Showing posts with label brooklyn personal trainer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brooklyn personal trainer. Show all posts


Measure, Track and Burn Body Fat.

Now is the perfect time to get into peak shape. The weather is cooling and the holiday eating season hasn't yet begun. This issue will give you the tools you need.

Measure and Track Body Fat
Start by visiting for a simple online app that measures body fat. All you need is a tape measure and internet access, and you can see where you're at today and easily track progress in the future. This app is reasonably reliable, and can be more accurate than the handheld bio-impedance monitors. Do it with a friend, and track your progress together. Do it in your office and have a competition! If you'd like to learn more about measuring body fat, I've got an in-depth review of bodyfat measurement techniques.

When is a Deficit is Good Thing?
Calories are a measure of energy. A pound of body fat is equivalent to about 3500 calories. Take in 3500 more calories than you burn, and your body will store the excess energy as a pound of fat. Burn 3500 more calories than you take in and a pound of fat will disappear. If you want to lose 10 pounds, you need to burn 35,000 more calories than you take in.  An energy deficit is a good thing when it comes to burning fat.


For safe, effective weight loss, plan on losing about 1-2 pounds per week. Reduce your weekly caloric intake by 7000 calories, or increase your weekly caloric expenditures by 7000. Or split the difference and go for 3500 of each. You should lose about 2 pounds of fat per week following this simple formula.

Don't skip meals or reduce calories below 2000 without seeking medical advice. These approaches are not safe and usually don't work. The body goes into "survival mode" when it is deprived of needed calories and may actually reduce the amount of fat that is burned. You also may not be able to exercise as hard if you don't have the energy.

Maximize Your Cardio
Did you know that there is a scientifically proven way for most people to burn an extra 500-1000 calories a week without spending any more time working out? With Interval Training, your body continues to burn calories at a higher level for 1-3 hours after you exercise, so you'll burn an extra 100-200 calories per session. If you're doing 45-60 minutes of cardio 5 days a week, it adds up quickly.

An effective interval training program will typically involve 2 minutes of cardio at 65% of your maximum heart rate alternating with 2 minutes at 80%. You'll want to see your doctor before beginning a challenging new program, and it may help to meet with a fitness professional to set the heart rate targets and review cardio programming.

The publishers of Men's Health and Prevention magazine recently interviewed me for a web article about Interval Training, which goes into more detail on the subject.

Build Muscle to Burn Fat
A pound of muscle burns 40-50 calories a day, a pound of fat burns about 5 calories. Strength training is to build "lean muscle" is effective in two ways. You burn calories while doing the exercises, and your body will burn more fat while at rest. And you don't have to bulk up to do it - training in a range of 15-20 repetitions will give you that lean toned look without the added bulk. Focus on the larger muscles like legs, back and chest for maximum effectiveness, because the bigger the muscle the more calories it burns at work or rest. For a variety of fitness programs at every level, visit


Training by the Numbers: Exercise Guidelines to Reach Your Goals

How much do I have to exercise? A minimum of 20-30 minutes a day or 150 per week, double that to see real change

How quickly can I lose weight? Figure on 1-2 pounds per week for safe, effective weight loss

How often can I do cardio? Every day, as often as you like - as long as you're not in pain

How often can I strength train? Give your muscles a day off to recover and grow; you can do a total body workout every other day or split the routine and alternate the muscles that work and rest

How long does it take to see muscle growth? It takes about 16 strength training sessions over several weeks to see an increase in size

How do I increase muscle size? 3-5 sets with weighs that you can lift in a range of 8-12 repetitions

What if I just want to tone? Try 1-3 sets with weights that you can lift in a range of 12-20 repetitions

How about getting really strong, like increasing my bench press? Usually you'll want to be doing 3-6 sets with a weight that you can lift in a range of 1-8 repetitions, with long rests in between

How often should I change my routine? At least every 4-6 weeks, because your body adapts and you'll hit a plateau

Which is the best form of cardio? For most people, the one you enjoy most

What should my heart rate be while exercising? The simple answer for most pregnant, healthy people is this formula: (220-age)x70-75%. Higher or lower levels may not produce optimal results


Posture and Movement Assessments

I have a confession to make. From the minute I first see you, I am watching your posture and the way that you move and looking for way to improve you. Are your feet turned out? Do your shoulders round? Or are they elevated? Is your head forward? Does your back arch? Do your knees move in our out? If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you have muscular or structural imbalances that need to be addressed in your exercise program. In many cases, certain exercises should be avoided to minimize risk of injury, and other exercises should be included to help correct the imbalance. For example, someone with rounded shoulders should avoid overhead shoulder exercises and strengthen the muscles that pull the shoulders back.

Posture can be addressed statically, basically in a stationary position, and dynamically, while moving. In addition to casual observations of movement, several assessments allow us to do a more focused evaluation. Here are two of the most common:

Overhead Squat Assessment: This consists of a squat with arms held above the head. Here, I'm looking for whether the heels lift, feet turn out, knees move in/out, low back arches or rounds, or the body leans forward.

Single Leg Squat Assessment: In the single leg squat assessment, look for whether the feel flatten, knees move in or out, or the hip shifts. These observations indicate imbalances in the calves, thigh muscles, back, core and shoulders that should be addressed in training.

Core Training and Stablility

There are 29 core muscles that work together to keep the body stable as it generates force, absorbs force, changes direction and moves in multiple different planes of motion. An effective functional exercise program trains your core to do all of this. Rather than training in isolation, we integrate core training into many exercises for other body parts. Ultimately, a core that is stronger while performing movements can improve your overall performance and strength and reduce risk of injury.

If your core training program consists mainly of crunches, leg extensions and back extensions, you're working in only one plane and risk overtraining your rectus abdominus. That's the "6 pack muscle" and yes, you can overtrain it to the extent that it increases the risk of injury - and in a way that will surprise you: A tight rectus abdominus pulls the pectorals forward, tight pectorals pull on the shoulders causing them to rotate in, rotator cuff muscles cannot function effectively and are at risk of injury. Running? By pulling on the chest muscles and moving the shoulders and head forward, an overtrained rectus abdominus can reduce your oxygen intake. Exercises that strengthen the deep inner abdominals, and exercises that incorporate core stabilization with other movements, are an essential component.

Public enemy number 1 is the chair, followed closely by the bench. If you spend a large part of your day sitting, it's a good idea to not to sit or lie down through your entire workout every time you train. Chairs and benches do the work of stabilizing your core as you perform the exercises.


Muscles need to be in proper balance to work together optimally. Our posture and movement assessments will tell us which appear to be too active or short and which appear to be underactive or extended. We need to stretch the short muscles and strengthen or activate those that are long or extended. Stretching and strengthening go hand in hand to achieve flexibility; the genera rule is that when a muscle is tight the opposite muscle is extended.

Here's an easy way to think about this: those muscles that you sit on all day long, your glutes, are probably asleep; the opposite muscles, hip flexors, are flexed all day long and remain short. The hip flexors can get so tight that they inhibit the glute. So stretch the hip flexors, strengthen the glutes, try not to overdo it on exercises that flex your hips... and you are on your way.

Do the same type of assessment and programming for other area of your body.

Advanced Functional/Core Mini Workout

The following are some selected exercises that some of my advanced clients are might not be ready for them right now but with consistent effort can work towards them. Feel free to ask me to demonstrate them if you don't know what they are:

Tube Walking (Hip Abduction with Band)
Reverse fly with Chest on Stability Ball
Single Leg Deadlift into PNF Pattern (drawing sword)
Single Arm Cable Chest Press/Lunge/Step to balance on One Leg
Single Arm Cable Row/Reverse Lunge/Step to Balance on One Leg
Lateral Lunge/Balance on one Leg/Biceps Curl
Single Arm Cable Triceps Pushdown Kneeling on Bosu Ball
Single Leg Box Jumps (Plyometrics)

We're generally working in a range of 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions. At the beginner and intermediate level, you might start with a standing cable chest press, progress to one leg chest press, then lunging chest press and so on, until you are ready to do the more advanced version of the exercises. One of my most advanced clients had never exercised until about 2 years ago and can do all of these exercises.


Body Fat: Let's Not Get Carried Away with the Measurements!

Body Builders and certain competitive athletes may need to obsess about their % body fat, but most of us just need a simple reliable measurement of progress. There are more than a dozen different techniques for estimating body fat, including infrared and x-ray techniques, and one that involves drinking a radioactive isotope . Keep in mind that any approach gives you an estimate based on various measurements and mathematical formulas, you can't directly measure the fat like you can with weight and height. You would have to go through the inconvenience and mess of removing all the fat from the body, weighing it and replacing it to do that. It is best to look at the body fat measurement over time to see changes, and to have it performed by the same competent person using the same equipment. All of the methods have strengths and weaknesses, and research has been conducted to validate them. Here is a recap of the measurement methods:

Hydrostatic Testing - Immersion in a tank of water and measuring displacement is accurate within about 2% for most people. Adjustments by race are made, since African Americans tend to have denser bones while Asians have lighter bones. Air Displacement Plethysmography (The Bod Pod) is a similar but uses air displacement instead of water.
Skin Fold/Caliper Testing - Results are accurate within +/-3.5% for 90% of the population. Results for the other 10% can be off by much more. Variation by tester can be a big factor, so have the same person take the measurements and look for a trend in the results. This technique tends to overestimate body fat for lean individuals and underestimate for obese. Caliper testing needs to be done slowly, carefully and precisely, usually measurements are taken at least three times and averaged for a result.
Bioelectric Impedance - Results are accurate within +/-3% for 82% of the population, and can be off by up to 20% or more for the remaining 18%. Results are inaccurate for small changes and can be affected by hydration, skin temperature, exercise within 12 hours prior, alcohol within 48 hours, food within 4 hours, bladder and bowel content. A body scale once estimated me at 38%, almost 3x the measurement obtained from calipers around the same time.
Circumference Testing - using a few simple measurements, results are accurate within +/-5% for 86% of the population. (There is an online tester available at, it measured me at almost the same as the calipers and is very easy to use so that you can track your results.)
Ask me - I can usually estimate someone's body fat within a couple of percent, not much less accurate than some of these techniques and a whole lot easier. (Be forewarned, you may have to show me your bare midriff!). If you get a body fat estimate that doesn't make sense - maybe from one of those diet supplement people who set up tables on the streets or at the mall - feel free to contact me for a second opinion.


The BRAIN TRAIN: Unilateral Workout

There are several good reasons to work one side of your body at a time, this month the focus in on training your brain - actually your neuromuscular system - through unilateral exercises.

Here's an interesting fact: numerous scientific studies have shown that working one side of the body can actually improve your strength on the opposite side. How is this possible? Because the major component of what we call "strength" doesn't happen in the muscles, it happens in the brain and nerve pathways and receptors that connect your brain to your muscles. We actually become stronger by improving the way that the brain "recruits" muscle fibers to do work such as lifting weights and the way the muscles respond to the call. Think of your body as a symphony. The brain is the conductor, the nerve pathways are his hands and batons, the musicians are the receptors in the muscles, and their instruments are the individual muscle fibers. Train them to work together and you'll make beautiful music.

What are some of the benefits of unilateral exercises? Most of you probably use them to balance your muscles. You feel you've got a weaker side, or maybe one side is slightly smaller than the other. That's only the beginning. Unilateral exercises can help improve core strength, and improve your overall strength by improving "neuromuscular efficiency." It's all in the way that you approach it.

Let's take a simple exercise like a single arm triceps push down with the cables. You'll often see someone doing this exercise leaning into the machine and putting their whole body into moving the handle from point a to point b. Instead, stand back, draw your abdominals and glutes in, bend the knees slightly, and maintain perfect posture throughout the movement. (Remember, glutes are core muscles). Now you've got those core muscles working to stabilize you - and not just in one direction. You'll feel the sideways pull as your obliques resist the weight imbalance. When doing single side exercises, lower the weight so that you can maintain perfect form and posture.

It is easy to start a unilateral program, you can even do it on ExpressLine. For added challenge, you can decrease the stability of unilateral exercises by standing on one leg, or use balls or balance boards. As you do these, you'll begin to understand how this is a learning process for your body, like loading a computer program into memory. Some of my clients and I began playing with unilateral exercises standing on one leg on a bosu ball - you may not want to think about that. They were incredibly hard at first, yet within a week or two, our brains had adjusted and they were surprisingly easy.

Will unilateral exercises make you smarter? Maybe not, but they're a smart addition to your program. Try the unilateral exercise program and 14 others at


Pre and Post Exercise Nutrition

Proper nutrition before and after competition or workouts can improve performance and results and in recovery. Many people today are putting too much emphasis on protein. Your muscles need carbohydrates for fuel and after a hard workout, they need to replace depleted glycogen - glycogen is the energy source that your muscles use and it most readily comes from carbohydrates.

PRE EXERCISE Eating before exercise can be tricky and very individual, you want to make sure that you can tolerate different foods at different times. Don't try new things the day of a big race or competition, and be aware of your body's signs. In general, you want to start with an empty stomach but plenty of energy flowing in your blood and stored in your muscles. Some people prefer a light snack within the hour before exercise, some prefer a larger snack about 2-3 hours before, others perform better with a large meal. It is also important to have enough fluids, and avoid greasy foods that can upset the stomach. Here are some guidelines:
1 hour before: fruits, fruit/vegetable juices, energy gels
2-3 hours before: fruits, fruit/vegetable juices PLUS low-fat yogurt and/or bread or bagel
3-4 hours before: fruits, fruit/vegetable juices plus low-fat yogurt, bread or bagel, PLUS a meal that is high in carbs, moderate in protein and low in fat (ie, pasta w/sauce, whole wheat bread w/chees/peanut butter/lean meat, cereal, baked potato), energy bar

POST EXERCISE Most important, replace lost fluids, about 20 oz per pound of weight lost during the exercise session.

Within 15-30 minutes, replace carbohydrates with a drink or light snack.
Within about 2 hours, have a meal that is high in carbohydrates, about 100-200 grams, together with some lean protein. That's about 3 cups of pasta or mashed potatoes.
For an excellent article called "Training Diet" from the Iowa State University, click here.



by Cary Raffle MS CPT Master Trainer

Hardly an hour goes by at the gym that I don't find someone doing something that is not really helping them and might eventually hurt them, including:
• Incorrect Exercise Form
• Inappropriate Exercise Selection
• Obsolete Exercises
• Ineffective Exercise Programs
• Things that Look Good but Don't Make any Sense (most of these don't really look good they just think they do)
• Poor Nutritional Habits
This is the first time I have attempted this project, I've searched the internet and the books and can't find anything else like it all in one place. I'll be working on adding to it over time, and I invite you to clip the list and email me with any suggested additions for future editions.


You may as well kiss your rotator cuff goodbye. These exercises are obsolete - they have been shown to cause injury or impingement of the rotator cuff muscles over time. In addition, they provide no meaningful advantage to other exercises.

An arched back causes pressure on the spinal column, it can lead to damaged disks and vertebrae. Lower the weight, use a machine with back support, and strengthen your abdominal core if you find yourself arching. Be especially careful about this when doing any overhead exercises, the leverage of the weight increases the likelihood of injury.

Strength training damages your muscle fibers. Muscles recover, repair and actually grow during the 48 hours after your work them. You won't see progress and you increase the risk of injury if you don't allow the rest. This applies only to strength training, you can do cardio every day.

Your body adapts to an exercise program within 4-6 weeks, so you won't see much progress. You also increase the risk of repetitive stress injuries by continuing to perform the same motions at the same speed and intensity. Vary the exercises, weight, and tempo in your program at regular intervals.

Most of you are 5-50 years away from your high school and college sports days. You spend hours at a desk and commuting, and need to select exercises that are appropriate for grown ups who live a grown up lifestyle.

If you an't stand still while performing an exercise, your using too much weight or doing something wrong for you. The exception is certain exercises where rocking or bouncing may be part of the exercise - for reference, this does not include biceps curls, shoulder presses, lateral raises, and most other exercises that I see people bouncing though.

Breakfast kick starts your metabolism and gives you the energy you need to exercise. If you're looking to lose weight, numerous studies have proven that people who eat breakfast are more successful at long term weight loss than those who don't. You'll have more effective workouts when your body had the fuel.

The old fashioned weight belt may help protect your back, but over time it weakens your abdominal core because it is doing the job that you want to train your core muscles to do. No weight belts! Unless you're in the heavy-lifting phase of a power training program. Wraps and braces are a like a Band-Aid, they don't fix an underlying problem and in some cases transfer stress and problems to other joints. Talk to a sports medicine doctor or orthopedist before bracing, or that pain in your elbow may turn into an even worse problem at your shoulder.

Spend about 5-10 minutes warming up with some cardio. Your muscles are less likely to get injured when they aer warm, and the warmup causes enzymes to be released that help protect the muscles and make your workout more effective.

You'll get more out of your strength training if you have the energy to dedicate to the workout, and save the cardio for later or another day. If you've just run 5 or 10 miles, you're ready to eat, not to workout! (This one is dedicated to one of my highly conditioned clients who ran a quick 8 miles before a strength training session... and took an early leave to get a yogurt).

Proper breathing is to exhale on the concentric contraction, that is when you are actually shortening the muscle. It's the push phase on pushing exercises or the pull phase on pulling exercises.

Protein: According to the doctors at the American College of Sports Medicine, a 170 pound man needs about 131 grams of protein per day to increase muscle mass (1.7g/kg body weight) and about 100 grams to support endurance (1.3g/kg). If you're already getting that much in your diet, skip the supplement. More is not better!
Sports Drinks: Research shows that Gatorade-like drinks are effective when you're exercising or playing a sport for more than an hour, or if you like the taste and won't get enough fluids otherwise. Water is just as good if you're planning a 59 minute workout.
Creatine: Is one of the few supplements that has a long standing body of research, dating back almost 100 years. It shows no effect in aerobic performance, some short term gain in muscle size -believed by many to be increased water retention, and marginal improvement in strength or anaerobic performance.
Weight Loss & Energy Supplements: Most of these contain caffeine or guarana. Guarana contains about 3x the caffeine as coffee, and when it is included as an ingredient instead of caffeine, the manufacturer doesn't have to tell you how much caffeine is in the drink. Caffeine will help you lose weight, it raises your heart rate and is proven to increase fat metabolism, but would you have 3-4 cups of coffee? Taurine, also popular, has very little human research, which brings us to...
Other Supplements: Supplement makers can claim whatever they want. The government does not test nutritional supplements for effectiveness, safety, consistency, purity, or interaction with other drugs or conditions. Think about how often you hear about a drug that was FDA tested, or a supplement, that is later found to have harmed people. Do you really want to take that risk with your health?

IF YOU HAVE SHOULDER PROBLEMS, DON'T DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING Overhead Exercises, Incline Chest Press (and possibly any chest press), Front Raises, Shrugs, Preacher Curls, Behind the Neck Triceps Extension All of these exercises put you at risk of further injury and pain. Have a detailed conversation with your doctor and/or physical therapist about contraindicated exercises, and consider consulting a personal trainer with post-rehab experience to design a safe and effective program.

If something hurts severely, or hurts for more than a week, its time to see a doctor. Don't assume that you can lower the weight and not do any further damage, sometimes it is the movement itself that is the problem. Get a diagnosis so that you now what you are dealing with.

Those ACSM Doctors say bring your water bottle along and: Drink about 1-2 cups of fluid 30 minutes pre exercise, drink ½ - 1 cup of fluid for every 15 minutes of exercise, drink 2 ½ cups for every pound lost during exercise. Drink even after your thirst is quenched.

These cause the back to arch and risks damage to the spine. Bent leg situps are not much better. Do crunches instead.

Never hold an unsecured weight over your face.


Current expert opinions on this machine, for most people, range from its a waste of time to its something that could hurt you if you have any knee problems. Try some lunges instead.

IF YOUR BACK HURTS, DON'T DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING Back Extensions, Good Mornings, External Abdominal Exercises, Unsupported Above the Head Exercises, High Impact Activities Generally avoid anything that makes your low back tighten and/or arch. Focus on strengthening your abdominal core - your deep abdominals, not the so called 6 pack muscles. In most cases, back muscles are overworking because the inner abdominal muscles are weak. Sitting at a desk all day is one thing that can make your abs weak and your back tight, so you'll want to progress to exercises that get you out of a seated position.

Stretch before and after you exercise. Get your muscles into balance by stretching the tight ones before you exercise to get your joints in proper alignment and avoid injury; after exercise, stretch the muscles that became tight during exercise. You don't have to stretch EVERY muscle, just the tight ones.
To be continued...


The Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises

Research from the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University, commissioned by the American Council on Exercise.

This study measured activation of the abdominals muscles - the rectus abdominus (6-pack muscle) and obliques - for 13 different exercises.

The three most effective in terms of activating muscles are the bicycle, captains chair (leg raises) and stability ball crunches.

Some equipment, like the ab rocker, was far less effective than even traditional cruches.

The study also reported that most people are unable to separately trigger activation of the upper and lower ab muscles - suggesting that the muscles act together and not independently.

To read the full story click here.

Feel free to let me know if you have questions.


Muscle Imbalances: Which to Stretch? Which to Strengthen?

By Cary Raffle
Almost everyone has muscle imbalances. A few simple observations and movement tests tell a fitness professional which muscles are tight or overactive and need stretching and which are extended or underactive and need stretching (these are included in your fitness assessment). Below are a few of the more common observations and indicated stretches and strengthening recommendations to give you an example.

Shortened Muscles to Stretch
Extended Muscles to Strengthen
Feet turn out, shin splints, pain on bottom of foot (plantar fascitis), Achilles tendonitis*
Calves, Quadriceps, IT Band/TFL

Anterior Tibialis (shin), Gluteals, Medial Hamstrings
Shoulders round, soreness in mid/upper back, forward head
Chest, front of Shoulder, Lats, Neck, Upper Traps
Middle and Lower Traps and Rhomboids
Excessive forward lean at hip
Hip flexors and Quadriceps
Gluteals, Hamstrings, Abdominal Core

*Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasicitis are medical conditions, you should consult a doctor for diagnosis and possible treatment.
Once you understand which muscles are shortened and which are extended, be sure to adapt your program accordingly. If your calves are tight, you probably don't want to work them too hard until you complete several weeks of stretching. If your hamstrings are extended, you probably do not want to keep stretching them and extend them even more. Overstretched muscles can also be uncomfortable, they tend to have a low level or soreness that some people mistakenly believe is a call for stretching.


Thinking Ahead: Periodization

by Cary Raffle

Whether you're new to exercise or you've been hitting the gym for years, a few weeks from now you might feel that your routine is getting stale, or that you aren't seeing the results that you saw earlier in your program. Periodization, which involves changing the design of your workout at regular planned intervals, can help you stay on track and reach your goals.

Around Valentine's Day, you'll be ready for a change. That's because your body adapts to the particular type of stress (exercise) that you put on it within 4-8 weeks. When this happens, you are likely to see diminishing results over time if you stick with the same exact program. Some people also start feeling aches and pains from doing the same exact movements over and over again. Effective periodization involves more than just taking the weights up every couple of weeks or using a different brand of machine that works the same muscles in pretty much the same way.

There are any number of variables that you can change or progress:

Number of sets and repetitions

Tempo or time and type of muscle action, ie, emphasizing the isometric, eccentric (negative) or concentric phase to hit different muscle fibers

Frequency of training and organization of routines, change the exercise order and reorganize your split routinesl Even better, progress to a totally different mode of training

Unstable exercises to build core strength, if you're usually on fixed machines or benches

Plyometrics to build explosive power and deceleration

Consider a phase of muscle building, ie, heavy weights if you usually train light
Try incorporating different activities like yoga or an alternate form of cardio training. Often, these changes can reenergize your routine, keep you interested and on track, and serve as a springboard for getting to the next level with your fitness program - no matter if your goal is losing weight, gaining muscle, sports performance, or anything else for that matter.

When you think of it, Spring is just around the corner, so start thinking of Periodization now, and feel free to let me know if you need any help. I'll include some specific ideas in the next newsletter that comes out just before Valentines Day.

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