Showing posts with label new york personal trainer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new york personal trainer. Show all posts


Your Holiday Survival Workouts

Welcome to the most gluttonous of seasons.  Just when you need it most, here are a couple of quick workout programs  to help you get the most out of your time in the gym.  

Whether you're a veteran of the gym or a beginner, when it comes to working out during the holiday season, less is more. It's all about spending less time and burning more calories in the time that you have . . . so that you can have fun and enjoy the season. As always, start with some stretching and 5 minute of cardio, and use any additional time at the end of your workout for a cardio cooldown and stretch.

Here are two workouts that burn more calories by emphasizing the big muscles (legs, back and chest), and working in a continuous circuit to keep your heart rate up:

If you're currently working on NYSC's XpressLine, or looking for a quick and effective workout that's appropriate for any fitness level, try this XpressLine Holiday Edition workout. It's a superset circuit that combines most of the XpressLine machines with other exercises. This workout can be done with no rest in between if you're sufficiently fit. Supersets are two exercises done in succession.

The Holiday Survival Workout is a more advanced circuit that includes total body exercises and several supersets. Total body exercises simultaneously use upper and lower body muscles to maximize your calorie burn. Pre planned exercise circuits are a good way to keep your heart rate up during your workout, another great way to get more results in less time.

Try both, and feel free to let me know if you have any questions.


Eccentric Exercise. Bigger. Stronger. More Powerfuller. Resistant to Injury.

No, it's not a blog posting about weird exercises. It's about the ECCENTRIC or negative phase of resistance exercises.  This often under appreciated and ignored part of an exercise is important for:

1. Increasing strength 
2. Increasing muscle size
3. Giving you delayed onset muscle soreness
4. Producing maximal power, ie, in plyometric movements
5. Rehabilitating injuries like tendonitis and protecting muscles, connective tissues and joints from future injuries

Read on for some simple ideas and changes you can make to help improve your exercise program  ... whether you want to get bigger, stronger, more powerful, reduce the risk of injury , or speed recovery.

Often left unloved

Consider the Chest Press. Most people think this exercise is all about the pushing (or CONCENTRIC contraction). Have you ever just let the weights fall after the last push or pull?  If so, you've eliminated the ECCENTRIC part of the exercise. In a set of 12 repetitions, you're only doing 11 1/2. Skipping the ECCENTRIC movement also reduces the time that the muscles spend working.

In plyometric training, the often overlooked ECCENTRIC movement is important as a loading phase:  like a rubber band, the muscle stores elastic energy that is released in the CONCENTRIC movement.  For best results, perform the ECCENTRIC movement first with an immediate transition into the CONCENTRIC movement.  ECCENTRIC and CONCENTRIC movements for some common exercises are shown below. 

Chest PressAway from body (push)Towards body
Row, Lat PulldownTowards body (pull)Away from body
Biceps CurlFlexing elbowExtending elbow
Triceps ExtensionExtending elbowFlexing elbow
Shoulder PressAway from body (push)Towards body
Lat RaiseRaiseLower
Lunge, SquatPushing body upLowering body
Wisely and slow

Your muscles work hard to resist against the weight - or gravity - in the ECCENTRIC phase. They slow the decent of the weight in a chest press or biceps curl, or of the body in a squat, or the return of the weight stack in a cable exercise.
Muscles forcibly lengthen during an ECCENTRIC contraction, and this is believed to cause more damage to muscle fibers and sensory organs than other contractions.  In fact, delayed onset muscle soreness is mainly attributed to the ECCENTRIC phase.   Why is it good to damage your muscle fibers?  Your body responds to this damage by repairing the damage and creating new fibers.  Your muscle's sensory organs adapt and respond better to future bouts of similar exercises.  So we get bigger and stronger.  Just don't forget to rest, because this happens on the days off.  The adaptation is pretty quick, do the same exercise after 48-72 hours, and you're not likely to have the same amount of soreness.   
Muscles actually absorb energy during the ECCENTRIC phase; a variety of sources estimate that they are 40% stronger than in the CONCENTRIC phase.  To get the benefits, perform the ECCENTRIC phase completely and slowly.  Most training protocols specify 2 or 3 or 4 seconds for the ECCENTRIC contraction, however, some may call for a last repetition with a 10 second ECCENTRIC contraction.  Be careful trying this, use less weight, and work with a spotter - your muscles will tire more quickly and can fail unexpectedly.

Body builders often use this to continue working longer and/or harder in the ECCENTRIC phase.  For example, you might have a spotter lift the weights to perform the CONCENTRIC contraction in chest press or biceps curl, and complete the ECCENTRIC contraction on your own.
Breathe life into a stone, quicken a rock, and make you dance
More and more research is showing that emphasizing ECCENTRIC exercises and movements can be helpful in rehabilitation and prevention of tendon and muscle injuries, especially chronic tendinosis that may not respond to other therapies.  One advantage is that it can both lengthen and strengthen a muscle.  If you're experiencing chronic tendon or muscle problems, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about an incorporating ECCENTRIC exercises into your rehab program, and I can help you transition into the gym.

Use can almost change the stamp of nature

You may be able to prevent injuries in the first place and avoid re-injury by using ECCENTRIC exercises to "prehab" vulnerable spots.  For example, I have several clients who are runners and athletes incorporating ECCENTRIC calf exercises into their programs to protect the achilles tendon and plantar fascia.  Early intervention may help keep you from developing chronic injuries and landing in rehab in the first place.  This applies across the board, from competitive athletes to those just beginning a fitness program.  


Myths About Perspiration, Fluid Replacement Guidelines, Your Personal Hydration Program

We're on track for ta hot summer, and with everybody sweating more, many of you have asked about hydration and fluid replacement strategies.

This posting  reviews common myths about perspiration and provides hydration and fluid replacement guidelines to enhance performance and avoid heat related illnesses.  Information comes from authoritative sources including position stands of The American College of Sports Medicine and peer reviewed publications of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.


#1 - The More I Sweat the More Calories I Burn.  FALSE.  Perspiration is part of our body's cooling system, it does not necessarily require burning calories or correlate with caloric expenditures.  Example:  stand outside on a very humid 90 degree day, and you will sweat profusely.  Run indoors in a very dry 65 degree environment, and you may hardly break a sweat.

#2 - I Can Sweat The Weight Off.  FALSE.  -Weight loss due to sweating indicates dehydration.  This weight is water that needs to be replaced, it is not the stored body fat that you really want to lose.  In sports like boxing, MMA and wrestling, participants may temporarily sweat off a few pounds to make weight - but will immediately begin rehydration before the exercise event.

Whether from exercise, movement or shivering, muscle activity generates heat, which your blood circulates. Your body cools itself by increasing blood flow close to the skin and through evaporation of sweat. Research has shown sweat rates range from .5 to 2 liters per hour with marked differences between individuals.  The amount of sweat varies based on individual characteristics such as body weight, genetics, heat acclimatization, and conditioning, and environmental conditions such as heat, humidity, clothing and equipment. 

Euhydration means we're at our normal hydration level and weight, and this is the most desirable state.  For most people water is about 60% of body weight when we are euhydrated. Dehydration is easily measured by calculating lost body weight before and after exercise.  Ten to 14 days of training in heat will help you acclimatize and reduce risk of dehydration.

  • Lose 2% of body weight, aerobic exercise performance and cognitive abilities are degraded. 
  • Lose 3-5% of body weight, there is risk of heat related illness.  The rate of sweat production declines and can lead to hyperthermia - overheating of the body and brain.  Life-threatening exertional heatstroke occurs when body temperature exceeds 104 and internal organs begin to shut down.
Whether you're working out, running, walking, or even sitting outside in hot humid weather, every pound you lose is a sign that you've lost about a pint of water. Hyperhydration, drinking an excessive amount of water before an athletic event or exercise (more than euhydration), has not been found to improve athletic performance and is not recommended.

NSCA provides the following general guidelines for fluid and electrolyte replacement:
Before exercise event:  Drink 16 ounces of water two hours before;  drink 8 ounces sports drink 10-20 minutes before.
During exercise event:  Drink a sports drink that contains 30-60 grams of electrolytes and 120-240 grams of carbohydrates per hour to prevent fuel depletion.  Drink 8 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes.
After exercise event:  Drink 2-3 cups of fluid for every pound of body weight lost.
Competitive athletes, marathoners and triathletes will benefit from a more personalized hydration program tailored.

 Developing your own individualized program is actually easy. ACSM'smost recent position stand on fluid replacement  recommends individualized programs because our sweat rates vary.

Weigh yourself before and after exercise to determine your rate of fluid loss due to sweating, and rehydrate accordingly.  If you lose a pound in a half hour, replace it with 16 ounces of fluid per half hour of exercise.  This may vary depending on weather, intensity and clothing, but over time you should be able to make adjustments.

Begin to prehydrate a few hours before your exercise event, so that your stomach contents are emptied, fluids are absorbed by your body, and urine flow returns to normal.  Rehydrate during the exercise event to replenish the fluids being lost. 

Electrolyte and sodium depletion and replacement is more difficult to individually quantify and program because it requires blood testing.

  • Electrolyte and sodium depletion can cause muscle cramping.  
  • Profuse sweating over time can literally flush sodium out of your body;  if not replaced, a dangerous condition called hyponeutremia resuts.    
Most people don't need to be overly concerned with hyponatremia, but participants in extended exercises events, including marathons, triathalons and sports in hot humid weather should consider electrolyte replacement or salt tablets. The concern here is the potential for athletes to overhydrate with water.

Interestingly, ACSM has found that sodium replacement does not reduce cramping in triathletes, implying that muscle fatigue and energy replacement may be more important factors. 
 Contact me  if you have any questions or want to set up some sessions to develop your personalized program, or visit for more information.


Dirty Secrets of Personalized Training

When you walk into a gym like NYSC's Wall Street location, you've got over 5,000 pieces of exercise equipment (really!) and more than 50 classes a week. How do you know which are right for you? And which may be wrong.
Whether you train on your own, with a friend or group or with a professional trainer, personalized training is about getting the right program for you. This article will share the "secret process" a personal trainer uses to personalize your training.  Try it on your own, or let me know if you need some help.

What's with the frightening picture of personal training presented on television?  Trainers behave like screaming drill sergeants who push and whip their clients through extreme workout programs that produce amazing results. It's like some secret dark art practiced by a cult of Adonises.

It usually doesn't work that way. Most of us in the real world of personal training follow a different approach. We design programs with careful consideration to avoiding injury, ensuring consistency and helping our clients meet their goals. And many of the best trainers aren't nearly pretty enough for TV.

Some people are on a mission to do every single exercise in the gym. Others do a very small list of the same exercises over and over again, sometimes for years and years. Then, there are those who follow a "one-size-fits-all program," a program that they've bought or pulled from the latest issue of a magazine or gotten from a friend.

When someone says to me "I've just joined and need someone to show me how to work the machines," my response is always the same: "Let's talk about the most important  machine in the gym. Your body. Let's find the right exercises for YOU."

You can't succeed until you figure out what it takes to get yourself to exercise on a regular basis. Will you make an appointment with yourself and keep it? Do you need an appointment with a friend so you don't cancel? Maybe a class? Or a written program to follow and log? Can you keep the commitment to exercise on your own? Do you get bored easily? Will you push yourself hard enough? If two weeks or more pass by and you've skipped your exercise appointment, your plan isn't working.

One surprising thing I've learned since becoming a trainer: most clients train because they just will not show up on their own without the threat of being charged for cancellation. Recently a few clients even told me how good they felt after buying a personal training package: "Now I know I will workout 2-3x a week for the next few months."

The same is true of those advertised programs. The logs and variation keep you coming back and keep it interesting. No wonder people get results.

In some cases the answer is obvious. Maybe you have a medical condition, are coming back to the gym after physical therapy, or participate in a competitive sport and need to improve performance and/or reduce risk of injuries.  For the rest of the world, a truly personalized exercise program can improve your physical condition, strength, posture, movement and athletic abilities. Incorrec exercise selection can exacerbate problems with posture and movement and will not produce the desired results, while sticking with the same program for too long will lead to you to plateau and stop improving. In some cases, this can lead to the same kind of repetitive stress injuries that you might associate with factory workers.

Your personalized program starts with an inventory of YOU, including goals, medical background, and issues that affect exercise.

1. What is your age and weight?
2. What are your goals?
3. What is your current program and exercise experience? If you've taken classes or worked with trainers before, what were the results, what did you like and dislike?
4. Do you have any current or past injuries, medical conditions, pain or sensitive areas?
5. What is your lifestyle: what do you do at work and for recreation?
6. How often can you work out and how much time can you spend?
7. Which exercises do you like and which do you dislike?
8. Do you have any problems with posture and movement?

The single most important part of any personalized fitness program - and the oneso often missing - is a Fitness Assessment. This is the one thing that allows the program to be personalized to YOU.

- your fitness goals
- your answers to the above questions
- your posture and movement
- your current performance level and abilities

Sometimes the assessment is based on testing; often it is based on your history and a simple "visual inspection." Many times, I've already taken note of a client's issues and have them perform tests to demonstrate and explain the issue and program rationale to them.

Among people I meet in NYC, the assessment usually reveals one or more of the following issues: Rounded Shoulders; Externally Rotated Feet; Knock Knees; Arched Lower Back.  If you've got these issues, there are certain exercises that are recommended to correct them, and other exercises that should absolutely be avoided.  Learn more about assessment and try assessing yourself with the mini-self assessment at

Once you've answered the above questions and completed your assessment, you should be able to explain why your personalized program and each exercise is right or wrong for you - right down to the number of sets, repetitions and tempo. This knowledge will transform your program and exercise selection into a carefully considered and highly personalized process.

Here are some brief examples of rationales that I might use:

The client is deconditioned and his goal is weight loss, so the program will focus on a) maximizing calories burned through cardiovascular training and working the large muscle groups (legs, back, and chest). It will also include stretches and exercises to minimize the risk that an injury will interrupt the program.

The client is a competitive runner who has been experiencing plantar fasciitis and pain in the iliotibial bands. The program will target the lower extremity postural distortion syndrome and include stretches for the calves and hip muscles (including the IT band and tensor fascia latae) along with strengthening of the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus and anterior tibialis.

2 sets of 15 single leg biceps curl with dumbbells was selected because the goals include core strengthening and building lean muscle, and the client has a shoulder imbalance that makes barbell curls or preacher curls somewhat risky and less effective.

Incline chest press and overhead shoulder exercises are not included in this program due to the client's rounded shoulders and/or history of rotator cuff injury, common upper extremity postural distortions.
2 sets of 15 repetitions with :03 isometric contraction of rear flies and shoulder external rotation will strengthen the muscles that pull the shoulder back along with shoulder internal rotation with a :04 negative to help improve range of motion.

Side-Lying leg lifts (hip abduction) is included in this program because the clients knees tend  to move inward, i.e., they excessively adduct; the hip Adductor machine is avoided because the clients adductors are extremely tight and short; the hip abduction machine is avoided because it also works the piriformis (muscles that externally rotate the hip).

As you develop your own personalized training program, think about how you will progress the exercises over the next month, and over the longer term. Our bodies adapt to a program after about 4-6 weeks at which time the program produces diminishing results. Most people think of progression as simply increasing the weight or changing the specific machines or exercises, and overlook the opportunity of varying the training modality.

If you've been focused on stable training such as machines, lying on benches and/or sitting through your workout, try standing to increase core activation and target a greater cross section of muscle fibers. Once you've mastered that, progress to exercises on a single leg, with balance boards and balls. Then come back to a more intensive stable strength training routine. Or try plyometrics to increase power.
I've got some examples of progressions at

I know that not everyone shares my passion for exercise, but try to make the workouts as interesting as possible.  Develop a few good personalized programs and progressions that you can change at 4-6 weeks intervals or use "undulating periodization," where you vary the workout more frequently. This is the "muscle memory" secret of that popular "one-size-fits-all program" that you see advertised on television. Only better, because the program and progression is personalized for YOU.

So there you have it, the dirty secrets of personalized training. I guess they aren't so dirty after all though.  

Contact me  if you have any questions or want to set up some sessions to develop your personalized program, or visit for more information.


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


The Top 10 Exercises and Stretches for the Office Worker

Whether you've been lifting weights for years, playing sports, competing in marathons and triathlons, playing basketballs or soccer, or just starting out, most of you face the same challenge: transitioning from sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day to physical activity. (The same goes for many other occupations---cops, cab drivers, pilots, and judges are a few examples of people who tend to sit a lot face similar issues.

Proper conditioning can help avoid injuries, improve performance, and deliver better results. How? By correcting the postural distortions and muscle imbalances that office work creates.  Read on for the recommended exercises and stretches and links to an illustrated program.
The Problem:

Public Enemy #1 - The Chair Long periods of sitting can lead to tight hip flexors and weak core, including weak extended gluteals, tight and arched lower back and sagging abdominals. Over time, these imbalances can contribute to lower back pain, difficulty balancing, and less efficient movement.
Accomplices - The Keyboard and Computer Screen Leaning forward and working in front of your body for extended periods tends to tighten muscles in the chest and front of shoulder, overstretches the upper back, tighten the upper trapezius while overstretching the lower and middle trapezius, rhomboids. Breathing can become less efficient, the misalignment of the shoulder can lead to less force production in chest and shoulder exercises and increase the likelihood of shoulder injuries (especially to the rotator cuff).
It is a simple matter when you break it down: Stretch the muscles that get short (tight) all day long, and strenghten the muscles that get overly extended. For the most part, these muscles are on the opposite sides of the body. For example, chest/back or hips/glutes.
A Few Words About "Cardio":
Cardiovascular exercise is THE most important exercise you can do - but the definition is somewhat misused.   Exercise scientists and the government define "cardio" as anything that increases your heart rate, and recommend a minimum of 30 minutes a day. "Cardio" is not exactly the same as aerobic exercise - an activity is aerobic when your perform it for one minute or longer (at which point your body uses the aerobic energy system, fueled by oxygen).

Depending on your fitness level and goals, cardio could be brisk walking, stair climbing, dancing or running 5 miles. It could also be weight training. In fact, circuit training with limited rest between exercises can burn a similar number of calories and produce some of the same benefits as aerobic exercises. If you want to maximize your weight loss and conditioning, a trainer can assess you and give you a personalized target heart rate for your cardio training.

The trick with cardio is to find something that is comfortable for you to do and holds your interest. Your exercise and flexibility program can support your cardio training. Whether you're just starting out or competing in triathaons and marathons, you can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.


And Now...The Top 10:
•Chest Stretch - Targets chest and front of shoulders; can improve posture and breathing and reduce risk of shoulder injuries
•Kneeling Hip and Quad Stretch - Targets hip flexors and quadriceps; can improve posture and reduce risk of low back and knee pain and injuries
•Calf Stretch - targets calf muscles and can reduce risk of knee and hip injuries and also help with Achilles tendon and plantar fascia
•Foam Roll Iliotibial Band - the IT band is difficult to stretch, and can contribute to many problems including knee pain and injuries
•Hip Abduction - Targets the gluteus medius and maximus; can indirectly help relax the IT Band and reduce the risk of knee injuries and low back pain and injuries.
•Rear Delt (Reverse) Fly - Targets rear deltoids, lower and mid trapezius and rhomboids; can improve posture and breathing and reduce risk of shoulder injuries
•Row - targets lats, rear delts and retracts the scapular, can improve posture and breathing and reduce risk of shoulder injuries
•Squat - Targets glutes and leg muscles, can improve posture and reduce risk of back and knee injuries.
•Leg Press - Targets glutes and leg muscles, can improve posture and reduce risk of back and knee injuries
•Plank - Targets the transversus abdominus and other deep abdominal core muscles, important for protecting the back and spine, and improving posture and breathing.

Visit for an illustrated program and 14 others that you can print and forward to friends.

The Fine Print 
These are typical exercises recommended for office workers, different exercises may be appropriate for you. Schedule your fitness assessment with a Certified Personal Trainer for your personalized recommendations. See a doctor before beginning any exercise program, and seek professional input if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, heart disease or any other medical condition. Proceed cautiously at your own risk.


Interval Training: Burn More Calories. Improve Performance. Reduce Exercise Time.

Yes this sounds almost too good to be true.

Interval Training involves alternating between higher and lower intensity in your cardio workout. It could be right for you if you have a good cardio base and want to improve performance or results. If you're just beginning to train, we start by getting your cardio base established first, and prepare your body for the demands of this training. A cardio base is usually established with moderate exercise, 60-70% of your maximum heart rate or a rate of perceived exertion of about 5-6 on a scale of 10*. (A simple estimate of your maximum heart rate is 220-your age, I can give you a better estimate if you give me your age and resting pulse).

Research shows that Interval Training burns more calories than training at a steady rate, partly because it raises your metabolism for 2-3 hours after you stop exercising. The scientific term for this phenomenon is EPOC for Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption. It also seems to cause molecular changes in the muscle that increase fat burning. Interval Training may also improve your performance by increasing your body's ability to remove lactate from the bloodstream, so it can help well-trained people get to the next level. This point is often described as reaching your anaerobic threshold or "going anaerobic". Scientists now believe that "going anaerobic" is a myth, - along with "the myth of the Fat Burning Zone." Remember that you burn more TOTAL calories in the cardio zone than in the fat burning zone, and interval training can help you get there. Numerous studies have shown that for many people, interval training produces better results in less time than steady state aerobic training.

A typical starting interval training program might consist of a warmup followed by 60 seconds of high intensity exercise followed by 90 seconds of recovery at a lower intensity repeated about ten times. As you become more conditioned, decrease the recovery to 60 seconds. In more advanced programs, the high intensity intervals can be 2-3 minutes long, with rest periods equal to or less than the high intensity interval. High intensity exercise generally means that your heart rate is 75-85% of maximum, and the recovery rate is about 60%. To use rate of perceived exertion, you should feel that you're at about 8-9 on a difficulty scale of 1-10 in the high intensity period, and about 5-6 in the lower intensity period.

You can do interval training on any cardio equipment, or with other activities such as running or jumping rope. Beginners may get their heart rate up with walking on a treadmill and varying the incline, while very fit people will need to do something more challenging.


Special Feature: Interview with NYSC Spin Master Rob Merluza

A snowstorm in February provided a long-awaited opportunity for me join one of Rob's spin classes at NYSC Wall Street --- his classes and my evening schedule are usually totally booked. We followed up with an interview:
Q: What's the Goal of Your Class? My classes are tailored to maximize effectiveness in 45 minutes. The focus is high intensity interval training, one of the best ways to maximize results.

Q: What Sets your Classes Apart? The thing I'm known for is that my classes simulate an outdoor ride, simulate real hill climbs. To round out the experience and make it enjoyable, I use tailor each song to the exercise, providing a nice rhythm and beat to accompany the ride.

Q: How do you keep it going? My classes focus on different areas such endurance, strength with increasing resistance, staying in the aerobic zone. I throw in a kicker - sprints - to get the class into a higher zone, increase heart rate and calorie expenditure, really tax the system. Throughout, I'm always cognizant of providing adequate recovery between sprints and intervals.

Q: What else can your students expect to learn? I touch on proper form and technique, improved pedal stroke, body alignment and positioning - so that the body works in synergy with the bike.

Q: Can you tell us some of the benefits of your class? Beginners can expect to burn about 400 calories in a class. They may not do all sprints or have endurance to maintain a high energy level throughout, but will feel a sense of accomplishment, get a good workout, and begin building their aerobic base. Moderate to Advanced students can burn 500-800 calories. I focus on challenging them to increase resistance, go harder on sprints, and maintain a high level of intensity.

Q: What about results? I've had members who've lost 30-100 pounds - including one of your clients who combined my spin classes with your strength training program and had great results. They also gain increased endurance, improved strength and leaner appearance. With advanced riders and triathletes, I focus on creating a "strong engine" for the ride - a combination of form, position, pedal stroke and aerobic base.

Rob's Spin classes are Thursday at 6PM and Friday at 530PM at NYSC Wall Street, advance reservations required call 212.482.4800.


Deep CORE Exercise Progression

Here is a list of sample core strengthening exercises at each step. I'll be demonstrating them on the gym floor during Cary's Core Clinic and can help find the right level for you, and I incorporate many of them into the workouts at my Total Body Conditioning Class at NYSC Cobble Hill, Thursdays at 630AM

Static Core Activation &

Integrated Core Training

Dynamic Core Training

  • Standing on 1 leg

  • Stand/Balance on Wobble Board

  • Drawing in Maneuver

  • Plank

  • Quadruped with arm and leg raise

  • Side Lying Leg Lift

  • Stability Ball Squat

  • Stand on 1 leg and bicep curl, shouder press/raise, tricep
    pressdown, row, chest press

  • Balance on Board or Stability Ball and Curl,
    Skull Crusher, shoulder press/raise, row, check press

  • Quadruped with row or triceps kickback

  • Stability Ball Squat with biceps curls,
    shoulder press/raise

  • Single Leg bent over row or triceps kickback

  • Step up onto bench, balance and curl or
    shoulder press/raise

  • Walking lunge with rotation and step to
    balance on 1 leg

  • Row or chest press with lunges and a step to
    balance on 1 leg

  • Lunge, step to balance and curl or shoulder
    press; lateral lunge step to balance and curl or shoulder press


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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