Categorized as: Fitness

Do I Need to Train my Core? What Exercises are Best?

Do I need to Train my Core? 

Core Exercise

Planking on a fitness ball which is unstable can help improve your core stability!

It is impossible to step into a Vancouver personal training gym without hearing a trainer talk about the core! Core exercise has been a hot topic in the health and fitness industry for many years. So which core exercises are best and why is it so important!? 

Improving your core strength will not only help you appear leaner by tightening and flattening your stomach, but vastly improve your overall fitness level. Having a strong and functional core will help prevent injuries, ease low back pain, improve posture and positively impact your athletic performance – think better golf swing or a faster 5 km run time! 

So what exactly is your core? Many people still confuse the core with the abs. The core refers to the Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Complex. Wow! Now that’s a mouthful! Let us explain… this complex refers to the muscles of the hips, lower back, the glutes, pelvic floor and most importantly: The Transversus Abdominis. This is the deepest layer of the inner abdominal muscles. It wraps around your torso like a corset. One of the main jobs of the Transverse Abdominis is to stabilize your spine.

You can think of your core (or you can call it the lumbo-pelvic hip region if you’re feeling fancy!) like a box around your torso. This box acts like the foundation for the rest of your body. Much like a foundation for a house. The core muscles work to stabilize the center of the body so that the arms and legs have a stable platform to work from. 

The abs are the superficial “six pack” muscles that lie in the front of your stomach. 

It is known fact that having a strong and functional core is more important than having bigger arm and legs muscles. So why exactly? 

Injury Prevention: 

The core plays key role in everyday tasks. Before you pick a toddler up off the floor or carry groceries in from the car your core should be engaging first to stabilize your spine. When lifting weights in the gym you should have a strong core for the same reason. Core strength here will help you lift the weights with proper form and technique. Also avoid compensation from the wrong muscles and create exceptional movement patterns. 

Improved Athletic Performance: 

Developing your core strength and stability can immensely maximize your power, speed, coordination, balance, agility and overall functional fitness.

A 2009 study from the official research journal of The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) found just that! They studied two groups of runners. One group underwent 6 weeks of core specific training, made up of 5 core exercises done 4 times a week. The other group did not strength train the core at all. The study concluded that people who underwent 6 weeks of core training considerably improved their 5000 meter run time than those who did not strength train the core. 

During an athletic feat, actively tightening your core muscles will improve the transfer of power to your extremities. Think about this next time you swing a golf club or when you hit the ski hill for the first time this winter!

Improved Posture and Back Pain:

Having poor posture and spending too much time in a seated position both can be risks factors for back pain. The core muscles work to hold your spine and pelvis in place, helping you stand and sit up straight. Also if the muscles surrounding your spine are strong, the vertebrae and discs of the spine will be better supported.  Better functional movement in daily tasks, good posture and long term pain relief are often very welcomed results of having a stronger abdominal wall. We call that a win-win! 

What Core Exercises are Best? 

So as you can see training your core is highly important and key in creating the strongest, healthiest and most athletic version of yourself! So what kind of core exercises are best? Forget mundane crunches and sit-ups! When training the core keep functional exercise in mind. Perform core specific exercises in a wide variety of standing, kneeling, half-kneeling and plank positions. The best core exercises will challenge your core stability, rotation and anti-rotation. The Cable Wood Chop exercise for rotation, the “Pallof Press” for anti-rotation and the ever famous plank for core stability are excellent choices.  Don’t forget to hold your body in one straight line when you’re planking! A personal trainer can determine which exercises are optimal for you.  They will tailor a program to help you crush those core and fitness goals! Now let’s get a sweat on! 

 

Do I need a personal trainer?

TOP 5 REASONS TO GET A PERSONAL TRAINER:

  • PERSONAL TIME CONSTRAINTS
  • COMMITMENT
  • RESULTS 
  • KNOWLEDGE
  • MOTIVATION

All around Vancouver there are fit people running, biking, swimming, kayaking and just being the most dang fit city in North America!  Look around, whether it is the beach-side path in Kitsilano or across the water in the mountains of the North Shore, people are making the effort to stay healthy.  We are one of the most dedicated cities when it comes to fitness! So why would anyone in this overly-caffeinated, health-conscious town need a personal trainer? Time constraints, commitment, results and even an improved ability to do our favourite fitness pastimes!  And how about the knowledge base and motivation that a fitness professional brings to your hour of sweat?  Let’s cover all these reasons below and show you why you need to sign up with a trainer today.

           TIME CONSTRAINTS:

           People in Vancouver are busy!  The most fit city is also the most expensive… we need to pay to play.  So even if we get out on the weekend to climb mountains, cycle to Horseshoe Bay or get in a round of golf, our work/life schedules during the week make things terribly hectic.  Fitting in fitness can be hard.  With a personal trainer you get serious results for your time!  Once you have an assessment and a plan with your fitness coach, your workouts are streamlined.  The time you would personally spend making a plan for yourself is done, the areas of weakness are balanced during your workout, and your fitness goals are your coach’s focus!  Your personal trainer makes things easy (and hard) at the same time.

           COMMITMENT TO BEING FIT:

           Because all of us are so busy in Vancouver it can make our ongoing commitment to health and wellness irregular.  A personal trainer will give you a set, committed fitness time every week.  This is a set time in your schedule and build your life around it!  How many people do we know with gym memberships to places like Steve Nash Fitness facility that don’t use them on a regular basis?  Without that set exercise program, and set time with your trainer, your chances are low of getting the regular exercise you need. With a trainer you have to show up to your session… or else we call you!

           RESULTS:

           Are you looking to improve your triathlon time?  A trainer can help you strengthen your weaknesses and improve your result.  What about rehabbing an injury? Keep yourself on track by hiring a Kinesiologist to progress you through the injury.  Maybe you are just looking for general fitness, to lose weight, gain some cardio or weight strength… the best way to do this is to hire a professional fitness coach!  This is the person who will make you do the appropriate exercises for you!  Often we focus on the gym routines that we enjoy; a personal trainer will push your comfort zones and show you all types of exercise!  This is what will exceed your limits and make you progress!  The exercises you may not like could be the ones you need; your personal trainer will make you do them!  All of your favourite exercise past-times get easier when your training sessions are being directed by a coach because that is their job… make your life hard in the gym to make it easier outside the gym!!  

        KNOWLEDGE:

Your personal trainer will have a minimum of a training certification, and more than likely many more training specialties under their belt.  Whether it is a cardio exercise class or a weightlifting course they have taken, all of us fitness experts have to maintain our classroom knowledge year after year.  It is actually important for personal trainers to maintain their mental health and training game as they continue through their career. There are many benefits of this to you!  Instead of you personally trying to keep up with all the latest fitness trends and knowledge, your coach will do that for you… keeping your workouts fresh and fun!  

       MOTIVATION:

We all have those days where we don’t want to leave our bed and we definitely don’t want to workout; that is what your trainer is for!  Your upbeat fitness professional will take you through the good days and the down days.  When you walk out of your fitness facility after your training hour you will be feeling refreshed and energized… ready to face the day!  Not all trainers are ‘bounce off the walls’ motivating, that can be intimidating, but, again, they should be energizing enough to pick you up on your slower days.   

           As a gym owner you think it would be easy for me to get a workout in my day, but it’s not.  There is so much to do and get distracted by… so I have TWO trainers. Each one hits up a different style with me and we have progressed to a point where I enjoy the body I am seeing in the mirror once again.  Since committing to twice a week personal training I have seen amazing results, and I am a trainer myself!

Do I need a fitness tracker?

 

           Fitness tracking is not new!  ‘Back in the day’ there were books you could buy that supplied programs (for running, weightlifting, cycling, etc) and gave you charts to track your progress… with a pen!!!  But as we moved out of the era of the chisel and stone and into the 2010+ years, fitness everything can be tracked with the touch of a button, or even by just walking with a watch on your wrist.  What do you actually need to follow, or track, when it comes to personal exercise? Why is it important… or not?

           Consistency is the key to your exercise program.  Good days, bad days and in-between days are all important for you to show up and do something!  Tracking your activity/intensity level is another way to keep that consistency going. This just isn’t for fat loss but also for strength training.   

           Some people just track ‘steps’, and if they workout in a gym that day it usually helps increase their step number.  This is your base level of tracking but should not be discounted; hit your numbers every day and see results! Remember this will give you results for your aerobic exercise.  

DO MORE THAN JUST RECORD YOUR STEPS:

 

           But those ‘steps’ are just one piece of the puzzle… how hard did you workout that day?  A heart rate monitor combined with a step, or kms, tracker will also show you how many calories you are ripping through when you are doing a heavy sweat.  The HARDER you work, or the longer the duration, the more you burn fat! So, whether it is steady state, intensity intervals or even group fitness, the heart rate monitor will reflect what you are burning.  This calorie count, along with your step count will give you some very satisfying numbers to add to your daily life.  Blazing through 750 calories and 8,000 steps is a solid justification for that glass of wine!  (life is about balance people!)

          Working with a certified personal trainer is the ultimate fitness tracker!!!  This is a person who goes through all your peaks and valleys with you and they see the progress.  Your fitness coach will know your initial struggles and the victories that you have had along the way.  There should be a fitness assessment and record of your initial fitness values. Whether is range of motion, cardio, or strength you will know ‘where you came from’ when it comes to working in the fitness centre.  If you are in Vancouver and looking for personal training please stop by our fitness facility if you want your progress charted!

         Fitness tracking is here to stay!  There is not a bike ride I go on without tracking my km’s, my average speed, and even the wattage I am pushing into the pedals.  There is not a workout that my personal trainers haven’t designed for my needs and goals. I’m addicted to the numbers and if you are into fitness you should be too!  It will keep you honest and give you the consistency you need to keep progressing. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Getting better!

Rest and Recovery for the Fitness Addict

STOP WORKING OUT!! Yes you! You over-caffeinated, push-yourself-to-the-limit, closet A-type personality, fitness disaster-in-waiting. Stop it!

Is this a weird thing for a personal trainer to say? Not really, and here’s why…

We all love to push ourselves to the limit, in life, in fitness and in the gym. But we seem to forget about the body maintenance that goes along with the thrill of pushing it to the edge and chasing fitness goals.  Pushing your exercise limit every day without upkeep is going to lead to injury. Period. Maybe not tomorrow, the next day, or even a year from now… but that major, or nagging, injury will come to haunt you. Unless you are one of those freak individuals (you’re not) who never seems to get injured, you can be left with a nagging injury.

The best ways avoid injury (and keep progressing) when it comes to your fitness: 

  • Have a solid fitness plan with rest periods
  • Yoga or stretch 2-4 days a week
  • Massage
  • Foam Rolling
  • Cross Training
  • Sleep and recovery

Let’s break down all these points below…

Periodized Training (Have a plan and chart your plan)

  1. Progress things harder every week… gradually.  Whether you are a cardio sweat master or a weight lifting fiend, progression is the key!
  2. Have on ‘off week’ every four-five weeks. This off week is goal dependent, of course, and does not mean you do nothing. It just means you dial it back a notch. After this down week is over you progress through another 4 hard weeks again — just slightly more intense this time.
  3. Have recovery days as well as hard training days put into your plan every week. I have put some suggestions below (yoga, massage and foam rolling) in regards to what I mean by a recovery day.  These are days where the heart rate stays low!
  4. Getting personal training is a great way to have a strict plan with hard weeks and easier weeks… it is their job to know your limits and have a plan in place for you! (If you are in Vancouver stop by Rep1 Fitness, we can take care of this for you!)

Yoga (stretch): Plan these days as part of your periodization. Can yoga be a training day? Why not?? If you are so OCD that you can’t take a rest day, then go to a yoga class. This will not only force you to stretch, but you might actually breathe and slow down for an hour.

Massage:  Let your local RMT find those trigger points or dig into those large muscles.  There is nothing quite like being wrung out by a professional after several weeks of hard training… so go get one! I give you permission. You need it and deserve it!  OR…

Foam Rolling: The poor man’s massage. Buy a foam roller and read this Foam Rolling article to know what to do with. Use it pre-workout or post. It’ll hurt but you’ll love it after! (note to you A-types… you have to relax into it and be gentle applying pressure)

Cross-training:  Cycle,cycle, cycle; run, run, run; and lift, lift, lift. We do what we like and we keep doing what we like. Your body needs change. Not only to keep from over-training (a very nasty word, this one) but to shock the body and progress. It also gives those overused, beat-down muscle groups a chance to rally because you are using them in a different way. After several months of doing your favorite sport/training, switch to something new for a short period. Cycling season is over and you still have the cardio itch? Go hit the Grouse Grind… that’ll scratch that itch for you!

Sleep and recover: There is a reason that major sports teams chart all their players’ sleep patterns: the studies on recovery and performance have been backed up a million times. So you’ve done three awesome workouts this week but you are getting less than six hours sleep a night? Well, we all know that isn’t enough. Your results will not progress and quite possibly will regress if you don’t sleep. Your ride time up Cypress isn’t improving but you’re training hills like a mountain goat? Check your recovery and sleep times.  Also, if you want to really dive into the affect sleep has on performance and on athletes (everyone is an athlete!), there is a great article by Fatigue Science:

5 areas sleep has the greatest impact on athletic performance

At the end of day it comes down to balancing the fine line of fitness and living the rest of your life without injury. If you choose to be the manic fitness person and just ignore the preservation of your body it will catch up with you. Honestly, this is the hardest advice to follow. It seems tough to do but personally I stretch at least 4 days a week and I get a massage at least once a month.  Schedule the time and stick to it… your body will thank you with results.

How To Do Chin Ups

The Why and How of Proper Chin Ups

There is nothing more impressive in a gym than a person who can rip off perfect chin ups and make it look easy. If you have spent time in a fitness facility it is something we have all struggled with at one point. The jealousy of someone who can have great form and do over 10 chin ups is something we have all known. How did that guy, or girl, make doing chin ups look so easy?? How do I do that myself? Why should I do that? Well, here’s your explanation and here’s your plan. Stick to this program and not only see your strength go up but your waistline go down!

Why you should do them:

-Chin ups are a compound exercise: more than one joint is moving and therefore it uses lots of muscles… which equals more bang for your buck! This exercise targets the latissimus dorsi muscles of your back, but also involves a number of muscles in your arms, shoulders and chest, including your posterior deltoids, triceps, biceps and lower and middle trapezius.

-They are extremely convenient and are one of the most simple (but hard) exercises to do. You also reach your max very quickly, meaning they can be used in a superset and allow you to save time.

-Fat loss: Lots of muscles involved does mean that you will burn more calories in a shorter amount of time: they increase your basal metabolic rate (you burn even more fat even when you are sleeping).

-They are one the best core exercises around as your abs are fighting the pull of your lats to keep your rib cage from flying off your chest. It is not rare to have sore abs for days after a chin up work out

Technique:

Grab a straight bar, get your feet off the floor, and lift yourself up. Don’t over think it, just do it!

There are few rules though:

1: if you are kipping, it is not a chin up

2: if you are not fully extending your arms, it is not a chin up (except if you have an injury, but then, maybe chin ups are not for you)

3: if your clavicle doesn’t touch the bar, it is not a chin up

4: if you move your legs, it is not a chin up either (you can bend your knee at the starting point, but the leg position should not change throughout the exercise)

Program: 10 chinups in 6 weeks

To follow this program you need to be able to do at least 3 chin ups. Here is how the program works, first you will be doing THREE chin ups, rest (or work on something else -hint, hint: superset), then go on to the next set: TWO chin ups, rest, then ONE chinup, rest and finally ONE chin up. On the following day, you are going to add one rep in the following manner:

Week 1

Day 1: 3-2-1-1

Day 2: 3-2-1-1

Day 3: 3-2-2-1

Day 4: 3-3-2-1

Day 5: 4-3-2-1

Day 6: off

Day 7: off

Week 2:

Day 1: 4-3-2-1-1

Day 2: 4-3-2-1-1

Day 3: 4-3-2-2-1

Day 4: 4-3-3-2-1

Day 5: 4-4-3-2-1

Day 6: off

Day 7: off

Week 3:

Day 1: 5-4-3-2-1

Day 2: 5-4-3-2-2

Day 3: 5-4-3-3-2

Day 4: 5-4-4-3-2

Day 5: 5-5-4-3-2

Day 6: off

Day 7: off

Week 4:

Day 1: 6-5-4-3-2

Day 2: 6-5-4-3-3

Day 3: 6-5-4-4-3

Day 4: 6-5-5-4-3

Day 5: 6-6-5-4-3

Day 6: off

Day 7: off

Week 5:

Day 1: 7-6-5-4-3

Day 2: 7-6-5-4-4

Day 3: 7-6-5-5-4

Day 4: 7-6-6-5-4

Day 5: 7-7-6-5-4

Day 6: off

Day 7: off

Week 6:

Day 1: 8-7-6-5-4

Day 2: 8-7-6-5-5

Day 3: 8-7-6-6-5

Day 4: 8-7-7-6-5

Day 5: 8-8-7-6-5

Day 6: off

Day 7: off

Test yourself at the end of the week 6, and VOILA you should now be able to do 10 chin ups.

What if you can’t do 3 chin ups?

If you are not currently able to do one pull up, here are a list of exercises you can do:

Lat pull down:

the easiest one, make sure to train the grip that you will be using for the chin up.

Do 5 sets of 5 reps with the maximum weight you can use with proper form.

Negative pull ups:

use a chair, a bench or jump to the top position, slowly lower yourself, the descent should take 10seconds, then repeat 5 times

ISO hold:

use a chair, a bench or jump to the top position, hold for 10 seconds, rest for 90 seconds then repeat 5 times. I personally like this exercise better than the negative pull ups.

Band: use a pull up band to assist you in doing pull ups. You can use the same program described in this article with the band

So you can do 10 chin ups, now what?

Side to side pull ups:

if you are able to do 10 chin ups, try the side to side chin ups:

pull yourself up, then pull yourself to one side and switch. Do 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps

Weighted chin ups:

simply hold a weight with your feet or a dip belt and do 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps

One arm braced on the side:

progression toward the single arm chin. Hold the bar with one hand, and use the other hand to stabilize yourself in the door frame or the squat rack

Single hand chin-up:

grab the bar with one hand and lift yourself up 🙂

21 Chins:

Lift yourself up, then lower yourself halfway down, and repeat 7 times. After the 7th rep, lower yourself all the way down and lift yourself halfway up, repeat 7 times. When you finish the seventh rep, you do 7 full range-of-motion chins. I don’t think there is anything special about the number 7, it is probably just gym tradition, but it burns so it must be good!

Challenge:

Who will be the first person doing a set of 21 and sending us a video as proof? The first person to do so will get a high 5 from me, and a huge amount of respect from the Rep1 team!

Hockey, Football, Mountain biking, Etc…

OK….September is here!  We are all back to our busy schedules and fitness routines, hopefully we have kept up our training, or, at the very least stayed active on our summer holidays.  Thankfully I have kept up with my “in gym” training sessions, my shoulder is feeling great and I’m back playing hockey and football while continuing to mountain bike.  Now, there is nothing like on field and on ice training, but my “still” 41 year old body has managed to make it through a weekend of all three activities, which, in part, I credit to my work in the gym.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still sore, but at least I’m not broken and was able to get out and enjoy this incredible view!

Wedding Plans… Laura Odegaard

Laura had tons of things on her plate leading up to her wedding… including getting her masters!  But she did a strong push in her workouts leading up the big day and the results paid off; as you can see by the photos.  Laura rocks her workouts Monday nights with her sister Brooke (in one of the photos) and both are usually entertaining the whole gym with their humor.  Laura remembered her posture for the photos (so proud)!!!  Excellent!!  The Rep1 crew is happy for you Mrs. Odegaard!

Laura_WeddingLaura_Wedding_3

Future Cat1 Racer

This has been an amazing summer for my kids, not only has the weather been fantastic for them to be outside all day but my daughter has learned to ride her bike. My daughter, “Kitty” watches her brother, “Jackson”, get on his bike everyday and rip around. She is so envious of him. I tried to teach her to ride but it usually ended in some form of an argument. We decided to put her in bike camp to teach her how to ride properly. After her first day at camp, I went to pick her up all I could see what this huge smile across her face. She was so excited that she could ride her bike and could keep up with her brother!!

Everyday I get home from work now we are out riding!! How awesome is that… Look out here comes the future in bike racing.

Click on the link below to see Kitty riding her bike.

A Bigger Shadow

A bigger shadow of my former self went up Cypress mountain yesterday.  My legs have been in a funk for over a year and every time I road on them they just hurt.  Period.  Yesterday was the first time in a long time where they haven’t ‘hurt’!!!  But man am I slow… I think the legs are recovered but now the long road to peak physical condition begins again!  My goal is to get back to being someone to look out for at the front of the peloton… not someone falling off the back.  A structured plan is the only way to do this.  Finish the summer building up some power for the track season… race track and do some seriously long rides this winter.  Yes, embarrassing as it is… I’m training for next year!! Ha!!  See you on the road!