Personal Training Tip: You Can Keep Your ‘PRIDE Body’ All Year Long!

By Jaymeson Anderson, Owner, Form & Function Personal Training

Although PRIDE 2016 is over, and you’re pretty pleased about all the hard work you did to look your best – cut carbs, plenty of physical training, maybe even a fitness boot camp here in Chicago – it doesn’t mean you have to slack off until next year.

As Chicago’s #1 Personal Trainers, we can help you stay motivated and achieve PRIDE-like results month after month.  Just follow these few simple tips.

It really boils down to four simple steps, involving the right fitness center, the right personal trainer, the right fitness routine, and the right diet.

  • Finding the right fitness center

Chicago is filled with gyms, fitness centers, health clubs, mixed martial arts facilities…you name it.  Find one that’s convenient for you to frequent, before work, after work, or on weekends.  Convenience is the key because if it’s not convenient, you won’t go.

  • Finding the right personal trainer

Sure a lot of guys believe they can train themselves.  Read a book, pop in a P90X routine, even watch some YouTube videos.  But if you want to keep that PRIDE body all year long, invest just a few dollars in a personal trainer who can understand your year-round goals and help you achieve them.  And make sure the trainer is qualified by interviewing him, asking about his credentials, even asking for some referrals from existing clients.

  • Finding the right fitness routine

Sure, who doesn’t want their upper body to glisten in the summer sun?  But developing a fitness routine that balances the muscle groups and gives equal weight to upper and lower body is the key.  Lower body, you ask?  That’s right!  Most people don’t realize that working the lower body muscles burns more calories, increases muscle mass and hormonal levels, and gives your body a more balanced/aesthetic look.  After all, who wants a “cracker ass,” right?

  • Finding the right fitness-focused diet

Your personal fitness trainer can help you with this, especially if he or she is highly qualified.  Your diet is critical, and binge drinking in the bars on weekends and starving yourself all week is not the answer (you think we’re exaggerating, but we’re not).  At Form & Function Personal Training, we place almost as much emphasis on diet as we do exercise.  Like everything else, with diet the idea is balance.

If you want to create a plan that keeps your body “PRIDE proud,” contact one of our Chicago fitness trainers today to learn more.

Chicago Personal Trainer Tip: Cut Refined Carbs to Shed Those Pounds

By Jaymeson Anderson, Owner, Form & Function Training

Summer is on its way!  And many of us have a swimsuit floating around in the back of our minds that we’d like to fit into in just a few short weeks. And while exercise is important, it’s certainly not the only to properly slimming down and toning up.

As Chicago’s #1 Personal Trainers, we can help you focus on a proper diet, including cutting down on refined carbohydrates – in some cases, the enemy of a lean and trim physique.

Refined flour is a very common type of refined carb. Flour begins as a grain, seed, nut, vegetable, fruit, or root that has been machine ground into a relatively fine powder. Wheat flour is one of the most common types of flour in the U.S., and we use it in most of our bread, cereal, noodles, and pastries.

In its whole grain form, wheat contains a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, carbohydrates and protein. However, once a wheat grain has been milled between two stone or steel wheels and “bleached,” it becomes something altogether different, namely refined white flour. Although it started out as wheat grain, research now suggests that the digestion of white flour is unhealthy, and can have damaging effects on the human body.

Sugar is another very common carbohydrate. Refining sugar from sugar cane, beets or corn delivers a high amount of exceptionally simple carbohydrates to the digestive system. Of course, sugar is a popular ingredient in many different types of foods throughout the world, and as an additive, it is hard to avoid ingesting it in our modern dietary culture.

White rice also starts off as a “complex” carbohydrate, also known as wild rice.  It’s a healthy grain with fiber, vitamins and minerals, but the refinement process removes the husk and bran from the grain, and then “polishes” the remaining portion to create a simple carb: refined white rice.

Many studies that have been conducted on the effects of ingesting refined carbohydrates, and the results demonstrate some seriously negative effects:

  • Refined carbohydrates produce higher levels of oxidative stress (stress within the body that produces free radicals, and damages cellular tissues). This stress can lead to cancer, hypertension and heart disease (due to high levels of blood triglycerides and inflammation of the interior walls of the arteries).
  • Refined carbohydrates are considered one of the primary causes of type 2 diabetes and obesity. In their refined state, these carbs are digested rapidly, causing a spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash. This rollercoaster ride (spike, then crash, then spike and crash again) that your blood sugar levels take causes excess weight gain and eventually insulin resistance, which prevents the body from using insulin effectively to break down your body’s blood sugars.
  • Refined carbohydrates cause blood triglycerides levels to rise 50 percent more than complex carbohydrates. Generally, above average belly fat and rising insulin levels are often the first signs that your risk for heart attack, stroke and diabetes are increasing.

The consumption of refined carbs contributes to obesity, diabetes and poor cardiovascular health. That slice of bread, bowl of rice, or piece of candy should be regarded as a foreign foodstuff that your body does not play well with. If you cut down on refined carbs, not only will you have that beach body, you’ll feel so much better, too.

If you want help cutting down on carbs, contact one of our Chicago fitness trainers today to learn more.

Chicago Personal Trainer Tip: 5 Biggest Mistakes in Building a Bigger Chest

By Jaymeson Anderson, Owner, Form & Function Training

Who doesn’t wish they could perform a few sets of chest presses or pushups per week and have the pecs and shoulders of a pro body builder?  For the vast majority of us, that’s never going to be the case. For a bigger chest, we must consider many aspects of strength training, including:

  • Proper diet
  • Amount of rest
  • Stimulation of growth hormones
  • Preservation of structural parts of the shoulder for continued chest expansion

 

As Chicago’s #1 personal trainers, we can help you avoid making the five primary mistakes in building larger pecs.

1) Lack of variety: When you are working out your chest in the gym, you’re mainly exercising your pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, and triceps, plus four “supporting” groups that include the serratus anterior, coracobrachialis, scapulae fixers, and trapezii. When you consider all these muscle groups, you cannot expect to fully develop your chest using classic pushups and flat barbell bench presses alone. Mix it up with some of the following movements:

  • Decline dumbbell press
  • Flat dumbbell press
  • Incline barbell/dumbbell press
  • Overhead dumbbell pullover
  • Extra wide cable fly
  • Block press
  • Barbell decline
  • 85% press
  • Plyometric pushups
  • Dips
  • Static holds

2) Not training legs with weighted movements: Legs, you ask? Isn’t this about building my pecs and shoulders? Yes, but you can find many major studies showing that document squats, sprints, resisted sprints, and dead lifts increase the natural release of growth hormone and testosterone more than any other exercises. These natural muscle-building hormones remain at high serum levels in the blood while you work out other muscle groups, like your chest, for example.

Leg training also improves your body’s metabolism, i.e. the body’s ability to send energy through the blood to working muscles. If you can fuel your muscles faster, you can produce force faster. If you can sprint faster and longer, you can bench press more weight and add more repetitions in a set.

Simply put, working the legs will make the chest and other muscle groups bigger and stronger, as well as perform longer. Failing to work the legs could inadvertently leave you with an underdeveloped chest and shoulders.

3)Not eating enough: You need to take in enough nutrients if you want major growth out of any muscle group, including the chest.

When you exercise with resistance, you break down small amounts of muscular tissue. In order to fuel the muscles during this breakdown, you need carbohydrates (sugar) and some fat. You will have the fuel to maximize your chest workouts if you eat the following about 90 minutes beforehand:

  • 70% complex carbs (oatmeal, brown/wild rice, white/sweet potato, etc.)
  • 30% simple carbs (fruit, honey, sugar, etc.)
  • 10 grams of heart healthy fat (olive oil, avocado, nuts, fish oil, etc.)

After your workout, you need enough protein to allow your body to repair the tissue in your pecs and supporting muscles, including your shoulders. Healthy protein sources include:

  • Lean beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, whey and casein protein)
  • Beans
  • Nuts & seeds

In general, you should consume .6-1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (based on age, weight, and training style). Of that amount, 30% of your daily protein intake should follow your heavy workout.

4) Not sleeping enough: You also need sleep (8+ hours on most nights) to repair muscle tissue.

While you sleep, your body also loads energy into your muscles. Muscular fuel, known as “blood glucose” (essentially natural sugars), is stored directly within the muscles that need to perform a given action during resistance training movements. Less sleep means diminished energy, which can mean fewer reps and less weight.

You get the idea. Now, go get some sleep!

5) Failing to ensure necessary flexibility, stability, and postural movements: Greater flexibility in chest movements mean the muscle groups work harder and longer with a reduced risk of major strain. As such, you’ll want to incorporate these stretches:

  • Standing pectoral stretch
  • Anterior deltoid stretch
  • Overhead triceps stretch
  • 2-way rotational stretches
  • Shoulder blade stretches

Just because your chest and shoulder muscles can press a certain amount of weight doesn’t mean they’re as adept at stabilizing it. Controlling weight is necessary for injury prevention and the transfer to everyday motion outside the gym. (Not everything you push with your chest will be as stable as gym equipment.)

As with stability and flexibility, good posture can prevent injury, improve size and development, and increase pressing power.

Overlooking any of these components can hold you back in the gym, so make time for these complementary exercises, because they will assist in your overall goal of building a bigger chest without injury.

In general, avoid these pitfalls, and you will have greater success in building your chest.  The guidelines above have been adapted by many of the best and strongest athletes in the world. This is really a small guide to get you started; your continued success lies in your willingness to research, learn, and apply the necessary dietary, resistance training, and recovery techniques. There is always a little more room for more weight on that barbell.

If you want help building a bigger chest and shoulders, contact one of our Chicago fitness trainers today to learn more.

 

Chicago Personal Trainer Tip: Understanding Cellulite and How to Fight It

By Jaymeson Anderson, Owner, Form & Function Training

You’ll likely recognize cellulite as dimpled skin on the lower body, most common among post-pubescent women.

With swimsuit season on its way, many want to rid themselves of this unsightly condition, but don’t necessarily understand just what it is.

Out of all those affected by cellulite, 90% are women (because of the difference in testosterone/estrogen levels). Women have three distinct layers of fat in cellulite-afflicted areas, while men only have one, which is why it’s typically less visible on a man’s body. That’s not to say it’s not visible on some men’s bodies.

As Chicago’s #1 personal trainers, we can help you determine the extent of your cellulite and how to combat it.

Cellulite is commonly mistaken for a muscular condition. It affects the subcutaneous fat layer, which lies below the skin/dermis and above the muscular tissue. A drop in the hormonal levels of estrogen (which men store at lower levels) ultimately leads to the appearance of cellulite.

Women tend to acquire cellulite in places a man wouldn’t, such as:

  • Love handles
  • Stomach
  • Knees
  • Triceps
  • Buttocks and upper thighs

When estrogen decreases, a person loses receptors in their blood vessels, which leads to poor blood circulation. With decreased circulation, a person receives less oxygen and nutrients to their fat cells, causing decreased tension in the skin.

You can fight cellulite if you follow these steps to reduce body fat and slow age-related decreases in hormones.

The cellulite sufferer should eat very healthy. Certain foods may reverse inflammation of connective tissues and boost collagen formation that can minimize the appearance of cellulite. These include:

  • Salmon
  • Walnuts and almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Soy milk
  • Soy-based cheeses

The second “combat step” is regular, intensive exercise. This includes time spent on a foam roller. Rolling the various areas of the thighs/buttocks will open muscle fascia, which causes more nutrient-rich blood to circulate through the fiber, breaking up fatty tissue. Rolling the entire thigh (not just the IT band) for 20 minutes a week should do the trick.

Of course, there are other methods to fight cellulite, such as caffeine-based skin creams and laser mesotherapy, but chances are there isn’t any need for a person with cellulite to go that far.

Most people should be able to lose the cellulite naturally, if they follow the two simple steps outlined above. These will help immensely in losing existing cellulite, as well as prevent the onset of more in the future.

If you want help fighting cellulite, contact one of our Chicago fitness trainers today to learn more.

Chicago Personal Trainer Tip: Do Fitness Boot Camps Truly Help With Weight Loss?

By Jaymeson Anderson, Owner, Form & Function Training

Most Americans shy away from the terms “weight loss camp” or “fitness boot camps” when they hear them. Maybe you’ve watched The Biggest Loser or seen documentaries that have given you a startling look into what kind of torture can be inflicted on the obese in an effort to help them shed their pounds.

It seems like no one would submit himself to this, yet every year hundreds of thousands of overweight children and adults participate in fitness boot camps and finish much thinner than when they began. Such organized camps keep us from cheating on our diets and slacking in our workouts long enough to make a significant impact on our body fat levels.

With summer fast approaching, this structured diet and exercise might appeal to those looking to regain their “summer bodies.”

As Chicago’s #1 personal trainers, we can help you determine the causes of weight gain, as well as the best ways to help regain your body’s form and function.

Whether it’s best buds getting together for pizza or co-workers celebrating an office birthday with cake, friends and family can add weight gain pressure you may not even be aware of.

Sometimes you can’t shake the feeling that if you’re feeling down, you should just eat something to make yourself feel better. And, it might seem too cold, hot, far, time-consuming or painful to exercise at times; decreasing the likelihood that you make it to all your workouts.

If your doctor has told you that you are overweight, and your work in the gym (with or without a trainer) has shown few results, a fully controlled environment, such as the one provided by a fitness boot camp, might be your best bet for changing your lifestyle.

Fitness boot camps can provide a solution for what has become a common struggle among Americans. Within the controlled environment of a fitness boot camp, you aren’t able to eat fattening foods, skip workouts, or lead a sedentary lifestyle. Participants benefit from this structure in several ways:

• Exercise burns off excess calories, and proper diet keeps them off

• Instructors can provide menus that are high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Participants can also refer to a number of sample diets on our website 

• Instructors are trained to help burn a maximum number of calories through specially designed routines utilizing compound movements with limited rest periods

A pound of fat is the equivalent of 3,500 calories, and it takes approximately 10 minutes of intensive exercise to burn 100 calories, so this gives us some idea as to how much time it would take to burn off 3,500 calories using conventional methods such as running, biking, swimming, etc. With all the effort spent on burning calories through exercise, it’s essential that the meals eaten during a fitness boot camp be lean to maintain a healthy “caloric deficit” and to promote weight loss.

Fitness boot camps provide EDUCATION, which is a key to success.
During their time spent in a fitness boot camp, participants learn proper eating habits and how to make better nutritional choices once they’re back at home. They also learn:

• How to compose individualized exercise routines

• Use gym equipment properly

• Warm up

• Stretch

• Improve athletic ability and posture

It’s this education that becomes essential in participants’ fight to continue losing body fat and keep it off for good.

Fitness boot camp participants CAN lose the weight if they make necessary changes.
You likely won’t need this type of structured exercise forever, but it could be very helpful in getting a jump-start on your weight loss goal and temporarily changing your workout routine.

This change includes eliminating all the old influences that may have contributed to that unwanted readout on the bathroom scale. If you have been struggling for some time now, tried several unsuccessful diets, hired weight loss “gurus,” all to no avail, then a fitness boot camp might be the option that finally works for you.

Let’s face it: obesity increases the likelihood of too many health risks to be ignored. If you can’t do it alone, rely on the highly skilled trainers at a fitness boot camp to give you the push you need to lose unwanted weight and keep it off.

If you would like to determine whether a boot camp is right for you, contact one of our Chicago fitness trainers today to learn more.

Chicago Personal Trainer Tip: How to Repair a Strained Muscle

By Jaymeson Anderson, Owner, Form & Function Training

Many people do not know how to differentiate between a sprain and strain, and often use the words anonymously. Although these two terms look very similar, they are quite different types of injuries.

 What is a Sprain?

A sprain is an injury involving the stretching or tearing of a ligament (tissue that connects bone to bone) or a joint capsule, which help provide joint stability. A severely damaged ligament or joint capsule can cause instability in a joint.

Symptoms can include:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Inability to move a limb (arm, leg, foot)

A sprain is caused by a joint being forced beyond its normal range of motion, such as twisting your ankle. The most likely places on your body to incur a sprain are the ankles, knees or wrists.

What is a Strain?

A strain is an injury that involves the stretching or tearing of a musculo-tendinous structure, that is, the muscle itself or the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone. A strain is most commonly found in the foot, leg (typically the hamstring) or back. There are two types of strains, acute strain and chronic strain.

Symptoms of a strain can include:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Muscle spasm
  • Loss of strength
  • Limited range of motion

An acute (or instant) strain occurs when you stretch a muscle too fast, tearing an excessive amount of fibers in a concentrated area (Note: resistance training tears muscle fiber as well; however, it’s a smaller, dispersed amount). Chronic (long-lasting) strains are injuries that gradually build up from overuse or repetitive stress, which can result in tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon).

As Chicago’s #1 personal trainers, we’ve seen countless strains and want to share with you the best methods for proper healing.

Repairing an Acute Strain

  • In the first 24 to 36 hours after the strain occurs, reduce the swelling by using the R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method. Additionally, we recommend wrapping an elastic bandage around the injured area; be careful not to wrap it so tight that you’re restricting blood flow to the injured area.
  • Next, elevate the area, rest it, and apply ice for 15 minutes every 2 hours as needed.  An anti-inflammatory can help with the pain/swelling, but studies show that excessive use (3+ days) can actually interfere with proper healing.
  • In 3 days, begin lightly moving and stretching the area for 20 minutes a day to prevent weakness and stiffness that can result from the healing process. Continue this process for 1-2 weeks. This should consist of light repetitions of a respective compound movement involving the joint, as well as slow and steady stretching of the muscles around the joint. (It is important that you stretch not just the injured muscle, but all of the other respective muscles involved in executing the affected movement as well. These muscles will be overcompensating for the injured muscle while it is healing and are likely to be tighter than average.)
  • In 2 weeks, begin resisted training of the joint once again.  Start off with 30-50% of the resistance you were using before the injury, and increase repetitions to compensate for the reduction in weight.

 Repairing a Chronic Strain

To repair chronic strain, a reduction of the volume or intensity of the activity causing the strain, as well as massage and stretching are necessary.

Your body can heal this type of strain while you are remaining active; however, it was a portion of the activity that caused it in the first place, so be careful to avoid executing certain movements with the “usual” intensity.  Stretching and massage will allow the muscle/tendon to remain flexible in the healing process, similar to the needs of the acute strain.

And Finally…

As strange as it sounds, your best ally throughout the entire process is pain.  It is your message system for calculating the rate of healing, how structurally sound the muscle is after the injury, and whether or not you are returning to intense exercise too soon.

Again, ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, and prescriptions drugs such as Vicodin and codeine are oftentimes perceived as necessary, but they can do more harm than good. They don’t necessarily fix the strain. They just keep you from feeling the pain, which could be your best indicator of how “ready” a muscle really is for use.

Pop those pills sparingly, eat well, rest, and don’t make things worse by returning to the gym too soon. Your body needs time to heal.

If you are suffering (or have ever suffered) from a sprain or strain, let one of our Chicago personal trainers tailor a unique routine for you; contact us today to learn more.

Chicago Personal Trainer Tip: Post-Workout Inflammation Is Necessary

By Jaymeson Anderson, Owner, Form & Function Training

A lot of current, young athletes who have access to post-workout recovery aids will:

  • All too readily pop a couple of Ibuprofen
  • Indulge in their favorite form of deep tissue massage
  • Hop in an tub of ice (if one’s accessible) or a very cold bath
  • Sit in the sauna for a good long time

As experienced personal trainers, we do not recommend chronic use of Ibuprofen after a workout

And why are they doing this? Like anyone who has adopted a regular regimen of personal training, they want to reduce post-workout inflammation. They want to enhance the recovery of their muscles, as well as the pain, fatigue and inflammation that naturally come from a hard workout.

This has been the practice for some time now; attempting to speed up the recovery process in order to jump back into the gym and, in some cases, gain a competitive edge.  In their minds, this would allow practicing/training more often in a set amount of time, and therefore result in better physical gains.

Well, as Chicago’s #1 personal trainers, we’re here to tell you that they’re wrong. Dead wrong.  

The findings of several studies suggest otherwise. In 2006, at Chukyo University in Japan, a study was published in which the athletes who took ice baths (to reduce inflammation) made fewer strength gains than those who allowed their bodies to recover naturally. The ice/cold water constricts the blood vessels, and restricts the amount of nutrient rich blood that would normally flow to damaged tissues, and therefore, the muscles recovered more slowly, and overall less than the participants who recovered naturally.

A similar study at the University of Queensland found that endurance athletes taking anti-oxidant supplements (taken due to the high amount of oxygen they use to produce fuel) were actually harming muscular recovery more than helping.

In addition, several studies based on recovery and the use of anti-inflammatory meds, such as Ibuprofen and aspirin, are showing that long-term use of these pills is actually slowing the relief of nagging pain, and reducing overall tissue adaptation.

Stress is a good thing.  Tissue damage (not to be confused with injury) and inflammation are natural after a personal training session, and they are necessary for recovery and growth. 

Inflammation is a process that occurs after particular exercise stress has damaged tissue, and white blood cells flood the area to begin restructuring the affected area.  If this inflammation is left to run its course (assuming proper rest and nutrition are accounted for), then the tissue will not only heal, but it will become stronger than it was previously as part of our body’s miraculous way of adapting to perceived bouts of re-occurring stress in the future.  Efforts to reduce this inflammation might actually be inhibiting strength gains.

Next time you really “go for it” during your workout or personal training session, try not to cheat the process, but rather embrace it. Deal with the soreness. Don’t take painkillers or hop in the tub. Just rest, eat proper nutrients, and when recovered, your return to the gym should see your body’s improvements at work.

If you want to work with a Chicago personal trainer that understands these important recovery issues and bring you optimal results, contact us today to learn more.

Chicago Personal Trainer Tip: The Top 5 Reasons to Train Your Legs

By Jaymeson Anderson, Form & Function Fitness

One of the hardest concepts for me to convey to my clients is the importance of proper lower-body training.  When we are consulting with clients in the early stages of training, I propose to men that they aim for a 3:2 / lower body : upper body muscular growth ratio, and for women, a 3:1 / lower body : upper body ratio.

Once recommended, I hear at least one of the following responses:

“I run enough to strengthen my legs”

“My legs are too big already”

“Squats hurt my knees”

“That’s for athletes, and I’m not an athlete” or

“I just want to look good” 

As Chicago’s #1 personal trainers, we believe that not working your legs is one of the biggest training mistakes you can make, and here are the top five reasons why:
Number 1: Lower body training leads to greater upper body and core strength.  Did you really think that neglecting to train the largest muscles, as well as the largest compound group of muscles in the body, wouldn’t have a detrimental effect? Many major studies have proven that squats, sprints, resisted sprints and dead lifts increase the natural release of growth hormone and testosterone, in most cases more than any other exercises. These are the body’s natural muscle-building hormones, and they typically remain at high serum levels in the blood while working the other muscle groups that you want to see more growth from.  Simply put, working the legs will make the core and upper body musculature stronger and larger.

Number 2: Larger leg muscles will burn more calories during cardiovascular training. What muscular group do you use for the majority of your cardiovascular training?  Legs.  What large muscle group has the potential to burn the most calories during steady state movement?  Legs.  What group should increase in size to improve the caloric output, efficiency and stability of your running, biking, stair climbing or fitness boot camps?  You get the idea.  Even movements such as boxing, rowing and swimming involve the muscles of the lower body.  Larger, stronger legs burn more calories while performing the same movements for the same amount of time.

Number 3: Peak physical performance – before, during and after personal training. Here’s a challenge: please send me an email if you can think of one sport (except wheelchair racing!) that does not use the legs in some way.  Although explosive sports are the obvious beneficiary, let’s consider that it is common even for a cardio athlete to need bursts of speed, explosive starts, and power to overcome hills.  In defense of most cardiovascular athletes, too much muscular growth in the areas of the body NOT directly responsible for movement in a given sport can be a detriment (e.g. runners with huge shoulders/chest will be slower because that additional size is actually weighing them down).  Your routine should be appropriately modeled to avoid creating this proportional inefficiency, but include only beneficial sport-specific lower body and upper body movements.

Number 4: Physical symmetry. As far as the aesthetic appeal of the body goes, gentlemen…you can’t wear long pants forever.  Among Chicago personal fitness trainers and even the general public, a massive upper body, a well-defined core, and toothpick legs just look ridiculous.  And if you read most women’s magazines, their polls will reveal that women appreciate lower body development in men more than a barrel chest. If you workout mainly/only to impress the ladies, you should consider that they will probably see you with your pants off at some point!!  (I’m clearly aiming this one at men more than women because most of the women I’ve personally trained typically have a well-developed lower body ideal in mind.  The men, not so much.)

5.  Joint, tendon, ligament and bone strengthening. Ok, so you’re strictly a runner/ biker/cardio fanatic. Regardless of the need for explosive movement, you still don’t want muscular growth, per se. You just want lower body muscular endurance and efficiency.  Lower body resistance training has a profound effect on the entire leg, not just the muscles.  Studies show that this type of personal training can stimulate the re-calcification of bones, as well as restructuring and strengthening tendons and ligaments.  This means stronger muscles AND stronger joints and bones, as well as less straining, spraining, tearing and breaking.  And who doesn’t want less straining, spraining, tearing and breaking, right?

If you want to work with a Chicago personal trainer that understands both the form and function of proper lower body training, contact us today to get started.

 

Chicago Personal Trainer Tip: Adding “Reciprocal Inhibition” into Your Stretch Routine

By Jaymeson Anderson, Form & Function Fitness

Using a stretching technique called reciprocal inhibition, you can improve your ability to gain flexibility and range of motion in various joints and muscles.

As Chicago’s #1 personal trainers, we believe that proper stretching can lead to better workouts, better posture and better overall physical fitness.

Reciprocal inhibition is defined as:

  • “the simultaneous relaxation of one muscle and the contraction of its antagonist,” or
  • “a muscle’s automatic relaxation response to accommodate the contraction of its opposing muscle.”

Reciprocal inhibition, as a stretching principle, is easy to learn, and capable of amplifying the benefits of the many stretches you are already (hopefully) performing as part of your personal training routine.

Consider that there are two muscular “actions” for every joint, influencing every movement we perform. When one muscle contracts (the agonist), its partner (the antagonist) relaxes. Antagonist and agonist muscles often occur in pairs, called antagonistic pairs. An example of an antagonistic pair is the bicep and tricep: the tricep relaxes while the bicep contracts to flex the elbow.

Flexor muscles need their opposing extensors to function properly and vice versa. During a personal workout that includes sprinting, for example, the muscles opposing each other are engaged and disengaged sequentially to produce coordinated movement.

If a muscle becomes engaged for a prolonged period (ex: chronic tension during or after a long duration run) the opposite muscle becomes correspondingly inhibited. This response to dysfunction creates tension and inhibits normal joint performance.

Essentially, whenever the agonist is being over-used, or is generally stronger than the antagonist, the agonist muscle can overpower and create tension in, or possibly injure, the antagonist muscle. This relationship is why most strength training programs revolve around balanced muscle pair exercises, and in this case, particular stretches that recognize this relationship and utilize it to gain an athletic advantage.

The following list gives examples of these agonist/antagonist muscles, which are typically paired up during a personal training session:

  • Quadriceps & Hamstrings
  • Hip Adductor & Gluteus Medius
  • Anterior Tibialis & Gastrocnemius
  • Anterior Deltoid & Levator Scapula
  • Forearm Flexors & Forearm Extensors
  • Biceps & Triceps
  • Deltoids & Latissimus Dorsi
  • Pectoralis Major & Trapezius/Rhomboids
  • Iliopsoas (hip flexors) & Gluteus Maximus

Activation of an opposing muscle group with resisted tension forces the contracted or tense muscle to relax. For example, applying resisted tension to the front of the lower leg can relieve tension in the back of the lower leg before performing the official or classic stretch on the back of the leg.

When stretching, it is easier to stretch a muscle that is relaxed than to stretch a contracted muscle. By inducing the antagonists to relax during a stretch due to contraction of the agonist, you can take advantage of reciprocal inhibition.

If you want to work with a Chicago personal trainer that understands these stretching concepts and can help you achieve optimal results, contact us today to get started. 

Chicago Personal Trainer Tip: Primary Differences between Slow-Twitch and Fast-Twitch Muscular Fiber

By Jaymeson Anderson, Form & Function Fitness

Not all muscle fiber is the same. Different types of fiber within the musculo-skeletal system respond to different types of stress, and your body will increase or decrease the size of these fibers in response to the frequency and volume of this stress.

As Chicago’s #1 personal trainers, we aim to distinguish the difference for you, and give you examples of different types of exercises that stimulate different types of muscular fiber.

Skeletal muscles are composed of fibers that have markedly different morphological and physiological characteristics.

There are several different recognized systems of classification for these different fiber types based on a variety of criteria. The popular system that I will use in this post employs the terms “slow-twitch/type I,” and “fast-twitch/type II” to separate skeletal muscle fiber into two primary categories.

  • A fast-twitch/type II motor unit (a motor neuron, and all the muscle fibers it innervates) is one that develops force rapidly. It also relaxes rapidly and, thus, has a short duration twitch time.
  • By contrast, slow-twitch/type I motor units develop force, relax slowly and have a long duration twitch time.

Aside from mechanical characteristics, the two fiber types also exhibit a distinct difference in their ability to store and utilize their respective supplies of energy for muscular contraction, and thus withstand fatigue.

  • Type I fibers are generally fatigue resistant and have a high capacity for aerobic energy supply, but they have limited potential for rapid force development.
  • Type II fibers are essentially the opposite, characterized by fatigability, low aerobic power, rapid force development, and high anaerobic power.

Let’s put the differences of the two fiber types into layman’s terms.

One of my favorite ways to compare them is the “sprinter vs. distance runner” analogy. Type I/slow-twitch fibers are the “cardio” or distance runner fibers. These are the fibers that will propel you at a medium intensity pace over a long course/period of time. Type II/fast-twitch fibers are the “strength” or sprinter fibers. These fibers can produce a high amount of force/strength very rapidly, but cannot sustain this level of output for a long period of time.

In an untrained individual, a group of muscles such as the leg’s quadriceps will have a fairly even mixture of type I and type II fibers so that an individual can respond to low power/long duration as well as high power/short duration movements in the legs, i.e. jogging as well as sprinting.

With the introduction of specific types of training, this 50/50 ratio will start to shift toward the style with the dominating amount of volume and intensity. The shift won’t occur in the number of fibers in the group, but rather the in efficiency and/or the size of the respective half of the 50/50 split.

Basically, the style of training you use most often and most intensely with us will determine the output level and local endurance of the type I and type II fibers within the quadriceps.

  • If you are a sprinter, your type II fibers will increase in size, consume and be able to process more sugar, and improve a higher output over a shorter period of time.
  • If you are a distance runner, your type I fibers will not change significantly in size, increase in mitochondria content, consume and be able to process more fat (which breaks down to sugar eventually) utilizing oxygen and improving the medium output/endurance over a longer period of time.

It’s important that you realize these differences when selecting the right styles of personal training for you.

Selecting a high level of exercise that stimulates either type I or type II will stimulate more of the hormones necessary and utilize more of the specific fuel source that support the respective fiber type. You will need to eat accordingly, and you should expect to see related body changes based on your selection. For instance, sprinting might make your natural levels of testosterone and growth hormone increase, as well as increase the size of the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, whereas distance running might make your estrogen levels and cortisol increase, as well as the oxidative abilities of the muscle.

Another way to look at it: don’t rely solely on jogging if you wish to gain strength and size in the legs, and don’t rely solely on sprinting if you are aiming to improve your long distance endurance abilities.

This same comparison can be used for all the major compound portions of the body including the chest, shoulders, back and core muscle groups.

Adaptations to resistance vs. aerobic endurance training:

Variable / Resistance / Aerobic

  • Size of the muscle fibers / increase / no change
  • Number of muscle fibers / no change / no change
  • Movement speed / increase / no change
  • Strength / increase / no change
  • Aerobic capacity / no change / increase
  • Anaerobic capacity / increase / no change

Relative involvement of muscle fiber types in different sports events:

Event – Type I – Type II

  • 800-m run – high – high
  • 100-m sprint – low – high
  • Marathon run – high – low
  • Barbell squat – med – high
  • Olympic lifting – low – high
  • Soccer – high – high
  • Field hockey – high – high
  • Football wide receiver – low – high
  • Football lineman – med – high
  • Distance bicycling – high – low
  • Mountain bicycling – high – high
  • Basketball – med – high

If you want to work with a Chicago personal trainer that understand these mechanics and can help you achieve optimal results, contact us today to get started.