Does Cardio Hurt Muscle Gain?

It’s the ultimate tradeoff you must face whether you’re an athlete, bodybuilder, or recreational gym goer.

How do you structure your strength training routine and still make time for trail runs, pickup basketball, or your metcon of choice? Strength is good. Cardio is good. So how do you balance the two for optimal health and performance? A great strength and conditioning coach knows exactly how and the truth might surprise you…

The perceived problem is rooted deep in bro science. “Ditch the cardio and just lift heavy if you want to get yoked!” Yet there are incredible athletes around the world have found ways to carry muscle mass and maintain a high level of cardiac output. CrossFit Games competitors casually bust out 225 pound snatches between sets of burpees. Hybrid athletes compete in powerlifting meets deadlifting 600+ pounds and complete Ironman triathlons in the same week. The threshold for excuses just dropped through the floor.

So why is it such a problem balancing strength and metabolic conditioning?

It takes knowledge of exercise science and how the human body adapts to training in order to properly prescribe a routine that works. At least if you wish to improve your strength and maintain your cardio or vice versa. There are many folks who run their body through the ringer day after day. Hard work is not the sole element for achieving fitness success. In fact hard work can be misapplied and eventually become a hindrance to your training if not properly executed. Layering intensity on top of dysfunction or lacking a clear goal leads to burnout and chronic fatigue.

So how do you balance out your strength and conditioning pieces?

The key is to understand how to work in different heart rate zones. Working at different prescribed intensities will improve cardiac output, build muscular endurance, and even help improve recovery from your strength training routine. The volume and intensity spent in each zone will be dictated by your training age and specific goals in training.

A great coach will tell you that you can only have one priority for each block of training: you execute. They will also understand that your energy needs, micronutrients, electrolytes, and will all have to be supported in order to sustain greater output. Finding a great coach will be the first step in determining the specific way you should organize your training to make gains in strength and conditioning!

Get Fit, For A Change…

If you have ever tried to start a new healthy habit or perhaps eliminate an old one you know difficult change can be.

Our bodies are adaptation machines however and will adapt to the stimulus they experience most frequently. One way to prime your body for change is to exercise. Exercise causes a whole host of changes in your physiology that can make learning a new habit or skill easier. It is also a great replacement for bad habits you are trying to eliminate. Whatever your goal may be fitness can play a huge role in your transformation. The most important part of change is starting, taking action towards your goal. Even if you slip and fall it is way better than never having tried at all.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly” -G.K. Chesterton

That’s why if you are interested in pursuing a new career, relationship, or habit you should make it a priority to dedicate time each week to rigorous physical exercise. Exercise has numerous physical benefits but it goes beyond that. The way you eat and the way you move your body has a direct impact on the way you think, your mood, and how you make decisions.

Improving cognitive function can give you the energy and mental stamina to make other great changes in your life. Numerous studies have shown significant brain benefits as a result of both cardiovascular and resistance training routines. Exercise has been proven to increase the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin and other neurohormones like the endorphin dopamine. These act on the opiate receptors in our brain to reduce pain and boost pleasure.

“Nothing will work unless you do.” -John Wooden

Exercise has also been shown to stimulate the growth of the hippocampus, synapses, and glial cells in your brain. The hippocampus is responsible for memory and individuals who exercise are able to better recall information.

Synapses are the junctions where our cells communicate with one another, sending signals throughout the body that guide our actions. Exercise stimulates the growth of synapses which helps reinforce learning. The stronger we develop neural pathways through our synapses the stronger we reinforce the pattern. If you are trying to learn a new routine or information exercise can help.

Glial cells provide support and protection for cells in the brain and central nervous system. Exercises stimulates the growth of these cells helping you literally build a bigger brain. It is believed that a bigger brain leads to enhanced cognitive function.

Exercise also increases blood flow, improves our hormonal balance, and aids digestion and insulin sensitivity. These are all tremendous factors in our ability to be alert and energetic. If you are looking for the attitude, attention, and focus to make positive changes in your life then exercise will help you.

If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to fitness or any other change you want to make in your life get in touch with a coach who can help you. A coach will help you evaluate your situation and come up with a plan that fits your needs and lifestyle. A community that is focused on fitness and self improvement will also help you stay dedicated to your goals.

Prime The Pump

Have you ever started a workout and not quite felt ready?

Like your body should be able to perform the exercise but it feels extra heavy or a step behind? Maybe you’re watching others moving around you at lightning speed and you wonder “what am I doing wrong?!”

Knowing how to prepare your body for exercise is a skill in itself. A great coach will instruct you on how to warm up in a way that physically and mentally prepares you for the day. Having a deeper understanding of how your body works will be hugely beneficial for taking initiative yourself and getting the most out of your hard efforts. You will be able to ask the right questions and know if you are really working up to your potential.

Today we will explore how to prepare for strength based workouts as well as high intensity intervals or cardio sessions. Understanding these principles will help you prepare your body and take your fitness to the next level!

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln

Preparing For Strength And Power Workouts

To prepare for a strength workout you can utilize a rep scheme called a “wave load” to prepare for big lifts. Wave loading lets your body tap into its ability to activate high threshold motor units, the signaling mechanism telling your muscles to contract. The more motor units you activate the more muscles fibers you utilize to produce movement. Understanding how to recruit as many motor units as possible is essential for moving heavy weights or to move moderate loads at high velocity such as in an olympic lift.

Say you are trying to find a 5 rep max back squat. If your current max is 300 you might start out performing sets of 5 starting at 135 pounds, adding 20-30 pounds each set and resting a minute or two in between. By the time you get to 225 though, the weight is already feeling heavy and a feeling of dread creeps in. Most people use a linear progression like this to build up to their heavy weight. The load feels heavier and heavier.

The problem with this approach is that your body is an efficiency machine. It doesn’t want to work any harder than it has to lift the load. It will only recruit the minimum number of motor units required to lift the weight in front of you. Every weight feels heavy because it actually is heavy relative to the muscles you’re using to lift it! Meanwhile however you are using up precious energy trying to slowly build up to your goal weight for the day.

One effective strategy to build up to the goal weight effectively and bust out new personal records is using a wave load technique. Rather than use straight sets of 5 reps all the way up to your working weight you can use single reps at a higher load than you would want to use for a set of 5. This helps your body recruit more muscle fibers because of the demands of a heavy single rep.

Every training session is kind of like blowing up a balloon. Blowing up a heavy duty party balloon fresh out of the package can require some serious lung strength. It’s a challenge right? This is similar to building up to a new weight in your workout. It’s hard to do and physically demanding. What happens once you’ve blown the balloon up all the way? It’s stretched to a new dimension that if you let all the air out, would make it easier to blow up the next time. This is what performing a heavy single is like before performing your set of 5.

Instead of progressing in a linear fashion such as:

  • 5×135
  • 5×185
  • 5×205
  • 5×225
  • 5×245
  • 5×275
  • 5×295
  • 5x New Max Effort Attempt

Total reps = 35  Total load = 7,825 lb.

 

Instead try an undulating periodization:

  • 5×135
  • 5×185
  • 3×225
  • 1×275
  • 3×265
  • 1×300
  • 3×295
  • 1×325
  • 5x New Max Effort Attempt

Total reps = 22   Total load = 4,855

If your goal is to conserve energy for a new max it is clear to see how a wave load can still prime your body for a heavy lift without wasting unnecessary energy!

Preparing For High Intensity Interval (HIIT) or Cardio Workouts

HIIT workouts can be brutal. Sometimes you find yourself gasping for air and wide eyed in the first two minutes. Wondering how you’ll last until the time cap or complete the prescribed number of rounds or reps.

If this is an experience you have had it means that you were either not properly warmed up for the workout or you didn’t properly scale the weights and movements. Warming up for a HIIT workout requires several key components. Increasing respiration so your heart is prepared for greater cardiac output, movement progressions that warm up your muscles and reinforce the movement patterns, and mobility work to improve performance and reduce injury risk.
As a general rule of thumb, the shorter and more intense the workout is, the more warmup and preparation it requires. You need to be prepared to give an intense effort and that will look different every day depending on the workout.

A great coach will be able to help you execute a proper warm complete with movement progressions and the appropriate scales for the movements in your HIIT training.

Everything You Need To Know About Salt In Your Diet

Long touted as “the bad guy” when it comes to heart health and blood pressure, salt is starting to fight back with a different story.

There is more to salt than the seasoning and preservative uses we tend to associate with it. There is absolutely a place for salt in your diet. Oh and guess what else, not all salt is created equal….

To truly optimize your health you need to prioritize your salt intake, consume the right types of salt, and understand the relationship it has with potassium. When it comes to nutrition that can optimize your health and performance electrolytes are just one key to success. Adopting sound nutritional strategies will transform the way you feel but also the way you think and your mood.

The problem that arises with salt is has less to do with salt and actually stems from processed foods. These foods are bad for two main reasons.

One, they are almost entirely void of potassium which throws off the ratio of salt to potassium in the body.

Two, they contain 99% sodium chloride and anti-caking agents that often contain heavy metals that can do serious damage to your nervous system. Salt containing heavy metals actually lead to dehydration. They are toxic in the body so the body pulls water out of the cells to protect itself.

“At the end of the day, you can’t compete with Mother Nature. If you’ve got a great tomato, just a pinch of sea salt is all you need.” -Zac Posen

The solution to the problem is to eat the right types of salt. Himalayan salts, sea salts, and other high quality salt products contain lower levels of sodium chloride and instead have higher amounts of beneficial trace minerals. They are also unrefined which eliminates the risk of heavy metals.

It may be a tough mental block for you to overcome when it comes to adding salt to your diet. Feel free to use a healthy variety of salt liberally since evidence has shown no link between sea salt intake above dietary guidelines and adverse medical conditions.

Salt can improve athletic performance and energy levels through its hydrating effects. There are also tons of varieties that will absolutely revolutionize the taste of your food. The cells in our body maintain hydration through a sodium potassium pump. The body likes to maintain specific levels of each mineral in order to keep homeostasis. Along with salt make sure you consume foods high in sodium like potatoes and bananas, especially if you are training hard or sweating a lot.

Go find a high quality salt and sea for yourself.

If you have questions about nutrition for your sport, you want to have more energy, or make a positive choice for your body then we would love to talk about your goals and share some resources that can help!

Eliminate shoulder pain once and for all!

Shoulder pain is one of the most troubling ailments that can interrupt any avid gym goer.

Exercise should be a place to relieve stress, build, confidence, and of course improve your health. Dealing with one more painful problem to work through is probably not going to be a big motivator for you.

The good news is that you don’t to make training with shoulder pain a part of your life. In fact if you dedicate yourself to the process you can eliminate shoulder pain once and for all.

Let’s talk about where this shoulder pain can come from, address what actions need to be taken and the potential irritants that should be avoided. Finally we’ll take a look at some movements that can help mobilize, activate, and strengthen your shoulders. Dedicate part of every workout to improving the functionality of this crucial joint and you will change your athleticism and quality of life.

“It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.” -Julius Caesar

Poor technique may load up the shoulder joint in a way that it cannot stabilize. This could cause strain and overuse of muscles around the shoulder. One common example of this is an overworked pec minor and underworked rotator cuff. This leads to rounded shoulders, and weakens the ability to stabilize the glenohumeral joint during pushing and pulling movements from the shoulder. By stretching the pec it will allow your shoulder to sit in a more stable position. By activating and strengthening the rotator cuff and scapular muscles on the back of the shoulder you ensure healthy, balanced stability and function.

Overuse could be another culprit of shoulder pain. Whether your volume (total amount of reps) or frequency (sessions each week) is too high or you are simply trying to lift too much weight can all cause problems. If you go heavy or perform maximal effort sets you may need up to 5-7 days to fully recover. If you work at lower intensity you may be able to work this muscle group 2-3 times a week. Find the right balance of volume and intensity to ensure consistent progress in your lifts.

If you are constantly running into the same shoulder pain issues then technique may be the true problem. The shoulder is the most freely movable joint in the body. This puts at the greatest risk of injury when it comes to repetitive movement with poor form. Even one session with a coach or trainer can revolutionize your upper body pressing ability.

Finally if you experience pain when performing a certain movement it may simply not be a good fit for you. There are infinite ways to scale the load and form of resistance to provide your body with a similar stimulus to the painful movement. Perhaps the most commons movement replacements are those that replace a fixed circuit movement such as a barbell bench press or overhead press with single arm variations using dumbbells or kettlebells. Training the arms unilaterally allows you to have more “play” in the shoulder and adopting a movement pattern that better suits your body. No compromises in strength or performance are necessary.

So let’s move on to some strategies to actively prevent your shoulders from injury. Through activation, self myofascial release, strengthening, and stretching.

1. Activate

Activating the muscles for a workout or “prehab” helps your body prepare for the more demanding movements it is about to perform. It will both aid performance and mitigate risk of injury. When it comes to the shoulders

To help activate your shoulders before a workout perform these 3 upper body exercises, band pull aparts, scapular pushups, and face pulls. Perform 3 rounds of this circuit with 10 seconds rest between each movement. Keep the band resistance light enough to move with a slow controlled tempo but make sure it still challenges you. You should feel the blood flow and a warm sensation in the shoulder joint by the end of this circuit.
Perform 3 rounds with :10 of rest between movements.

    • A1. 15 Band Pull Aparts
    • A2. 10 Yoga Push Up
    • A3. 15 Band Face Pulls

2. Roll Out

Self Myofascial Release (SMR) is a fancy name for “rolling out.” The goal is to mobilize soft tissue allowing greater range of motion and improved muscle function. You can use a foam rollers, lacrosse balls, tennis balls or any other device that allows you to access the desired body part at pain level you can withstand. Focus on breathing and eliminating abdominal pressure while you roll out to ensure the tool can work its way into the muscle.

Rolling out helps our body get “unstuck” from tightness due to sitting and positions we spend long amounts of time in. It is important to move and mobilize our tissues as often as possible to mitigate this tightness. Imagine if you were going to run a marathon with a rock in your shoe. You would never run 26 miles with that rock digging into your foot each step of the way! There’s no reason to treat your shoulder in that manner either. Stop pushing through the pain and fix the sticky points.

3. Strengthen

Like an muscle group it is important to strengthen the muscles of the shoulder. The exercise you choose should strengthen the weak muscles that are necessary for optimal shoulder stability. Performing these strength building movement for 5 rounds alternating back and forth between movements

3×8 Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press: Take 3-4 seconds to lower the weight from the top position. IF you struggle with balancing try working from a kneeling or seated position, train one arm at a time, and keep the kettlebell light.
3×8 alternating Turkish Get Up: Try breaking this complex movement into smaller pieces or work with a coach to master the technique. Your shoulders will thank you!

4. Static Stretching

Part of your cool down routine should also include some static stretching. There are many debates around when and how static stretching should be performed. One study has shown that static stretching can improve flexibility by increasing passive fascicle length. Performing a static stretching routine after your workout or anytime that is not immediately preceding an event requiring maximal force production by a muscle.

Stretch the primary movers of your days workout-chest, lats, and traps are some of the key muscles to stretch since a heavy bout of training will leave them tight and could cause a temporary imbalance if not addressed. Hold stretches for about 30 seconds to ensure your brain sends a signal to your muscles that they need to stop firing and allow lengthening to occur.

If you have questions about building strong healthy shoulders don’t be afraid to get in touch with one of our coaches. We will find a safe and effective program to meet your needs!

Ditch the Bench…

The top 8 Press variations you should be training instead

There are an incredible number of options of exercises to train the chest and shoulder muscles. Yet most athletes stick with the same barbell and dumbbell presses year after year. When it comes to training upper body pressing there are many alternative movements that will improve strength and mobility.

If you’re reading this it might just be time for you to ditch the barbell bench and strict press. These exercises are great for building pure strength, but without some variability in your training could leave you vulnerable to injury in other ranges of motion. Selecting a wide assortment of pressing exercises to train your chest, shoulders, and triceps is best for an athlete who is serious about long term growth and success in their sport.

Ideally working with a coach who can program the best drills and exercises will optimize your training. Here are the top 8 movements that will help you build strong healthy chest and shoulder muscles and convey other performance benefits as well.

  • Behind The Neck Push Press
  • Z Press
  • Filly Press
  • Plyometric Pushups
  • One Arm Dumbbell Bench
  • Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press
  • The Sots Press
  • Landmine Press

Behind The Neck Push Press

The push press performed from behind the neck is a great exercise for developing strength through the full range of motion of the press. It has high transfer to other exercises like the jerk. Many athletes find they are able to develop better neural connection between the dip and drive portion of the lift than when performed in the front rack because the load stays directly over their hips.

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” -Thomas Jefferson

Z Press

Named after the strongman Zydrunas Savickas, the Z Press is a press performed sitting flat on the floor with legs extended in front so your body is in an L shape. It requires trunk strength, hip flexor mobility, hamstring flexibility, and lumbar and thoracic spine health. The Z press can be performed with any implement of your choice and is great for training out inefficient movement patterns in the press.

Filly Press

This is a 1 arm dumbbell Arnold Press while holding a Kettlebell in the front rack position of the non-working arm. This exercise is great for building scapular stability as well as core strength as you balance the two different implements throughout the press. `These are also great for address muscle imbalances.

Plyometric Pushups

The ability to generate power can often be beneficial to athletes. Lifting heavy loads slow is generally not as useful as rapidly being able to generate force. Plyometric push-ups provide a way to train the fast twitch muscle fibers of the chest and triceps. You also achieve a stimulus as you receive your body’s weight during the eccentric deceleration experienced after every rep.

One Arm Dumbbell Bench

One arm movements are great for challenging stability and core strength. For an added challenge try performing this movement with only your upper back resting on the bench while driving your heels into the floor and bridging the hips to full extension.

Bottoms up kettlebell Press

The bottoms up kettlebell press is a very challenging movement that should be learned with extremely light loads. It is tremendous for teaching proper pressing mechanics and learning how to develop stability in the shoulder. You are forced to stay engaged with a tight grip, elbow underneath the wrist, and tension in the total system.

The Sots Press

The Sots press is an tremendous strength and mobility exercise created by weightlifters but beneficial for all. This movement requires you to press from the bottom of a front squat and will force you to increase mobility and strength in the hips, back, and shoulder girdle, while increasing core stabilization. Clearly this movement has huge carry over to athletics and completing it with a moderate load is very impressive.

Landmine Press

The landline is a great tool for developing pressing strength in the upper chest and shoulders. It is effective because it provides a new vector to move weight through and disrupts the vertical resistance curve you are used to with most pressing movements.

There you have it. The 8 pressing variations you should be training!

When implementing new movements or routines into your training safety is the most important factor to focus on. Working with an experienced coach to learn the proper progressions is the key to having long term success!

Optimizing Nutrition For Recovery

There is a plethora of information on the interwebs when it comes to nutrition advice.

Everyone claims to have the secret tip or biohack that will make you bigger, smaller, or more of…well whatever it is your goal happens to be. The marketing gimmicks are endless.

Nutrition is a highly individualized journey. There are certainly some wrong answers out there but when it comes to what is right for you the answer could be totally unique. Finding an overall nutrition strategy that fits your goals and lifestyle is essential if you want to have success. If you’re not sure where to begin then start by finding a certified coach who can help guide you through the process toward healthy eating.

When it comes to post workout recovery there are a few key factors to keep in mind. For healthy individuals performing strength training or other forms of high intensity exercise it is imperative that you consume a healthy post workout meal to replenish glycogen in your muscles and provide ample amino acids for protein synthesis.

In one study at the Norwegian School of Sport Science made cyclists performing time trials to exhaustion (TTE). Immediately post workout the cyclists were given a carbohydrate drink, a carb and protein beverage, or a non caloric placebo. The group who consumed the carbohydrate plus protein beverage significantly outperformed the other two groups when performing a second cycling test just 18 hours after the first. The study suggests that if you train hard multiple days in a row then carbohydrate and protein intake post workout seems to boost subsequent performance.

“Exercise makes carbs your friend” -Charles Poliquin

Cyclists in the study consumed carbs and protein in a 2:1 ratio. This means they consumed twice as many carbs compared to protein. The amount given was based on the body weight of the individuals at a rate of 0.8 g carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight + 0.4 g protein per kilogram of body weight.

In a 175 lb. person this would look like:
0.8 g/kg x (175lb ÷ 2.2kg/lb.) = 64 g Carbohydrate
0.4 g/kg x (175lb ÷ 2.2kg/lb.) = 32 g Protein

In a 130 lb. person this would look like:
0.8 g/kg x (130lb ÷ 2.2kg/lb.) = 48 g Carbohydrate
0.4 g/kg x (130lb ÷ 2.2kg/lb.) = 24 g Protein

You can use this equation to calculate your ideal ratio of carbs and protein to optimize post workout recovery. If you don’t like math, understand the science, or are not a fan of measuring then let’s take a look at some quality food sources that would provide you with the desired amounts of protein and carbs. You can select the weight range you fall in and select the foods that best fit your tastes and lifestyle!

Food Grams Carbohydrate Food Grams Protein
Kiwi 10g/kiwi Chicken Breast 31g/4oz portion
Apricot 17g/cup Whey Protein 15g/tablespoon
Pineapple 22g/cup Greek Yogurt 25g/cup
White Rice 45g/cup Salmon Fillet 28g/4oz portion
Maple Syrup 13g/tablespoon Egg 6g/egg

 

Food 175 lb person needs Food 175 lb person needs
Kiwi 6 kiwi Chicken Breast 4 oz portion
Apricot 4 cups Whey Protein 2 tablespoons
Pineapple 3 cups Greek Yogurt 1.25 cups
White Rice 1.5 cups Salmon Fillet 4 oz portion
Maple Syrup 5 tablespoons Egg 5 eggs

 

Food 130 lb person needs Food 130 lb person needs
Kiwi 5 kiwi Chicken Breast 3 oz portion
Apricot 3 cups Whey Protein 1.5 tablespoons
Pineapple 2 cups Greek Yogurt 1 cup
White Rice 1 cup Salmon Fillet 3 oz portion
Maple Syrup 3.5 tablespoons Egg 4 eggs

Use this as a starting point to tackle your post workout recovery. The rest of your meals may look very different than this post workout recovery meal in terms of quantities of protein, fat, carbs as well as the sources you get them from. Working with an experienced nutrition coach is the best way to dial in a plan that works for you.

Squat versus Deadlift

Which lower body movement is “King of the Lifts”?

The squat and deadlift are the two staple movements of a lower body training program. The squat and hip hinge are also two fundamental human movement patterns and are important for normal daily function. They also require a large percentage of muscle recruitment making them essential for developing muscle mass as well as increasing neurological capacity and hormonal output.

The squat and deadlift are also both elegantly simple in theory yet technically complex in application which can make them intimidating for new lifters. The human body is capable of moving tremendous loads with these movements and to stay safe you must master the basics. After all, strength training should always be performed with the proper coaching, equipment, and environment to keep you safe as an athlete.

When it comes to strength training many athletes tend to prefer one lift over the other. There are many reasons for this. Comfort. Body type. Skill level. To name a few. Some people may have stayed away from performing either the squat or the deadlift from a negative past experience or injury.

Let’s take a look at:

  • Who should be training squats and/or deadlifts,
  • The benefits and muscle groups worked, and…
  • The Volume and Intensity you should be using.

General Population versus Athletes

If you are a recreational athlete or utilizing strength training to stay healthy and fit then it is essential that you learn the basics of squatting and deadlifting. After all the ability to squat and hinge are components of everyday life. The human body is an adaptation machine and responds to the demands that are placed upon it. When we spend a lot of time sitting in chairs instead of moving We begin to lose these human movement standards. Don’t worry, the gym is the perfect place to bring them back. When you first learn these lifts make sure to work with an experienced coach who can give you the visual, audible, and tactile cues to perform these lifts.

Athletes also need to hinge and squat to develop explosive power, muscle stiffness, and joint stability for their sport. They may prioritize either the squat, deadlift, or a derivative like the trap bar deadlift based on the demands of the sport on their muscles. Working with a strength coach on sport specific training will be key to choosing the right lifting program for you.

Benefits and Muscle Groups Worked

The ability to perform a basic body weight squat should be the first goal of a training program. The squat requires mobility of the ankles, knees, hips, and spine as well as the motor recruitment patterns to properly extend at the knee hip and ankle simultaneously. The primary muscles worked are the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Depending on the squat variation being used as well as the depth and other variables you can increase or decrease specific muscle activation. Low bar back squats and box squats achieve greater posterior chain activation. Front squats and overhead squats require a more upright torso and are quad dominant.

The deadlift is the most effective exercise for working the posterior chain. The posterior chain is essential for developing strength and power as an athlete. Powerful hamstrings and glutes will make you run faster, jump higher, and lift more weight. The muscles of the back also benefit from deadlifting due to the powerful isometric contraction required to maintain a neutral spine during heavy pulls. The rear delts, lats, and erector spinae all will grow as a result of deadlifting.

Volume versus Intensity

As a general rule of thumb strength training programs should have an inverse relationship between volume and intensity. Since squats and deadlifts are both total body lifts that require intense focus and neural activation it is important to vary loading patterns, volume, and intensity.

Deadlifts tend to be great for intensity but can be problematic in large volume. One fix for this is to train the hinge movement pattern with other implements that remove the need for heavy loading. Kettlebell Swings, Romanian Deadlifts, and Glute Bridges all train this movement pattern and are great.

Squats on the other hand seem to respond better to higher training volume. With that said you can still grind yourself down with too much high intensity work in the rack. Sticking to Prilepin’s chart for percentages is a great way to stay on top of loading parameters to ensure progress without burning out!

There you have it. A breakdown of the squat and deadlift as well as the reasons you should train them. If you’re looking for help learning these movements and building a movement practice to change your body or get stronger we have a team of coaches who can help you reach your goals.

Eat This Not That!

Easy food swaps to keep you fit.

Is there anything like a piping hot slice of pizza sliding out of the oven? How about a heaping mountain of nachos in front of you during the game or a tall stack of pancakes for weekend brunch?

As you look to improve your diet you may have struggled to give up certain foods. Knowing how to make a few simple ingredient changes can have a major impact on your nutrition and health. The best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice any of the delicious foods you love. Whether you are an athlete, a mom, a busy working professional, or maybe even a combination of all three of those, making healthy diet choices easier is something you can benefit from. Try these a few of these easy switches to make any meal healthier!

“You are what what you eat eats.” -Michael Pollan

A twist on pasta

Spaghetti dinner is a staple in many American diets but if you are focused on eating healthy you have to tread lightly. The calories and carbohydrate content of pasta adds ups quick. Even alternative pastas that are gluten free are still calorie dense foods to keep an eye on. A better choice is to try veggies like spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini. Combined with a low sugar tomato sauce and a healthy serving of lean protein pasta night can take on a whole new meaning of health.

A new slice on pizza

Pizza can be tough to navigate as your range of options is so vast. Some local joints may use great quality ingredients but still pack a caloric punch. National chains should be totally avoided with the processed ingredients and additives that make up their knock-off pies. Since most of us would love to keep pizza in our lives it is important to develop a system of eating it that supports your diet and lifestyle goals. Gluten free has become a buzzword and marketing tool used to attract new customers. I’m not here to have the GF debate about whether or not your body can digest it, I’m saying that a pizza crust made from processed starches that happen to not have gluten does not make them any healthier. Luckily you have a few options…

One method is to limit total intake, order a pizza with as many veggies and proteins on it as possible and limit yourself to one slice of the crust. Or you can try finding a restaurant that has or making your own cauliflower crust pizza. This is a great low carb alternative that lets you reach for another guilt-free slice.

Flip what you sip

It’s easy to forget the calories that are found in drinks. A study conducted by Harvard found that women who consumed sugar sweetened drinks daily tended to consume more calories daily and gained weight. Meanwhile women who eliminated sugar sweetened beverages tended to consume fewer calories and demonstrated better body composition. Scientists believe that drinking calories doesn’t provide the same signaling mechanisms in the body as food does. Basically our body doesn’t recognize it has consumed calories and the subsequent insulin spike can leave you feeling energy depleted and hungry.

Soda, juice, and alcohol don’t really belong in your diet if you are trying to build muscle or burn fat. If you are looking for a fun drink try reaching for a juice made from vegetables like kale and collard greens, powerful nutrients like ginger root, and maybe a dash of lemon or lime juice. Kombucha, a fermented tea beverage, can be a great option as well provided you find a low sugar variety (always read the label) and of course there are many great flavored sparkling and seltzer water options out there.

The Burger Swap

One of the toughest foods to give up can without a doubt be the hamburger. Before you part ways with this American classic let’s figure out a way for you to still enjoy your cheeseburger in paradise…

There are two ways to clean up this delicious food. One way is to eliminate the bun. Replace it with a collard greens wrap or two pieces of fresh romaine lettuce. Two large portobello mushrooms can also do the trick if you have them available (Pro tip: Grill the mushrooms for 2 minutes on each side with a little oil, salt, and pepper).

The second way to clean up your burger is to make sure you have a patty made from high quality grass fed beef or organic ground turkey. Balance the fats you use as topping and try swapping out the cheese for some fresh avocado slices.

Pancake, stacked to jacked

Fluffy buttermilk pancakes or belgian waffles are a staple of weekend brunch. Instead of shooting for the white flour varieties though try a cleaner approach next time. Start with the batter. Substituting bananas and ground flax meal, almond, or coconut flour are a much better alternative. Keep an eye on the fat content if using nut flours as they are very calorie dense. Make sure you have a ratio of at least one egg per pancake or add a scoop of protein powder to the mix to keep the macronutrients balanced. Top with fresh berries and grass fed butter and avoid the powdered sugar and whipped cream. Also be sure to spring for real maple syrup over any of the high fructose corn syrup versions. It is packed full of antioxidants and so sweet that just a teaspoon will go a long way in terms of flavor.

If you want to learn more about eating healthy and getting in shape then talk to a coach today.

We can develop a plan for you to help you achieve your goals!

Differences between CrossFit and Orange Theory

Group fitness training is a highly effective way to train.

Two popular methods of group training are CrossFit and Orangetheory Fitness. If you have been trying to find a fitness program to help you get stronger, lose weight, or improve your health and energy you may have had some questions about the program for you. Let’s take a look at some of the facts about CrossFit and Orangetheory Fitness to help you make an informed decision on these training options.

A key difference

One of the key differences to know between CrossFit and Orangetheory is that CrossFit gyms are affiliated and Orangetheory is a franchise. CrossFit affiliation means that the location and it’s coaches are certified in the CrossFit Methodology, the workouts, class structure, and equipment used is dictated by the individual owner. Orangetheory Fitness is a franchise so workouts, equipment, and class structure will be standardized amongst locations.

The Movements

CrossFit places an emphasis on functional movement and work capacity. Functional means movements that transfer over to everyday life, using your body to perform the movement it is capable of. Work capacity means being able to perform a certain body of work in a given amount of time. This requires you to standardize movement and lets you measure where progress. If you used to be able to perform 15 pushups in one minute and now you can perform 22 pushups in a minute you improved your work capacity.

CrossFit combines gymnastics, weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, monostructural (run/row/bike), and calisthenics movements in a variety of combinations. The program will generally reflect the style and background of what the gym owner is most comfortable teaching and believes will achieve the best results. For this reason you can witness unique fitness programming at each gym that you attend. You will learn the foundational movements CrossFit teaches like squatting and pressing. The great thing about CrossFit is that each movement and workout can be tailored to fit your unique needs. If a movement is outside your comfort zone then your coach can provide you with an alternative movement that replicates the movement pattern, but may be lighter weight or less technically demanding. Each individual in the class will get a similar result from the workout even though they have a wide range of strength and ability levels. Everyone moves forward together.

“Typically the world’s best athletes are minimalists when it comes to their training. They work hard and fast with few exercises. They master the fundamentals and work with them for years. This is the secret that no one wants to hear.”
-Greg Glassman, Founder of CrossFit

Orangetheory Fitness incorporates a combination of movements into their classes as well. Participants will run, row, and perform some light resistance training or calisthenics in a high intensity circuit style. You will generally not lift heavy weights and more emphasis is placed on the cardio component in these classes.

“We have a walker category, jogger category, and runner category. With this language I eliminated that fear people have when they walk in like, “oh no I’m not going to fit in.”
-Ellen Latham, Founder of Orangetheory Fitness

Class Structure

A CrossFit class generally consists of a discussion of the days workout and group introduction, a group warm-up, a strength or skill component, a metabolic training component known as the “workout of the day” or “WOD”, and a cool down or stretching session. These sessions are usually an hour long and are always lead by a coach who is certified by CrossFit.

Often times the gym will utilize specific programs designed to improve your strength in a particular lift or muscle group. Improving strength in compound lifts like the squat and deadlift recruits more high threshold motor units and is the most effective way to get stronger. This is a huge area where CrossFit differs from many other popular fitness programs. To truly perform at high intensity the workout must be designed for you to maintain intense effort in a single bout or multiple efforts with rest in between. The longer the duration of the exercise the less intensity you will be able to maintain.

Many programs just keep you moving for long lengths of time that merely grind you down. You might get sore or sweaty but you don’t improve in any measurable way. Learning how to safely and effectively lift heavy loads is a great way to improve muscle mass, burn fat, and build strong bones and joints. You should leave your workout feeling empowered to take on other tasks in your life.

Orangetheory utilizes heart rate monitors to keep you aware of your metabolic output. Your heart rate corresponding with an intensity zone is displayed for you to view. Each class will have you spend time exercising in different zones. Measuring your exertion allows you to improve your fitness if you are able to manage your heart rate in set zones for set durations of time. Similar to CrossFit you will spend time performing a warm-up, both strength training and cardio elements, and a cooldown. More emphasis is placed on the heart rate to achieve a cardiovascular response.

Cost

When it comes to your health the cost of a fitness program is always a great investment. CrossFit is usually purchased as a monthly membership with common options being unlimited classes or 3x per week. The cost typically ranges between $100-$250 with the biggest factors being what the gym offers balanced with cost of living in the area. You can usually begin with a free trial or consult to see how well you like it. The coaches will want to meet you to learn about your goals and any concerns you may have before you begin so they can set you up for success.

Orangetheory Fitness is a more informal process. You can purchase memberships for 4 times, 8 times, or unlimited classes each month with prices ranges from $59-$159.

Summary

Both CrossFit and Orangetheory Fitness are popular ways to train. In CrossFit you can expect more specific programming, a tighter community, and a great focus on strength development and functional training. Orangetheory Fitness is a bit more of a generic way to train and you can expect an upbeat cardio training session with less focus on weight training. Finding a gym that meets your specific needs is the key. A great coach is going to ask you about your goals, injuries, and experience levels. It’s all about finding a program that fits into your budget and lifestyle and most importantly delivers the results you want!