In the spirit of Valentine’s and celebrating the power of individuals and complementary couples, we wanted to highlight two of the best exercise couples. These aren’t any type of couples–they are SUPER SET couples!
What’s a super set?
“The superset system uses two exercises performed in rapid succession of one another.”
Couple 1: Bench Press + Push Ups
This is an example of “performing two exercises for the same muscle group back to back.” Completing exercises in this format improves muscle endurance and size. If you want to kick it up a notch, try adding one or two more exercises targeting the same muscle. Using the example above, you could add a Dumbbell Chest Press and Resistance Band Chest Press.
Couple 2: Squats + Dead Lift
This is an example of “performing two exercises back to back that involve antagonist[, or opposing,] muscle groups.” Performing super sets in this manner allows you to place a higher load on target muscle(s) in each exercise. While one muscle group is working, the other is resting.
Want to learn how to integrate super sets into your workout routine? Contact us today!
Source: (National Academy of Sports Medicine, 2014)
Have you ever seen someone in the gym that looks a little bit like the Predator?
You know, wearing a breathing mask on their face? Curious about these masks and their use?
They are called “hypoxia masks.”
Hypoxia (also known as hypoxiation) is a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply. (Merriam-Webster, 2016)
A 2010 research study concluded that “hypoxia as a supplement to training is not consistently found to be advantageous for performance at sea level. Stronger evidence exists for benefits of hypoxic training on performance at altitude.”
In other words, if you’re going to compete or begin training in Denver (5,280 ft above sea level), hike in Tibet (14,000 ft above sea level), or compete on Mount Everest (29,035 ft above sea level) anytime soon, you might want to add hypoxia training to your fitness regimen. But before you do, PLEASE CONSULT A MEDICAL DOCTOR.
So, what’s the point of using a hypoxia mask if you are not a hard core athlete?
Another research study conducted back in 2007 concluded that “acute exposure of moderately trained subjects to normobaric hypoxia [i.e., a barometric pressure equivalent to pressure at sea level] during a short-term training program consisting of moderate- to high-intensity intermittent exercise has no enhanced effect on the degree of improvement in either aerobic or anaerobic performance.”
What does this mean? The average person who exercises to stay in shape and be healthy does not need to add hypoxia training to their workouts, because it doesn’t really have any benefits to your fitness performance. Why buy something that costs between $30-$100 if you simply don’t need it?
Another study (2001) concluded that when done correctly, intermittent hypoxia training has been shown to increases red blood cell count and aerobic capacity. Here, intermittent was defined as “5-7 minutes of steady or progressive hypoxia, interrupted by equal periods of recovery.”
So, wait. Who trains the trainer about how to effectively and safely conduct and supervise hypoxic training?
Close to nobody!
After conducting a preliminary web search, I only found a “Hypoxia and Hypoxic Training for High Performance” certification course conducted in Ireland.
Other than that, I found a few airlines that conduct employee training sessions about hypoxia altitude conditions for their flight staff–not the type of training we are talking about…
Your best bet is to read the user’s manual, consult your M.D., pray, and tell someone when you are using it (just in case you pass out from doing too much all at once).
One of the master trainers for the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Karl Sterling, provides some very helpful firsthand feedback about wearing and using a hypoxic training mask (HTM).
In a nutshell, here are the pros and cons of using HTMs.
- Add variation to your workouts
- Helps you focus on your breathing during exercise
- Become more efficient using oxygen and increase performance
- Look cool at the gym
- Cost ($30-$100)
- One more thing to carry in your gym bag
- Minimal experts available to teach you how to safely train with a hypoxic training mask
- Limited research
- Look creepy at the gym
Google scholar search results for “hypoxic training benefits.”
Hingerhofer-Szalkay H. (2010, Jan.). Intermittent hypoxic training risks versus benefits. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 108(2), 417. doi 10.1007/s00421-009-1274-4
Roberts, A. (n.d.) The truth about hypoxic training and oxygen reducing masks.
Walther, J. (2015). Can a hypoxic training mask improve performance? National Association of Sports Medicine.
Shi, B. Watanabe, T., Shin, S., Yabumoto, T., Takemura, M., & Matsuoka, T. (2014, Jan.) Effect of hypoxic training on inflammatory and metabolic risk factors: a crossover study in healthy subjects. doi 10.1002/phy2.198
This infamously happens when I train one of my clients. Recently, my client sent me a few articles about what she believes is happening to her sinuses when she performs various exercises. And of course, I looked a bit more into it. Here is what I found.
What Is It?
It’s called exercise-induced rhinitis (EIR). The root word is rhino, meaning nose, and the suffix, itis, meaning inflammation. In other words, exercising can inflame your nose.
What are the Symptoms?
When you stop to think about it, it makes sense to experience rhinitis when performing physical activity. Increased blood flow and oxygen to your nasal passages may negatively impact your sinuses and cause airborne irritants such as mold and pollen to get into your system and result in congestion, sneezing, runny nose, itchiness, and watery eyes. Basically, EIR is annoying and you should add tissues to your list of essential items to bring to your workouts!
What Does the Research Say?
A 2006 research study examined EIR in adults “with and without nasal allergy who exercise regularly to determine the prevalence and nature of nasal symptoms induced by indoor exercise.”
Forty percent of participants indicated that indoor EIR negatively impacted physical activity. This more frequently occurred in individuals with nasal allergies. Likewise, outdoor EIR occurred in 56.1% of the total population–with participants with nasal allergies reporting more rhinitis (71.6% vs. 41%).
The study concluded that EIR “commonly occurs in athletes regardless of underlying nasal allergy.”
What does this mean? Well, if you already have nasal allergies, you are more likely to experience EIR compared to folks who do not already have nasal allergies. However, EIR is fair game to all of us.
Causes of EIR
There is limited research about the causes of EIR. Your guess is as good as mine and the next researcher. Check out with Livestrong.com writer, Matthew Lee, found out about the causes of EIR.
How to Manage EIR
In a nutshell, the most natural and drug free way to manage EIR is to carry a small pack of tissues during your workouts. However, some folks may want or need to take antihistamines. (Silvers, 1992)
Whatever you do, do NOT let a runny nose hold you back from your BEST workout! Pack some tissues in a sweat proof container and get to it! Happy training!
Enjoy this 45ish minute interval ride on-your-own at the gym. This ride requires an indoor bike with a cycle machine that shows your RPM speed. Otherwise, you need a metronome to help you gauge your cadence OR you can go old school and count the number of times your pedal completes a full rotation over a duration of 10 seconds.
70 RPM 11-12 rotations
80 RPM 13-14 rotations
90 RPM 15 rotations
100 RPM 16-17 rotations
110 RPM 18-19 rotations
0:00-3:00 | Seated Flat | 80-95RPM | Warm-Up. Gradually increase cadence. RPE 3.
3:00-5:00 | Seated Flat | 80 RPM | Stay disciplined at this cadence with light resistance. Continuation of your warm-up. RPE 3.
5:00-7:00 | Standing Flat | 70 RPM | Add enough resistance to support your weight out of the saddle. Come up to Hand Position #2. RPE 4.
7:00-9:30 | Jumps | 70 RPM | 10 seconds in and out of saddle from Seated Climb (small incline) in Hand Position #2 and up into Standing Flat in Hand Position #2. RPE will elevate to 6 because HR will increase!
9:30-13:00 | Seated Flat | 80-100 RPM | Recover. Allow heart rate and breathing to come back down. Start at lower end of cadence range. As you feel HR recover, gradually increase speed and hold at steady rate. Slow, deep, intentional breathing!
13:00-15:00 | Seated Flat | 90 RPM |
15:00-17:00 | Standing Flat | 80-90 RPM | RPE 4.
17:00-18:30 | Jumps | 90 RPM | 10 seconds in and out of saddle from Seated Climb in Hand Position 2 and up into Standing Flat in Hand Position 2.
18:30-21:30 | Seated Flat | 80-100 RPM | Recover. Allow heart rate and breathing to come back down. Start at lower end of cadence range. As you feel HR recover, gradually increase speed and hold at steady rate. Slow, deep, intentional breathing!
21:30-23:30 | Seated Flat | 100 RPM
23:30-25:30 | Standing Flat | 90-100 RPM
25:30-27:00 | Jumps | 100 RPM | 10 seconds in and out of saddle from Seated Climb in Hand Position #2 and up into Standing Flat in Hand Position #2. RPE will rise to 7/8 due to jumps!
27:00-30:00 | Seated Flat | 80-100 RPM | Recover. Allow heart rate and breathing to come back down. Start at lower end of cadence range. As you feel HR recover, gradually increase speed and hold at steady rate. Slow, deep, intentional breathing!
30:00-31:30| Seated Flat | 95-110 RPM | Option to ride at lower end of range to maintain steady cadence.
31:30-33:30 | Standing Flat | 100-110 RPM
33:30-35:00 | Jumps | 100-110 RPM | 10 seconds in and out of saddle from Seated Climb in Hand Position #2 and up into Standing Flat in Hand Position #2. RPE will rise to 7-8 due to jumps!
35:00-36:00 | Seated Flat | 80-90 RPM | Recover.
36:00-37:00 | Jumps | 80-100 RPM | Slightly add resistance. RPE 4. Complete 4 jumps up into Standing Flat in HP#2 and back down to Seated Flat in HP#2. RPE will rise to 7/8 due to jumps!
37:00-38:00 | Seated Flat | 80-90 RPM | Recover.
38:00-39:00 | Jumps | 80-100 RPM | Slightly add resistance. RPE 4. Complete 4 jumps up into Standing Flat in HP#2 and back down to Seated Flat in HP#2. RPE will rise to 7/8 due to jumps!
39:00-40:00 | Seated Flat | 80-90 RPM | Recover. Allow heart rate and breathing to come back down. Slow, deep, intentional breathing! RPE 3.
40:00-43:00 | Seated Flat | 80 RPM | Cool-down. RPE 3.
Calf, Quad, Hamstring, Hip Flexor, Shoulders, Back, Neck…
Many of us have heard the saying, “we must crawl before we walk and walk before we run.” A key word missing from this old adage is “balance.” To rephrase, we must balance our body while crawling and do the same for sitting, standing, walking, hopping, running, and any other movement or static hold exercise.
Q: “So, why do I need to do balance exercises if I’m trying to gain muscle size?”
A: Balance and stability exercises help improve body stabilization, align imbalanced muscles, and increase joint strength. And with a stabilized body, balanced muscles, and increased joint strength, your body is in an ideal position to gain muscle size.
Oftentimes, we get caught up doing common exercises that involve weight machines, free weights, and group fitness classes. But the reality is that these exercises become more effective when anchored by a solid balance training program.
What exactly do I mean by balance training program?
Dynamic balance is the “ability to move and change directions under various conditions without falling,” (Clark, Sutton, & Lucett, 2014, p. 246). Balance training develops “synergy and synchronicity of muscle firing patterns required for dynamic balance and neuromuscular efficiency,” (Clark, Sutton, & Lucett, 2014, p. 248). In other words, balance training helps our muscles move more efficiently. Thus, dynamic balance is interconnected to hypertrophy (i.e., increased muscle size) and other neuromuscular skills (e.g., speed, flexibility, endurance).
The National Academy of Sports Medicine’s (NASM) integrated performance paradigm states that force reduction and stabilization are required for force production. In other words, the ability to successfully execute dynamic balance exercises (i.e., balance training) helps us increase force production for strength exercises. Increases in strength helps us achieve hypertrophy or an increase in muscle size.
Balance training also helps correct kinetic chain imbalances; thus, improve muscle imbalances and flawed movement patterns. As a result, joint stress is relieved, neuromuscular efficiency is improved, and we are less susceptible to injury. With increased neuromuscular efficiency, we are able to maximize prime movers in strength building exercises and in turn, increase the size of muscle fibers.
Enough with the talk about balance training.
Let’s chat about a couple of BALANCE TRAINING EXERCISES.
1. Multi-planar lunge to balance: Stand with feet shoulders width apart and pointed straight ahead. Place hands on hips. Begin with a basic single leg forward lunge. Keep toes pointed forward and knees aligned with toes. Push off the front foot and maintain balance on the back leg. Repeat. Switch legs. Repeat. You can progress this exercise in different planes of motion (frontal plane, or lateral lunge; transverse plane, or turn 90 degrees). You can also add weight (e.g., weighted vest, dumbbells) to make this exercise slightly more difficult. I found a video that demonstrates this exercise.
2. Single leg Romanian dead lift: Stand with feet shoulders width apart and slightly raise one leg (the knee of the raised leg should be slightly bent). Place hands on hips, bend from the waist down and reach the hand opposite of planted foot down to touch toe. Planted leg will slightly bend. Keep spine in neutral position and try not to hunch over and round the back. Slowly come back up to starting position. Repeat. Note: if you can’t reach your toe, you can regress this exercise by reaching down to touch your shin or knee. You can make this exercise more difficult by standing on an unstable surface (i.e., balance beam, half foam roll, balance disc) and eventually adding weight (i.e., dumbbell).
For both exercises, play around with the duration of the isometric movement or the point in which you return to the starting position. For example, lunge forward for 1 second, hold the lunge for 1 second, return back to single leg balance and hold for 3 seconds. You can also play with the tempo of the concentric (acceleration or movement against the direction of resistance) and eccentric (deceleration or movement in the same direction of the resistance) movements. Have fun with it!
Feel free to ask me about other ways to progress (increase difficulty) or regress (decrease difficulty) these exercises.
Clark, M.A., Sutton, B.G., & Lucett, S.C. (Eds.) (2014). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. 4th ed. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Kinetic chain. Retrieved from http://www.opedix.com/kinetic-health
Pink flamingo. Retrieved from http://www.how-to-draw-funny-cartoons.com/cartoon-flamingo.html
Single leg deadlift woman. Retrieved from http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/abs/exercises/ab-exercises/?page=7
Millar, A.L. (2012, Feb). Improving your flexibility and balance. American College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.acsm.org/access-public-information/articles/2012/02/02/improving-your-flexibility-and-balance
Rogers, M.E. (2012, Jan). Balance and fall prevention. American College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.acsm.org/access-public-information/articles/2012/01/10/balance-and-fall-prevention
Zech, A., Hübscher, M., Vogt, L., Banzer, W., Hänsel, F., & Pfeifer, K. (2010). Balance training for neuromuscular control and performance enhancement: a systemic review. Journal of Athletic Training, 45(4), 392-403. Retreived from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2902034/
Recently, the internet and social media sites have become inundated by videos showcasing “trendy” cycling classes in various cities across the United States. My first reactions to witnessing these classes were disbelief and fear. Although classes may look very engaging and entertaining, I sincerely fear for the safety of each and every person in the classes — instructors included.
The video originally posted to this blog post was removed from this site; however, here’s a link to it.
Here’s a quick overview of my initial concerns about these classes. For clarity purposes, I refer to these trendy cycling classes as TCCs.
Concern #1: If you wouldn’t do it on a road bike, then it has no business being in a cycling class. Several TCCs have riders taking not one, but BOTH hands off the bike during the class. This is a big no-no. Each and every time you take one or both hands off the bike, you increase the likelihood of falling off the bike (i.e., injury). Similarly, fast cadence (pedaling) + 1 or 0 hands = a recipe for disaster. Likewise, pedaling in a standing position with one or no hands on the handle bars equates to a significant chance of injury.
Rapid, bouncy, up and down movement on the handle bars and/or saddle of the bike compromises proper form, increases strain on your back and other points along the kinetic chain, and minimizes your ability to properly target specific muscle groups during your workout.
Concern #2: Indoor cycling and our love-hate relationship with the resistance knob. In the TCC videos I watched, it looked like cyclists, including the instructor, used light resistance on the bike, regardless of cadence (i.e., speed of pedal rotations). I’m pretty sure there is a resistance knob on the bikes, but it looks like there was one pace–FAST–in these classes. It’s possible that video footage was only taken of the more exciting, fast-paced parts of the classes. It’s also possible that these classes are primarily fast paced, or high cadence classes. A good group cycling class will use the resistance knob to regulate heart rate, increase strength, build endurance, and promote active muscle recovery.
Concern #3: A word about brands and trademarks. The majority, if not all, group cycling certifications are trademarked. In other words, a person who is not a certified Spinning(R) instructor cannot lead a cycling class named, “Spinning.” It doesn’t hurt to ask TCC instructors about their cycling certifications, if any. Keep in mind, not all gyms require group fitness instructors to hold certifications.
Most popular and accepted certifications:
Mad Dogg Athletics Spinning
Les Mills RPM
Concern #4: Is there a method to the madness of TCC structure? Are instructors monitoring heart rates or rate of perceived exertion? Is there intentional progression and regression of speed, resistance, and bike position? Are instructors correcting your form on the bike? Are TCCs choreographed performances on a bike with the latest and greatest music? Is it anchored by the philosophy, “if I sweat it’s a good workout?” Just because you sweat and the instructor played music that got you hyped, doesn’t necessarily mean you had a safe and effective workout.
Concern #5: There is liability if someone gets injured during a TCC. Personal trainers and oftentimes group fitness instructors are required to have liability insurance. On occasion, gyms cover their trainers and fitness instructors with an umbrella liability insurance plan. But what about the TCCs? Are the instructors insured? Do the owners of the facility provide liability insurance to all of their trainers and group fitness instructors? I hate to say it, but it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt in a TCC (if it hasn’t already happened). Proceed with caution and TCC instructors, PLEASE make sure you have liability insurance.
Before I close, I would like to commend all of the TCC instructors and cycling class participants for their commitment to incorporating exercise into their lives. However, please be safe as you proceed with future group fitness classes. Safety and good body mechanics are essential!
Indoor cycling resources:
Indoor Cycling Association
Spinning (articles and research)
Les Mills RPM
Note: This blog post reflects my thoughts and opinions and are not affiliated, endorsed, or supported by any professional fitness organization.
Another TCC example
Who needs a gym when a broom, mop, or long tree limb is nearby? Check out these five exercises!
Make sure you alternate the ends of the broom/map to balance resistance on each side of the body. Also, a rope pulled taut will work for these exercises, too. Have fun with speed and number of repetitions.
1. Overhead Wide Grip Squats – Holding broom, keep arms straight and above head. Wide leg stance. Get down deep into your squat. Keep arms up and straight above your head. Stick that butt out and get deep into your squat. Repeat.
2. Forward Lunges w/ Lateral Twist – In the lunge, keep knee in alignment and over top of toes. Holding broom, keep arms extended straight in front of body and twist laterally (transverse plane) to the left. Repeat to the right.
3. Overhead Shoulder Press – Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Hold broom shoulder width apart. Start with broom at shoulder height and press up (sagittal plane) in front of face until arms are straight in air above your head. Repeat.
4. Crunches – Lie down. Knees up. Feet flat on floor. Hold broom horizontal to the floor (over top of your torso). Lift head, neck, and shoulders up! Repeat.
5. Alternating Side Bend / Knee Touches – Stand with feet a little wider than should width apart and knees slightly bent. Rest broom behind neck on top of shoulders. Have a wide pronated grip on the broom. Simultaneously raise right knee and side bend down to the right so your knee comes up to touch the broom stick. Repeat on left side.
What other exercises can you do with a broom or mop? Please share!
WARM UP (3 sets)
50, 4 count jumping jacks (multi-form arm & leg movement in sagittal, transverse, and frontal planes)
10 stationary inchworms with push-ups
25 resistance band squat with row
20 lunges (10 each leg) with overhead extended arm leaning reach w/ weight
50 squats (w/ varied foot positioning and leg widths)
10 bent single leg lift with calf raise on opposite foot
RESISTANCE TRAINING (reps x sets)
15 x 3 – straight arms resistance band pull apart (transverse plane) while kneeling balancing on Swiss ball
20 x 3 – kneeling resistance band pull down
4 x each grip x 3 – assisted pull ups, multi-grip (pronated, supinated, neutral, mixed)
25 x 3 – resistance band bicep curls (zottman, standard supinated grip, neutral grip, pronated grip raises)
15 x 3 – bodyweight dips
5lbs x 10 x 3 – I / T dumbbell lateral raises
10 x 3 – TRX suspended rows
jog 10:00 mile
If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for ways to diversify your workout and oftentimes get caught up doing the some of the same exercises. You can drastically change your workout intensity and targeted muscle groups by simply changing your hand grip and/or foot position. Below is a short list of hand grip and foot position variations you can apply to your workout. As with anything, if it hurts, STOP doing it, consult an expert, or try something else.
Pronated (also called reverse grip): Palms facing up
Supinated (also called downward grip): Palms facing down.
Neutral: Palms facing inward, in a more natural position.
Mixed: Have one hand pronated and the other supinated. Dependent upon the exercise, you may be able to incorporate a neutral grip with a supinated or pronated grip.
Close: Position your hands approximately 4-6 inches apart.
Medium: Position your hands approximately shoulder width apart.
Wide: Position your hands approximately 4-6 inches wider than shoulder width apart.
A few examples of applicable exercises include bicep curls, bench press, lat pull-downs, push ups, EZ bar curls, tricep press, pull ups, and push ups. Play around with your hand grips and challenge yourself! Have fun with it.
Close: Position your feet approximately 4-6 inches apart.
Medium: Position your feet shoulder width apart.
Wide: Position your feet approximately 4-8 inches wider than shoulder width apart.
Toes outward: Angle your toes inward approximately 20-40 degrees. Helps target outer leg muscles (i.e., biceps femoris).
Toes inward: Angle your toes outward approximately 30-45 degrees. Helps target inner leg muscles (i.e., semimembranosus)
Toes straight: Good for overall muscle development.
Of course you can double up on these foot positions. For example, wide stance with toes outward.
As with any exercise, consult a certified personal trainer to ensure proper form, minimize the likelihood of injury, and maximize your workout.