Exercise and Disease Prevention

Author: Brett Douglas

Given the current state of America regarding the Covid-19 Pandemic I thought it’d be appropriate to talk about the benefit of exercises and disease prevention. It’s important to understand I am not a doctor and all of my information concerning the topic comes from scholar based sources, not opinion. The only opinion I’ll have is I’m a believer in exercise and a nutrition diet as the best defense to the prevention of 70% of all diseases.

The effects of exercise go far beyond weight management and physical appearance. If you want to live longer, feel more energetic, and remain disease-free you should start with exercise and a well-rounded diet. The most common killer in America is stroke and heart disease. That is the reason why when reading that, you immediately can bring 1 or more people to mind that you know have passed from such mortality. So let’s start with what we can do to fight such a fate.

If you are able to perform 100-150 minutes of low-moderate intense cardio activity a week you will dramatically decrease your chances of heart related diseases. If you currently don’t perform any cardio activities my recommendations is you start with 10-20 minutes per day and slowly build your stamina up to being able to achieve 100-150 minutes per week. This will also lower your cholesterol, and blood pressure which is equally important. Regular activity helps regulate glucose levels which can prevent and even reverse the effects of diabetes.

What you may not know is exercise can even combat cancer chances. The majority of cancers start within our fat cells, by staying active and striving to keep our body fat percentages low, you can decrease your chances of developing cancers such as colon cancer and breast cancer just to name a few.

Way too often you hear of people of the older population falling and breaking bones due to their stumble, this is because as you age your muscle, bones, and joints weaken unless you lift weights which helps keep them functional and healthy. By strengthening your bones, health experts have found it will help you from having osteopenia or osteoporosis and arthritis. It’s not uncommon I hear clients after a month or two of exercising make claims their arthritis symptoms have improved or gone away altogether.

Let’s not forget about the benefits of our mental health when it comes to exercising. Countless studies have shown working out both physical and aerobic exercises on a weekly basis has enormous effects on your learning, thinking, and judgmental skills, making them sharper as you age. Exercising can even lower the chances of getting depression and will even help in getting a night of good sleep. If you suffer from minor or major depression try working out daily, I’m confident you’ll notice your mindset improve which to me is so radical.

It is easy to make exercise a part of your daily routine. It is satisfying to be healthy and active every day to become strong, happy, and disease-free. Keep in mind that a small change can easily make a difference, take it slow and build, your body is made to improve over-time you just first need to start.

Thank you for reading and I hope you’ve learned some beneficial from reading this!

Best Way to Burn Fat During Cardio

Author: Mike Perrozzi

The Best Way to Burn Fat Doing Cardio

Hello again Anytime Fitness readers! Mike here again, to tell you all about the best way to get the most out of the dreaded slog that is “cardio”. It may be no secret to those who have worked with me that I am not a large proponent of long winded hours spent on hamster wheels or revolving stairs. I much prefer a more efficient approach, such as a steady strength training routine matched with a balanced diet that puts you in a small caloric deficit (read SMALL, like a couple hundred calories, not a thousand) interspersed with some HIIT style movements during each session (more info on the benefits of HIIT and what it is in a previous blog of mine). This is the perfect recipe for someone both trying to lose fat and gain muscle without going through a bulking and cutting cycle (which really only applies to those starting off very lean). Even if you are overweight and just trying to shed pounds, you will still want to build muscle to help give all those calories you’re ingesting a reason to not be stored as fat.

However, what if HIIT just isn’t in the cards for me? Many of these regiments require some sort of athletic movement, plyometric, or at the very least an all out effort that requires a lot of mental fortitude that a newbie in the gym may not have developed yet (don’t feel bad as many intermediate gym goers have not developed this either). So we return to what are usually located in the front end of the gym: the various treadmills, stair climbers, bikes, and ellipticals that make up the “cardio” section. These machines do have their merits and can be used moderately efficiently with some planning. But first let’s address the number one way to burn fat and not rack up the miles on your joints: walking. Good old fashioned walking will always reign king when it comes to non exercise exertion and will burn a decent amount of calories (pretty much all from fat) and is not very difficult/requires no equipment to do. Everyone should focus on at least walking for thirty minutes a day in addition to their strength training regiment if they are trying to lose fat quickly and recover from those pesky leg workouts.

But let’s up the ante: walking on an incline treadmill is my personal favorite for continuing the fat burn and building solid glutes as well. You’ll also find that this mode of walking is much more difficult, burning almost twice the calories for the same amount of time. The number one mistake people make here however, is when they hold onto the railings which effectively negates the incline. Think about it: you’re pulling yourself with your arms up the hill you’re supposed to be climbing with your legs in order to exert more force, so you may as well just put the incline down and walk on the regular flat surface. My advice is to put the incline all the way up, or at level 10 at least, and adjust your speed to the difficulty. Even a 1.5 MPH pace on a high incline trumps regular walking.

However, for those that don’t mind a little extra force on their joints and don’t feel like setting aside thirty minutes for their conditioning, I always suggest interval training. This does not have to be sprints, which are a highly technical movement that requires adequate muscular balance and spot on form to avoid pulling any muscles (like your forty year old friend who tries to play in a pick up game after not having shot a basketball since high school). Intervals can even be done while still in a quick walk: simply start the speed at more than manageable pace, choose a time limit, then adjust the speed or the incline (even both) at the end of the time limit. Then after you’ve ramped up sufficiently and have hit the max speed you can handle during that session, drop back down maybe halfway or to the initial speed and catch your breath before cranking it back up again and repeating. I typically keep a 1:1 or a 1:1.5 ratio between working and resting; this means that if you ramp up for a minute, have your rest period either equal to or at a minute and a half if you’re a little more deconditioned. This “rest” period still involves you moving so the minutes will add up quickly. If you do this on and off for five to six rounds, you should be done around fifteen minutes (with adequate ramp up and cooldown).

This interval approach is great when using the bike or the stairs as well. With a spin bike you can even jump up out of the seat during ramp up periods and sit during rest. Just be sure to adjust your resistance level accordingly (you get more torque when you take your butt out of the saddle); otherwise, you can stay seated and keep the resistance level the same and just peddle much harder during your hard portions. Most stairmasters can be adjusted to go faster to suit your ramp up needs as well, however, the elliptical is the only cardio piece that falls short when it comes to giving solid intervals. I’m not a fan of this particular piece of equipment for multiple reasons, and this just adds to it. The intervals work best for fat loss because you can help control your heart rate with the rest periods while simultaneously challenging it during your ramp ups. This keeps you out of the red (85-90% max heart rate) the entire time like most standard cardio, but still provides more of a challenge than just staying at 50% or below and gives you something to improve upon (try different speed or rest combinations, add extra rounds, etc). The biggest plus is you can get a lot more done in a much shorter time and spares your joints the anguish of slapping against the belt of a treadmill for five plus miles. I hope this has changed some of your minds on how you view “cardio”, but always remember: weight training and diet always come first!

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

Squat Technique Review

Author: Mike Perrozzi

Hello again faithful Anytime Fitness readers! Today I am going to breakdown and discuss proper squatting mechanics as there are a lot of misused cues and just bad suggestions overall on what should be an absolute staple in everyone’s workout plan. First, let’s break down why this is: squatting is one of the more fundamental movement patterns that we have in our arsenal. Most people should be able to squat down to a proper depth relative to the size of their femur and tibia/fibula bones in order to perform every day movements such as slinging themselves up from and lowering down to a seated position without the use of support and getting down low to inspect something, tie a shoe, play with an animal or small child without pain or difficulty. It is also a proven method to achieve better bowel movements if you’re able to relax in the position on the back of our haunches and can increase stamina and longevity in your knee, hip, and even ankle joints. I personally favor a set of ten squats with a deep squat hold for thirty seconds as the first thing I do before my workout over walking for five minutes on a treadmill or elliptical.

Furthermore, what exactly is a squat and how do we differentiate it from other lower body movements? A squat by definition is a quad dominant exercise, a movement pattern which is achieved through maximal flexion (bend) at the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Compare this to a hip hinge (more commonly used when performing a deadlift exercise), which is a hip and glute dominant movement achieved through maximal bend at the hips only, and minimal bend at the knee and ankle joints. Picture one as “sitting down” and the other as “bending over”: both carry with them their own set of unique functions and effects on body composition with much overlapping between the two. As a result, both should be completed in the gym on separate days to avoid too many compressive forces in the lumbar spine in a single workout (dispelling the myth of an all encompassing “leg day” for the serious lifter, but this is a different topic).

For now, let’s focus on how to squat properly and address some of the various cues that I have heard over the years and their validity. For parody sake, let’s assume we are talking about the most commonly envisioned version of this exercise that people think of when they think “squat”: the barbell back squat. This is where a barbell is loaded onto the back of the individual (be it high or low bar), and is certainly NOT the best variation when it comes to body composition or even functionality, but I will do my assessment on it because it is most commonly done by average gym goers.

Cue #1: Don’t let your knees go over your toes

Easily the most misconstrued and misinterpreted of all squatting cues, this one has good intentions but falls short for anyone considering actually anatomy. Due to the various lengths and leverages we as people have, no two peoples squats are going to look exactly alike. Also, this is largely dependent on your ankle mobility as well: the more you are able to dorsiflex your foot (bring your toes to your shin) the further your knee will migrate over your toes and the better depth you will achieve. This is not a bad thing so long as you have built the requisite strength to tolerate this deep end range. Your shins are not meant to be perfectly vertical during any type of squat not performed on a machine (hack squat, smith machine squat, even a sissy squat requires something to hold you in place). The cue came into existence to teach people to initiate the movement by sitting their hips back FIRST instead of trying to maximally bend their knees, which is good advice but once you have grasped this, it does not matter how far your kneecap reaches relative to your toe.

Cue #2: Screw your feet into the ground

This has been used to get people to force external rotation at the hip (spin their knees out) and much like the first cue, it has merit but the application is not all that great. The number one thing you want to avoid during a squat is for both knee varus (knees flaring out) and, more commonly, knee valgus (knees caving in) to occur. Since the latter is more common and we see knees driving inward due to inactivity at the hip (more specifically, the glute medius) to keep them in line with the second and third toe on your feet.. However, this does not need to be achieved by artificially trying to spin your feet outward as you come up out of the hole (bottom position) of a squat. Tibial rotation at the foot is not linked to movement at the knee as well as some coaches think it is; you’re better off practicing band walks to prepare these gluteus medius muscles prior to squatting. And I am a firm believer that there is not enough friction through the ground to achieve better glute development from doing this either, so don’t ask.

Cue #3: Squeeze the bar hard and try to break it in half

This cue gets my approval as it forces you to engage your lats and create tension throughout your entire body, causing more muscles to fire and the exercise to stimulate more muscle growth overall. The more tension you can create in your body, the more challenging you will make this already beast of an exercise (which in turn will lead to a more effective workout just by squeezing the hell out of a bar).

Cue #4: Look up as you come up from the bottom position

This cue is absolute crap and will only lead to a neck strain. I always look a few feet in front of me on the ground when squatting, and doing any exercise that requires me to maximally bend at the hip. Think about it: if the rest of your spine is trying to stay neutral as you lean forward into your squat, why would you want to throw the cervical portion of your spine (neck) into extension like you’re knocking back a shot of tequila? The answer is you wouldn’t, so don’t do it.

And those are the major sticking points for squatting. Just be sure to set the bar up in a comfortable position on your back (those with worse shoulder mobility and more forward lean will probably prefer a lower bar placement), take a big breath in as you step back and descend with control, bracing your abs outward as you do so, and then exhale loudly (grunt if you’d like) as you explode out of the bottom position the same way you went down. For an in-person review of your squat and more in-depth description of it in action, feel free to reach out to me at the gym or at mike.perrozzi@anytimefitness.com for some private lessons. Thanks for reading!

High Intensity Interval Training

Author: Mike Perrozzi

Alright faithful Anytime Fitness readers, it’s that time: the gym is up and running again! This means I’m going to shift focus to discussing a modality of training that can be best explored with some specialty equipment that most people do not have in their own homes. That’s not to say you are unable to accomplish your goal without items such as kettlebells, speed ladders, battle ropes, etc.; you’ll just find it’s easier to create that gut wrenching muscular burn with the aforementioned gear.

What modality am I talking about? High intensity interval training, or HIIT for short. Simply put, HIIT is a rigorous set of exercises done with very little (usually timed) rest in between or just one exercise done to exhaustion in short spurts. This is widely beneficial in that you can torch fat and burn an insane amount of calories over such a small period of time. You are also able to fit a great workout into nearly any time frame that you have available, crushing the stereotype of the bodybuilder spending three plus hours in the gym doing endless sets of repetitive movements. This also dismisses the general “I don’t have enough time to exercise” excuse quite handedly.

However, a common misconception is that the exercises selected must be plyometric or explosive in nature; while this is certainly a great way to accomplish HIIT, it certainly is not necessary. A high rep or timed set of barbell squats moving at a normal ratio and done in one large cluster set can scorch your lungs and leave you breathless just as much as a 100m sprint. High intensity interval training has been around for a long time, but wasn’t really popularized until a little more than the past decade when both kettlebells reemerged as a necessary training tool and the “Tabata” method was coined.

Tabata training is a very effective, although often abused, modality that is short and very intense. Here is how to create an effective Tabata series: choose anywhere from one to eight different exercises (the most popular choice is two) and set a time for four minutes. You will perform one exercise for twenty seconds in an all out, give it everything you’ve got effort and then rest for ten seconds before performing the next exercise for twenty and resting for ten until you’ve gone all eight rounds (fitting neatly into four minutes).

Couple of key things to note about being efficient with your Tabata series:

-because you must transition between exercises relatively quickly, it is necessary that you choose exercises that require minimal equipment. My recommendation is to choose one or two dumbbells or kettlebells that are challenging for multiple movement patterns (ie a 15lb dumbbell may be challenging for an overhead press but not nearly as difficult for squats).

-choose movement patterns that complement each other, such as one upper body and one lower body or one push and one pull. This is what makes choosing only two exercises most effective, because you can go back and forth four times and really hit each side/half of your body efficiently. Examples of this would be a kettlebell swing and a goblet squat (one hinge dominant and one squat dominant) vs goblet squats and lunges (which is essentially just doubling up on the same movement).

-be careful that you can perform these exercises safely until the last second: you are meant to try and exhaust yourself in the twenty seconds available. Choosing something such as overhead presses might not be in your best interest as a breakdown in form on these can have all sorts of painful consequences (not limited to even a dumbbell landing on your head).

-the flip side of this is to make sure the exercises you choose also give you the biggest bang for your buck. This is another reason why kettlebells are so versatile for the style of training, as well as battle ropes and any other difficult to use apparatus, but kettlebells specifically because you can do tons of difficult exercises back to back with just a single bell and string them altogether. Contrast this with a Tabata set up of bicep curls and tricep extensions however, and you could probably finish that four minute drill with relative ease.

The only real drawbacks to HIIT training is that if you do too much of it in one session, you will find your body will be unable to recover fast enough not only during the workout, but also for the following workout. Muscle soreness from these intense bouts can often be crippling if done in excess, not to mention you really aren’t building too much strength by constantly choosing lifts and weight parameters that force you to work against the clock and not kill yourself while doing so. Adding one or two HIIT drills to the end of a more conventional workout plan is probably more ideal.

While there are many more ways to implement this trending workout modality, you’ll have to come and see me one on one for personal instruction with it. Thanks for reading, and hope to see you in the gym soon!

The Importance of Healthy Fats

Author: Brett Douglas

Welcome back, Brett Douglas here Master Coach here to speak on the importance of fats, and why we should eat them and what they do for our bodies. If you remember in the 90’s fats got all the bad rap about being unhealthy, and how we should stay away from them. Science has evolved and we now know it’s trans fats that we need to minimize within our diet, healthy fats such as saturated fats (think solid fats, like butter) and unsaturated fats (think liquid fats, like canola and olive oil) are good for us. In fact, saturated and unsaturated fats should make up 25-35% of our diet. Now why is that, well for a bunch of reasons i’ll list below:

  1. Healthy fats are great for your skin, hair and nails.
  2. Healthy fat are excellent for brain, heart, and nerve function.
  3. Healthy fats are the best source of energy for your body.
  4. Healthy fats are the WD-40 of your joints, helps joint lubrication.
  5. Healthy fats help notify your body to release the extra fat that you carry, aids in fat loss.

Piggy backing of health benefit 5, its true eating fat (healthy ones) will not make you fat. They do carry more calories per gram than protein or carbs however if you eat the right amount of grams of fat per day, it typically allows your body to release unwanted fat because your body recognizes that you feed it enough fats as is and it can release it’s fat storage. Pretty cool stuff!

So hopefully you gained a new found appreciation for fats and if you had any fear about eating fat, that you now know fat are your friend. Thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with top 7 fats you can start eating today!

  1. Peanut Butter (All Natural)
  2. Avocados
  3. Olives
  4. Salmon
  5. Oils (Canola,Coconut)
  6. Flax Seeds
  7. Nuts (Almonds, Walnuts)