When it comes to weight, let’s take a look at what exactly is a biological set point. Simply put, the set point is the range (usually within a 10% fluctuation) our body was genetically programmed to weigh. Much like our height was determined by genetic factors, so is our body weight…mostly. It is also governed by our hormones and environmental factors which all influence how the hypothalamus affects energy output and intake (eating and metabolism). The amount of food we eat, how much body fat we store and the calories we burn are all regulated by our hormones, neurotransmitters and microbiome. Set point theory states our “set point weight” is automatically controlled. Our bodies want to maintain the status-quo, also known as homeostasis. It explains why certain people, no matter what they eat remain rail thin (don’t be a hater!) and others stay obese on a normal diet of 1500-2000 calories per day. Continue readingby
“…there is no research which proves categorically that there is any need for separate stretching sessions, phases or exercises to be conducted to improve performance or safety….There is no real need to prescribe separate stretching exercises or sessions, since logically structured training should take every joint progressively through its full range of static and dynamic movement” – Dr. Mel Siff Continue reading
The 17th-century French philosopher Descartes believed in a dualistic bifurcation of the mind and body. For him, the mind and body were two separate and independent entities. I always had a problem with this dualistic view and the contemporary field of neuroscience has rightfully invalidated it. The interconnectedness between the mind and body becomes self-evident in the arena of sport and athleticism. Too often athletes and fitness enthusiasts neglect the psychological component of training; an oversight which unfortunately impedes progress and success. We know the brain controls all movement. What was only apparent until recently, is that the body directly affects and informs the function your mind and the creation of your very consciousness. Your body has the ability to transcend physical limitations, so long as your mind will allow it. Think about the grandma who lifts a car to save her grandson. Or the injured vet who, after being told he will never walk again, defies all odds by running a marathon. The expectations and beliefs our minds generate are the single biggest barriers to achievement. Once you learn how to control your perception, you can harness and unleash your inner Jedi. These mind tricks will help you move past plateaus and improve training outcomes.
Balance is one of those essential skills that enhances all of our movements. It may sound a bit New Age-y but it is true: the ability to balance is within us all. You just need to find it. Like most things, if you don’t use this skill, you will lose it. As we age we tend to move less, more slowly and limit our range of motion, thus inadequately taxing our balance systems. Why is this a big deal? We evolved to use our balance systems every day in multiple ways; jumping, climbing, running, hiding, playing…. Our modern sedentary lifestyle has reduced these movements, opening us up for imbalance injuries. Lack of good balance can ultimately lead to a premature death. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for Americans over the age of 65. Frequently, an older person will lose their balance, fall and break a hip. Hip fracture in a senior citizen is akin to a death sentence. The complications that follow lead to long-term care, lack of independence and early mortality. There are many things one can do to prevent or lessen the likelihood of a fall-related injury. Balance exercises and training are perhaps the most important components for prevention but many take it to an extreme. Grandma does not need to stand on a physio ball (neither do you) unless she is preparing for the circus. Almost any type of movement training can have added ‘balance value’ if done properly. Effective balance training should look nothing like acrobatic stunts.
Pot, weed, marijuana, dab, etc… Whatever you call it, cannabis has been heavily associated with lazy stoner culture for as long as I can remember. But while it may be true that some people get stoned and are unable to detach themselves from the sofa and TV, others become quite productive. Micheal Phelps, Richard Branson, President Obama, Carl Sagan, Steve Jobs and many others have all admitted to smoking pot several times, inhaling and liking it. Not a lazy group. Weed has transcended into the mainstream and many athletes have come out in defense of its usage in sport and training. It sounds hard to believe but marijuana may have benefits that go way beyond the sudden urge to devour a pint of Chubby Hubby. Since human controlled research on marijuana is scant, the internet is full of ‘bro science’ and anecdotal evidence touting the effects of marijuana on athleticism. Let’s dispel some myths and introduce instead some hard scientific evidence regarding the benefits of marijuana and fitness. Smoking marijuana: Continue readingby
The pull-up is one of the best foundation exercises in the world of resistance training. Arguably there is no better exercise to properly engage and recruit the muscles of the posterior chain and upper arms than the pull-up. It is a skill based movement pattern that permits your body to express its physiology by testing the limits of upper body strength, shoulder range of motion and the ability to stabilize the core and trunk. Continue readingby
Imagine rubbing a lamp from which emerges a malevolent genie who proceeds to cast this curse over you: “Henceforth you shall only be allowed to do three exercises for the rest of your life, so choose wisely” (bare with me and my little thought experiment). I’ve pondered this question a lot more than I’d like to admit. Over my 20 years as a personal trainer in NYC, coach, and teacher, my philosophy and recommendations have evolved, but my answer to this question has remained same.
Since this is my game, here are the rules: You can add weight, resistance, and variability to these exercises so long as the foundations remain intact. Cardio is separate and does not count. The three winners are: Continue readingby
If your goal is to drop weight, running a marathon may not be the answer. Too much cardio may, in fact, make you fat! Have you ever watched the end of a triathlon or marathon and noticed how many competitors were overweight? Talk about entering the ‘Twilight Zone’. In order to prepare for a marathon, these athletes must log in countless hours of workouts and yet some of them remain a tad hefty. It is not uncommon to run in excess of 60 miles per week when training for a marathon or other long distance race. Those training for an Ironman race (2.4 mile swim than an 110-mile bike race and then a 26.2-mile run – sounds like torture!) commonly devote 15-30 hours per week leading up to the race. How can some of these individuals still be overweight? Although it’s rarely discussed, chronic cardio can be fattening and even deadly.
Many years ago I trained a type-A Wall-Streeter who enjoyed indulging in back to back spin classes 4-5 days per week and a ‘short’ 50-mile bike ride on the weekends. In addition, he took 2 resistance training sessions per week with me, though cardio was his true love. He was a glutton for the pain. The more the better, or so he thought. But no matter how much cardio he crammed in, he was 15 pounds overweight. He did like to eat and enjoyed his vino, maybe a little too much, but with that amount of exercise, he shouldn’t have been overweight, right? So what’s the deal? After months of cajoling and begging, I got him to slow down and exercise less. He purchased a heart rate monitor and dropped the double spin classes. During his cardio sessions, I limited his anaerobic exposure and kept him in the aerobic work zone for the majority of the time. Without changing his diet, in 4 weeks he dropped 10 lbs. We both felt better. Continue readingby
I have been working out for over 25 years but some days I just don’t feel like dragging myself to the gym. To combat this malaise I cultivate a frame of mind driven by joy rather than self imposed pressure. Finding ways to enjoy the gym and making it habitual is paramount. The pleasures of living a healthy lifestyle far out weight the fleeting sugar highs we are all so accustomed to. I do not have the power to motivate you. Only you can do it. Here are some mind hacks to help you with the process: Continue readingby
Do you ever feel an urge to kick off your shoes and run barefoot like you used to when you were a carefree child? If you’ve been wearing shoes all your life, odds are your feet are in terrible shape and not ready to go au naturel. Long term shoe wearing is linked to an impressive list of ailments, most of which are not present in barefoot communities. According to The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, the vast majority of foot pathology is directly caused by shoe wearing and has little to do with hereditary factors, arch height or size. Wearing shoes has altered the shape of our feet and is closely associated with these unfortunate conditions: Continue readingby
MYTH: Doing a combination of light weights and high reps will tone you up. Firstly, if you are alive all your muscles are already ‘toned’. They are in a perpetual unconscious low-level state of contraction while at rest. Low weight and high reps can produce a wide range of results which depend on multiple variables. Strength and endurance exist on a continuum, with both elements being trained at essentially all repetition ranges. Continue readingby
Are you too busy to workout? Do you have 4 minutes? Sure you do. The Tabata training method, a 4-minute high-intensity workout, was created in 1996 by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. Working with the Japanese Olympic speed skating team, Tabata was looking for ways to improve their performance. He had a group of college athletes ride stationary bikes 4 days a week, 4 minutes per session, using his brand of high-intensity interval training (HITT). A control group trained at a moderate pace 5 days a week, 60 minutes per session. The results were unreal: after following the respective routines for 6 weeks, the experimental group boosted their aerobic fitness by 14% and anaerobic capacity by 28%. By comparison, the control group increased their aerobic fitness by only about 10%. Since this landmark study was performed there have been many similar studies completed, all confirming analogous findings (not only with bikes but also sprints, body weight exercises and plyometrics). Less time, more results – it’s the American way! Continue readingby
Diets simply don’t work. Let me rephrase: diets don’t work long-term. Sure, short term crash diets succeed but they are unsustainable. Eventually, you will fall off the wagon, adding a few more pounds in the process. No one agrees on the true failure rates of diets but it is somewhere north of 60% and may be as high as 95% according to several studies. Why are diets so unsuccessful? Could it be good old lack of self-control and discipline? That is certainly one possibility but not the whole picture. There is so much more to the story. Chemistry, physics, biology, physiology and psychology are all vital factors when determining a long term winning food plan. Instead of fad diets and crash diets try “The Don’t Diet”. Continue readingby
Sitting for long periods of time is highly detrimental to your health. Even in the presence of daily exercise programs, prolonged immobility directly contributes to lessened muscle tone, decreased blood circulation, lack of joint lubrication, decreased bone mineralization, weakened cardiac ejection fraction, enhanced coronary and aortic plaque formation, diminished ability to break down fat, general deconditioning and much more. In other words, exercise is not enough to stave off disease. Limiting the time spent on your butt will protect you from a slew of complications and even disability.
A recent article published by The Journal of Physical Activity and Health concluded that, “People who spent more time sitting were more likely to become disabled when compared to people with similar health and exercise habits who sat less.” The study followed 2,286 adults over the age of 60. For 7 days they all wore a accelerometers to record how much time they spent sitting and how much time they spent doing moderate to vigorous activities. The survey showed that on average, people spent 9 of their 14 waking hours sitting, with almost two-thirds of the sample spending more than 9 hours sitting. The research revealed that each daily hour spent sitting decreased one’s ability to perform simple activities involved in daily living by a whopping 46 percent! Furthermore, doing more exercise didn’t erase that risk. Continue readingby
The selectorized thigh machines and devices hocked on late night TV infomercials and positioned in the “ladies” section of the gym floor are, for the most part, useless. For many users, not only do these machines not work the way they are supposed to but in fact contribute to the thickening of the thighs and ‘saddle bags’. Say what? “I thought these devices purportedly ‘melt’ the fat away from your butt, thighs and hips” rued the leotard wearing, Jazzersizing 1986 gym goer. Scientifically speaking this is totally bunk. It is not possible to reduce fatty spots on the human body simply by exercising that area. You cannot spot reduce fat unless you go under the knife, though liposuction doesn’t work so well either.
Using the abductor/adductor machines will not slim your glutes and thighs. It is no coincidence many of those who use these machines regularly have thick thighs and hips. Susanne Summers, star of the 1980’s sitcom “Three’s Company” bears some responsibility for perpetuating the myth that women can actually trim their big thighs by spending enough time on the ThighMaster (and apparatus like this). These adductor/abductor machines work small muscles in contrastive isolation, called the gluteus medius and hip adductor group. Contracting small muscles in relative isolation will not require much energy. These moves will not increase your metabolic rate and/or add to a positive hormonal response resulting in significant weight loss. In fact, after progressive use you will likely increase the size of the lean muscle mass in the area which will ‘push’ the fat farther out giving you the appearance of larger thighs. Ughh! Continue readingby
I recently read the book “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner. He describes geographical areas were people, against all odds, live longer and suffer less illness than all other populations in the rest of the world. The communities living in these Blue Zones share many commonalities. With the help of top life extension researchers and the National Institute of Aging, Mr. Buettner uncovers some interesting principles that help these people live longer. He identifies 9 specific habits attributed to longer and healthier lives. Besides getting up and moving your family to one of these areas there are some useful things you can do to help your chances of leading a happier, healthier and longer life.
In actuality, there are very few surprises in the book. Longevity is a complex phenomenon involving, genetics, food choices, community, emotional well-being, exercise and environmental factors. It is not simply a matter of eating handfuls vitamins, juicing and going to the gym two times per week. Consistent habits and practices with a strong social structure are at the core of longevity. Continue readingby