Showing posts with label nyc personal training. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nyc personal training. Show all posts


Stretching is Not Enough

If you feel like you've been stretching a tight muscle forever and not making progress, you're not alone.  Most people do static stretches and some myofascial release (foam rolling), either on their own or in stretching or yoga classes.  These are valuable techniques but they may not be enough to get the results you want and may not target you individualized needs.

Muscles become tight from extended periods of sitting and repetitive motion.  Remember isometric exercises?  Exercises where you hold a muscle in a contracted position to strengthen it?

Sit in front of a computer for extended periods of time and you're doing isometrics.  Literally strengthening and shortening the hip flexors, upper trapezius, chest lats, and anterior shoulder muscles.  At the same time, you're stretching and lengthening the glutes, middle trapezius and rhomboids and shoulder external rotators.

If a muscle is tight and short, the antagonist or opposite muscle is extended and relatively weaker.  That's why static stretching and myofascial release is not enough.  A flexibility programs needs to include active stretches and eccentric (negative phase) strengthening of the tight muscles and strengthening of the antagonist muscles .

The charts below show some examples of complete flexibility programs for common complaints.  Additional illustrated programs are available on my website at

Unlike classes which take a one-size-fits-all approach, when we work together, we can personalize a program to your specific problem muscles, needs and goals.  We also will ensure proper form and exercise selection.

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

Tight Calves - Plantar Fascitis - Achilles Tendinitis
Myofascial Release
  • Calf with foam roller, medicine ball, barbell, other implements
  • Bottom of foot with lacrosse ball or frozen water bottle
Static Stretch
  • Calf
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • “Reverse calf raises” or heel drops - emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • Heel raises to strengthen the anterior tibialis (opposite or antagonist muscle to the calf)

Tight Hip Flexors - Often with Arched Back and Knee Pain
Myofascial Release
  • Quads and hip flexors foam roller and medicine ball especially at the inguinal crease (hip)
Static Stretch
  • Quadriceps and Psoas, kneel with raised arm to lengthen Psoas
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises” on floor or stability ball -  emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises”
  • Glute strengthening exercises including single leg press and squats, hip extension, lunges

Rounded Shoulders - Often with Shoulder or Neck Pain
Myofascial Release
  • Chest/pectorals, anterior (front) of shoulders and lats with foam roller or medicine ball
Static Stretch
  • Chest stretches
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • Unweighted reverse fly, weighted reverse fly -  emphasize  “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • Scaption and Reverse fly - ensure shoulders are retracted, on reverse fly emphasize the negative phase when retracted
  • Shoulder external rotation
  • Close grip row, emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction when retracted
  • At least a 3:2 ratio of back to chest exercises

Elevated Shoulders - Often with Shoulder or Neck Pain
Myofascial Release
  • Upper Trapezius, Lats, Rhomboids with Roller or medicine ball
Static Stretch
  • Neck Stretch - Sternocleidomastoid, Levator Scapula
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • Scapular Depression - “Reverse Shrugs” on a seated dip machine or dip bar.  Keep elbows straight, raise and slowly lower the shoulder carriage.  emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction at the bottom
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening

Tight Low Back - Often with Arched Back
Myofascial Release
  • Hip flexors, quadriceps, lower back, lats, piriformis
Static Stretch
  • Lats, cobra for abdominals, piriformis
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises” on floor or stability ball -  emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises”
  • Glute strengthening exercises including single leg press and squats, hip extension, lunges
  • Reduce “Crunches” instead incorporate planks, single leg exercises and other deep core strengthening exercises


Add Horsepower to Your Cardio: Increase Your Cardiac Ouput

QUESTION: True or false:  to improve your cardiovascular conditioning,  get your heart rate as high as possible in aerobic exercise?

ANSWER: False.  You improve your cardio condition by increasing cardiac output at lower heart rates.   Here's the mathematical equation used by doctors and exercise physiologists:

Q = HR x SV
Your cardiac output, Q,  is the product of your heart rate times your stroke volume - that's the amount of blood exiting the heart from the left ventricle every time it beats.   A strong heart pumps more blood with every beat.  At rest, Q is typically about 5-6 liters per minute.  During exercise it can be 3-6 times as much.  

Extra Horsepower
To improve your cardiovascular conditioning, we focus on improving your Stroke Volume, conditioning the muscle fibers in the heart to pump more blood each time it beats.  Think of it as adding horsepower to a pump.

We do this with a training program designed to increase your heart rate reserve --- the difference between your Resting Heart Rate and your Maximum Heart Rate.  Your Maximum Heart Rate is most widely accepted at 220-age, it is a theoretical number that is the same for everyone.  

We can’t change your Maximum Heart Rate, but we can lower your Resting Heart Rate. Typical Resting Heart Rate for adults is 60-80 beats per minute, if you’re already well conditioned it is probably lower.

The Frank-Starling Law
For over 100 years, doctors have relied upon the Frank-Starling law or mechanism for patients with heart arrhythmias and cardiac failure.  It explains how the heart adapts to changes in heart rate and stroke volume, and applies equally to exercise.

If you train your heart to pump more blood what’s it going to do?  Pump more blood.  You will also see a lower resting heart rate and - as your heart rate reserve increases - an increase in potential cardiac output (Q in the formula discussed above).

If you train your heart to beat faster, what’s it going to do?  Beat faster.  You may not see improvement in cardiac output, in fact it may even decline.  Frank-Starling explains that  if the heart is literally beating so fast that the chambers don’t have time to fully fill with blood, the muscle contraction is not as strong. The muscle can actually weaken slightly over time.  You burn more calories at a higher heart rate, but there's a good chance that you're burning muscle and not just fat.  More about this in an upcoming article on Metabolic Training.

Your Cardio Training Heart Rate
We use the Karvonen Formula to calculate your training zone, also called the Heart Rate reserve formula.  (More elaborate athletic training facilities may use VO2 max as a measurement, but it is difficult to consistently monitor).
  • 60-80% of your Maximum Heart Rate, using the Karvonen formula, is targeted to increase stroke volume, therefore increasing cardiac output and lowering your resting heart rate. Gradually increase intensity of exercise that you are able to do while keeping your heart rate in this range.
  • Above 80% of MHR not indicated for improving cardiac output.  It provides other benefits such as improving lactic acid removal and strengthening fast twitch muscle fibers. So it is part of your program, but not the part that improves cardiac output.
To calculate your Target Heart Rate Zone, take your Resting Heart Rate early in the morning,. preferably when you wake up without alarm or kids or noise and use the following equation:

THR = (220-Age-RHR) * Desired Intensity % + RHR

Do I need a Heart Rate Monitor?
Ideally yes, but you can also use rate of perceived exertion.   The Borg Scale is widely used, easy and scientifically validated,  you rate your perceived level of exertion on a scale of 6-20, where 6 is no exertion and 20 is extremely difficult  A rule of thumb is that you can then multiply by 10 to get an approximate heart rate.   

Proceed with caution

Talk to a doctor and a fitness professional before beginning a new exercise program or substantially increasing the intensity.  I'd be happy to meet with you to discuss your questions, goals and program options.  Contact me  if you have any questions or want to set up some sessions to develop your personalized program, or visit for more information.


Do You Need To Change Your Workout?

Whether your goal is to improve performance, slim down, cut-up, bulk-up, reduce risk of injury or work around a problem area, a carefully considered change up in your workout might be just what the doctor ordered.  In this issue, the signs that your fitness program needs a change and the changes that can take you to the next level.  

If any of these statements are true, a change in program is overdue.

You've been doing the same exercises for more than 6-8 weeks, the only change has been to increase weight.   Your body adapts to the exercises, you will experience a diminished return on investment in terms of muscle development, and changing body composition (gaining or losing weight). Planned changes, or periodization, can help you break through the plateau.   What's more, continually performing the same exact movements makes you more susceptible to repetitive motion injuries.  Read more here Machines vs. Free Weights

You're taking up or increasing participation in a sport or activity (running, cycling, hiking, basketball, soccer, and so on).  Your fitness program can complement and enhance your activities and sports participation, or it can conflict with them.  You may have noticed a particular problem since increasing your new activity, small adaptations to your workout can make a big difference.

Your goal or timeline has changed, you may want to get into shape for a vacation or wedding or the beach.  Simply doing more of the same thing may not be the optimal solution;  in fact, you're more likely to see diminished return and experience some sort of injury that prevents you from reaching your goal.

You've got a new health issue, to name a few common ones: back, neck or shoulder pain; blood pressure; broken bones; cancer; depression; diabetes; GERD; hernia; plantar fascitis; pregnancy; surgery; tendinitis.   Programs can be modified to achieve results and help deal with most issues. In some cases, exercise can be part of "the cure" or recovery.

You're bored or having trouble sticking with an exercise program.  A new routine can be just the thing to motivate you. Of course, it should also be relevant to your fitness goals and level.

Ten Changes to Make Today

1.  Get off the Machines They're a great place to start and can be an important part of the program... but if you've gotten stuck in a machines-only exercise rut you're doing more to work the machines than to work your muscle in a meaningful way.  Plus, they may put you at risk of repetitive motion issues.   Read more here Machines vs. Free Weights

2.  Decrease Stability/Decrease Weight/Increase Repetitions Strengthen your core and burn more calories as you workout. Performing exercises standing, on an exercise ball, on balance boards or with suspension training like TRX are a good way to go.  A stronger core can also improve your performance in lifting and many sports and give you a tighter and fitter appearance.

3.  Increase Stability/Increase Weight/Decrease Repetitions
Go heavy at almost any age to increase muscle - since muscle burns more calories than fat, you'll begin losing weight while you rest!  Carefully select exercises and pay attention to proper form.

4.  Change the Tempo  Increasing time spent on the eccentric (negative), adding an isometric contraction to exercises, or simply slowing the overall tempo - and increasing the time that the muscle is kept under tension rather than the weight - can help produce gains in strength, endurance and muscle size and break through plateaus.  Longer negatives increase strength and endurance, isometrics help cut and build muscle size.

5.  Plyometyrics   Increase explosive power, reduce risk of injury and have some fun with Plyometrics.  Participants in a well-designed program of stretching, plyometrics and weight training reduced landing forces from a jump by 20 percent, and increased their hamstrings strength by 44 percent.  Plyometrics can also be applied to upper body exercises and sport specific training.

Click here to learn about how many sets and reps you should be doing and see program examples at

6.  Assess, Correct, Emphasize and Eliminate  Bad posture and movements patterns can reduce performance and increase risk of injury.  A movement and postural assessment like the one on my website can identify which muscles are tight and need stretching and which are extended and need strengthening, and help determine which exercises and stretches to add or remove from your program.  You can learn how to assess yourself at

7.  Change the Mix or Timing of Strength and Aerobic Training  As a rule, if you want to get improve your running speed do cardio before strength, if you want to increase strength or build muscle, do cardio after.  The timing change that has personally helped me the most is to alternate days so that I can go all-in every day.

8.  Work One Side of Your Body at a Time  One side may seem weaker or smaller than the other, but that's only the beginning. Unilateral exercises can help improve core strength, and improve your overall strength by improving "neuromuscular efficiency" - the way your brain "recruits" muscle fibers.  This is time consuming, so you may not do it every time or for every muscle.  Read my article The Brain Train.

9. Superset and Circuit   Combine two or more different exercises for the same muscle group, with no rest in between, such as a chest press followed by pushup, and you can work the muscles longer and harder before tiring or risking injury.  Alternate between front and back of body or upper and lower body so that you don't have to rest in between, you will buirn more calories and increase the number of exercises per session.

10.  Interval Training  Alternating between higher and lower intensity in your cardio workout could be right for you if you have a good cardio base and want to improve performance or increase weight loss.  You'll also burn more calories for a few hours after exercising with interval training.  Read my quotes in this article The Best Interval Training Technique for You, on, from he publishers of Men's health

Still Stuck?  Get a Partner.  Join a Class,  Hire a Trainer  If two weeks or more pass by and you've skipped your exercise appointments, your plan isn't working.  Do you need an appointment with a friend or trainer 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?   Do you need my help?

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


Summer Dehydration Alert

Weight loss from exercise during the summer can be a sign of dehydration. It may seem like a good thing to lose weight after a workout, but it is actually one of the early warning signs of dehydration.  Every pound you lose working out is a sign that you've lost about a pint of water. Replace lost fluids to return to your pre workout weight, to avoid fatigue, cramping and potentially health threatening side effects.


UltimateFlexibility(almost/so far)

I have two questions for you

  • Are you happy with your current level of flexibility?
  • What are you doing about it?

Most people I meet are not happy with their flexibility. Even people who are really flexible seem to want more. Yet, its the last thing most people spend time on. I have even been guilty of this myself. This issue is meant to slightly change the way that you think about flexibility, and give you a step by step approach and some specific tools that can lead you to results - if you take the time and do the work that is needed. You'll probably have questions so feel free to ask.

THE PROBLEM WITH MOST PEOPLE'S FLEXIBILITY PROGRAMS The top 5: not doing the stretches that are right for YOU; doing the same few stretches over and over again; not stretching for long enough; using brute force instead of your brain to stretch the muscles; and, neglecting the strengthening component of a flexibility program. So many people try to improve, don't see much progress and every day, leave the gym and go back to the same desk or lifestyle and the problems start over.

Probably both. If a muscle is tight, think of it as being short --- therefore, the opposite muscle compensates by being long. Or does one muscle get too long, and the opposite compensate by shortening? Maybe both at the same time. Some of us are born this way, but often our lifestyles are important factors. If you sit all day, the muscles that you sit on (glutes and hamstrings) tend to get all stretched out and the hip flexors and quadriceps get all tight. If you work on a computer all day, the muscles in front of your chest and shoulders get tight as the muscles behind get stretched out. The same think can happen from driving and biking. I've written about this before...we call these opposing muscle agonists and antagonists. You'll improve your flexibility if you can identify the tight muscles and stretch them, and identify the weak muscles and strengthen them.

STRETCHING IS IN YOUR HEAD You know that stretching is done to make a muscle longer.. but exactly how do you do that? By pulling it to the maximum possible length? Or by getting your brain to do the work? Actually, its the brain and nervous system that controls the length of your muscles, you can do some damage by pulling to much or in the wrong way. There are numerous effective stretching techniques, all of them rely on stimulate sensors in the muscles to send a signal to the brain, and electrical impulse that says "relax me." Those impulses travel through the nerves and spinal cord, then the brain sends messages back to the muscle fibers telling them to relax. It takes at least 7-10 seconds for this process to initiate, so that guy who you see grabbing the front of his shoe and pulling his knee back for 3 seconds and then running off...he's not stretching. Nor is that person who pulls so hard that they overstretch the ligaments while the muscle doesn't increase in length.

STRENGTH TRAINING CAN IMPROVE FLEXIBILITY Sometimes a movement is difficult because a muscle is tight, but often it is because the opposing muscle is actually too weak and extended. I see this a lot with the inner thigh, biceps, and hips/glutes. In some cases, the opposing muscle is literally asleep, and when you try to perform a movement it barely wakes up and you get that stiff feeling like rigor mortis setting in. You can stretch the tight muscles as much as you want but only see limited improvement, so fight back by strengthening the muscle opposite the one that is tight. Which brings us to another issue...

YOU REALLY DON'T NEED TO STRETCH EVERY MUSCLE The are all kinds of group stretching classes, yoga, etc, which are really nice and have helped many people improve their flexibility. Keep in mind that these classes offer a generic one size fits all set of stretches which may not be ideal for your specific needs. You may actually be stretching muscles that are already all stretched out. This goes for the programs that I've included in the sidebar on the left, they're good programs but generic because I haven't assessed you yet. A physical therapist, massage therapist and some personal trainers can assess you and identify which muscles need stretching and which need strengthening. This is an ongoing process: I often do on the fly stretches during a training session when a client has difficulty performing certain movements.


Depending on your posture, fitness level and goals, some stretching before working out can be beneficial. The goal of this stretching is to relax those tight muscles so that the joints are in proper alignment before working out...because if the joints are in proper alignment you can work the muscles better and reduce risk of injury. Some forms of stretching may cause a short term reduction in the amount of force a muscle can generate, so you should avoid them before your powerlifting competitions or choose other forms of stretching. Other forms of stretching?

THERE'S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO LENGTHEN A MUSCLE Most people are familiar with two types of stretching: static stretching, which involves stretching in a stationery position and holding the stretch for about 30 seconds; and, assisted stretching, which is basically the same except your trainer or someone else helps you do it. There are many other techniques that may work for you, depending on your fitness level, exercise program and goals. I've summarized a few in the sidebar. Periodization, changing your stretch routine at regular intervals, can also be helpful in many cases.

Myofascial release is a technique for working out knots and adhesions that limit the extensibility of your muscle tissue. Pressure is applied to the knotted area, and after about 30 seconds, the brain sends a signal to the muscle to relax. If you have some persistent tight spots, you can do this yourself using a foam roller. They're available in the gyms, and if you'd like one for home you can order one online for about 20 bucks. The most common areas that benefit from the attention with the foam roller are the calves, IT Band and quads, but you can actually use them in almost any part of your body. I've got a program that illustrates how to use the foam roller for many different body parts. Click here to view/download the program and choose those stretches that target your own personal tight areas. Do the foam rolling before your regular stretching routine for maximum benefit. Feel free to let me know if you need some help in learning this technique.

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