Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Should you be using a weightlifting belt?

If you have asked this question and have gotten a rather rushed “definite” or “absolute” answer from the person whom you have asked, you have most likely been misinformed. If the person whom who have asked this question has not thrown a whole lot of questions back at you prior to giving you an answer then, again my friend, you have most likely been misinformed. Such a question is not a simple one to answer. I have been asked this question several times by my clients and friends alike.  So I figured this would be a good thing to blog about and share my bit of knowledge and experience…so here it is J

Like I said, the answer to this question is not at all simple. It all depends on several factors such as your training level of expertise (this is key), the type of training you will undergo, and the competency level of your coach/trainer (this is also key).

You have probably heard from some coaches who refrain from using the belt because it gives the trainee “a false sense of security”. I partly agree with this, but again it depends on the above situations I have noted (training level, type of training, coach). For instance, if you are new to working out, and you’re still working on mastering your form for the Deadlift for example then I would say – please stay away from the belt. I say this so strongly because it is really important that your body learns how to utilize components of itself during lifts. That is, when you’re doing such lifts you need to learn how to activate your core/abdominal muscles (especially your oblique and transverse abdominals) and use them to ensure that your lifts are stabilized. In other words knowing how to do “the core squeeze” with every lift is an essential component to your training. If your novice self uses a belt you will be more prone to injury and that’s where the “false sense of security” comes in. You will have a “false sense of security” because you will probably be lifting heavy without using your core which would most likely result in a back injury. To be blunt, if you always use the belt and can’t even conduct a lift without one, then you’re using a belt to hide your weak core- be humble, strengthen your core, and turn to reasonable training progressions until your core is stronger.

Now, even when you become a pro (great form, great muscle activation etc), I still advise my clients to warm up and do lighter reps without the belt.  Doing so will allow you to progress on your path of continuous motor learning and core strengthening. Personally, I only use the belt when I am working on a lift which is at least 85% 1RM in other words I do not use the belt for anything less than 270lbs.  All that to say, if you’re a pro (like seriously you are) then the belt can help you during heavy lifts and potentially help your performance reach to the next level- I found this to be true with my rack-pulls. Some research indicates that when you use the belt, you allow for your spine to be stabilized making room for a safer heavy lift. Remember how I mentioned a competent coach – yes a competent coach will ensure that you learn how to properly activate/engage your core during a lift, stabilization etc before s/he makes you use a belt “just because”.

Keep in mind that there are 3 most popular belts: Bodybuilding/traditional, Velcro, and Powerlifting.  When I tried the bodybuilding belt it was too thin for my liking and I didn’t feel as much support in my back. The Velcro belt has a bit more pressure than the traditional belt but it was always annoying having to re-tighten and re-adjust the belt when it became loose.  Powerlifting belts are my favourite.  Although they are usually very stiff, they are equipped with a buckle which essentially allows for you to tighten the belt to your preference. The one that I have typically creates an increased intra-abdominal pressure (than the Velcro which can just snap off with too much pressure) which allows for my lifts to be more stable when I lift heavier. Please note that if you have issues of blood pressure or a history of hernias double check with your health care provider if these are safe for you. There are specifics to the differences in belts that I have not covered here (because that wasn’t the point of this) but feel free to send me an email (info@manyfitsolutions.com) and we can talk about it.

So in conclusion, unless you’re a serious lifter, you do not need to use the belt. Learn how to engage your core and work through effective training progressions to get you stronger!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

6 Great Reasons Why You Should Have a Workout Partner

As the New Year approaches many people are deciding to start 2016 fresh by committing to be healthier and to work-out. As most people talk about improving and dedicating themselves to personal fitness, I invite you to commit to having a solid training partner. People who invest in personal trainers end up being successful with meeting their fitness goals because they have an external source of motivation and accountability. Having a personal trainer or a workout buddy, at the very least, can be the separating factor between success and failure, between consistency and giving up.

Here are 6 reasons why you should have a workout partner:

1. Accountability

When the only person you have to answer to is yourself, you will be more prone to skipping your workouts. You will most likely allow for your “busy day” to be a lousy excuse to skip training. However, if you have a workout partner, you will be accountable to someone else making it much harder to just ditch your workouts. Even if it is the guilt of dragging your partner down that gets you to the gym, it gets you to the gym! Also, having a workout partner means that you will be more responsible with your time and plan your other commitments ahead of schedule. Once you pick your workout partner, sit down with both of your schedules and pencil in your workout dates. By so doing, both of you will be accountable to each other and once its written down, you will both be motivated (& obligated) to follow through with it.

2. Improved Form

A lot of people ego lift- there’s nothing cool about this. You will find that those who do ego lift tend to lift with terrible form. However, if you have an honest workout partner, s/he can view your lifts more objectively and help to correct your form. S/he is able to take pictures/record your range of motion during lifts, therefore, allowing you to be able to see where your movements may lack. Having a workout partner will help to keep you in check and encourage you to strip down to the basics until you have your form locked down. Trust me, having the validation of completing your lifts with the perfect form rather than just ego-lifting and making yourself prone to injury, is much  more satisfying and let alone a great sign of maturity.

3. Source of Motivation

When you have a workout partner and you have set-goals, you will be a source of motivation for each other. Unless you are perfect, you are not always going to be enthusiastic about going to the gym and working out. However, to have a workout partner there to motivate you and remind you of your goals can be the defining factor for consistency and success.  When you want to quit halfway through, your workout partner can encourage you to stick it out until the end; or at least s/he will motivate you to do an alternate workout instead of doing nothing at all.

4. Healthy Competition

Whether you want to accept it or not, its human nature to compete- be it with yourself or most likely with someone you know. Having a workout partner, especially one who is a bit more fit, will bring out your competitive edge. You will become challenged in new ways you never thought possible when you trained alone. Healthy competition will help you perform better and strive harder to meet your fitness goals.

5. Safer Workouts

A lot of people are afraid of progressing to new heights with their lifts because they worry about heavy weights potentially dropping on them. So instead they will run aimlessly on the treadmill for hours and achieve very little of their goals. However, more commonly, people lift too heavy and with terrible form. These is extremely dangerous—trust me the outcome that arises from dropping such heavy weights on your body has detrimental effects which can last for the rest of your life. Have a workout partner who will spot you during your squats, bench press, shoulder press etc. Work safely with your partner to get to the next level and crush your fitness goals. Also, how much better would you feel having a trusted friend who will spot you when you need it as opposed to trusting that meathead who swears you can go for one more rep when you’re gasping for air at the bottom of your rep.  Similarly, for those of you who love running at the crack of dawn or late at night, it is also safer to have a running partner with you as opposed to doing it alone.

6. Financial Incentives to Hire a Personal Trainer

Just like anything in life, it’s cheaper to split the cost of something with a friend. It’s no different when it comes to hiring a personal trainer. People tend to put more effort into their workouts when they have a personal trainer. Not just because they are a source of motivation or accountability etc but because they value the money they are investing into a professional. Even if the two of you want to get started and have no idea where/how to do so, a personal trainer is a great resource.

These aren’t all the benefits, but these are some of the greatest ones. Keep in mind that not everyone can be your workout partner. You need to have the same goals, be mature, and have the same “end” in mind. Also remember, a novice workout partner doesn’t beat a qualified (& reputable) personal trainer – but it’s a great start. Let’s crush our 2016 fitness goals!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

7 MEGA Sources of Dietary Fiber

Ha! So oddly enough in the last couple of weeks, I have had many conversations with my friends, family, and clients which have led to the topic of constipation. Eventually I'm asked, “how do I make this constipation stop”- pun intended of course.  

Anyways, I have come up with a list of 7 whole foods from my personal exhaustive list if fiber-dense foods. The reason I have picked these 7 to share with you is because they add several other benefits to your health (some of which I have listed beneath each food). Additionally, all of the items on this list are easy to prepare.

So if you are like me and your friends/family/coworkers have been talking about trying to find ways to go to the bathroom more share this with them. Maybe your doctor has simply told you to take better care of your body by making better food well this list can help too.

 Disclaimer: This is list is in no particular order

1. Red Kidney Beans [13g Fiber per cup, cooked]
  • 75% of insoluble fiber which helps to keep your digestive tract moving regularly 
  • 25% of soluble fiber which helps lower Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) which is the “bad cholesterol”
  • Stabilize blood sugar levels

2. Avocados [14g Fiber per whole, raw]
  • The fiber content aides in regular bowel movement as well as contributing to healthy intestines
  • Superfood with anti-inflammatory properties including those from omega-3-fatty acids and phytosterols
  • Lowers LDL
  • Vitamin C & Vitamin E for healthy skin

3. Broccoli [5.1g Fiber per cup, steamed]

  • The fiber content aides in regular bowel movement as well as contributes to the maintenance of healthy bacteria levels in your intestines.
  • Magnesium, Zinc, Phosphorus, Iron
  • Lowers LDL
  • Phytochemicals which help detoxify the body
  • Strengthens blood vessels

4. Oatmeal [4 g Fiber per cup, cooked]
  • The insoluble fiber helps to keep your digestive tract moving regularly
  • Stabilizes blood sugar levels
  • Contains lignans which protect the body against cancer & heart disease
  • Lowers LDL
  • Beta-gluten (unique fiber) which enhance your body’s immune response

5. Raspberries [7g Fiber per cup, raw]
  • The fiber content aides in regular bowel movement
  • Phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals which have antioxidant properties to fight against cancers, aging, inflammation, etc.
  • Vitamin A, C, E

6. Artichokes [10 g Fiber per cup, cooked]
  • The fiber content aides in regular bowel movement & relieves constipation
  • Folic Acid which is exceptionally beneficial in DNA synthesis
  • Vitamin C, K
  • Rich in B-Complex group of vitamins (e.g. B6, niacin, thiamin) which are great contributors to metabolic functions at the cellular level

7. Lentils [15.5 g Fiber per cup, cooked]
  • High insoluble fiber content which aides in regular bowel movement helps prevent disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Lowers LDL
  • Good source of protein
  • Stabilized blood sugar levels.
  • Folate, Magnesium

Add these foods to your snack menu throughout the day and sit back and watch those bowls move!


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bouncing Back from an Injury

Performing some electrotherapy and ultrasound on myself 
For some (me included), missing a scheduled workout is just unacceptable. It is viewed as a pivotal part of the day which is no different from drinking water or teeth brushing. So imagine how detrimental it must feel to get an injury while your training is progressing. It is such a nightmare to get a serious injury (or any injury for that matter) which will set you so far back in your training. You sit there and hear the doctor prescribe tonnes of bed rest and rehab, and you wonder if your body will ever remember what it’s like to deadlift 3 plates. Well that was me.  During a game of basketball, I slipped and hyperextended my knee, long story short, I was out for a longer time than I needed to be. However, with my pride set aside, I took things back to basics and I will share some of them with you.

Ok, it has been a week since your injury, you have never felt this pain before, you can’t sleep, and you can barely put your socks on—it’s simple, seek medical advice. It will take you less time to recover if you just know exactly what you are dealing with as opposed to playing the painful guessing game for months. Google is not a certified medical professional who is able to diagnose you and/ or treat you. After the nagging pain wouldn’t go away for me, I finally went to my doctor’s office for an MRI and after that I was on the highway to recovery with my first stop at my Physiotherapists office.

Don’t let your ego keep you from training. Many times, I see people just sit back and not train anymore because they are so wrapped up in their egos. Here is the harsh reality: if you don’t start from the ground up, you will never just “get back”. I had to change my definition of “training”. Training no longer meant 300lbs; training gradually elevated from towel stretches to resistance bands to body weight etc.  When you start from the ground up, you start to learn to identify flaws and imbalances in those particular parts of your body.  The irony for me was that my injury allowed me to improve my form in certain exercises. I was able to improve my mobility and strengthen my agility. However, if all I did was listen to my ego by laying off the training completely and waited for the day I could just go back to lifting heavy weights- I would still be weak, sore, and stuck in a vicious cycle of re-injury

Malnutrition sets a lot of people back from a speedy recovery. Don’t ignore your diet. Just because you are not training hard does not mean that you should neglect an adequate food intake. Fast food is usually high in salt, fat and sugar which tend to poorly metabolize when you are healthy so what more when you’re not?  During recovery, your body desperately needs phytochemicals and micronutrients which are scarce in fast food. Phytochemicals are “biologically active compounds found in plants”. Keep in mind that shakes generally lack phytochemicals as well so do not turn to them for sole meal supplementation. Eat generous amounts of fruits and vegetables so that you get your vitamins and minerals which tend to be missing from processed foods. Calcium, Vitamins (A, B, C, & D), iron, copper, magnesium, zinc etc. are key in helping your body with repair and recovery mechanisms. While in recovery mode, your body benefits from the intake of higher quality protein as it promotes growth and healing so pick these adequately. As well, processed/fast foods tend to contain saturated and trans-fats which tend to exacerbate any inflammation. That said, eat foods with healthy fats such as Omega 3 eggs which contain monounsaturated fat which is known to aid in alleviating inflammation. Multivitamins have an added benefit too if you just can’t get the nutrients from food.

Last but certainly not least—SLEEP. Your body needs sleep. Lying down on the couch all day watching TV is not the same thing as sleep. You need to get adequate hours of “shut eye”. When you are sleeping, your brain typically signals for the natural release of the human Growth Hormone (hGH). Science has proven that hGH promotes tissue repair as well as bone and muscle growth. Therefore it goes without say that if you lack sleep, you are depriving your body of its natural ability to release hormones which help you recover faster. Additionally, sleep helps to boost your body’s protein synthesis mechanisms. Adequate sleep also allows for the optimal function/boost of your immune system. Now you can see why doctors are sometimes very quick to prescribe bed rest with the hope that you will just fall asleep. So do not neglect sleep— your body does so many things naturally but you need to just do your part and let nature take its course.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Don’t Miss The Heavy Bag Train (ing)!

Training on the punching bag is one of my personal favorite fitness techniques. I have found the heavy bag to be extremely beneficial despite what phase of training I am in-- be it during the long rehab phase following my knee injury or pre-injury when I was squatting 3 plates. There are so many benefits to heavy bag training (HBT) and I will touch up on a few of them in this blog entry. Also, the best part about HBT is that whatever level of fitness you claim to belong to, from beginner to pro, the benefits will be evident in your progression. 

Better Coordination
Through HBT you have no choice but to learn how to properly time when it’s best to kick/punch/push the bag; Otherwise, the bag may just hit you instead. Thus, it is inevitable that your hand-eye coordination will improve. Furthermore, you will learn how to better aim with your hands and feet to maximize on the stability found in the art of precision impact. You will find that improved coordination will translate into other aspects of your strength training, sports or even everyday life. Also, training on your toes, allows you to balance your body to your benefit during a strike.

Shred Fat/Get More Definition
Those of you with problematic knees which keep you from running/HIIT (like you used to) will appreciate this aspect. The high intensity exercise gained from a good HBT session will leave your entire body worked out (without the impact to your knees leaving you sore for days).  During HBT you literally use so many muscle groups like shoulders, triceps, biceps, pectorals, core, and your back. You even work out your legs as you work-in tons of movement. You will find that your core stability improves from the art of punching/kicking/pushing a heavy bag while being quick to change body positions to purposefully align yourself for a strike.

Additionally, you improve your aerobic/anaerobic fitness and all you “cardio” frenzies will love this one. You will find your body sweating buckets from just minutes of training. Think about it, if you are using all these muscles groups, maneuvering around the bag while punching/kicking it for several minute-intervals (anaerobic) your body will learn to burn more calories. Your body will even burn additional calories during the rest phases of your intervals. Punching the bag with lower intensity puts the body in an aerobic state where it will increase the amount of oxygen use which has been proven scientifically to strengthen your heart/lungs, improve your mood, and even burn fat.

Self Defense
Kicking or punching the bag and even using your entire body to push the bag away will help strengthen your self-defensive qualities. It may sound weird but getting used to the impact from getting hit and being able to gather your strength to hit back could save your life! Believe it or not but some people lack the intrinsic ability to hit back in order to save their lives; therefore, HBT proves beneficial in that aspect.  For some, self defense is an acquired skill. On another note, actions of kicking, punching or using your body weight on the heavy bag mimic the “Gross Motor Skills” you acquired as a child. Gross motor skills are the typical large movements a baby makes with his/her arms, legs and body. Precisely, HBT can help strengthen these motor skills in the event that you need to use them to protect yourself. An added benefit is swinging the bag to make it an unpredictable moving target and activate your innate fight-responses!

Strength and Power
Traditionally, boxers used HBT in order to increase their stamina for punching power. While training, you can tell your improvements in power when the bag seldom hits back after a powerful strike.  I found that the strength of my legs play a huge role in this area as I am able to generate power (think of when you generate power from your legs in a squat or at the beginning of your deadlift) to effectively throw a solid punch. Again, triceps, shoulders, back, and biceps are well trained. As well, while training several muscle groups simultaneously, gaining strength and endurance is a fair expectation.

Stress Reduction
HBT can have the most satisfying cathartic effects on your built-up stress levels. When stress builds up, we tend to feel a whole lot of negative emotions. Nonetheless, some research has shown that punching the heavy bag allows for the brain to release endorphins—those neurotransmitters which create “feel good” magic in your brain. Sooner or later you’ll be so focused on the good feeling, consequently forgetting about that guy who cut you off on the road or the ticket you got right after while trying to show him up. That said, HBT is not a long term or final solution to relieving chronic stress, if that is the case —seek medical help.

Keep in mind that in order to achieve maximum results from heavy bag training, you need to combine it with several healthy habits: a great eating plan, good water intake, adequate rest/ sleep etc. 

Disclaimer: be sure to get clearance from a qualified health professional as well as consult your Personal Trainer for workout tips on what protective equipment to purchase as well as how to maximize your results.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Corporate Wellness: More profits & benefits when your workers are fit

The relationship between you (the employer) and an employee should be treated no differently than any other relationship. In order for the relationship to be a healthy one there needs to be a fair amount of giving and receiving of time and resources on both ends. As for employees, their role is given: they come into work, they are the face of your company, their hard work and efforts retain your client base. Your employees are responsible to keep your business running. So what about you the employer? No, it is not enough for you to just simply sign off on their payroll or on their vacation days or even just treat them to Christmas parties once a year. In this day and age, it is vital that you, the employer, invest in the wellness of your employees. This not only benefits your business, but it also, like in a healthy relationship, proves to your employees that you care for them and are willing to invest in them. Be proactive, use preventative approaches…don’t wait until your employees are taking up sick-days because they are either too sick or too stressed, or because they are taking time off to apply to better jobs. Commit and invest in your employees and these are some reasons why:

  • Simply put, happier and healthier employees are more productive workers. They usually work harder and produce a higher volume of top-notch quality work than their unhappy/unhealthy counterparts.  So, investing in wellness programs will ultimately result in more business output for your organization. 
  • The welfare of employees has a direct effect on your organization’s success. When employees feel appreciated and can see the benefits of your investments in them, employee retention & job satisfaction increases and an overall pleasant working environment will surface.
  • Corporate wellness programs will increase a sense of ownership for employees. Their commitment and loyalty to the company will also increase. So, they won’t be fishing for new jobs or better opportunities; rather, they will aim for growth within your organization.
  • Healthier employees will reduce the financial burden on your business. Employee injuries, illnesses, absenteeism will all take a downward toll as a result of an effective corporate wellness program.
  • Your organization’s healthcare costs will go down. Less stressed and healthier employees will decrease your healthcare costs as they will have no need for disability insurance and/ or sick leave. As a result, your insurance premiums will most likely plummet.

There are no shortcuts to designing an effective corporate wellness program. Your health and safety rep will not suffice to meet such a responsibility unless s/he is a wellness expert. Invest in wellness professionals who will take the time to know the foundation of your organization and the culture in which it is driven. Invest in wellness professionals who will devise a wellness program for your employees who will allow everyone in the workplace to enjoy and reap the benefits of corporate wellness.

So my point with all of this is—strategically invest your money into a well-devised corporate wellness program which will keep your employees happy, retain great quality employees and lower your expenses. Be proactive; don’t wait for major problems to arise! Don’t pay money for short term goals, invest in long-term solutions to a healthy employment relationship. 


Friday, August 1, 2014

Dead Lifts without Deadlifts!

The deadlift (DL) is one of the most functional, yet basic, exercises: you’re lifting up a load from off of the ground i.e. in pulling motion. It is a true measure of strength which is why it is one of three main lifts, in addition to the squat and the bench press, in the sport of Powerlifting. This compound movement trains the entire body and involves muscles such as your lats, arms, core, hips, legs and of course your low back. It’s one of the best compound exercises because it trains all those muscle at the same time. If there is anything you will take seriously from this blog it is this” YOUR LIFTS ARE DEAD WITHOUT DEADLIFTS”. It boggles my mind how people aim to get stronger or maximize their gains without incorporating DLs into their routines.  Without DL in your routine you won’t maximize your gains and you most certainly won’t reach your maximum strength. From my experience as both a trainer and as an athlete I have sworn by the DL and it has proven to have phenomenal results. When performed correctly it will help build out of the roof lean muscle mass, increases in strength in all the major muscles groups of your body and oh did I mention a solid core??The pulling motion of the DL, if done properly, will be of tremendous benefit to better your posture.

There is absolutely no sense in increasing the weight on your pull if you’re not doing it with the proper form. Proper form is the most important aspect of your lift because it prevents injuries such as herniated discs.  Caution: if you have pre-existing low back disorders or any form of heart disease, it is advised that you consult your family doctor first prior to attempting this lift. I say this because the DL increases blood pressure and places a significant load on your back; though it is not damaging or dangerous if you are healthy.  
If you have never done the DL I would highly suggests you start from the basics with conventional deadlifts- starting from the floor and up.
  1. With the bar placed in center of your feet, make sure there is enough room for arms by having almost-shoulder-width distance between your feet.  Ensure your low back is arched and your shoulders are behind the bar.
  2. Ensure your upper back is rounded and that you take a deep breath to ensure your belly has a full tank of air.
  3. Make sure to establish tension on the bar by straighten your legs a bit just prior to the lift. Squeeze your glutes.
  4. Because you are not pulling normal weight against gravity, you need good leverage. With that said, keep the bar close to your hips when you pull (with your hips slightly driven forward.
  5. As you pull the bar and get to the top of the lift, make sure you don’t rock back and forth while your back is hyper-extended! The pull should be completed in one motion. In order to have perfect grip for each lift, drop the bar after each rep if you need to reset, do not rely on momentum- Quality not Quantity!
  6. Note: if you have great grip, you don’t have to come back to start position, just lower the bar to below your knees and continue with your repetitions.

Now don’t hold out on your training program, go deadlift! Remember when done well this is a really safe and very beneficial movement. Think of it like this, because it works all of those muscles at the same time, it is spreading the work of lifting the load among all those muscle groups. Thus, removing stress on a single muscle/ joint that comes with participating in repetitive isolation exercises.