Yoga and pilates participation has grown within the past few years. Many have incorporated the two types of exercises for something new, but many add it for strength and flexibility. Does yoga and pilates improve those two areas? To answer that, let's dive into the mechanisms of strength and flexibility.
Strength in a Range of Motion
In our past posts about how muscles can be manipulated through different programs, we explained how strength can be improved. We have not yet discussed strength in different Ranges Of Motion (ROM). ROM describes the relative angle of a limb compared to another part of the body. For example, if I was standing upright and stuck my arm out forward, then flexed my bicep with my fist pointed directly up, my elbow's current ROM would be 90 degree (forearm and upper arm are the relative structures in this case). If you want to be strong at all ranges of motion, you have to apply resistance to that muscle at all ROM's. If I were to do a push up, go down so that my arm my elbow was 90 degrees for 60 seconds, I would improve strength at 90 degrees, but not as much at other angles. For example, the reason people "half rep" during a bench press is because they do not have sufficient strength at all ROM below wherever they stop (Half repping is not encouraged unless one is training their sticking point, which there is also better ways to do that).
Mechanism of flexibility
Next is flexibility. Flexibility can be defined as how far a muscle can be lengthened, or how far two relative structures connected by an axis can be stretched. To improve the flexibility of a muscle, it's simple: just stretch it (things may be more complex for people with injuries or neuromuscular and muscle spindle disorders). There are many ways to stretch muscles (passive, active, assisted, PNF, dynamic, etc.), and there's appropriate times and cases for each. Some may be high-risk, some may be power-inhibiting, and some may be unable to do alone. Whatever the method, all are elongating the muscles, therefore increasing flexibility to a certain degree.
What Does Yoga Do and How?
For yoga, strength is achieved, but only at limited ranges of motion. Most of the time, yoga has a person hold a position (isometric contraction). So although one may be getting stronger, perhaps it may only be in a small ROM for the limbs, but primarily stabilizing the core. As for flexibility, it increases it because people are often times in a position where muscles are being stretched for a few seconds. Of course nowadays there are fitness programs called power yoga and other catchy names that are some form of calisthenics.
Pilates (mainly referring to Pilates on reformers), which I prefer more, helps with flexibility because the pull from the reformers and cadillacs give the muscle somewhat of a short stretch at the end of a repetition. Additionally, it may replicate a response in the muscle similar to PNF due to the nature of the equipment to allow a stretch-then-contract pattern. For strength, it can increase strength at different ranges of motion, however not as much because the degree of resistance may not be enough depending on the individual's strength. For Pilates we much prefer traditional programs led by PMA certified trainers opposed to other types of classes.
So are yoga and Pilates good or bad? You make the call. You have been provided with the mechanisms of both, but it's important to ask yourself, what are your's or your client's goals, what is their fitness history, will you be able to quantatively measure their improvements, and is it the best way to reach their goals? With that said, if the goal is weight loss and strength, there is no substitute for hard iron and good eating habits.
Remember that all types of exercises are merely tools for a problem, and there are multiple tools out there.
Bulking and cutting are terms thrown around the gym culture every day. Today we talk about what it means, and why it isn't for most people.
Bulking means to consume a large amount of calories in order to increase body mass (lean and fat). The purpose is to get bigger for strength and muscle gain. For bodybuilding competitors (bodybuilding refers to those competing in aesthetic competitions), it is planned based on when their next show is. For people not competing, it is usually in the winter (No suns out, no guns out).
On the other hand, cutting is the opposite. Cutting means to lose weight rapidly (fat mass, lean mass, and water mass). Again, for competitors, this is done after bulking and a few weeks before their show. For non-competitors, it is done near and during the summer time (Suns out, guns out).
With those defined, here is why it's not for everyone.
The term "yo-yo dieting" means to go on a diet for a short while then falling off. It is common for most people. For example, a person may have a vacation coming up, and will diet for about 2 weeks, only to fall off of it after the trip. Another example is the traditional New Year's resolution; a few weeks of good habits, then falling off. When those habits are done repeatedly, their health goes up temporarily, then down again, which ends up showing no long-term change anyways.
Are you catching on? Most people who do not compete still say they are bulking and cutting, but they are no different from a yo-yo dieter. The only difference is that those non-competitors are saying it is intentional. The problem with that? Well, if it's intentional, have they been actually improving? Do they have more muscle mass than when they first started out or did they still have the same muscle mass through their bulking and cutting cycles regardless of their weight? Numbers do not lie people! It's best to stick with a program that is not restrictive and based around short-term "seasons".
Below are some results from a client of mine that was looking to gain weight and strength. No bulking and cutting season, no supplements except protein; just life-long habits being developed. He sees me twice a week has no burnout, and is still getting steady gains in muscle mass and strength.
Of course this blog is for general fitness (meaning those who do not compete in anything), and remember that athletes are different in terms of goals and programming.
It's that time of the year where people are becoming sick. This is also the time when you hear people say they're going to recover by "sweating it out". Below is a link to ACSM's position stand on it. For people who do not want to read it, it basically says that doesn't work.
Our sweat glands actually don't just sweat out all these "toxins" that self-proclaimed health gurus mention. Bacteria and viruses are not that easy to get rid of. If you think heating up your body kills the bacteria and viruses, guess again. Bacteria is incredibly resilient. Most bacteria would only in extreme temperatures. We would probably die before our bacteria does if we were to heat ourselves up.
Although it won't get you better, you can still work out. The only drawback is that your performance will be hindered. Also, you will be getting a bunch of other people sick since you touch all the equipment. Always thin risk and benefit. Working out sick generally has the risks outweighing the benefits.
No pain no gain you say? Get out of here with that. Get some rest.
There's a lot of supplements out there, and when you buy a supplement, it is often combined with a bunch of other ones. Here's a list of what each one does based on our research. If you would like to know the exact mechanism of each effect, let us know in the comments or by email!
To start, supplements should not replace a meal, and many of the nutrients can be obtained from consuming normal foods. Although we each have our opinions about supplements, we won't let that get in the way of facts. Below is a list of common supplements out there. No opinions, just facts backed by cited sources. All this info is only regarding the effects of a supplement in regards to exercise. All recommended intakes are suggestions made in the research studies; we are not prescribing any supplements or dosage, just reiterating what the literature states.
Protein (Whey, Casein, Soy)
What it does: Improves protein synthesis and strength.
Recommended dose: 1.5 - 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Potential adverse affects: None.
What it does: Delays fatigue during a workout; mainly for anaerobic exercises (weightlifting, sprints, etc.).
Recommended dose: 3.2 - 6.4 grams a day
Potential adverse effects: None.
What it does: Delays fatigue during intense exercise
Recommended dose: 136 - 227 milligrams per pound of body weight.
Potential adverse effects: Diarrhea, Cramping, Nausea, and Vomiting.
What it does: Delays fatigue during exercise. Does not help for anaerobic exercises, but will work for maximal effort exercises that last between 2-15 minutes.
Recommended dose: 200 milligrams per pound 60-90 minutes prior to exercise.
Potential adverse effects: Not much research has been done on it...which is a problem.
What it does: Claimed to promote fatty acid use during exercise rather than glycogen, but there is no clear evidence. Shown to improve recovery.
Recommended dose: 2 - 3 grams per day for 3 weeks.
Potential adverse effects: None.
What it does: Creates ATP, improves power and strength, reduces fatigue. Recommended for advanced resistance training athletes. Best for anaerobic exercises.
Recommended dose: There are two methods. One is to load it, which means to take 20 - 25 grams (or .3 grams per kilogram of weight) for five days, then take only 2 grams a day after that. If you do not load it, you will still get the benefit, but it will take roughly 30 days to change creatine levels to match that of the loading method.
Potential adverse effect: None except weight gain (although weight gain isn't an adverse effect for some people).
What it does: Prolongs energy (breaks down fatty acids to avoid muscle glycogen depletion). Helps rate, strength, and frequency of muscle contractions.
Recommeded dose: 3 - 9 milligrams per kilogram, or 1.5 - 3.5 cups of regular drip coffee. It is best in pill form.
Potential adverse effects: Addictive, anxiety, GI disturbances, restlessness, insomnia, tremors, heart arrhythmia, risk for heat illness. It's also a diuretic, and can cause the urge to urinate.
What it does: Helps burn more calories, and increases fat oxidation (fat burning). Only shown to have benefits when paired with caffeine.
Recommended Dose: 4 milligrams per kilogram of body weight
Potential adverse effects: May cause vomiting after exercising, death, mood change, anxiety, psychiatric symptoms. It is banned by governing sports bodies. Banned in NCAA and being closely watched in world list.
What it does: It is a mild stimulant that causes appetite suppression. It also increases rate of fatty acid use. Delays time to fatigue when combined with caffeine.
Recommended dose: ???????
Potential adverse effects: Elevates blood pressure.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's)
What it does: Most evidence shows it improves recovery time, however most research was done when BCAA's were paired with a carbohydrate solution.
Recommended dose: 1 - 5 grams daily
Potential adverse effects: None.
Let us know if we left one out, or you have anything to add. Thanks!
Baechle, T. R. & Earle, R.W. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning 3rd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Blomstrand E. (2006). A role for branch chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue. The Journal of Nutrition.
Branch Chain Amino Acids. Retrieved from http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21527
Gleeson, M. (2008). Dosing and efficacy of glutamine supplementation in human exercise and sports training. The Journal of Nutrition, 138 (10).
Have you heard of this before? Some health professionals, including doctors, used to say this a lot for patients/clients looking to lose weight. Is it true? No...well actually kind of.
Your cells and tissue don't have watches that they look at. They don't look at some kind of clock and think, "alright guys and gals, lets just shut down metabolic processes. It's 600pm!" The only decent logic with the avoidance of late meals is that if you lay down soon after your meal, you no longer have gravity aiding the mechanical process of moving food down your digestive tract (but it'll still happen). So you're fine eating late, it doesn't make you gain more weight since we now know it's strictly calorie control that affects weight gain; nothing else.
So why do people still say it? Well, it's a half-truth. If you don't eat after 600pm then....well, you don't eat. Of course eating less means less calories, and less calories means less weight gain. So by not eating after 600pm, you are eating less food, and therefore you'll lose weight. This makes it true in some kind of sense.
Any other myths you want answered? Comment and we'll get to it next.
**Before I begin, I am not a Nutritionist or Registered Dietitian. It's my personal belief that all Certified Personal Trainers should educate clients on nutrition, but not prescribe any detailed numbers. Information here is meant for understanding of physiology, but not to provide any recommendations for an individual's daily dietary intake.**
Low carb diets began to blow up in the 1990's when the Atkin's Diet became popularized in media. Basically it said you could lose a bunch of weight if you had a high protein and fat diet, while excluding carbs. Here is the problem with low carb diets:
To begin, weight loss is strictly by calories, not type of calorie. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you expend more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. It's as simple as that when talking about weight loss. It doesn't matter if you eat carbs, fats, or protein; weight control is strictly by caloric intake and expenditure.
Then why were people doing low carb diets losing weight? If you take away carbs, you can take away calories. For example, a person eating 150 grams of carbohydrates and 90 grams of protein per day is eating more calories than a person eating 0 grams of carbohydrates per day and 160 grams of protein per day:
- protein and carbs each have 4 calories per gram (we're not including fats in this example, but FYI it's 9 kcal per gram of fat)
- Person 1 = (4 kcal * 150 grams carbs) + (4 kcal + 90 grams protein) = 960 calories
- Person 2 = (4 kcal * 160 grams protein) = 640 calories
- For person 2, 70 extra grams of protein is equivalent to a 12 ounce steak
Fore weight loss, it would be better to eat all macronutrients in normal percentages, but decrease the total amount.
Energy is especially important for active people. Although calories can cause weight gain, calories count as energy. From the example above, Person 2 will lose weight, but will also have less energy.
Also, carbohydrates are important for muscle and brain function. Glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrates in the body. We use this glycogen to move our muscles. We replenish glycogen by eating more carbohydrates.
Protein on the other hand, is supposed to be used for muscle repair for growth. As we exercise or move throughout the day, our glycogen stores get depleted. When we need more energy and run out of carbohydrates, our body converts protein into glycogen to keep us going. If protein is being used for energy, it is not present to help us rebuild our muscles for strength and performance gains.
Sources of Carbohydrates
There are many different sources of carbohydrates and a few different types. Below is a link to read more about it, and also linked is a lengthy but great video about energy and nutrition. Let us know if you have any questions by hitting the comments!
Greater info on carbohydrates
Pre-Workout Nutrition and Energy
Baechle, T. R. & Earle, R.W. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning 3rd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
This week is a bit advanced in knowledge, but dives further into sports specific training. Vien gives readers a glimpse of what he gets to study when working with baseball, hockey, softball, football, and tennis players beyond the typical strength and conditioning. Enjoy the read and feel free to comment for discussion!
When people hear these word, people think it applies to athletes only. Here's why it can pertain to anyone training.
To begin, we'll go over what it means. Many people think sport specific just means that the movement of an exercise is similar to those seen in a specific sport. For example, rotation of the torso and extension of the hips is specific to a baseball swing. That's only a small piece of it. Below are components of sports specific programming.
Movement of Sport
This refers to the example given earlier about the baseball swing. Sports are observed and specific movements of the sport are studied. Those movements then get replicated into a exercise that mimics it best. Range of motion (ROM) can be a component to this. For long distance runners, a full squat may not be needed because, when looking at runners, their hips do not fully flex during their running pattern. So rather than going low on a squat, it can be just as beneficial to keep the hips a bit higher on a squat.
Velocity of Sport
Next is the speed of movement. The nature of most (not all) sports is explosive, therefore exercises need to mimic that. As competition gets near, most athletes will begin doing power training and working on fast movements in general. Because fast movements are needed, most of the training uses little resistance when talking about weights (usually 30-80% of 1RM). The lighter loads are used because the foundation of strength should have been trained weeks or months prior through periodization. Strength is no longer the priority at this phase.
Bioenergetics of Sport
This may be confusing if you have not read our post on bioenergetics. By looking at the sport, speed, and movement, we can now observe which energy system the sport requires most. For racing sports, a program with high repetitions that lasts a bit long are used. For sports like football, exercises should be very intense for less than 30 seconds to gear up the ATP-CP and glycolytic systems.
Why does this matter to you?
"I'm not an athlete, who cares?" might be your thought, but this can help you with your goals. Do you want to get insanely strong and have a high 1-RM? Stick with heavy loads that don't last long, go full ROM for exercises, and high velocity doesn't need to be a focus. Have a goal of running a half marathon some day? Keep the weights light, reps high, and movement fast.
With general fitness, the goal is just to be healthy. As you begin and continue your journey, goals and activities become created. By programming correctly, you can meet these goals quickly.
Doesn't matter if you are a rookie or veteran in the gym; here are some manners you should practice every time you are in the gym even if other's don't.
Re-rack Your Weights!
You would think this rule would catch on, but it still happens. People grab all sorts of dumbells, exercise, then leave them there. It's a gym and you came to workout; why not get that lightweight farmer walk going to re-rack your weights? Perpetrators are commonly seen at the incline bench, flat bench, and leg press machines. Whatever you use, put it back out of respect for other gym goers.
Wipe Your Spot and Toss Your Towels
Sweating is normal during exercise, so don't be ashamed. You're probably having a great workout! With that being said, be sure to wipe down all the benches after you are done with it. make sure you wipe it with sanitizing solution. Several times I see people wipe the bench with their sweaty towel which doesn't make any sense. Also, to be safe, make sure you avoid staph infections by wiping any bench down before you use it. Can't ever assume!
Additionally, place your towels in the waste basket when you're done with it. Sure you may forget you left it somewhere, but toss it when you can. Would you like to pick up another person's drenched towel?
Don't Hog the Weights
Be logical when lifting weights. Doing 225 pounds for squats? Stick with 2 plates of 45 lbs. on each side rather than two 25 pounders, three 10 pounders, two five pounders, and two twa-and-a-half pounders. Others might need them.
Additionally, if you plan to use multiple dumbells of different weights, don't bring a ton over to an area and hog them. Get them as you are ready for them. You chose to workout at a public gym so please be mindful of others when taking up equipment and extra space per exercise.
Be Spatially Mindful of Others
What if I told you lifting weights could be done without being three feet from the mirrors? Yes, some lifts take practice for form, and mirrors can help. However, once you are advanced enough, or if you're doing a simple single-joint exercise, stay clear of high-traffic areas where people will be passing through or grabbing weights. Less of a distraction for you, and less of a hassle for others.
Respect the Squat Rack
You heard it before: never curl at the squat rack. This is true and people still do it. Generally, the only lifts you should do at a squat/power rack are the push press, back/front squat, and strict shoulder press (heavy). Also it would make sense if you are working on your sticking point for certain lifts like the bench press. There are plenty of other areas to curl and do smaller exercises, but there are only limited numbers of squat and power racks in the gym.
Don't Make Excessive Obnoxious Sounds
Workout noises aren't compeltely horrible, and some studies show that it can help during power exercises. However, don't be the person making enough noise that the whole gym can hear you do your 20 reps of shrugs. Feel free to grunt when needed on the heavy stuff, but practice controlled breathing when you can.
If you're old enough to be in the gym, you should be wearing deodorant. Just because you can't smell yourself, doesn't mean others can't smell you. Slather up and get to work!
Make it Quick
Save the texting, tweeting, and facebooking for later. Stay off the phone while on a piece of equipment. To make the most of your rest time, try super setting a different part of the body instead of sitting around. People may be waiting for you to finish, so be mindful of that.
Also if you are on a strength phase with high rest times, be sure to let others work in with you because your rest time will kill a lot of time.
Have any disagreements? Any horror stories to share? Did we leave anything out? Comment below!
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- VV and KJ
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