Monthly Archives: July 2010

Another exercise you should be doing

After shooting down crunches and inner/outer thigh machines, and advocating deadlifts instead, what other exercise might I push that many folks aren’t doing?  Here’s a hint: it will develop your balance, your legs, your coordination…


With so many people spending their day sitting down -and then walking on firm predictable surfaces like sidewalks- we are losing many challenges to our balance and the opportunities to develop the proprioceptive response to uneven surfaces.  Then, as we age, we might further limit our movement: using a support to raise out of chair or leaning on handrails as we walk up and down stairs.  We lose the ability to adjust our gait, to recenter our weight.  We lose the ability to balance.

Balance, is one of the predictors of longevity.  The greater our ability to maintain balance in unstable situations, the greater the chance that we will be physically be able to adapt to our surroundings, protect ourselves from injury, and therefore survive.

So what is one thing you should be doing to work on balance? Easy answer is everything you can, but realistically lets begin with the Single Leg Romanian Deadlift.  (what is it with me and deadlifts?  They are the magic!)

How to do a Single Leg Romanian Dead Lift:

1. Stand up tall, feet just inside shoulder width apart.  Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand letting the weight hang down in front of your thigh. (No dumbbell?  Use a plastic drink carton.  The important thing is having a good way to hold it).  Lift the opposite foot just off the ground and balance.

2. Slowly bend over, letting the weight carry your arm down, and touch the floor in front of your foot with the weight.  The free leg should move slightly behind the support leg, but not fly out to the side or move far behind you.

3. With your abs tight, squeeze your glutes, feel the tension moving UP your back, squeeze your shoulder blades together.  You should be standing back up again.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Right now, give it a try.

Do 10-15 reps with one foot, then switch.

By the end of this exercise, your feet should feel like they are growing roots and might be slightly cramped.  Your inner thighs should be burning, your glutes burned out, your shoulders permanently in a down and back position.  And your balance?  Well, you’re working on it.

Let me know in the comments how you do – and any questions you have.


Learning about the Rotator Cuff.

Last week, I finally decided to schedule my surgery.  Hopefully the end of October I will have my shoulder repaired.  Week by week it’s been getting more painful; I’ve been taking more pain meds.  I can’t ignore it any longer.

Last December, while flying home from Vegas, a kind gentleman helped me put my suitcase in the overhead bin.  But when he assisted me by taking the case out of my right arm, I tore several tendons.  From the latest MRI, I have a full thickness tear (a hole) in the labrum tendon, a partial thickness to full thickness tear (pinhole) of the superspinitus, and a partial tear of the bicep tendon.

As explained here:

The labrum is a rim of soft tissue that makes the socket more like a cup. The labrum turns the flat surface of the glenoid into a deeper socket that molds to fit the head of the humerus.

The soft labral tissue can be caught between the glenoid and the humerus. When this happens, the labrum may start to tear. If the tear gets worse, it may become a flap of tissue that can move in and out of the joint, getting caught between the head of the humerus and the glenoid. The flap can cause pain and catching when you move your shoulder. Several tendons and ligaments attach to the labrum that help maintain the stability of the shoulder. So when the labrum tears, the shoulder often becomes much less stable.

In the image above, you can see that the bicep tendon lies directly above the common location of a labrum tear.  And just above that point lies the supraspinitus tendon.  Three tendons- one place.  This is why this is such a bad place to get injured.

I definitely started experiencing that catching within hours of the injury.  It continues to this day, with me never knowing exactly when it will happen.

We’re hoping on a debridement only surgery – the ortho will clean up any bone spurs in the joint that might be irritating and tearing the tendons, plus cleaning up all the frayed edges in the tendons.  A two week recovery at home, limited movements afterward (nothing overhead) and 70% back in 4 months.

If I’m unlucky, he will get in there (arthroscopically) and need to tie the tendons to the bone beneath them.  Longer recovery but no chance of the tendons tearing further.

Until that time, I’m being careful, not doing much exercise and generally feeling the tension from the pain and lack of exercise.  Yes, I can still do some things- leg machines, cardio, some ab work.  Nothing that I particularly like, but I’d probably be homicidal if I couldn’t at least do this much.  I’m living on Aleve and the occasional vicodin…

October can’t come soon enough.

New Balance Rock and Tone Shoes

Hey, FTC, Yeah I got these shoes from New Balance for free, but the words below are all mine.

While I was at FitBloggin last March, I signed up  to send me a pair of  New Balance Rock and Tone shoes.  Received them a couple weeks ago and have been test wearing them ever since.

As I’ve spent over a year regularly wearing MBTs – probably the “gold standard” in rocker soled shoes- I wanted to see how the Rock and Tone shoes compared.

I have bad feet.  Many people have bad feet or weak ankles.  Or poor posture.  Or weak balance.  If you have ANY of these issues- rocker-soled shoes will help you.  For me?  There are days when they are the only way that I can walk around.

That’s why I originally purchased a pair of the MBTs.  And why I was anxious to try the New Balance Rock&Tone.

In a “side by side” comparison:

1. The New Balance shoes are considerably lighter.   The lighter shoes means there is less fatigue and less of a tendency for an altered gait because of the weight.

2. The New Balance shoes have a slightly reduced rocker profile.  I like this- they look like “regular” shoes.

3. The New Balance shoes are cooler.  I cannot wear the MBTs in the summertime.  Using more muscles in my feet combined with the construction tends to make my feet warmer.  Warm enough that combined with summer heat and I’m not wearing these when it’s hot.

The MBTs because they have a greater rocker profile do challenge me to balance/rock/stabilize more when I’m simply standing, a feature I enjoy.  However over all, you will see me wearing my New Balance shoes more.

Now an honest assessment of any rocker-soled shoe ability to tone/firm/burn more calories.  I find I DO work a little harder to maintain a good posture while wearing any rocker shoe, which might result in a slight increase in working the leg muscles; but, I don’t believe that I work THAT MUCH harder to tone these muscles.  So, inspite of advertising, I wouldn’t purchase these just just to burn more calories.

New Balance- in the press release announcing these shoes- explained the reasoning for rocker soled shoes:

The design of New Balance rock&tone footwear was based on learnings from the pedorthic and rehabilitation communities which show that rocker bottoms encourage the use of alternative muscle groups resulting in additional toning and caloric expenditure.

Now many people when they walk will walk in a very mechanically efficient way- most of the work being done by their skeleton- stacking bone over bone with minimum muscle engagement.  Have you ever heard a person who states that they walk 3 miles or more a day and don’t understand why they are not losing weight or getting firmer muscles? They are working “efficiently” but not working their muscles.  Put someone like this in a rocker soled shoe and they will forced to change their gait to use their muscles more in movement.

Getting Lean Quickly

These are rather advanced exercise concepts.  If you haven’t been exercising for a while (6 months)- make sure you get clearance from your doctor to exercise.  Or consult with a professional trainer for some guidance.

We all love the idea of getting lean -and getting lean quickly fills most people’s bill.  One of the best ways to do this is to recruit your body’s ability to generate its own Human Growth Hormone.  Which, as I’ve written before, is one of our most powerful tools in burning fat.

So here’s the simple steps involved in boosting your HGH.  When you look at these guidelines, you’ll understand why CrossFit is so popular as an exercise regime.  It frequently encorporates these strategies in their WODs.

Kicking up your HGH Burn:

  1. Workout Intensity. You need a workout that is all out and over quickly.  Fifty minutes or less and your done.  If you participate in a workout that lasts much longer, hormonally you’re acting to impair HGH burn by increasing cortisol levels.
  2. Workout Volume: Since you are limiting your time, you have to kick up the volume.  Supersets – especially alternating upper and lower body exercises- will let individual muscles recover while allowing you to get a kickass volume of work.  For example: Dumb bell swings paired jumping squats.
  3. Workout Reps: A rep range of 8-12 reps per set – and 3-5 sets per exercise is ideal.  It lets you work heavy enough to get all the muscle fiber engaged without completely burning you out.  And the lactic acid encourages the release of HGH.
  4. Workout Rest: You want your muscles to recover but not completely.  A rest interval of 60-90 lets you catch your breath, without completely eliminating the lactic acid nor letting your heart rate get too slow.
  5. Intervals. Your cardio should be performed in an interval fashion.  Finish up your workout with some sprints, some jumping jacks, mountain climbers.  Or slip these into the workout whenever your heart rate slows down a little or the sweat stops.
  6. Emphasize the big muscles and complex moves. Presses, squats, deadlifts, pulls.  If it’s only working one set of muscles, it’s wasting your time.
  7. Refuel. The ideal refuel ration is about 2 grams of carbs to each gram of protein as soon after you finish working out as possible.
  8. Sleep. HGH comes out to play at night.  Make sure you get to sleep before midnight, and try to get at least 8 hours a night.

Personally, my workouts run almost exactly to 50 minutes.  I begin sweating and panting during that first rest period and keep on sweating until about an hour after I quick working out.  That’s WITH a cool shower at the end.  When these workouts are their most successful, I desperately need to sleep 2 hours after it ends.

Now I will slide some isolation exercises at the end of these sessions- some tricep/bicep and maybe some abs.  But if I feel the sweat slowing down I can throw in some jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc.  to keep things burning.

Lessons in Weight Training #2: The Weight Does Not Care

When you finally get off your duff and pick up a weight, something happens:

The Weight Does Not Care

If you’re wise, you realize that this weight has no emotional attachment to you.  It doesn’t care if it moves up, down, sideways or merely sits on the floor taunting you.  The weight is not emotionally invested in your success or failure.

It’s all you.

My Ideal Workout Week

Continuing from My Ideal Workout Template – I obviously can’t do it all in one workout.  So now, let’s look at an ideal Workout Week:

Sunday: Foam roll.  Stretch calves, hips, lats.  Dynamic warm up legs and hips.  Bridge/Plank/ClamShells.  Step ups. Bosu jumping lunges.  BB squats 10×10. Back extensions, hanging leg lifts, calf raises. Foam roll.

Monday: Steady state cardio -20 minutes. Foam roll. Stretch lats, chest.  Bridge, Plank, Side plank.  Agility drills 6×4.  Turkish Get-Up 10 each side.  Bicep, Tricep, delts. Foam roll.

Tuesday: HIIT-20 minutes.  Foam roll.  Planks, Physioball Reverse Crunches, Side Plank, Push ups, Medicine Ball Slams, Single leg Medicine ball toe touches, medicine Ball passes, Medicine ball wood chops -both high to low and low to high. Stretchy band side stabilizers.  BOSU ball squat jumps.

Wednesday: REST

Thursday: Steady state cardio -20 minutes. Foam roll. Stretch lats, chest.  Bridge, Plank, Side plank.  Agility drills 6×4. Chest Press.  Rows.  Lat Pulls. Bicep, Tricep, delts. Foam roll.

Friday: Foam roll.  Stretch calves, hips, lats.  Dynamic warm up legs and hips.  Bridge/Plank/ClamShells.  Step ups. Bosu jumping lunges.  Deadlifts (10×8) Back extensions, hanging leg lifts, calf raises. Foam roll.

Saturday: REST

My Ideal Workout Template

As I get more experience writing workouts for people other than myself, I’m recognizing my style- what I believe should be part of every workout and what I’m willing to short cut if necessary.

  1. Begin with a warm up.  This is time spent getting your body warmed up and ready to move. It might be time spent on a cardio machine, but it could also be jump rope, jumping jacks, stepping on a platform, etc.  The important thing is moving.
  2. Foam rolling.  This helps to get the tissue in an optimum condition to work.  It relaxes tight muscles and is a great beginning to movement conditioning part of the workout.
  3. Static and dynamic stretching.  More getting the body ready for the work it’s going to do.
  4. Core work.  Planks, bridges, bird dogs, side planks, etc.  Working the core at the beginning of the process makes sure those muscles are activated to support during a challenge weight training section.
  5. Balance work.  Step ups, Single Leg Dead lifts, Single leg reaches, or – a two-fer- medicine ball tosses while on a BOSU.
  6. Throwing/tossing something.  Slamming a medicine ball on the ground, ball chest passes, squat tosses, etc.  These start activating the central nervous system.
  7. OR.. agility drills.  Ladders or cones praciticing patterns and building speed.  Works on concentration, on breathing, and again activates that CNS.
  8. Two or Three compound lifts.  Turkish GetUps, Squats, Deadlifts, Weighted Lunges, Chest Presses, Rows.  These kick the HGH into high gear and are the resistance center of the workout.  Ten reps or so on upper body/full body exercises – 15 or so on lower body exercises.  Whenever possible, exercise on your feet.
  9. Follow these couple lifts with assistance muscle isolation work.  (bis, tris, traps, calves, delts).
  10. Push or Carry something heavy.  Farmer’s walks are awesome here.
  11. Shorter rest periods – about 1 minute on average but up to 3 minutes if needed.
  12. Stretching to begin the cool down – followed at some point by a 2nd round foam rolling.

This whole workout -well from foam roll to foam roll -should take about an hour to an hour and a half max.  Anything longer than that probably has either too much work or too long a rest.

Take at least one day a week completely off -and take one week every month or two completely off to let your body heal and recover.

What do you look for in your ideal workout?  Do you have a plan and do you know why you do steps in the order that you do?