Integrated Over Isolated Movements

One of the biggest mistakes I see people in the gym making are performing exercises with the intention of  isolating one muscle group.  If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, an example of this would be the woman who wants her arms to look skinnier, so she persists on spending 15 minutes doing bicep curls and tricep extensions.  This could also be the guy at the gym who is doing every form of a bicep curl and shoulder press imaginable (using dumbells, cables, resistance bands etc.).  Though maybe his arms and shoulders do look good, is he even able to lift his arm straight over his head?   I hate to say it ladies but…you’re wasting your time, & guys, you have some major muscle imbalances going on.

Guys, let’s take a look at something you could do for this imbalance…

1. Angels on a Foam Roller (P.S. you’re probably going to need to do a lot)

Ladies, let’s take a look at something you could do in order to incorporate more muscles, but still work the arms at the same time…

1. Walking Lunge w/ Curl

Here, you’re getting more muscles involved (not to mention much larger muscles) so you’re going to be basically killing 2 birds with one stone (if you planned on doing lunges later) as well as getting your heart rate up a little more since we have more muscles working at the same time.

This is just one example of an integrated movement.  Well, what exactly does that mean?

An integrated movement is a movement performed that uses multiple muscle groups at the same time to complete a movement correctly.  You may have also heard it referred to as functional training (althougth this is a term that is tossed around a lot).  Functional training is meant to mimic activites that occur in our everyday life.  In most of our daily activities we use more than one muscle group, right? CORRECT.

Think about it, in order to do seemingly simple tasks such as bending over to lift a heavy box off the floor, muscle integration occurs. Legs should be involved (quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings) as well as core (in order to protect your lower back), and obviously the arms as you lift.  Not executing the movement properly can/will result in injury.  This is one example why deadlifts are SO important to incorporate into your training program.  We bend over to pick things up (whether they be heavy or light) everyday, therefore we should know how to engage the proper muscles so that injury doesn’t occur while performing this movement.

In addition, when you’re swinging a golf club, throwing a baseball, kicking a soccer ball, there are NUMEROUS muscles working together in unison to make that particular movement occur.  Although most of us aren’t professional athletes, swinging clubs or throwing baseballs like the pros do, these are all movements that we mimic in our lives.  Therefore, we need to train our bodies to prepare for movements like this. As Gray Cook* says, “use it the way you want to use it, & move it the way you want to move it.”

My point is that no one can give a good reason as to why they are performing isolated movements at the gym…except for bodybuilders.  Bodybuilders are a different case though.  I like how Gray Cook* puts it,  “if you’re going to isolate, we call that bodybuilding and you bodybuild to become a statue.  Body builders aren’t really known for their movement or athletic prowess, they’re known for the way they look standing still.”  In this case, isolated movements are needed in order to get the desired results.  But bodybuilders have to function in their everyday life still, right?  Let’s just assume that a bodybuilder probably wouldn’t have the best golf swing.

Bottom line, WEIGHTLIFTING SHOULD NOT BE SEGMENTALIZED.  Not every single exercise you do has to be multi-joint, but the foundation of movements in your training program should incorporate integrated movement patterns.  According to Gray Cook*, some of the best integrated exercises that you can perform are the following:

1. Half Kneeling Chop & Lifts

2. Turkish Get-Up

3. Two-arm Single Leg Deadlift

4. Cross-body One-arm Single Leg Deadlift

These 4 exercises are 4 of the best corrective exercises that most people can incorporate into their training program.  These exercises will certainly point out  left-right imbalances that are occuring in your body as well as challenge you in a way you probably haven’t challenged yourself.  You can look up videos for the movements online…I’d suggest looking at Gray Cook’s demonstrations on YouTube.  I plan to shoot some videos of these exercises & post them in the near future as well so you can check those out too!

*Gray Cook is possibly the world’s most sought-after injury prevention specialist, having a history of working with many NFL, MLB, NHL & NBA teams. In 2007, both the Chicago Bears & Indianapolis Colts used him in order to keep athletes strong & injury free, and both teams ended up at Super Bowl XLI.  He’s not only limited to the major leagues, he also works with the special forces, keeping them strong & injury free as well.


Work Long or Work Hard?


According to Martin Gibala of McMaster University, “six minutes of pure, hard exercise three times a week could be just as effective as an hour of daily moderate activity.” 

In a study he conducted, he found that changes that were thought to require hours per week were achieved with just 4 to 7, 30 s bursts of all-out (250%VO2max) stationary biking with 4 minutes of recovery time in between bursts.  In his study, this was performed 3 times a week for just 2 weeks, therefore total on bike time for the two weeks being a mere 15 mintues.  For the “sprint” group (those doing the 30s bursts), endurance capacity almost doubled, from 26 to 51 minutes.  In addition, test subjects leg muscles showed a significant 38% increase of citrate synthase (CS), a desirable endurance enzyme.  Meanwhile, the control group, which was active (jogging, cycling, or aerobics) showed no changes. 

Almost seems too good to be true, right?

So the study was repeated. This time, Gibala used an 18.6 mile cycling test for evaluation both before and after the 2 week period.  For the duration of the 2 weeks, the sprint group followed the same 30s burst protocol, while the control group performed more traditional moderate-intensity cycling for 60-90 minutes at 60% VO2max.  Again, both groups worked out 3 times a week…

Results:  Improvements were almost identical, as were the increases in muscle oxidative capacity (the ability of your muscles to use oxygen).

I found the results of this research to be very fasicating, as I’m sure you probably do as well.  To hear that 6 minutes of pure, hard exercise three times a week could be just as effective as an hour of daily moderate activity sounds very applealing.  Now I’m not sitting here and suggesting that you just go to the gym, workout as hard as you can for 6 minutes then head out and call it a day.  

1.  It’s not too easy pushing yourself at 250% your VO2max, nor would most people be able to measure this.

2. Everyone has some type of muscular imbalances going on, & time and focus should be paid attention to corrective exercises as well in a training program so that you don’t end up injuring yourself while you go for an “all out” sprint.  6 minutes doesn’t really give you enough time for this.

 Rather, I would just like for you to recognize that working long in the gym (those that hang out there for an hour and a half or 2 hours) may not get you exactly where you want to be, goal wise (goal dependant as well).  You would be better off cutting your workouts much shorter and up-ing the intensity (obviously not the best idea for someone brand new to exercise or someone considered high-risk). 

Even your top marathoners and ultra marathoners have programs geared towards VERY MINIMAL long runs and more high intensity runs (whether it be repeated 400m, 800m, 1600m runs) to help increase endurance capacity…

So the choice is yours, work long or work hard? I think I’ll chose to work hard.


*Study found in The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss

High Intensity, Fat Burning Workout

Most people don’t push themselves nearly as hard as they should during their workouts. This being why many people end up hitting a plateu and stop seeing results. A greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to take place & in order to get the results you want. Give this high intensity workout a try…

Start with a dynamic warm-up. This should be 5-10 minutes long . Exercises such as knee-tucks, toy soldiers, lunges w/ rotation, speed squats and inchworms are all appropriate.

4×12 TRX Rows

4×12,11, 10, 9 Bulgarian Split Squats w/ Dumbells

2×400 (90s recovery)

4×20 or 10 Push Ups 

 4×12, 11, 10, 9 Step Ups w/ balance on High Box

2×400 (90s recovery between)

4×20,15, 12, 10 Stability Ball Knee Tucks
4×10 V Up’s

 NOTE: Complete all 4 sets before resting. Grab a drink & Give yourself a minute rest before you start the sprints between each circuit. You should be moving fast, but only as fast as you can to keep movements controlled so that you don’t hurt yourself.

*TRX Rows: Palms should face eachother & elbows stay close to body rather than wide.  Challenge yourself.  The more parallel to the floor you are, the more challenging it will be.

*Bulgarian Split Squats: Start with knee down and opposite foot on a bench & exhale & push up from there.  Weight should be in your heel rather than toes as you push up.  I suggest putting an airex stability pad or mat underneath your knee.

*Sprints: Should be AS FAST AS YOU CAN. Shouldn’t be able to talk or breathe much during a 400m sprint. 🙂

*Push Ups: Depending on fitness level obviously, guys should shoot for 20 & females 10

*Step Up w/ Balance: Use a high box & dumbells for added weight.  Complete all reps on 1 leg before moving to next leg.  If stepping with left leg, right leg will not touch the box at all.

*Stability Ball Knee Tucks: In a push up plank position, so hands on floor/matt & feet on stability ball.  Exhale as you tuck your knees in, making sure upper body is stable and not moving.  ONLY movement in knees coming in towards your chest.

*V ups: Lay flat on back to start, exhale as your use your core to pull yourself up so that you end on your “sit bones.”

Remember the workout is only as hard as you make it, so push yourself.  Use as much weight as you can.  Ladies, don’t be afraid of the heavier weights.  If you can use them, YOU SHOULD.  You need a greater than normal stress/load for changes to occur.

Hope you enjoy! & feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you have any questions about the exercises or just to let me know how it went! : )

Healthy Snacking: Pistachios

Looking for a good snack… & one that’s also healthy? Also known as the “green almond,” pistachios are the perfect snack to grab.

  • Almost 90% of the fats found in pistachios are the healthy unsaturated (mono and polyunsaturated) fats. 
  • Pistachios have 3 grams of fiber per serving, which is more than many types of whole fruit.
  • They also contain 6 grams of protein.

Because of their fiber, fat, & protein content, pistachios are considered a very satiating snack.

Random Reserch on Pistachios

According to some research done by Dr. James Painter, pistachios can result in caloric reduction rather than caloric restriction.  In Painters study, individuals self-selected either in-shell or shelled pistachios.  Because the shells act as a natural barrier, taking longer to remove, the in-shelled group consumed 50% less than the shelled nut group.  In addition, they reported feeling equally as satisfied as the group consuming more. 

In addition, the shells can offer a visual cue for eaters.  In Dr. Painter’s second study, in-shell pistachios were consumed over an 8-hours.  On the first day, shells were left out on a desk as a visual reminder of consumption and on the second day the shells were removed.  Results showed that when the shells were left on the desk as a visual cue, subjects consumed 35% less  calories. 

Tips on how to snack healthier:

When you go to the grocery store, plan ahead as to what you will eat as a snack each day.  Stop buying the big bags of potato chips and junk food you don’t need.  If you have it around, you’re going to eat it whereas if you refrain from buying it altogether you won’t feel the temptation to eat it.   

Always opt for fresh, natural foods like fresh fruit, veggies, nuts (especially pistachios).

Prepare your snacks a head of time at home and portion them out into smaller, healthier portions.

Thanks for reading! : )

Fasted/Morning Cardio

While some enjoy sleeping in, others prefer to be early risers (prefer or have no choice) & tend to workout in first thing in the morning… 

When working out in the morning, our body is at a fasted state.  Some research has shown that fasted cardio & fasted workouts lead to increased fat burn.  Others believe that exercise intensity is reduced at a fasted state resulting in a lower EPOC* effect following the workout.  Which is right?

Possible Plus Side of Fasted Cardio

 When you wake up first thing in the morning, your body has reduced levels of glycogen (carbohydrate) levels due to the fasted state your body has been in for the past 8 hours (hopefully) while sleeping.  The theory is that when you work out early in the morning on an empty stomach, a shift in energy utilization away from carbohydrates occurs, therefore allowing greater mobilization of stored fat for fuel.  Simply put, you’re burning more fat than carbohydrates since glycogen levels are so low.  This theory doesn’t necessarily apply to only morning cardio, it could be to exercise in any fasted state although typically first thing in the morning would be when glycogen levels are most depleted, resulting in greater fat utilization. 

Possible Arguments Against Fasted Cardio

In terms of weight loss, it all goes back to calories in vs. calories expended though.  Some theorize that whether you’re burning glycogen or burning fat, you’re still burning calories. In order for weightloss to occur you must burn more calories than you consume. 

In addition, as I mentioned before, some argue that intensity of workout decreases while at a fasted state.  With a decrease in exercise intensity, comes a decrease in EPOC*.   Personally, I feel that this is very subjective.  I feel that most of my best and intense workouts are before 9am. 

My Advice

Since nothing is set in stone & research goes both ways on this topic, I suggest to do what works for you.  If you have a high stress job or are under a ton of stress in general, maybe that hour of extra sleep is going to be more beneficial for you in the morning then you can make time for a workout mid-day or evening.  If you know you don’t have a full hour for a workout in the afternoon or evening, divide up your workouts & do a 30 minute Fartlek run in the morning (just an example) then lift in the evening.  Regardless of what you do, just make sure you get your workouts in & make sure you’re making them worth your time.  If you’re able to read a book while biking or running, chances are you need to kick it up a notch…if you need tips, e-mail me & I’ll be happy to send them your way! : )

*EPOC= Excess Post Oxygen Consumption; Following an intense workout, the body demands more oxygen in attempts to return  back to resting levels.  This results in increased metabolism following a workout.  You can read more about this in