Sunday, July 30, 2017

How to Optimize the Benefits of Vitamin D Supplementation

Vitamin D is constantly in the news lately and for good reason.    Optimal levels of Vitamin D have been linked to a host of benefits including prevention and treatment of many key diseases ranging from Osteoporosis to improved heart health with reduction in heart attack risk to prevention of many different types of cancer.

The ideal way to get optimal levels of Vitamin D is to let your body create it through Safe Sun Exposure (see previous blog on this subject here:  However this is easier said then done, and too much sun is clearly a strong risk factor for skin cancer!      Enter Vitamin D supplementation.

The amount and form of Vitamin D supplementation has changed substantially based on lots of emerging research.    The form that should be taken is Vitamin D-3 NOT D-2 form and all experts agree on this!     However when it comes to dosage things get much trickier.      The confusion comes because Vitamin D is really a powerful compound and functions as a hormone in the body.    As such it has profound impact on virtually every system in the body.    In addition you can overdose on Vitamin D supplements so more is NOT always better!

Ideally you should order a blood test and test your levels.    The test you want is called a 25(OH)D blood test and is offered by all major labs.   You can either ask your doctor to order this test for you OR you can order an in-home test.   You just prick your finger and put a drop of bloo on the enclosed paper and send back in to the labs.    You can also your own blood test online and go to a lab to have blood drawn in the same way your doctor orders the test.   For more information on testing go here:

Ideal versus Acceptable Blood Levels of Vitamin D

There is a big difference between what is considered “acceptable” or okay and ideal blood levels.   Here are the classifications of different blood levels of Vitamin D. according to the Vitamin D Council:
0 – 30 ng/ML is very low and considered a deficiency
30 – 39 ng/ML is better but still insufficient for optimal health and disease prevention.
40 – 100 ng/ML is optimal
Above 150 ng/ML is toxic!

The key is to test and if low take a supplement then retest 2 – 3 months after regular vitamin d use because each person is different in how much supplementation they need based on many factors including sun exposure and skin type.     The RDA for Vitamin D for infants is 400iu.    For Children 1 – 13 and adults through age 70 the RDA is 600iu and for those over 70 the RDA is 800iu.

Unfortunately, this is way too low to get many people into the sufficient much less optimal range so testing is really worthwhile.   In many cases people need 4,000 – 10,000 or more iu's per day for at least a month to get where they need to be for optimal health!

Preventing Vitamin D Toxicity through the Co-Administration of Vitamin K-2

Like many vitamins Vitamin D has a co-factor or other vitamin that helps it perform its function better and in a more balanced fashion, and that other vitamin is Vitamin K-2 (not to be confused with K-1 found in many plants).    In an ideal world, you can get all the Vitamin K-1 you need from eating plenty of green, leafy vegetables, and your body can turn it into K-2.   Unfortunately, this conversion is lacking in many people.

More importantly K-2 is not easily toxic and can be taken with Vitamin D.    K-2 is best taken as a supplement as MK-7 version which has been heavily researched and shown to improve bone health and prevent arterial calcification which can potentially occur with too much Vitamin D.     For a more complete understanding behind how K-2 works with Vitamin D and why it is a great idea to take the MK-7 form of K-2 with Vitamin D check out this article from Dr. Mercola:

Taking 100 – 200 mcg per day of Vitamin K-2 will help optimize the effects of Vitamin D and minimize risks associated with Vitamin D Supplementation.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Nordic Hamstring Curl: Best Hamstring Exercise You are Not Doing!

There are many different hamstring exercises including variations of leg curls (seated, prone, and standing) along with several different hip hinge exercises that target the hamstrings (RDL, Single Leg RDL, etc).     These are all great exercises, but none of them can touch the Nordic Hamstring Curl for building eccentric strength and preventing hamstring injury in sprints and sport!

This is a tough exercise so warming up the hamstrings is essential.  Using other hamstring exercises first such as bodyweight hip hinges and light leg curls on a machine prior to this exercise do the trick nicely.   It is also a good idea to do some static stretches for anterior hips and hip flexors to shut them off which helps to allow for maximum hamstring activation.

To perform the Nordic Hamstring Curl you need to find a place to hook your heels under when you are in a double leg tall kneeling position so you will also need padding under your knees.     If you have a workout partner you can have them kneel behind you and hold onto both your legs right above the ankles keeping their arm straight so they can use their bodyweight to apply load as you let your body fall forward like this: .     You can also find something to hook your ankles under like the horizontal bar from a weight machine or barbell like this:  or  this: or this:

Keeping your hips flat (straight line from knees through hips and shoulders) – you lower your body down slowly until you can no longer hold your weight then catch yourself in push-up position and push back up: .       You can also use a band during the exercise which provides progressively more assistance as you go lower towards floor to allow you to potentially perform the full range of the motion and come back up with the assistance of the band.    Then over time you gradually decrease the assistance of the band by user smaller and lighter bands.      This provides a good video of how you can do this by attaching a band overhead and behind you:

There are also numerous machines designed for this exercise including:

Here is a 6 week progression:

Week                   Sessions/Week                  Sets                       Reps                     Rest
1                                           1                            2                            5                            2 min.
2                                           2                            3                            5                            2 min.
3                                           2                            3                            6                            2 min.
4                                           2                            3                            7                            2 min.
5                                           3                            3                            8                            2 min.
6                                           2                            3                            9                            2 min.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What is the Best Way to Warm-Up?

There is a lot of controversy and conflicting opinions on what you should do for a warm-up for exercise.   One of the reasons is that warm-ups should vary based on the activity you are preparing for and your level of fitness.

As the name implies one of the key goals in warm-up is to literally raise the body temperature and gradually ramp up the cardiovascular system to be prepared for harder efforts.     The length of warm-up should be based on the intensity of the activity.     Low intensity activities like moderate pace walking really require no specific warm-up as you can simply ease into the activity itself as a warm-up.     For activities like competitive athletic events that involve high intensity effort the warm-up should be longer.

In the same way, you have to consider your fitness level because a warm-up for a highly fit individual may be relatively high intensity exercise for a deconditioned person.

For all warm-ups, a 1 – 5-minute period of escalating cardiovascular exercise that raises heart rate and body temperature is advisable.    For high intensity athletic events this should be extended until the athlete breaks a sweat without being fatigued.   

This literal warm-up can be done on a cardiovascular exercise machine or via dynamic bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, planks, push-ups, etc.    

Once you raise body temperature you can include some dynamic stretching with an emphasis on movements that address key joints and muscles involved in the actual activity you are warming up for.   For example, for tennis warming up the shoulder joint and surrounding muscles is important while for cycling this is less relevant.

 A Proven Warm-up Protocol
Warm-ups for sports participation have been researched and there is one in particular protocol that is proven to reduce injuries by improving muscle strength, balance, and coordination.    This protocol is called the FIFA 11+ Program and involves doing 15 exercises.    For a complete how to guide click here: 

Although this protocol was developed for soccer it can easily be modified to fit just about any competitive sport!

Monday, July 10, 2017

S-Drive/Crank Cycle Tabata Workout

The S-Drive and Crank Cycle can be used together for a fantastic HIIT Training Workout that is very simple to execute and appropriate for all ability levels!

For the S-Drive portion the exercise is sled pushes so take the belt system off and let it hang from the front of the S-Drive.   Use the sled resistance on the left side of the S-Drive to select and control resistance levels.    You can also use the parachute resistance on the right side to fine to the level of resistance.   

You will be doing a total of 8 sets of sled pushes for 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, and ideally you choose 4 different hand positions for two sets each at low to high levels so that you change the angle of load/push to create a complete lower body workout!
Sled push exercise video:

For the upper body portion you will do 8 total sets of Crank Cycle all done standing as follows:
Single Arm Left Cranking – done standing in straddle stance with left leg forward and right leg back with right foot on ball of foot on sloped surface of rear portion of Crank Cycle.

Single Arm Right Cranking – reverse of above

Double Arm Forward Together – standing feet parallel

Left and right crank arms 180 offset – standing feet parallel

Then you flip the locking mechanism to turn the crank tower 180 and lock it down. 
Repeat all four of the above in the opposite direction.

For a tutorial on how to use the Crank Cycle see:

Set up a timer for two rounds of Tabata – 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest for 8 repetitions with a one minute break and repeat.

Start on s-drive doing a set of sled pushes

Then immediately go to Crank Cycle for set of single arm cranking as per above.

Repeat this cycle 4 times changing hand position for each set on S-Drive and changing exercise each set on Crank Cycle.

After 8 total intervals (4 on S-Drive and 4 on Crank Cycle) take a one-minute break.    During the break turn the Crank Cycle Tower 180 degrees as per above.

Repeat another 8 total intervals (4 on S-Drive and 4 on Crank Cycle).  

This workout will take 9 total minutes plus a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down for a total of 19 minutes!   You will not believe the results – perform 1 – 3 times per week with your best effort!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Superman Shoulder Press with Flat, Circular Band

Flat circular bands are a simple, but amazing tool that provides a very different loading profile than free weights or machines.   One of the best exercises with a flat, circular band is the Superman Shoulder Press.   It provides loading that matches the shoulder’s strength curve in that the more the band is stretched the heavier the load.  During the shoulder press your leverage, and hence your ability to produce force, increases as you get closer and closer to extension.

To do the Superman Press step inside the band with feet shoulder width apart or wider.   The wider your feet the more the band will stretch and the “heavier” the load that will be produced during the press.   So you are literally standing with both feet on the band which then goes up around the feet (it is circular right?).   Then holding the band with both hands at the same time “clean” the band so you are in a position to press it overhead.   The band will go down from the outside of your hands then down to the feet and also across from one hand to another.    Notice that you can adjust your hand position in or out to make it more comfortable and your hands should be holding the band at shoulder level (top of chest).

Keeping the core muscles tight and engaged press the band up AND out as you extend the arms fully overhead.  By pressing out while you press up you create space in the shoulder capsule and prevent impingement.   Many people who feel pain with a dumbbell or bar overhead press find they can get all the benefits of an overhead pressing movement WITHOUT the pain because of this.

To make the exercise more metabolic add in the lower body by doing a squat from the starting position as you hold the band at your chest level and then do a press from the standing position – basically a band thruster providing a full body exercise that really jacks the heart rate.

The other advantage of the Superman Press is that with bands you can safely move at high speed during the concentric phases to work on power – but always pause at the top and lower slowly to get the other benefit of band training – a great eccentric load!

For a good video of the movement click here: