Not sleeping? This will help

You’ve been eating right and been putting in time at the gym. However the scale is not budging. Quick question. When’s the last time you had a good night’s sleep?

sleep 3

Sleep and the scale can go hand in hand. Not getting enough sleep also messes with our hormones, in particular Cortisol. Cortisol, which is produced in your adrenal glands, is naturally high in the morning to help you wake and low in the evening to help you sleep.

WTF

Lack of sleep and stress will keep cortisol levels elevated thought the day and night. This can cause

  1. Muscle breakdown– Cortisol’s main function is breaking down substances for energy. That includes your hard earned muscle.
  1. Weight gain– A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that lack of sleep impacts your brain in such a way that it pushes you towards the pantry, not away from it. Only one night of fewer than six hours sleep triggers areas of your brain that is involved in your need to eat.

But don’t despair; you only need to make a few small changes to help you get that good night’s sleep you have been craving:

  1. Timing your food intake– Eating the majority of your protein in the morning/afternoon and have your dinner with some carbohydrates (fruit/vegetables, not sugar) which should aid in maintaining a proper Circadian rhythm.
  1. Manipulate light exposure- Manipulating light exposure for brighter white/blue/green lights in the morning and dimmer red/pink lights (or just darkness) at night definitely does helps in maintaining a proper sleep cycle
  1. Supplement with Melatonin– This is a naturally occurring substance in the body, but supplementing melatonin can help to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. I take this every night with no side effects, and it works for me. (Since the FDA does not regulate supplements, there may be inconsistencies in brands, so if one doesn’t seem to help, you might try another brand.)

Wrapping up

So, help your waistline and your mood by using the three methods above to get more shut eye. If you still need more assistance, schedule an appointment with your doctor or with the Clinical Center for Sleep and Breathing Disorders at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Your family and friends will thank you since a rested person is less irritable person. Right?

 

How long can you stand on one foot?

I have a confession to make.

I don’t call myself the Balance Guy because I have great single leg balance — far from it.  I’m still a work in progress.

 

work-in-progress-1

 

Being a tall guy who’s all arms and legs, I’ve always struggled with my balance in daily life, on the sporting arena and in the weight room. If there were cameras around on the many occasions that I fell on my butt, I’d be a star on America’s Funniest Home Video.

 

 

Single leg balance is probably the most overlooked factor in training and in daily life, but it’s fundamental to almost everything we do. Walking, taking the stairs or playing your favorite sport all involve single leg balance to some degree.

According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) in 2010 falls by older adults cost the U.S health care system 30 billion dollars.  Balance is kind of a big deal, especially as we move on in life.

In Dan John’s book, “Can you go?” he suggests only being able to balance for less than 10 seconds on either leg is a cause for concern, and there could be an underlying medical condition.

Here’s a little test for you before we go any further.

Grab a stopwatch and see if you can balance between 10-20 seconds on either foot. Stand by a wall for safety. If you touch the wall or your foot touches the ground, the test is over.

If it’s less than 10 seconds, stop reading and take Dan’s advice and go see your doctor.  It may just save your life. However, if you’re between 10-20 seconds, keep reading because you’ve still got some work to do.

In my experience when training clients who lack single leg balance, the ankle is my first point of emphasis. The ankle is a mobile joint that allows you to walk, run and play.

However, wearing shoes can contribute to a loss of mobility through the ankle joint. Some us even take this to the extreme for the sake of fashion.

shoes

That’s okay occasionally, but for the sake of your balance, taking the shoes off and working on your ankle mobility can be a godsend for your feet and balance.

When you’re feeling wobbly and want to improve your balance or when your ankles are cranky, take these exercises out for a spin.

Rocking ankle mobility exercise- 10 reps on both feet

 

Considerations

Have your big toe approximately six inches away from the wall and rock forward, touching your knee to the wall. If your front heel leaves the ground or your front knee cannot touch the wall, move your toe closer to the wall until they can.

Leg swings- 10 reps on both legs

 

Wall hip flexor mobilization – 10 reps on both legs

 

Considerations

Having a pad underneath your knee helps for comfort. If you’re unable to grab your back foot just leave it on the ground and do the exercise as demonstrated.

Do these exercises daily for a couple of weeks and then retest your single leg balance. Hopefully, you’ll crush the retest with your new and improved ankles.

However, if you’re a dedicated exerciser and you still want to improve your ankle mobility and balance, do my ankle mobility warm up instead of your usual warm up before you crush the weights.

Do one set of each exercise in the order shown for best results.

 

  1. Breathing squat- 5 breaths

 

  1. Dead bug- 6 on each side

 

  1. Hip extensions- 10 reps

 

  1. Six-point rocking- 10 reps

 

  1. Hip mobility series- watch video

 

  1. Rocking ankle mobilization – 10 reps

 

  1. Inchworm

 

  1. Light goblet squats- 10 reps (10-15-pound dumbbell)

 

To help your balance even further you can include more single leg work into your exercise routine because balance is a skill that needs to be practiced often.  The more you challenge yourself the better your balance will be.

Try these following exercises only if you can balance more than 20 seconds on each leg.

1. Bosu ball single leg balance (try for 30 seconds on each leg)

 

2. Shoe lace touch

 I stole this exercise from Taylor Lewis and you’ll be thanking me later.

Instructions

Stagger your stance , heel to toe,  shift your hips back and touch your right hand to the shoe laces on your left foot. Take your right foot off the ground and balance until you stumble forward or you lose your balance. Repeat on the other side.  Do two-three times on each leg.

3. Vertical birddog (Needs a dumbbell or Kettlebell)

 

Wrapping up

 Balance is a skill that’s often neglected until it is too late. No matter your age or exercise experience we can all benefit from better balance.

Because none of us want to end up being laughed at on AFV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you twist and then shout

My kids love to challenge me to wrestling matches so they can reenact their favorite WWE Superstars.  How can I resist? My kids get to live out their wrestling fantasies and I get to teach them a lesson or two without CPS being called.

Before you get CPS on the phone, they hurt me more than I hurt them. More on that later.

wwe
Manic

Wrestling matches spontaneously happen in our house on a regular basis without incident except for a few years ago, when I was going through some low back issues.

While smacking into each other, I felt an intense, sharp stabbing pain in my low back due to a back spasm and I could barely get up off the carpet. My kids looked at me all confused as I convulsed on the floor in pain.

“Daddy hurt his back again,” I explained. “No more wrestling today. Sorry.”

If you’ve ever suffered from a back spasm, you can feel my pain and if you haven’t ever had one, cross your fingers that you never do.

cross-your-fingers

Leading an active lifestyle is healthy and fun but it comes with a risk. Sooner or later you’re going to get hurt and spend time on the DL. However, this always out weights the risk of being a lazy bum any day of the week.

Being a 47-year-old active male, I’ve had my fair share of minor injuries. Some have been my fault and some haven’t but through it all I’ve made it a point to remain active.

When you twist and then shout, rather than moping around and feeling sorry for yourself, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on the exercise horse with these following tips.

NoteThis advice is meant for minor, non-life threatening injuries to help you with your recovery and keep you in a positive frame of mind.

1. Exercise around the injury

This one may seem obvious but you’ll be surprised how many people shut it down once they’re hurt. I’ve seen people in wheelchairs and other people missing limbs lift weights. If they can do it, the rest of us can, too.

Here are a few suggestions

  • If your upper body is hurt, train your legs.
  • If your legs are hurt, train your upper body with machines or dumbbells
  • If your back hurts, walking, particularly fast walking, can help
  • Try isometric exercises when the muscle produces force but there’s no movement. These are great when movement hurts

 

Push up plank

 

Wall squats

 

Isometric hip extension

 

2. Train the non-injured side

One of my toughest challenges was training a gentleman who had one leg amputed below his knee. He hired me to prepare him for his prosthetic leg. As you can imagine, exercise was tough for him because he was in a lot of pain and discomfort.

However, during our time together he never complained. If he could exercise without whining, then so can we.

A lot of what we did together was to strengthen the healthy limb to help strengthen the injured limb, a process called cross education. (1) To cut a long story short, some of the strength benefit is transferred from one limb to another.

In my experience, doing most of your training on a machine that allows you to train unilaterally works best. Machines like

  • Leg extensions/Leg curls
  • Chest presses/ Seated rows
  • Biceps curl/Triceps extensions

Machines are not all bad especially when you’re injured.

3. Modify your movements

I once had a client whose doctor told her that she had to stop squatting immediately because of an old knee injury that flared up. My response to this was

“Well, that should make using the bathroom an interesting experience.­­­”

Even while we’re injured, we still perform fundamental human movements such has squatting, pushing, pulling, hinging and carrying stuff around. Life doesn’t stop when we’re hurting and neither should your training.

Here are some exercise modifications examples for when your knee, shoulder or back is hurting/injured.  These are stolen from Andrew Millet, an excellent Physical Therapist /Strength coach in Boston.

Low back pain modifications

Goblet squat to a box

 

Reverse lunges

 

Knee pain modifications

Trap bar deadlift

 

Box squats

 

Shoulder pain modifications

Floor press

 

Half kneeling Landmine press

 

Wrapping up

One of the challenges of being injured is finding a way to keep moving because movement is medicine and this helps heal the body and keep your state of mind positive.

Keep moving and stay strong,  amigos.

Armed for spring

One of my worst exercise nightmares is a lady approaching me at the gym and getting right in my face while uttering, “What do I do about my chicken wing arms?”

Then she shows me.

chicken-wing

This nightmare usually goes one of four ways:

1. With me giving an explanation that the body doesn’t pick and chose where to burn fat from

2. With me showing her every triceps exercise imaginable

3. With me smiling politely and wishing the conversation would end

4. Telling her I like my wings deep fried and smothered in BBQ sauce

Number 4 usually doesn’t go over to well.

The way your arms look is a big deal, particularly when you want to wear your favorite sleeveless shirt or dress. However, if you’re thinking of showing your arms to anybody while seeking advice, please don’t. In my experience it’s awkward and slightly embarrassing.

Instead do these exercises below in the comfort of your own home to get rocking arms that you’ll be happy to show off when the weather starts getting warmer. Do this routine now, and the next thing you know, people will asking you for arm advice.

 INSTRUCTIONS

 Pick one exercise from each section and perform as a circuit, completing two -three rounds. Rest as little as possible between each exercise. Do this at the end of your usual workout or on your off days to get some extra volume in.

Either way, get after it and have some fun.

 BICEPS

30 second blaster

Using a light resistance band/dumbbells (have a stop watch handy), do as many curls as you can in 30 seconds. Make sure you glue your arms to your side and curl the handle/dumbbell to the top of your shoulders. Keep track of your repetitions and try to beat it next time around.

 

Isometric biceps curl– Using a resistance band or dumbbells, curl one arm to a 90 degree angle and hold. On the other hand do 15 biceps curls as described above. Then switch hands and repeat the sequence on the other hand.

Hammer curl

Doing either of the above variations with palms facing towards each other to emphasize the lateral forearm and for a change of pace.

 

TRICEPS

 Incline close grip push ups

A solid incline base like a kitchen bench or chair arm rest works best. Place hands shoulder width apart and get into a solid push up position. Lower yourself down slowly until you feel your upper arms by your side and push back up explosively. Do anywhere between eight-twelve reps depending on your strength level.

 

Single arm overhead triceps extension

Standing on a light resistance band with both feet and holding one handle, bring your bent arm to your ear. Extend elbow overhead, keeping your elbow close to your head and concentrating on the lockout. Do 12- 15 reps on both arms. A dumbbell can be substituted for this movement, too.

 

 

Lying two way triceps extension

Lie face up on the floor, holding one dumbbell facing towards and above your head. Lower the dumbbell down to your ear and extend. Then with the dumbbell facing away from you lower the dumbbell to your opposite shoulder and then extend. That’s one rep. Do eight-twelve reps on both arms.

SHOULDERS

 Front Plank shoulder tap

 Get in a strong push up position with your wrists underneath the shoulders. Then take one hand of the ground and tap the front of your opposite shoulder and return to the start. Then do the other side. Keep alternating sides for 30- 60 seconds.

 

Bent over I, Y, T

Hinge your hips back and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the ground. Your back should be straight from head to butt and you should feel tension in the hamstrings.

With arms hanging down and thumbs point forward, raise your arms until they’re by your head and return to the start. Then raise your arms into Y and return to the start. Last but not least raise your arms until they form a T. That’s one rep. Do anywhere between five- eight reps.

 

Single arm in and outs (resistance band or dumbbell)

Standing tall holding the weight in one hand do a front shoulder raise. Return to the start and then do a lateral raise, going not further than shoulder height with both raises. That’s one rep. Do anywhere from six- eight reps on each arm.

WRAPPING UP

 Do this routine two or three times a week for best results. With a little hard work, dedication, persistence and sweat, better looking arms will be within your reach. You may end up needing a license for those guns.

 Do you need help getting stronger ladies? Then I have the program for you. A 12-week online program that will help you get stronger and more confident in the gym.

This program includes

  • A through fitness assessment. This assessment lets me know where you stand and is the baseline against which we can measure your progress.
  • A Skype consultation to discuss your short-term and long-term goals. This will allow me to write a customized program and to answer any questions you may have.
  • 12 weeks of customized programming, broken into 3 4 week blocks
  • Regular Skype and email check ins to see how your progressing and to answer any questions you may have.

Hurry, spaces are limited. Find out more and grab your spot right here.

The best exercise you’re not doing…..

This is a weekly series on exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is all 4’S belly breathing.
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You should do this because- it’s the original core exercise and can help with low back pain, especially if you have a big arch in your lower back. Otherwise known as extended posture.
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Makes your everyday life easier because– breathing correctly helps with stress and helps you relax and unwind.
Form tip – Watch the video, Do 5 to 6 breaths and take your time. Thanks to Tony Gentlicore for the video once again.

Short, sweet and effective cardio

With springtime creeping up, you’d prefer to spend more time enjoying life rather than slogging away for hours in a gym. However, you still want to look good and get results from your exercise. This is when high intensity interval training comes to your rescue.

HIIT is repeated bouts of short duration, high-intensity exercise intervals interspersed with periods of lower intensity intervals of active recovery. Yes, it’s hard work, but that 15-20 min of intense exercise will turn you into a lean, mean calorie burning machine.

Other benefits of HIIT include

  • You don’t need gym equipment
  • You’ll be burning calories after exercise because of EPOC
  • You can do this anywhere and anytime

So go ahead and eat that sundae with chocolate sprinkles. You can burn it off later with a little help from HIIT.

 1. Total body tri-set

 Warm up for three minutes and do this total body tri-set to pump up those arms and legs.

1A. Pushups – 10 reps

1B.  Side planks- 15 seconds each side

1C.  Reverse lunges with kick – 10 reps on each leg

Rest when need between exercises and one minute after each circuit. Do three-five circuits.

 

 

2. Tabatas

Warm up for three minutes and then use the tabata protocol (20 sec work/10 sec rest for six- eight rounds) with the following bodyweight exercises.

Squats

High knees

Jumping jacks

Jump squats

Ice skaters

Usually one will do you but by all means, you can stack them. Make sure to rest 3 min between tabata rounds.

3. Circuit training

 Do the following five exercises as a circuit (doing one exercise after another), completing two-four rounds for a sweat-inducing good time.

1ATriple extensions

1BFront plank

1CSpeed squats

1D. Towel rows (alternate legs)

1E.Iceskaters

 Use these HITT work/rest intervals for the circuit above.

20 sec work/40 sec rest (Beginner)

30 sec work/30 sec rest (Intermediate)

40 sec work/ 20 sec rest (Advanced)

4. Walk/sprint combo

 Find yourself some open space and get your Usain Bolt on.

Walk for three minutes and then sprint for 15 seconds (100 % effort) followed by a 15 second walk. Repeat for five work/rest intervals and then cool down with a three minute walk.

Keeping your cardio short and sweet leaves you more time to enjoy the finer things in life, like ice cream with sprinkles.

 

The best exercise you’re not doing

 This is a weekly series on exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is glute bridge with rotation.
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You should do this because- we sit on it most of the day while hunched over our screens. This ‘wakes’ up our glutes and works on our Thoracic (chest) mobility simultaneously.
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Makes your everyday life easier because– having adequate mobility of our hips and Thoracic area makes for a happier spine and shoulders.
Form tip – Maintain the hip extension position while you rotate. Let your eyes follow your hands and do 5 reps on each side. Thanks to Tony Gentilcore for the video