The Pinterest Paradox

I love Pinterest.  I learned how to clean my shower with an “at home non-toxic” concoction.  I found new frugal ways to decorate for the holidays.  I even found some healthy recipes of my favorite foods.  So, of course, I look into the “Health and Fitness” category to see what kind of information people were “pinning.”

I have always found cute little motivational quotes that I”ll share on Emerge”s Facebook page.  Sometimes, I will see some stretches that help the hips and the lower back. Then I see a LOT of these:

“10 Best Exercises for 6 pack abs”\r\n”Get Carrie Underwood”s strong lean legs with the Cowgirl Legs Circuit Workout.” (I”m looking at the pin as I type this)

“8 moves to perk up your boobs”

Wait, What????

Ironically each of those “pins” were attached to a picture of a girl with 6 pack abs or a perky chest.  Of course, it would catch the eye of anyone wanting to achieve those things.  After seeing multiple pins such as these, I decided to look into them a little further to see how on earth these pins were valid.

The first thing I noticed is that most of the pins sent you to a link of a fitness magazine which does not always thoroughly research their facts OR they choose to leave out that in order to get 6 pack abs, you will have to not only do exercises, but cardio, as well as have a very strict diet, and EVEN THEN it takes time.  Ask any figure competitor.

The “Perk up your boobs” pin had me laughing just because I could picture women standing in front of a mirror checking their boob “height” every week to see if they had worked.

And to get the Carrie Underwood legs, for one, you have to be Carrie Underwood.  No two pair of legs are the same.  You can get lean legs too with hard work and great meal plan.  Exercises alone won”t do it.

What I hope people figure out about Pinterest is that it”s like the game “Telephone” we used to play as kids.  Facts gets twisted the more they are circulated and people hear what they want to hear.

Don”t get me wrong, Pinterest is a great concept.  I find many more pro”s than I do con”s.  However, like anything else, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  And if you find something you question, ask an educated trainer.  They can separate fact from fiction and give you better advice how to get to your goals based on your criteria.

Happy Pinning!

Kimberly Renoud, B.S., CPT, CES, PES
Emerge Fitness Training

It”s Time For Change; Knowing When Your Way is the Wrong Way

The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche
When I began personal training almost 12 years ago, I thought I knew it all. My training experience was based on a few years of training myself and a year of training with a bodybuilder in Texas. My physique looked good because my training was focused on that end, muscle size (hypertrophy). That is what I knew and that is how I trained my clients. I would scoff at the mere site of a stability ball or a foam roller, and corrective exercise to me was something for physical therapists or chiropractors.
Over the years, I began to read more, and began to experiment with different styles of training.  I studied core training, functional training, sports performance and corrective exercise intently. I tested what the current research suggested and found success in some areas, and a lack of results in others. I kept the stuff that worked, and discarded the rest.
As time went by, I was able to identify easier the sources of fitness information worth studying, as well as the Internet fluff not worth my consideration.

On many, many occasions I have been forced to question some of my fitness “truths” and often had to change entirely my paradigm on my training philosophy.

That brings me to the point of this blog.

The fitness industry is ever changing.  The current state of research will suggest one method of training, and evolve into something else months later. The key is to:

a) stay on top of the current information, as it is the best available information at the time and:

b) be able to trash your comfortable way of training and thinking for something that is a proven better way.

This is difficult to do, as training with a certain philosophy is comfortable. You know the routine exactly and can deliver the information impeccably. The problem is, if you”re not adapting to the current available information on your skill, you are dis servicing yourself and your clients.

With that said, I would like to offer two insights on fitness that will probably change in the coming few years, but are as true as the research is current right now.

1) Planks for time are a waste of time

Bottom line, after about 15 seconds, even the strongest core begins asking for help. More often than not, it”s from the the hip flexors. If you want to train the TVA and the core muscles as a unit, train the plank with a load for no more than 15 seconds.

2) Prescribing a predetermined squat depth can be harmful.

Squat depth is something that is unique to the individual and their unique capabilities. Forcing a deep squat depth usually ends with a host of compensations that can harm the trainee and burn in faulty movement patterns. It kills me personally when I hear a comment of “you need to squat deeper for a real squat.” This deep squat is usually achieved through massive hip flexion to make up for limited ankle mobility, loading the lumber spine extensively. It”s an ugly and harmful squat. Rule of thumb, squat to your “comfortable range of motion,” which may change as you correct some movement issues.

I”ll be addressing a few more fitness issues that current research has given us better insight into in future posts.

Matt Pirtle,  MA CSCS

Make sure you know your box before thinking outside of it.

I recently read a blog by a very successful strength coach in Boston named Mike Boyle. He made a statement in that blog that most are conditioned to immediately act negatively to. He said, about thinking outside the box, that “there is a reason there is a box.” His implication that he made very clear in the rest of the blog post is that the box created a boundary that you want to consider before stepping over. “Thunking outside the box” had been a saying universally championed in almost all facets of life. It sounds good and implies creative thinking. Fair enough. The problem comes from thinking outside an area that most people don”t understand in the first place. In other words, thinking outside a box when you don”t even understand the basics of that box. In fitness, and in personal training  , this can be a relevant  idea. The box is there for a reason.

The box contains the fundamentals that must be MASTERED before exploring outside into unchartered territory. For many, the time it takes to master these sometimes very complicated fundamentals is not appealing.  Some opt for the newest, seemingly innovative training ideas without regard to the “why am I doing this?” question crossing there mind. Thinking creatively and developing innovative training techniques is a great thing, but make sure that the base in which these new ideas are stemming from is strong.

Trainers and trainees, UNDERSTAND THE BOX, however small it may seem, before blindly venturing out of it.

Matthew Pirtle, MA, CSCS  Emergefitnesstraining.com

Want to Get Big?

Trying to get big?
It’s actually one of the hardest goals to achieve in fitness.
What seems pretty obvious (lifting weight = bigger muscles) is not.
This is why many trainees struggle for years with minimal success.
Creating lean tissue from nothing is a tough thing to do.  There are a few training variables that, if followed, will maximize your effort to gain muscle.
1) Rep number- on most exercises, FAILURE at 10-12 reps is optimal for this goal. That means, find a weight where you can do 10, and not 11, without losing form. This maximizes the hormonal response from your body. Higher testosterone and GH levels equals bigger muscles.
2)Rest time- keep it short, around 45 seconds. You will want to start your next set before you are completely recovered from the last.
3)Set Number- you’ll want to perform at least 10 sets per muscle group to maximize the hypertrophy (size gain) effect of the workout.
4)Exercise selection – in general pick exercises that isolate muscle. Single joint exercises like the chest fly and lateral raise are good examples. Work in some bigger compound exercises like chest and shoulder presses and perform the single joint exercise back to back.
5) Eat- you must have extra calories (raw materials) to manufacture new muscle, so you have to take in more calories than it takes to maintain your current weight. If you can maintain at 3000 calories a day, a good place to be for muscle gain at first would be 3500. Eat as clean as possible but get those calories in or you’ll be wasting  your time in the gym.
Outside of this, try to focus on one or two muscle groups per day, training 4-5x per week. Make sure you allow time to recover (that’s when you actually improve, not in the gym.
For an example routine or any further questions, contact me at matt@emergetraining.com
Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Beware of evolutionary 180s

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the constantly changing face of fitness and how, as fitness professionals, we must be able to consider disposing of outdated ideas (and replace them with superior proven ones)
You have to be willing to test new theories and adopt something different if it proves to be a better way, and be ok with the change.
On the other hand, you have to be cautious of what I like to call “evolutionary 180’s”. This is an idea that suddenly and without merit attempts to turn upside down the accepted (and tested) standards in fitness.
 Evolution happens slowly. If a trait works in a certain environment better than its previous version, it will flourish and eventually become the standard.
The same thing should be true for fitness. Almost every week there is a “breakthrough” in fitness where some supposed fitness guru attempts to turn the fitness world on its head with the latest fad.  Fitness fads are untested 180’s.
New ideas and fitness theories are fantastic, but they must be tested and retested and then tested again before they can be labeled “the latest fitness breakthrough.”
Be open to the newest ideas, but attempt to DISPROVE them again and again.  If you can’t, you’ve got an idea worthy of adding to your fitness toolbox.
Some of the most obvious fitness fads right now:
1) extremely high volume and high intensity workout programs (with no intelligent program design)
2) (Dys)functional training. Following the advent of functional training came the dysfunctional nightmare of random “cool looking” exercises that match no clients need in real life.
3) Foam rolling and mobility exercises with no targeted purpose other than the thought that “stretching and foam rolling are good for you.” They are, sometimes, for specific areas on specific people.
Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Rarely does moving ahead involve moving in a straight line

I hope that when you move, you move in a PERFECTLY STRAIGHT line.
…Because that’s how you’re training yourself, and that’s where you’ll be safe.
Unfortunately, life isn’t linear, or safe.
Neither are sports. In very few sporting activities (minus a few sprinting events) does the athlete compete in a straight line. This is an undebatable fact.
Yet still…Still 99% of power and strength training occurs in a straight line.
This straight line is called the SAGITTAL plane, and it divides the body into right and left halves.
Think about the “go to” strength and power exercises. The squat, the deadlift, the lunge, the bench press, shoulder press, push press, clean, snatch etc etc etc all occur in this ONE plane.
Imagine a drag racer. This machine is designed to go explosively in ONE direction, and if it stays straight, it works well. If it doesn’t, well, we’ve all seen these types of explosive crashes.
I AM NOT saying that there shouldn’t be a fair amount of time developing absolute strength (especially early in a lifting career) training with these exercises in this plane. These core lifts should be part of a yearly program for everyone.


The fact remains, if you train in only one plane of motion, you will dominate that plane and only that plane.
For a lifter looking to become more functional, or an athlete looking to up their performance, try training in multiple planes.
The multi planar lunge (striding to the side, 45 degrees, and straight ahead) is a great example of a traditional strength exercise with a more functional multi planar approach. Integrating rotations into presses, jumps at an angle, and core stability exercises in anti rotation are also great versions of traditional straight ahead exercises.
Be stable, explosive and strong in every available direction, because life is going to demand this of you either way.

Weight Lifting is Old School

Do you weight train or weight lift?

Because there is a huge distinction.
Moving weight from A to Z doesn’t take much thinking.
Grab. Grunt. Move weight. That’s about it.
I have worked with many clients that complain that the resistance (I give them) on an exercise is  light, and its a borderline insult that I assigned it to them.
Most of the time, they are right. They can move the weight without too much strain and complete the A to Z requirement of the exercise. Easy.
 The path they took there, however, was faulty.
Compensations are everywhere in resistance training (and just moving around in life, too). The body will find a way to get it done.  For example, instead of firing your glutes in a deadlift, your brain can just choose to fire hamstrings, lower back and adductors. That will lead to a problem in the future.  Furthermore, the more you do this with the faulty pattern, the faster your body will default to that pattern when you do it again in the future.
So why does it matter? If the job gets done, who cares?
The job gets done, true, if you define the “job” by how far a weight moved and not by the pattern or sequencing of muscle involved.  Did you train your body to perform optimally, or just how to compensate to get a job done?
Professional athletes are famous for this. Because they are pro athletes, they can get away with some pretty awful movement both in the weight room and on the athletic field. Because they are athletes, they can figure out (better than the average Joe) how to get a job done. The job may be a 40 yard dash or max effort squat or any kind of athletic movement. They may even do it very well. Sooner or later, though, things will go wrong. Declining performance and inevitable injury will follow these kinds of faulty movement patterns.
Compensations happen CONSTANTLY in resistance training. Whether it comes from a)fatigue -when your body starts to recruit any muscle it can to complete a movement, or
b)from a bad movement pattern that has been established long ago, like learning a deadlift wrong, or
c)from a structural problem, like adhesion in the hip flexor not allowing it to produce force.
A trainee needs to be aware of the subtleties of the movement being executed, and the EXACT muscle being recruited to get the job done.
This is easier said than done. It definitely takes a trained eye to watch for compensations and small movement deviations that could ultimately change the nature of an exercise.
My advice? If you have a trainer, don’t be offended if they tell you to regress an exercise or to lower the load.  Its with your best interests in mind. Going forward, you’ll be able to lift the heavier loads, the correct way, and avoid injury.
If you haven’t worked with a professional, find a GOOD one that understands movement mechanics  well.  One who can guide you with a solid corrective exercise program.
Better yet, if you are new to resistance training, hire that professional before you need a corrective exercise program and begin with sound movement patterns from the start.
Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Charley's Training; Not Just for a 2.5 Year Old!

Charley’s training continued the last two weeks with a more structured, but still fun and movement driven design. When training a small child, the workout has to be engaging and interesting enough to keep the attention of a client whose average attention span is about 3 seconds. The exercises are 99% basic human movement based. Running, crawling, throwing, jumping, balancing, and climbing are all represented.

CLICK ON PIC TO VIEW VIDEO

Many think of these kinds of exercises as “child’s play”, and they are…if you watch children at play, they are basically working out and exercising using all of these functional movement patterns.  So, while an “adult” exercise like a bench press has its place for gaining strength, it has a far lower functional turnover into real-life movement.

Training like a kid may be the best kind of exercise a human can do. When you get better at these exercises, you get better at LIFE, including sports and everyday living.

I need to exercise like a kid more often.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

 

 

 

If you think you're going to out-exercise your diet when looking to lose weight, think again.

 

I have clients that are dieters, and I have clients that are exercisers. The exercisers far outnumber the dieters. This group of clients (and people, in general) tend to rely heavily on long exercise sessions to make up for an imperfect nutrition.  Looking at the numbers alone, this is a bad strategy.
According to The Observer magazine;
“More and more research in both the UK and the US is emerging to show that exercise has a negligible impact on weight loss. That tri-weekly commitment to aerobics class? Almost worthless, as far as fitting into your bikini is concerned. The Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical research establishment in the US, reports that, in general, studies “have demonstrated no or modest weight loss with exercise alone” and that “an exercise regimen… is unlikely to result in short-term weight loss beyond what is achieved with dietary change.”
Why is this so?
First and foremost, losing weight is about putting yourself in a calorie deficit below what it takes to maintain your body. This means, if it takes 2100 calories to maintain your current body weight, then you won’t realize any weight loss unless you eat less than 2100.
Performing physical activity will raise this maintenance number, modestly. For example, running at 5 MPH for 30 minutes will burn 288 calories (for a 150 pound woman).
That means your new maintenance number would be 2388.
When planning on weight loss, you have to keep in mind that it takes a 3500 calorie deficit per week to lose ONE pound of bodyfat. That’s 500 calories per day. So, with the running giving you 2388 maintenance calories, you still have to be at about 1900 calories per day to lose ONE POUND per week.
Conversely, 288 calories can be consumed in much less than 30 minutes with far less work. One BIG MAC hamburger is 560 calories, one small donut is 300 calories. Even healthy foods, like an avocado, pack a punch at 270 calories.
It takes time and effort to burn of a negligible amount of calories through exercise, and it takes SECONDS to blow a whole session of cardio on a snack.
This is in NO WAY saying that cardiovascular work should be avoided when losing weight. Studies have shown that people who lose substantial amounts of weight keep it off by performing a structured cardio routine, and the benefits of exercise and cardio go WELL beyond calorie burning.
The point is, if your intention is to lose weight, understand the role that exercise will play in directly impacting the number on the scale. It’s small. It should be part of your program, but the main contributor to your weight loss will be your diet. Exercise because it brings so many other health benefits.
When trying to lose weight, never try to out exercise your diet, the diet will win every time.
Matt Pirtle MA CSCS
Emerge Fitness Training

It's Time For Change; Knowing When Your Way is the Wrong Way

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
When I began personal training almost 12 years ago, I thought I knew it all. My training experience was based on a few years of training myself and a year of training with a bodybuilder in Texas. My physique looked good because my training was focused on that end, muscle size (hypertrophy). That is what I knew and that is how I trained my clients. I would scoff at the mere site of a stability ball or a foam roller, and corrective exercise to me was something for physical therapists or chiropractors.
Over the years, I began to read more, and began to experiment with different styles of training.  I studied core training, functional training, sports performance and corrective exercise intently. I tested what the current research suggested and found success in some areas, and a lack of results in others. I kept the stuff that worked, and discarded the rest.
As time went by, I was able to identify easier the sources of fitness information worth studying, as well as the Internet fluff not worth my consideration.
On many, many occasions I have been forced to question some of my fitness “truths” and often had to change entirely my paradigm on my training philosophy.
That brings me to the point of this blog.
The fitness industry is ever changing.  The current state of research will suggest one method of training, and evolve into something else months later. The key is to:
a) stay on top of the current information, as it is the best available information at the time and:
 b) be able to trash your comfortable way of training and thinking for something that is a proven better way.
This is difficult to do, as training with a certain philosophy is comfortable. You know the routine exactly and can deliver the information impeccably. The problem is, if you’re not adapting to the current available information on your skill, you are dis servicing yourself and your clients.
With that said, I would like to offer two insights on fitness that will probably change in the coming few years, but are as true as the research is current right now.
1) Planks for time are a waste of time
Bottom line, after about 15 seconds, even the strongest core begins asking for help. More often than not, it’s from the the hip flexors. If you want to train the TVA and the core muscles as a unit, train the plank with a load for no more than 15 seconds.
2) Prescribing a predetermined squat depth can be harmful.
Squat depth is something that is unique to the individual and their unique capabilities. Forcing a deep squat depth usually ends with a host of compensations that can harm the trainee and burn in faulty movement patterns. It kills me personally when I hear a comment of “you need to squat deeper for a real squat.” This deep squat is usually achieved through massive hip flexion to make up for limited ankle mobility, loading the lumber spine extensively. It’s an ugly and harmful squat. Rule of thumb, squat to your “comfortable range of motion,” which may change as you correct some movement issues.
I’ll be addressing a few more fitness issues that current research has given us better insight into in future posts.
Matt Pirtle,  MA CSCS