Success Stories

Monday, June 20, 2011


The RFESS (rear foot elevated split squat) is an exercise I have been using in my training a lot recently.  This exercise is quite challenging and works your whole leg musculature in a unique way, not to mention that after a few sets you can really get a good sweat going.  The primary muscles worked during the RFESS are the quads but it also works the hamstrings and can hit the core quite well.

The RFESS is nice because you can make good strength gains without all the spinal loading of the traditional barbell squat.  In addition it can be loaded several different ways, and the range of motion can be modified to make it easier or harder.  As you can see above I am doing them on a 4 inch box allowing me to get a better range of motion.  Also I loaded it goblet style with a kettle bell because I find I can maintain form easiest with this method.  Holding dumbells at your sides is very popular, as well as using a weighted vest which is probably the best option  but not necessary as long as you are consistent with loading techniques.

While doing the RFESS it is important to keep your chest up and spine in a neutral position, it is common for the upper body to lean forward in the down ward phase of the motion to compensate for flexibility/ strength deficits and this should be avoided.  Lastly the foot that is elevated on the bench is simply their for balance and should not be used to drive back upwards.  When done correctly this may be a good exercise choice for people with anterior pelvic tilt because with a full range of motion the opposing hip flexors will get stretched.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Muscle ups

Today I wanted to show viewers a difficult excercise to perform along with some coaching cues that will allow you to perform the exercise safely.

As you can see above the Muscle Up is essentially a normal pull up with an explosive element incorporated in order to bring your body above the bar.  Muscle ups are a multi-joint movement that primarily work the muscles of your back, core, and to some extent chest and triceps (over the bar phase). They are great because the concentric (upwards) phase of the exercise teaches you how to coordinate an explosive effort and the eccentric (lowering) phase works your lats, core, and forearms much like a pull up.

When doing a muscle up form is key.  This move can be abrasive to your joints if you do not do a few important things.  First off your initial grip on the bar is very important : Grip the bar with palms facing outwards from you.  Unlike a normal pull up you must grip the bar with your palms parallel with the ground as opposed to the wall.  Your grip needs to roll over the bar so your wrists are bent over the bar.  Initially this will seem awkward but it is crucial the second phase of the exercise or you wont be able to push yourself above the bar.

Beginning at the bottom of a pull up position forcefully pull upwards behind the bar.  This is different than a pull up because in a normal pull up you would pull under the bar.  As you pull your head and upper torso behind the bar.  On your ascent pull forcefully towards the bar and lean into the bar.  This will bring you into the bottom of a dip above the bar.  Dip just as you would on a dip bar to finish the movement.

This move varies in difficulty.  While progressing you can use a kick to generate momentum and make the movement easier.  People skilled in muscle ups will be able to perform them very slowly and under control.  A muscle up can take a long time to learn depending on your starting strength.  For beginners I would advise you to check out a resource like beast skills to learn more.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Training ADD

Training A.D.D is a popular term used by personal trainers.  This refers to a trainee that will never stick to a set diet or exercise regimen for more then a couple weeks.  People with training ADD often spin their wheels endlessly because regardless of how hard they work out, or how smart they are in exercise theory, they NEVER make any measurable progress.

People with training ADD typically understand what goal they have in mind initially but for what ever reason become unhappy with their situation and decide to change midway through.  Since making changes in body composition and performance are relatively slow processes people with Training ADD never reach the level they set out for.

A common example of this is a trainee who decides they want to gain muscle.  After researching the best program and diet to gain weight they set out on an effort to become huge.  They realize  after two months of bulking up that they are starting to lose definition in their abs.  Regardless of the fact that the rest of their body is growing well and their strength is through the roof they panic and decide that they need to cut back, and make a 180 degree shift dropping calories and focusing more on cardio.  After a few weeks of this they are back to square one because they didn't put on any appreciable muscle mass, and the muscle they did put on was lost in their reactive effort to cut back down in a short time.  And this leaves the trainee exactly at square one.

Training A.D.D. does not just have to be applied to body composition changes but we can also see this in performance measurements when a person tries to train for to many different things at once.  They want to be good at long distance running, and powerlifting, all while being fast.  Their training tries to resemble this by switching between mutually exclusive goals all at once.  And in the end they get no where because they don't pick with one goal and focus on it!

People with great physiques or great speed or great power all or all of the above have gotten that way over a long period of time.  Whatever their goal was they stuck with tried and true methods and were CONSISTENT! This does not mean consistency for a month or two.  Consistency means dedicating yourself to a diet and fitness regimen for years.  

So far all those with training ADD set a goal and stick with it for at least three months before re evaluating.  

400 lbs squat at 175 body weight

Scary strong!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Oxysterols and Milk

Does anyone else remember that dairy movement that wanted americans drinking three cups of milk a day?  I do...and although I don't believe milk is inherently bad I think some of us need to reconsider the way we get our milk.

Lets face it, from the way people used to drink it, milk has come a long way.  I know that some of you are thinking that this is a good thing.  After all without advancements in modern food science we wouldn't have microbial free (pasteurized) homogenized, and fat free milks.

Although at first these innovations to milk appear to be beneficial are they all that great?  I along with many other nutritionist and researchers think that these scientific advancements have simply taken a perfect health promoting food and degraded it in order to make a cheap buck.  Lets take a look at some of the problems modern dairy faces and why these "advancements" could mean bad news for your health.

I would often bring a bottle of whole milk into class if I had missed breakfast.  I would find many of my fellow nutrition majors scowling at me, "You drink whole milk!!!!?????" As if they simply could not fathom that a person who had taken all the coursework they had could consciously drink the fat laden stuff.  I would often reply that before whole milk was "whole milk," it was just called milk and people were fine.

I tend to piggyback off the  philosophy that eating foods in their least processed form is the ideal way to optimize health and performance.  When it comes to milk this philosophy holds true.  Many people are wary and believe that the saturated fat and cholesterol in milk will lead to heart disease.  I invite those people to read Stephen Guyenet blog post on why saturated fat does not cause a rise in blood cholesterol here.  

Secondly I would like to point out that the pasteurization process of milk not only denatures and changes the protein composition in milk, but instigates a rise in harmful substances within the milk called oxysterols

Oxysterols are oxidized forms of cholesterol.  In dairy pasteurization (heat exposure) cholesterol oxidation products (COPS) can be formed which indeed have many negative effects on health.  Among these detrimental health affects COPS have shown to have cytotoxic, inflammatory, effects and have been linked with chronic diseases including artherosclerosis and neurogenerative diseases.

COPS are thought to be potentially involved in the initiation and progression of artherosclerosis, neurogenerative procecesses, diabetes, kidney failure, 

COPS compared to unoxidized cholesterol (like the cholesterol found in raw milk) have demonstrated stronger pathological and toxic effects by at least one or two orders of magnitude ([Poli et al., 2009] and [Van-Reyk et al., 2006]). 

One of the primary COPs in milk is called 7-keto cholesterol which is linked to cancer and heart disease. The amount of 7-keto cholesterol formed is directly related to the temperature of pasteurization.  This means that if you are going to by store bought milk it may be a wise choice to by milk that is only lightly pasteurized.  Ultra-pasteurized milk or the "UHT" you often see on milk labels can contain higher levels as well as milk put in the microwave.  So if you eat something like oatmeal and microwave it make sure to put the milk in afterwards or use a milk alternative like almond milk.

These Oxysterols as well as other issues like antibiotic and hormone use, as well as poor animal treatment are a couple of reasons why processed dairy is becoming less and less of a healthy choice.  I am fortunate enough to live in a family that gets raw milk, but if that is a little to extreme for you I would suggest buying a lightly pasteurized organic milk.