Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Creed to Live By

For some, the holiday season is a time for reflection so I leave you with these thoughts by Nancye Sims until the new year.

Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself to others.
It is because we are different that each of us is special.

Don't set your goals by what other people deem important.
Only you know what is best for you.

Don't take for granted the things closest to your heart.
Cling to them as you would your life, for without them life is meaningless.

Don't let life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future.
By living your life one day at a time, you live up all the days of your life.

Don't give up when you still have something left to give,
Nothing is really over . . . till the moment you stop trying.

Don't be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect.
It is this fragile thread that binds us together.

Don't be afraid to encounter risks.
It is by taking chances that we learn to be brave.

Don't shut love out of your life by saying it's impossible to find.
The quickest way to receive love is to give love;
the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly;
and the best way to keep love is to give it wings.

Don't dismiss your dreams.
To be without dreams is to be without hope;
to be without hope is to be without purpose.

Don't run through life so fast
that you forget not only where you've been,
but where you are going.

Life is not a race,
but a journey to be savored every step of the way.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Understanding the Net Impact

Ok, some day the FDA will implement some serious standards with regards to supplements and proper nutritional guidelines, not to mention clear and concise definitions and terminology that are actually helpful to those who are seriously looking to improve their health, but until then, here is some information on the misleading carbohydrate phenomenon known as “net” and “impact” carbs.

Since the Atkins revolution, individuals have been banning carbohydrates from their diets, swearing that this way of eating has been their only means of reducing body weight. Manufacturers, smelling the fear from those carbohydrate depleted individuals, have pounced on the market place and have bamboozled those poor people with a game of “Three Card Monty”. Take a carb here, move it over there, switch it over there and call it a “net carb” and voila, no more carbs. Hmmm, I’m new to this game so let’s see that again. Ok, I’ll do it again in slow motion. I take a carbohydrate (which has 4 calories per gram) and there are 20 grams per serving, now out of that 20 grams, 15 are sugar alcohol, but sugar alcohol doesn’t effect your blood sugar as quickly as refines sugars do so we don’t have to count that . Sound good? Sure, but hey, what about those total calories listed? There’s 80 calories total but only 5 are impacting me so that should only be 20, right? WRONG! Too many people who are convinced that Atkins and others came up with such a brain storm of an idea are either kidding themselves into thinking this is the proper way to go or they are too afraid to deviate from what they think has triggered their success. Most are failing to realize the fact that just eliminating simple and refined sugars could have been done a long time ago and their body weight would have been reduced without a doctor’s name attached.


Fred Fornicola

Monday, December 18, 2006

Finding A Balance

I often hear and read about people who are concerned about "how much they can lift" or "how much body mass" (a term that ranks right up there with the word "bulk" - both meaning "I workout but there's a nice layer of fat over all my muscle") or they just focus on how large their arms are but fail to focus on any other aspect of their health. Health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) needs to be an issue that everyone should address and balancing it can be hard. General health is an issue that is overlooked too often. The doctor isn't going to be too impressed when you walk in for a physical and tell him you can squat 300 pounds but you're over weight, get winded walking up the stairs and your blood test results have him wondering how you've made it this far.

It is my firm opinion that an individual not only should be strong but also have a good level of fitness (the ability to perform daily functions with relative ease). Individuals need to focus on a safe and productive strength program, incorporate some type of conditioning work along with proper nutrition and a dose of recovery. Personally, I hold true to a philosophy of training that enables one to become stronger and more fit. This is done by performing a handful of compound exercises for 1 set to muscular fatigue or failure with a minimum (no more than 1 minute) of rest between exercises. Unfortuanately a lot of people worry about what the numbers (weights) are on the bar instead of focusing on working as hard and as quickly between sets as they can. Go in to many commercial gyms and clubs and you'll find people conversing and sitting around more than exercising. In fact, if you were to actually calculate the amount of exercise time they put in it probably would amount to about 30 minutes of activity. Hmm, where have we heard that before? The body isn't chasing a personal record - the mind is and that is all well and goodwhen it's time to run 2 miles or play with the kids or go for a hike it's your strength AND level of conditioning (general health) that enables you to do more than sit on the couch in between workouts.

"Train With A Purpose"

Fred Fornicola

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Combo Workout

I have written many times that if an individual trains to MMF (momentary muscle failure) on 6-10 exercises, moving quickly through the workout (10-60 seconds rest between movements) they can not only increase their strength but their cardiovascular systems as well. For the most part, most of the people I train work very hard, close to; if not to failure on most exercises at most training sessions (determining how I train a particular client that day goes beyond the scope of this post). Some clients like different challenges or a higher level of fitness so I will implement the following type workout to keep them focused and enable them to have a productive workout.

The process goes something like this:

They will do a lower body compound movement like a leg press and take it to muscular fatigue and then I immediately move them to the treadmill for 2 hard minutes of walking/running. At the end of the 2 minutes I move them to their next exercise, like a machine shoulder press and have them perform a set to failure. I then move them back to the treadmill for another hard 2 minutes and then immediately over to the pulldown machine for a hard set (again, "hard" is a relative term) and then back to the treadmill for 2 more minutes. This cycle of events will be done for 2 rounds.

This enables the trainee to:

*Raise their HR beyond what their normal workout does

*Work hard on their exercises because they need to be more focused from their stint on the CV equipment with their raised HR

*Their workouts do not exceed a total of 30 minutes and they will get in ~12-15 minutes of total CV work (I have them do 3-5 minutes on the last go around of CV work), they are working non stop for those 30 minutes AND they are focused on their resistance work so they reduce the potential of injuring themselves.

Is this an optimal way to train someone for strength? Maybe, maybe not, I guess it all depends on how you define strength and what your needs are but I still feel that overall it is a healthy and safe way to approach strength and conditioning.

"Train With A purpose"

Fred Fornicola

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Do You Own A Floor?

“Do you own a floor?” Crazy, or more like obnoxious question right, but that’s what I ask when people tell me they don’t have time to get to the gym. Our trendy fitness culture has lead many to feel that the gym is the only place “serious people” go to improve their strength and fitness but I can assure you, the use of your own bodyweight and a level floor can yield one heck of a workout if you are applying a high level of effort.

In my training facility I have a nice selection of machines, dumbbells and other odd objects to build strength, but I still implement exercises such as the good old pushup, bodyweight squat and crunch as often as I can. Ok, I hear some of you saying “I can’t do many pushups”. No problem, reduce the amount of resistance (your bodyweight) by kneeling on your knees or leaning up against a wall and work your way up to doing floor pushups or better yet, do negative only pushups (help yourself to the “up” position then slowly (6-8 seconds) lower yourself to the ground). How do you do squats with bad balance? Hold on to a secure object like a post or the handles of an open door. Necessity is the mother of invention so FIND WAYS.

Additional “floor” exercises to help build strength that can be used for variety are the stationary or walking lunge, wall squat, side plank hold, side crunch, four point hold and toe raise. Pick a handful of movements (3-5), work to muscular fatigue, take very little rest between exercises and perform 2-3 non-consecutive sessions each week. Just do yourself a favor and get busy!

"Train With A Purpose"

Fred Fornicola

Monday, December 11, 2006

The First "5 Hard & Fast Rules of Strength Training"

1. Be compliant and work hard.
Provided the “X’s” and “O’s” are in place, simply making a concerted effort to “do something,” do it on a regular schedule, and do it as hard as you can at the time will go a long way to maximizing your potential. It’s 80% of the battle and the first requisite if anything is to be gained. Yes, there are specifics (type of exercises, number of reps, rep speed, weight loads, nutritional intake, etc.), but they are secondary to showing up and exuding effort as there are literally numerous ways to train.

2. Train with intensity (of effort).
Relative to the hard work aspect of point number one, its strength training! You’re trying to create overload in the muscles, and proper overload means forcing the muscles to work beyond their existing capacity. This is not easy and manifests itself in temporary pain, discomfort, heavy breathing, light-headedness, etc. due to the intense effort put forth. High reps, low reps, dumbbells, machines, one set or 3 sets, somewhere in the endeavor a high degree of effort must be expended so the recruited muscle fibers adapt and improve their quality if maximum gains are to be obtained.

3. Be safe.
The manner by which you train is a controllable variable in your long-term health and well-being. Exercise stresses the muscles, joints, and energy systems to create a positive adaptation to these stresses. Using proper exercise form is mandatory if one desires to train over the long-term. Proper body alignment/posture and controlled speed of movement through a safe range of motion makes the exercise safe not only during individual training sessions, but over all sessions year after year. The whole bouncing, yanking, and ballistic/explosive lifting debate ends abruptly here. Likewise, training loads, session volume, and number of training session per period need to fit so they do not over-stress and lead to chronic injuries and regression.

4. Use basic exercise movements.
One does not need to perform any complicated exercises nor a multitude of any
exercise each and every workout. The “Big Four” can go a long way for the upper body: a chest push, a seated/bent-over row, an overhead push, and a pull down/pull up. Throw in another pushing and pulling angle (i.e., incline press and upright row) -- or a direct triceps and biceps exercise – and it’s still simple and time-efficient. For the legs, a multi-joint glute/quad exercise and a hamstring exercise are the bare minimum such as a squat, dead lift, or leg press and a prone/seated leg curl or stiff-leg dead lift (RDL). A second multi-joint glute/quad exercise (i.e., lunge, single-leg squat/leg press) and direct calf work can also be added provided the total workout volume is not overly taxing.

5. If in doubt, SLOW DOWN!
Lift fast or lift slow? Who is right? The optimal speed-of-exercise camps are out there, and each espouses its own recommendations. The truth is, working to achieve a maximum number of repetitions in a set is the key to achieving optimal overload, regardless of exercise speed. In both cases – moving intentionally fast and slow, significant recruitment of muscle fibers will occur if one simply attempts to achieve maximum repetitions in the set. But here’s the key point of this issue: too fast creates too much momentum and lessens the tension on the muscles and increases the risk of muscle/joint trauma due to the excessive acceleration (and consequent deceleration). So, if in doubt, SLOW DOWN! You will not SAFELY recruit the higher threshold fiber types any better when moving a resistance fast as compared to moving it slower.
Move fast outside the weight room if you’re a an athlete practicing a sport (which by the way can result in injury, and often times does, but it is a risk you take when you play sports!). - Tom Kelso, Strength Coach, SLU

Friday, December 08, 2006

Gridiron High Intensity Training

Check out the Gridiron Inc. High Intensity Training videos. An awesome display of hard, intense work along with good coaching.

Breaking The Fast

In a recent conversation with nutritionist Tom Bilella, we discussed the importance of eating breakfast. As it is important to have frequent, well balanced meals during the course of the day breakfast is THE most important. Your body hasn't had nutrients for several hours and to get your brain and body going, a breakfast chock full of protein, essential fats and substantial carbohydrates is the perfect formula.

Too often, many people eat a poor breakfast - usually consisting of a bowl of sugary cereal or grab a bagel of muffin on the run while others blow off breakfast all together - opting for a cup of a high test Frappuccino and spending 3 dollars and change for zero nutrition. I understand most of us are on the run to work, getting kids off to school, etc. but there is an answer. A much healthier, more time efficient approach would be to drink your breakfast consisting of a good whey protein powder along with some milk (rice, almond, oat, cow if you can tolerate it), essential fatty acids (flax or fish oil) and some fresh fruit. Blend it and go.

The key to being healthy and losing body fat is to eat healthy foods and there is no better way to do that then by starting your day off right with a nutritious breakfast.

"Train With A Purpose"

Fred Fornicola

Monday, December 04, 2006

Workout of the Week #1

We will be trying to post a "Workout of the Week" each week to share some of the programs we use for ourselves personally as well as for our trainees. Feel free to substitute exercises to suit your needs and/or availability so if an exercise calls for shoulder presses feel free to use a machine, dumbbells, barbell, sand bag, anvil, stone, whatever jazzes you. Repetition ranges are for example only. If you prefer higher reps, do them, but regardless of the repetition range always try to exceed your goals and don't stop the set just because you achieved a number - keep going past your goal number if possible. Rest between sets should be minimal - no more than 60 seconds.

This workout, if done with little rest should take less than 20 minutes.

Dumbbell Front Squat 1x30 (dumbbell held high on the chest) immediately to
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts 1x20
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 1x20
1 Arm Row 1x15
Pushups 1xmaximum effort
Dumbbell Shrug 1x30
Rope hand-overhand climb from floor max effort
Dumbbell hammer curls 1x20
Dumbbell Wrist Curl 1x30

"Train With A Purpose"

Fred Fornicola

Friday, December 01, 2006

There Are No Secrets

“Psst, hey you, wanna know the REAL secret to having great abs….?”

How many times have you heard that kind of marketing hooey from the many money hungry industry gluttons who would like you to believe that there are secrets to becoming stronger and physically fit, promising that they and they alone are the ones with the magical answers? Amazing as it is, people still lean closely in to hear what they have to say, even after being bamboozled several times before by someone else (or even the same people) promising similar magical feats.

Here are the cold, hard facts folks. There are no secrets; there are no special gizmos, gadgets, formulas, workouts or pills to making you stronger and fit. Too often people get hung up on what I call the “X’s and O’s” of training – you know, the “best workout” or “best diet” or cardiovascular plan that happens to be trendy that particular month. Unfortunately, most people don’t know the why or how of performing meaningful exercise and are constantly mislead and misguided leaving them hopelessly lost and discouraged. Ok, maybe I lied – there are some secrets, but I’ll only share them with you, so listen closely. Use basic exercises, work hard and efficiently, be consistent with your training, conditioning and nutrition and stop trying to find the magic bullet. Simple works gang – it’s been proven time and time again.

"Train With A Purpose"

Fred Fornicola