The Best Biceps Exercise
As personal trainers, we are always looking for the best exercises to attack each muscle group. For the biceps, a study was done to show the differences between three popular dumbbell exercises: the standing dumbbell curl, the sitting inclined dumbbell curl (pictured), and the preacher curl. According to a recent publication by Liliam F. Oliveria et al, the standing dumbbell curl and the inclined dumbbell curl had more bicep activation for a broader range of motion as compared to the preacher curl. Although all three exercises seem to elicit a good bicep recruitment, the preacher curl had a shorter range of motion thus ranking third among the three bicep exercises for effectiveness in this study.
So which is the most effective exercise for biceps? We believe the most effective exercise has to be the inclined dumbbell curl due to it's larger range of motion. The bicep is primarily responsible for elbow flexion and forearm supination. The bicep is also an assistor with shoulder flexion. Therefore, one could argue that the inclined dumbbell curl with a 1/4 twist as you flex your elbow and flex your shoulder should be the most effective bicep exercise because the bicep's range of motion is the largest we could create in the gym. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Rest Days Between Workouts
Are you getting enough rest? Each muscle requires a certain amount of time to recover and rebuild. The amount of rest needed depends on the intensity of the workout. An intense workout would require up to 72 hours of recovery. If your muscles are still sore after 72 hours, you may need additional rest. A heavy workout with some eccentric training causes more soreness, referred to as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), than any other type of workout. A more moderate intensity workout will require 48 to 60 hours of recovery time while a light workout requires at 24 to 36 hours of recovery time.
On the other hand, some experts believe that larger muscles require more rest than smaller muscles. Regardless of the method you choose, the most important thing to remember is to listen to your body. Your body will let you know if you had a light, moderate, or intense workout; and, how much rest you will need. Of course, any workout for a beginner may seem like a moderate to high intensity workout. Therefore, beginners should initially workout 1 to 2 times per week and rest 2 to 3 days between workouts. Once your training improves, your workouts can increase up to 5 times per week. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Secrets to Six Pack Abs
Everyone is looking for the secret to six pack abs. The truth is, everyone is born with six pack abs but many people choose not to show them off. I don't mean they choose to conceal their six pack abs with clothes; I mean they choose to conceal their six pack abs with a layer of fat. If you can't see your six pack, you still may be able to feel it beneath your layer of skin/fat. Many people falsely believe that doing hundreds, even thousands, of sit-ups per day will result in six pack abs. But the truth is, sit-ups, crunches, leg raises, and other ab exercises are great for increasing core strength but hardly do much for producing six pack abs.
On the other hand, you need to think of your fat as stored energy. If you want to see muscle definition, you have to use up that stored energy surrounding your muscles! Therefore, if you're looking to shed that layer of fat covering your abs, it's time to concentrate most of your efforts on energy consuming exercises while limiting the amount of energy you consume. In other words, less crunches and more cardio. Combine your cardio efforts with a good diet and you shall see your hard earned sick pack ab wall in no time! Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Exercise Bands and Tubing
Are you incorporating bands or tubing into your exercise routines? They're a great way to change up your routine or take exercise on the road. You can easily pack them in your suitcase for travel and you can do exercises in the car or in your hotel room. If done correctly, there is tension throughout the exercise, therefore you have to stabilize your body which helps with coordination, balance and it also helps you involve more muscle groups. There are many popular band or tubing exercises but some of the most popular are squats, lunges, chest press, rows, curls, triceps presses, lateral raises, internal/external rotations, and crunches.
Furthermore, exercise bands are very inexpensive. Bands range anywhere from $6 to $20, depending on how many you get and where you buy them, which is nice for the budget-conscious exerciser. They're also great for all fitness levels. Depending on how you use them, bands can be great for beginners as well as more advanced exercisers. You can use them for basic moves or you can add intensity to traditional moves. Bands and tubing come in different tension setting which are usually indicated by different colors. Most importantly, have fun using different types of equipment and changing up the usual routine! Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Rest Time Between Sets
How much rest do you need between sets? Very few people actually time their rest periods. Most people just guess or start the next set when they feel rested. But recently, studies have shown that there is actually more science involved than we actually first believed. The amount of (or lack of) blood lactate concentration dictates the physiological changes in the muscle. For example, you should rest about 30 seconds between sets for increased muscular endurance. Also, circuit training or boot camps are similar to this style: lots of work and very little rest.
On the other hand, if your training goal is hypertrophy (an increase in the size of a muscle), then resting 60 to 90 seconds between sets would be optimum. Multiple sets of the same exercise targeting the same muscle group along with no more than 90 seconds of rest will effectively produce hypertrophic changes. Finally, a training goal of strength/power would require even more rest. It normally takes 3 to 5 minutes for complete ATP restoration so that is about the time you should rest between sets if strength/power is your goal. As with all exercise, beginners should exercise with caution. Always listen to your body and take some extra time if necessary. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Get Jacked like Venom
You may have seen the Venom movie and wondered how Venom got so muscular for the movie. Well wonder no more because PFTA Schools has the secret! Like many athletes, Venom uses a workout strategy called linear periodization. Many athletes utilize this type of technique to bust through plateaus and peak at the right time whether it's for the super bowl, NBA championship, a boxing match, a bodybuilding show, or the filming of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Furthermore, linear periodization relies on an old technique where the intensity increases as you get closer to your event; but, as the intensity increases, the volume of the workout will decrease. You can easily do this with your own workouts. For example, pick out a big muscle, multi-joint exercises like squats, bench press, or lat pulldowns. The 1st month, you will choose a weight that you can handle for 15 reps. The 2nd month, increase the weight (intensity) to a weight you can lift for 10 reps. On the 3rd month, choose a weight you can lift for 5 reps. Repeat every few months with a higher intensity or until it's "showtime." With the proper diet to go along a periodized program, you should be jacked like Venom in no time! Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!
Exercises for the Deltoids
There are many muscles that comprise what we call the "shoulder." The largest and outermost muscle is the deltoid. The deltoid muscle is divided into three parts: the anterior head, the middle head, and the posterior head. For complete muscular balance, you should exercise all three heads throughout the week. One exercise can NOT possibly work all three heads effectively; therefore, you must attack them from different angles. For example, you can target the anterior deltoid with front raises (left picture). It is best to do front raises with a neutral grip to minimize shoulder impingement at the top of the movement.
In addition, the middle deltoid can be worked with lateral raises using dumbbells or cables. Almost everyone includes these with their weekly routine. Lastly, the posterior deltoid can be exercised with bent lateral raises or reverse pec deck (right picture). Focus on moving your arms back while squeezing your shoulder blades together. This movement will also help prevent rounded shoulders and other postural issues in the future. You can have a shoulder day and exercise all three heads on the same day OR break them up and hit them on separate days. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!
Everyone knows that resistance training is beneficial for muscles; but, did you know resistance training is also very beneficial for your bones? Many studies have proven that weight training builds stronger bones especially in beginners and older adults. In fact, bones that undergo resistance training become denser and stronger regardless of age; while bones that do NOT experience exercise stress become weak and brittle. Your bones will adapt to the weight training the same way your muscles adapt to weight training. The stress of the exercise signals your body to make changes in the bone density as well as your muscle structure.
Furthermore, a proper diet plan which includes calcium and vitamin D will further assist in building stronger bones. These strong bones are the key to preventing osteoporosis as we get older and minimizing fractures at the more common sites like the hip, spine, and wrist. Moreover, bone density is site specific; which means runners and walkers may have strong tibias (lower leg bones), but they may have weak bones at the hips, spine, and arms. Therefore, everyone should participate in some type of weight bearing exercise for all the major muscles and major bones of the body in order to obtain a healthy body including a strong skeleton! Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!
Preventing Shin Splints
If you love to run, sometime in your lifetime, you may develop medial tibial stress syndrome also known as shin splints. Most of the time the injury is caused by overuse of your lower leg muscles. This happens when you add to many miles too quickly to your exercise program, improper foot wear, muscular imbalances, and/or not warming up properly. Once you develop shin splints, it is best to rest, massage, apply ice when necessary, and start a strength training program. Work your way back up with short walks before you start running again.
In addition, once you start running again, there are things you can do to prevent shin splints in the future. One of the things you can do is strength training for your tibialis anterior. The tibialis anterior is the muscle on the front side of your lower leg, opposite of your calves. A great exercise for your T.A. is toe taps. Take turns tapping your foot/toes on the floor while your heel is elevated. Start with three sets of 20 to 30. You should feel a slight burn on the front of your lower leg which means it's working! You can also use a band and a partner like the picture above. Also, don't forget to warm-up before exercising and just as important, don't forget to stretch after each workout. Don't get discouraged; you're doing great so far! It won't be long before you'll be running again! Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Two Types of Seated Rows
There are two effective ways to perform the seated row. One way is to set up the exercise with your elbows pointing down. Start the movement by moving your elbows low and back. Try to pull with your lats while relaxing your arms so they don't fatigue prematurely. This row will emphasize the large latissimus dorsi muscles along with the teres major and long head of the tricep.
On the other hand, another very popular row begins with your elbows high and pointing out. Initiate the movement by pulling your elbows back and squeezing your mid traps. This second type of row will emphasize more rhomboids and trapezius and less lats. Also involved will be the posterior deltoid because of the second joint action which is the horizontal shoulder abduction. Mixing in both movements throughout the week will ensure you have a strong back. Furthermore, contact a personal trainer if you have questions on these two exercises or any others. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Why Functional Training?
More and more people have goals of improved everyday life rather than big gains in size and strength. A new style of training includes exercises that mimic everyday movements called "functional training." Most traditional exercises involve single muscle groups in a single plane. Functional training utilizes more muscles groups in several different planes. While traditional training will enhance absolute strength and hypertrophy, functional training will improve functional strength, stability, and coordination. For example, high cable chops (pictured) mimics the downward movement of a golf swing. This exercise will add strength, coordination, balance, and power to the golf swing.
Moreover, you can combine traditional exercises with functional exercises to design a well-rounded routine. For example, a back squat followed by asymmetrical step-ups OR bench press followed by one-arm cable press. Just remember, when performing functional exercises, always progress from a more stable environment to a less stable one. For beginners, some of these "functional movements" may initially seem awkward; but, after repeated bouts of the same exercises, your muscles will coordinate and adapt to the challenge of functional training. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Lat Pulldowns: Anterior or Posterior?
There is an ongoing debate whether we should perform lat pulldowns in front of our heads or behind our heads. Personal trainers should always consider the safety and effectiveness of an exercise before they include it in a resistance training program. A study by Signorile et al (2002) compared muscle activity in the latissimus dorsi using different hand positions and techniques. EMGs were connected to 10 subjects using 4 different hand positions: wide grip anterior, wide grip posterior, close grip, and supinated grip.
Moreover, the study concluded that the wide grip anterior (front of the head) grip produced significantly greater muscle activity in the latissimus dorsi than any of the three other grips. Furthermore, there was more activity in tricep, teres major, pec major, and posterior deltoid during pulldowns in front of their heads than behind their heads. Also, most experts believe that anterior pulldowns are safer than posterior pulldowns concerning neck and shoulder joints. Therefore, it is concluded that anterior pulldowns are not only safer, but this study has proven that anterior pulldowns are also more effective in recruiting latissimus dorsi and other muscles than lat pulldowns behind the head. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
The Science Behind the Front Squat
Are you using front squats in your exercise routine? Some fitness enthusiasts don't utilize the front squat because they feel as if they can't lift as much weight as a regular back squat; from a biomechanical viewpoint, that assessment would be true. There are many variations of the front squat but one thing is certain, the front squat puts more emphasis on your quads than your glutes and hams. Furthermore, the barbell back squat forces you to bend slightly forward which puts the center of gravity more forward therefore requiring equal recruitment from your glutes, hams, and quads.
On the other hand, if you're looking to target more quads, the front squats may be what you're looking for. The barbell on your anterior deltoids requires your spine to remain more upright moving the center of gravity back toward your hip joints. This position forces your quads to get more involved and produce more force. This position also puts the glutes and hams at a mechanical disadvantage which minimizes their force production; thus, athletes can NOT lift as much weight as they would lift on a back squat. The barbell back squat is a great exercise to recruit glutes, hams, and quads; but, if you're looking to really kill those quads, give front squats a try. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Balance and Stability Training
Balance represents an ability to stabilize and maintain a desired body position. A balanced body is thought to represent a correct or efficient positioning of a body part or entire body. Stability training has shown not only to improve balance but also strength. With improvements in strength come improvements in sports performance. Furthermore, balance and stability training continues to grow and is a mainstay as a cutting edge method in conditioning and performance training programs.
Moreover, there are many ways to incorporate balance training into your fitness program. You can warm up with a few balance movements, use them throughout, and/or finish your workout with balance training. Always start with easier movements and progress to more difficult movements as your neuromuscular system improves. In addition, once the body is properly balanced, movements are more energy efficient, safer, and feel more natural. Studies have confirmed more muscle activity in more muscles during balance training with equipment such as the Bosu Ball and stability ball. Lastly, everyone gets benefits from balance training but especially the elderly and those just beginning a fitness program. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Exercise for Stress Relief
Feeling a little stressed? You're not alone. Many Americans feels stress at some point. But from now on, try and forget the comfort foods and start exercising. Comfort foods will only make you feel worse down the road. Instead, put aside your worries for 30 to 60 minutes and get involved in some type of physical activity. There have been well over 100 scientific studies on the effects exercise has on anxiety. The type of exercise that has shown to have the most positive effect is a low intensity, aerobic type exercise.
Moreover, there are 4 main reasons why exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety: (1) rhythmic nature of exercise, (2) thermogenic effect of exercise, (3) a diversion or time-out from daily concerns, and/or (4) the sense of accomplishment. For those athletes who prefer a high intensity workout, there have been studies showing that a high intensity workout will also alleviate stress for similar reasons, especially due to the sense of accomplishment of a very challenging workout goal. So going forward, ignore the ice cream and head to the gym or go outside for a great stress relieving workout that won't leave you bloated with junk food calories. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Improving Speed, Agility, and Quickness
If you or your clients are looking to improve speed, quickness, and agility, you may need to add hip flexion exercises to your leg routine. Most athletes know to train their glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves; but, many athletes forget to train the hip flexion muscle group which includes the psoas major and iliacus. Dean et al (2005) showed that subjects improved both 40 yard time and shuttle times after an 8 week hip flexion resistance training program. There were no improvements in the control group. Results were published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning. A simple hip flexion exercise is lying leg raises or full sit-ups.
Moreover, you can add agility equipment to your workouts like cones and agility ladders (pictured). Make sure to tackle these exercises before any heavy lifting...while your muscles are still fresh. These exercises will improve your speed, quickness, and agility while burning a few extra calories as well. In summary, everyone should follow a total body, all joint action, exercise routine. If you are missing a few joint actions in your weekly routine, you may be shorting yourself athletic improvement or even worse, creating muscular imbalances that may lead to injury down the road. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Training with Kettlebells
The Kettlebell is an old Russian training tool that has been recently re-discovered for full body conditioning. Kettlebell workouts are said to improve strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination, and balance. But does a kettlebell workout provide enough resistance to improve strength over traditional weight lifting? Does a kettlebell workout improve cardiovascular endurance better than traditional cardiovascular exercise?
The American Council on Exercise did a study on the workout intensity on kettlebells versus treadmill running. As expected, the kettlebell workout was intense. Heart rate and oxygen consumption increased rapidly. The results indicated that although the volume of oxygen consumed wasn't as high as treadmill running, the kettlebell workout produced cardiovascular gains as well as strength gains for most beginners. However, experts agree in order to improve strength and power for your experienced athletes, traditional weight training may be more beneficial. Furthermore, you will have to incorporate other traditional exercises to target some muscles that kettlebell exercise don’t fully incorporate. In conclusion, if you are looking to change up your routine, kettlebells will give you some strength benefits along with very good cardiovascular benefits. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Leg Press Tips and Techniques
The Leg Press is one of the most popular machines in the gym. It is a single plane exercise which means it specifically targets the glutes, quads, and hamstrings if used properly. To use all three big muscle groups, your feet should be placed near the center of the plate where the center of gravity is near the center of the movement. If your feet are placed too high, you will recruit more glutes and hams and less quads. If you place your feet lower on the plate, you will recruit more quads than glutes and hams. Therefore, set up the exercise depending on which muscle(s) you would like to recruit.
Moreover, another important consideration to the leg press is the lower back. As with most exercises, it is very important to keep a neutral spine throughout the movement. Some athletes will lower the weight too fast causing their lumbar spine to curve posteriorly; thus please make a mental note to keep your low back on the pad. A curved lumbar will produce a posterior pelvic tilt which may lead to low back pain or injury in the future. So next time you're at the gym and the angled leg press machine is available, try experimenting with foot position. High on the plate for glutes/hams, low for quads, and wide for adductors. But regardless of your routine, make sure you maintain proper form to prevent injury. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
The Benefits of Stretching
Everyone loves to see the benefits of weight training and cardio exercise but most people forget about stretching. Some athletes skip this part of the workout because they don't see the benefits in the mirror like they would for weight training and cardio. Nevertheless, stretching is important as it can improve sports performance and reduce the risk of injury. Stretching doesn't have to take a lot of time; in fact, you can get a lot of benefit from just 10 minutes of stretching 3 to 5 times per week, but preferably after every workout.
Moreover, a recent study published by NSCA shows a 30 second stretch for each muscle after each workout will bring you flexibility benefits after just six short weeks! On the other hand, another study proved that stretching for only six seconds brought no flexibility benefits to the test subjects. Therefore, reserve the last 10 minutes of your workout for stretching. You can stretch 15 to 20 muscles in those last 10 minutes if you stretch each muscle for 30 to 40 seconds. If you are like most inflexible Americans, the muscles that require the most attention are the pecs, lats, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors and low back. Pick out a few more of your favorite stretches and you are on your way to a healthier, more conditioned body! Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Shoulder Press for Delts or Traps?
Shoulder press does NOT just target your shoulders. In fact, most people in the gym keep the movement too high to stimulate the deltoids but rather work out the larger trapezius muscle instead. The primary action of the middle deltoid is shoulder abduction up to 90 degrees. In other words, your deltoid is almost completely contracted when your humerus (upper arm) reaches 90 degrees which is about parallel to the floor. In order for your upper arm to move any higher, the movement has to be completed by the trapezius muscle. If you keep the movement above parallel like the shoulder press pictured to the left, most of the work will be done by your trapezius muscle, specifically your upper trapezius.
Therefore, lateral raise is a better exercise for stimulating your deltoid while shoulder press, especially above parallel, is better for your traps. On the other hand, if you perform the shoulder press through a broader range of motion, one where your upper arm dips down below parallel and also rises well above parallel, you would have stimulated both the deltoid muscle and the trapezius muscle. Another alternative to working out your deltoids and your traps is to super set them with lateral raises followed immediately by shoulder presses. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Suspension Training with TRX Bands
Suspension training is a revolutionary form of bodyweight exercise training. The most popular suspension training device is TRX Bands. These new devices have many benefits over traditional types of training. The equipment is easy to pack and light to carry so it makes the training area very portable. You can set it up just about anywhere including homes, parks, and other gyms. Because of it's unique setup, other benefits include agility training and balance training. Moreover, proper technique ensures that you will also improve the strength in your core.
Furthermore, there are dozens of exercises you can perform with TRX Bands: squats, rows, curls, crunches, and chest press are just a few of the many exercises you can perform with suspension training. Many trainers use TRX bands for total body conditioning. You can perform a total body routine in less than 30 minutes. You can do so many exercises in so little time because the transition time is a mere seconds. In conclusion, suspension training is a great tool for trainers to change things up so your clients can break through plateaus and keep the workouts from getting stale. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Training Upper and Lower Abs
We all know that training our abs will strengthen our core and minimize back pain but should we try to isolate lower abs from upper abs? There have been numerous studies that tried to answer the same questions for years. Most studies agree that every abdominal exercise excites the muscle fibers of the entire ab wall, both upper and lower, equally. For example, a study by Clark et al (2003) tested the upper abs and lower abs from 8 healthy subjects. Using electrode placement on upper and lower abs, the results showed no significant difference between upper abs and lower abs on six different ab exercises.
On the other hand, a study by Willet et al (2001) reported small differences between lower abs and upper ab activity in their study. In the study, the curl-up and reverse curl exercises both produced similar results for the upper rectus abdominis; BUT, the reverse curl seemed to excite the lower rectus abdominis more than any other exercise. Therefore, if you want to play it safe, doing both ab crunches and reverse ab curls will ensure your entire ab wall is strong and mobile. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Barbell Squats Still the King!
Squats vs. Leg Extensions? The debate continues on which exercise is best for quadriceps. A recent study has proven once again that the barbell squat is still the king when it comes to quadriceps development. A study done by Signorile et al (1994) compared the EMG activity of the quadricep muscle while the subjects performed barbell squats and knee extensions. The data showed that there was more electrical activity in the quadricep muscle during the barbell squat exercise than the leg extension exercise.
Furthermore, proper technique should be used when performing a back squat to avoid any type of injury. Regardless of weight, a shoulder-width stance with your toes slightly flared out is best for full lower body development including glutes, quads, and hams. Do not allow your knees to bow out or cave in; they should be on the same plane as your toes. You should also keep a neutral spine during the movement to prevent any lumbar injury.
In conclusion, the barbell squat should be included at least once a week if you are trying to increase leg strength. The back squat also burns many calories so it's very beneficial in a weight loss program. Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!
Using Periodization to Train like a Super Hero
More and more actors are training like athletes to give them that superhero body which is ideal for the big screen. Like many athletes, these actors use a workout strategy called linear periodization. They will also incorporate supersets, compound sets, and circuit training to achieve the exact look they are looking for. Many athletes utilize these types of techniques to bust through plateaus and peak and the right time whether it's for the super bowl, NBA championship, a boxing match, a bodybuilding show, or the filming of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Moreover, linear periodization relies on an old technique where the intensity increases as you get closer to your scheduled event; but, as the intensity increases, the volume of the workout will decrease. You can easily do this with your own workouts. For example, pick out a big muscle, multi-joint exercise like squats, bench press, or lat pulldowns. This month, you will choose a weight that you can handle for 15 reps. Next month increase the weight (intensity) to a weight you can lift for 10 reps. On the 3rd month, choose a weight you can lift for 5 reps. Repeat every few months with a higher intensity or until it's "showtime." With the proper diet to go along a periodized program, you should have a superhero body in no time! Remember, knowledge is power! Happy health and happy training!!