Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fast and Easy Eating

Because my schedule can be very hectic and my day starts very early, I have a tendency to “drink” breakfast which consists of organic coconut and almond milk, a quality whey protein (Dream Protein) and some essential fatty acids. There are times however when I can sit down like a human being and actually enjoy a meal I can chew so when that opportunity arises, I want to take advantage of it. Keeping in mind that I want to eat something healthy, convenient and have a feeling of satiety, my wife came up with the following recipe idea for me. She took organic brown rice and in following the directions, used organic light coconut milk instead of the required amount water and added a bit of Stevia as a sweetener. This provided a smoother and creamier texture as well as a good amount of flavor which brown rice by itself is usually devoid of.

Now with a sizeable amount of rice at my disposal, I can take what I want with me to eat for breakfast or even as a snack. I did add some cinnamon, extra almond milk, organic raw walnuts and a scoop of protein powder and mixed it all together for a tasty, well balanced breakfast this morning. I chose to eat it cold but you can heat it as well – just add the protein powder after it has cooled for a while.

“Train With A Purpose”

Fred Fornicola

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Importance of Daily Activity

In previous posts it has been mentioned that proper workout intensity along with sufficient recovery are vital to improve ones muscular strength and overall fitness. For the most part I can’t agree more; however, too often the aspect of recovery is taken out of context and too much time is spent “resting”. There are some factions of the strength training community that feel that any activity outside of the fitness center is detrimental to the recovery process. Although I do feel that recovery is an important element in the total fitness equation, I also believe that performing some sort of daily activity is also important. This activity, whenever possible, should take place outdoors in the “fresh air” and involve light to moderate exercise. Activates such as brisk walking, biking, hiking and callisthenic exercises are all terrific. The idea is to get the body moving -allowing the heart rate to become elevated, have the breathing rate increase and generally allow blood to flow freely throughout the body. Just 10-15 minutes of daily activity has many benefits which include improved mood, clearer thinking, better memory and improved physical fitness. So find 10-15 minutes each day and get moving, you’ll feel better after. – Doug Scott, Strength Coach

Monday, November 20, 2006

Go Ahead – Grunt All You Want

Ah grunting. Ya gotta love it when you’re getting down to those last few reps of an intense set and your hearts pounding so hard it feels like it’ll pop out of your shirt and your muscles are burning like hell from the hard work and you let out a loud OOMPH that would shatter glass. But at Planet Fitness, a chain of gyms with 120 locations, they say grunting (and other sounds) are a no-no. Yepper, grunting is a policy breaker – punishable by expulsion.

Ok, grunting or groaning isn’t the most pleasant of sounds but ones you expect to hear in a gym when people are training hard. I mean the busy signal of a telephone or the sounds of a dentists drill aren’t what you’d consider enjoyable sounds but hell, they come with the territory. Now granted, making obnoxious sounds and being overally vocal in the gym can be intimidating to some people – especially newcomers as well as disturuptive to others but in the case of Albert Agribay, who had 500 pounds on his back at the time, I think the man had a need to grunt a bit and in my opinion, every right to. Regardless however of the amount of weight, if someone is working really hard, they’re going to make some type of sound generally so go ahead, grunt if you have to but make sure you aren’t in a Planet Fitness facility or the cops will be there to haul you away.

To read the story in full…

15 Minute Challenge

Somewhere along the line a time parameter was placed on how long one should exercise - totally disregarding the fact that it is the level of intensity or effort that someone works at which is what really matters. I had mentioned in a previous post (60 Minutes to Better Health) that 2 weekly high intensity strength sessions lasting approximately 30 minutes each could yield a decent, if not good level of cardiovascular fitness. There are however some who just can't break away to get those 2 sessions in so I am offering this 15 minute challenge. I realize I'm putting a time frame on what I just criticized in my opening line but I do this to emphasize the minimal amount of time really needed to have a productive workout.

So what is needed to have a productive workout? In my opinion, a persons workout is an individual endeavor - one that they should embrace as something that is truly theirs and theirs alone. They need to find exercises that are safe and enjoyable for them to perform as well as offer a challenge to their muscular and cardiovascular systems. Above all else they need to work hard and consistently for results to occur.

Here are just three ideas of what you can do in 15 minutes to elicit a positive physical and mental response to exercise:

* Run for 1/2 mile, stop and do as many pushups as possible, get back up and continue running for another 1/4 mile, stop and perform as many crunches as possible. Turn back around and run another 1/2 mile stop and perform as many bodyweight squats you can do then finish with an all out 1/4 mile effort back to your starting point.

* Perform as many pushups, bodyweight squats and chins or bodyweight rows as possible for 3 consecutive rounds. For example:

maximum effort pushups
maximum effort chins or rows
maximum effort bodyweight squats
repeat the cycle 2 more times

* The One-Weight Workout (as seen in the book "Dumbbell Training for Strength and Fitness")

Overhead Press - 1 x 15
Stiff-Leg Deadlift
Bench Row
Supine Press

Performance Points:

Use the same weight for all of the exercises (thus, the nickname of this workout is "The One-Weight Workout"). The weight that you use should be one that you can do for at least 15 repetitions in the overhead press (while standing). Your levels of strength and conditioning will dictate the number of repetitions that you do in the subsequent exercises. For this reason, no specific target repetitions are listed. Needless to say, this workout can be extremely challenging to the ego.
Try to keep your hands on the dumbbells for the entire workout. Take as little recovery as possible between each exercise. This workout is especially hard on your grip and overall musculature as well as your cardiovascular system.

These are just a couple examples of what can be done in a short amount of time so the excuse of "I don't have the time" isn't really a valid one in my opinion. Just get out and get it done!

"Train With A Purpose"

Fred Fornicola

Friday, November 17, 2006

10 or Under

As a rule of thumb, I train my clients 2 - 3 times per week and I have them do full body workouts. Full body workouts mean all the muscles of the body are stimulated directly and/or indirectly based on the exercise movements we select. I always incorporate a compound movement for the hips/legs by using some type of deep knee bend like the squat or deadlift or the "crowd favorite" - the ever ever hated Nautilus leverage leg press. We also routinely perform some kind of compound pressing movements for the shoulders and chest and at least two compound pulling exercises. The trainees workouts are structured around joint safety and muscle balance, with a constant emphasis on proper form and execution of every repetition of every set. We usually train each exercise using 1 set to muscular failure (i.e. another repetition can not physically be performed using proper form), other times we may stop just shy of fatigue, but regardless; the trainee’s job is to always work hard during the session.

During these sessions it is rare that a trainee will perform more than 10 total sets, more than likely it is 5-6 hard sets that revolve around compound movements plus we round out our program by doing some abdominal, lower back and grip work. Here are some sample workouts that cover the entire body in less than 10 sets and take 20 - 30 minutes of training (depending on your level of condition). Keep in mind that the equipment listed here is what I have to offer my clients and can be substituted with dumbbells, barbells, rocks, bodyweight or whatever modality you have available. The important point is to understand the concept and then utilize what you have available to have a well rounded program.

Sample 1

Pendulum Roach Press 1x15-20
Pulldown 1x15-20
Pendulum Dips 1x15-20
Hammer Iso Row 1x12-15
Nautilus Leverage Leg Press 1x30
Sand Bag Deadlifts 1x15-20
Hammer Gripper 1x15-20
Reverse Wrist Curl 1x15-20
Crunch 1x20 -25

Sample 2

Standing Overhead Press 1x15-20
Dumbbell Deadlift 1x20-25
Layback Rows with rope 1x max effort
Pushups 1x max effort
Pendulum Shrug 1x15-20
Thick Bar Dumbbell Curl 1x15-20
Bodyweight Squats 1x max effort
Crunch 1x max effort

Our training effort as I stated earlier is always HARD, sometimes that means the whole workout will be to MMF (momentary muscle failure/fatigue), other times only certain exercises will have an emphasis for that day while on other days no sets are to failure, but still challenging to the trainee.

If you are structuring a workout or feel your volume may be too high, think about the 10 set rule, vary your workouts via exercises, reps, sequence and intensity and you should have all your bases covered.


Fred Fornicola

Monday, November 13, 2006

Training the Abdominals….Properly

Let’s first define (no pun intended) the abdominal area. The abdominals are made up of four muscle groups; the rectus abdominus, the obliques (internal and external), the serratus and intercostal muscles. The rectus abdominus is the row of washboard-like muscles in the center of your midsection and is one flat muscle; therefore there is no upper and lower abs. There is a lower and upper section of the abdominal area, but it is all one muscle. The obliques, referred to by some as “Love Handles”, are located on the sides of your waist.

The abdominals, better known as the “Abs” are a muscle group that everyone wants to develop, but most go about it incorrectly. Some of the misconceptions and unproductive applications are training the abs daily, the use of high repetitions/sets, the concept of “spot reducing” the area (or any area) along with a host of countless gadgets and myths about training the abdominals. The abdominals are a muscle and should be trained as such. You want to develop muscle in that area and repeatedly imposing a direct workload on the area is not going to give you the muscularity you are hoping for, in fact it’s counter productive. What you are basically doing is over training the muscle by tearing down the muscle tissue and not allowing it to repair itself to develop. Careful and proper application of direct abdominal work done with moderate repetitions/sets on an infrequent basis, focusing on progression, along with a reduction in body fat levels will give you the tight abdominals you are hoping for.

So if you are doing crunches every day, countless reps and sets or using an Ab roller or some other device you bought from a Saturday morning infomercial, STOP before you injure your lower back and/or waste (or is that waist) more time. Learn to exercise properly and efficiently, clean up your diet and you’ll be proud to expose that newly defined set of abs when summer time rolls around.


Fred Fornicola

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Anatomy & Function

As important as it is to perform exercises that engage your entire musculature, it is also essential to understand which muscles are which, and what exercises work those muscles. For instance, when performing a chest press, the main muscles being used are the pectorals (chest), the anterior deltoid (front part of the shoulder) and the triceps. When you do pulling movements such as a chin up, you utilize your upper back (latissimus dorsi, along with smaller muscles of the upper back), biceps and forearms.

Having a general understanding of your anatomy, the muscles that are used during an exercise and how the muscles work will only add to your overall performance during your workout.

A Little More Detail

Chest: Properly known as the pectorals but better known as the chest or “pecs” is comprised of two muscles, the primary being the pectoralis major and the other being the pectoralis minor. The main function of the “pecs” is to pull the upper arm across the body.

Shoulders: The shoulder or “delts” are made up of three separate heads. The anterior delt which is positioned in the front of the shoulder and raises the arm forward; the middle delt or lateral head raises the arm sideways and the rear or posterior delt draws the arm backward.

Upper Back: The lattisimus dorsi or “lats” encompass most of the upper back. The back is also made up of additional muscles such as teres major & minor and rhomboids, all enabling you to pull your arm down and back.

Hips: The hips are comprised of the gluteals (glutes or “butt”), adductors and iliopsoas muscles. The glutes are the strongest muscle in the body and their main function is in hip extension. Basically they drive the upper leg backward. The adductors (which are located in the inner thigh) are used when you pull your legs together. Hint to remember: You are ADDing your legs together when you adduct. The iliopsoas muscles are located on the front of the hip and enable you to pull your knees to your chest.

Upper Legs: The two main muscles of the upper leg are the quadriceps (quads) and the hamstrings. The quads (Quad meaning four) is made up of four separate muscles which are located on the front portion of your leg and collectively allow you to extend your leg out in front of you. The hamstrings (sometimes referred to as the “hammies”) are located on the back portion of your leg and enable you to flex your knee toward s your butt.

Upper Arms: The two main muscles of the upper arm are the biceps and the triceps. The biceps (or “bi’s”), which are made up of two separate heads, are on the front portion of your arm and allow you to bend your arm towards the shoulder. The triceps (or “tri’s) are located on the rear portion of the upper arm and are made up of three heads or muscles. They allow you to extend your arm or straighten your arms.

Lower Arms: Who can forget the old favorite Popeye and his huge forearms? The forearms are made up of several muscles but basically the anterior group (the muscles on the front of the forearm) causes wrist flexion allowing you to bend your wrist. Wrist extension allows you to straighten your wrist.

Abdominals: Universally known as the “abs”, they are made up of three muscles. The rectus abdominis, obliques and the transverses abdominis. The main function of the rectus abdominus is to pull the torso towards the lower body, i.e. a crunching movement. The obliques, which are located on the side of the abs, better known to most as the “love handles” allow for lateral flexion and rotation. The transverses abs are used to constrict the abdominal area as in controlled breathing.

Lower Back: The erector spinae is the main muscle in the lower back. The “erectors” permit you to extend your torso, basically straighten yourself up from a bent over position. The erectors are a muscle that need to be trained to maintain proper back health.

Neck: There are four major muscles in the neck, allowing you to move laterally as well as backward and forward. The trapezius or “traps” are located at the base of the neck and are responsible for allowing your shoulders to raise up and down in an “I don’t know” fashion.

I hope you have found this information to be both informative and beneficial in pursuing your physical goals.

"Train With A Purpose"

Fred Fornicola

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Workouts With A Twist

The following is just a sample of the workouts available in the new book “Dumbbell Training for Strength and Fitness” by Matt Brzycki and Fred Fornicola. To order your copy, please visit


This chapter contains numerous workouts with dumbbells that are based on the same safe, effective and efficient approach to improving strength and fitness that has been discussed throughout this book. As you’ll see, however, these workouts involve a slight “twist.” Included are workouts that are designed to place exceptionally high demands on your musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory systems as well as workouts for those who prefer to “split” their body parts or specialize in a body part or exercise. Follow the guidelines that are expressed throughout this book and experiment with as many of the workouts as possible to determine what best suits your individual tastes and needs.
Some of the workouts include brief points concerning how they’re to be performed. Unless otherwise specified, all workouts are based on taking each set to the point of muscular fatigue. In addition, you should perform each repetition in a deliberate, controlled manner. If a specific speed of movement is recommended, it’s usually designated by two numbers such as 2/4. The first digit refers to the number of seconds that it should take to raise the weight and the last digit refers to the number of seconds that it should take to lower the weight.

The One-Weight Workout (Fred Fornicola)

Overhead Press - 1 x 15
Stiff-Leg Deadlift
Bench RowSupine Press
Performance Points:

Use the same weight for all of the exercises (thus, the nickname of this workout is “One-Weight Workout”). The weight that you use should be one that you can do for at least 15 repetitions in the overhead press (while standing). Your levels of strength and conditioning will dictate the number of repetitions that you do in the subsequent exercises. For this reason, no specific target repetitions are listed. Needless to say, this workout can be extremely challenging to the ego.
Try to keep your hands on the dumbbells for the entire workout.
Take as little recovery as possible between each exercise.
This workout is especially hard on your grip and overall musculature as well as your cardiovascular system.

3x3 Workout #1 (Matt Brzycki)

Deadlift - 1 x 20
Supine Press - 1 x 12
Bench Row - 1 x 12
Deadlift - 1 x 15
Supine Press - 1 x 10
Bench Row - 1 x 10
Deadlift - 1 x 12
Supine Press - 1 x 8
Bench Row - 1 x 8

Performance Points:

· This workout is a series of three exercises that are done a total of three times (thus, the nickname of this workout is “3x3” – which is read as “three by three”). Essentially, it consists of a multiple-joint movement for the hips followed by a multiple-joint movement for the chest followed by a multiple-joint movement for the upper back and repeated two more times. These three types of movements address virtually every major muscle in your body including your hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, chest, upper back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and forearms.
· This workout is extremely time-efficient; most variations can be performed in about 20 minutes or less.
· Use a 2/4 speed for all of the exercises.
· Take as little recovery as possible between each exercise.
· Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this type of workout. Though it may not appear so, a 3x3 Workout – if done as outlined here – can be incredibly challenging and demanding.

Upper-Body Workout #1 (Jeff Friday)

Bench Press - 1 x 8-12
Bench Row - 1 x 8-12
Incline Press - 1 x 8-12
Bench Row - 1 x 8-12
Incline Press - 1 x 8-12
Bench Row - 1 x 8-12
Incline Press - 1 x 8-12Lateral Raise - 1 x 8-12
Front Raise - 1 x 8-12
Internal Rotation - 1 x 8-12 (each arm)
External Rotation - 1 x 8-12 (each arm)
Overhead Press - 1 x 8-12
Bicep Curl - 1 x 8-12
Tricep Extension - 1 x 8-12 (each arm)
Performance Points: · Do the first set of the incline press with the bench at about a 30-degree angle. For the next two sets of that exercise, raise the angle of the bench so that the second set is done at about a 45-degree angle and the third set is done at about a 60-degree angle.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Just a Typical Sunday Morning

Sunday is my one and only day off from training people and I try to make the day as personally fulfilling as possible. That entails me spending time with my wife and daughter, running some errands, trying to squeeze in some alone time so I can pursue one of my interests and of course, take in a workout. You’d think after spending 60 hours a week around a gym, the last thing I would want to do is “grab a workout” on my day off, but my Sunday workouts are probably my most satisfying. I don’t have to rush and perform a workout between clients but more importantly, I can go where I love to train the most – the beach. I could use the beach as a full-time gym and be the happiest guy in the world. There’s nothing like working out when the sun’s just rising, waves are breaking and you're using nature as your gym.

As I explain to most of my clients, health isn’t just about your body, it’s about the mind and spirit as well and finding the “balance” is what will yield a healthier, more fit you. Hey, what good is it to have a great body when your spirit is in the wrong place and you can’t enjoy life? One of my long-time clients, Bob V. stated one day that he “strength train as a means to being able to do other activities”. Bob - who is an avid cyclist - gets it. He understands that strength training in all its forms is about improving overall health and fitness – inside and out.

Ok, back to my Sunday workout. My daughter Alexa and our dog – a Golden Retriever named Angel, went to the beach to grab a family workout. Understanding what is involved in having a successful workout, I used the surrounding resources of the beach including the sand, rocks, a very large piece of driftwood plus a snow sled with a 50ft. rope lead I brought from home. Alexa provided resistance for the sled pulling as well as counted my reps for my push-ups, Angel accompanied me as a running partner on the sand and the rocks and drift wood were used for various activities that used my legs, lower and upper back as well as my chest, shoulders and arms and gripping muscles. Doing these activities with a high level of effort and intensity enabled me to have a very complete and successful workout that thoroughly challenged and stimulated my entire musculature and cardiovascular system.

Strength and fitness is about understanding what it takes to provide the right stimulus for YOUR body, mind and spirit and once you get “IT” the sky’s the limit. Make an effort to understand what it takes to have a balanced program and find time to execute it – you will be able to enjoy that much more of what life has to offer.

“Train With A Purpose”

Fred Fornicola

Friday, November 03, 2006

Training and Eating

If you want to make the best out of your efforts in the Gym, you should be eating to win. Training alone won't take care of everything for most of us. You can be strong and have muscle but if you don't make an effort to stay lean you'll end up looking like a "Before Ad" soon enough. Face it if you eat like crap, you'll probably look like crap. EVEN if your training hard. Life's not fair sometimes. Suck it up and cut your calories. Eat nutritiously dense food. Eat fresh and raw when you can. Keep your "Fruit Juices" to a minimum. Eat whole fruit instead, the fiber will be a good addition. Keep up with your calorie intake. I don't mean to count every molecule, just make an effort. No excuses! There is nothing to me worse than someone with great potential failing because of excuses. - Jim Bryan, Strength Coach

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rules of Change

In the book “If Life is a Game, These are the Rules” by Cherie Carter-Scott, PhD[1] she speaks of six basic steps to executing any change in your life and I have found them to be very applicable when one is deciding to engage in an exercise program. I have taken the liberty in applying my own twist to these steps as it pertains to someone who would like to make a change to better health.

Note: Definitions of Steps are directly from the author, as elaboration and comments are made by yours truly.

Step 1- Awareness: becoming conscious of the pattern or issue.

This is when you finally come to the realization that your current health patterns are not optimal or even close to being par. This can be initiated by a poor report from your last medical visit or your favorite jeans that just don’t fit like they used to, regardless of the reason, you are now in touch with the situation.

Step 2 – Acknowledgment: admitting that you need to release the pattern.

This next step is where you “own up” to the fact that you need to address your current health situation and seek a solution. You may not be happy with your lack of energy, overall health or appearance and know that something needs to be done about it.

Step 3 – Choice: actively selecting to release the pattern.

Realizing and acknowledging the need for improving your health is the crawling portion of the program when executing a change, taking action to enhance your well-being is where you start your walk towards improvement.

Step 4 – Strategy: creating a realistic plan.

Now is when your decision turns into a plan of action. Mapping out your approach of how you will go about improving your health and fitness will set the ground work for your success. Taking action on your own or seeking out assistance from a qualified individual will set you on your way to achieving your goals.

Step 5 – Commitment: taking action, aided by external accountability.

Steps 1 through 4 won’t amount to much other than wasted time and energy without the right program and commitment. I have seen numerous people spend way too much time structuring a plan with every last detail in place and then never sticking with it. Just talking about it and planning won’t improve your health, doing it will.

Step 6 – Celebration: rewarding yourself for succeeding.

When you proceed through the first 5 steps the sixth step has already been manifested. So many that I work with find their reward from their efforts and dedication to themselves and they are remunerated on a daily basis.

I encourage you to take some time to evaluate these steps as I have interpreted them as well as what the author has intended them to be. I think you will find them to be extremely helpful.

[1] “If Life is a Game, These are the Rules” copyright 1998 Cherie Carter-Scott, Ph.D. Broadway Books


Fred Fornicola