Archive for fitness-related injuries, stretching, workout tips

Trigger Point Troubles

by Meaghan posted March 31, 2010

Since I set out on my quest for 10 pull-ups, I’ve had this one really annoying trigger point in my back. Actually…today is my deadline! I just barely got my chin over the bar on number nine yesterday so I guess I didn’t make it… 

Anyway, I was planning to run a detailed post on trigger points this week but EliteFTS beat me to it! It’s all good; Author Patrick Ward has far more expertise in this area than I do, and he does a much better job than I probably would have at explaining the highly misunderstood giant pain in the butt (or elsewhere) known as the trigger point. I strongly encourage you to read his article here.

Sorry about that picture… The article is a bit lengthy too; so without going into quite as much detail as Patrick, here are the important “points” you should understand:

1. Foam rolling won’t treat a trigger point. It will improve soft tissue quality by breaking up adhesions in your fascia, but the trigger point is a different beast. It is an area of hypercontracted muscle that develops from movement dysfunction, overuse and/or repetitive postures. Trigger points are ischemic (i.e., they lack blood flow and oxygen), tender to the touch and have specific pain referral patterns.

2. Trigger points can be active or latent. You’ll know when you have an active trigger point because it will cause you pain. Please note: This pain does NOT necessarily occur near the site of the trigger point. In fact, it can occur anywhere from 6-12 inches from the trigger point. This is the referred pain concept previously mentioned, and it’s important to understand when trying to treat your trigger points. Latent trigger points are somewhat easier to treat because you feel their pain locally. The problem is, you don’t always know they’re there until you press on them.

3. Muscles may develop both primary and satellite trigger points. The primary trigger point is that giant pain in the butt I mentioned earlier. This is because it causes other satellite trigger points to develop, and these are the ones we usually feel and focus on. But they always seem to come back…Well, this is because we haven’t treated the main source of the problem: The primary trigger point. If we can get rid of this one, the others usually work themselves out.

Stubborn trigger points sometimes require the work of a qualified manual therapist, but if you understand these three points you can often take care of them yourself. If you can actually locate your primary trigger points, applying gentle pressure to them should help release the contracted muscle fibers and increase blood flow to the area. A good tool to use for those hard to reach trigger points is the Thera Cane:

It is then up to you to make sure you do your general soft tissue work (e.g., foam rolling), stretching and neuromuscular training to achieve long-term relief from trigger points. But that’s another post…

If you’re really interested, Patrick recommends Travell and Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual, Volumes 1 and 2. Another noteworthy source is Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers, who does a fantastic job of illustrating the different myofascial lines of the body so that you can better understand the relationship between your pain site and source (a concept known as “tensegrity”).

I’ll end things there because I feel some trigger points coming on from sitting here writing too long. Perhaps I should invest in a Treadmill Desk

EFFECTIVE EXERCISES: Glute-Ham Raise

by Meaghan posted March 29, 2010

Don’t worry; we’ll have some Exercises Of The Week up soon! In fact, they’ve already been shot, so it won’t be long now. But until then, we want to make sure you’re training as effectively as possible.

The glute-ham raise is a great exercise for the entire posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings and lower back). It’s also one of the few that works the hamstrings at both the hip and knee, and in eccentric fashion – the predominant way these muscles work in sports and life in general – so the functional strength benefits are second-to-none.

If you don’t know what a glute-ham raise is, here’s a demo:

I know what you’re thinking: “My gym doesn’t have that machine!” Ah, but it does. You probably call it the “ab bench.” But who says you can’t turn it into something useful?

Seriously; it’s unfortunate that most gyms don’t have a glute-ham raise machine, but you can make do with what you have available. Any apparatus that allows you to hook your feet under the pads should work for the “natural” glute-ham raise. Or, if you train with a partner, you can do it this way:

Even if you have to push yourself back to the starting position with your hands, you’ll probably gain more strength from just a few eccentric reps than you would from several sets of leg curls. And don’t worry; you won’t break your face. Your hamstrings, however, will take a beating. This is the first day in a week that I can flex my hip and extend my knee at the same time! As you may know, eccentric contractions cause the most Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), so you should plan to be pretty sore for a while.

So, for example, if you happen to take a SURPRISE VO2 max test two days after doing glute-ham raises because your physiology professor is SUPER excited about finally getting a treadmill in the lab…it might not go so well. Yeah…that was not so much fun last week. For those unfamiliar with the Bruce protocol, you pretty much just increase the incline until you can’t run anymore – and, in my case, get yelled at for jumping your feet to the sides when you’re done because it’s “not safe.” This is what my student loans are paying for…Perhaps I should have gone flying off the back instead?!

Anyway… here’s Dave Tate explaining how he incorporates the glute-ham raise into his training. He gives some good tips and variations at the end, so be sure to watch the whole video.

If you want to maximize your glute-ham raise, you can check out Dave’s article here.

And if you just want a good laugh, check out this story from the weekend. 

Happy reading and happy training!

You Don’t Have To Sit To Do Your Desk Job!

by Meaghan posted March 28, 2010

Enter the Treadmill Desk.

It’s actually been around for a couple years now, but I’m still surprised how many people have never heard of it when I bring it up. Rather than sitting in your office getting tired, fat and immobile, the Treadmill Desk comes with a built-in computer and workstation, allowing you to walk slowly throughout the day while doing your work. There are definitely skeptics out there, but Dr. James Levine “stands” behind his creation (Check out the calorie burn!):

Move it AND lose it!

The Treadmill Desk is making its way into more homes, but businesses are still a bit slow to invest in the costly equipment under the current economic conditions. As the video mentions, the health benefits of simply moving more are bound to pay back dividends for most employers by drastically cutting healthcare costs.

Until the market proves stable, however, perhaps the alternative is the $39 “Build It Yourself” Treadmill Desk. Check it out here!

RESISTANCE BANDS

by Meaghan posted

The other day, I paid a visit to my friend Rich Fitter, Editorial Director over at The Exercise Group, where I used to work as Fitness Editor. Since retiring from natural bodybuilding, it seems Rich misses competition and needs a reason to train. So, despite his torn labrum (possibly two) and persistent cervical problems, he has decided to enter a RAW powerlifting meet.

Some of his friends just think he’s plain stupid. But he gave me some inspiration for a blog post so he’s still alright in my book! Rich explained that he has been able to train around his injuries by adding resistance bands to his bench press.

Resistance bands are often touted for their convenience: They’re equally easy to use at home, on the go and in group classes. They also allow for real-world movement in multiple planes of motion, can be used for almost any exercise and are great rehab tools.

But the often overlooked benefit of bands is that they provide what’s called “accomodating resistance” – the resistance increases throughout the given movement. So if you have fragile shoulders like Rich, adding a band to the bar allows you to overload and strengthen the top range of the bench press, for example, with less load at the bottom of the lift, where the shoulder is most susceptible to injury:

Don’t know if I would do that with pre-existing shoulder problems…but that’s another issue. And then again, I’m not a powerlifter. Partial lifts are another option, as is this exercise from New York-based physical therapist Chris Johnson. To each his own!

Adding resistance bands is also a great way to develop bar speed and work through sticking points. Of course, you can also use them alone and obtain similar benefits. A simple standing band press will also allow for increased work by the triceps and less by the shoulders. Same goes for a pull: The resistance is greatest during the end of the movement, where the larger back muscles are most at work.

Another benefit is increased eccentric activity. Because you have to fight the pull of the band, you recruit your stabilizers and get simultatneous muscle contraction on both sides of the joint. End result? Greater joint stability.

Of course, resistance bands do come with risks like anything else. Rich’s friend almost lost his eye when one snapped during his set of bicep curls, and I had the wind knocked out of me when the “secure” object to which I attached my band gave way at the end of a pull…but that was my fault. When you take the proper safety precautions, I think the rewards of resistance bands outweigh the risks. Pick up yours at Perform Better and get FREE SHIPPING UNTIL MARCH 31st!

5 Tips For Selecting An Outdoor Group Fitness Class

by Gabe posted March 27, 2010

Concerns about climate change aside, we’re glad the weather is getting warmer because the Focus ANTI-Boot Camp class is coming back!

Outdoor fitness classes are a rising trend these days, especially in cities like New York. This is because they are much more affordable than private training, are a whopping good time and are extremely effective when done well.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to taking some of these classes: Many trainers jump on the group class bandwagon without having the skills, credentials or experience to design custom workouts for a wide range of participants – particularly in an outdoor setting.

Don’t let yourself be duped! Use these five checkpoints to select an outdoor fitness class that will give you great results and keep you safe:

1. The Trainer Must Be Qualified. This means he or she holds a degree in an exercise-related field or possesses a nationally recognized certification in fitness from an accredited organization like ACSM, NSCA, NASM or ACE. Be wary of instructors that gain their certificates online, where people can pass an exam with little or no knowledge. And we can’t overstate the importance of continuing education: Your trainer must be constantly learning and staying on top of new research.

2. The Trainer Must Be Professional. I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often little things like showing up on time, looking the part and having a plan don’t get done. Your time is valuable, and you deserve to get results safely and efficiently from someone who also makes exercise a priority. If the trainer doesn’t have the courtesy to show up on time, odds are he didn’t prepare for the class and isn’t invested in your progress.

3. The Trainer Must Be Able To Modify Exercises. This means he has the know-how to appropriately adjust intensity based on your fitness level. Overweight or deconditioned first-timers should NOT perform the exact same exercises as fitter participants. If you ask your instructor for an exercise modification and he looks at you with a blank stare or tells you to “suck it up,” TURN AND RUN! On a similar note, knowing the signs of exhaustion, dehydration and heatstroke is crucial. Although, a good instructor avoids these problems before they arise…

4. The Training System Should Utilize Multi-Planar, Multi-Joint Circuits. Research shows High-Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.) burns significantly more calories than steady-state aerobic exercise. And when weight loss is a goal for most fitness enthusiasts, it is important that the class incorporate intervals. Working multiple muscles simultaneously burns even more calories, while also shocking the central nervous system and increasing metabolism for hours after the workout. Talk about bang for your buck!

5. The Program Must Offer A FREE Trial, Satisfaction Guarantee Or Both. If the people providing the class are confident about their services, they will either let you try it for free or guarantee satisfaction through a money-back offer to eliminate any risk on your end. A results-orientated program encourages participation risk-free because its values and benefits speak for themselves.

 At the ANTI-Boot Camp, we promise to build you up, not break you down. Here’s a clip from last year’s class:

Be sure to check the site regularly for details about the BEST group fitness class in New York City: The ANTI-Boot Camp

And don’t forget to fight against climate change by turning out your lights for Earth Hour 2010 tonight at 8:30 pm.

We’ll see you soon!

Killer Cell Phones

by admin posted March 26, 2010

They’re everywhere!

Cell phones are a great invention; they make our lives much easier. Almost everyone has a cell phone, even little Johnny (thanks to Disney). It’s even cheaper to have a cell phone nowadays; no more land lines for most peeps. To make them even more irresistible, we can now play movies, games and music on our cell phones. The cell phone has become more than just a talking device; it’s an all-around entertainment device!

 

On a side note, I had my phone stolen from me and I felt so isolated! I had no numbers and no way to get in contact with anyone. It really sucked! I didn’t have a phone for over a week! Anyone else ever have this problem?  

 

So, this brings up the question, Is there a risk to using cell phones?

The research is still questionable, but cell phones do release various degrees of radiation. The advice spans all spectrums, from “Don’t use them at all” to “Use the blue tooth and keep the phone away from your body.” Some people are even comparing the controversy to the ‘smoking causes cancer’ debate of 20 years ago (and we all know the results of that). So I guess time will tell…

Personally, I’ve been using a blue tooth lately. It’s supposed to be safer, but I’m thinking about changing to a hands-free device like this:

I’ll probably look like a bad ass walking down the street with this amazing piece of equipment on my head!

If you’re interested, you can check your cell phone radiation levels here.

Also, check out the Pong. This new cell phone case has been show to reduce radiation absorption rates by 60% and you get FREE SHIPPING until March 31st!

The End of Overeating?

by Meaghan posted March 24, 2010

Well, I guess this officially makes it “Fat Week” at FitnessMASH.

But given the most recent obesity stats, it’s clear that America has a big problem with what former FDA chairman David Kessler calls “conditioned hypereating.” The bigger question is, Is the corporate food industry to blame?

In his book, The End of Overeating, Dr. Kessler explains how food manufacturers manipulate our brain chemistry by adding sugar, fat and salt to their products. We begin to view these foods as rewards and keep coming back for more, and the end result is full-blown addiction:

Chronic exposure to highly palatable foods changes our brains, conditioning us to seek continued stimulation. Over time, a powerful drive for a combination of sugar, fat, and salt competes with our conscious capacity to say ‘no.’ I’ve termed the resulting behavior “conditioned hypereating.” – pg. 145

So, is there any hope for America?

Kessler’s solution is a Food Rehab program that centers on managing (but never curing) conditioned hypereating through constant efforts to view healthy foods as rewards. Probably easier said than done for most people…

On a final note, let me ask you this: Is the food industry really at fault, or are we trying to find another scapegoat for our unwillingness to change?

Maybe corporate foodies are fooling us, but I’m worried people will try to turn Kessler’s point into yet another excuse for why we are fat. Eventually, we are going to have to accept some responsibility. We don’t have to eat bad food, and thinking this way only gives the food industry more power. Yes, it is hard to undo bad habits. And no, the food industry is certainly not helping America’s weight problem. But I do think it’s unfair to fault it for marketing to the masses. This is what every business does.

Gross.

On a side note, I’ve never had a fast food burger. Seriously. Never. I always got the chicken nuggets when I was a kid.

The bottom line is that corporate food chains will keep serving crap as long as we keep buying it. If we sit around blaming them but continue to buy their products, we aren’t going to get anywhere. We have to change first or the cycle will continue in a downward spiral. If we demand healthier food, they’ll supply it. If we don’t, the problem is only going to get worse. 

And if we think passing a health care bill is actually going to make us healthier, well… then I guess we’re dumb and fat.

World’s Fattest Woman

by Meaghan posted March 22, 2010

Poor New Jersey faced feet of snow, floods and fires in the last few weeks alone. Yet, one of its own is creating an even bigger storm. 

You may have heard of Donna Simpson, the world’s fattest mom (now up to about 600 pounds) who hopes to become the world’s fattest woman by reaching 1,000 pounds in two years. Moreover, she has a host of online followers encouraging her mission.

“People like to watch me and I’m not hurting anyone,” she says:

She claims she’s simply promoting fat acceptance, but it’s hard to believe she doesn’t “buy into” the health problems that go along with obesity; the research is pretty clear on its links to diabetes and heart disease. And at a time when childhood obesity has reached an “extreme,” it’s even harder to argue that she isn’t hurting her daughter. Ms. Simpson definitely has my vote for World’s DUMBEST Woman!

But the bigger problem is that while the rest of America debates the details of a much needed healthcare reform, she’s being rewarded with fame, fortune and fast food, and a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records if she achieves her unhealthy goal.

Perhaps the President’s next project should be societal reform…

Thoughts?

PRECISION NUTRITION

by Meaghan posted March 21, 2010

I especially love the logo:

Now there’s a good-looking core.

When it comes to physique goals, the fact is that about 90% of success is determined by nutrition. The problem is, about 90% of people also don’t eat correctly for their goals.

There’s no question that John Berardi knows his stuff. But his Precision Nutrition system isn’t just a comprehensive collection of quality scientific information. With years of hands-on nutrition coaching, Berardi also knows how to get real-world results – and this is what the PN system is all about. In addition to cookbooks and specific guides designed to get you the body you want, Berardi also offers individualized recommendations for various populations and online support via a membership site – so you really have no excuse for not seeing results!

PN worked well for this guy, and also for his clients:

For other fitness pros out there, be on the lookout for the new Precision Nutrition certification coming April 19th!

Childhood Obesity Has Reached “Extreme” Levels

by Meaghan posted

Turns out Michelle Obama’s campaign efforts against childhood obesity are even more dire than we realized. According to new and alarming statistics, 37.1% of children are overweight, 19.4% are obese, and 6.4% are extremely obese.

It wasn’t too long ago that the CDC had to create this new category of “extreme obesity,” due to the growing number of children approaching dangerously high levels of overweight. Extreme obesity is now defined as 120% of the 95th percentile for weight in one’s age and sex groups. When you do the math, this comes out to about TWICE what you’d expect an average child of a given age and sex to weigh.

The problem of childhood obesity is growing as fast as our childrens’ waistlines. President Barack Obama knows we don’t need more problems in the American healthcare system; let’s hope First Lady Michelle gets a move on Let’s Move.