I’ve been in the fitness industry for a while, I’l like to think for long enough to recognise the difference between function and fiction. If there’s one thing that really bugs me about what I do, it’s what I call the “cerebral onanism” of human movement. You see human movement isn’t that hard, we all start practicing it long before we learn language, and yet I see you tube videos where the explanation of a movement, takes 10 times longer than the movement itself! I often think, how am I supposed to teach all that instruction, in the time the movement takes? I can label many of the muscles in the human body in Latin, and every good Personal Trainer should know flexors from extensors, but I cringe when I hear people primarily cuing muscles instead of movement. If I can get through my life without ever seeing another fitness video where the trainer instructs participants to “engage your core”, I’ll be happy. Why? Because while human movement is easy, the human body is an incredibly complex system which thankfully is largely automated because without the automation we would all stop breathing the moment we went to sleep. There are many many muscles in the trunk that our body uses to stabilise the spine in response to different force vectors, velocities, and movements, a handful of which someone decided to label “core”. The idea that I need to activate muscles in order to move well raises many questions, that I cannot think of good answers too, here are some examples: I know that there are 3 branches of the thoracodorsal nerve that goes into each of my left and right Latissimus Dorsi, the big muscles in my back I use for pulling actions. But I can’t feel any of them, nor can I point to them without a textbook the way I can point to my big toe. So, If I cannot locate them by feel, how am I supposed calculate how many electrons I need to send to each branch to get the best results based on the angle of my shoulder when I’m pulling? There are 10 muscles that stabilise the sole of my foot, I can’t think of two things at once, how am I supposed to think about 10? Does anyone really think Logan was calculating which of his core muscles he needed to activate and how much, in response to his flipping/ twisting inertia and the rapidly changing direction of the pull of gravity when he was 6 metres off the ground in his freestyle BMX final, or was he just thinking about spotting his landing? I once heard probably the best skateboarder in human history describe a trick as “it’s all in the big toe”, as opposed to saying, “I just activate my Extensor Hallucis Longus”, now if they are both the same thing why does it bug me? Here’s why: Done well, explanations of what is occurring during a movement can be informative, and if the client/athlete believes that activating something helps, it probably does, because belief is a powerful performance enhancer. Athletes that believe in a god outperform those that don’t, regardless of which deity they believe in. Who remembers Power Bands? But what matters is the movement and feeling confident in the movement. I met someone at a function recently, he told me “I’ve been working with my trainer weekly for years, I never go to the gym without him, because I’m afraid of doing something wrong”, I changed the topic so I could avoid telling him that if he continued doing this, he would never be fit, strong or healthy. Similarly, I once overheard someone in the gym saying, “I’d much rather lift light weights with correct form, than trying to lift heavy weights”. These are both examples of an idea becoming a barrier to movement and human movement is rarely, if ever perfect, but it improves with practice, without doing something wrong, you’ll never do it right. Our body responds to stimulus, form follows function, it builds muscle in response to regular movement, it lays down myelin around the nerve sheath in response to repetition, tendons thicken in response to loading, our body produces Human Growth Hormone and Testosterone in response to strenuous lifting (heavy things). Lung capacity increases if we regularly get out of breath. Lean muscle mass, and lung capacity are two of the more reliable predictors of longevity. Some people don’t have the metrics to be great dead lifters, or rowers, me, I am too tall and have to much bulk to be a great hill climber on the bike. But that doesn’t mean I can’t ride my bike up hills, enjoy doing it, get benefit from it and get better at it. When I think of my most ‘successful’ clients, they all have one thing in common. It’s not a great knowledge of anatomy, nor is it the ability to activate many muscles at once while concentrating on the task at hand. It’s consistency, they exercise regularly, with many of them I know when they will be at Personal Best, even if I’m not there, and because of the work we have done together, I know they are safe and building strength and fitness while practicing the movements I have programmed for them. I’ll leave you with a case study. I spent over a decade coaching someone who loved competitive sport and worked very hard at it. During the 15 years we worked together he won state, national and world titles. When we first started working together, he told me “No matter how much I try I can’t activate my glutes”. Glutes are a hip extensor, it quickly became apparent that he couldn’t get good extension from his hips, and because of this, his glutes were doing very little. So, we spent a year stretching his hip flexors, and all of a sudden, his glutes started working, no thought required! On his part anyway. Marc Hand Master Personal Trainer
Why Spin? Have you recently woken up from a comfortable night’s sleep and opened your curtain, only to be greeted by an ever-darkening morning sky, the feeling of cold coming through the glass window against your face and thought to yourself, “Going out there for my morning walk just doesn’t look too enjoyable today.”? Despite this, you go anyway. Happy that you’ve stayed true to yourself and your fitness goals. But all the while wondering if there’s an easier and more comfortable way of doing this at such a time of year. Fortunately, I have a solution for you! Indoor cycling classes can go by many different names. Spin, Spinning and Spin class are frequently used and what you may have heard your friends, family or other gym members speak of. Spin classes are typically 30 – 60 minutes long and simulate riding a bike outside by increasing and decreasing the “spin bike” resistance dial. Up hills, down hills, flat roads, standing or seated. You name it, a qualified indoor cycling instructor can put it into a Spin class! Whether you’re a novice gym goer, aspiring athlete or somewhere in between, spin classes can be of huge benefit to your mental and physical health, and overall wellbeing. In addition to these benefits, here are some reasons to make it a part of your weekly routine at Personal Best Fitness.
- The cycling action offers a low impact form of huff n puff exercise. Spin classes are perfect if you’re recovering from an injury, starring down the barrel of knee surgery or just feel as if you need to take things a little more gently on your joints. Regardless of your fitness goals, you will still achieve a great workout. A well-designed class by an experienced instructor will allow you to go at your own pace. Afterall, fitness and physical activity is about improving the way you look, feel and function.
- Whether you’re looking to increase your huff n puff fitness, lose weight or increase leg and core strength, spin classes can offer it all in a single workout. The action of pedalling with resistance will help your body deal with any instability as a result of weaker muscles. Increasing your heart rate will help you burn calories and increase your metabolic rate. You can burn up to 600 calories in a spin class. That’s the equivalent of 6 glasses of wine.
- Increasing heart rate for prolonged periods like you will experience in a spin class will help to increase your bodies tolerance to other physical activities such as weight training, bush walking or hanging out the washing.
- Beyond the physical benefits you gain from a spin class, you will not find a single person arguing about the benefits exercise can have on mental health. Increasing your heart rate and moving your body is scientifically proven to relieve stress and anxiety. This partly occurs as a result of the body producing endorphins, sometimes known as the “feel good” hormone. Spin classes are a great way to do this, along with the added social benefits of being in a room with like-minded people and the affect it can have on your mental well-being.
How often have you made it to the end of the week and thought ‘thank god it’s the weekend’? Or not wanted to do a workout only to finish it and feel a whole lot better? High intensity exercise has been a prevailing force in the fitness industry for the past 10 years. We get this big endorphin rush, it makes you sweat, feel good and forget your problems. Movement is anti-inflammatory, hydrating and energising. It creates resilient tissues, hydrates, efficient mitochondria and cellular function, and is vital for the brain, mood and self confidence. However, we have seen a massive boom of exercise programs such as P90x, Crossfit and F45. All of which are types of HIIT training and are great programs when implemented at the right intensity, with the right recovery and with the correct frequency. Unfortunately, a lot of these training methods aren’t true ‘HIIT’ sessions. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. It is designed to get your heart rate up or above 90% of its max, followed by an equal or longer period of time in your recovery zone, the ‘interval’ aspect of HIIT. It can help with fat loss, reduce your heart rate and blood pressure and results in an increased metabolic rate. The often misconception is that going harder means going for longer periods and resting for shorter periods. I’d definitely agree that these types of sessions are tough, but are they productive? A better description of the types of workouts listed above would be High Intensity Steady State Training, or fatigue sessions! I.e. you’re likely getting your heart rate into a moderate zone (not as high as a true HIIT workout), while not allowing yourself sufficient recovery. It can take up to 48hrs for our body to recover after a high intensity training session. We create a high level of acidosis, resulting in the breakdown of muscle cells and the decrease in immune function. So by completing multiple of these sessions within a week, you are not only creating muscle breakdown, but you are releasing higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline into the body. The thing is, our body doesn’t differentiate between physical and mental stress. So what are the repercussions of this constant cycle of our stressful, sedentary working life, interspersed with many bouts of high intensity training? Just like any form of stress, exercise releases cortisol and adrenaline into the body. In the right doses our body is able to adapt to this release and create positive changes, however if we’re not giving our body adequate time to recover (i.e. completing HIIT sessions often), this becomes detrimental to the system. Being super fit and punishing yourself at the gym doesn’t equate to longevity. In fact it can do the opposite. Over training, under recovering, repetitive movement, too much muscle mass, and chronic cardio, are all examples of how movement can hurt you. There is no denying that people who chose to practice one sport are highly competitive in their chosen sport, however they’re rarely able to adequately replicate this ‘fitness’ across other sports. They’re often missing one key component; variability. When it comes to longevity, the key component in training is variability. This means being strong and resilient for whatever comes your way. It means you can go fast, or slow, lift heavy, or light, move and adapt to awkward and challenge angles, etc. Variability means your tissue has the strength, tension and elasticity to respond to different speeds, loads, positions and vectors. Our heart rate is a great responder to variability. It is important to have the ability to get your heart rate high (above 90% of heart rate max), for SHORT periods of time and it is just, if not more, important to have the ability to get your heart rate back down quickly and keep it there for sustained periods of time. We have looked at one form of heart rate variability training (HIIT), however we will have to save the full discussion for another time. For the time being, I want you to have a think about whether all of your training sessions are ‘smash fests’ in the gym or whether you are incorporating variability into your training and in fact aiming for wellness and longevity. Signs you need to switch up your exercise and focus on wellness and longevity are:
- Chronic stiffness and pain
- Lack of mobility and strength in varied positions
- Lack of heart rate variability – HR stays high, won’t go up, or takes longer to recover!
- Unable to get down to the ground and up again with ease
- Coordination and balance challenges
- Are you struggling with complex movement sequences?
One of the first questions we ask those who are new to Personal Best Fitness is “What would you like to achieve?” Often the response is “I want to get fit.” Sounds quite straight forward doesn’t it, but what does it actually mean? Getting fit means different things to different people. A common definition is, “To be physically fit means to be in a state of health and well-being. Physical fitness is defined as the body’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist disease and to react to emergency situations. Helping a client “become fit” can take a variety of approaches and avenues and can be very different for ‘everybody and mind’.
There are 3 or 4 aspects of “Being Fit” that we may focus on with you at Personal Best:
- Improving your cardiovascular/aerobic fitness/ huff and puff.
- Help you increase your range of motion or flexibility.
- Improve your strength.
When getting started at Personal Best your personal trainer will direct you to the appropriate zone for you, taking into consideration the following:
- Your health
- If you have done vigorous exercise recently
- Any aches and pains that you may have
- And what goals you have
- If it is hypertrophy that you are after then 4 reps at 90% of your maximum load to 10 reps at 75% of your maximum load is required. Hypertrophy is a term for the growth and increase of the size of muscle cells.
- If muscular endurance is what you are after approximately 15 to 20 reps at 70% is required. Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to sustain repeated contractions against a resistance for an extended period of time. Some of the activities that require muscular endurance are, sustained walking or running, cycling, swimming, circuit training, aerobics and of course resistance training.
We’ve all read that exercise is great for mental health and there is exponential research to support that claim. Exercise releases ‘feelgood’ hormones such as endorphins and serotonin, boosting your mood and reducing stress and anxiety. What if I were to suggest that you can approach exercise in a more effective manner in order to reduce these symptoms? Having recently reading ‘How to Change Your Mind’, a book about psychedelics and their potential as a treatment for mental disorders and higher thinking, it intrigued me from both a personal and professional aspect. I definitely recommend the read! One such discussion was that on low entropy state. Essentially explaining how excess order (eg. Rigid thinking and obsessive behaviour) results in a hyperactive ‘default mode’. This ultimately traps us in a repetitive and destructive state of rumination. – Think classic signs of Obessive Complusive Disorder, anxiety and depression and to a lesser extent, obsessive eating or exercise habits. If on the other hand, we are able to access a high entropic state, the brain becomes less specialised and more globally interconnected. Learning entails the establishment of new neural networks (neuroplasticity) – If we are able to boost the diversity in our mental life (ie. high entropic state), the more possibilities the mind has and the more creative our solutions will become. Where am I going with this, and what does it have to do with exercise? Most of us understand that we need to change our exercise program routinely in order to see improvement; whether it be increasing the resistance, trying a new exercise or trying a completely different sport. When we first try something new, it’s hard and we’re rarely a natural at it. It is this same concept that we can employ with our workout routine. We want to ‘surprise’ our body as often as possible, not only to improve our physical function, but also our mental function. If you always exercise on the same day, at the same time and do the same routine on those days, try changing it up. Come to Personal Best Fitness at a different time or try a different workout routine or class. The members in my small group personal training will know I love using ViPRs and will often introduce a few group activities or exercises in which they’re made to focus on what they’re doing and creating ‘game’ based training. This can be as simple as throwing a tennis ball or other games you used to play as a kid such as Simon says. You’d be surprised about how quickly this kind of exercise can get your heart rate up, all the while putting a big smile on your face. And better yet, you’re improving your brain’s ability to wire itself and improving your mental health. Sofia Tsamassiros Senior Personal Trainer
Here is some further reading on the research discussed in the article:Dufek S, 2002. Exercise Variability: A prescription for Overuse Injury Prevention. ACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal. Mohan, Akansha, Aaron J. Roberto, Abhishek Mohan, Aileen Lorenzo, Kathryn Jones, Martin J. Carney, Luis Liogier-Weyback, Soonjo Hwang, and Kyle A.B. Lapidus. 2016. “The Significance of the Default Mode Network (DMN) in Neurological and Neuropsychiatric Disorders: A Review.” The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 89 (1): 49-57. Pollan M, 2018. How to Change Your Mind. Penguin Group, United States. Ross R, Goodpaster BH, Koch LG, et alPrecision exercise medicine: understanding exercise response variability. British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 12 March 2019. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-100328
Farmers are some of the strongest, healthiest and most mobile people you’ll find, but it’s not because they spend their days lifting weights in a gym. However, they arelifting heavy things – bags of feed, mechanical equipment, hoses, hay bales, buckets of water, sick animals, you name it – and they’re carrying them from one place to another. Most of the rest of us aren’t occupied carrying heavy things around all day so for us, we need to think outside the square if we want to mimic what the strongest people do. Hence, Farmer’s Walk. Unlike most exercises one does in the gym, there’s almost no technique to be learned in a Farmer’s Walk. You simply pick up a weight or two and start walking with them by your side. While you can use dumbbells for this exercise, kettlebells are almost perfectly designed for the purpose with the handle making them feel very natural to carry. The benefits of picking up and walking with heavy ‘things’ are many, below are a few of the key upsides: They strengthen your grip. And everything else. This has carryover effects to numerous day-to-day tasks like opening jars and carrying shopping, and anything else which requires a tight grasp. Studies have also shown a direct correlation between grip strength and longevity: the stronger your hands, the longer you’re likely to live. It doesn’t stop with the grip though. Your forearms, shoulders, upper back, abdominal muscles, glutes and all of your leg and foot muscles are working overtime to help you move the weight from one end of the room to the other end – and strengthening and stabilising you in the process. They help correct your posture. When you’re walking with kettlebells in your hands, your body can no longer get away with moving on autopilot; the only way to fight the extra weight pulling you forwards or to the side is to actively engage your postural muscles. Even after you’ve put the weights away, your body remembers what it did to stay upright and starts to do it unconsciously. They build muscle. In addition to making you stronger, they add some muscle to your frame and tighten everything up. It certainly won’t be ‘bulky’ muscle; it will be a little bit added to your whole body, working with your added strength to make you more resilient. As with all resistance training, this is especially important as you age: the loss of muscle in older age known as sarcopenia is one of the main issues leading to poor health and loss of independence. They improve balance. Every time you take a step when you walk, you’re balancing on one foot, brief as it is. When you add weight to your hands, your balance is being tested more than usual – everything is working harder to stop you falling over. This is especially true when you’re holding a kettlebell with a single hand as you’re not only fighting extra total weight; you’re also working against being pulled over to the side. If you slow the movement down, you’ll find it’s a very intense exercise in controlling your entire balance system. They boost fat loss and cardiovascular health. Farmer’s Walks have the effect of turning the very natural movement of a short walk into an exercise, which elevates your heart rate and your breathing due to all of the muscles in the body working with every step. A working muscle is also a muscle which is burning energy so you’re really ‘stoking the furnace’ of your metabolism when you add a loaded carry to your program. They’re easy. And by ‘easy’ I mean they’re simple. They require no learning. You’ve been walking since before you can remember; you’ve probably been picking things up off the ground since even before then; and you’ve been combining the two for your entire life. Combine all of the benefits above and you arrive at a life in which every daily physical task feels easier. Shopping bags, loads of wet washing, gardening equipment and unruly children suddenly become manageable. Well, maybe not the last one. So what are you waiting for? Pick up a couple of kettlebells and get walking! Written by Tom Flint | Personal Trainer
“What’s in the mind is in the body and what’s in the body is in the mind.”Have you ever caught yourself suddenly gasping for air or getting out of breath quickly? In a society filled with stressors, we believe we all too often get stuck in a “fight or flight” state, resulting in poor health, such as sickness or injury and fatigue, both physical and mental. We use a system based approach termed ‘Be-Activated’ to help the body fire in the correct sequence. This helps to reduce the highly alert state of living into a more relaxed state, thereby allowing us to handle and overcome our stressors more efficiently and effectively. Be-Activated can help you interrupt these stress evoked patterns and find a state of balance. We can help you identify and more easily manage stress, resulting in increased productivity. What is Be-Activated? Based on the concepts of muscle activation and sequencing in movement, ‘Be Activated’ is a powerful yet simple hands-on system developed by physiotherapist and kinesiologist, Douglas Heel. Be Activated is the science and art of getting your body to work the way it is meant to, and in doing so allowing it to break free from pain and dysfunction. From here your body can move into higher states of performance on all levels allowing you to not only move, function and feel better but also giving rise to massive shifts in strength, speed and flexibility. Why have an Activation? Whether you are in pain or want to feel, function and move better, activation will help you get there. Our body’s ability to overcome the stresses and pressures of life can result in reduced movement and exercise, putting us at risk. Through systematic manual therapy, activation techniques are simple to teach and offer unique, powerful tools for control over your own health. Who would benefit from Activation? Everyone. Whether for athlete performance or stress relief, activation can help you find centre. Postural muscles of the body are all slow twitch muscle fibres as they need to hold up the body for sustained periods of time with minimal movement. Slow twitch muscle fibres are oxygen dependent, which means they require oxygen to operate effectively. If we are not breathing correctly and therefore not getting enough oxygen to the muscles, they cannot function correctly to support our body’s continuous fight against gravity. This means that if we can influence our breathing we can influence our ability to maintain good posture. How is Activation different from massage? Where massage is looking at muscle tightness, activation is a systematic system designed to prioritise the two necessities for survival; to breath and to move. Without both, we will die. Our body finds ways to meet those priorities and is willing to sacrifice anything in order to do this. That is when we see dysfunction and/or pain. How often should you be Activated? Everyone is different. The idea of activation is to teach your body new (correct) patterns of movement – essentially creating new habits. You may have significant gain and hold this pattern effortlessly, or you will need more intervention and reminding. This is why we also teach you to activate on yourself, to take control of your own health and maintain the new patterns of movement we have taught the body. Written by Sofia Tsamassiros – Movement Specialist and Personal Trainer
At Personal Best Fitness in North Hobart, we are more than just a gym, come and see for yourself.
Lower back pain can have many different causes and can be a nuisance but it may also be a serious medical issue. If in doubt please consult your doctor before adopting any of the following techniques, particularly if you do not know the cause of your back pain. For back and hip, pain/stiffness, particularly after sitting at a desk or in a car, characterised by feeling stuck in a bent forward position when standing up: Prevention of bad alignment is the key, as sitting with bad posture tends to make joints such as the hips or facet joints to “lock up” and this can start the cycle of lower back pain. For cars, buses and planes have the very back of the heels resting on the floor, this prevents the hips rolling into a position where they get stuck and start to affect the lower back. At work: try and avoid having the knees pointing outwards. Avoid crossing the legs in any way. Practise the 3 steps to perfect posture: 1, Slouch. 2, Be tall. 3, Stay tall and relax the back. Back pain made worse by lying on your back or sleeping: When lying on your back, walk your hips from side to side and drag your legs towards your top half to increase the space beneath your lower back, this will greatly relax the legs and reduce strain on your back Back pain and stiffness that follows after activities such as gardening: Use a foam roller to release the tension accumulated in the back: 1, Lie on your back with the roller in reach. 2, Lift up your butt and slide the roller under your lower back, cross-ways. 3, Tilt your pelvis to lift and then lower your hips, resting your weight on the roller so the shape of the roller encourages your back to gradually bend more comfortably, keep moving though, this is mobilisation, not a stretch. Back pain/fatigue experienced during exercise: Exercises that are based upon the squat movement pattern, including weighted squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, wall ball, and so on are sometimes associated with lower back pain and/or fatigue. The muscles of the lower back are actually recruited during these exercises so some fatigue may be a normal part of strengthening the area. As a general guide, 3 sets of a squatting based exercise in which mild pain/fatigue of the lower back muscles is felt during the final set, should be regarded as normal, the discomfort should decrease over a 4-6 week period and should be discussed with a trainer if it seems to be increasing in level or appearing sooner in the workout. If the discomfort is significant during the first set and appears to increase in subsequent sets, I would advise to stop the exercise and discuss an alternative or a solution with a trainer. The causes of pain in the context of the above mentioned exercises can be complex and varied but the lower back is usually; a) a) moving too much to compensate for a restriction elsewhere in the body, such as the hips or ankles or b) becoming stiff in an attempt of the body to restrict movement in order to stabilise excess movement elsewhere in the body. Try alternating your exercise sets with the mobilisation described in the previous section. Sudden sharp or “grabbing” pain experienced randomly when exercising or doing household chores such as vacuuming. These sudden, sharp pains may be due to a number of different issues but are usually the body’s reaction to a perceived instability of some kind. the following 2 techniques both attempt to calm the central nervous system by decompressing the posterior spine and at the same time to create a balance of muscular action between the hip-flexors, the erector spinae, the gluteals, hamstrings and the rectus femoris. Putting your back against a sturdy wall, lower yourself down to the level you’d be if sitting on a dining chair so that your hips are only slightly higher than your knees. Your feet should be under your knees. push with your feet to flatten your lower back against the wall. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then stand up and relax for as long as necessary. The key to the success of this technique is all in the pushing of the back to the wall with the legs. A longer period is good, so long as it does not come at the expense of the pressure against the wall. Repeat as needed. Lie flat on your back, lower legs resting and fully supported by a flat, level surface such as a dining chair. Stay in this position for as long as you can. I’ll leave you with something to think about, something which is typically hard to think about when you are actually experiencing back pain but I guess no one ever did say it was supposed to be easy… All of the types of back pain described above are symptoms of other problems. The back pain is not the problem, it is the part of the body complaining about the problem. If I have client doing Kettlebell swings and they complain of back pain, I want to see what their feet are doing, I need to see how their shoulders are moving. If your back hurts when you do a deadlift, I’m interested in what your set-up was, before you did the deadlift. These things are not necessarily complicated to fix but it can be much harder to fix by yourself. Consult a trainer if in doubt. At Personal Best Fitness we have had great success with helping our members reduce and overcome back pain, with simple and effective exercises. Eidolan Erin. Master Personal Trainer personalbestfitness.com.au 6234 5969