Saturday, December 7, 2013

How to regain your strength after a Neck Injury: Hatcher back in the game

Jason Hatcher, a beast defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, and I trained while he was in L.A. over the team's bye week. He's having a standout year but was sidelined by a Stinger in a week 9 win over the Vikings and lost much of the strength in his left arm.  

Since his injury, the Cowboys were beaten bad by the Saints while giving up record yards. For Jason, it was important as ever to get back on the field to help his team ASAP, that's why I was brought in. I knew I had to develop a serious program to get him back to pass the Cowboys strength test and get back in the next game against the Giants.

You've heard of Stingers but for those that don't know, a Stinger is a spinal cord injury usually in the neck that affects the nerves of one of your arms.  Numbness and/or weakness can last for hours or days depending on the severity.  

First, I had him do specific movement assessments just to see what's working and not working. Then I can develop a plan of action to make him as strong as possible in the shortest amount of time.

2 1/2 lb weights never felt so heavy!
You can see that something is going on with the left arm.
As it turns out his left arm may have been at best, 15% of its normal strength. We had alot of work to do and not alot of time.  I started him with activation techniques along with exercises to integrate the muscle group back in with the rest of the system so that it works well from the central nervous system standpoint.  

If you're trying to be the best athlete performing at the highest level or just feel better, it's important to have a balanced foundation that's not compensating. So I also did a full body assessment because everything is connected to everything, if one muscle isn't working right it literally affects the whole body. Jason really takes care of his physique inside and out but he still had a few postural deviations and muscle imbalances that could also contribute to other injuries. His issues probably had to do with the fact that he gets into the equivalent of 70-80 car accidents during a football game each week! 

We finished up our session on the flexibility work he needed to take care of some of the compensations. Stretching can be good but only if its done the right way on muscles that actually need it! 

The next appointment was for the strength workout. I used techniques that I'd say less than 10 people in the country know what they are and how to do them properly....

BTW he made the starting line up for the game against the Giants...stay tuned!

Any questions about what exercises we did tweet @FitLike51.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

RGIII Knee rehab could've taken some notes from Butkus' Knee rehab

In 1973, Butkus knee was so bad it stuck out 20 something degrees away from where it should. He went down to visit Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus Sports Industries, to see about strengthening the knee without surgery in order to get back on the field next season. Jones took one and said "If you can withstand the pain" so Butkus went through the most agonizing, painfully grueling workouts that would make any current player throw up in the corner. Imagine bone against bone and doing all out workouts on it. 

It was very clear to me in watching RGIII's recent national ESPN documentary, "Will to Win" on his knee injury, surgery, and subsequent rehab that showed a flawed rehab process. 

Without going through each of the 20 different exercises shown during program which ranged from various lunges with rubber bands around his waist (does nothing but looks cool), squat jumps on a machine (extremely stressful to joints and probably was counter productive), kneeling medicine ball chops (Thought to have increased core power but it's not really how the body works), and 1 leg explosive hops (thought to increase neural output and joint stability, what it really does is put an extreme amount of stress on the joints). Not only are the exercises probably some of the least productive for muscle strength but they're dangerous as well.  This reflects on how RGIII is moving on the field, you can see that he's just not moving right.  When a joint isn't a strong as possible, the body naturally compensates and there's nothing you can do about it except for strengthen the muscles that support it.

Properly done workouts on a proper machine is the only way to put the right torque on the joint to activate the muscles in the most functionally correct way, it can't be done with a rubber band or a medicine ball!!  We're talking knee extensions, leg curls, and leg presses or squats till your head explodes.  All done in a slow controlled pace with the intent to move the weight fast although the actual speed will be slow. No explosive movements that just violently jerks and puts stress and damage on the joints.   This is by far the most productive way to make the muscles that support the joint stronger.

It would be a challenge for any of the participants to see the flaws and it's almost impossible for someone to realize what they've been doing for the last 8 months has been wrong.  

I wasn't surprised at what exercises they had him doing because the industry often does what looks cool and not what works good.  All exercises work, the ones they chose just aren't as good as others.  
Bottom line if 8 months ago, RGIII would've done the right kind of exercises...he'd be dominating the current RGIII in every way....NO doubt about it. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

You're Doing it Wrong: Arm training

Who wants strong, toned, and defined arms? Everyone! Could you be choosing better exercises? Most likely. Are you doing it wrong? Probably. To be clear, whether its barbell curls, dumbell tricep extensions, or machine curls...everything works! 

What I want to focus on is the things that I have seen over the years that people are doing wrong.  Then you can make the choice on which exercises you'll use but at least you'll know what they do and don't do.

Features of what you're doing wrong:
  1. While doing bicep curls or tricep extensions  your elbows are moving either forward, backward, or away from your sides.
  2. Shoulders are rounded forward.
  3. Using your lower back to lean backward to help lift the weight.
Benefits of doing it right:
  1. Keeping your elbows in the center line of your body and tight to your sides works the bicep muscle much harder which gives you faster results. 
  2. When your shoulders are back and posture is good, everything is aligned and you have less injuries.
  3. Not leaning back or forward takes the pressure off your lower back which is a big source of lower back pain and injuries.
Again everything works, doing it wrong works and you have a given result...doing it right works and you have a different result.  Bottom line...when you do an exercise the right way, you'll get better results much faster and with less chance of injuries.  

Saturday, June 29, 2013

You're doing it wrong: Back Training

Its important to realize that the back muscles are the second-largest muscle group in the body. Training it hard is beneficial not only for your overall health but it also burns a lot of calories if you're looking to lose weight. Weather it be pulldowns, pullovers, or all works! Could you be focusing on exercises like pull ups that are harder and work better? Probably. Are you doing the back exercises with the right form? Not from what I've seen.

Features of doing back exercises wrong:

  1. Gripping the handles palms down.
  2. Using a wide grip exercises such as pulldowns and pull ups.
Benefits of putting your hands in the right position during back exercises:

  1. Palms up allows your bicep to be in the strongest position with more potential to work your back muscles harder. 
  2. Using a palms up close grip or parallel grip also allows you to have a greater range of motion, gain more flexibility, and more muscle stimulation.
You want to have your bicep muscles as strong as possible. As even when they are are in the strongest position, they still will never be able to keep up with the strength of the back muscles. With these tips, you can still do the back exercises with your palms facing away with a wide grip.  Now you'll just know what that does and what it doesn't do. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Leg Training, Squats Form and Technique

Hitting squats hard will help you add on loads of muscle to your whole body.  They also burn more calories than any other exercise so if your looking to lose fat fast, squats are the best exercise around!

There's a ton of so called experts out there that talk about whether or not to do full squats.  Full squats means that you go all the way down below parallel to the ground and half squats meaning stopping above parallel to the ground.  I personally have done squats all the way down below parallel and have worked up to some pretty heavy weight.  It does put torque on the knee which could be a really good thing to strengthen it or it could be a really bad thing if you have an injury or don't use perfect form.  You'll want to work in the range of motion you can without compensation.  If you don't have the flexibility to go all the way down, that's fine, just do what you can and build up to a greater range of motion.

Form and Technique:

Here's what you do, first wrap a towel around the bar to give a little cushion. Do not use the round pads that you find lying around the gym.  1) they're too squishy which leads to the barbell moving around and 2) those pads have serious germs!! When you put the bar on your back, flex your traps and pinch your shoulder blades together in order to create a ledge for the bar to rest on.  You don't want the bar on the back of your neck. Then grab the bar tightly with your hands just outside of shoulder width.  Lift the bar off the rack.

Now your stance should be shoulder width or slightly wider. Not crazy sumo style wide like I see some of you doing!  The feet should be pointing straight ahead or toes slightly out.  Your feet too should not be too far apart or toes pointed too far out because your joints don't line up and it puts a ton of stress on your ankles, knees, and hips.

With the bar held tightly against your traps, take a deep breath and hold it, slowly descend down.  How far you go is up to you, if your flexible enough and you can go down below parallel with out pain then do it.  If you can't, work in the range of motion that's pain free and you can build up your flexibility over time.  Smoothly slow the weight down when you get to the bottom position and make the transition controlled and keep the tension high on your muscles.  The smoother and slower you make the transitions the more muscles you'll get working.  No bouncing in the bottom position!  After you transition to the positive, power up controlling the weight and keeping everything flexed hard.

Try and keep the weight smoothly moving at all times.  You should try and do as many as you can without pausing at the top.  After about 10-15 reps you'll be breathing pretty hard and have to take a pause at the top, that's fine.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Boomer Training: Attitude, Intensity, and Focus

You may have seen a recent TV ad for a nutritional product that says "after the age of 40, you may lose 8% of muscle every 10 years." It comes to roughly .25lbs of muscle loss per year or more.  This muscle loss is the focus of Boomer Training.  There are certain types of exercises more so than others that you can do to build muscle faster and prevent you from losing it in the first place.  Muscle drives your metabolism, it allow you to do the activities you want, keeps your posture good, prevents falls or accidents and improves how your joints feel to name a few.

What I see people doing wrong is not focusing their fitness program to build as much muscle and strength as possible.   Don't're NOT going to get too much muscle!  Again every fitness program and modality works but there are certain things in the gym that don't build muscle in the most productive way.  They are cardio, functional training, core training, classes, yoga, spinning, and anything that isn't weight training.  All of these are great and they work, just not at building muscle and strength the weight training does. 

Those that are doing a weight training program for the most don't get the results they want because something is wrong with their system.  Features of doing your weight training wrong are:
  • No progression in any way 
  • Program schedule is lifting weights too often
  • Exercise selection isn't focused on the right exercises that give you the most results and bang for your buck.
Benefits of a weight training program when doing it right:
  • Making improvements in weight/reps or both every workout
  • Choosing a schedule such as Monday-Wednesday-Friday weight training to allow for adequate recovery between workouts
  • Choosing exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, back rows, pull ups, bar dips, and shoulder presses.
These aren't all of the aspects of a proper program but its a start, if you want to see some additional tips to follow see 10 best workout rules.

One of the most impactful things people can do towards their results is a change in ATTITUDE.  What I mean by attitude is that you have to try harder than you did in the previous workout. For some people that may mean that you are gonna go all out to complete failure on every exercise. For others it may not be that your veins are popping out of your neck, face turning purple every time you work out, but it may mean you just want to try and do better than you did in the previous work out.  Attitude, intensity, 
and focusing on the right type of training would put you leaps and bounds over 90% of the people working out and put you on the path to making meaningful results with your health.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Training Dick Butkus

 Thirteen pounds Six ounces at birth, Butkus was literally born to play football. With his natural ability and genetics, he was able to dominate the game then and he'd even be more dominate today!  As you'll read, Butkus didn't really workout at all during his playing days, could you even imagine what he'd be like if he worked out?!  Here's some great insight on training Butkus from the inventor of Nautilus, Arthur Jones:

"Dick Butkus of the Chicago Bears spent several days training under my supervision in Colorado, during the previously mentioned Colorado Experiment...and afterwards, trained in our Florida facility for a period of several weeks.

Dick had never previously done any sort of systematic exercise...during eight years of professional football, his exercise had consisted of running and football drills, with a few days practice of the bench-press prior to each year’s “strength test”. Yet, when I first started training him in the Summer of 1973, it was immediately obvious that Dick is a very strong man, far stronger than many men who have trained heavily and regularly for years.

Although I had no way to test his neurological efficiency, it is almost certain that it is far above average. But some his other “natural advantages” are obvious at a glance...(1) he is tall, but not too tall...(2)...for his height, he has a long torso and short legs...(3) his hips are wider than average. All of which bodily proportions offer enormous advantages for strength, because they improve some of the leverage factors.
Upon looking at him for the first time, I remarked...”If I was going to design a man to fill his slot in football, the result would be little if any different from the real Dick Butkus.”

20 Inch Cold Neck Measurement!
But he could have been better. A proper program of heavy exercise could have given him far better “fatty tissue to muscular mass” ratio...making him stronger, faster, and far less likely to suffer injury. And without changing his bodyweight. Even a few weeks of very hard but very brief training produced significant increases in his strength, enormously increased his flexibility, and helped his speed.

Less than a month ago, Dick signed a five year “no cut” contract with the Bears...but a few months earlier, the rumors were flying throughout the rather limited circle of professional football to the effect that he was through, physically unable to play. Football is a dangerous sport...Dick could be seriously injured in the next game, but when he reported to camp this summer, he was ready to play."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Boomer Training: Form and Technique

All types of fitness programs work and all styles of form work at doing something, they can cause injuries as well as prevent them. Why is Boomer training different than any other training? As a boomer,  you may have an injury right now or have been dealing with a nagging ache or pain for years. Your joints aren't as stable, heck you may have 1 or 2 artificial ones!  Recuperation isn't as fast and flexibility not as it was, the last thing you want is to get hurt while working out.  Simply put, a boomers body just works differently than others and that has to be factored in to using the right form.  
Features of doing the wrong form:

  • Moving the weight too fast during training.
  • Cheating during the exercises. 
  • Not doing a full range of motion.  For example, while doing a bicep curl not going from your arms completely straight to a full curl then back.  
Benefits of the right form:

  • Move the weight smoothly and controlled from the start of the exercise to the end.
  • Take 1 second to lift the weight, 2 seconds to hold it in the contracted positon, and 4 seconds to lower the weight.
  • Doing a full range of motion greatly increases your flexibility.

Some workouts these days even promote "explosive power" moves. Violent jerking, stopping, and starting weights is extremely stressful for your joints and will only cause injuries and/or pain. Moving more fluid and controlling the weight not only improves your results but prevents injuries as well. The right form in your workout gives the maximum benefits the minimal injury and pain with the maximum improvement in your daily life.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

You're Doing It Wrong!: Leg Training

Not training legs at all, not training legs first in the workout, doing less productive leg exercises like leg extensions, leg curls, inner/outer thigh machine, lunges, smith machine squats, neglecting to train calves, thinking running is enough of a leg workout, and any butt blaster machines are all doing it wrong!  Most if not all of your leg training should consist of barbell squats, stiff legged dead lifts, and the occasionally leg press machine if you have access to a good one. After building up your strength in those three exercises over a period of time, then you can add in some of those other leg exercises like the extensions and curls.

Most men avoid leg training all together because we're wussies and like to put our effort into the beach muscles e.g. the chest and arm workouts.  We love chest and arm day...hate leg day! Most women focus on the cute exercises they see in the fitness magazines like the butt blaster machine, lunges, inner/out leg machine etc.  

What you should do:

Stiff Legged Dead Lifts and Squats
Do squats and dead lifts as the first exercises in your workout.  This way you'll be fresh and be able to put the most energy into the most productive exercises.  It also gets it out of the way for those of us that hate leg training. Not only that, hitting you legs hard stimulates your metabolism and helps you burn fat fast than any other exercise.

If everyone who went to the gym dropped every exercise they did and only focused on squats and stiff legged dead lifts they would have the best physique in the gym.  Men would add more muscle to their body than any other exercise, you get a big chest and arms by doing squats not chest and arm exercises.  Women would have the best, I'll say it again, THE BEST butt-legs-thighs ever just by doing squats and dead lifts.

Why? Because squats and dead lifts are the hardest exercises for the whole body not just your legs.  They stimulate the most muscle and they tell the rest of your body that it needs to keep up.  In the next few blogs I'll talk about form and technique to get the most results with your leg training.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I want: A flat stomach or 6 Pack Abs

Butkus wearing #78 doing leg lifts
Getting six pack abs or losing the gut is a result of your nutrition plan, calories burned, and exercises you choose.  The biggest mistake is that people think they need to train abs everyday in order to spot reduce, this is totally wrong!  I see the same people crunching away at the same machines with the same poor form everyday.  First, you can't spot'll lose fat overall and usually the last area to lose fat is your stomach.  Second, your abs are like any other muscle in the body.  They need to be worked out doing the right exercises, sets, reps, and rest just like any other muscle group.  

There are 2 exercises that are the best to strengthen and build the ab muscles, they are: Crunches and leg lifts but here's the key, do them on a decline bench. Why? It's much harder than all the others and therefore better results will happen faster. 2 sets of 15-20 reps of each exercise.  Proper speed is you'll want to take 2 secs for the positive, 2 seconds holding in the contracted position, and 4 seconds to lower down to the start. 

Take a guess at what the best weight training exercise or losing your gut is... give up?  It's squats!  Why? Because leg exercises work the most muscles and burn the most calories that give you more of a chance to lose fat.   Keep in mind that the specific ab exercises are just a part of your overall total body strength training program and not something to focus your whole workout on.    

Monday, May 6, 2013

You're doing it wrong!

What are you doing wrong?  Probably everything!

Not having a plan, avoiding the best exercises, working out too often and for too long, not training hard enough, using too many exercises with too many sets, not doing the right amount of reps for your goal, resting too long between sets, anything classified as "core training", using the gym as social hour, crappy form, bouncing the weight and using momentum,  moving the weight too fast, following any workout in an infomercial, bad goal setting, working out for "toning" or "definition", not keeping a workout log, following what the "big guy" in the gym does, for men worrying about getting too muscular, for women worrying about getting too muscular, any workout that has X or CrossFit in the title, and much more!

I've often told gym members who I'm instructing, "if you ever forget the right way to do an exercise, just look around you at all the other people in the gym, do the exact opposite and you'll be just fine!" It's not your fault, it's human nature to not want to workout properly. Doing the right exercises and working out the right way hurts and it's not fun. 

What I want to accomplish is to make you aware of your mistakes and teach the right way to workout whatever your goal is.  It's quite simple to workout and get great results with your training.  I'm going to break down each muscle group and show you what you've been doing wrong all these years, teach you the right way so you can start to see real results faster than ever.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Baby Boomer Field Guide to Fitness: Why do Boomers need to workout differently?

76 million Americans are in the Baby Boomer category with Dick Butkus and my own parents being right smack in the middle.  Their health and wellness is one of the single most important issues moving forward that we are going to face as a nation.  Weight training is the single best activity Baby Boomers can do to improve health, we know this already but as a Boomer, there are special considerations because your body just doesn't work the same way as it did.  Age, injuries, surgeries, aches and pains, joint replacement(s), posture issues, muscle loss, and functional capacity have to be considered in your workout program. The last thing you want is starting a workout plan when you are 60 yrs old and find out when your 70 yrs old that you could have been working out much more effectively, you can never get those 10 years back.

In fitness, every type of training works and everyone's body is different.  Modern and what I call the "infomercial workouts" that you see on Saturday morning don't apply to Boomers because they offer unrealistic results and outright dangerous exercises for the joints.  Some programs tout a 10 minute fitness routine, which can be done because everything works, but it takes some of us 10 minutes just to get the body moving and warmed up let alone get a whole workout done!

Some of you, my Dad being one of them, have never worked out a day in your life.  Some of you may have started and stopped a program countless times over the years and know that you need to do something now.  You may be a consistent trainee that has achieved great results but you want to dedicate your time doing something other than working out everyday. Good news is that I am going outline a training that works the fastest, safest, and most effective way to build strength to improve your life. I'll give you specific tools you need to workout at any gym or fitness facility and your home.  In the next series of entries I'm going to out line the Baby Boomer workout plan from exact exercises, sets and reps, to recover and workout programs to avoid. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Best back exercises Part One

Training your back muscles should be done right after training the legs.  This way you are working the largest muscles in the lower body followed by the largest muscles in the upper body which allows you to get your cardiovascular conditioning and strength training done in one workout. If you can knock out cardiovascular conditioning and strength training in the same workout, it make for a very efficient use of time.

Here are the best exercises for the back muscles, look for these free weight exercises or machines in your gym and apply the techniques.
Late model super pullover machine
Every back exercise has a weak link, the upper arms are involved.  No matter how strong your biceps are they'll never be as strong as the lats, which are some of the largest muscles in the body. The seated pullover machine can be considered the most productive upper body exercise known to man and it's one of the few back exercise machines that take out the weak link of the arm muscles because point of force is above the elbow.  Flexibility is also improved on the pullover machine because it takes you through 250 degrees of motion, no other machine can do that.

Choose a weight that you can do 2 sets of 15-20 reps with taking 1 second to pull the weight down, pause for 2 seconds in the bottom position, and take 4 seconds to lower the weight.  Make sure and go from a full stretch to a full contraction each rep.  If you have one of these in your gym, make a B-line for it ASAP as it's the best back exercises ever!
Early Nautilus pullover, none better!
Remember back in junior high when you couldn't muster up enough strength to do 3 pull ups.  Don't worry because most everyone hate pull ups, that's why it more important than ever to do them now!  There's not a gym in the country that doesn't have a pull up bar but I doubt there's many gym goers out there that know how to do them properly.  It may be a pull up station as shown, sometimes there's a pull up bar on the squat cage, or they'll usually be one on the cable cross overs.

Now should we do a palm up, parallel, or palms facing away grip on the bar. There's a simple and logical answer.  You should put your hands in the palms up or parallel position simply because that is where your bicep is biomechanically stronger.  Ask yourself, is a muscle about the size of a baseball/softball(bicep) going to be strong enough to keep up with the largest upper body muscle(lats)?  Noway no how!  Even with your biceps in the strongest position you still won't work the lat as hard as it's capable.  That's why you'll want to find/beg for a pullover machine which takes the weak bicep out of the exercise of working the lats.

Nevertheless, the pull up is an excellent upper body exercise and you should belt out as many as possible with good form.  Use a palm up grip starting in the "dead hang" position, smoothly pull yourself up taking about 1 second until your chin is above the bar, pause and hold at the top for 2 seconds, and slowly resist the negative taking 4 seconds to lower back to the dead hang position. Do as many as you can!
Pull up station

BTW, a pull down machine is not the same as pull ups!  You won't get stronger for pull ups by doing pull downs.  Pull down machines are a great exercise but you get better at doing pull ups, by doing pull ups!
This machine won't help you do pull ups!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Best leg exercises Part One

Squats are by far and away the most productive exercise not just for your legs but for the whole body.  Men will gain loads of muscle on the legs, back, chest, and arms by doing squats.  Women will get the best legs, buns, and thighs you've ever seen by doing them.  If aliens came down and ruled the earth and only allowed us to do one exercise, squats would be the one you'll want to do.  

Look for the squat rack as shown below, your gym will have a this exact one or a variation.  Choose a weight that you can do 2 sets of 20 reps at a smooth controlled pace with perfect form.  Begin the movement with the bar on your upper back, feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed straight ahead.  Squat down slowly until your upper leg is parallel to the ground, then smoothly push through the center of the foot returning to the start position, repeat. Squats are a great indicator of flexibility, if you start to see your toes point out as you squat down, limit your range of motion until you can squat all the way down without your toes moving outwards.  Use lighter weights to start in order to learn the right form and pretty soon you'll be squating heavier weights with perfect form before you know it!
Squat Rack
Leg Presses are a nice alternative to squats if you have an injury or may not have the flexibility to do squats properly.  There's usually 2 types of leg press machines, selectorized or plate loaded.   Your gym will absolutely have one or both of the machines pictured and either works pretty much the same.  The key is your feet placement on the platform which can be high, low, or in the middle depending on the muscle groups you want to emphasize or de-emphasize.  If your feet are high on the platform it will put more stress on your hips.  Feet low will put more stress on the muscles around your knees.  Feet in the middle will be a balanced stress between the knees and hips.  Putting stress more hips or knees can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what issues you have and areas you're trying to work.  Pick a weight you can do for 2 sets or 20 reps.  The tempo of your reps should be 2 seconds to press the weight and 4 seconds to lower the weight.

Plate loaded leg press machine
Selectorized Leg Press

Friday, March 29, 2013

10 Best Workout Rules

Call me lazy and I'm most certainly impatient especially when it comes to my workouts. I get extremely frustrated if I'm not seeing marked improvement in strength, building muscle, losing fat, and the all important mirror test! The last thing we all want to do is waste our time working out for years without seeing results.  There are so many different workout programs out there I'm here to say that EVERYTHING WORKS. I'm not saying that everything works good, but they all work at doing something.  However, there are certain workout systems that give you better results in a shorter amount of time than others.

My goal is to teach you these principles of the best way to build muscle and improve conditioning, then you can apply it to your own workouts at the gym.

Here are the top 10 best workout rules:
  1. Workout 3 times per week on non-consecutive days for example: Mondays-Wednesday-Friday.
  2. Each workout should be done in a total body fashion training all of the major muscle groups starting with the largest muscles groups first.  For example: Legs, back, chest, shoulders, arms, abdominal, calves.
  3. Choose basic exercises such as squats, standing overhead presses, bench press, barbell rows, pull ups, bar dips, dead lifts, barbell curls, one legged calf raises, and barbell wrist curls.
  4. Use 2 sets and rarely more than 3 sets per exercise.  Put your effort into the 2 sets the right way and you seldom want to do more!
  5. Follow 10 repetitions for upper body and 20 reps for lower body exercises.  Use these as a guide but never stop just because you reached the goal reps, continue the set until you can't do another rep.
  6. Perfect form is most important in any exercise. Move the weight slowly under full control with no momentum taking 2 seconds to lift the weight, 2 seconds to pause in the contracted position, and 4 seconds to lower the weight.
  7. Always do full range movements ensuring proper balanced development and flexibility. No half reps!
  8. Rest and recovery is extremely important. Training only stimulates muscle growth, resting and recuperating allows growth to actually happen.  Cardiovascular exercise is fine on the off days but no weight training!
  9. Keep a training log writing down each set and the weight/reps done.  Train hard and try to progress each workout in weight and/or repetitions. Whether its 1lb or 1 rep added, progression is the foundation of getting stronger.
  10. Listen to your body and take time off from your workouts.  2-3 times per year do not workout and rest completely for 10 days.  You'll return to the gym with renewed enthusiasm and you're body will feel great.
It's all about what you want to focus on with your health and fitness, use the above guidelines and apply them to your own program.  You may have heard the saying train smarter, not harder?  Another way that I look at it is train harder, not longer and unproductively, which is training smarter.  Use the above workout guidelines and let me know how your results are!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

10 best free weight exercises for building muscle and losing fat Butkus style

Butkus doing Shrugs with 405 lbs!
How do know what exercises to use for the best results from your workout?  Me personally, call me lazy but I want to use the least amount of exercises that will get me the best results in the fastest amount of time.  I'm very impatient and have tried every type of workouts and when it comes down to it, there are exercises that are far more productive than others.  Granted more productive almost always means harder and more painful but the trade off is you'll get more results in less time.

50 years ago Arthur Jones the founder of Nautilus and long time friend of Dick Butkus once said, "If you like an exercise, chances are your probably not doing it right" and there's nothing more true today.  In fact most of the things AJ said about training were so far ahead of there time but that's a whole other discussion. Now, what exercises are the best for getting fast results with building muscle and losing body fat? Think about the top 5 or 6 exercises that you absolutely hate, the ones most people are not good at, the ones that you never see anyone doing in the gym, and those would be the exact exercises you should be doing! They are the barbell squats, barbell rows, bench presses (incline or flat), pullovers, stiff-legged dead lifts, pull-ups, bar dips, straight barbell curls, standing overhead barbell presses.  A typical workout for maximum muscle building and losing fat could be arrange as follows:

  1. Squats - 1 set of 20
  2. Pullovers - 1 set of 20
  3. Squats - 1 set of 15 
  4. Pullovers - 1 set of 15
  5. Bench Presses - 1 set of 10 reps
  6. Barbell rows - 1 set of 15
  7. Bench Presses - 1 set of 8 reps 
  8. Parallel grip Pull ups - As Many as you can
  9. Standing Overhead Press - 1 set of 10
  10. Reverse grip pull ups - As many as you can
  11. Standing Overhead Press - 1 set of 8
  12. Stiff legged Dead lifts - 1 set of 15 reps
  13. Barbell Curls - 1 set of 10
  14. Parallel Dips - As many as you can
  15. Barbell Curls - 1 set of 8
  16. Parallel Dips - As many as you can
  17. Wrist curls - 1 set of 20
  18. Reverse wrist curls - 1 set of 20
Your body doesn't have any idea what the number on the side of the weight says, pick a weight that makes the goal reps extremely hard but never stop just because your reached your rep goal.  If you do more or less reps than the goal, just take note and make adjustments for your next workout.  Do each rep very slowly with no cheating, starting each rep smoothly and focusing on the area being worked.  It should take you about 2-3 seconds to lift the weight and 2-3 seconds to lower the weight. Each exercise is done to failure except for the squats and dead lifts.

To get the best cardiovascular conditioning during the workout, take only enough time between exercises to catch your breath and then move to the next exercise.  Periodically substitute exercises such as shrugs, incline chest presses, shoulder raises, and tricep extensions and you have program that can serve you well for years of great results.  A training program such as this may look basic but it's probably one of the most productive workouts for building muscle and cardiovascular conditioning anyone could do.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Best food to eat before and after workouts

Pre/Post Workout for DotFit, takes the guesswork out!

Let's face it, we need all the help we can to maximize our results in the gym.  One of the single most important meals is what you have before and right after a workout.  You want to make sure you fill up your gas tank properly before your workout and replenish your body with the right stuff post workout.  In this blog entry, I am going to review: What should you eat before and after your workout to achieve your goals faster and be healthy?  Is a protein shake the right nutrition?

Immediately following an intense workout, your body is most ready to rebuild, repair, and absorb nutrients.  This is called the "metabolic window" which lasts about 2 hours.  The first 30 minutes are really the most efficient at absorbing nutrients and then it goes down from there.  To take advantage of this window you want to have a processed food such as bar or shake because it absorbs fast.  If you were to have "real" food it might miss this 2hr window by the time it gets broken down and into the bloodstream. The shake or bar should be between 200-300 calories, 40-60 grams of carbs, 20-30 grams of protien, and 2-5 grams of fat.  A shake of just protein is not effective here because the lack of carbohydrates do not allow for the natural hormone response and quick energy replenishment. What you really looking for is a 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio to maximize the natural hormones, recovery, and muscle building effects. 

I can't think of one workout that I've done in the last 10 years that I haven't had a pre/post meal replacement.  I recover better, build muscle, and lose fat faster as a result.  There a few companies out there that actually follow the science of pre/post workout nutrition so make sure and read the labels of all nutritional products you buy to make sure it has the right macro nutrient profiles.  The main products I use is from DotFit, EAS, and Metrx. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Starving Away Pounds: Science Behind New Fast Diet

What's the deal with the new diet fad in case you haven't heard of it, The Fast Diet "Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer"?  Does it really work?

In a nutshell here's how the diet works on "The Fast Diet', for 5 days a week you eat whatever you want and 2 days out of the week you eat no more that 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men each day.  Benefits promoted are numerous including lowered risks of most weight related health problems and you'll live longer.

Here's my take, whatever diet works for you in order to eat fewer calories is the diet you should follow. At the end of the day your body needs a certain amount of calories to maintain your weight.  If you eat less calories than maintenance, you'll lose weight and if you eat more you'll gain weight.  In order to be healthy and live longer try and make most of your diet healthy and balanced.  If you need 2000 calories to maintain your weight and you eat 1500 calories a day of french fries you'll lose weight, you might not live that long but you'll still lose weight!  On the other hand if you eat 2500 calories a day of twigs and berries, you'll gain about 50lbs of fat in a year.  Even though the food was healthy, it's still more calories than you're burning and excess calories get converted to fat.

There have been many diets that I've followed and they all work to lose weight if your calories are lower than you need.  Try and find the best one that fits your lifestyle and fitness goals.  I see The Fast Diet as another tool to help you get to your weight loss target.  See the story below...

Starving Away Pounds: Science Behind New Fast Diet: ABCNEWS.COM - Latest diet craze in Britain urges fasting for two days and feasting for five.

The Break In workout to reduce muscle soreness

Butkus sizing up next to Patrick Willis
The dreaded muscle soreness when you start working out or after a layoff from training is something we all want to avoid.  If you haven't experienced the crippling muscle soreness, you haven't lived!  Did you ever notice that you're even more sore the 2nd day after a workout?  The break-in period is designed to eliminate that muscle soreness.  How it works is that you perform the same program for 5 days in a row and your soreness gets less and less each day.  Then when you really start to push it in the successive weeks you won't be sore even after giving your all during a workout.

The break-in period workout is 1 set of 10 reps of the exercises below for 5 days in a row for the first week.  For the second week do 2 sets of 10 reps for each exercise but workout on Monday-Wednesday-Friday. Pick a weight that will allow you to perform the 10 reps with medium effort.  Even though you may be able to do more weight or reps, save that enthusiasm for honing your skills at lifting and starting your nutrition program.

Here's the exercises:
  1.  Barbell Squats
  2. Standing One Legged Calf Raise
  3. Standing Overhead Shoulder Press
  4. Pull Ups
  5. Parallel Dips
  6. Bicep Curls
  7. Stiff Legged Dead Lifts
  8. Wrist Curls
After completing the 2 week break in period, you should be able to workout harder than ever and you'll rarely get sore!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Question Authority: Do free weights really work more of the stabilizer muscles than machines?

Butkus questioning authority

"I like using free weights over machines because they work more of the little stabilizer muscles."

I'm sure most have heard or thought this...dumbbells and barbells aren't fixed like a machine so you have to use more of the stabilizer muscles to control the weight.  It makes sense when you think about it...except that it's completely wrong!

If you're doing a bench press using a barbell, dumbbell, or machine...your body uses the same muscles to do the job during the movement.  The body senses is that there's a torque on a particular joint(s) and it uses the required muscles to execute the move.  When using free weights there's more instability in the movement at first but that's a skill issue and not the fact that you're using more or less stabilizer muscles.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Just Say NO to exercise balls, balance gimmicks, and core training

Butkus on a Nautilus Machine
Back in the 70's, 80's and 90's working out was all about building muscle using Nautilus and free weights.  Then from the mid 90's on till recently it's machines are bad and the term "core training" came into everyone's vocabulary.  It's play around on exercise balls, balance pads, and circus moves you see all the trainers doing have taken over fitness.  Now thank goodness, we are looking at all the rediculous ball and balance tricks and asking...maybe we are getting out of hand here and let's take a look to see whether it's productive.  As it turns out...core and balance training work, but not the way we thought and there's a much better way to do it.  Here's why:

Working out on unstable platforms such as balance pads and exercise balls actually create more joint stiffness because muscles on each side of the joint are firing to stabilize it.  You won't see a day in the gym go by without seeing someone doing a "Plank".  Planks cause the muscles around the spine to work real hard to stabilize it which can be a good thing as long as you never move. Problem as you may be real life we actually have to move around!  Balancing on a squishy pad does work the muscles in the ankle and make them very stiff, there again as long as you never move this is a good thing.

Moving forward you can go a long way to having better core strength and balance by getting the muscles of your core and legs very strong through weight training.  If you need better balance, include standing on one leg but on the ground and not a pad of any kind.  It's just not needed.  I'm excited to see the industry getting back to what actually works and away for the trendy crap that doesn't.  Get strong as hell by weight training and the rest will fall into place. It's really that simple!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

PODCAST: Baby Boomers Not Living Healthy

Dick Butkus is smack in the heart of the baby boomer generation along with close to 80 million other Americans, 10,000 per day turning 65, here's an interesting Podcast from NPR about Boomers aren't as healthy as we think. Boomer's living healthier has far reaching implications and it's especially important that Boomers workout and eat properly. In my future blog posts, I'm going to focus on how Boomers should lift weights and eat properly.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Are you on a training program or are you working out?

Without a plan, you're gonna be knocked on your back
when it comes to getting results.
Are you on a weight training program or are you just working out?  This is the question I've been asking people on a daily basis and the answer is almost always..."working out".   The worst is the people that say "Awe, I'm just lucky to even get to the gym". I just want to run my head through a wall when I hear that!

I can't understand around this whacky attitude of aimlessly wandering around the gym doing whatever exercise I feel like or what machine looks pretty.  I workout with a specific goal and training program planned well ahead of time.  This year, my main focus is to build lean muscle and maintain a low body fat level.  I'm gonna be doing the same basic workout for the entire year with slight changes month to month. Here's an example: If I'm doing 2 sets of each exercise, I can either raise, lower, or keep the same weight for the second set. So for January I'm keeping the weight the same, February I'll raise it, and March I'll lower. It could be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.  The point is to have a plan that makes sense for your goal and stick to it.

Bottom line don't workout unless you have a plan.  If you don't, you just simply aren't gonna get the results you hoped for.  Take some time this week and really narrow down your focus and goals, then plan out your workouts accordingly for the year.  Leave your comments and I'll be glad to point you in the right direction.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Now the link works! Great interview with Butkus on the Mike and Mike Show. The best part is after Butkus' interview is over, Ron Jaworski is the next guest on the show had a great story of his first game playing against Butkus as a back up QB.  It's a must listen for any Butkus fan!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Three key factors that slow down your New Years weight loss plans

Given that 90% of all health related New Years resolutions have to do with weight loss, I wanted give you a little background on our biology and the environment we currently live in so that you can be aware and make smarter food choices. The better you understand how the body works the more chance of success you'll have with weight loss. As humans (if you're not a human this post doesn't apply) we have a few built in biological traits that are working against us when trying to lose weight. What it comes down to is our biology hasn't caught up to the modern world we live in, here's 3 examples of what I mean:

1.  People are hard wired to eat as much as we can at a given time and move only when necessary.  It goes back the days of hunters and gatherers when after a hunt, we gorged for days until it was all gone.  Then we moved only when we had to find the next food source. Those people that were successful lived and passed the traits along, those who weren't...starved and died off. 

Problem:  The wiring is still there for eating until all the food is gone only now we don't have to move much to get the food.  It's right around every corner, we don't have to track it for miles, there's a lot of it and full of empty calories.  Remember our parents to finish the food on our plate...bad move!

Solution:  I keep healthy snacks such as meal replacement bars, fruit, and shakes with me at all times.  When healthy snacks are convenient, you're less likely to be hungry and search for the closest fast food restaurant. As with all snacks, even healthy ones, read the food label because some are filled with more fat and sugar than candy bars.

2. Modern technology has made it so that we barely have to move on a day to day basis.  We drive to work, sit all day at work, sit and drive to the gym, drive around the parking lot for the closest spot to minimize walking, sit on machines while working out, sit and drive home to eat more food while watching TV.

Problem:  We are not moving around enough each day to burn all the excess calories we are eating.  Even if you workout daily for an hour or two five times per week, that still leaves 22-23 hours per day that we're simply not moving enough for effective weight loss.

Solution:  Studies have proven that someone who doesn't exercise but stay's moving during the day burns more calories than someone who exercises but sits most of the time. If your goal is weight loss, an easy way to burn 2x's the calories is just to stand during all your exercises. Eat less move more.  Sounds simple doesn't it.  An extra 10 calories a day more than you burn and you'll gain a pound of fat that year.  You can see why it's easy to turn around after a few years and 10lbs later and wonder how did I get here?

3.  Ultra processed high calorie food is everywhere and in huge quantities!  Its so easy to hit the drive thru and throw down 1500 calories when you are hungry.

Problem:  Most restaurant and processed foods are loaded with sugar, salt, and fat which send off jackpot signals to your brain saying more, more, more! Food companies know this and try to include those 3 tastes in everything we like to eat. Ever notice how most foods you love have all 3?  Most popular food in the world, french fries.  Why? A peeled potato has the same molecular make up of sugar, then we fry it in fat, and salt the heck out of them when they're done cooking.  Crazy isn't it!?

Solution:  Eat more whole foods in their natural forms. These are lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Cut down the portion size of your food, a simple way to do this is to measure all the food you eat. Sounds like a pain but its very simple once you get in the habit and its a must when you're trying to lose weight. We know all this already!

My next post I will be talking about how in order to be successful with getting in shape, you have to plan your workouts...stay tuned.