Friday, January 30, 2015

Develop Upper Back Strength and Better Posture With the Lat Pulldown

 Exercise - Lat Pulldown


The lat pulldown is a great exercise for strengthening and developing the upper back muscles that are critical for good posture.  People whose shoulders are slumped forward most likely have underdeveloped upper back muscles.

First, sit down and adjust the thigh pad to a position that firmly fits over your thighs.  Then select a resistance with which the last three repetitions are difficult to complete.  If this is your first time doing this exercise, it may take experimenting at several weights before you find the right resistance.  Next, grip the bar a little wider than shoulder width, sit down on the seat and place your knees firmly under the pad.  Start with your arms fully extended and your chest held high.  This is your start position. Now, pull the bar slowly down to the base of your neck while squeezing your shoulder blades back and together.   Slowly return the bar to the starting position.  (It should take about two seconds to pull the bar down and about two seconds to return the bar to its starting position). Proper breathing is very important, so remember to exhale as you pull the bar down and inhale as you return the bar to the starting position. 

Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions at a resistance with which the last 3 repetitions are hard to complete.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Getting the Biggest Return for Your Efforts to Lose Weight

This is that time of the year you are bombarded with all the new and improved weight loss gimmicks such as, "Just take this pill, or wear this belt, or do this exercise and you are guaranteed to lose x amount of weight in a week."  Well, if you don't it, I'm telling you now, there are no magic pills, or mystical secrets to weight loss.  Regardless of what you hear, to lose weight you have to expend more calories than you consume.

Your body needs energy (measured in calories) to survive and you get that energy from the food you eat.  How much energy you need on a daily basis is primarily a function of the following factors:

Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the number of calories your body expends during quiet rest.  Your RMR makes up 60 to 80 percent of your total daily caloric requirements.  Your physical activity level constitutes between 20 to 30 percent of your daily energy needs.  And, the thermic effect of the foods you eat makes up only a small piece of your daily calorie expenditure.

You can see from the above your RMR is the largest component of your daily caloric needs. Your RMR is comprised mainly of the energy requirements of your organs, and the energy requirements of your skeletal muscle.  The energy requirements of your organs make-up 60 to 70 percent of your RMR,  while your skeletal muscle comprises 20 to 30 percent.  The daily energy requirements of your organs remain fairly constant thus, your skeletal muscle is the piece of you RMR that you can change.  By increasing your muscle mass you consequently increase your RMR which means you increase your daily energy expenditure.

As I mentioned above losing weight involves burning more calories than you consume, so building muscle gets you the biggest return for your efforts to lose weight especially in the long-term.  "How do I build muscle you ask?"  The answer is by lifting weights also known as strength training.  Strength training helps in your effort to lose weight by building muscle which increases your RMR and also by increasing your physical activity level (the 2 largest parts of your daily caloric needs).

In my next post I will talk about the additional benefits of strength training and what a good strength program consists of.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Make Strength Training the Foundation of Your Fitness Program

It's the first of the year and I already see my gym flooded with people eager to get healthy and fit for the New Year.  Most of the new comers spend most of their time on the cardio equipment, then they spend a few minutes lifting weights, and then they go home.

While cardio is a very important component of your fitness program, it shouldn't be where you spend the majority of your time in the gym.  I recommend you build your fitness program around strength training, also known as weight lifting and here's why:

Strength Training builds and helps to maintain your muscle mass.  Muscle tissue is always active and thus burns calories even when you are at rest.  Thus, by building and maintaining your muscle mass you  increase your resting metabolism, which means you burn more calories even while you are sleeping.

Muscle is key to long-term weight loss and body fat reduction.  As a personal trainer I often hear statements like this "ever since I tuned 40 I can't seem to lose weight and I've developed these areas of fat that I can't get rid of either."  Muscle loss is the primary reason for this scenario.  Beginning as early as your 30s you start to naturally lose muscle mass, and this process accelerates with age if you don't do anything to stop or slow it down.  As I previously mentioned, muscle is that active part of your body that burns calories even when you are resting.  Thus, as you lose your muscle mass your metabolism decreases, and consequently your calorie burning capacity also decreases.  Additionally, body fat is the fuel of choice for your muscles while you are at rest, and also for low intensity activities such as casual walking, cleaning house, and yard work.

Strength training increases your bone strength and makes your joints stronger.  Regular strength training has been proven to decrease the risk of developing osteoporosis, and also to make the activities of daily life easier to perform.

Strength training helps reduce blood sugar, and thus, reduces the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.  Strength training plays a particular role to in reducing blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity because when you lift weights the main fuel used is that stored as muscle glucose. Building extra muscle also provides a larger storage area for glucose, so the combination of these two factors -- increased muscle and regular emptying of these muscle stores -- improves the body's glucose processing, a factor crucial in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.

Hopefully you can see why I think strength training should be the foundation of your fitness program.  If you are new to weight lifting, I suggest you find a nationally certified fitness professional to help you develop a strength training program, and to teach you the proper form and lifting techniques.