Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reverse Lunge with Diagonal Lift

Lunges are a fantastic functional lower body exercise, and the benefits can be enhanced by adding an upper body component to the basic lunge movement pattern. One of the most productive total body lunge variations is the reverse lunge with a diagonal lift.
The exercise improves hip mobility in the front of the rear leg, while also increasing strength and stability in the front leg and increasing core strength and mobility. Specifically, it improves hip flexor mobility while training the body to move smoothly in the spiral line. It also encourages proper tri-planar movement.
Start standing with feet shoulder width apart in upright posture. Hold a medicine ball, dumbbell, or kettlebell (or even a body bar) positioned at the right hip pocket region. Step back with the right leg to perform a reverse lunge. At the same time move both arms diagonally up and back over the left shoulder until a comfortable stretch is felt in the anterior (front) of the right hip. Do NOT allow the back to arch. Pause in this position for one or two seconds.
Do 10 – 15 repetitions on one side then repeat on the other side. It is important that you keep both feet facing forward and keep your trunk upright throughout the movement.
Perform the movement without a medicine ball, dumbbell, or bar

Start in the split stance lunge position instead of having to step back

Increase weight you are holding.
Perform the movement in an alternating side manner vs one side at a time.
Video Links:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Astaxanthin – Anti-Oxidant Superstar

While many antioxidants can be obtained by eating organic fruits and vegetables, astaxanthin is derived only from a specific microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis.  The algae uses astaxanthin to protect itself from intense sunlight, ultraviolet radiation and low nutrition.

There are two natural astaxanthin sources: the microalgae that produce it and the salmon and krill which consume the algae directly. The best resources for these foods are wild-caught Alaskan Salmon and Krill Oil Supplement, which offer many other nutritional benefits.

Research indicates astaxanthin may benefit those suffering from inflammatory conditions including arthritis, rheumatoid disorders, metabolic disease, as well as cardiovascular, neurological and liver diseases.

Astaxanthin can also help to increase your muscle capacity and stamina, decrease workout recovery time, and decrease muscle pain.  Other proven benefits include:

Reduction of Inflammation
Protects Vision
Enhances Heart Health
Decreases Oxidative Stress
Protects Against Sunburn
Boost Your Immune System
Helps Prevent and Fight Cancer

Astaxanthin and Eye Health

Astaxanthin is an extremely powerful anti-oxidant:  65 times more powerful than vitamin C, 54 times more powerful than Beta-Carotene and 14 times more powerful than Vitamin E.
Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier AND the blood-retinal barrier which is a huge deal for your brain AND your eyes!

Astaxanthin is a member of the carotenoid family of anti-oxidants that include beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.   Of all the carotenoids, only zeaxanthin and lutein are found in the retinas of your eyes.  This is because your eye is a highly light and oxygen rich environment, and it needs a large amount of free radical scavengers to prevent damage. 

Scientists have specifically studied astaxanthin for its effects on the eyes and discovered that it is completely safe, and much more potent than all the other carotenoids.   Specifically it has been shown that astaxanthin supplementation can be effective in preventing a whole list of eye diseases including:

Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Diabetic Neuropathy
Cystoid Macular Edema
Central Retinal Arterial and Venous Occlusion
Inflammatory Eye Diseases including retinitis, iritis, keratitis, and scleritis

Astaxanthin is one of the few anti-oxidants that you should consider supplementing because you cannot obtain the recommended dosage from your diet alone.      The good news is that there are excellent Astaxanthin Supplements available from companies like Jarrow, Doctors Best, and Swanson to name a few.   It should be taken with a meal with fat because it is fat soluble with dosage from 4mg – 12mg per day although there are no harmful effects from higher dosages.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Amazing Hip Thrust

Everyone wants a stronger and more shapely set of gluteal muscles for many reasons including the fact that the Gluteus Maximus (GM) is the largest muscle in the body, and arguably the most powerful.  The main function of GM is to extend the hip and prevent the upper body from falling forward relative to the lower body and hip.  

The most powerful exercise for targeting the glutes is the hip thrust because it emphasizes the fully extended position which is how we get the maximum activation of the glute.       Initially hip thrusts aka bridges can be done on the floor lying on the back with knees flexed at 90% and lift the hips up as far as possible (without arching the back!) and lower back down again.

However very quickly more load is needed than just bodyweight and this is where things get tricky because loading this movement is not easy or comfortable.       What most people do is place the back of their shoulders on a bench facing up with knees flexed then use a barbell across the hips.    Not only is the highly uncomfortable it is really challenging to get into position without people handing you the loaded barbell.

Another option is to use something softer like a sandbag or Bulgarian bag which is more comfortable but still awkward and hard to get enough load to do the exercise properly.  

The best option is to use a leg curl machine – yep you read that right – a prone leg curl machine.     If you take the time to set the machine properly it is fantastic and you can find them in almost every gym.     You will want to set the position of the pad so that it is in the lowest position possible.    On some leg curl machines the leg pad has a pin adjustment to change the position of the pad relative to the machine and the machines fulcrum while on others it adjusts in and out from the machine.

In any case if you check out this video – you will see exactly how to position yourself, and as the creator suggests you want to avoid arching your back:   So while it may look a little funny and take you a few attempts to get the hang of the adjustment and how to position yourself on the machine, once you get it – you will love it!   No pain from a bar or band pressing into the front of the hip, and it is easy to load up the movement.

It is NOT a large range of motion and the key is holding the top position and squeezing the glutes without arching the back.    Try a couple sets of 15 – 25 deliberate reps and you will immediately see why this is such a powerful exercise for the glutes.

If you couple this with exercises that place maximum stress on the glutes in the fully extended position like lunges, step-ups, and Split Squats with the rear foot elevated – you will get all the glute development you want.     Then you just need to add in hip abduction for a complete glute routine!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Endurance Exercise helps increase Muscle Size

In a recent study ( ) researchers looked at changes in muscle fiber sizes in response to training with and without endurance exercise.

The resistance training group performed leg presses only, whereas the endurance training group performed cardiovascular exercise and leg presses.     Prior to the beginning of the study muscle biopsies to measure muscle fiber types and sizes.  There are two primary types of muscle fibers:  Type 1 aka slow twitch endurance fibers and Type 2 fast twitch “power” fibers.   
After 7 weeks of training both groups increased their one repetition maximum leg press (showing both groups increased in strength).    However only the group doing endurance training increased their VO2 Max (cardiovascular exercise capacity) AND increased the size and area of both Type 1 AND Type 2 muscle fibers.     

The resistance only group only showed increases in Type II fibers.   The mean fiber area (total size) increased by 28% for the Endurance Group where there was no significant increase in the resistance only training group.

This means that the group doing BOTH resistance training and “cardio” gained more muscle mass than the resistance training only group.

When the researchers looked at chemical changes in the muscles they saw an increase in two key anabolic factors in the endurance and resistance training group with elevations in mTOR and Akt which correlated directly with the increase in muscle fiber sizes.  This shows that the increased results obtained by adding endurance training to resistance training are the result of increased anabolic signaling not from decrease muscle breakdown.

So the take home message is that to increase muscle mass and strength – you should include some cardiovascular endurance training to your program!    

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Nutritional Strategies for Allergy and Asthma

SeasSeason allergies to pollen and mold seem to getting more and more prevalent each year with progressively more severe symptoms in sufferers.    Treating allergies with nutrition and nutrition supplements can have big advantages over using medications.   

Allergy medication most commonly comes in the form of Antihistamines, and there are some big problems with long-term use of these medications.     It is now known that prolonged use of antihistamines decreases levels of acetylcholine which is a key neurotransmitter involved in memory and other important functions.   In fact, antihistamine use increases the risk of senility, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

What are Allergies Anyway?

Allergies are abnormal immune reactions to specific agents (proteins) known as antigens/allergens, which include many substances such as foods, drugs, pollens, dust mites, animal danders, feathers, along with many others. 

Allergies may also develop when an otherwise innocent substance has significant contact with an already inflamed surface (known as sensitization).  For example, when sick with a respiratory illness, respiratory surfaces are already inflamed and substances present at this time may be “remembered” as being foreign.  This can also occur with chemical substances known as “haptons” which are combinations of self and non-self which can lead the immune system to attack the self. 

Since there are multiple pro-inflammatory substances involved with allergies it is rare to obtain adequate control with single products/medications.  The most potent chemical mediators in allergies and asthma are leukotrienes.  Some leukotrines are one thousand times more potent than histamine as stimulators of bronchial constriction and allergy. 

Interestingly, many medications that reduce one inflammatory pathway actually boost leukotrienes.    For example, Aspirin and other NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs like Ibuprofen) result in the production of excessive levels of leukotrines in sensitive individuals although they decrease prostaglandins associated with inflammation and thereby relive pain.  So long term they can create a much more severe problem.

Asthma is linked to allergies and can be a severe and life threatening condition.   Do NOT try to self-treat Asthma – see a physician!

Strategies for Allergies

Try to avoid allergens by using air filters, regularly cleaning all surfaces and vacuuming and keeping your air-conditioning system on while regularly changing filters to filter out as many allergens as possible.   Remember your car cabin filter as well, and take showers and wash clothes after being outside for long periods of time.

Change your diet to reduce inflammation.    Dramatically reduce your intake of refined carbohydrate – sugar and starch which drive insulin which drives inflammation.  At the same time increase your intake of low glycemic, organic fruits and vegetables such as berries, broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, etc.   These plant foods contain polyphenols which are potent anti-oxidants and help to reduce inflammation and allergies without side effects.

Increase your intake of Omega 3 Fatty Acids from cold water fish such as Alaskan Wild Salmon and/or take an Omega 3 Supplement such as Krill Oil.    Omega 3 fatty acids will always reduce inflammation if taken in sufficient dosages so this should be a primary strategy for allergy sufferers because they produce many side benefits.   The only exception is people taking any type of medication to thin blood and reduce clotting like Coumadin.   In this case the combination can be dangerous!

Nutritional Supplements for Allergies

There are several highly effective nutrition supplements for allergies including some key herbs.

Local Raw Honey – it MUST be local and must be raw because it will contain small amounts of local pollen and works by getting the body used to pollen much like an allergy shot.     A Tablespoon a day is as much as you need.   Many people swear by this simple and safe remedy!

Stinging Nettle Extract – this herb has a long history of effective use for allergies and freeze dried preparations seem to work the best and are best taken BEFORE allergy season even begins to put a damper on symptoms before they start – this is true of all nutritional approaches to allergy by the way!

Euphrasia Officianalis – aka “Eyebright” is an herb which name says it all – it is highly effective for eye allergy symptoms.

Quercetin – is a flavonoid contained in high amounts in apples, peppers, red wine, dark cherries and berries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and sprouts, and raw red onions.   To treat allergies taking supplemental quercetin is the way to go, and the best form of quercetin is contained in a product called “AllQlear” by Integrative Therapeutics and can be purchased on Amazon.     It also contains “ovomucoids” from quail eggs that act as tryptase inhibitor and prevent release of histamine.

Boswellia Extract – Boswellia aka Frankincense (yes the herb mentioned in the bible!) can be highly effective for allergies and other forms of inflammation including arthritis because it blocks the formation of leukotrienes!    To get the benefits you must take 5-loxin which is a specific extract.   Note that in some individuals 5-loxin can cause or excacerbate heart burn so it is not for everyone, but when it works it can be highly effective!

Butterbur Extract – this plant extract can be highly effective for inhibiting leukotrienes and allergy symptoms or side effects.   You need to take a standardized extract with standardized levels of Petasin and Isopetasin) and free of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids aka PA.  High quality brands include Life Extension, Swanson, and Enzymatic Therapy to name a few.   This product can also help many migraine sufferers and is a well-researched, proven treatment.

NAC – N-Acetyl Cysteine - helps thin mucus naturally and boost levels of the body’s most important antioxidant Glutathione – every allergy sufferer should be taking 600 – 1,200mg per day!

You will also find combination of these ingredients in particular products, and it is worth experimenting a bit because if you find the right product or combination of natural products you can find relief without sedation and without the side effects associated with antihistamines and more potent drugs like steroid nasal sprays or oral steroids.