Food Quality and "Gainz"

Would you rather consume:
A fully "organic" meal regardless of the distance the ingredients had to travel for you to eat
or
A fully locally farmed meal?

To me there's no real answer, because like in so many facets of exercise and health "it depends" is the correct response. It's widely known that the organic certification is a lengthy and expensive process that some farms are unable to pay for. They may have fully organic practices but simply can't afford the process of getting certified. 

Organic biodynamic farming practices have been shown to have a less detrimental effect on the soil where all of the micronutrients are. This is to say that most of the studies that compare conventional farming methods with GMO's and Organics are identical because the method of farming remains the same. The only change are the pesticides sprayed which are "organic", the yield will still be nutrient deficient. 

On the other hand today is Wednesday and around lunch time millions of people will head out in search of a "healthyish" meal. They walk into a restaurant that serves green juice, kale salads and chicken; sounds like you hit the jackpot. You want to order your favorite cherry tomato, corn, blackened chicken salad. Here's the problem: Tomatoes and Corn aren't in season.

So where did they come from?
How far did they have to travel for you to eat?
Chances are the corn is commodity corn which is subsidized by the government (GMO CORN).

So back to the question, which would you prefer?

Today local farmer's markets are growing in popularity and I know as long as you buy something, farmers are more than willing to share with you the growing process. To me it will always be a case by case basis in determining what I choose.

I'm likely to choose locally sourced ingredients over supermarket "organics" because it both decreases resources used to lug my vegetables to Los Angeles but because my purchase supports a small local farm, a small local businesses like ME! Would you rather give your money to Whole Foods Market, Sprouts (a company owned by Smart and Final btw) or a small family farm? 

It's not easy because life gets in the way. Meetings and trips come up where you hadn't planned on not being back for lunch or dinner; you have to make decisions. In my opinion for most it boils down to being prepared. When we're not prepared we often make poor choices, so always have a plan!

The Best Workout For Your Butt

What I want to lay out for you is the framework for a program you can alter accordingly based on how you're feeling and what you see staring back at you in the mirror. 

I'll outline a few guidelines and you can increase weight, reps and exercises as you see fit along with the rationale for why.

Progressive Overload

This is the concept that you're continually be trying to get your body to adapt to the stresses you're placing on it. It's a key component to both growing a muscle and decreasing body fat to improve muscle tone.

When discussing progressive overload, it's about building strength. You want to build strength because:

  • Stronger muscles are generally larger muscles
  • Strength gets rid of nagging pains (I.E: Nagging low back pain)
  • The stronger you are the heavier your rep work will be (more on that in a moment)

Getting Your Reps In

After the main strength component will be more targeted repetition work. Think of this as supplemental work to the squats, deadlifts, and thrusts you'll be doing. Often this includes things like lunges, step ups, and squat-deadlift variants. Even here we still want to be moving the weights in an upward trajectory albeit not as aggressively. 

Targeted Glute Work

You'll be performing some sort of glute work EVERY SESSION. This is a concept borrowed from High Frequency Training. Short band exercises will be included every time. Skip the abductor/adductor machine, band work is a superior option since it will maintain structural balance of the joints and muscles.

Program Overview

Day 1: Main Strength Day + Rep Work

Strength will be a Squat, Deadlift or Hip Thrust in a progressive manner. The numbers listed below simply mean a percentage of your one reputation max. You would test then plan your month accordingly. Your warm up sets DON'T COUNT towards the 5 work sets.

For example lets say your 1RM is 200lbs.
You warm up: Barbell-5x, 55lbs-5x, 80lbs-5x, 100 lbs-5x, 125lbs- 5x. NOW you perform 5 sets of 8 at 70% which would be 140lbs.  

  • WK 1: 5x8 @70%
  • WK 2: 5x5 @75%
  • WK 3: 5x3 @80%
  • WK 4: 5x2 @85%

Rep work (5 sets of 8-12 reps) can entail:

If you Squatted: Reverse lunges, step ups, front squats
If you Deadlifted: KB Swings, cable pull throughs, Romanian deadlifts

Afterwards you would perform a superset (back to back) of core and a side lying clamshell (3-5 sets of 15-20 reps). 

Day 2: Main Thrust Day

Today you'll be performing a lot of prone hip extension movements. If you're someone who's happy with the size and shape of their legs I would opt for the glute bridge over a hip thrust.

I would treat it similarly as the squat and deadlift strength days where I'm progressing clients through the rep ranges while simultaneously increasing the weight on the barbell. The one difference would be the final set or two. 

EX: 5x10 Hip thrust @70% of best thrust. 
185lbs- 5 sets of 10 repetitions. 

On the final 2 sets of 185 lbs I would perform a hard long isometric hold at the top squeezing the glutes as hard and as tightly as possible.

Now where the real magic happens: perform 2 more sets decreasing the weight about 30-50% for no less than 20 repetitions. Even better if performed as a continuous hip thrust.

Supplemental Work: I would include MORE thrusts or bridge variations like single leg and stability ball leg curl+bridges along with a seated band abduction for no less than 20 repetitions.

Day 3: Unilateral Day

This day would include split squats, Bulgarian lunges and reverse lunges. These days will often be a variation of 5-8 sets of 8-12 repetitions each side.

I would then include a superset of side lying clamshells with frog pumps (4 sets of 20) and core work. 

Day 4: Power

This day you can pair however you like:
Squats + Vertical Jumps
Deadlifts + Broad Jumps
Thrusts + Swings

I'd keep the weights more conservative on this day, your goal is to get a good pop from the weights and train explosiveness. 

Afterwards I would include more band work: Seated band abduction into bodyweight weight hip thrusts off the seat (5 sets of 20) and core. 

Notes:

  • You should perform some sort of upper body pulling every day, examples include: Rows, pulldowns, inverted rows, and chin/pull ups. 
  • 2 days of upper body pressing, examples include: Push ups, dumbbell bench presses, dips, landmine press variations, dumbbell overhead press
  • Core work should include: rollout variations, paloff presses, side planks, planks, and offset loaded carries like a one arm farmers walk. 

Be Your Number 1 Fan

Everything is going to tell you what you're not and how to get it.

Everyone is going to point out your flaws and short comings. 

Not good enough
Not strong enough
Not fast enough
Not pretty enough
Too much cellulite
Too much muscle
Not smart enough
Too big
Too thin

I say, to hell with all that. All that matters is what you think and how you feel about yourself. Everybody is going to dissect you under a microscope, so no need to pile on yourself with some negative self loathing comments.

There's always room for improvement but not at the expense of your happiness. I've found that positivity needs to lead the way, and only then can true improvement happen. And that all begins with a single thought.

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Personal Training and Massage

Walk through your local gym you'll see dozens of personal trainers stretching their clients. No doubt this has been going on forever, but is technically outside of the personal trainer's scope of practice.

Scope of Practice- Procedures, actions, and processes that a healthcare practitioner is permitted in undertaking. 

Scope of Practice for Personal Trainers (according to NSCA)

 "Developing and implementing appropriate exercise programs, assisting clients in setting and achieving realistic fitness goals, and teaching correct exercise methods and progression.” 

Nowhere in there does it mention any sort of muscle manipulating techniques.

Ouch That Hurts

Hey can you move back to that other spot...a little lower....YEAH! OUCH! You got it. 

This was a typical exploratory palpation session with clients whenever they were unable to release muscle on their own and so it made sense for me to get it out for them so we could get back to training. When I started doing bodywork I had already been a trainer for over 5 years and was decently versed on anatomy and biomechanics.

This all is a rationalize for what I was doing, which was outside the guidelines of my liability insurance and scope of practice. The results I got were positive across the board, but I also knew I wasn't allowed to do what I was doing. The more injuries I would encounter, the better I got at feeling healthy tissue and fibrous restrictions in the fascia and muscles. Though in the back of my mind I knew what I was doing was illegal.

I observe dozens of coaches, many of whom I see jam their elbows and fingers in areas where they shouldn't be. And not because now that I'm a manual therapist I'm on my high horse but because they're actually pressing down, rather hard I might add given the discoloration of the skin around said area, into a place where there's way too many nerves or organs.

Pot Meet Kettle

I will never tell any other coach they shouldn't be placing their hands on their clients, because that would make me a giant hypocrite. I do however advise these coaches to exercise ALOT of caution. In an effort to add value to sessions coaches range from the harmless assisted static stretching to downright dangerous let me dig my elbow into your anterior triangle. 

What I've Learned

I Didn't know WHY only how
A Manual therapist, massage therapist or LMT has undergone more extensive training than personal trainers where it pertains to understanding of how and more importantly WHY to work in a given area. They learn more manual muscle testing and specific assessments to address movement compensations. I could copy a technique but didn't fully grasp the methodology behind it.

Most trainers who perform assisted soft tissue via foam roller, ball or roller stick think: harder is better. It's not.

Getting work done on you doesn't in turn show you how to treat your clients
Copying a given technique performed on you might help YOU, but could injure your client. In the same way you wouldn't give a 65 year grandma the same exercise protocol a 25 year old would receive, the same goes for soft tissue manipulation. In the past I've seen coaches receive a quickie treatment only to see them performing the exact thing on their clients that same evening.

I hadn't earned the right to put my hands on clients. Trainers are not therapists.
Many colleagues who are both manual therapist and trainer had to juggle massage therapy school and a full slate of clients at the same time. Depending on where they're located, schooling can range from 500 hours to over 1000 hours. And while this may be a lot or a little depending on how you look at it, it's a large commitment for anyone with full time obligations. 

Trainers are not physical therapists. Most of the corrective exercises seen today don't work because the coach implementing them lack an understanding that the issue needs both manual therapy and corrective exercise.

I of course will not fool myself thinking that I am anywhere near the level of a DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) either. I always had a firm grasp on anatomy, or so I thought. I came to see that I lacked a comprehensive understanding of:

  • Origin and Insertion sites
  • Layers above and below muscles
  • Feeling the difference between muscle and organ
  • Progressions for treatment
  • Contraindications with degenerative and acute diseases or injuries

I understand now I had not earned the right to put my hands on a single client because I had not committed to fully understanding the topics above. I had not put in the time, literally. I thought because I could recite muscles and actions off the top of my head that I could manipulate muscles. I was wrong. On one hand all the clients I've helped has allowed me to get a head start on my education in treating soft tissue restrictions but I also understand I probably shouldn't have ever laid a hand on a single person, no matter the outcome. 

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3 Reasons Your Lower Back Hurts That Has Nothing To Do With Your Back

Lower back pain is something most of us will deal with at some point in our lives. You bend over to pick up your kids or tie your shoelaces and BAM! out of nowhere your back goes out. An overwhelming number of low back injuries stem from chronically poor body mechanics and even more likely from poor everday posture.

If you’re reading this on your phone, take a moment to sit up straight and pull the phone up so your neck isn't being cranked downwards.

Here are three things you need to know about back pain:

1. Back Pain Worse After Standing- Extension Based
 Back Pain Worse After Sitting- Flexion Based

For those who suffer from extension based back pain this is likely caused by: Short Hip flexors, poor glute activity and a lack of anterior core stabilization. The combination of weak glute function with shortened hip flexors often leads to lumbar extension substituting for hip extension during activities such as deadlifting, jumping, and running. Put simply if you aren’t putting your glutes into it, you back will be. 

A sure fire postural sign a person is a candidate for extension based back pain is viewed from the side via anterior pelvic tilt, or the back of your pelvis is higher than the front.

I meant to take a buttfie

I meant to take a buttfie

Flexion based back pain often afflicts those who sit for long periods of time like office workers or truck drivers. The main muscle that creates problems for these individuals is the Psoas. This is the only hip flexor that remains active once you draw your leg up above 90 degrees. Those seeking hip flexion like during a squat will get lower back rounding instead. Their problems are aggravated by a host of other factors such as: Poor glute function, cervical spine positioning, lack of thoracic spine extension and poor anterior core stability.

Someone with this type of back pain is in a catch-22. They need to stop sitting so much but they likely sit a lot due to work. For this individual I would recommend setting a timer to periodically stand up and stretch to break up the monotony. Along with taking time each day to use a foam roller or lacrosse ball to break up any soft tissue adhesions formed in the hip flexor muscles.

2.     Not All Back Pain is Due to “Tight” Hips

From an anatomical standpoint the hip flexors are a combination of muscles: illiopsoas, sartorius, and rectus femoris.

Lets focus on the Psoas.

The psoas attaches through the side of the lumbar spine and connects to the discs in the area of T12-L5. Because of this vertebral origin point, the psoas is also involved in 360 degrees of spine stabilization.

For those who believe they have chronically tight hip flexors, stretching them isn’t going to magically solve the problem because the underlying cause may not be tight hips but an unstable spine and poor core strength. If a muscle is short and tight, stretching it won’t release any neural tone which only leads to it tightening back up afterwards.

Their issues may be solved simply through core and glute activation.

A properly performed plank will solve all that ales you. Not only because by staying in a neutral position will you decrease recruitment of the illiopsoas but also by squeezing the glutes hard you’ll force the muscle to relax due to reciprocal inhibition.

Talking about hips and glutes leads me to the final point

3.     Poor Internal-External Hip Rotation

A quick screen for both:

Need Internal Rotation 35 degrees

External Rotation 45 degrees

Less than stellar results?

Corrections:

Need Internal Rotation- Side Plank

External Rotation- Prone Plank

The muscles that resist internal rotation are all located on the outside of the hip. By stimulating these muscles it forces them to all stabilize the spine and possibly allow your hips and core to work correctly.

On the other side of the equation are the muscles that resist external rotation found on the inside and anterior aspect of the hip. All these muscles co-mingle when it comes to core stability. Like in the aforementioned tip, when a properly performed prone plank is performed, the hip flexors are held in a tight stretched position to help the hips and spine stabilize.

Correcting these restrictions can bring relief to those suffering from chronic lower back pain. These screen are the beginning to figuring out if you need more mobilization or simply needed more stability.