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The story of most powerlifters, bodybuilders, and serious athletes is a series of injuries.  The most common reason competitors cease competing is because of major injuries or a collection of nagging injuries.  Strength gains, mass gains, body composition accomplishments – they’re all one injury away from fading away, sometimes permanently.

So what makes it happen?  Are our bodies just breaking down under the load of a difficult training regime, or is there a secret factor that causes these injuries? 

There is a factor, but it’s no secret.  Most injuries are caused by one primary factor: ourselves.  Either by pushing too hard (overtraining), not giving your body what it needs (nutrition), or accident (external or internal), things are not going to go exactly how you planned. 

It’s easy to get into a more is better mindset, especially when your workouts call for progressively increasing resistance or difficulty.  If you’re trying a workout out of a magazine, or something your buddies cooked up, it might not be a bad idea to show it to a personal trainer and get their opinion before you start doing it, or at least several knowledgeable friends.

Let me knock the dust off the blog with our first post in too long.

I was talking to one of my favorite personal trainers and he was telling me this New Years he was setting up a lot of his clients on HIIT routines in between days when he trains them one on one, mostly for those aiming for weight loss goals.

High intensity interval training is a great way to get and keep your heart rate up in the fat burning zone without falling out from sheer exhaustion.  By building rest periods in with higher effort periods, you end up with a higher average work content per unit of time.  In common sense terms, you can get a good workout in even in a shorter amount of time.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about HIIT methods:

“A HIIT session consists of a warm up period of exercise, followed by six to ten repetitions of high intensity exercise, separated by medium intensity exercise, and ending with a period of cool down exercise. The high intensity exercise should be done at near maximum intensity. The medium exercise should be about 50% intensity. The number of repetitions and length of each depends on the exercise. The goal is to do at least six cycles, and to have the entire HIIT session last at least fifteen minutes and not more than twenty.

HIIT is considered to be an excellent way to maximize a workout that is limited on time.”

I’ll be posting some HIIT workouts in the future, I just wanted spread the word on this great fitness concept to those who might be unaware.

I recently had someone come in Active Fitness from the downstairs of Frankfort Place Shopping Center, a state employee of Indian descent who said he had been unable to walk outside any longer because of the weather and wanted to join up.  We were talking about diet and he explained that as a vegetarian, he has always eaten very healthy meals and prepared his own foods, but since he came to the United States, he has been overweight.  He generally prepares his own food, always has some physical activity in his lifestyle, and just couldn’t put it together why his weight continued to increase.  I told him to write down everything he eats for a week, and bring it by so we could talk about what was going on.

White rice was the problem!  He was eating it with just about every meal, sometimes even with breakfast, a huge source of carbs that turn into simple sugars in the blood stream, and if not used for immediate physical activity, will turn into triglycerides, long chain fatty acids, and eventually be deposited as body fat.  So here’s a guy who eats a very low fat diet with no meat, loves vegetables, walks every day, and is persistently overweight.  I told him about brown rice, and how it’s much better because of the complex carbs, fiber content, and lower simple sugars.  Check out this article to find out more, and find out how white rice has been linked to diabetes.

There’s a family of floor exercises commonly called Superman exercises, because of the resemblance to the famous pose of Superman flying through the air.  The concept is pretty straight forward, as shown in the video, but there’s a hidden reason to work on your low back and erector spinae muscles: the more you firm and tighten your back, the more it’s going to pull your front tight just like you’re upholstering a couch or covering something with fabric.

In the video they recommend using several phases to build up to doing the full Superman pose as an exercise, but what I’ve found is that each person is really different in the strength of that muscle group.  The best thing to do is just try it out and see what you’re capable of doing off the bat, then make it more difficult.  There’s one member at Active Fitness that has done Supermans for so long he holds up dumbbells with his hands and between his feet.  I don’t think most of us will be doing that any time soon!

One of the common exercises I show new members at Active Fitness is the basic ab crunch on a stability ball.  I found a video to demonstrate the basic concept, but you really have to try it yourself to “get” what they’re showing.  The main benefit of using the ball, as they say in this video, is to increase the range of motion your abs can move your upper body relative to being on the floor or on a machine.

If you find you’re not sore from doing your current ab workout, something is probably wrong.  Try this basic ball crunch – let’s say 4 sets of 15 reps to get started.  If you’re not getting challenged from the weight of your upper body alone, you can also add a weighted (a.k.a. medicine ball) ball held by your upper body to put more of a challenge on your abs.

You’ve all heard it, but listen up any way: one of the best ways to kick start your metabolism and burn more fat is to eat small meals frequently, as many as 7 times a day!

Sounds like a lot of work.  I’ve done it, it made me feel like I just stayed hungry all the time.  I can’t quite stick with 7!

I thought this article from Weight Loss For All summed it up pretty well:

“So small meals, eaten often will have a triple benefit to losing weight.
1. Fewer calories ingested
2. A higher metabolic rate
3. Less belly bloating effects”

I think it’s a good argument, but you really have to try it yourself.  It really boils down to getting control of what you’re putting in your body, and realizing your current state is a direct reflection of those choices.

Here’s a tip from me: write down everything you eat for a week and take a look at it.  If you really keep up with it, and you’re honest, you’re probably going to be surprised.  We eat what tastes good, not what we need, but it never ceases to amaze how little we need the things that taste good!

At many yoga studios and gyms around the country, yoga is known as a gender biased exercise class: usually women outnumber men by 2 to 1!  It’s surprising because men often report being less flexible than women, but it doesn’t really matter!

Yoga is packed with benefits for all comers.  Not only that – here at Active Fitness, we have yoga 3 times a week for free!  Check out the schedule here.

Here’s the thing to remember about yoga: it’s just a fancy word for stretching.  Of course it’s more in depth than that, but stretching and by extension (no pun intended), we’re all really familiar with.  Yoga is just a deeper look at something we pretty much all do on a regular basis.  Why not get a little more familiar?  You won’t regret it!

A face, a name, a favorite machine.  As I walk through Active Fitness this morning, I can see the friendly faces and smiles of each piece of equipment’s constituents.  If we have to move something, I’ll always make a point to tell those who will surely be looking for it as they come in.

It’s a fact of life.  Familiarity breeds comfort, and habits form quick on fitness equipment.

Fight the power!  Break the allure.  If you want the most results, mix it up to keep your body guessing, kick in some muscle confusion, and burn more calories than sticking with the same stuff.  Who knows, you might even find a new favorite… which of course, you must abandon.

Here’s a video of a great deltoid exercise, the Arnold Press, named after Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The rotational component keeps the strain on your delts as you press the dumbbells.

Kettlebells are a big phenomenon in fitness right now.  One of the main benefits of kettlebells, relative to barbells especially, is that weights are available in ideal sizes for females.  The shape of a kettlebell also makes these lower weight intervals more challenging – just pick one up to see what I’m talking about!

Here’s an example of a basic kettlebell exercise – the compound motion of kettlebell clean & military press:

Compared to a 45 lb barbell, the weights of kettlebells (ours start at 10 lbs) are much more suitable for women.  The clean & military press compound motion is great for back, triceps, and shoulders.

The front swing is also a great compound motion.  With kettlebells, it’s harder to identify one specific muscle group because each exercise covers such a wide variety of muscle groups.  You’ll definitely get a good core and upper body workout, plus hips and upper leg (quads).

The kettlebell front squat is depicted below:

Front squats are a great total leg exercise, and the kettlebell is much more comfortable than barbells or dumbbells for most people.

Here’s a basic introductory kettlebell routine, taken from Mike Mahler of Women’s Health & Exercise:

2 sets of 5 reps at a your max kettlebell weight – always start lighter than you think you can go, until you figure out which one will give you enough resistance so you can barely do the last couple reps of your sets

2×5 Kettlebell Front Squats

2×5 Kettlebell Clean & Military Press

2×5 Kettlebell Front Swings

2×5 Kettlebell Turkish Getups

Here’s a video of that last one:

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