Saturday, March 30, 2019

Benefits of the Bear Hug Squat

The Barbell Squat is one of the most popular and productive exercises available if done properly.    However not everyone is ready to perform this exercise safely.   Safety is about a lot more than squatting in a rack (which is of course important to provide a safety valve if a lifter gets in trouble during a barbell squat).     To be able to perform a barbell back squat safely requires high levels of ankle mobility, hip mobility, core strength and stability, and shoulder mobility.    This means that at least half of the people in a gym are not ready to perform this exercise safely.  In addition, every person’s anatomy is different as it relates to the lengths of their shins, femur, and torso and this has direct bearing on how they can and should squat (see this previous blog post on this subject:

So is there a way to overcome these challenges and have pretty much everyone squat safely?   

For all the people out there with injured knees, hurt backs, this exercise can often be incredibly beneficial.. There a few reasons the Bear Hug Squat works so well.  

First – the load is in front of the body – this changes everything in a beneficial way.   For anyone who is not interested in competitive power lifting or just feeling they need to back squat putting the load in front of the body is a MUCH better way to go, and that can include Goblet Squats with kettlebells or dumbbells or several variations using an Ultimate Sandbag including the bear squat.

You get the whole body involved.    Learning to use the upper body correctly by doing bear hug squats builds a stronger core and results in better movement automatically.

Second - Go Deeper Than Before: Many believe that the purpose of squatting is just strength. The truth is squatting is a great check of lower body mobility as well. The better we can perform a deep squat, the less likely we are to have low back issues. The Bear Hug Squat allows you to safely go so much deeper in the squat so that we not only build strength, but great flexibility as well!

However, just like anything, you have to know how to do it right.

How To Safely and Effectively Perform The Bear Hug Squat

Begin by standing over the middle of the Ultimate Sandbag (larger Ultimate Sandbags work better because of their increased dimension)

The tension we create against the Ultimate Sandbag and the dimension creates a different squat than even the kettlebell Goblet Squat!

Hinge at the hips scooping your hands underneath the Ultimate Sandbag while keeping your back straight. Your chest should be facing the ground and your shoulders retracted making sure that you do not round out your back.

With your hands scooped underneath the Ultimate Sandbag grab it and explosively drive the hips and direct the sandbag straight up the body.

You should create enough force from the hips to release the USB just prior to chest height, with your arms wrapped tightly around the middle of the USB. Hence, its name Bear Hug Squat.

·       Turn your feet slightly outwards.

·       Keeping tension in the upper body by driving you elbows into your ribs and initiate movement by pushing your knees outwards.

·       Drive your knees out as you begin and then slowly begin to sit back on your heels.

·       Go as deep as possible trying to sit back upon your heels and continually driving the knees out.
·       Pause for a brief moment and drive through your feet to accelerate your body back upwards to starting position.

·       Repeat for the number of reps in your program.

·       To release the bag after your last rep you will return to the start position by hinging at the hips and lightly releasing the bag to the floor.

Here is an excellent video tutorial:   Ultimate Sand Bags are an approved piece of equipment for Workout Anytime Clubs and can be purchased directly through Power Systems.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Using the 5 Whys Method to Coach Clients and Yourself

Coaching is an interactive process that demands that the Coach help the client find sustained motivation because reaching most important goals takes time and effort.   The 5 Whys Method is a proven way to help a client maintain focus and stay on track.

The reason this technique is important is that unless the client is very clear on why reaching their goal is important they inevitably quit when the going gets tough.     Understanding the real reason you want to reach a goal will help you achieve emotional commitment and provide intrinsic motivation to stick with it when pursuing your goal.

The technique is surprisingly simple.    Start by asking what the client’s goal is and ask questions to get them to be specific when giving you their goals.  So instead of I want to lose weight ask “how much weight?”   Once you are clear on the goal ask why this goal is important to them now?”    Then listen carefully to their answer.      Repeat their goal back to them in the form of a question asking why that is important.

For example, a client says “It is important that I lose 20lbs because I want to fit into a smaller size of jeans.”  

Now that may sound like all you need but you need to ask why again:  “Why is it important for you to fit into smaller jeans?”   Because when I am wearing smaller jeans, I think I’ll look better.   

“Why do you want to look better?”  Because when I look good, I feel good about myself.

“Why do you want to feel good about yourself?” Because when I feel good about myself I feel more confident.

“Why do you want to be more confident?”  Because when I am confident I am in control and better able to get what I want in my life.

This is not a silly exercise – it is critical and needs to be repeated over time to help the client (and you the coach) stay clear on why reaching the goal and working through the inevitable challenges is so important.

For people to stick with it and reach their goals they have to act in alignment with their most deeply held values.   When we lose track of why we lose motivation and quit.    

Try using this same method with yourself whenever you feel stuck and confused – if you take the exercise seriously you will learn a lot about what makes you tick!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Does Calories in Versus Calories out (eat less and move more) work?

The topic of Calories in Versus Calories Out (CICO for short) is one of the most argued about concepts in nutrition with strong supporters who say that CICO is the basis of weight management and body composition while others say CICO does not work and that managing weight and bodyfat is a hormonal/metabolic issue.    So, what’s the deal?
CICO is a fundamental concept underpinning all attempts to regular body composition (fat mass vs lean mass) and body weight and a fact proven many times over so why are many people (even highly respected research scientists) debating its merit?
The issue comes down to the fact that although CICO is real – MANY factors, including hormone levels – dramatically influence calories in and out because human beings are complex organisms! 
CICO is about more than just food intake and exercise!
CICO is about the energy balance equation which takes into all the internal and external factors that affect how many calories you burn and how many calories you consume and absorb.   Let’s take a look at some of these factors:
Factors that influence Caloric Intake (what we eat and drink and absorb) include:
Appetite – is influenced by hormones that influence hunger and satiety
Food Consumption – is influenced by culture, food that is available, sleep quality, energy density of foods consumed, taste, education, and socioeconomic status
Calorie Absorption – is influenced by Macronutrient Mix (percentage of fat, carb and protein eaten); how food is prepared; your age (digestion and nutrient absorption decrease with age); microbiome make-up (specific mix of bacteria in your gut); health status; and medications
Psychological State – is influenced by stress levels; mindset; level of self-esteem; and quality and length of daily sleep
Factors that influence Calorie Expenditure (Calorie Burn) include:
Basal Metabolic Rate – is influenced by height, weight, age, sex, hormone levels, genetics, health status, medications, certain herbal supplements, quality of sleep and even food intake and timing!
Calories burned during exercise – is influenced by exercise ability and fitness level; height; weight; age; sex; intensity of exercise; duration of exercise; frequency of exercise; hormonal status and sleep quality.
Calories burned during non-exercise activity – is influenced by health status; stress levels; hormonal status;  occupation; leisure activity; and culture.
Calories burned from process food and beverage intake – often called the "Thermic Effect of Food" – is influenced by types of food you eat; level of food processing; and macronutrient percentages of food consumed.
Although CICO is simple managing it to get the results you want is not so simple!
There’s no getting around it: If you (or a client) aren’t losing or gaining weight the way you want to - you either need to adjust calories in or increase calories burned or both!  BUT – there is more than one way to skin this cat.

For instance, you may need to:

·       Get more high-quality sleep to better regulate hunger hormones, improve recovery, and increase metabolic output
·       Try stress reduction strategies including meditation, deep breathing, and spending time in nature
·       Increase your daily non-exercise movement by parking the car a few blocks away from your destination, taking the stairs, and/or standing while you work
·       Trade some high-intensity exercise for lower-intensity activities, in order to aid recovery and reduce systemic stress or conversely most exercisers need to add High Intensity Interval Training to their exercise program.
·       Improve the quality of what you’re eating, as opposed to reducing the quantity. This can allow you to eat more food with fewer total calories
·       Experiment with the macronutrient makeup of what you eat. For example: eating more protein and fiber, or increasing carbs and lowering fats, or vice versa
·       Experiment with the frequency and timing of your meals and snacks, based on personal preferences and appetite cues
·       Consider temporarily tracking your food intake—via hand portions or weighing/measuring—to ensure you’re eating what you think you’re eating (as closely as reasonably possible)
·       Evaluate and correct nutritional deficiencies, for more energy during workouts (and in everyday life)
·       Consult with your physician or specialists if consistent lifestyle changes aren’t moving the needle
Common CICO Issues
 “I’ve eat the same way all the time, but suddenly I started gaining weight.”
More than likely, “energy in” or “energy out” did change, but in a way that felt out of control or unnoticeable.

The issues could be:

·       Slight increases in food intake, due to changes in your mood, hunger, or stress levels
·       An increase in the amount of energy absorbed—caused by new medication, an unknown medical condition, or a history of chronic dieting
·       Physiological changes that resulted in fewer calories burned during exercise and at rest
·       Chronic pain, provoking a dramatic decrease in non-exercise calorie burn due to reduced movement
·       Significant changes to sleep quality and/or quantity, impacting metabolic output and/or food consumed

In all of these cases, CICO is still valid. Energy balance just shifted in subtle ways, due to lifestyle and health status changes, making it hard to perceive the changes.
 “My hormones have changed, and I can’t stop gaining weight.”
Hormones are a common scapegoat for weight loss challenges, and while they’re probably not to blame as often as people think, hormones are intricately entwined with energy balance.
But even so, they don’t operate independently of energy balance.  In other words, people don’t gain weight because of “hormones.”

They gain weight because their hormones are impacting their energy balance equation.   One of many examples is low thyroid hormone levels which often happens during menopause.   

Changing hormone levels can and DO impact calorie burn and thereby change the energy balance equation by changing calorie burn!

This discussion may seem a bit like splitting hairs, but it’s an important connection to make, whether we’re talking about menopause or thyroid problems or insulin resistance or other hormonal issues.  Even people who have hormonal issues resulting in significantly lower levels of calorie burn can successfully lose weight by understanding and using many approaches that can increase their overall calorie burn and decrease their calorie intake!

“I’m only eating 1,000 calories a day and I’m still not losing weight!”
This is a common statement heard frequently from many people so what is the story here?
People love to blame weight loss failure on a slow or broken metabolism.   But is that really what is going on in most cases?

When someone says they are eating 1,000 calories a day but not losing weight, it’s usually due to one of the two reasons.
People often underestimate their calorie intake.
·       They underestimate portions. (For example, without precisely measuring “one tablespoon of peanut butter,” it might actually be two, which adds 90 calories each time you do it)
·       They don’t track bites, licks, and tastes of calorie-dense foods. (For example, your kid’s leftover mac and cheese could easily add 100 calories)
·       They don’t record everything in the moment and forget to log it later on

A landmark 1992 research study along with several follow-up studies showed that people often underestimate how much they eat over the course of a day, sometimes by more than 1,000 calories.
People overeat on the weekends.
Many people eat much more over the weekends which can completely sidetrack any success in weight management!

For example: Let’s say a person is eating 1,500 calories a day on weekdays, which would give them an approximate 500-calorie deficit.

But on the weekends, they deviate from their plan just a little.

·       Drinks with friends and a few slices of late night pizza on Friday
·       An extra big lunch after their workout on Saturday
·       Brunch on Sunday (“Hey, it’s breakfast and lunch, so I can eat double!)
The final tally: An extra 4,000 calories consumed between Friday night and Sunday afternoon. They’ve effectively canceled out their deficit, bumping their average daily calories to 2,071 from 1,500!
 “I’m eating as much as I want and still losing weight, so this diet is better than all the others!”
This might be the top reason some people reject CICO.

Say someone switches from a diet of mostly processed foods to one made up of mostly whole, plant-based foods. They might find they can eat as much food as they want, yet the pounds still melt away.
People often believe this is due to the “power of plants.”

Yes, plants are great, but this doesn’t disprove energy balance.

Because plant foods have a very-low energy density, you can eat a lot of them and still be in a calorie deficit. Especially if your previous intake was filled with lots of processed, hyperpalatable “indulgent foods.”

It feels like you’re eating much more food than ever before—and, in fact, you really might be.
On top of that, you might also feel more satiated because of the volume, fiber, and water content of the plants.

All of which is great. Truly. But it doesn’t negate CICO.

Or take the ketogenic diet for example.

People on the Ketogenic Diet often perceive that they can “eat as much as they want” and still losing weight, but instead of plant foods, they’re eating meat, cheese, and eggs. Those aren’t low-calorie foods, and they don’t have much fiber, either.

As a result, plenty of low-carb advocates claim keto offers a “metabolic advantage” over other diets.
Here’s what’s most likely happening:

·       Greater intake of protein increases satiety and reduces appetite
·       Limited food choices have cut out hundreds of highly-processed calories that they might have eaten otherwise (Pasta! Chips! Cookies!)
·       Reduced food options can also lead to “sensory-specific satiety.” Meaning, when you eat the same foods all the time, they may become less appealing, so you’re not driven to eat as much
·       Liquid calories—soda, juice, even milk—are generally off limits, so a greater proportion of calories are consumed from solid foods, which are more filling
·       Higher blood levels of ketones—which rise when carbs are restricted—seem to suppress appetite

For these reasons, people tend to eat fewer calories and feel less hungry.  Although it might seem magical, the keto diet results in weight loss by regulating CICO – just like ANY successful weight loss approach.

If plant-based and keto diets work so well, why should anyone care if it’s because of CICO, or for some other reason?

Because depending on the person—food preferences, lifestyle, activity level, and so on—many diets, including plant-based and keto, aren’t sustainable long-term. This is particularly true of the more restrictive approaches.

And if you (or your client) believe there’s only one “best diet,” you may become frustrated if you aren’t able to stick to it. You may view yourself as a failure and decide you lack the discipline to lose weight. You may even think you should stop trying.  None of which are true.
Your results depend on your consistent behaviors and habits!
It is all about developing consistent, sustainable daily habits that help you positively impact CICO.
This might be accomplished while enjoying the foods you love, by:

·       Eating until you’re 80% full
·       Eating slowly and mindfully
·       Eating more minimally processed foods
·       Getting more high-quality sleep
·       Taking steps to reduce stress and build resilience

It’s about figuring out what approach feels sane—and achievable—for you.
 “I can’t gain weight no matter how much I eat.”
Some people struggle to gain weight - especially younger athletes and people who are very, very active at work. (people with jobs like construction workers.).  It can also be challenging to regain lost weight after an illness.

When someone intentionally eats more food but does not gain weight it may seem like CICO is not working.  However, the story usually goes something like this:   A person eats six big meals on a particular day, but the following day, they only ate two small meals because they were e really busy so they didn’t even think much about it.

They remember the heavy eating day but forget the low food intake day because they are not tracking food intake by writing down what they eat every time they eat.

The solution is to aim for a consistent daily calorie intake you can stick with and track your food intake daily for several weeks to make sure you are eating enough to cause weight gain.
Some People increase their activity level when they increase calorie intake
When some people take in more calories – they have more energy available so they move more such as starting to take the stairs instead of an elevator, pacing while on the phone, increasing the intensity of their workouts, or fidgeting in their seats.

In this case the increase in calorie burn can eliminate the calorie surplus from increased calories in resulting in no weight gain!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Is HIIT really better for Fat Loss than Moderate Intensity Aerobic Exercise?

The short answer is YES!    Specifically a systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted looking at 786 studies.   Of these 41 and 36 of them were included in the qualitative and meta-analysis respectively.      So what did the analysis show?

In particular SIT (Sprint Interval Training like Sprint 8) was shown to be highly effective.     The conclusion of this meta-analysis of research was that while both Moderate Intensity Aerobic Exercise and and Interval Training both can reduce body fat percentage - interval training provides a 28.5% great reduction in total fat mass!

Perhaps more importantly, interval training can be done for a much shorter duration just 3 days per week and produce the same results as moderate intensity exercise which needs to be done more frequently and for longer periods of time.

This is analagous to comparing running and walking.   Walking is great exercise and can easily be done by just about everyone to some extent.    However if you compare running and walking you have to walk for a much longer period of time to get the same results - about twice as long to be exact!

Given that lack of time is the most often cited reason for people failing to exercise longer duration exercise that must be done more frequently creates big challenges for many.   For this reason HIIT and SIT programs are much more practical and can be done in under 20 minutes three times per week and produce great results!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Men Who Can Do 40 Pushups Have a Lower Risk for Heart Disease

A recent Harvard School of Public Health Study showed that middle-aged men who can complete more than 40 pushups have a significantly lower risk for cardiovascular disease than men who can complete less pushups.

This underscores the fact that the simple pushup can be a very beneficial exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime, but just about anyone.    Even begginers can start with either a knee push-up or doing a push-up against a wall and gradually lowering position to a bench or chair and eventually all the way to the floor.

What is really interesting about this study is that pushup capacity was a better predicator of cardiovascular disease risk than the results of a submaximal treadmill test!

What makes pushups so effective is that they simultaneously target chest, shoulder, tricep and core.   A typical push-up involves lifting 50 - 75% of your bodyweight.    Since they target a lot of muscle they are effective way to increase metabolic rate and burn more fat.