Category Archives: Resistance Training

The Long Femur and Squat Mechanics

The squat is one of the best exercises to improve performance, period. Athletes incorporate the squat into their workout regimen because it increases strength and power of the entire lower extremity and significantly activates the core muscles. Unfortunately, performing the squat improperly can lead to significant injury.
Without getting into too much detail, there are 4 main reasons why a person may not be able to squat with good technique.
 
  1. Poor ankle mobility, primarily dorsiflexion
  2. Poor hip mobility, primarily hip flexion and external rotation
  3. Muscle weakness/muscle imbalance of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex
  4. Long femur (a high femur to torso length ratio or high femur to short tibia ratio)
 Three of the above can be fixed with corrective exercise. This might shock you but there is no corrective exercise program that will lengthen the torso and shorten your femur (yes, that is sarcasm). Unless you are skilled at removing portions of the femur with a chainsaw you’re not going to fix #4.
Squatting with a long femur can lead to low back injury. In the image here you can see that the individual with the long femur has an increased forward lean. The excessive lean increases load at the low back.
I love the video here. If you move to the 3:40 mark the video shows an individual squatting with long femurs squatting.

It drives me bonkers when a provider (athletic trainer, personal trainer, therapist, etc.,) attempts to correct a client’s squat mechanics by forcing changes in items 1, 2, or 3 when the real problem is the unfixable number 4. Before you waste a client’s running them through a corrective exercise program make sure it is something that can be fixed.
If you have a long femur to short torso ratio you do have options!
  1. Widen the stance
  2. Externally rotate the legs
  3. Raise the heels
 If you continue watching the video (around the 5:30 mark) you will notice how the individual’s squat mechanics are improved by making subtle changes in body positioning.

All of these options change the lever arms and evenly distribute the weight between the low back, knees, and feet. Thus, one joint is not excessively loaded more than the others. You can try adjusting one of the above items or mix and match any three of the above.
 

The Squat: Should Your Knees Travel Past the Toes?

Should the knees migrate past the toes when performing a squat? I posted this question on downloadsocial media, and the immediate response by most was “No!”. I expected this answer from most everyone, from novice to advanced lifters. To you, I happily say, you’re wrong! The debate on proper squat mechanics will never die, but I am going to steal a line from Randy B., an athletic training, and performance enhancement peer, who answered my question: “Absolutely, [the knees] should [go past the toes]. Don’t believe urban legends or follow sports med sacred cows!” I couldn’t have said this any better! Randy is spot on. This urban legend could lead to injury. The purpose of this blog is to shed some light on the debate and provide the rationale for proper squat technique.

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12 Booty Exercises to Improve the Back Side

 The glutes (not counting the core) are the single most important muscle group for athletic performance and injury prevention. 

Booty

I prefer a booty that has a functional purpose.

I am an ass man. Not in a sexual context, but in a functional movement context.  I do not care if you are fat, skinny, or look great in a pair of yoga pants. If your glutes function at an optimal level you will have better athletic performance and prevent injury. Over the years, I have worked with a variety of clients and the glutes are a focus for all of my clients. It does not matter what your current fitness level is; if you want to prevent injury, boost performance, or become more fitter, the butt is key.

Ask any client I have trained, and they will tell you that I will destroy your glutes – in a good way. Over time, I have developed some favorite booty-popping exercises.  In clinical research, there isn’t any published data that truly says these exercises are best. What you have here is based on my clinical experience and what I have found to work best. These exercises are designed to give you optimal gluteal function and they might even make you look good in a pair of jeans.

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Pregnancy Fitness Program Using TRX RIP Trainer

Watch the video below as I take my client who is 8 months pregnant through a 30 minute total-body circuit program using only the RIP Trainer by TRX.

A little over a year ago I wrote “A Runner’s Story: From Pain to Performance” which is about a client I began working with about 2 years ago. When we met, the simple task of walking caused sharp pain in her hips and had essentially given up on her long-time passion of running.

After a few months of working together she was racing 5ks and 10ks. In one year’s time (April, 2014) she ran the Illinois half-marathon. I still train her today, but now we have a new challenge; she’s expecting a baby at the end of March. Continue reading

Three Exercise Programs You Can Do Anywhere!

Turkey, pumpkin pie, holiday parties, alcohol, sweet treats, 12-hours of college bowl games, and non-stop travel to visit family and friends—the inevitable holiday weight gain. Too many calories and no time or place to work out. When the holiday season comes, people want healthy eating options. I get it, diet is important, but I am not going to be giving out recipes here. If you want a stellar gluten-free mashed potato recipe or a simple salt-free, sugar-free, protein-free honey glazed ham recipe, go elsewhere. I am going to help you get moving. Movement equals calorie burn, and the goal of this blog is to provide you with three exercise programs that you can do anywhere without equipment. The programs are designed as circuit programs, which have been shown to be most effective at burning calories.

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Weight Loss: Burn the Treadmill

You’re being duped folks! Long duration cardio training does not make you lose more fat and weight. If I had a dollar for each time I heard the phrase, “… but I need to do cardio so I can burn fat and lose weight…” I’d be rich. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. I understand where the confusion comes. It’s really not your fault. You’re being hoodwinked by health and wellness companies who put on this persona that they are health experts. They are not. These are simply business savvy folks who misinterpret science and pass garbage on to you. Let me explain.

Graphics like this misguide those seeking weight loss.

Graphics like this misguide those seeking weight loss.

First, the respiratory exchange ratio (RER) says that fat is metabolized greatest when the body is at rest. This is true. However, the aforementioned wellness companies misinterpret this and say that the closer the exercise level is to low intensity, the greater the fat loss. Thus, they try to give you these easy to follow fat burning weight loss guidelines. Have you seen those ridiculous diagrams on cardio machines that say 55%-65% of max heart rate is the “Fat Burning Zone” (see image). We also have trusted magazines like Women’s Health and Fitness that give you a Fat Burning Zone calculator. If you plug data in to the Women’s Health and Fitness calculator you will see that they also recommend you work at approximately 60% max heart rate.  We trust this information and are led to believe that lower intensity, longer duration activity equals weight loss. This is untrue. Continue reading

The Sit-up: So Simple, Yet So bad!

I have nSit upo idea how long the sit-up has been around – a thousand years maybe? Whatever it is we’ve been doing it for a long time. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “I do crunches every day.”, “I’m working my core.”, or “Look at my 6-pack.”. My responses to those statements: “No you don’t.”, No you’re not.”, and “great, do you want a cookie for your efforts?”  The fact is I see so many people “working their core” and the only thing they are doing is making a bad problem worse. Something so simple and you are doing it wrong!

I do not have a 6-pack. I do not have a 12-pack. I have what some may refer to as a party-ball of Guinness Extra Stout. Ask my wife, she will vouch for this sexy, fuzzy pillow that serves as my beer containment center. Despite my rather portly and ovoid mid-section, I know my core is a lot stronger, more stable, and less susceptible to injury than the 24 yr. old fitness geek down the street referred to as Jacked Jimmy. Yeah, that guy with glistening abs, who at every chance will raise his extra tight wife-beater tank top up, ever so slightly, just so he can hear the throngs of women fall unconsciously to the ground. Yeah that guy. How do I know that I can beat him in a core-off? Because more likely than not, he’s doing it wrong. I’ve seen too many “fit” clients fail miserably when I put them through a core routine. Continue reading

Physiology of Reversibility: If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It!

Have you heard the old adage “if you don’t use it, you lose it”? james-stewart26Does this really happen? If so, to what degree does one “lose it”? I was riding dirt bikes since the age of three, began racing motocross at age six and ‘retired’ –moved from home and went to graduate school – around the age of 21. After 18 years of riding and racing, I know I can still swing my leg over a seat and take off and ride much better than most. But, I could not go as fast as I once could. I would not have the technique nor would I have the strength power or endurance to ride for long. What about my neural impulse and reaction – that would be nonexistent, wouldn’t it?  Countless studies have demonstrated the positive correlation between practice and reaction. I haven’t practiced and with my luck, I’d hit a rock and run in to a tree. Continue reading

50 Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

It has been far too long since my last blog post. It’s my own fault as I am my own worst enemy. I start writing and get carried away with science and ensuring quality research that a simple blog post becomes a painstaking 4 week mission. I constantly remind myself  – “it’s a damn blog Josh, chill out!”. So, I did chill out and wrote a blog that does not require countless hours of mind-numbing literature review. Here are 50 exercises you can do anywhere. Continue reading

ENOUGH! Weight Loss is NOT Rocket Science

This blog should more appropriately be titled my rant of the month:

How many diet fads come out every year? Atkins, Zone, Paleo, Low-fat, South Beach, Intermittent Fasting are some of the most popular, but there are hundreds more pumped out every year. Why do we have new diets every year? Because there is not, nor will there ever be, a diet that can guarantee weight loss. Researchers keep making weight loss a scientific endeavor. The researchers then publish the findings, sell books, get rich and then the diet fades. Enough already, weight loss is not rocket science. It’s simple: balance energy by eating better and getting off of your ass. To prove my point let’s compare the data on a controversial issue: high-protein, low-carbohydrate vs. low-fat diets.

In 2002 a study done from Duke University researchers comparing a high protein low carb diet versus a traditional low-fat diet. The results of this study became much publicized and launched the Atkins Diet revolution. It hit mainstream media with a left and right hook. The diet quickly became one of the best-selling diet plans of all-time. But pundits refuted the data stating unreliable and invalid data. Today, there is valid points of discussion made by both sides.

Like most research and controversial issue, the data is for and against the high-protein diet is equivocal. In 2003, the New England Journal of Medicine published two studies which compared a low-carbohydrate diet to a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet in obese adults (1, 2). After six months both studies showed that low-carbohydrate subjects lost more weight and had significant reductions in markers for cardiovascular disease. This includes decreased triglyceride levels. However, after one year of performing the diets, weight loss and triglyceride levels were similar. But like many diets, compliance is an issue and in both studies there was a high dropout rate – thus data is unreliable.

As I had mentioned, pundits refuted the data. Most stated, that carbohydrate restriction was not the reason for weight loss, rather it was attributed to calorie deficit. This is similar to the systematic literature review done by Bravata, et al concluded that participant weight loss on low-carbohydrate diets was a result of caloric restriction, but carbohydrate restriction (3).

So Atkins, does yield weight loss, but why? Can I really eat a bacon cheeseburger (with no bun) and lose weight? Physiologically, carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source. When we eat carbohydrates the food is broken down and stored in skeletal muscle tissue and liver as glycogen, an easy to use energy source. When we eliminate carbohydrates from our diet we also eliminate glycogen stores.  Without glycogen, our body must use fat as energy. Subsequently, our body enters a state of ketosis – a state where ketone bodies are produced when fatty acids are broken down for energy. The loss of glycogen stores – and associated water loss – coupled with increased fat metabolism creates weight loss. In addition, the breakdown of fat is much more difficult than breaking down glycogen. Thus, our body must expend more energy to convert fat to energy (4) – burn energy to create energy.

But there are risks to eating a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet, right? The answer is yes and no. Many have stated a high-protein diet causes kidney and liver issues as well as abnormal insulin metabolism. Levine et al performed a research review  on low-carbohydrate diets and found little data to say a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet causes health concerns (5). However, many studies have found that the diet does cause common side effects such as constipation, nausea, weakness, dehydration, and fatigue.

Is there a winning diet method? Simply put – the answer is no. While South Beach, the Zone, Atkins and others have all remained the most popular, there is not winner. If there were some magical remedy we would never again have new diet fads. After reviewing all of the data there is one constant: all weight loss is associated with negative energy balance. Meaning, you are burning more calories than you are consuming.

Remember Super-Size Me? The guy who ate McDonald’s everyday and gained weight. Well have you heard of Doug Logeais? He ate McDonald’s everyday for 30 days and lost weight! How, he exercised. He trained most days of the week at a high intensity – he burned more calories than he consumed.  Has anyone seen Michael Phelps’ diet? Big Mac, Pizza, soda, ice cream, 10,000 calories per day in food, but nobody says he has a weight problem. He is a long, lean and the greatest Olympic athlete of all time. Does he need to change his diet? Can you honestly say that he is doing something wrong? He is fit because his exercise off-sets calorie consumption.

My final opinion: regular physical activity combined with a well-balanced diet is paramount.  Weight maintenance requires permanent changes to eating habits and increased physical activity. The specific strategies for making those changes, and making them permanent, will vary from person to person. So, instead of a walking through the local book store of the best-selling diet book, save your money. Take a walk through your neighborhood. Instead of cheeseburger and fries – order a turkey burger and side salad. This is not rocket science – quit trying to make it more difficult than it is.

References: 

1      Samaha FF, Iqbal N, Seshadri P, et al. A low-carbohydrate as compared with a low-fat diet in severe obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003;348:2074–2081.

2      Foster GD, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, et al. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003;348:2082–2090.

3      Bravata DM, Sanders L, Huang J, et al. Efficacy and safety of low-carbohydrate diets: a systematic review. JAMA. 2003;289(14):1837–1850.

4      Buchholz AC, Schoeller DA. Is a calorie a calorie? Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79(suppl):899S–906S.

5      Levine MJ, Jones JM, Lineback DR. Low-carbohydrate diets: assessing the science and knowledge gaps, summary of an ILSI North America workshop. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106:2086–2094.

 

 

Want to Improve Power? Improve your Core!

Do you want to increase your power – maybe to improve your vertical jump or bat swing speed or maybe to try something new? Power is very important in everyday functional movement. Athletes need power to improve performance. Parents need it to catch a kid from falling. Seniors need power to regain balance and prevent falls after tripping. Power is important and training should be part of most conditioning programs.

The mathematical equation for power is P= F*D (or Work)/T. Basically, power is the amount of work done over a period of time.  Using basic math, the higher the amount of work performed (force and distance) in the least amount of time will yield high power. So it seems logical that if I want to improve power I must perform explosive exercises such as box jumps, lateral hops, and other plyometric exercises. Right? Well although your are not wrong, you are also not 100% correct. Continue reading