The best way for women to slow down the aging process — and maintain muscle quality and bone density — is to get stronger. And the best way to do that is resistance training … period.
Passover is a festive holiday, despite all the discipline and hard work that goes into preparing your home and meals for guests who travel from near and far to invade your space and wreak havoc on your lives ...
Come to think of it, Passover can be a real pain! But in all seriousness, it's a wonderful time of year. And for those who follow the dietary guidelines, it can be refreshing to take a break from your normal routine and try some new foods and recipes. As someone who came to Judaism by choice as a convert, I have found this experience of separation from the normal routine to be cleansing and beneficial.
When you're observant and trying to stick to an exercise and nutrition plan during the holiday, it can be extremely stressful. But it doesn't have to be. Here are a few tips that will help you navigate the holiday without sabotaging your fitness goals:
-- Remember that most of the points of emphasis in a sensible nutrition plan are not affected by Passover whatsoever. What should be prioritized on your plate during the rest of the year -- protein and assorted of colorful vegetables -- are perfectly Kosher for Passover. So are smart carbs like sweet potatoes, quinoa and fruit. Continue to focus on those areas.
-- When cooking, marinating or making dressings, stick with extra virgin olive oil. Coconut oil also is a good choice for cooking, and most brands are Kosher for Passover without needing to be labeled as such. Beware of the cornucopia of other toxic oils you'll find on the shelves at your Kosher supermarket. Keep it simple.
-- Also beware of Kosher for Passover substitutes for foods that require leavened bread to be what they are. In order to make a waffle taste like a waffle during Passover, you'll notice a long list of additives and chemicals and words you can't pronounce. Stay away.
-- Baked goods and sweet snacks are where many people fall off track during the rest of the year, and this is even more true during Passover. Ask yourself: Would a chocolate-covered marshmallow twist, loaded with sugar and corn syrup, support my fitness goals in December or January? No? Then it doesn't support your fitness goals during Passover. (Also, there's no such thing as a marshmallow. Unless someone can show me a marshmallow tree.)
-- As during the rest of the year, home-baked goods are best because you control the ingredients and can make healthy substitutions. Almond flour instead of regular flour is a good choice any time, and it's a necessity during Passover. Also, try coconut palm sugar or raw cane sugar instead of overly processed sugar. Your pancreas (and waistline) will thank you. Here are some healthier dessert recipes to try ... just be sure to make substitutions that are appropriate for the dietary restrictions of the holiday.
-- Traditional foods and Passover recipes handed down over generations are an integral part of enjoying the holiday. As we've always taught you, you don't have to take an extreme approach to nutrition in order to get results. Just follow your rules most of the time. It's OK to indulge and tell grandma how delicious her Passover Schnitzel is ... just be mindful of portion sizes and hunger/fullness cues as you would any other time of year.
-- Eating on the go becomes an even bigger challenge during Passover. So here are a couple of healthy snacks we found in our local supermarkets that will help:
Beef jerky is high in protein and low in fat, and this brand is not only Kosher for Passover, but it also has zero grams of sugar and no nitrates or nitrites! (For locals, we found it at Wasserman's Supermarket on Main Street in Flushing.)
Seaweed snacks give you the crunchy, slightly salty satisfaction of potato or tortilla chips, without the toxic oils and carbohydrate density. And seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, zinc, iron, calcium and selenium (which is recommended for those with under-active thyroids). These tasty treats are not only Kosher for Passover, but they also have only three ingredients: seaweed, olive oil and sea salt. It doesn't get any simpler than that. We found them at Stop 'N Shop in the Bay Terrace Shopping Center. Warning: Buy lots ... they're addictive.
Here are some healthy Passover recipes to try during the week. Even if you don't use them, reading through them can give you some ideas for how to adjust your own recipes to comply with the dietary rules AND support your fitness goals.
Lastly, I want to leave you with something to think about. As the holiday is almost upon us, think about all the work and discipline that go into keeping Kosher during Passover. Think about how these rules are non-negotiable for you, and how literally nothing will keep you from deviating from the dietary laws set forth in the Torah.
There is no doubt, this is a powerful, life-changing way to live for those who have chosen an observant path. Fasting on Yom Kippur and other holidays, and adhering to the Passover dietary laws, takes thoughtfulness, mindfulness, discipline and an uncompromising belief that the sacrifices you are making will come with a reward.
Imagine for a moment that you were able to harness these skills and habits that you already possess and apply them to making food choices that support a healthy lifestyle year-round. There is tremendous power and undeniable benefits in applying skills that you already have.
Happy Passover to all.
The old adage "no pain, no gain" has been around as long as fitness has. The idea being, if you're not getting the results you want from your fitness program, there can only be one reason: You're not training hard enough.
First of all, the notion that there's only one variable that affects physical adaptation is pure folly. The human body is complex. There are too many variables that contribute to fat loss, muscle growth and overall health and fitness to enumerate in a single blog post.
That would require a book.
Suffice it to say, this is where the vast majority of fitness enthusiasts and athletes go wrong. They fail to account for the dozens of factors that contribute to how their bodies adapt and respond to training. This thorough post from Joel Jamieson explores some of the more common obstacles: stress, overtraining and what is known as a "recovery debt."
In short: Your body's No. 1 priority is to keep you alive. It is not going to divert precious energy and resources away from vital functions like breathing and circulating blood in order to make your biceps bigger. Its No. 2 priority is to respond to stress. This is exactly where most fitness programs go off the rails.
Take a moment to think about your life. Job, career, kids, school, bills, sleep depravation and various emergencies that invoke a stress response and require substantial amounts of energy and nutrients to be mobilized. Now, how do you suppose your body will respond if you then trudge into the gym determined to kick your own ass and completely destroy yourself in the name of "stress relief?" If you're piling more stress upon all the stress you already have, and then wondering why you're not losing weight or building muscle, then you are probably stuck in the vicious cycle known as recovery debt.
Rather than forever seeking to max out your intensity and effort in your workouts, you would be better off learning and practicing some stress-management skills, moderating the intensity of your training sessions and incorporating some type of recovery activity into your fitness routine. If you need help with us, let us know in the comments or fill out one of the forms on our website and we'll be in touch right away.
And one more thing. Forget about the saying "no pain, no gain." Exercise and training should NEVER involve pain. Discomfort, yes. Muscle soreness, of course. But if your workout has you collapsing on the floor in a state of utter physical and mental destruction -- or worse, spending the rest of the day icing your joints -- you are most certainly doing more harm than good.
There is no more important aspect of performing a proper deadlift than creating tension. Tension through the core pillar ... and tension through the lats.
A weak core and inability to activate the lats through the full concentric and eccentric phases of a deadlift is the easiest way to sabotage your gains ... and worse, leave the door open to injury.
So, in addition to performing real core exercises that train the core pillar to brace and protect the spine, learning how to properly engage and activate the lats should be the top priority in your preparation for deadlifts and other foundational hip-hinge movements.
We often think of the lats as the muscles that span the side of your back from the armpit to the waist. Actually, their form and function are much broader. The lats connect the rear ribcage, upper arm, pelvis and hips. When properly engaged and activated, they blend these critical areas into a functioning unit.
It's a mistake to think that strong lats are going to improve your deadlift. In other words, that dude in the gym doing seated lat pulldowns with the whole stack isn't doing anything other than showing off. Latsturbating, if you will.
To learn and cue proper lat activation and tension that will transfer to heavy pulling, all you need is a resistance band and something around which to anchor it. It's example No. 7,876 of how people unnecessarily complicate their training when it really should be quite simple.
Check out this article from Dr. John Rusin to learn all about the straight-arm lat pulldown and all its variations. Then, incorporate these activation drills into your training -- especially before a heavy pulling session -- and let us know in the comments how it goes.
The whole point of lifting weights is to get stronger, right? Perpetually lift heavier weights, more reps, at higher intensity.
The whole point of working out is to constantly push yourself past your limits and walk out of the gym feeling like you got hit by a truck, right? That's how you know you got a great workout. As you collapse in a pool of sweat, unable to construct a sentence or muster a coherent thought, your trainer smiles and says, "You crushed it today."
Did YOU crush IT, or did the TRAINER crush YOU?
This is where a lot of people go wrong with fitness. The whole Spartan, Tough Mudder and American Ninja Warrior mentality has permeated the fitness industry, to the point where people who are just trying to be healthier and look/feel a little better have been duped into thinking the only path to those goals is pain.
What's old is new again, and the "no pain, no gain" mantra from the '80s has infiltrated the fitness world and people are buying into it all over again.
Don't be duped.
Remember this: The first priority of a fitness program is to prevent pain and injury so you can continue exercising as long as you want to -- in theory, for the rest of your life. That's it. Period. Dr. John Rusin covers this topic thoroughly in this post, "How to Lift Forever: The Best Movements for Long-Term, Pain-Free Gains."
If your fitness program doesn't include the following components, it's time to look for a new fitness program:
-- Corrective Exercise: How does it make sense to load hundreds of pounds on your back if you have hip impingement, a collapsed arch or weak external hip rotators? Fix the movement pattern first before loading it.
-- Shoulder Care: It puzzles me why people think it's a good idea to throw and catch heavy weights overhead without taking the time to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder girdle. Maybe Wall Slides or Face Pulls don't get a lot of views on Instagram, but they will help keep you in the gym training instead of inside an MRI tube.
-- Unilateral Exercises: If you have right-left imbalances (which most people do), what do you think the outcome will be if you only push, pull, squat or hinge bilaterally? (Hint: Repeating a dysfunctional movement pattern will only lead to more dysfunction, and ultimately, pain and injury.) Improve and reprogram movement patterns in a single-leg, single-arm fashion before going for that next PR. Here's one of our favorites, the Rear-Leg Elevated or Bulgarian Split Squat (which we're doing in our Small-Group Training sessions today, actually.)
-- Core Exercises: And by this, I don't mean hundreds of sit-ups, v-ups and side-bends. I mean real core exercises that train the anti-rotation and anti-flexion functions of the core pillar. One of the most underrated core and hip stability exercises is as old and simple as it gets: the Glute Bridge. (Note: Only attempt a loaded glute bridge after you've mastered and progressed the unloaded version, including the Banded Glute Bridge.)
-- Loaded Carries: Speaking of old, underrated core exercises, it doesn't get much better than loaded carries. They're essential to developing neuromuscular stability, core stiffness and pure strength. Omit them from your training program at your own peril.
-- Squats and Deadlifts: But bear in mind, these two foundational lifting patterns should not be executed with a barbell if the athlete lacks the joint mobility and core strength to perform them properly. And they need not be executed with a barbell to get a training effect. Here's one of my favorite squat variations, the Landmine Goblet Squat.
Try some of these mandatory exercises in your training program and let us know in the comments how they work for you. And if your training program doesn't include these fundamental components, find one that does. This way, you can accomplish the No. 1 goal of fitness: to stay pain- and injury-free so you can keep doing everything you enjoy for the rest of your life.
Americans are more obese and broken than ever before, and a big part of it is our sedentary lifestyle and a grab-and-go diet mentality in which convenience trumps nutrition. But the one culprit that nobody wants to talk about -- and even fewer know how to address -- is sitting.
Sitting -- at work, at school, or in cars, buses, trains and planes -- wreaks havoc on the joints and connective tissues. No wonder you go to the gym after a day at the laptop buffet and can't squat to quarter-depth. Your hip flexors have been under tension all day.
That's to say nothing about the damage done to your posture from hunching over your desk or phone for the majority of the day.
One tip for desk workers is to set an alarm or calendar reminder every 90 minutes or so and get up, walk around, maybe even do some light stretching, lunges or squats. Research has shown that we can only stay focused and productive for about 90 minutes at a time; anything beyond that, and you're not getting enough work done to justify staying put.
If you want to take it a step further, here are six exercise that every desk worker should be doing to combat the ravages of sitting. They come to you courtesy of MG Fit Life, and the whole routine only takes a few minutes but pays huge dividends in reversing the damage that comes with being deskbound.
(Speaking of which, check out my friend Kelly Starrett's book, appropriately titled, "Deskbound," for everything you need to know about what sitting is doing to your body -- and how to fix it.)
Here's one of our go-to t-spine mobilizations for opening up the upper back and rib-cage complex to get your shoulders moving better and keep poor posture from ruining your workouts.
Try these mobility exercises and let us know in the comments how they're working for you. And remember, every once in a while, push away from the desk and take a walk.
If you're serious about increasing your fitness and staying pain- and injury-free, you have a few options.
1) Watch all the mobility exercises flying across your Instagram feed, pick a few of them randomly, do them and hope they help. Not the best strategy, unless you enjoy wasting time doing exercises that may or may not be beneficial to you.
2) Make an appointment with a professional trainer who is qualified to assess movement. You would then undergo a movement assessment and receive a customized corrective exercise program. In most cases, such a qualified professional can narrow your prehab and mobility work down to 10-12 minutes of exercises that, if performed consistently and progressed properly, can improve your movement patterns and create a strong, stable based to support your fitness activities.
(Wait, what? Your gym/trainer doesn't perform any assessments when a person comes to train with them? Run, don't walk, out the door. Just be sure to perform some ankle mobility drills and calf activations first.)
3) If you're new to movement assessments and corrective exercise and don't really know where to begin, Dr. John Rusin has done all the work for you. He's combined some of the best ideas about human movement into three catch-all mobility drills that address the vast majority of problems we see in the fitness population: hip and adductor tightness, poor thoracic spine mobility and an inability to brace the core pillar and co-contract around the joints to create stability.
You can read all about and watch these go-to mobility drills ===> here.
The best part about these drills is that each one addresses multiple mobility restrictions and trouble spots by incorporating movement. Unlike your garden variety static stretches that you see the Guy With The Giant Biceps doing for hours at your local fitness chain, these drills combine mobility with core stiffness and movement -- which is exactly what your body needs when you lift weights, play sports or perform a conditioning workout.
Here's a great example, which combines a corrective exercise popularized by Functional Movement Systems (which we use to guide our programming at Max Velocity) and renowned baseball trainer Eric Cressey (whose methods we follow religiously in training our young baseball players).
Save yourself some time and try these simple, easy-to-perform mobility drills and let us know in the comments what differences you see in your training. And if you need help, or would like to receive a complimentary movement screen by a certified FMS professional, make an appointment here.
Everyone wants strong, appealing abs. Unfortunately, most fitness programs, trainers and fitness enthusiasts think never-ending crunches, sit-ups and side-bends are the answer.
There is much more to having "abs" than what you can see with the, um, naked eye. True core strength involves the ability to stabilize the pillar of the body while under load and tension and with dynamic movement at the extremities. Most workout programs go for sizzle over substance. The truth is, the most essential and effective core exercises won't get a lot of views on Instagram.
Real training is hard work, but it's also smart work. This is why you should be incorporating the Pallof Press into your core training. The key is co-contraction of the muscles that stabilize the hips and shoulders. The function of the core is not just to make you look good in a bathing suit; it's to protect the spine, stabilize the joints and help your body express more strength and power.
Here's a post explaining the benefits of the Pallof Press, perhaps the most underrated and underutilized core exercise known to man.
Here's another one describing how to perform an even more effective version of this movement: The Banded Pallof-Overhead Press Combo. This catch-all core exercise has a little bit of everything. It enhances the anti-rotation and side-bending functions of the core pillar, plus shoulder stability and hip function from the foundational half-kneeling position.
If core strength is what you're after -- and, if you're exercising in any way, it should be -- then try these overlooked, underrated movements and let us know what you think in the comments. Your abs will thank you.