Archive for Did You Know?, exercise programs, recommended resources

H.I.I.T. Workouts May Help You Eat Less

by Meaghan posted October 12, 2013

Looks like we have one more reason to favor high-intensity interval training over long slow distance for fat loss: In addition to enhanced levels of EPOC that lead to more caloric expenditure, harder workouts may also help you eat fewer calories. 

A study published in the International Journal of Obesity looked at 17 sedentary, overweight men who participated in four 30-minute exercise sessions. In one session, they simply rested. In the other three sessions, they exercised on a stationary bike for a continuous moderate pace, at a high-intensity pace with intervals, and at a VERY high-intensity pace with intervals. After each session, they were given a meal that was monitored, and later given as much oatmeal as they wanted to eat.

On the high- and very high-intensity workout days, their caloric intake was significantly lower – by about 200 calories. Caloric consumption was also assessed for the rest of the test day as well as the following day, and the men did NOT overcompensate by eating more once they had recovered their appetite after the harder workouts.

Bottom line: High-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) may help you burn more and consume less, resulting in greater fat loss.

To learn more about H.I.I.T. and how to do it, check out the courses at the Focus Personal Training Institute!


It’s OK to HIRT

by Meaghan posted October 5, 2013

“Metabolic resistance training” – or what Italian researchers and authors of a new study call “High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training” (HIRT) – is all the rage these days. And when compared against traditional resistance training, it’s easy to see why. We experience a much greater rise in EPOC (excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, or “afterburn”) following high-intensity work.

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Effective Exercise Alternatives for the Core

by Meaghan posted July 28, 2013

I’ve written before (HERE) about how and why I’m not a fan of a commonly used exercise by personal trainers: The lunge with rotation (usually accompanied by a medicine ball or ViPR). Simply put, most people don’t have the correct amounts of mobility and stability in the correct areas to really do it correctly, and wind up rotating from the wrong areas – namely, the knees and the lumbar spine. Watch here:

Did you notice what happened when she added the trunk rotation versus when just the arms moved? Watch again and look at the woman’s knee…

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Functional Stability Training

by Meaghan posted July 1, 2013

What do trainers, athletes, fitness enthusiasts and average Joes in the gym all have in common? Among other things, they all have ankles, knees, hips and a lumbar spine that need a certain amount of stability for optimal performance. After all, you can only get so strong, so powerful or so ripped before getting injured if you don’t have good functional stability – and Eric Cressey’s new DVD entitled Functional Stability Training for the Lower Body shows you how to get it.

As most of you know by now, I’m a pretty big fan of Eric Cressey’s work. This product is packed with both informative lectures that are easy to understand, as well as practical application via exercise demonstrations. Along with Mike Reinold, Eric takes you through a series of modules that address all of the following and more:

  • Influence of the lumbopelvic region on the lower body kinetic chain
  • Why you still need to be focused on strength AND functional training
  • How to disassociate the hip and lumbar spine
  • Quick tips for assessing posture and alignment in 3D
  • How alignment influences movement patterns
  • How to enhance the reliability and validity of your assessments
  • Appreciate muscles’ roles in the etiology of acute and chronic injuries
  • Learn training techniques to improve tissue length, quality and strength in functional contexts
  • Understand why hip internal rotation is important
  • The influence of the foot and ankle on the lower extremity
  • Impact of mobility issues on lower extremity kinematics and performance
  • Why, how and when to integrate neuromuscular control drills into your rehab and training programs
  • Learn the phases of proper neuromuscular control development
  • Understand several progressions designed to maximize neuromuscular control
  • Learn dozens of exercises and where they fit on the progression-regression continuum

As most of you also know, I’m also a big fan of deadlifts. Coincidentally, so is Eric. Here’s a brief clip from the DVD discussing the bilateral deficit in the deadlift:



If you like what you see, you can pick up your copy of Functional Stability Training for the Lower Body HERE.

Accepting Responsibility

by Meaghan posted May 7, 2013

We’ve been talking a lot with our students lately about the importance of accepting responsibility for clients’ lack of compliance to their exercise programs. John Berardi, in particular, has made it a point to really emphasize this in his ‘The Compliance Solution’ video series.

As trainers, it’s sometimes easy to get frustrated and blame clients for their own fate when they just don’t do what they’re supposed to do to reach their goals. But we need to remember that it isn’t only our job to write exercise programs; it’s our job to effectively implement them as well. If our clients aren’t doing what we ask, we need to change the program. After all, a great program on paper still won’t produce results if the person for whom it’s written doesn’t do it. And as trainers, right after “do no harm,” our oath is supposed to be “produce results.”


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Assessments Are Important For More Than Numbers

by Meaghan posted April 7, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, we were lucky enough to have fitness educator Chris McGrath here to present on fitness assessments.


While formal V02 max tests might not be practical for most trainers, gathering and tracking progress in a variety of fitness categories (strength, power, body composition, etc.) is important for a number of reasons, many of which Chris discussed. Some of the main takeaways from his presentation were:

1. Assess movement first because, without good movement patterns, performance numbers don’t matter.

2. Before we can decide which assessments to choose, we need goals. Aside from SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound), trainers should help clients set goals that are action-oriented rather than focused just on the outcome. I talk more about that in THIS ARTICLE, for which I was recently interviewed.

My teaching example is usually the use of a timed work density circuit as a performance measure for clients who want to lose fat. Decreasing the amount of time or increasing the amount of sets of the circuit are action-oriented process goals that feed nicely into the outcome (or product goal) of body composition change (more work = more calories burned).

3. We need to start defining “results” as feeling better, stronger, etc., and assessing via these parameters is important when we don’t have DIRECT control over aesthetics. And using multiple assessments increases our likelihood of getting buy-in for our programs.

4. The assessments we choose should depend as much on the client’s lifestyle as they do on the goal (e.g., the client who wants his butt kicked gets an FMS but the client undergoing a lifestyle change should probably just track attendance).

5. Not every assessment should be an exercise but we can turn any exercise into an assessment, so we don’t need to stick to just the traditional tests and protocols – but the devil is in the details: Without good technique and consistency in measurement, numbers don’t matter.

6. Don’t be afraid to start doing assessments just because you haven’t always done them; starting the process is as simple as a conversation about revisiting goals – you just have to own that conversation.

Chris and I also spoke a lot about the motivation/accountability factor as well, and that might be the biggest reason to make sure you’re doing assessments with your clients. It’s much easier for someone to stay motivated and accountable to a goal that he/she knows is going to be evaluated. Moreover, it increases feelings of accomplishment – for the client AND trainer. After all, a trainer’s successes are his clients’ results.

Bottom line: Make sure you’re continually setting goals with your clients and using assessments to monitor progress – for both your satisfaction and theirs.

CrossFit: The Good With the Bad

by Meaghan posted March 19, 2013

I’m probably going to get a lot of sh*t for this, but I took a CrossFit class for the first time over the weekend.


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Complete Spinal Health and Core Training

by Meaghan posted March 13, 2013

I think anyone in this industry who knows me also knows I’m a little opinionated when it comes to core training… Research aside (and there’s a lot of it), a simple consideration of kinesiology tells us that certain joints were meant to move – the hips and thoracic spine, for example – while others were meant to NOT move – like the lumbar spine. This simple joint-by-joint analysis should, for the most part, dictate how we train.

Of course, there are always structural abnormalities, postural deviations, conditions, etc. that may warrant a different approach, and this is precisely why assessments are so important. I’ve always admired Tony Gentilcore for constantly acknowledging these things, and I admire him even more now for making his recent core training seminar available:

Together with Dean Somerset, Jeff Cubos and Rick Kaselj, Tony discusses how he assesses his athletes to determine things like whether or not back pain (or the potential for back pain) is flexion- or extension-based, the role of posture and breathing, the importance of hip mobility and glute strength in the prevention and treatment of low back pain, and where foam rolling/massage and core stability fit in. BUT, he does so without losing focus of the goal: PERFORMANCE.

As trainers, we don’t treat pain, and most of our clients don’t want to spend money doing just “corrective exercise.” They want to train. We just have to understand what movements and loading patterns are likely to cause pain and what interventions are likely to help prevent or improve symptoms.

I don’t want to give away too much, so check out this video for a little more about Tony Gentilcore and Spinal Health and Core Training:


If you like what you see so far, the full seminar is available HERE.

Progression, Regression or Modification?

by Meaghan posted March 5, 2013

One of the difficulties many new trainers face is figuring out how to select the most appropriate exercises for a given person’s goals and contraindications while still creating a progressive program. And given all the different fitness modalities we now have available for training, it’s no wonder there’s so much confusion. Without a solid understanding of biomechanics and kinesiology, and the ability to think critically about how a given piece of equipment or technique variation changes these things, selecting exercises becomes a crap shoot.

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New Rules of Lifting SUPERCHARGED

by Meaghan posted January 20, 2013

About a month ago, Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove released the latest in the NROL series: New Rules of Lifting Supercharged. 


While all of the books in the series have been great, dedicated trainers like Alwyn are constantly evolving in their methodology and producing better results; and with new and better results came the need for another book.

Like the others in the series, the programs in NROL Supercharged are comprised of variations of our six major movement patterns – squat, push, pull, hinge, lunge and single-leg stance – and there are clearly laid out progressions for each. The programs themselves are also progressive:

1. Basic Training I-IV; 

2. Hypertrophy I-III; and

3. Strength and Power I-III

And while a linear progression through each phase is recommended, advanced lifters can jump in at any phase to reach a specific goal faster. Still, sticking to the progression makes sense when we remember rules 15-17:

Rule #15: Every program is a hypertrophy program.

Rule #16: Every program is a strength program.

Rule #17: Every program is a fat-loss program.

That is, when we adhere to the Overload Principle by producing progressively more mechanical tension and damage in our muscles, they will get bigger. A bigger muscle is also a stronger muscle, and a program that forces your body to do things it ordinarily doesn’t do creates metabolic stress – which means we use more energy to adapt to the new demands and burn more fat in the hours and days following each workout.  So all of the workouts really accommodate all of the above goals.

As for the workout structure, the daily template is simple:

1. RAMP (which stands for Range of Motion, Activation and Movement Preparation);

2. Core training (exercises progress from static to dynamic stabilization);

3. Combination and Power Exercises (which increase demands of both the nervous system and metabolism);

4. Strength Training (you’ll see a balance of the six major movement patterns above in each program);

5. Metabolic Training (interval training and complexes); and

6. Recovery (foam rolling and stretching)

With 10 month-long programs and several variations of each exercise in them, you can really take your training in any direction and the opportunities for progress are endless so long as you follow the rules of progression. But if you still aren’t convinced, here are Lou and Alwyn’s reasons to check out their latest in the NROL series: