Tag Archives: stretching

12 Days of Fitness: Day 4 – 10 Fitness Myths That Need to Die

(This is part 4 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

A New Year means more people come to the party and with them they carry on believing in old views about fitness and weight loss. Science gets ignored and myths prevail. Good results sometimes require debunking bad ideas. Far too many enter the New Year with old ideas. They still believe fitness myths that were probably debunked years ago. The following are 10 myths that live on because their friends, coworkers, family members, and popular media continue to endorse them.

  1. Lifting weights makes you bulky. To be fair, my industry has come a long way in dispelling this one. But you’ll still get people, particularly women, who believe three-pound weights will build a lean, toned physique while anything heavier will likely lead to tighter pants. There are literally mountains of science-backed benefits linked to resistance training, like improvements in strength, mood, anti-aging effects and metabolism. Look it up. I’m not lying.
  2. The key to results: Eat a lot less and exercise a lot more. This one is so widespread. It’s convincing because it’s only partly true. You do need to be mindful of what you’re eating and for many that simply means eating a lot less. And most likely you need to exercise more frequently. The trick is not to tackle both at the same time, especially not at full speed.
  3. Keto is the best diet for weight loss. Another year, another diet. Just in the low-carb category, we’ve gone from Atkins to South Beach to Paleo and now to Keto. We could create separate timelines for everything from low-fat to vegetarian to fasts and cleanses. Do you see the ridiculousness? With each new fad, we learn yet again that no single diet is right for everyone, while some aren’t a good idea for anyone. When it comes to a lot of these popular diets, most people don’t completely understand the challenges of a particular diet. Stop following blind faith and believe in good ol hard work!
  4. A good workout burns a ton of calories. As someone in my industry who I admire, Gray Cook says, “First move well, then move often.” Burning calories is a byproduct of your physical activity. It will happen. But labeling any workout good or bad by the number of calories burned and you’re not getting the idea. You generally don’t burn a ton of calories in a workout. In fact, unless you are monitored with gas exchange equipment, it’s a best guess.
  5. Cardio is the only way to lose weight. Visit any gym on any day in January and you’ll be hard-pressed to find an open treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, or stairclimber. It’s a sure sign that the general public still believes cardiovascular exercise is the premier way to drop pounds. After all, a cardio machine keeps a running count of the calories you’ve burned, like exercise is a video game and the goal is to get the highest score. Of course cardio exercise can burn a lot of calories. But there’s a catch: You have to do a lot of it.
  6. Stretching will loosen tight muscles. Humans evolved to move, not spend long hours sitting. We sit at our desks at work, on our couches at home, and in cars. The problem with traditional stretching is that it only pulls on a given muscle, with no consideration for the mobility or stability of the joints surrounding it. A more practical approach: improve range of motion and joint function.
  7. Big muscles are built with big weights. Bigger muscles are typically stronger, and stronger muscles are typically bigger. But the science of muscular hypertrophy is actually more nuanced. Load is just one of the major drivers of hypertrophy. You also need time under tension, which is achieved with moderate to high rep ranges and controlled movements, and volume. The more total sets and reps, the greater the training effect.
  8. Every workout needs to be all-out. Never judge the quality of a workout by how fast your heart is racing or how much you are sweating. What’s even more dangerous is going full throttle when you struggle with less than 50%. Learn to progressively increase workout loads and how beneficial it is to cycle your workouts.
  9. Deadlifting hurts your back, and squatting is bad for your knees. The only people who believe this are those who have never done either exercise properly. The squat and hip hinge movement patterns are vital for health and performance. The best training programs include multiple examples of both. You will receive greater benefit from either or both exercises, than skipping them altogether.
  10. Hiring a personal trainer will fix everything. For so many, contracting a personal trainer is a get-out-of-jail-free card. It means you can cheat on your diets, skip workouts, do whatever you want, etc. After all, you hired a trainer, and that should be enough, right? Don’t you wish. Having an experienced trainer, not some glorified cheerleader, for you will be the one stop solution to getting everything and more out of your fitness journey.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitness!

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays




12 Days of Fitness 2016: Day 2 – 5 Ways You’re Self-Sabotaging Your Workouts

(This is Part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

Fitness is my business and nothing can be more frustrating than witnessing those who actually make the time to exercise but are wasting their time in their approach. Simply showing up and going through the motions doesn’t count let alone is not very effective. If you can make the time, make the most of your time. Exercise in whatever form is only as good as the effort and consistency you put forth. Here are some of the most common mistakes I have seen throughout the years in the hopes that I can create awareness if you are guilty of them yourself.

  1. Swinging Weights. This is a very common mistake, often caused by lifting weights that are too heavy. The endless benefits of resistance training can only be achieved if you’re controlling your movements. Whatever exercise you’re doing, be sure to control each motion of the exercise in order to maximize results. Control is key as is injury prevention.
  1. Holding on the Treadmill. Cardio is an excellent form of exercise but most are missing out on the majority of the calorie burn. The treadmill is one of the most popular pieces of cardio equipment but when you grip on to the sidebars of the treadmill, you’re sacrificing your calorie burn. Instead, either swing your arms as you go or if you need a grip to maintain your balance just make sure it’s a very light one.
  1. Too Much Waiting Around. In this era of smartphones, too much time is wasted checking messages or status updates – or by checking one’s self in the mirror. Socializing is one thing but the more time you spend between exercises the more you’re allowing your heart rate to return to normal. Keeping your heart rate elevated during a workout is essential to burning the most calories and/or building muscle. So get at it and stay at it.
  1. Stretching in Between Exercises/Sets. Stretching is an important component of any fitness routine to increase muscle recovery, prevent injury, and decrease soreness. However, when you stretch in between exercises you are hampering their ability to perform their best with the next exercise/set. Studies have proven stretching in between may actually decrease the amount of weight you are able to lift and weaken the stability of joints.
  1. Virtual Insanity. Most gyms/health clubs don’t need clocks, or calendars for that matter because you can always tell the time of day/day of week by what you’re witnessing. Doing the same exercises in the same way is not going to yield any different results. Muscles need to evolve whatever the goal; doing the same thing all the time will yield the same result – zero!

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.


Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day 1 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight


The Importance of Warming Up Before You Exercise

Warm-up-of-high-brightness-led-manufacturersThe beauty of exercise science is that it is always evolving. We discover and learn new things almost daily. The problem is, what science unfolds and what becomes popular belief are very distant, thus causing more pseudo-science than what really needs to be understood. There are several exercise truths however that through the course of the relatively young modern fitness movement (began in the 1950s) has stood the test of time none more other than the concept of warming up before exercise.

Why Should You Warm Up?

In a few more weeks (perhaps even now in some areas) you will want to let your car warm up a few minutes prior to driving on your way to work. Why? The engine and mechanical parts work better if given just a few minutes to get things circulating and heated up. Your body is no different. Here are some of the reasons why warming up your body prior to exercise is important:

  • Reduces the risk of injury and optimizes physical performance by lubricating the joints through the production of synovial fluid.
  • Warms up the muscles by increasing blood flow through the muscles and increasing core temperature, thus making the muscles more pliable.
  • Improves motor unit recruitment of particular movement patterns suitable for the upcoming workout
  • Increases the rate of sweat production to keep the body temperature regulated.
  • Elevates the heart rate so there is less of an initial stress to the body as the workout begins.
  • Helps your mental preparation for the task, taking the time to get into the right mindset so that the workout does not become yet another mundane activity.

It is an all too common mistake by novice and veteran exercisers alike to skip or neglect a proper warm up prior to working out. Unfortunately, it could be the difference between a very effective and safe workout and a so-so workout that could possibly end up with an injury. But what constitutes an effective warm up?

What Makes A Warm Up?

There is a short answer and a slightly longer but more specific answer to this question. First the short. Simply anything that you can do that gets the body moving, whether it’s jumping jacks, marching in place, old school calisthenics (toe touches, windmills, etc.), walking on the treadmill for a few minutes, or simply pedaling the bike, anything you can do to go from a state of rest to one of sustained activity. Depending on the length of workout you have planned or the temperature or relative humidity of the surroundings, the warm up can be effective as short as two to three minutes or as much as five to ten minutes.  But for a more proper and effective warm up, the warm up will resemble more of a workout to the novice exerciser but a welcomed addition for the experienced. Here are the components of a more effective warm up:

  • Joint Mobility – Good mobility truly is the fountain of youth! The further you can move your joints through their active range of movement the more mobile you are. As we age we lose mobility through the joints and become less and less mobile. A good mobility routine will not only help to lubricate the joints with synovial fluid but it will also help to maintain a good level of joint mobility. The stiffer the joints become the more labored the movements become. You will improve your economy of movement by increasing your mobility. Your mobility also has a direct impact on the way your body moves as an integrated unit. If you have tight hips then your lower back will need to become more mobile in order to move fluidly.  Joint mobility should be approached systemically from head to toe spending more time on stiff joints and less time on mobile joints.
  • Movement Integration – Prepare the body for exercise by integrating your entire body. Your body consists of small stabilizer muscles that keep your joints in place and larger prime mover muscles that do all the work. The best way to improve this is to include movements that require balance and cross body movements.
  • Movement Preparation – Movement preparation involves practicing specific movements that mimic the movements that you will be using in your workout. You would not want to prepare for a squat workout while sitting riding a bike. Movement preparation based exercises not only copy the exact movement patterns in preparation for the workout but they also give you time to improve them.
  • Soft Tissue Work – It is very important to keep all of your soft tissue in good condition. Muscles, tendons and ligaments that have micro-tears, adhesions and scar tissue needs to be addressed and assisted in the recovery process. Self-myofascial techniques such as foam rollers or even just a tennis ball can help to improve muscle movement by helping to break up knots and tight spots.

The Final Stretch

For many years, we thought that stretching the muscle prior to activity reduced the chance of injury. Research now shows that stretching prior to exercise has no effect on rate of injury and can have a serious effect on muscle performance. Joint mobility movements are far better at the beginning of a workout than the old fashioned static stretching exercises. Regardless of the amount of time you have never skip your warm up. A warm up is an important part of your workout; it is not separate from your workout. There are other parts that you can skip – like checking your phone every 30 seconds,

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

2013 12 Days of Fitness is coming soon! Hard to believe but it’s getting close to that time of year again. This will be my fourth year writing the 12 Days of Fitness, a 12 day feature on my website where I write about helpful exercise and health topics to keep you focused and thinking about your fitness through the busy holiday season. I’m gratefully accepting topic ideas so if there’s something you’d like to see featured in any one of the 12 Days, just let me know by sending me an email. All suggestions are completely anonymous.