Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Indirect Muscle Stimulation

In the ongoing series of "Training With A Purpose", I speak with Super Human Radio host, Carl Lanore about INDIRECT MUSCLE STIMULATION

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Working With Athletes

One of the most important jobs I have as a strength and conditioning coach is to make sure that all of the clients that I work with are training safely. Safety is paramount so as not to injure the trainee while they are exercising as well as to help reduce the chances of getting hurt outside the fitness area. What few applicators of fitness realize is that the main focus behind strength training -especially for athletes - is to help reduce (or better yet, avoid) unnecessary injuries on the playing field. Participating in athletics always opens the door to becoming injured - especially in contact sports - but performing exercises and implementing a program that is safe, efficient and effective will help reduce the chances of injuries unrelated to the "impact" from playing the game. For instance, a football player taking a blow to the knee on a tackle will more than likely experience some type of injury, regardless of whether he strength trained or not. However, that impact may not be as serious if an athlete is stronger in his lower body – especially in the surrounding knee compartment – to that of a less conditioned athlete.

Remember, helping an athlete become stronger and more fit will help reduce the chance of injury a d enable that individual to be a better athlete (assuming the first rule of safety is applied). A simple rule to remember is A STRONGER ATHLETE IS A BETTER ATHLETE!

Fred has really helped me focus as an athlete. I feel far stronger than I used to be, kicking the ball much further and running stronger. I also feel much more prepared for track this season and cannot wait to starting jumping again. I would never have realized the extreme benefits of training without him and the results are clear. His attitude during training helps me immensely as well. Without constant conversation and his pushing, it would take me much much longer to get anything done. Thanks for being awesome. Nicole Sica, Ocean Township High School Varsity Soccer and Track

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Making a Healthy and Delicious Apple Pie

It's that time of year again where apples are in abundance. Apples are a low glycemic fruit and are rich sources of phytochemicals (compounds found in plants, fruits, and vegetables that can act as anti-oxidants). A great way to enjoy apples - other than by just having them plain - is to put a little nut butter on them or make them into a sauce, but one of the best tasting ways to eat an apple is when they are used for APPLE PIE.

I want to share a very fast and easy recipe for you. I eat a gluten-free diet so I use a pre-made, frozen gluten free pie crust that can be purchased at most health food stores or major food chains. When possible, try using organic or locally grown apples for this recipe.

1 pie crust

5 apples - peeled, sliced and halved. Note: some of the best baking apples are Fuji and Gayla - they are sweet but maintain a firm texture when baked

juice from one lemon

tsp of salt

2 tbsp of raw sugar

tbsp of cinnamon

tbsp of vanilla extract

2 tbsp of gluten free pancake mix

Mix the apples, lemon juice, salt, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and pancake mix in a large bowl. Once thoroughly mixed, place in pie crust. Cover the entire pie with tin foil and make sure it is sealed all the way around. Poke a few vent holes on the top and place in a pre-heated 525* oven for 60 minutes. Take the pie out and let cool at room temperature.

This is a great way to have a relatively low calorie, low glycemic dessert for the whole family. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Latest Reviews

"Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America's Kids" is now available on all on-line book stores as well as the Youth Fitness webpage. Below are the latest reviews and comments that are on the site

Make it Part of Your Plan, September 29, 2008
By T. A. Deckebach (Glenside, PA)

"As an elementary educator and parent of a young teenager, I am very interested in the factors that contribute to the health and well-being of young people. Brzycki and Fornicola have created a handbook that is appropriate for parents, educators, coaches and teens themselves. The authors provide an excellent balance of background information (with sections like "What is Fitness?" and "Poor Nutrition = Poor Health") and true "action planning", as the title suggests. There are clear directions for simple exercises (with accompanying photos), sample workout schedules, and tips for weight management.
I'm thrilled to have purchased such a helpful book for my son. I also bought a copy for my daughter's elementary school and my son's track coach. There are so few quality resources on this topic, it's a must for any adult who cares about youth fitness."

Another Winner, September 26, 2008
By Steve Bibbo (Forked River, NJ USA)

"This is the second book by these two that I have and they certainly don't suffer from the sophomore jinx. Normally, books aimed at child fitness ether come across as too "preachy" or way too technical. This is a very good blend an simple and straight-forward concepts for children and their parents to follow. I can't wait for their next collaboration."

What America needs..., September 24, 2008
By Tom Kelso (St. Louis) - See all my reviews

"Wow! This book is exactly what America needs! Child obesity rates rising, declining scholastic physical education programs and outright laziness permeating our Country's youth. Simple guidelines to get our FUTURE leaders off their butts, moving and actually enjoying physical exercise. Way to go, Matt and Fred!"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Viper VLT

Here is an extensive review on the Viper VLT

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fred Fornicola: Health vs. Aesthetics

The second interview with Fred Fornicola and Carl Lanore in the new series "Training With A Purpose" on Super Human Radio.

This time, Fred and Carl discuss "Health vs Aesthetics"

Fred Fornicola: Training With A Purpose

Fred Fornicola and Carl Lanore - host of Super Human Radio discuss their take on what it means to "Train With A Purpose"

Fred Fornicola Blogspot

Fred Fornicola's Blogspot

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Viper LT by Marpo Kinetics - Now at Premiere Personal Fitness

Premiere Personal Fitness has recently acquired the Viper LT by Marpo Kinetics. The Viper is a multi-purpose piece of equipment that can be used for strength training, upper-body cardio, rehabilitation and as part of an all-around fitness program. With its 7 levels of speed/resistance, a trainee - regardless of their age -can perform numerous activities at different levels of effort. Designed primarily to simulate rope climbing (which strongly engage the entire back, biceps, forearms, shoulders and gripping muscles of the hands), the Viper LT also provides the ability to perform exercises that involve the triceps, legs, chest and abdominals. Because the Viper is so versatile in its use for cardiovascular training, strength or rehabilitation, it can provide one helluva workout.

Trust me, the gang at Premiere will be getting in some intense workouts with this piece. If anyone is interested in using the Viper, feel free to contact me to set up an appointment. - Fred Fornicola

Take a look at the Viper in action.....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

And We're Off.......

Matt Brzycki and Fred Fornicola's Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America's Kids is off to the printers and should be available in Barnes and Nobles, Borders and other fine bookstores along with on-line providers the first or second week of September '08. You can also purchase copies from our website.

Anyone wishing to pre-order an autographed copy, please visit the Youth Fitness website.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What's Everyone Saying About "Youth Fitness"?

“Cardiovascular disease, cancer, back problems and other musculoskeletal ailments are things that we read and hear about every day and sometimes it hits close to home. Yet, something can be done about it. Start the journey by taking the first steps. This book can give kids and grownups the facts that they need and a game plan for them to get it done!”

Ed Cicale, MA
Physical Education Instructor
Oak Hills Schools
Cincinnati, Ohio

“In today’s fast-paced society, the typical high school and middle school student wants instant results and aren’t willing to work very hard to get those results. The authors provide readers with an excellent source of information to start the road back to a higher level of physical fitness and health. It’s an excellent resource for health teachers, physical education teachers, coaches, parents and young adults.”

Mike Shibinski, MS, CSCS
Strength Coach/Physical Education Teacher Princeton High School Cincinnati, Ohio

“As a high school physical education teacher, I see daily the effects that sedentary lifestyles have on young people. It’s essential to give parents and children the tools for developing realistic, lifelong fitness habits. Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids is a great resource for anyone looking to make lifestyle changes and get started on the path to optimal health.”

Rick Rignell, MA, CSCS
Physical Education Teacher and Strength Coach
Anoka High School
Anoka, Minnesota

“Finally, a book that doesn’t “sugarcoat” the issues that are associated with youth fitness but addresses them honestly, openly and candidly. As a high school teacher, this book really made me evaluate my own program and look at how I can implement some of its suggestions to better serve my students and athletes. The book is a great read for coaches, parents, teachers or anyone who influences the lives of young people.”

Doug Scott, BS, CSCS
Fitness Coordinator
The Pingry School
Martinsville, New Jersey

“It’s great to see the authors taking action to put youth fitness back on track. Over time, America has strayed from the importance of physical activity in the daily routines of its school-aged children. Having a book like this that focuses on a plan of action for youth fitness is certain to be a valuable resource for teaching kids the many benefits of a healthy lifestyle.”

Mary L. Wolk, MS, H/FI, ACE-CPT
General Manager
Georgetown Law Sport/Fitness Center
Washington D.C.

“Today’s young people will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents if we are not able to address the epidemic of childhood obesity. Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids provides important and critical information to parents, educators and community leaders in the struggle to shift the culture of America.”

William Lovett
New Jersey Alliance of YMCAs

“Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids is an absolute must for all physical education teachers and fitness professionals. Many books talk about the low fitness levels of today’s youth, but few offer any practical solutions to the problem. This book gives the practitioner easy to follow steps to improve children’s fitness. It’s an invaluable tool for our physical education department.”

Ryan Carlson, MEd
Health/Physical Education Teacher
Chaska Middle School West
Chaska, Minnesota

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach
Minnetonka High School
Minnetonka, Minnesota

“This book is a long overdue source of information. In light of epidemic health issues in America’s youth, the authors address these problems based on sound academic research. Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids should be on everyone’s bookshelf.”

Joe Ross
Head Football Coach
Jesuit High School
Tampa, Florida

“Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids is essential for every parent, coach, trainer, therapist and doctor who deals with children and adolescents. If you’re trying to maximize athletic performance for elite or recreational youths, this book is a vital resource.”

Dr. Adam Shafran
Fitness Expert, Author, Radio Host and Chiropractor
Atlanta, Georgia

“There is no doubt that kids are in very good hands as the authors are highly innovative educators who took the time to address an issue that has no parallel in significance: the health of a nation’s youth! This book should be read by parents, coaches, trainers and physical educators not just in America but worldwide.”

Randy Roach
Author and YMCA Canada Trainer
Waterloo, Ontario

“Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids is an educative approach to not only understanding the health concerns of America’s youth but also how to develop a proactive plan to get them fit and keep them fit. The authors do a great job of guiding the reader through a comprehensive look at what fitness means for our youth as well as a practical, step-by-step approach to creating desired fitness outcomes. This is a must read for parents and educators alike.”

Brian J. Wilt, PhD
Recreation Management Department
Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania
Lock Haven, Pennsylvania

“Everything trickles down. And so it has come to fitness and planned routine exercise. Adults have been doing it for years and finally the benefits for our youth have been discovered. Little has been done to study and research and design well made exercises for teens and pre teens. The authors have given many in the fitness business a manual for planned, well-designed exercise. Coaches and parents interested in their youth can benefit from this book.”

Sam Stern
Fitness Coach and Personal Trainer
YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids provides invaluable information that is both practical and comprehensive. The organization and the thoroughness of this book are outstanding. Applying the sound and easily understood principles that the authors advocate can change America’s future. This book should be in every library in the United States.”

Steve Baldwin, MS, CSCS
Strength Coach and Owner
Just Strength Training
Nashville, Tennessee

“As a clinician who has labored long in the field of youth fitness, I feel quite strongly about the overall health benefits of exercise. This book is innovative, yet easy to read, and contains a proactive approach to tackling the fitness problem within our youth population. Physical education, health and fitness professionals: Read this book!”

John Mikula, CTRS, H/FI, CCS
Recreational Therapist
Gainesville, Florida

"Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America's Kids is a MUST HAVE resource for P.E. teachers, coaches, recreation directors, parents and anyone interested in improving the declining fitness level our youth. All the bases are covered in an organized, comprehensive, yet easy-to-read manner. No fads or gimmicks; this book presents a safe, orthopedically age appropriate plan to address a nation-wide need. "

Scott Hays
Physical Education Teacher
Fowlerville Junior High School
Fowlerville, MI

"The drastic and continual increase in childhood obesity and inactivity and the host of related complications in the US is a foremost concern for parents, educators, and medical professionals. The true value of this book is that it is not merely another fitness book that simply recites popular exercise and nutrition fads and fallacies. Instead, Brzycki and Fornicola decipher fact from myth as they provide a safe,
effective and scientifically efficacious guide to improving youth fitness."

Luke Carlson
Discover Strength Personal Fitness Center Inc.
10100 6th Avenue North, Suite #116
Plymouth, MN 55441

"Matt Brzycki and Fred Fornicola have tackled a daunting task for kids, educators and parents alike by creating a much needed fitness plan for the youth of America. Everybody says obesity is a problem but I am glad somebody is finally providing a comprehensive book to provide education and an actual plan specifically to help kids get fit. As an owner of several Brzycki books I look forward to this one."

Ryan Ash, BS, MS
Howell High School
Teacher and Coach

"This nation is facing a serious epidemic – one that is proving to be detrimental to the health and well-being of today’s youth.
Youth Fitness is timely in delivering a critical message that our children are at great risk due to sedentary lifestyles, lack of exercise and poor nutrition. At the same time, this book acts as a valuable resource by providing a practical, commonsense approach to getting fit and staying healthy. I applaud the authors for leading the way to a happier and healthier lifestyle for our children!"

Kelly Rosa-Bian
Health & Physical Education Teacher
Shady Grove Elementary School

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Methods of Training for Improving Fitness - Part Five

Modern Day Fitness

The previous methods described are very solid approaches for improving muscular strength while offering cardiovascular benefits for overall fitness. But there are other “tactics”, if you will, that are equally demanding on the body and therefore deserve discussing. Training methods such as General Physical Preparedness (G.P.P.), Boot Camp, Military Training, Bodyweight Training, Strongman, CrossFit, High Performance Training and a number of their hybrids offers an individual an array of possibilities to improve their strength as well as conditioning. These systems are very similar to Circuit Training, PHA and High Intensity Training in that they work the entire body in a single session, but they incorporate their own unique twists based on their goals and personal preferences.

Any of these applications can be performed in numerous ways simply by using an intelligent combination of strength type exercises in conjunction with cardiovascular based activities or by using resistance (strength) exercises intensely in an aerobic time frame. Much like High Intensity Training can offer a “metabolic effect”, so can these “combination workouts”. In fact, Strongmen, MMA’s (mixed martial artists) as well as military personnel have been applying a similar approach for years with great success and as of late, it has become mainstream in the fitness world – and for good reason.

When a “strength” exercise is worked with a high level of effort, it not only promotes an increase in muscular strength but it will also affect the heart rate. And to sweeten the pot even further, the “conditioning” type activities - which primarily produce a cardiovascular response, can also improve muscular strength if worked with a high level of effort. It then becomes a “win – win” situation when this style of training is worked hard, progressively and consistently.

Because each faction has their own specific requirements, the applications of modalities, sets, reps, levels of effort, frequency, etc. are endless. The variations of training can stem from standard exercise equipment such as barbells and dumbbells and can include, but not be limited to using: sleds, medicine balls, kettlebells, sprinting (running, bicycle, elliptical, etc.), stones, logs, odd objects, as well as body weight applications. These are fun and effective mixtures that can facilitate a fine workout which will enable someone to train their entire body in a single workout, while achieving cardiovascular and strength benefits in a very short period of time.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Talking About Dumbbells on Super Human Radio

Fred Fornicola talks about dumbbell training on Super Human Radio.

Go to the link above, scroll down to the Articles & Interviews section and click on "Interview with Fred Fornicola on Super Human Radio".

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

An interview with Fred Fornicola

Youth Fitness: An Action Plan For Shaping America’s Kids

An interview with co-author, Fred Fornicola

By Rick Rignell

Fred Fornicola contacted me recently with some very exciting news about a new book project he and Matt Brzycki have in the works. With their first collaboration, Dumbbell Training for Strength and Fitness hitting 10,000 copies sold in just a little over two years, Matt and Fred are teaming up again, but this time their focus is on the fitness of America’s youth. Fred wanted to discuss their latest project with me, Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids so I put together a little interview to pick Fred’s brain about the many different aspects that he and Matt tackle in their book. There is probably no better way to glean insight into Fred’s thoughts and feelings about the health of America’s kids and what this new book is about than discussing specific aspects of youth fitness with Fred. The following is my interview with co-author, Fred Fornicola.

Rick: There are few, if any, books out there that address the topic of youth fitness. What inspired you and Matt to write this book?

Fred: This book has been something Matt and I have been discussing off and on for a couple of years now. It’s a topic that is important to us for several reasons. First and foremost, we each have a kid (my daughter Alexa is 13 and Matt’s son Ryan is 11) and as parents, we both feel it’s important for our kid’s to be physically active so they can experience good health physically, mentally and emotionally. Secondly, as individuals in the field of fitness, we understand the value of what a well-rounded fitness program can offer a youth and we hope to help influence parents, coaches and teachers that there is a need for youth fitness to be taken more seriously. That is why we cover topics such as strength training, cardiovascular exercise, nutrition, flexibility, childhood diabetes and obesity, as well as other issues that are related to youth health and fitness.

Rick: I’m a High School Physical Education teacher, working with students ages 14-18. One disturbing trend that I’ve seen over the years is what I call a “fitness gap.” On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got kids who are athletic and very fit, and on the other end, you have kids that are very unfit and inactive. There seems to be little in between. Have you noticed this trend also?

Fred: Absolutely Rick and it’s a disturbing observation for sure. When I was a kid I played outside all the time, participated in organized and informal sports and stayed active. Kids today are very sedentary. They spend way too much time watching TV, staring at a computer screen and “texting”. It seems as though only kids that are serious about sports participate in an exercise program. These kids seem to understand the value of what a fitness program can provide; not only for their health but their athletic career as well. Then you have the other end of the spectrum where kids think “why bother, I’m not involved in sports” so they don’t think they need to stay with a formalized program and end up do nothing remotely physical. This, of course, is a huge mistake and is now becoming a major problem for today’s kids. Every kid needs to exercise to promote overall good health. And we can’t turn a blind eye to the rising rate of child obesity and diabetes. It’s a very sad state of affairs and it’s increasing to epidemic proportions and it needs to be addressed on many levels – and right now!

Rick: Because so many kids are in such poor shape, it can be challenging to get them involved in a fitness program without turning them off. Do you have any strategies for dealing with this challenge?

Fred: It’s been my experience Rick that in dealing with young kids (and adults as well), a fitness program needs to meet a kids needs physically, mentally and emotionally. In doing so, we as parents and fitness professionals need to do our “due diligence” and learn as much as we can so we can offer our kids every opportunity to make their fitness program one that can be enjoyable, challenging and rewarding. Most importantly, we need to make it so a kid will want to be consistent in performing their exercise. There are several things you can do to get a kid moving. Something as simple as having them go for walks or getting involved in organized activities can be a start. A great way to get them going is to have them get an “exercise buddy”. Having a training partner makes working out more fun and can offer some friendly competition. Also, there’s a tendency for each participant to feel a sense of obligation to the other and therefore there is a greater likelihood of each staying with the program. If a friend isn’t available, it’s a great time for a parent, teacher or coach to step in and participate in the youth’s fitness program.
A good way to get a kid to stay with an exercise program is to offer a condensed plan that is simple and straight forward. When it comes to strength training, I often use a simple approach that has been quite successful over the years. I subscribe to what I have found to be an effective philosophy which requires a youth to perform two or three full-body workouts each week. Each of these sessions generally last no more than 30 minutes. In recommending this approach, most kids can squeeze exercise into their academic, personal and social lives and they can mentally handle training for 30 minutes or less a couple times each week. It’s important to recognize that although the training sessions are brief, they can be very effective for improving strength, cardiovascular health and flexibility if done correctly. Matt and I have spent many years training people and getting young individuals involved in fitness and we discuss in our book, in detail, our concepts along with additional ideas of how to use various types of equipment, training protocols and much more so kids will want to exercise – and stick with it.

Rick: One thing that I’ve noticed with my Physical Education classes is that the majority of the student’s, fit or unfit, seem to enjoy strength training. Do we emphasize strength training enough as a youth fitness activity?

Fred: I believe there are more efforts being made to expose young people to strength training, but as you know, there is a lot more to it than just walking into a gym and picking up a weight. There are many aspects of strength training that need to be considered. Initially, a kid needs to be taught proper form so they don’t become injured and since there are many takes or opinions on what proper form entails, Matt and I prescribe specifics that have worked for us over several decades of training ourselves and others – especially the kids. In addition, a program needs to be devised that will be effective for that particular youth along with determining what equipment is suitable to their structure and their needs. In conjunction, they also need appropriate supervision.
As you know Rick, there are countless philosophies and methodologies when it comes to fitness –strength training in particular – and therefore there are some confusing issues. It’s unfortunate, but there are many myths and misconceptions propagated in the field of fitness and the various information that is disseminated can be paralyzing to parents, coaches and kids. There are many different approaches to strength training as you know - some being very good and others being downright dangerous – and when we’re dealing with young people especially, safety is the number one consideration. We must keep in mind as well that strength training is just one aspect of becoming physically fit. There are other components that need to be addressed on an ongoing basis for a kid to have a well-balanced action plan.

Rick: Many kids seem to have developed the mentality that “if it’s uncomfortable, I have to stop.” Obviously, we don’t want to injure kids, but productive training can involve some discomfort. How do we work around that mentality?

Fred: Great question Rick and I agree completely, productive training is challenging, but anything worth while usually is. As you accurately pointed out, we certainly don’t want anyone getting injured and as we both know, strength training is a great way of helping to prevent injury. But hard and productive training can be performed safely and is a learned process that can take some time. Being “uncomfortable” is one of the by-products, if you will, of training and when inhibitors like discomfort come into play, a youth has a choice to get past it or not – to improve or not. For some it may come easy, and for others it may be insurmountable for a while, either way, it can be done. A couple of years ago, Kim Wood, a 28 year veteran NFL strength coach shared with me a very valuable lesson. He told me that teaching someone to "train hard on their own" (along with using proper form) was one of the most important things I could teach. After tens of thousands of applications, I couldn’t agree more. Having a kid work hard for themselves can be a struggle at times so what I usually encourage kids to do is draw and imaginary line in the sand to represent their “comfort level”. Since getting past discomfort is more a mental aspect of exercise than a physical one, they can now focus on getting past a specific point mentally instead of physically. Now when they approach their comfort level I encourage them to cross over the line by doing just a little more than they did last time....just giving a little more of themselves than they normally would. This “crossing over the line” is a very important step for a youth to make. A kid will see that they can get past these hurdles and they experience a new-found sense of accomplishment. Having a kid do this time and time again over subsequent workouts will encourage them to work harder on their own because they’ve found the value in what they are accomplishing. Not only will they become stronger and more fit, they will also develop what we refer to as “mental toughness” and that goes far beyond the weight room in daily life.Rick: Do you see one gender as becoming less fit than the other?

Fred: That’s an interesting question, but I’d have to say no. Unfortunately, I think both genders are far from being remotely fit and therefore need to step it up with regards to their fitness. On the flip side, there are those who participate in sports and seem to focus on their fitness – at least for their “in-season” and there too it seems to be balanced between the girls and guys. I just so happen to work with more girls than boys and the girls I work with really get at it when they train – usually more so than the guys. Hey, I’m not trying to take a cheap shot at the guys here but the girls are far less hung-up on bench pressing and doing curls and just do what needs to get done.

Rick: Does exercise have to be fun, or do kids get enough of that with video games, computers, etc.?

Fred: I think exercise should be enjoyable in the sense that a kid isn’t exercising reluctantly. Making a kid do something that isn’t fun won’t build a positive or long-lasting approach to fitness and raises the chances of them becoming injured because they are less focused. There are many ways for kids to be fit and athletic and we need to expose kids to as many aspects of safe, efficient and effective fitness practices as possible. This way, a kid can develop his or her own means of staying in shape and have it be a part of their life forever.

Rick: I remember having teachers and coaches who were not only great role models, but great fitness role models. Do kids today have enough good fitness role models?

Fred: That’s a tough question to answer. Honestly, I don’t know. There is no one of notoriety that I can think of but I do feel that ideally, it should be the parents who are the role models. Like everything else that’s involved with raising a kid, education starts in the home. Teaching kids about exercise and eating right can’t be a “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy that will work. Keep in mind it’s the parents who are the ones that go to the food stores and the drive-thru’s. They have the choice of buying healthy, wholesome foods or foods that aren’t nutritious. In conjunction, those responsible on the school level may need to address physical fitness with more “oomph”. Gym and health classes don’t seem to have the same positive impact they did years back. Kids nowadays seem to view gym as a “break between classes” and I think that P.E. and Health deserve the same respect as any other subject in school. Kids just don’t seem to see the value in what is being offered and are suffering because of it.

Rick: What can parents do to help their kids become more fit?

Fred: Like I mentioned, parents need to “lead by example.” I believe that if parents are exercising and eating nutritious foods they are exemplifying good habits and it is a great way to help their kids become more involved in a healthy fitness regimen. Seeking out a qualified fitness professional is another step in the right direction as well. Parents can also become more informed about what is involved in planning a sound fitness program by reading, but as I stated earlier, there is a lot of information out there and a lot of it can be contradictory. Matt and I wanted to share what we’ve learned over several decades of being involved in physical fitness and feel we put our best foot forward in doing this book. We cover the many aspects of what is involved in developing a well-rounded fitness program and offer insight and recommendations on what it takes to help shape America’s kids.

Rick: Thanks for the interview, Fred. Thanks for the work that you and Matt are doing to promote fitness in general, and youth fitness in particular. Best of luck with the new book!

Fred: Rick, it was my pleasure.

Rick Rignell, MA, CSCS
Physical Education Teacher and Strength Coach
Anoka High School – Anoka, Minnesota

Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids is being sold at Barnes & Noble and Border’s book stores as well as on-line at, Barnes and and other fine stores. Orders through Premiere Personal Fitness will be autographed by the authors.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Youth Fitness: An Action Plan For Shaping America's Kids

"Matt Brzycki and Fred Fornicola have collaborated again to write a timely book entitled Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids. This book addresses a critical need for good information directed toward proper, safe strength training and fitness guidelines for our young athletes. This book is a must for coaches in charge of implementing programs in schools and team sports. And it doesn't stop there. Anyone interested in improving their child's fitness, balance, strength, and flexibility would be well advised to buy a copy as well. Youth Fitness will no doubt be a top seller, as well it should be since both Brzycki and Fornicola practice what they preach and speak from decades of experience."

Jim Bryan
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Winter Haven, Florida

Click here to pre-order your autgraphed copy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In A Word....

In a word....UNBELIEVABLE! I just got a copy of Randy Roach's new book Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors and it is amazing. I was in awe of the sheer size of it and the incredible cover, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Randy knows I'm not a big history buff but he has made this book so enjoyable and user friendly that found myself reading it right away. There's no doubt this book is a going to be a big hit with bodybuilding historians and yes, it's a bit pricey but it will be the only book you'll ever need when it comes to this topic.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors

After three long years, the long awaited historical bodybuilding book Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors - Volume 1 by Randy Roach is now available. Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors is a labor-of-love that covers bodybuildings conception through the 1960's.

This book is truly one-of-a-kind and will make any other publication on bodybuilding history obsolete.

Here's a look at the table of contents:


Chapter 1 - Origins of Physical Culture
Chapter 2 - 20th Century Physical Culturists
Chapter 3 - Physical Culture and the World of Health
Chapter 4 - Nutrition, Disease, and the Dietary Templates


Chapter 5 - The Rise of the Iron Game
Chapter 6 - The Players of The 1930s
Chapter 7 - Nature’s Law
Chapter 8 - The Rise of Modern Bodybuilding
Chapter 9 - Dan and Joe and the Origins of the IFBB
Chapter 10 - Muscletown Nutrition

Part 3 THE 1950s:

Chapter 11 - Hi-Protein, High-Protein, Hi-Proteen or Miracle Food?
Chapter 12 - Miracle Food or Manipulation?
Chapter 13 - Diverging Philosophies
Chapter 14 - Sport or Pageant?
Chapter 15 - Who Are Those Guys?
Chapter 16 - The Psyche of the Bodybuilder
Chapter 17 - Old School Bodybuilding Nutrition
Chapter 18 - 1950s Science -- The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Chapter 19 - The Pink, White & Blue…and the Red

Part 4 THE 1960s:

Chapter 20 - The Transitional 1960s
Chapter 21 - Westward Through ChicagoLand
Chapter 22 - Muscle, Pills and Powders
Chapter 23 -The Cream Rises to the Top
Chapter 24 - Muscle, Cows, and Chickens
Chapter 25 - Muscle, Mind and Myths
Chapter 26 - Muscle, Blood and Glands
Chapter 27 - Eat More. Lift More.
Chapter 28 - Muscle, Fats and Heart Attacks!
Chapter 29 - Muscle, Brains and Brawn


Click to get your copy of Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Methods of Training for Improving Fitness - Part Four

High Intensity Training

During the late 1960’s, early 1970’s a gentleman by the name of Arthur Jones popularized a style of training that was a radical change from “traditional” training philosophies. Jones, who was the founder of Nautilus® exercise equipment and the Nautilus Principles (know today as High Intensity Training), observed that trainees, in particular bodybuilders; trained too frequently, used too much volume of work and lacked a level of effort to warrant increases in strength and conditioning. Jones felt that to produce the greatest physical changes an individual needed to have a high level of effort or intensity for each and every exercise. Intensity, as defined by Jones, is “one’s percentage of momentary ability.” This means an individual should perform an exercise in an “all out” effort (in good form) to gain the most benefit for the muscular and cardiorespiratory systems.

This was Jones’s viewpoint: instead of having a participant stop at a specific number of repetitions or when a certain time was achieved, he instructed each individual to continue each set until they reach “momentary muscle failure.” In using this style of training the lifter does not terminate the set because a desired number of repetitions are obtained or a certain time has been achieved. The premise behind this type of work is to stimulate the maximum number of muscle fibers within a specific muscle group. Due to the intensity of this type of workout, participants are not able to perform a great deal of exercise in any one training session. Generally, a training session would include approximately five to ten different exercises performed for one set to “failure” and involve all the major muscle groups of the hips, legs, chest, back, shoulders and arms.

Another key point with this style of training is that rest periods or recovery intervals are generally short - usually resting just long enough to move to the next exercise and adjust the resistance. As a general guideline, the most rest one should take between sets is 60-90 seconds. Of course, as your fitness level improves, strive to decrease the rest time between exercises. You could say that High Intensity Training is where the “rubber meets the road” as it is one of the most difficult forms of training and offers an extremely efficient and effective approach to developing muscular strength, hypertrophy (increased muscle mass) and cardiorespiratory fitness.

High Intensity Training is very similar to circuit training in the fact that you will perform exercises for the entire body in a single training session and move quickly through the workout - the difference being that each set is taken to momentary muscle fatigue. As a guideline, a high intensity workout can consist of as little as three sets and preferably not exceed more than fifteen total sets for one single training session. Generally, only one “all-out” set for each movement or exercise is used with limited rest periods between exercise movements.

The following workout may reflect a conventional high intensity workout using machines.

Leg Press
Leg Curl
Chest Press
Lat Pulldown
Shoulder Press
Seated Row
Calf Raise
Back Extension
Abdominal Crunch

Because Jones had created the Nautilus® machines and the Nautilus Principles (along with developing “The Nautilus Circuit”), people in the past thought that high intensity training could only be used on Nautilus equipment or other similar pieces. Obviously, that is not the case since working hard or with a high level of effort isn’t limited to specific equipment. So, if you don’t have access to machines or prefer to use the standard barbell and dumbbell; here is an example of a “free weight” based workout you can try.

Standing Overhead Press
Stiffleg Deadlift
Bicep Curl
Side Bend

When the ideas behind what constitutes a high intensity training sessions are understood - which in essence is training hard and striving for improvement on a few basic movements that encompass the entire body - the possibilities for designing a productive workout are endless. Modalities such as stones, ropes, kettlebells, sandbags, as well as body weight calisthenics can all be used to build a better body. Here is a sample workout using such “odd training” modalities.

Kettlebell Squat
Sandbag Overhead Press
Layback Row with Rope
Push Up
Stone Deadlift
Sandbag Hammer Curl
Stone Carry

Monday, May 12, 2008

Methods of Training for Improving Fitness - Part Three

Peripheral Heart Action or P.H.A.

Peripheral Heart Action or better known as PHA is a “system” that was developed by Dr. Arthur Steinhaus and brought to the forefront of the muscle world by legendary body builder and Mr. America/Mr. Universe title holder, Bob Gajda during the 1960’s. PHA was designed as an off-shoot of circuit training, with the intent being to prevent a build up of lactic acid - which is a waste product of intense muscular work or a volume of work performed for the same muscle group or area. The thought process behind PHA is this, because there is a lactic acid build-up, there are some limitations to stimulating a particular muscle or group of muscles so PHA was designed to circumvent this build up and allow for a greater volume of work to be performed in an efficient manner. PHA was adopted by many in the bodybuilding community during the 1960’s as a method of performing cardiovascular exercise to improve their health which gave the added benefit of reducing body fat while still developing strength and increasing muscle mass. Traditional PHA circuits are usually resistance type exercises (generally 4-6) that work the entire body. The key is to perform three to five “rounds” or cycles for a specific number of repetitions. Each series of exercises is arranged in such a way as to prevent blood from pooling in one specific muscle group or body area and this is accomplished generally by alternating upper and lower body exercises. The premise is to treat each muscle as a “tiny pump” used to shift blood flow from one area of the body to another, thus improving circulation and deriving a cardiovascular benefit. Another key point with PHA is that the resistance used and repetitions performed are well within one’s ability, therefore allowing for multiple rounds of exercises to be performed without the build up of lactic acid or muscular failure to occur.

Below is an example of one type of PHA workout:

Standing Overhead Press
Standing Calf Raise

As an example, each exercise would be performed for 10-12 repetitions (more or less reps if you like) with the trainee moving swiftly from one exercise to the next – resting only long enough to get to the next movement. It is very common with PHA for the resistance to be increased for each exercise after a round is completed. No sets are taken to muscular fatigue/failure and the last cycle should be challenging. This workout should last approximately 35-45 minutes - depending on your level of fitness and proximity of the exercises being used.

Of course, PHA can be very effective and convenient for the home user or less crowded gym facilities, but can be more difficult to get through in a busy commercial environment. For those situations, an alternative can be designed by using “mini cycles.” Mini cycles can consist of three movements that are close in proximity to each other and performed for three cycles. Once completed, another mini cycle of three different movements is then performed in the same fashion. A PHA workout with two mini cycles might look like this:

Standing Overhead press
Calf raise

With the second mini cycle being:


Like any other training method, PHA does not need to be performed solely with conventional equipment. There is absolutely no need to limit your options when it comes to exercise, unless of course you are performing exercises or activities that are contraindicating to your health.

The following PHA routine is based around using a sandbag as resistance.

Standing Overhead Press
Front Squat
Bent Over Row
Romanian Deadlift
Upright Row

Here is a workout using a single kettlebell or set of kettlebells. All of these exercises offer the option of using a single kettlebell at a time or both simultaneously.

Standing Overhead Press
Bicep Curl
Side Bend

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ice vs Heat

I am often asked by my clients when to apply ice and when to apply heat to an injury. Rule of thumb is: ice is always the safer bet. Generally, ice is applied when an acute injury occurs like a pull, sprain or tear, but that is not always the case. Sometimes nagging or lingering problems will require ice first to reduce inflammation prior to needing applications of heat (usually moist heat).

Most of us have heard of the RICE method but for those of you who haven't, R.I.C.E. stands for: Rest Ice Compression and Elevation and this is what I usually recommend. Rest the injured area, apply ice to the area for 15-20 minutes, allow the area to reach "room temperature" and apply a few times during the day. Compression just means to apply a little pressure to the ice pack so it's on teh injury and elevation is, well, having the area elevated so to reduce the amount of blood pumping to it to help cut back on the inflammation while you are icing it.

I don't generally recommend any OTC NSAIDS (over the counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen because I don't take them myself but I don't tell people not to - I just warn them of side effects and what to look for.

Now to the hot stuff. Heat is applied when an injury is chronic. You know, that nagging stiffness you have in a muscle or joint or the "here today, gone tomorrow" type pain that we get as we age. Generally, I recommend heat in these situations to loosene the area up - but only prior to an activity, then I suggest icing post-exercise/activity to reduce any inflammation.

For further reading....

Fred Fornicola

Monday, April 21, 2008

Methods of Training for Improving Fitness - Part Two

As discussed in Part 1, there are many ways to become fit and circuit training is a great way to become stronger and better conditioned. Let's take a look at Circuit Training and how to implement it.

Circuit Training

Developed in England in the early 1950’s, Circuit Training is one of the more well-known and popular methods of exercise. The original philosophy of Circuit Training was developed to allow large groups to participate in an exercise program in a timely manner. A traditional circuit, if you will, is an assortment of exercises; usually bodyweight calisthenics, dumbbell or barbell movements along with jumping and bounding activities which are arranged so that the participant can perform a select exercise or activity for a specific amount of time - usually 60 seconds - before moving on to the next station. During the exercising period, the participant would be instructed to perform as many repetitions as possible within the allotted time frame. Upon completion of the exercise, the individual would then move to the next “station”, as it is referred to, as quickly as possible before starting the next exercise or activity. Some circuits include running or jogging activities as a station and for this, various lifting stations are arranged a specific distance apart to encourage the participant to “travel” to the next resistance station. In fact, many parks or recreation centers today have a version of this type of circuit called the “Fitness Trail” which you may be familiar with. In case you’re not, a Fitness Trail is a group of exercises set up along a predetermined running or walking path using movements such as pull-ups, dips, crunches, bodyweight squats, balancing and other callisthenic type movements. Since its inception, many variations of circuit training have become available to fitness enthusiasts and offer many benefits to improving one’s level of fitness.

Currently, many health clubs and commercial style gyms have their equipment arranged sequentially in rows, often referring to these as “circuits” for trainees to exercise their entire body. Generally, these rows utilize machine-based strength training equipment (usually selectorized to speed things up), consisting of approximately 10-15 different movements. Typically, a circuit should be arranged so that you exercise the largest body parts first and continue in a descending order based on the relative size of the muscle groups. For example, the hips should be trained first followed by the legs (quadriceps and hamstrings) before moving on to the upper body where exercises for the chest, shoulders, upper back, and arms are performed. The circuit would then finish up with movements to strengthen the abdominals and lower back, with additional work going to the neck, calves and forearms if desired.

Keeping in mind that no two circuits are alike or need to be, a circuit may contain any number of exercise stations or movements and can be modified in a countless number of ways. Also, a circuit need not be restricted to machines only, nor does it have to involve many different exercises as you will see.

The following circuit is what would be considered a “standard circuit” and would be performed for one set of each movement for a prescribed number of repetitions or time to complete each exercise. Keep in mind that this just a “cookie cutter” example. I highly recommend that you individualize your fitness program based on your goals and personal preferences.

Leg Press
Hip Abduction
Leg Extension
Leg Curl
Chest Press
Chest Fly
Lat Pulldown
Seated Row
Shoulder Press
Lateral Raise
Tricep Extension
Bicep Curl
Back Extension
Abdominal Crunch
Standing Calf Raise

Listed below are a few examples of “customized” circuits that could be followed. Whether you choose to do one or two cycles for a desired number of repetitions or for a specific time on each exercise, it is important to keep moving. Remember, a cycle is defined as “going through the entire circuit from start to finish.”

Dumbbell Deadlift
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Dumbbell Shrug
Dumbbell Bicep Curl
Abdominal Crunch

Based on the fact that a circuit consists of exercises to stress the muscular and cardiovascular systems, then the sky’s the limit for developing workout routines. Listed below is what can be referred to as “non-traditional” pieces of equipment that will enable you to work all of the major muscle groups. Because there are only three exercises in this particular circuit the movements can be done for three or four cycles for a preferred number of repetitions or designated time using the guidelines listed previously.

Sandbag Squat
Kettlebell Overhead Press
Stone Deadlift

Circuit Training’s objective is simple – to provide an efficient and productive means of exercise to train the entire body in a single workout. By the very nature of the activity, increases in muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness can be obtained. Circuit workouts are great for, but not limited to beginners, young children as well as seniors. - Fred Fornicola

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Essence of Training

Many of us who own computers and have access to the Internet will visit websites on many topics of personal interest - which I’m sure training is one of them. There are an infinite number of sites geared toward all types of resistance training, as well as information on conditioning, nutrition, grip training, bodyweight only training, strands, kettlebells and so on. Upon finding these many areas of interest within the dynamics of the field of health and fitness however comes a common theme that always emerges – one that seems to have done more harm than good. I am always very intrigued when I read or hear someone recommending advice on any topic. I often wonder what the basis is for their response and if they really, truly understand what it is they are commenting on. This, of course, happens quite frequently in the field of health and fitness with the barrage of books, magazines, Internet sites and publications - just like this one. Amazingly enough though, even with the all the information that is available, most individuals still remain in the dark as to why it is they “do what they do”. Maybe that’s the problem – too much information to sift through, especially on an ongoing basis. Month after month, year after year people blindly and without question follow the latest diets, workouts of the stars and trends in fitness to be aimlessly led like sheep to slaughter. The best part is they highly recommend whatever it is they are doing -- or better yet, heard about -- to all their friends and family based on the foundation that either 1) Johnny Guru is using it, 2) some Hollywood hunk looked ripped in a movie or 3) some chicks ass looks hot now from some four hour workout she does with her soon-to-be-famous (and overpaid) trainer. In either case, no one has the slightest clue as to whether it works or is even worth mentioning.

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” - Benjamin Franklin

Too often in today’s fitness world there is an overabundance of misleading information that seems to reek more havoc than good - actually failing miserably at providing some sense of solution. Most individuals who are searching to find what is “best” or “optimal” are given guidance by those who merely regurgitate what someone else prescribed, or will echo advice based on what they think they know to be right – albeit way off base. This industry has become one that is 90% opinion and 10% science, and because of these off-base recommendations espoused by “those-in-the-know” many will become caught up in experimenting with the latest fads, trends, “new magical discoveries” and labor endlessly over all the little intricate reasons of “why” a particular lifting strategy may or may not work. Because of this direction, it has made it more and more difficult for anyone to truly understand what is and isn’t an effective means of training, usually because they fail to have a true understanding of what an effective approach to fitness entails. Unfortunately, the so-called magical discovery becomes the focal point for many trainers and trainees alike, and usually causing one to lose sight of what is truly important: the actual training itself. If this kind of thing happens to these “experienced” individuals, just imagine how devastating and paralyzing all this information is to the beginner? Regardless of age or experience, we are all beginners in some capacity every time we undergo a new endeavor. The challenge, however, is in knowing how to circumvent your way through all the crazy turns based on what experience has taught us by using our noggins for more than a hat rack. If people took the time to use their intellect to evaluate information instead of being lured in by the many people or groups who claim to have the answers to all the important questions, there would be less time wasted laboring over what will produce the best results.

“The desire to know is natural to good men.” - Leonardo da Vinci

Now, my personality is such that I like to understand why things happen. I don’t necessarily need to get down to the last nut and bolt, but I do strive to have as good a comprehension about things as my gray matter will allow. I ask many questions (too many at times which many of my peers can attest to) with the goal of learning “why” – not mimicking what is told to me. I have had the great fortune of speaking with many individuals who truly understand and know training. The funny thing is, none of them ever get caught up too much in the science and research or what they think may work, they just tell you what they know to be true – straight forward, like it is, no bullshit. These guys understand “the essence” of high intensity training which, when you get right down to it, is simple to comprehend yet missed by many. Our discussions are often about how so many individuals are misguided and confused about such a simple concept for training safely, efficiently and effectively. It has become unfortunate but the industry of strength has been so polluted by money whores, cult followers and an endless line of ignorant know-it-alls that few can filter out what is a productive approach to health and fitness. Neither I nor anyone else can give the exact specifics of how someone should train, however I do believe that there are certain criteria that needs to be met such as consistency of effort, proper form, hard work, ample rest and solid nutrition. When these principles are met they will produce gains in strength as well as conditioning while maintaining integrity to ones health - both short and long term. A simple concept of using an intense level of effort on a handful of basic exercises along with some recreational/cardiovascular activity, eating wholesome foods and having adequate rest -- all of which should be done on a routine basis -- has been a mainstay for hundreds of years. But this philosophy surprisingly is still vehemently opposed. There are no perfect routines, exercises, repetition ranges, diets, or miraculous findings that are “best” and anyone claiming otherwise is a flat out liar.

Training isn’t just about the X’s and O’s; it’s about a true understanding of the process. It’s about what takes place in the body and mind when you exercise and what benefits you receive – not how much you squat while wrapped up in a suit and knee wraps and shoving ammonia up your snoot to “get psyched”. When you bring training down to its purist form, it is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. The problem is that most are frozen in one place – deathly afraid to take a step for it might not be the “perfect” approach.

“The maxim "Nothing avails but perfection" may be spelled "Paralysis." - Winston Churchill

Training for strength and fitness should be an individual journey that needs to be discovered on one’s own. Making mistakes are a part of life, let alone in your training so trying to have a flawless approach will only provide time wasted which could be better spent learning from doing. Discover the “essence of training”; realize that “necessity is the mother of invention” and that there are no restrictions when you set your mind on your goals. Uncover the freedom of training that enables you to enjoy “the process” and the benefits of your efforts. Recognize and learn that “simple” is the solution to a healthy and strong life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. - Fred Fornicola

Friday, April 11, 2008

Active Rest

The term “active rest” is a bit of an oxymoron, but a term I’ve referred to for many years. Active rest is when you partake in an endeavor that is not exactly what you deem as the normal scheduled activity, but put forth a solid effort nonetheless. It’s basically a situation in which you are somewhere between your normal level of effort and just sitting around on your gluteus maximus doing nothing.

Allow me to explain with more detail. Personally, I have a difficult time taking off from training. I never cycle my workouts, I don’t plan layoffs and I very, very rarely miss a workout. If I vacation, I try to find a place to train or I’ll improvise and incorporate some “active rest”. An active rest approach will allow those who feel the need to train a way of down shifting a bit, physically, as well as mentally, yet still achieve a level of satisfaction from their efforts.

Let’s take for example a way of incorporating active rest for someone who strictly weight trains. Take a day that you would normally lift weights at the gym and but choose to go to the local park or high school and do some pushups and chin-ups and run the bleachers or sprint up hills. The goal isn’t to go to complete exhaustion or set any new world records, it is just to throw in a different activity to relieve some of the physical and mental stress that can build up from constant weight training. How about those of you who have dedicated cardiovascular training days? Your normal approach may be walking on the treadmill, riding a stationary bike or using a stair climber for instance. You constantly beat away at those pedals and pads, trying to beat your previous best distance or time and feel as though you really could use a little change from the same old, same old. Why not deviate and go play a few games of basketball, take a hike in the woods or go for a hard bike ride along the ocean.

Some people would say, “Hey, what you just recommended is just called variety”, and I would agree, but there are times when you physically and mentally just can’t rise to the occasion for your normally scheduled workout but still feel the need to do something and just want to do something off beat, yet still productive. Trust me, I know what I’m saying here is nothing new, nor am I trying to make “active rest” a new catch phrase, that is not my intent at all. I’m just trying to offer you a way of making you think about your alternatives when you may not be able to mentally or physically gear up for your regular workouts or when you really need a break from training but don’t want to sit around all week on your duff wishing you were working out.

I have found that this approach is quite effective with my clients. It keeps things fresh mentally and physically by keeping them off guard a bit. Most of my clients will stay with a program for a while to master their technique and allow us to monitor progress and before they get bored, BANG! we through in some “active rest” to jolt their body and enthusiasm for continued progress.

Give active rest a try some time and you’ll be looking for more productive ways to keep your training new and exciting.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Methods of Training for Improving Fitness - Part One

As we all are pretty aware of, there are countless ways for an individual to improve their level of fitness. The endless array of popular systems and philosophies can be somewhat overwhelming - even downright paralyzing at times. To help narrow your thought process down just a wee bit, I have taken some of the “oldies but goodies” and expounded upon these methods of training. They have been chosen for their unique ability to stimulate and develop the cardiorespiratory and muscular systems, as well as having the added element of creating flexibility, thus making these training methods very efficient and effective for improving one’s overall level of physical fitness. Of course, there have been many spin-offs and interpretations of these approaches so that’s why I thought bringing it back to the beginning might be helpful.

These structures represent basic guidelines or training concepts that were initially designed to overcome various challenges or shortcomings associated with what was to be considered “traditional” training protocols at the time. These methods, which have been well established for many, many years have proven to be very successful applications to becoming stronger and well-conditioned are still valuable today – in fact, in many ways, they are more appropriate today then when they were first implemented. Other than safety being the first and main priority in any exercise program, it is the efficiency and effectiveness of one’s program that allows that individual to perform their exercise program on a consistent and progressive basis - and these methods will provide you a good template.

In keeping with my own philosophy of not worrying about “breaking the rules” or be “kicked out of any club” don’t concern yourself with following these programs verbatim. Remember, part of becoming stronger, leaner, and better conditioned (as well as improving your health) is to educate yourself, experiment and apply different applications. Fitness should be a personal journey that you and you alone take in deciding what and how you individualize your program.

As you experiment with the following training protocols, you may find a few of the methods to be more appropriate for building muscular strength, while other systems may benefit your cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory systems more effectively. Still, there are applications that offer the best of both worlds and provide the total package of strength and conditioning. The beauty of all of this is that you can experiment, mix and match and do whatever you feel is beneficial to reach your goals. However, keep this as a consideration, it is important to pay close attention to the details of each method that are offered so you can have a clear understanding of their application so you can intelligently incorporate their practices into your personal fitness program. - Fred Fornicola

In Part Two I will discuss Circuit Training

Thursday, April 03, 2008


The Internet has created such a dogmatic view on what is the "best way" to exercise that it has paralyzed more people than helped them. Implementing protocols such Tabata conditioning, high intensity training, CrossFit etc., etc. have erected stone walls and kept people from thinking for themselves. Individuals have laid stakes to claim idealistic opportunities - making others feel that if they can not follow through on their "optimum recommendations" they will not fullfill their true potential - speaking as if their way is the only way. Is the Tabata 4 minute protocol enough work to satisfy one's "health needs"? I don't know, maybe, maybe not. Is that all the time you truly have to exercise? If so, then by all means train for those 4 minutes. Hell, a little bit of something beats a whole lot of nothing any day. Can you find 15 consecutive minutes in your day to do something for your physical, mental and emotional being? If so, then do it. It's not the exercises, the routines, the training systems, etc. that makes the body healthier and stronger, it's in the DOING that does and for anyone who sits and plans yet does not execute will find themselves standing in the exact spot where they started. - Fred Fornicola

Monday, March 31, 2008

Walking Through Walls

If some of you haven't picked up on it by now, life doesn't always go according to plan. And yet, a lot of people still get taken back when things just don't flow their way. People are somehow surprised when every day doesn't seem to go the way they would want and often times, they become beaten down from the daily rigors life may offer. It appears that life has a strong will - usually stronger than its adversary - and the friction it causes usually results in one feeling sorry for themselves and paralyzing their efforts. But life doesn't have to be that way, not at all. A lot of life is in how you handle it. It's a matter of dealing with what comes your way in a productive manner.

In the words of Bernard Malamud, "There comes a time in our lives when to get where we have to go, if there are no doors or windows, we need to walk through a wall." The problem, however, often lies within the confines of one's own mind where "the wall" is an insurmountable obstacle. Most people aren't willing to push through that wall, to make the extra effort. But here's a question for you to reflect upon. When's the last time you attempted to break through the barriers and walk through a wall? - Fred Fornicola

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Energize Your Body

"Your body is the only thing you are guaranteed to keep for a lifetime. It forms the foundation of your earthly existence. Energizing your body enriches your life by enhancing every human capacity. If you lack vitality, nothing else really matters; if you have your health, anything is possible." - Dan Millman

Monday, March 24, 2008

Train With A Purpose

In big, bold letters across one of the walls of my facility, I have my motto that states simply and succinctly to "Train With A Purpose". It's a sentiment that I strongly believe in. It's a philosophy I try to instill in my clients. It's a statement that is defined by each individual whom I work with - and well it should.

But what is meant by "Train With A Purpose"? Your initial thought might revolve around a specific goal such as losing weight or doing a specific number of pushups, and if you are thinking along these lines, you would be incorrect. Training with a purpose is something that each individual needs to develop for themselves. Training with "purpose" describes a meaningful experience, not just a dutiful existence in the gym aimlessly and mechanically performing exercise. Going about exercise (and life) without a purpose defeats the intent - and therefore limits the experience.

It has been said that wisdom is derived from the "doing", but only higher levels can be obtained if the doing is done with 100% purpose. - Fred Fornicola

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Training Evolution (March '08)

Fred Fornicola and I talk often. Much of the conversation involves what we are doing now and what adjustments we have made to accommodate our training as things come up. Often it’s about HIT (High Intensity Training) and what we have learned as we go along in life. I have this conversation often with older trainees who are facing the fact that things are changing.

Some Background:
I was an original trainee with Arthur Jones. Most know that but I just needed to say it again. When I first got involved with training with him it was great! I had more time to do other things besides training. This was all new to me. I was used to being in the gym, day and night. BUT it was very hard training, very hard. At first we got every rep we could…………..NO MATTER the form, or the time it took to do it. You squeezed all you could into the set. I was young and could take it then. Later we became more strict with our form and didn’t heave and throw as much………..till we didn’t heave and throw at all. We used free weights (Yes, you Internet experts, we sure did) and a few machines at first. That’s how it was. No lab coats, no secret handshake, no passwords. Just training. Hard Training. Simple as that.

Now, I don’t train as hard. I still do failure training but not as much. I still use one set sometimes. If you do single set training, you better be pushing the set toward your limits or you will not be doing enough. On days when my intensity is not as high, I do more than one set. The extra work helps me feel like I have given a good effort. The extra sets also (during low intensity) help me burn a few more calories and also help build my “work capacity.” My philosophy is this: The higher the Intensity, the less sets I do and also overall less volume. The Lower the Intensity, I use more sets and more exercises. I think the reason some fail on HIT or whatever you want to call it, is that they don’t know how to put the effort into their training. They end up doing low volume AND low intensity.

As you age and get more mileage on your body it makes sense to monitor the intensity you use. This is why I now use more volume because I don’t “put out” like I used to. I’m also more concerned with overall “work capacity” and conditioning. I do other things for exercise too. Body weight conditioning is a big part of my training. I feel that it complements my weight work. When I use the weights (Machines and free weights) one day I’ll train heavy and use few reps. Other days I’ll train lighter and use at least 20 reps……….going as high as 50 sometimes. Sometimes single sets and using a good effort or multiple sets using less effort but more work. I just keep things simple. This is how I prefer it. I pay little attention to the latest “Fitness King or Queen,” Or the Latest Scientific Breakthrough. I got news for you. Most of it is pure marketing crap. What the heck does standing on a ball do for you other than get you ready for the circus? Core? Your whole body should be the “core” of your training. Head to toe, dam* straight.

On the Internet people want you to “Spell it out” give you all the reps, sets, exercises. Then they look at it and move on to the next thread, or they argue………………..and argue…………and argue. Time would be better spent in the gym, doing PRODUCTIVE work.
It seems to me many would rather talk about training than actually training. – Jim Bryan

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

High Intensity Training and the Older Trainee (June '03)

At the time of this article I’m 57 years old. I have been training with weights for over 40 years. I have been involved in the competition and sporting aspect of the strength world, as well as other sports, mostly “contact” in nature. Over the course of my activity I have picked up a few injuries here and there. Some have to be taken in consideration as I go through a workout now. It wasn’t always so. I did in the past push myself without a thought about holding anything back. I still use “to Failure” training. Just not on every exercise. For instance squats. I still think squats are the best single exercise you can do. IF YOU CAN DO THEM.

I had gotten to a point where I could no longer do free weight squats, because of my low back. Most of the squatting machines were worse. I changed things around and started using leg presses instead of squats. It’s just not worth the possible problems. I also Leg press before I squat most of the time. Leg Press is worked to failure. Most of my other exercises are to failure also. Unless I’m working around a sore joint, then I take it to the point I still think I’m safe.
I get an average of 2-3 workouts in a week. I never train without a day in between to rest from the weights. Read “weights.” I might Bike, walk, swim, or hang up the heavy bag on those days. I’m not quite ready for the rocker full time yet. My overall volume is on the low side. I might use 10 exercises on a full body day. Sometimes I do two hard sets. At that time, usually less than 10 exercises are used. If I have a real tough workout it may take me two days to feel like working the weights again. That varies. It doesn’t bother me at all to take time off from training now. It used to make me crazy to miss! I still use mostly compound movements and I mix in some single joint stuff. I know it’s been said that High Intensity Training should be so hard that it’s not something to enjoy doing. I don’t agree. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t do it. Most people are that way, I think?

I do thrive on pushing myself but have learned to do it in a more thoughtful way. If I’m hurt because of my training, it just doesn’t make sense. So I back off now and then. Does that make the training no longer High Intensity? I don’t think so. I’m still aware of my last performance in the gym and I don’t let many workouts go by without increasing that performance. I still keep daily records. How can you know where your at if you don’t? I change the exercises on a regular basis to hold off boredom. After 40 years it is needed.

To sum things up: I still think the Older Trainee can use a High Intensity framework for his or her training. It may take more thought to plan workouts than it used to but safety should never be overlooked. Train to failure on the things that you can. Even if it is only on one or two exercises or none on some days. Use the pre- exhaust technique. Don’t be afraid to rest a little longer if needed. You may be using a lower volume of exercises that you did in the past. That’s probably a smart thing. When it’s all said and done, look forward to working out again. Training can become a good friend. - Jim Bryan

Monday, March 17, 2008

This Whole "Core Thing"

The "core", as defined in today's modern world of exercise, usually encompasses the muscles of the midsection (abdominals) and lower back areas and some individuals may include the hips as well. In fact, Ken Mannie, the legendary strength coach from Michigan State University refers to the core as the abdominals (rectus abdominus , internal and external obliques, transverse abdominus and the serratus anterior), the lower back, hips, thighs and the upper half of the hamstring area. It's easy to picture the area if you view a sphere around the body right below the pectorals to the mid thigh area.

There is no doubt that it is important to have a strong midsection/lower back along with the hips, but personally, I can't see how these muscle groups would take on any higher level than having a strong shoulder girdle (an "old-fashion term right there), back, arms and the rest of the musculature of the body. In fact, an over-emphasis on today's "core" muscles would, or at least certainly could, lead to over training them and in fact, cause a weakness or an imbalance in a quest for "balance" in all its modern day forms. I certainly emphasize the "core muscles", but not just the core muscles, and this is where I think the confusion comes in for those looking to get stronger and healthier. I've worked with some elderly people and could not work their core area in any direct fashion due to fragility and inflexibility and they stood taller and had less lower back and neck problems - and that was from working their shoulder girdle (delts, upper back, trap area). So boys and girls, my definition of core is from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Now let the wobble people stand on their heads and take that for a spin. - Fred Fornicola

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Old Faithful

When it comes to exercise, I feel it is advantageous to vary many different training protocols, modalities and exercises. I think it’s good for the body and mind to “change things up” and experiment now and again to keep things interesting and productive. Let’s face it, the “same old, same old” can be a real thrill killer when it comes to exercise and most people don’t need yet another reason for not sticking with their exercise regimen.

In keeping with this experimental nature and having an open mind, I find I learn a lot of different approaches that work, and others that don’t for one reason or another. I personally use and evaluate any and all tools and protocols to understand the nuances that are associated with them so that I can benefit from them and teach them properly. In doing this, I discover many productive and unproductive aspects of fitness and apply what I think is valuable so my training can be very rewarding; physically, mentally and emotionally. Let's face it, there are many ways to acchieve strength and fitness and being married to one approach is not only narrow-minded, it's unproductive over the long haul.
Back to my point. This experimental phase is usually beneficial for myself as well as my clients. It gives another dimention to the arsenal I use at Premiere Personal Fitness, however, these applications are usually temporary for me personally because I feel my most comfortable when I go back to my roots, doing what comes natural to me. Let me give an example of what I mean.

An important aspect of my training is my solitude and I find no greater pleasure than the rustic setting of my cold garage during the winter month's. In my garage I have a chin up bar, dumbbells, short ropes, rings, stones, sand bags, the TRX Suspension Trainer and some other “odds and ends” that enable me to round out my training.
Here is a workout that I performed recently that enabled me to train every major muscle group in my body, as well as challenged my cardiovascular system. Each set was worked with controlled movement and worked so no further reps could be achieved in good form. Basically, I worked hard on every set, performing each exercise for one, hard set of as many controlled reps that I could muster. I also took very short breaks - no more than 30-60 seconds - between exercises.

Note: the repetitions varied dramatically – ranging anywhere from 12 – 50 depending on the exercise. Here is what I did:

TRX Suspension Row with feet elevated
Ring Pushup (Rings set 2” from the floor)
Hammer Curl with Rope
Hand Stand Pushup held for time
Step Up
Close Grip Pushup on Sandbag
Stone Lift
Crunch on Stability Ball

Training time was approximately 20 minutes.
A very compact and effective workout that used a variety of inexpensive equipment in a short amount of time.
Feel free to experiment with various applications of your fitness. There is no "one-way" to do anything so go with what feels most natural to you so you'll stay with your fitness program and when in doubt, always go back to "old faithful" to keep you grounded.

Fred Fornicola

Monday, March 10, 2008

Meet the MET's

No, I am not referring to the New York baseball team; but rather that obscure, "nobody knows what it means" display on most cardiovascular equipment. So, the questions to be asked is what is a MET and how can it help me. A MET or “metabolic equivalent” is a unit for measuring oxygen uptake. During exercise, as the intensity rises and the need for oxygen becomes apparent, the body needs to adjust and find a way to meet this demand, so an increased respiration rate occurs (heavy breathing). So, it can be said that the more challenging the exercise the greater the metabolic demand will be. MET's also have a direct relationship to caloric expenditure (energy output) and heart rate. As the breathing rate increases so does the demand for blood to the working muscles, so there is a linear increase in heart rate; along with the need for more energy (calories) since the body is working harder to sustain the current effort level. This information is nothing ground breaking or revolutionary since anyone could have guessed that jogging at 6 MPH would be more strenuous than walking at 3 MPH and therefore requires more oxygen, will impose a higher heart rate and use more energy. This is partly the reason why the MET display on most pieces of equipment is forgone in favor of more eye catching displays like Pace, Distance, or Calories; however, the MET display can be very valuable to the “intellectual” exerciser.

To demonstrate, I will use a tried and true fitness center stable, the treadmill. How many times have you read about the importance of gradually increasing the intensity in order to cause an overload, thus leading to improved fitness? In terms of using a treadmill that means increasing the speed, distance covered, elevation, or time on the machine. All of which are very productive ways to make the exercise more demanding. But what about the exerciser who can’t run as fast or as far as they used to, but still wants to utilize the treadmill to become more fit. What option do they have? Well if you can remember from previous posts on this blog spot, the most important factor in improving fitness is working hard and causing the body to elevate past its current capabilities, not necessarily increasing the workload. Running happens to be a very enjoyable activity for many people; however, it can also be very strenuous on the joints due to the pounding on the legs and lower back. The faster the pace the more stressful the activity becomes. This is where MET's come into play. For example, a person running at 6.1 MPH at 0 % grade (which is just under a 10 minute mile) uses approximately 10.34 MET's. If this pace was continued for 20 minutes they would complete just over 2 miles. Now let’s say the same person decided to run at 5 MPH but increased the elevation to 5 % (this is about a 12 minute mile), this would also approximate the MET's at 10.34. If this pace was continued for 20 minutes just over 1.5 miles would be completed.

So what’s the difference? In terms of energy expenditure, cardiac output, or respiration rate (which are the principle factors in improving cardiovascular fitness), not much. However, in the second example, by reducing the speed the individual would cover less distance, will reduce the pounding and compression of just under ½ mile; not to mention the torque on there hips and back from taking a longer more powerful stride. The end result is less wear and tear on the body. Now I am not saying to eliminate running or “faster runs” from you program, I still feel it is up to each individual to figure out what is best for them; but I also feel that it is very important to find ways to improve ones fitness without “stressing” the joints or connective tissue. So, how can MET's help you? Well they’re a tool and like all tools they have a function, if their function matches your needs than meet the MET and have a ball. - Douglas Scott