Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Category: "Core"

Day 212 - 10 Great Health and Fitness Tips

It seems as though people try and over analyze health and fitness. This unfortunately leads to some folks getting discouraged and giving up on a healthy lifestyle. They seem to think that they need to exercise for this much time at this time of day and eat only these things at these times, etc.

Fad diets and fad exercise regimens come and go, but at the end of the day, there are a set group of "rules" I feel everyone should live by, which are listed below.

1. Be As Active as Possible - Those of you out there that are currently living a sedentary lifestyle will like this one. Rule number 1 is not about working out, but being active (don't worry, #10 is all about working out!). There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of tips people can do every day to help them stay more active. Here are just a few examples; park at the back of the lot when going to the store, you are then forced to walk a further distance. If you have grocery bags or something to carry on the way back, even better as it will be like a mini workout. If you work on the 3rd or 4th floor of a building, take the stairs. Obviously if you work on the 98th floor you will take the elevator, but maybe only until the 94th floor and then take the stairs the rest of the way. Little things like this should be permanently embedded in your brain to make you think of "how can I stay active today?"

2. Eat More Plants - No, I do not mean buying one of those "ready to cook" dishes and popping it in the microwave. The amount of processing those veggies have gone through to get to your freezer has sucked so many nutrients out of them. I mean fresh, whole, good old fruits and vegetables. I would say 70% of the stuff in your fridge should be fresh products that will not last more than a week. That way, you will be forced to eat them before they go bad, and two, by eating all of those fruits and veggies, you will be too full to fill your belly with other junk. Also, when possible, eat your fruits and veggies as naturally as possible (raw) because cooking can remove some of the vital nutrients!

3. Resistance Training - Most women (and some men) are afraid of getting "bulky". I am going to let you in on a little secret...it is extremely hard (if not impossible) for women and also men to ever become "bulky". You see, our bodies are designed to be lean and fast. Our ancestors had to chase down food and run from predators, etc. so your body does not want to be lugging around all of that extra muscle weight (or fat for that matter). Unfortunately, your body has no other choice but to store extra calories from overeating as fat, but I am getting away from the topic here. Yes, men have a higher affinity to build muscle because they have more testosterone, which makes it virtually impossible for women to ever become "bulky". Weight training (using resistance against your muscles) has a whole slew of benefits ranging from increasing your strength in muscles and ligaments, helping prevent osteoporosis, increasing your resting metabolic rate, etc. Weight training is vital for everyone to do; male, female, young and old!

4. Circuit Train - This is resistance training...done as a circuit. Many of you may have tried this type of training. The most wonderful thing occurs when you circuit train. Even though resistance training is considered "anaerobic training" or working your body without oxygen (basically), a well-designed circuit routine also works your "aerobic" systems of your body similar to running on a treadmill. This is due to the fact that when you burn your muscles, you are causing what is known as "microtrauma" to your muscle cells, where you body has to come in a repair to make you stronger for next time. How does your body repair your muscles? Well it increases your heart rate and improves your circulation. If done correctly, circuit training that works your muscles and your circulatory system at once should be the only type of training anyone should ever need (unless you are training for an endurance event such as a marathon, etc.). Not only that, but well-designed circuit routines have been proven to burn more calories than standalone cardio ever can, plus your metabolism is kicked into high gear for hours after the workout is over (including while you sleep!).

5. Change Things Up - Also known as "periodization", this is the idea that you should not be doing the same things all the time. Even you runners out there that want to train for a race should not just run, but do other full body exercises. When you do something, your body wants to do that particular thing as efficiently and effectively as possible so it strengthens you in those areas, also known as adaptation. Once you adapt to a program, your body stops changing and you hit a plateau. This is very common for people who want to get fit so they decide to take up running. Well, they get out there and run 5km, 3 days a week and see great results the first few weeks, losing weight, etc. Then, all of a sudden as if someone hit a switch, they stop losing weight. Its because their body is used to running and is no longer changing. This is why full-body circuit routines are great, you can constantly swap out different moves and literally have an infinite number of exercise combinations to keep your body constantly guessing...and constantly changing!

6. Train With a Purpose - If you are a soccer player, you would train your legs and core and heart to be a better runner and kick the ball harder, etc. If you are a gymnast, you train your flexibility and core strength, etc. Well for average people who do not have a specific sport to train for, you should be training your body to become more functionally fit for everyday life. This includes core strength to improve posture, leg strength to climb stairs into your old age, arm strength to lift your kids and play with them. Don't just do something just because it looks cool or is the new fad, do it because it is going to improve your overall health. For example, if you are a dad who coaches your sons soccer team and wishes to be more fit and active, going to the gym three days a week and spending 45mins of every hour doing ridiculous weight on the bench press and bicep curls may make your muscles grow a bit, but you are still going to be huffing and puffing trying to keep up with the kids. Take that for example right there, kids do a little bit of everything, they run, they jump, they swing from trees, adults should take a hint...

7. Stretch - Now that you are following rule #3 and doing some resistance training, remember to stretch as well. Nothing makes someone old faster than their muscles experiencing atrophy (decay) and shortening up as they get older. You see it in your older relatives, their posture is terrible, they hunch over, etc. This is due to a lack of strength training as well as a lack of stretching. It literally is the fountain of youth. Stretching not only opens up our muscles but also helps with joint mobility, circulation and injury prevention.

8. Core Strength - I touched on this a bit in #6, but core strength is something everyone should be focused on. Your core allows you to do the things you do in every day life. I don't just mean those "six-pack abs" here either, but your entire trunk. Everything from you "nipples to knees" is your core and all the way around your body. Not only will your arms and legs function more efficiently due to a strong core (healthy trunk makes for a healthy tree) but you will also be less susceptible to injuries, especially with your back.

9. Drink Your Water - Most of us are underhydrated, probably caused by our obsession with caffeine (diuretic). A properly hydrated body just runs more efficiently including digestions, our immune system, our thinking, etc. Not only that, but if you are underhyrated, your body thinks as if you are living in a dessert so it starts to retain water which can add inches here and there. Drink your water and eat raw fruits and vegetables as they are mostly water to stay hydrated!

10. Exercise - I told you I would get back to this one. As much as we all like to think, "Oh, I did the gardening today, that is enough exercise" or "I walked the dog, that is enough exercise" you are fooling yourself into thinking you are speaking the truth. Stop lying to yourself and get some exercise. Exercise is where your heart rate gets up high (much higher than walking pace) and stays there for a decent amount of time. For those of you starting out, 20 mins of exercise will be plenty, then as you get more fit and more comfortable with your changing body, you can increase the amount of time you work out. Keep in mind though that more does not necessarily mean better. Some people go from couch potato to 2 hours at the gym their first time out and can barely walk the next day. Unless you are training for the Olympics, most people will benefit from 45-60mins a day, 5-6 days a week. Yes, I had to sneak that part in...everyone should get at least 20mins of exercise 5-6 days a week...no questions asked.

Quote of the day:
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
~ Aristotle

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Day 24 - Use Your Caboose

A muscular butt can go a long way to your overall success through training and sport/competition. If you look at any successful athlete, you will notice that they have a "power-pack" of muscle at the base of their back/top of their legs - known as their butt. The posterior is involved in so many different powerful, athletic actions. Not only can it help you perform better, but it is also present to aid in your training.

There are many stabilizing benefits to a strong posterior. When you are lifting or pressing a weight above your head, not only do you want your core to be tight, but you also want to squeeze your cheeks together like they are crushing a soup can. That will help engage and stabilize your spine protecting you from potential injury.

Many of us are taught to 'engage' our core when exercising, but many seem to neglect the posterior chain. By using the above tip, you can ensure that your back (also part of your core) is as engaged as the front of your front half, so that your entire abdominal girdle is rigid and secure, decreasing your risk of injury while either working out or performing at your best.

Quote of the day:
"Don’t count the days, make the days count."
-Muhammad Ali

Resistance Training 7 Step Approach - Step 2: Exercise Selection

Step 1 detailed the Needs Analysis of an individual to create training schedules based on the analysis of the specific sport and athletic/training ability of the individual. Step 2 is all about Exercise Selection.

Step 2 - Exercise Selection

Plain and simple, a resistance training program should be structured around the muscular needs of the individual for sport performance or goal-oriented needs. Creating a program based on proper rep ranges and intensity loads is crucial to help the individual meet their goals.

Exercise Type

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of resistance training exercises, all of which can be split into 2 main categories, "Core Exercises" and "Assistance Exercises". Usually, when one thinks of "Core" exercises, we think of those that directly involve the abdominals or midsection. That is not the main reason why the name is derived for the "Core Exercises" I will detail below, but the midsection definitely plays a large part in these moves.

Core exercises are actions that involve large muscle areas (chest, shoulder, back, hip, thigh), involve two or more primary joints, and receive priority when an individual is selecting exercises as these are generally directly related to sport-specific applications. An example of a core exercise would be the bench press as it involves a major muscle group (chest) and uses 2 primary joints (elbow, shoulder).

Assistance exercises usually recruit smaller muscle groups (upper arm, abs, calf, neck, forearm, lower back, lower leg), involve only one primary joint and are generally less-important in improving athletic performance alone. An example of an "Assistance Exercise" would be a bicep curl as it mainly works the muscles of the upper arm, and only acts upon one primary joint (elbow).

Structural exercises are those that directly or indirectly load the spine in some way. A back squat for example places the resistive load directly on the spine causing many muscles to be involved in keeping a rigid torso.

Structural exercises that are performed very quickly are known as "power exercises". A good example of this would be a power clean. Power exercises are a fantastic way to practice sport-specific movements while creating a strong midsection and developing strong, powerful muscles!

Movement Analysis of the Sport

This stage is especially important and related to "Step 1: Needs Analysis" as an individual who trains in resistance movements that are as closely related to their sport-related performance as possible, the more likely their performance will increase. This is known as the "specific adaptation to imposed demands" (SAID) principle.

For example, a sprinter or competitive runner will see tremendous benefits from using weighted lunges in their training as the correct muscle set is involved in both the training and performance of sprinting.

One thing that can not be overlooked however, is muscular balance. Certain muscles not only act as agonists (primary movers) in a movement, but can also act as antagonists to other actions, or sort of a braking mechanism. For example, when you throw a baseball, your triceps muscle is involved in extending your arm at your elbow. As your arm extends, your bicep acts as one of these braking mechanisms in order for your elbow to not hyper-extend. If however, a baseball player strengthens their tricep muscles more than their bicep muscles, they can create a disparity between the two and can increase the likelihood of injury.

Besides muscular imbalance within a limb such as the previous example, muscular imbalance can also be detrimental to athletes who swing a piece of equipment for example. Golfers, baseball players, etc. can experience muscular imbalance as one side of their body may be stronger than the other to develop torsional power. If a well-balanced resistance training program is not implemented, one side of the body will continue to be stronger which can also lead to injury.

Exercise Technique Experience

Very basic theory here, if an athlete does not know how to perform an exercise with correct form and safety, then they should be instructed on how to correctly perform said exercise, and then start off with just small increases in intensity. For example, a distance runner may not have experience in the weight room, and has never done weighted lunges before. They should start off first learning what the correct form of a lunge is, then slowly adding weight as they improve strength and form.

-Tyler Robbins