Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Resistance Bands


Dumbbells and barbells might get the spotlight when it comes to popular fitness equipment, but resistance bands should not be taken lightly. This tough piece of rubber can be made a part of any serious workout regardless of your fitness goals. In fact, resistance bands are particularly useful for fat loss, muscle toning, and making your current exercise routine much more difficult.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of resistance bands, how to use them, and a workout to get you started today.

Benefits of Resistance Bands


Before we jump into how to use resistance bands, let’s talk about why they are a worthwhile investment.

Cost-Effective: For those looking to build a gym on a budget, resistance bands are one of the best investments that you can make. You can easily find an entire set for twenty dollars, but if you want stretch your money further, better brands typically cost around seven to ten dollars per band. The cost isn’t staggering, and the bands will last you many years, not a few months.

Take Them Anywhere: Resistance bands are the most portable piece of fitness equipment that can also help you sculpt your physique. You can literally put your gym in your purse. Since they were made to take a beating, you’ll find that resistance bands can be squashed into any suitcase or bookbag. That means you can continue exercising when you’re traveling for business or pleasure.

Increase Intensity of Normal Exercises: One of my favorite uses for resistance bands involves making traditional exercises more challenging. I do this in one of two ways: First, I use a resistance band during basic compound movements such as bodyweight squats or push-ups. The other way to use resistance bands to upgrade your workout is to attach them to a barbell or dumbbell so that you have an insane eccentric (lowering) pull from the bands. You’ll see this in the workout below when we combine a kettlebell and resistance band.

Ideal for Beginners / Rehabilitation:If you’re new to fitness or if you have to relearn what your body once knew, resistance bands are an excellent option. They are comfortable to use, unlike dumbbells or barbells, which can leave marks and bruises. You can easily select the resistance band that matches your physical ability as you move through foundational exercises.

Lowest Risk of Injury: Continuing with the point above, resistance bands offer the lowest risk of injury compared to all other pieces of fitness equipment. This is important if you’re new to fitness, going through rehabilitation, or elderly with medical restrictions. 

How to Use a Resistance Band



Ready to buy your first set of resistance bands? As soon as you open the box for your bands, you might be a bit confused as to how to use them. Here are the basic instructions for the two most common types of resistance bands: with and without a handle.

Band Only Instructions:


Bands without a handle will look like a big rubber circle. Don’t be intimidated by it. Think of the circle as two points: Point A or the bottom of the band and Point B or the top of the band. Depending on the exercise, you’ll step onto the middle of the band (Point A) or you may attach the band to a chair or other form of support. Point B would be where you put your hands. Let’s use the bodyweight squat as an example:

·      Step into the middle of the band. (Point A)
·      Make sure that your feet are shoulder width apart.
·      Grab on to the top of the band with both hands. (Point B)
·      Extend your hands and the band overhead.
·      Bend at the knees and drive your hips back as you squat down.
·      You’ll feel tension throughout your legs.
·      Pause once your thighs come to parallel or just below parallel.
·      Slowly stand back up, making sure that your hands stay in the air.

Band with Handles Instructions: 


Resistance bands with handles might feel a lot more familiar, especially if you have experience with dumbbells. The same idea applies here in that the middle of the band is Point A, but the individual handles would be Point B. Let’s use another exercise as an example. Here’s the resistance band curl:

·      Hold each handle in one hand.
·      Step on to the middle of the band with both feet.
·      Your feet can be close together but not touching.
·      Keep your arms at your side with your upper arm tight against your ribs.
·      Bend at the elbow and feel the tension in the band.
·      Without moving your upper arm from your side, curl the handle up towards your shoulder.
·      You’ll feel the tension in your bicep muscles.
·      Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting position.

Resistance Band Brand: My Recommendation


If you’re feeling confident about using resistance bands and you’re ready to go shopping, I recommend XD resistance bandsfor your first pair. I’ve been using the XD brand for years and if I have to replace a band, they will be my first choice. Here’s why I love this set of resistance bands: 

Insane Resistance:The XD brand has a variety of resistance bands that range from twenty pounds of resistance all the way to 150 pounds! That’s more than most commercial gyms have on their dumbbell rack. Don’t worry: These aren’t the only numbers. No matter your experience and physical ability, you’ll find a band that’s right for you. 

Super Durable: Despite going through hundreds of client sessions – not to mention my own workouts – my XD resistance bands are still going strong. These things are built tough as nails. I’ve even used them outside in local parks when the weather allows and they still aren’t showing any signs of wear.

Available in Short Length: XD is the only brand of resistance bands that I’ve found that offers shorter length bands. A shorter length band is going to be a life saver for shorter people. Or if you prefer that insane tension without having to wrap up your band, the shorter span is for you.

Resistance Band Workouts


You’ve armed yourself with a sturdy pair of resistance bands, and now all you need is a workout to accompany them. For each of the following exercises, perform between four to six sets of 15 repetitions. Do this workout three or four times per week.



Wrap the middle of your resistance band around a sturdy form of support such as a pole. Take a shoulder-width grip on your band. Stand tall with a tight core and a neutral gaze. Pull the band in towards your chest. Pause for a moment then pull the band apart, increasing the tension in your chest, shoulders, and arms. Bring your hands together and return to the starting position.





Wrap the middle of your resistance band around a sturdy form of support such as a pole. On the ground, turn so that you are held up by your left forearm and left foot. Take the handle of the band in your right hand just above your head. Focusing the tension in your lats, pull the band down and back. Pause and contract the back muscles before slowly extending the band overhead again. Once you finish your 15 repetitions, switch sides so that you are balancing yourself on the right forearm and right foot.





Step into the middle of the band, making sure that your feet are shoulder width apart. Grab on to the top of the band with both hands and extend overhead. Bend at the knees and drive your hips back as you squat down. You’ll feel tension throughout your legs. Pause once your thighs come to parallel or just below parallel. Slowly stand back up and as your knees start to straighten, turn towards the left side. Push your hands in the air then repeat. Alternate the direction upon standing up moving from the left side to center to the right side and back again.





Attach the top of your band to the handle of a kettlebell. Step into the middle of the band, making sure to move your feet to shoulder width and toes pointed out. Stand tall with a tight core. Grab on to the top of the kettlebell with both hands and slowly lift it up towards your shoulders. Pause at the top then slowly lower the kettlebell down, fighting against the eccentric pull from the bands. (This one is going to burn!)


Do You Have Experience with Resistance Bands?


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Do you use resistance bands as a part of your workout? If so, what benefits have you noticed? Are you new to resistance bands? What questions do you have that I can answer so you can get started? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Power of the kBox: The Best Fitness Equipment I’ve Ever Used


As a personal trainer with years of experience in the industry, I’ve come across almost every piece of fitness equipment you can imagine. Some that are amazing such as the VersaClimber and many more that failed to make the cut. The latter usually find their way out when sales dry up. To be blunt: It’s hard to impress me with a new piece of fit gear.

I was genuinely surprised when I found the kBox. It didn’t look like much, but after one workout, I was hooked. Let me take you through what the kBox is, the benefits you can expect, and my personal experience using it with my clients and during my own workouts.

What is the kBox?


When you first see the kBox, you’re immediately going to wonder what it does; after all, it just looks like a big box with a wheel in the front. The kBox is based on flywheel training, making it ideal for a variety of different types of training including strength building, muscle hypertrophy, and sports conditioning. 

How Does the KBox Work?



Flywheel training is when the user of the machine (you!) generates his or her own resistance by working against the inertia of the flywheel, not against gravity like with traditional weightlifting. In other words, the resistance is coming from the flywheel itself, pulling you back to the starting point. 

Attached to the flywheel, you’ll pull up, the wheel will spin, and you’ll have to fight against the returning resistance, creating an insane amount of eccentric load. Several studies have found flywheel training to be superior to traditional barbells as far as results and injury prevention. (1)

Benefits of kBox


Speaking of studies, let’s dive into the proven benefits of the kBox:

Unique Challenge: I guarantee you won’t find a workout quite like this. It might take a few minutes to get used to, but the kBox provides an incredible challenge, demanding the most from your muscles. It might not seem like you’re doing much – after all, there’s no barbell on your back or dumbbell at your side – but your muscles will quickly let you know that you’re doing a hell of a lot.

Variety of Exercises:I’ll admit that when I first saw the kBox, I had my doubts as to whether you could perform many exercises. I was definitely wrong. You can perform all of your favorite exercises including squats and lunges. Not just the standard squat or lunge – You can do split squats, sumo squats, side lunges, and reverse lunges. These are just a few examples of the upper, lower, and total body exercises that you can do. There are literally dozens that you can do.


Tracks Your Workouts:One of my favorite features of the kBox is the kMeter, which is an app-based wireless feedback system that provides you with real-time feedback on your workouts. It’s not some universal fitness tracker; the kMeter was built to link directly to the kBox, giving you incredibly accurate readouts.

No Noise: Sometimes my days are busy and I’m not able to get in a workout until well after everyone else in my house has gone to bed. Despite providing an insane full-body workout, the kBox is eerily quiet. Seriously, you won’t hear a peep from this thing.

Easy to Carry and Store: I offer off-site personal training, so I need equipment that I can pack up and take with me. When I first saw the kBox, I assumed that it weighed a ton. Not the case at all. The model I purchased – the kBox4 – weighs a bit more than thirty pounds, which is probably less than most of you carry around with the dumbbells you use. They also offer a different version that weighs half of this!

Try Before You Buy:Even with all of the features of the kBox, I only wanted to try it to make sure it wasn’t a one-time love affair. Thankfully, the company, Exxentric has set up plenty of locations around the country, allowing you to experience flywheel training for yourself.

kBox Review: My Experience with kBox


I personally use the kBox as much as my clients do. First, let’s talk about my workouts:

I tend to enjoy power-focused workouts such as crawling, and the kBox is perfect for this. Since you’re in control of the resistance, you won’t believe the power you can generate on this thing. Power-focused training can help to build muscle and burn fat, but most importantly, it’ll take your athletic performance through the roof. Since I started using the kBox, I’ve noticed gigantic improvements in my jump squats and sprints.

I like to mix up my kBox workouts. During the week, I’ll alternate between upper, lower, and total body workouts. My favorite exercises on it are the kettlebell swing, the deadlift, and, of course, the squat. One of the things I love about the kBox is that it can take old exercises and breathe new life into them. I’ve done literally thousands of barbell squats, but the first kBox squat I did felt like it woke up muscles I’ve never used before.

I also take part in group exercise classes, and before each class, I use the kBox to prime myself. Every single time I’ve used the kBox to warmup, my power output has surpassed everyone else’s by 100 to 150 points.


With my clients, I’ve found the kBox to be ideal for improving strength, power, and overall fitness ability without the risk that comes with using barbells and dumbbells. My elderly clients or those going through rehab love the kBox since they can control the challenge. Best of all, there’s no compression from barbells on your back. Even my fittest clients get a world class workout with it. Check out one of my rock star clients performing a deadlift on the kBox.

Have You Tried the kBox?


What did you think about it? Curious about using the kBox? Have questions about how to get started? Let me know in the comments below!


References


1. Vicens-Bordas J, Esteve E, Fort-Vanmeerhaeghe A, Bandholm T, Thorborg K. Is inertial flywheel resistance training superior to gravity-dependent resistance training in improving muscle strength? A systematic review with meta-analyses. J Sci Med Sport. 2018 Jan;21(1):75-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2017.10.006. Epub 2017 Oct 18.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Art and Science of Recovery


It’s not the most fun, exciting, or sexy part of achieving your fitness goals but recovery is an absolute necessity if you want to see results. Recovery is like an art form in that what you may prefer or what works best for you may not be what someone else prefers. More importantly, the best recovery methods are based firmly in science. I want to share with you the most scientifically effective and proven recovery methods that I personally use and share with my own clients.
Nutrition, Diet, and Supplements
It all begins with what you decide to put into your body. You may have heard how seventy percent of the results that you see in the mirror come from nutrition and this should not be taken lightly. Recovery all starts with nutrition because fatigued muscle tissue requires nutrients. 

Think of nutrients as the building blocks to repair damaged areas of the foundation of a building. If you aren’t using the right tools, the building foundation will continue to become weaker and eventually fall over. I want to make sure that you’re arming yourself with the right nutrients to maximize recovery so let’s first talk about diet.

Diet for Recovery

One of the best diets for recovery is going to focus on natural, whole food choices. Your macronutrient breakdown should be rich in protein and healthy fats and moderate in carbohydrate consumption.


For protein, you should be mixing both animal and plant-based sources. Lean chicken breasts, wild seafood, and grass-fed beef are all excellent animal-based options. As for plant sources, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, and quinoa are high in protein and rich in phytonutrients.

For healthy fats, it’s important to look at the nutrition label. Just because something contains fat doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. If you see that a product contains trans-fat, do not consume it. Focus on mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats as well as natural sources of saturated fats such as coconut oil.

For carbohydrates, I’d recommend limiting your overall consumption but when you do eat them you should be focusing on complex sources. Complex carbohydrates contain more fiber and are slower to digest or break down. For example, processed white bread is a simple carbohydrate that rapidly turns to sugar in the body. This will spike blood sugar levels and leave you feeling fatigued. Complex carbohydrates such as natural, whole wheat bread is slower to break down and it provides a slow-release form of energy. Great carbohydrate choices include dark leafy green vegetables, quinoa, and brown rice.

One of my favorite meals is turkey or chicken slices with butter lettuce drizzled with olive oil.

Hydration


Keeping yourself hydrated is essential for proper health even if you aren’t physically active. Why? The body requires water to perform dozens of processes that you may not even think about such as flushing waste and hydrating cells.

For active individuals, the need for proper hydration can become the difference between achieving your fitness goal and risking over-training. When you push your muscular and nervous systems beyond their point of recovery, you may suffer from over-training. Symptoms for over-training include extreme fatigue, muscle loss, and injury.

If you are listening to your body and responding appropriately to your thirst, you shouldn’t have to worry about dehydration but for those who tend to ignore the tell-tale signs, it’s worth talking about. Your body can last weeks without food but only a few days without water. This should illustrate the essential importance of proper hydration for the body. 

Dehydration is a dangerous slippery slope because the worse it gets, the less you become aware of the actions you need to take due to the confusion and absent-mindedness that sets in. Dehydration will eventually lead to death so I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep yourself properly hydrated.

Be sure to drink half of your bodyweight in ounces every day. It’s not enough to only drink fresh water; however, you want to make sure you’re drinking a mineral water so that you don’t flush out all of your electrolytes. You can also use an electrolyte supplement. If you want to improve the taste of your water and get the necessary electrolytes throughout the day, use a few squirts of Trace Mineral’s Endure.

 Vitamin D3


If you’re eating a well-balanced diet as I discussed above then you should be getting all of your essential macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. However, there is one vitamin in particular that can significantly help with proper recovery: vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be obtained from animal food sources and sunshine. It is a sex-steroid vitamin and it plays a number of important roles throughout the body, especially in the formation of hormones and mood regulation. 

During winter months, many people develop what is known as seasonal depression. One of the main reasons for this is because a lack of vitamin D in the body. During colder months, you tend to stay inside more and there isn’t as much sunshine. This will dramatically plummet your vitamin D production, which then impacts hormones, mood, and even libido.

There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: First, you can consume animal sources such as milk, yogurt, salmon, and eggs. Next is to get outside more. Your body can create vitamin D with the help of sunlight. Lastly, you can take a supplement

Let’s say you aren’t a meat eater or that it’s winter and the sunshine isn’t as common as it usually is. In this case, I’d recommend taking a vitamin D3 supplement. Vitamin D3 is considered the most bioavailable form, which means your body is able to recognize it, digest it, and assimilate it better than other forms.

Lifestyle



Small and consistent changes are an effective way to better your lifestyle and when it comes to recovery, this couldn’t be truer. I’m not going to tell you that you need to over haul the way you live your life but I do have three very simple recommendations that will improve how you feel each day and benefit your body’s recovery post-workout.

Get Enough Sleep




Studies have demonstrated time and time again that adults in the United States are not getting adequate sleep. What’s more, for those sleeping less than six hours per night, which is 1 in 3 adults in the U.S., you are more likely to make mistakes, have a weak immune system, and succumb to over-training.

Proper sleep is going to benefit your entire body but it plays a special role in recovery. Sleep is the time when your body is busy getting rid of waste and toxins from physical activity and exercise while recharging your mind and muscle. Sleep is also when your body releases growth hormone, which is extremely important for your recovery. Insufficient sleep means a lack of growth hormone and in turn, this is going to result in poor recovery and a higher risk for injury.

It is recommended that you get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. The best way to do this is to start getting ready one hour before you plan to fall asleep. Power down all electronics, get a warm shower, read a physical copy of a book, and slip into bed. You can even try meditation to help relax you before you drift off.

Epsom Salt Baths




If you want to improve your rate of recovery, it doesn’t get much easier than taking a bath. While a normal hot-water bath is great, I recommend using Epsom salts in your bath water.

The Epsom salt bath is going to feel great, help you relax, and soothe tension in your muscles. It may also help to flush out cellular waste that formed during exercise.

I recommend soaking in an Epsom salt bath one to three times every week for 30 to 45 minutes.

Visit a Sauna



If your gym provides access to a sauna, then you have one of the best tools for recovery post-workout. Recent scientific studies have demonstrated that saunas can make a significant and positive impact on your health.

Saunas can improve brain function by promoting the development of new brain cells while strengthening and reinforcing existing cells. Using a sauna has also been shown to extend your life. From a fitness standpoint, using a sauna can benefit performance, results, and recovery.

Spending time in a sauna can improve your overall tolerance to heat, which will come in handy if you work or train outside during summer months. If you’re trying to lose weight, consistent sauna usage has been shown to provide an immediate boost in your metabolic rate and it also supports long term weight loss.

Using a sauna also helps to flush out the waste produced during exercise, which will improve recovery. The increased blood flow will help to deliver nutrients such as amino acids and glucose to fatigued muscles. These are just a few of the benefits that you can expect by using a sauna. Overall, a sauna will be a great health tool no matter what your fitness goal.

I recommend spending thirty minutes in a sauna for at least three days per week. Ideally, you’ll be able to spend five days a week in a sauna. It’s extremely important that you stay hydrated before, during, and after sauna usage.

Professional Assistance

Naturally, we can do as much as we possible can to ensure proper recovery but sometimes it’s essential to look for professional assistance. The three methods listed below have been used by athletes for many years and these techniques are thought to be the best way to promote post-workout recovery.

Massage Therapy

Getting a massage can be relaxing but if you are an active person or athlete, massage isn’t as much of a luxury as it is a necessity for recovery.

Consistent physical activity and exercise leads to tight muscles. The tighter your muscles become and the more adhesions or knots that are present, the worse you’re going to feel and the greater your chance for injury.

Massage, specifically Active Release Technique massage, is an effective way to alleviate tension, break up adhesions, correct length tension relationships, and decrease your risk of injury. If you’re new to massage, you may find corrective massage to be painful at times but not unbearable. You can request that the massage therapist go lighter on you if it’s your first session but unfortunately in the case of corrective massage, no pain equals no gain.

It may hurt a bit during but you’re going to feel completely different afterwards. As with all massages, be sure to drink plenty of water afterwards.

Graston Technique



Using a specialized medical instrument that usually looks like a small steel bar, professionals will apply the Graston technique. This is where troublesome areas are manipulated and corrected using the instrument mentioned above. 

Similar to the corrective massages I mentioned above, the Gratson technique may be extremely uncomfortable and painful. There’s also a chance that it may cause bruising for several days after treatment. It may feel especially tender in places that have been injured, such as broken bones. 

However, it is completely worth it, especially if you’ve been having issues with your tight muscles and over compensation. Personally, I cannot recommend this enough. The first few sessions will probably be uncomfortable but you feel amazing afterward.

Finding a professional who is highly experienced in the Graston technique isn’t as easy as finding a good massage therapist. For this reason, I highly recommend using the Graston technique website to find a provider near you.

Cupping




If you watched the last Olympics, you may have wondered why so many athletes had big purple circular marks on them. The answer is that they were using cupping therapy. Athletes have recently discovered its rumored potential at correcting muscular ailments and biomechanical issues.

Cupping is an ancient Chinese practice that dates back thousands of years. There are several forms of cupping with the most popular involving the process of heating up glass cups that are then applied to the skin specifically along energy pathways or meridians. Alternative medicine gurus claim that cupping gets the blocked energy moving in the body.

Many practitioners admit that cupping alone isn’t the answer and that it should be used in conjunction with other alternative methods such as massage, Graston technique, and acupuncture. 


Cryotherapy



Embracing the cold has become the new thing in the world of sports recovery, but its benefits aren’t restricted to athletes. Everyday men and women who are active can experience a variety of benefits from incorporating cryotherapy or cold therapy into their recovery routine.

Originally developed for those suffering from arthritis, cryotherapy was shown to have a dramatic effect on inflammation. What does the soreness you feel after a workout and the origin of many illnesses have in common? Inflammation. Arthritis, for example, is an inflammation-based disease. Cryotherapy has been shown to reduce the soreness and inflammation post-workout.

How does it work? A chamber is filled with harmless and completely safe nitrogen gas, which cools the surrounding area to around -300°F. In just a few minutes, the temperature of your skin drops to around 35°F. Don’t worry! Sessions are short so you won’t risk any adverse effects; however, what does happen is pretty incredible. Endorphins are released so you get an instant boost in your mood, circulation increases, white blood cell count skyrockets, and you’ll feel a surge in energy. 

If you have access to cryotherapy – even if it’s just once a month – I’d highly recommend it!

My Personal Recovery Program

What I’ve provided for you are several options that have been scientifically shown to improve your recovery but you may be wondering how to use these methods each day. Below, I’m going to provide my personal blueprint for what I do each week.

Daily and Post-Workout

Throughout my day, I focus on quality nutrition from natural food sources. I also make sure to bring a water container around with me. During winter months, I take a Vitamin D3 supplement because Boston can get quite cold and cloudy.

After a workout, I immediately jump into the sauna and spend 30 minutes there. I make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after.

Before bed, I soak in Epsom Salts or right after a Graston Session to reduce swelling and enhance a speedy recovery. I highly recommended doing this before bed as it will improve the quality of your sleep.

Monthly

As your budget allows, try to visit the following professionals:

First, visit a professional to perform the Graston technique one to two times per month in troublesome areas. I go twice a month and have the professional specifically work on my tightest and most sore areas.

After Graston bruises resides, get cupped in those places as an added benefit, along with other parts of the body that are tight.

Finally, find a masseuse that you love who is passionate about helping you achieve your fitness goals. A knowledgeable massage therapist will be able to hear your goals and apply the proper bodywork to alleviate tension and improve recovery so you will see improved performance or results. I get bodywork done one to two times a week. 

Conclusion

Recovery never sounds like fun but it is the one thing that will ensure you’re able to get back into the gym, in the pool, or on the field. Making a small daily effort for recovery is going to pay you back tenfold when you realize how great you feel. What’s more, your risk of injury will be low, allowing you to continue doing what you love.

Have you used any of the methods or techniques listed above? What benefits did you notice? Let me know in the comments below!

References

1. Dahlquist DT, Dieter BP, Koehle MS. Plausible ergogenic effects of vitamin D on athletic performance and recovery. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015;12:33. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0093-8.

2. Dattilo M, Antunes HK, Medeiros A, Mônico Neto M, Souza HS, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2011 Aug;77(2):220-2. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2011.04.017. Epub 2011 May 7.

3. Mero A, Tornberg J, Mäntykoski M, Puurtinen R. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. SpringerPlus. 2015;4:321. doi:10.1186/s40064-015-1093-5.



4. Zainuddin Z, Newton M, Sacco P, Nosaka K. Effects of Massage on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recovery of Muscle Function. Journal of Athletic Training. 2005;40(3):174-180.