep max with consequently high working sets. During one workout involving an isolateral shoulder exercise utilizing cables, I experienced a peculiar failure in my shoulder joint with accompanying pain. I rested from weight lifting for a short period focusing on dynamic stretching and light loads amongst bouts of cardio. I worked my way back to a semi-regular load without any pain residing. I was, however, left with an odd sort of “popping” or “jolting” in the shoulder that caused no pain. This anomaly prevented me from performing certain movements safely such as dumbbell shoulder press or even bench press without consciously monitoring the trajectory throughout the range of motion. As of about two years ago, this had entirely resolved itself during working sets, but if I tried to force the joint to exhibit the previous behavior I could make it do so still without pain. I visited a specialist who performed a series of exams including ultrasound who could not identify any noticeable injury or physiological concern. I did opt for a particular form of treatment which has since nearly erased the concern in its entirety. Even though it has minimal to no impact on my current performance and ability, I still wonder to this day what may have actually happened. I just thought to share this as it seems directly relevant to the topic of current studies.” – Me

The following day I was prompted by the professor to explore potential explanations for the injury related to our present topic which was non-skeletal, or soft structures of the joint. The rest of this post is that finding. I hope you enjoy.

Upon initial review of the material for the week, I contemplated some concern with the glenohumeral joint, a “synovial ball and socket joint” (AnatomyZone, 2012). The interaction of the large humeral head with the shallow glenoid cavity appears to be the suspect area. I started to believe that the fibrocartilaginous collar referenced as the glenoid labrum, which finds itself between the mating surfaces mentioned previously, may be what weakened or failed in the form of a tear due to its role in “expand[ing] the depth of the glenoid fossa … to allow for increase motion” (University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority, n.d.) as well as centering, stabilizing, and optimizing shoulder mechanics. I started looking at other options, perhaps more so directed at a muscle-related injury which included the teres minor or supraspinatus. However, I then found an excerpt from a book talking specifically about the symptoms of a tear in or detachment of the glenoid labrum. “Large labral tears may produce “clicking” or “catching” sensations” (Md & Cscs, 2017, p. 101). This book was incredibly informative at first glance and might be one I study in the future. The research does not appear to be definite due to non-unique symptoms being present, but this very well may be a possible interpretation of the incident.

References

AnatomyZone. (2012, July 20). Shoulder Joint – Glenohumeral Joint – 3D Anatomy Tutorial. YouTube.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG1XQkj3Yx0&ab_channel=AnatomyZone (Links to an external site.)

Md, C. G. E., & Cscs, A. M. S. D. P. R. M. C. (2017). Clinical Orthopaedic Rehabilitation: A Team Approach (4th ed.). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-323-39370-6.00021-4

University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. (n.d.). Labral (SLAP) Tears of the Shoulder. UW Health. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.uwhealth.org/sports-medicine/clinic/labral-slap-tears-of-the-shoulder/45666#:%7E:text=The%20labrum%20has%20several%20functions,moves%20on%20the%20scapula%20(glenoid)

Muscular Adaptation

The principle of Darwinism may be a broad description of how natural selection has influenced the evolution of species, but a specific set of definitions on muscular adaptation can shed further light on why this “survival of the fittest” theory has a strong foundation.

General Adaptation Syndrome

General Adaptation Syndrome is the umbrella of adaptation. It is how the body adapts to circumstances in which it is placed. These circumstances can involve stress in the form of weight or load, and can even be environmental such as atmosphere or climate. At first, the body will experience a shock to the change presented. Physiologically this will take shape in the form of cardiovascular and neurological responses to increase blood flow and neuromuscular signals to react to the event. This is followed by a resistance development where the body becomes more efficient at responding to the stressors placed on it. Lastly, the body reaches exhaustion which results in pain, fatigue, and potentially injury.

Principle of Specificity

The Principle of Specificity, or the “SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demands)” (Clark, 2018, p. 307), dictates that the body will adapt to very specific demands in very specific ways. A rudimentary example of this is the formation of a callous when playing guitar as the fingers repeatedly experience the same stressor and adapt. In terms of muscular fitness, this is directly related to the format of training in which a client participates. Exercising with higher weight and lower reps will elicit a much different response than lower weight with higher reps. The body responds by focusing on the growth of Type II or Type I muscle fibers respectively.

Progressive Adaptation

Progressive Adaptation allows the individual to improve targeted mechanisms of growth through selective resistance training. Stabilization, muscular endurance, muscular hypertrophy, strength, and power are such mechanisms of growth. Stabilization training will engage the appropriate muscles during chosen exercises so that the primary mover is providing the main force production while the stabilizing muscles are focused on their role instead of overcoming the primary. Muscular endurance goes hand in hand with stability as it refers to the muscular ability to maintain stabilization throughout longer periods of time. Muscular hypertrophy is directly indicated by the growth in the physical size of the muscles, in particular, the fibers themselves, as they respond to increased load. Strength could then be seen as the capacity for each fiber to create tension in comparison to the physical growth of hypertrophy. Lastly, power is a combination of several aforementioned components with a time dimension added. More force over a smaller amount of time is the adaptation of power.

The general adaptation syndrome is beneficial when a change in occupation may illicit the need for physiological changes. This could be someone transitioning from a desk job to a warehouse position that may involve lifting that was not done before. The body will adapt as required by the circumstance. Specificity is crucial for those looking to improve in specific areas such as an Olympic sprinter who needs to focus on training for speed rather than endurance. Lastly, progressive adaptation is valuable for someone who has the goal of obtaining a similar physical appearance to the Grecian ideal as they prioritize muscular hypertrophy for those muscle groups that need to adjust to match size and appearance.

References

Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Plyometric Training

Plyometric training involves reactive movements that highlight the motion of the body which generates force immediately after deceleration of a previous movement. A client must be ready for this type of training before proceeding. Once NASM assessment that can be performed to identify client-readiness is the Overhead Squat Assessment (OHSA). One such reason for this selection is due to the necessity of sufficient achievement in body and core strength as well as balance. During the Overhead Squat Assessment, the trainer can observe key points both from a lateral perspective as well as the anterior. Each point in the kinetic chain is visible from foot and ankle position, Lumbopelvic-Hip Complex alignment and rotation, and head and shoulder alignment and position. Together these allow for analysis of the client’s core and body strength, and their balance. However, a balance may be more clearly seen in the single-leg squat assessment.

The first level in the OPT model for plyometric training is stabilization. This specifically involves the client’s ability to stabilize, or sustain, their position upon landing. This is typically a duration of three to five seconds after landing, which more than ensures a strong stabilized body. One struggle that can be seen during this level is the ability to hold correct posture at the time of landing. When seen as a complete movement the body utilizes the stabilization phase to transition into the next, therefore stopping to stabilize may be difficult yet is crucial to a strong foundation. An upper-body exercise for plyometric stabilization is the “Two-Arm Medicine Ball Chest Pass” (Clark, 2018, p. 328). For the lower body, the client can jump down from a box and stabilize upon landing.

The second level of the OPT model for plyometric training is strength. This level layers onto stabilization by adding additional strength to the movement. This focuses on the force production of the exercise. In other words, this is the concentric part of the cycle. One exercise for the lower body is the squat jump, which consequently may also invoke the upper body as well. The reason being that the subject can utilize the potential energy stored in arms which are place rearward of the body during the initial squat movement, which then explodes in the upward direction allowing for an increase in force production. For this article, the focused exercise for the lower body is noted as the butt kick. This reduces the involvement of the upper body by maintaining the arms next to the obliques performing a jump similar to the squat jump but with the feet raising posterior to the body rather than upward following the knees.

The third level of OPT for plyometric training is power. This level ties the eccentric, amortization, and concentric phases together in a complete cycle. An exercise for this level for the upper body is Ice Skaters. The reason this is classified as upper body, in addition to lower by default, is that the arms are utilized by reaching outward during the eccentric phase while the foot on the same side lands and is loaded. The arm then contracts concentrically across the plane of motion as the same foot is pressing off the floor. As for specific lower body exercises, one is the “Single-Leg Power Step-Up” (Clark, 2018, p. 284). While this does also involve the upper body, much more work is done by the lower body during the upward acceleration as well as the loading phased on the downward motion.

References:

Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Identifying Core System Inefficiencies

A strong and core is important to maintain a properly balanced muscle system throughout any movement. One assessment that can identify dysfunction in the core is the pushing assessment. While the pushing assessment may also reveal syndromes or dysfunctions in shoulders, knees, and feet it does allow the trainer to obtain subjective evidence on the lumbopelvic hip complex which comprises the core system.

The client utilizes a set of cables or bands positioned directly behind them with a level of weight or resistance that is light to moderate. He or she stands in a split stance with toes pointing forward, one foot forward and the other back. Feet should be firmly planted with instruction to maintain the abdomen drawn in. With one band or cable in each hand, the client then presses the handles forward, with opposing resistance pulling backward, and then returns his/her hands to the starting position. This process should be repeated in a very controlled manner several times to fully assess the client’s state. If the weight is too light, the dysfunctions may not become obvious. However, the weight should not be so heavy as to provide an excessive load for the purpose of the assessment.

The pushing assessment may help identify a core system inefficiency if the client exhibits a non-neutral lumbar and cervical spine during the movement. In other words, if the client’s lower back is arched during the movement, then weakness in the transversus abdominis of the local stabilization system may be the cause of the potential dysfunction. The designed form of the pushing assessment is to have the shoulders level and the lumbopelvic hip complex void of any anterior tilt. Should the client show an arched back, or pelvic tilt, then this could signify that there is a deficiency in the core musculature. If this is the case, then the drawing-in maneuver may be something to consider in addressing the inefficiency.

Overview of Fitness Assessment Components

A fitness assessment consists of multiple components that, when analyzed concurrently, allow for improved ability to design programs suited to the client’s individual needs.

Subjective Information

Medical history is important for laying a foundation of the client’s present state either as-diagnosed by a medical professional or presented by the client themselves. These may include conditions, surgeries, medications, and other physiological health status indicators.

General history reveals the client’s lifestyle conditions which impact their level of fitness. This is important to understand which physical activities may lead to improved program adaptation and includes details such as occupation, repetitive movements, recreation, and hobbies.

Sources for the above subjective information at a minimum include a PAR-Q or Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire. The literature provides a sample that includes 7 questions; however, these client-answered surveys are a great resource to use to address all of the aforementioned points.

Objective Information

Physiological assessments, which include heart rate and blood pressure both during exercise and at rest, are valuable in determining the client’s overall cardiorespiratory health. They can be used to establish baselines as well as to measure progress. One such assessment of this is to measure the resting heart rate by checking the radial pulse gently while the client is calm. The maximum heart rate can then be roughly estimated using the straight percentage method.

Body composition testing compares the mass of fat versus fat-free tissue which can identify health risks and be used to monitor changes throughout the program. Perhaps the most common way of obtaining these values, albeit discounting the amount of visceral fat, is through the skin fold test. Other methods, such as bioelectric impedance, air displacement, or even x-ray (DEXA) are possible at varying levels of cost and accuracy.

Cardiorespiratory assessments are important to set a baseline for safe and effective levels of intensity based on the client’s current state. The Rockport Walk Test is one such method during which the client walks a distance of 1 mile as fast as is controllable on a treadmill. The duration and client’s heart rate are then used in conjunction with their age, gender, and weight to calculate the VO­2 score as an indicator for suggested heart rate zones.

Static assessments reveal what the body’s starting point for any movement will be as all movement stems from a base position resulting from neuromuscular relationships, joint mechanics, and possible injuries. The most consistent way to assess this is by utilizing the Kinetic Chain Checkpoints; Foot and ankle, knee, lumbopelvic-hip complex, shoulder complex, and head. This should be viewed from the anterior, lateral, and posterior perspectives.

Dynamic assessments partner with static assessments in that they may further reveal the body’s present functional state. The OHSA (Overhead Squat Assessment) is a powerful way to achieve this. Again viewed from both anterior and lateral perspectives, the OHSA allows the trainer to view any arches, pronation, leans, or otherwise that could potentially increase the risk of injury without addressing through visual and other cues.

Performance assessments allow the trainer to understand the client’s level of stability, agility, strength, and endurance. These are more often used for clients looking to achieve greater athletic performance but are not without their benefits for general use under the right circumstance. The Shark Skill Test is one such method that involves hopping in a defined pattern through a series of 9 squares.