Spend More Time Working Big Muscles

13 Jan

the-barbell-squat-620x330[1]I spend a fair amount of time in high school and college weight rooms, working with a variety of athletes and teams.  This past September and October, I worked with an area high school girls basketball team, in their weight room, helping them prepare for the upcoming season.

As is the case in most schools, there are multiple teams sharing the weight room at any given time, and the girls shared the weight room with the freshman football team.

As I observed them, I could have sworn that these young men did more sets of biceps curls and triceps extensions than all other exercises, combined.  It was comical and — ultimately — ridiculous (35-40 of them were being “supervised” by one coach).

If you’re like these guys, investing a significant portion of your gym time working on your biceps and triceps, you’ve got it backward.  It’s not that those muscles aren’t important, but your biceps is the size of an orange for a reason.

Your smaller muscles exist to assist larger muscles with the important stuff — pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, and throwing.

The next time you’re in the weight room (and every time thereafter), do your heavy lifts first and focus the majority of your strength training efforts on exercises that work the big muscles, like squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, chinups, and pullups.

Exercises that target your legs, chest, and back  — working multiple joints and muscle groups — provide the greatest return on your workout investment.  And your smaller muscles will get plenty of work in the process.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Happy New Year! (it’s resolution time)

6 Jan

Happy New Year, once again, and welcome to the end of the first full week of 2020.  Although I’m not a big proponent of annual resolutions, this time of year certainly lends itself to that process for lots of people.  If you’re one of them, here are some considerations in your quest for self-improvement:

  • Upgrade your pantry and fridge.  Replace the high-sugar, refined, processed, and fried foods and snacks with healthier options like nuts, fruits, and veggies.
  • Schedule your workout.  You’re more likely to commit to a regular workout if you schedule it as part of your day/week as you would any other appointment or obligation.
  • Train with a buddy to keep you motivated and accountable.  Research shows that you’re more likely to stay on task if you workout with a partner, especially if he or she is more fit than you.
  • Try new foods.  Experiment with new recipes and try to avoid stuff that comes out of a bag, package, or box.
  • Get your sleep.  You’ll feel and perform better when you are well-rested.  Aim for 7-8 hours of shuteye per night.
  • Try a new activity.  If your current routine is getting stale, move on.  Finding an activity you enjoy increases the likelihood that you’ll make it a priority.
  • Take a break.  Set aside time in your daily calendar for two 15-minute breaks — one in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Go for a walk, listen to music, or grab a healthy snack to improve productivity.
  • Get more color in your diet.  Try to include at least three colorful fruits and vegetables on your plate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Colorful meals are packed with antioxidants and nutrients to help fight illness and decrease inflammation.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2020.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

New Year, New and Improved You

30 Dec

No matter how good you are, everyone has room for improvement.  How will you improve yourself in 2020?  Here are a few thoughts:

Do Something

Challenge yourself to develop a new skill.  Start a new project. If it’s making you better — taking you in a positive direction — continue and improve what you did in 2019.  Commit yourself to self-improvement in some area.  If you’re not satisfied with a certain area of your life, do something about it.  Then, keep doing it… every day.  The cumulative impact will be considerable.

Get Moving

Inactivity is the enemy of productivity.  Get started.  Take action.  Move.  Nothing will change until you get going.  Beginning a new endeavor can seem daunting, but Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu reminds us, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

The best and brightest individuals in every field were once beginners.  No one starts as an expert.  The greatest accomplishments all have the same common denominator:  At some point, someone was willing to take the first step toward greatness, even if they didn’t realize it at the time.  American Author Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.

Be Confident

Believe in yourself.  You have positive attributes.  You have strengths and skills.  Use positive self-talk as a motivator.  Surround yourself with people who are positive and encouraging.  Learn to view setbacks as nothing more than learning experiences — steps on the path to success.  “Believe you can and youre halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Risk New Things

You know the “definition” of insanity:  “Doing the same things over and over, and expecting different results.”  Take a chance.  Be open-minded and adventurous.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Go out on a limb — that’s where the fruit is.  Change can be scary, but it is a necessary component of progress.  “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” – Ben Franklin

Stick With It

Creating a better you won’t necessarily be easy.  Some days will be better than others.  There will probably be some obstacles and growing pains along the way.  Be persistent.  Follow your plan and do something to move forward, every day, especially on the “low-motivation” days.  Don’t give up, don’t give in.

Then Be Ready for Big Surprises

You’re as good as you think you are, and as good as you want to be.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

A Visit from St. Nicholas

24 Dec

‘Twas the night before Christmas

When all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with  care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their  beds,

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.

And Mamma in her kerchief and I in my cap

Had just settled down for a long winter‘s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave a luster of midday to objects below.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick;

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came.

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by  name:

“Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!

On Comet! On Cupid! On Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!

Now, dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane  fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the  sky,

So up to the housetop the coursers they flew

With a sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas,  too.

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his  foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his  pack.

His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how  merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a  cherry.

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard on his chin was as white as the  snow.

The stump of his pipe he held tight in his  teeth,

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a  wreath.

He had a broad face and a little round belly

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of  jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of  myself.

A wink of the eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his  work,

And filled all the stockings, then turned with a  jerk.

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a  whistle,

And away they all flew, like a down of a  thistle.

But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of  sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good  night.”

— Clement Clarke Moore, December 1823

This Holiday Season…

17 Dec

10559911_10202096199965891_1793992248399861668_n[1]I recently saw this Holiday “To-Do” List on a social media site, and thought it was worth sharing.  Enjoy.

  • Don’t just buy presents… BE present.
  • Don’t just wrap gifts… wrap someone in a HUG.
  • Don’t just send gifts… send PEACE.
  • Don’t just shop for food… DONATE food.
  • Don’t just make cookies… make LOVE.
  • Don’t just see the lights… BE the light.

Brighten someone’s holiday this year.  Make someone’s day.  Be the reason someone smiles.

Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Season

9 Dec

Well, it’s that time of year… the holiday “weight gain” season.  And, although there is anecdotal speculation — via media reports, surveys, etc. — that the average American gains 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas, several studies now show that the average weight gain during the winter holidays is just a pound or two.  But here’s the real problem: Most people don’t ever lose the weight they put on during the holidays, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine.  Since the average weight gain during adulthood is about one to two pounds a year, that means much of midlife weight gain can be explained by holiday eating.

Here are some healthy eating tips to help you stay on track and get through the holidays:

  • Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Stay committed to your exercise/training program. Physical activity can help relieve stress, regulate appetite, and burn up extra calories.
  • Be realistic. Perhaps the holiday season is not the best time to try to lose weight. Aim to maintain your current weight instead.
  • Portion control. Keep your portion sizes small. Eat small portions of a variety of foods rather than a large portion of one food.
  • Eat breakfast. Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day. It jump starts your metabolism and helps to stave off hunger and cravings.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Alternate cocktails with unsweetened iced tea or seltzer to reduce the quantity of alcohol consumed. Choose wine, light beer or spirits mixed with no calorie beverages.
  • Drink lots of water. Drinking water can decrease the chance of overeating by temporarily filling your stomach. Also, caffeine and alcohol can lead to dehydration which increases your need for water.
  • Snack sensibly. Choose fruits and vegetables and dip with veggies instead of chips. Limit fried foods, high-fat sauces and gravies, and cheese cubes.
  • Eat slowly and stop when you feel satisfied (not stuffed). Listen to your stomach! It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal your stomach that you’ve had enough. Pay attention to what it feels like to be satisfied and not full.
  • Prepare for temptationNever go to a party or event hungry. Prepare yourself for distractions by eating before you go. Have a small meal or a snack which contains a combination of carbohydrate, protein, and a little healthy fat to fend off hunger, such as natural peanut butter on whole wheat bread or low-fat cottage cheese with fresh fruit.
  • Visualize success. Make an action plan. Think about where you will be, who you will be with and what foods will be available. It’s much easier to deal with a difficult social eating situation if you’ve already planned for it. Parties are a time to mingle with friends and loved ones. Focus on interaction instead of on the food and drinks. Food very often is center stage of any party but you can guarantee success by visualizing the enjoyment of the company and not just the food and drink.
  • Don’t deprive yourself. Don’t spend all your time obsessing over the not-so-healthy delicacy that you’re really craving. Instead, allow a small portion and savor every mouth-watering bite so that you do not feel deprived.

Eating a bit too much one day is not the end of the world! It takes consecutive days of unhealthy eating to gain weight. If you slip up, put it behind you and return to your healthy eating plan, just don’t allow it to become a habit. You are in control of your lifestyle choices so choose wisely. It’s all about lifestyle changes, not diets.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Lift Heavier Weights to Get Stronger

2 Dec

bench-press[1]If you want to build strength, you’ve got to tax your muscles, connective tissue, and bones.  Incrementally challenging yourself in the weight room is the most important stimulus for building muscle and strength.

Lifting the same amount of weight, every workout, won’t make you stronger.  It’s necessary to gradually increase your loads, as you progress, in order to strengthen your muscles and prepare them to handle heavier weights, over time.

You shouldn’t be able to complete the last few repetitions of your final set as easily as the first few reps.  It should be difficult to finish those last few reps, while maintaining good form and technique.

As you adapt to the training load and repetitions, it’s important to have a progression strategy.  Advancing exercise loads ensures that improvements will continue over time.  It’s also important for you to keep track of your progress and chart each workout.

A conservative method that can be used to increase your training load is called the 2-for-2 rule.  If you can perform two or more repetitions over your assigned repetition goal in the last set in two consecutive workouts for a certain exercise, weight should be added to that exercise for the next training session.  (Baechle, T. and Earle, R.; Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning)

The quantity of load increases, when progression is warranted, should generally be about 2.5-10%.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

What’s the Best Time to Exercise?

30 Nov

gym-weight-plate-clock[1]Generally, the best time to exercise is anytime you can drag yourself to the gym.  Life can be hectic, and most of us have to coordinate and manage schedules that include family, work, school, and other responsibilities and obligations.

However, depending on your training goal(s), there may be some logic to scheduling your workout based on the benefits you wish to achieve:

  • If you have a stressful event scheduled, like a test or meeting, exercising just before it can lessen your body’s physiological reaction to stress by helping your brain turn off its stress response.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, try exercising before bed.  Although some believe exercising before bed makes it harder to fall asleep, new research shows that people who exercise at any time of day or night sleep better than those who don’t (yoga seems to work best).
  • For injury prevention, exercise in the early evening.  If you’re prone to strained muscles and soreness, your “cold” muscles may not be ready to jump out of bed and workout.  Try exercising between 4 PM and 8 PM, when your core temperature is generally at its highest level.
  • If you want to lose weight, get your workout in before breakfast.  People who exercised before breakfast burned about 20 percent more fat compared with a group who ate breakfast first, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
  • If you want to improve your muscle tone, try exercising after dinner.  The increase in core body temperature later in the day can translate to an improvement in exercise performance.  Muscle strength increases slightly, coordination is better, and your VO2 max (the amount of oxygen delivered to muscles) rises.  It’s a small improvement, but these factors my enable you to work a bit longer and harder.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Foot Speed With This Agility Drill

25 Nov

mqdefault[1]Ideally, the purpose of an agility drill should be to develop the athlete’s proficiency in as many of the following skill areas as possible:

  • Acceleration
  • Deceleration
  • Change of Direction
  • Reaction
  • Foot Speed

Here are two of our student-athletes — both high school sophomore football players — demonstrating an agility cone drill, performed both laterally and linearly.

Lateral Shuffle Agility Cone Drill

Linear (forward/backward) Agility Cone Drill

The following coaching tips should be emphasized:

  • Fast feet — short, quick steps — NO long strides
  • Maintain arm action/pump — don’t leave them down at your sides
  • Stay in a low, athletic stance
  • Chin up, chest up; don’t look down at your feet

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Spread Out Your Protein

22 Nov

If you want to build muscle, you need to get more protein.  Active individuals should aim for 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, daily.  Athletes may need even more.

So, how should you distribute your daily protein intake?

Scientists at Skidmore College (NY) found that individuals who divide their daily protein among six smaller meals, instead of three larger ones, build muscle faster.

Start your day with protein, and try to get more than half of your recommended intake by lunch.  Eggs for breakfast are a quick and easy way to get your morning protein.  Add a mid-morning protein shake, and grilled chicken (or other lean meat) and Greek yogurt for lunch.  Peanut butter is another good way to get your protein with any meal or snack, any time of day.

I like preparing a protein shake — 10-12 oz. of chocolate milk and a scoop of chocolate whey protein powder — and sipping it, throughout the day.  It’s an easy way to add 30-40 grams of protein to my daily intake.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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