5 Ways To Track Progress WITHOUT Using A Scale

Many people focus solely on the scale to measure their progress, while the scale is a great tool and will show if you are headed in the right direction over-time, there are many other ways to measure progress that are less harsh on you mentally.

If you are someone who gets obsessed or overly disappointed when weighing yourself, these five ways to measure progress may be a better option for you.

  1. Progress Pictures

This is a very underrated way to track results and can be a great tool to measuring your progress. If you are strength training while pursuing weight loss, your weight on the scale will fluctuate greatly because you will be gaining muscle, while losing body fat.

A progress picture can show how your body composition is changing, and gives you a visual of you heading in the right direction without relying on a scale.

2. Tracking Your Strength Increases in The Gym

Another underrated but useful tool of progress, is keeping track of your weights in the gym and whether or not you are increasing reps or weight as time goes on. If you are increasing your performance in the gym, there is almost always a chance that you’re headed in the right direction with lose in body fat and increases in muscle gain.

3. Tape Measurements

This method of tracking progress is great because you don’t have to update it weekly or daily, but more on a monthly basis. The scale is tempting to update weekly and even sometimes daily for most of us which can cause a negative impact on the way you look at yourself.

We suggest measuring the places you’d like to see decrease or increase the most in inches, and then updating them once per month to see if you are on the right track.

4. Body Fat Percentage

Although there aren’t many accurate and easy ways to measure body fat percentage, it is a great tool to give you a baseline of where you are and something you don’t have to track on a frequent basis.

If you don’t have access a DEXA scan near you, you can use an electronic body fat reader or pinchers. Remember if you choose not to use a DEXA scan, you will not get 100% accuracy, but a range that you could be in.

5. Clothing

This may seem simple and silly, but being able to fit into old clothes is a GREAT way to measure progress. If the scale hasn’t budged, but you can fit into your favorite pair of old jeans, thats a sign that you have changed your body composition in a positive way.

Remember, the scale should never be your main focus while on your fitness journey. It is just a number and does not determine your self-worth or progress being made. Stay consistent with working out and eating healthy, and your goals will happen! This has to be a long-term lifestyle, not just a short term fix.

Mobility: The Missing Piece to Making Progress in the Gym

Blood, sweat, and tears is what we’re told it takes to reach our fitness goals. When we think of the gym, we think go hard, or go home… theres no time for that warm-up stuff when you’ve already taken your scoop of pre-workout and are ready to jump right into heavy sets of squats or push-ups.

Its unfortunate that fitness has made a turn to “how hard can you beat yourself up”, rather than making it a long-term, health commitment. In todays society, we want things quick with minimal effort and it shows when it comes to most people trying to reach their fitness goals.

Importance of Warming Up Properly and Maintaining Mobility

No matter what style workout you decide to commit too, its very important to warm-up properly before going into an intense workout. Even something as simple as going for walk, you MUST go through a series of mobility drills and stretches in order to maintain proper positioning during exercise.

In todays world, we are ALL too sedentary and our jobs require repetitive movements throughout the day. This leads to muscular imbalances, tight musculature, and the in-ability to execute basic movements of the human body. Our knees cave inward, lower back rounds, and shoulders hunch forward due to the lifestyles we live. By simply completing daily mobility and stretching routines, you can not only improve these issues, but if you do them consistently you can even end up decreasing aches and pains you feel throughout the day.

Would You Race Your Car Without Warming it Up?

This is a great analogy to get the point across. You’ll never see someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to racing; start their car and immediately put the pedal to the floor. You have to let oil run through the engine and let the engine components warm up. If you don’t do this simple thing, you’re asking for engine failure.

This applies to your body as well, mobility and stretching before a workout will prepare your joints and muscle tissue to move better throughout your exercises.

Some simple benefits to completing a mobility routine before workout are:

  1. Increased range of motion
  2. Increased activation of muscles
  3. Improved movement patterns
  4. Improved blood flow to muscles and joints
  5. Reduced risk of injury/joint pain
  6. Reduced risk of over-use injuries
  7. Improved recovery time
  8. Faster increases in strength
  9. Faster increases in muscle gain
  10. Less time off taken from working out, due to injuries
  11. Reduced stress
  12. Reduced Anxiety

As you can see, the list goes on and on! Unfortunately we cannot tell you exactly what your warm-up should be, BECAUSE every one is different and every BODY is different. A proper warm-up for someone will vary depending on the individual and their personal muscular imbalances and weak points.

If you are curious as to what a proper warm up would be for you, feel free to contact us for a complimentary consultation and assessment on posture, flexibility, and movement.

Understanding Muscle Gain: How Much Can You Gain in A Year?

Setting realistic fitness goals for the year can be more challenging than you think, at the studio we often hear clients say they’d like to get to their goal weight and physique within a matter of a few months. Obviously there are tons of variables when it comes to how realistic a persons goals are for building muscle or hitting their goal weight – but there are a lot of things to think about when it comes to setting a REALISTIC goal for yourself.

How Much Muscle Can You Gain Each Year of Strength Training

We are commonly mis-informed when it comes to how much muscle you can actually build from eating and working out correctly. Unfortunately the fitness industry has been filled with fad diets and bogus workout programs that promise you massive amounts of results when the reality is that, they are just trying to make money and will say whatever sounds good so you buy their product. Lets take a look at some proven facts when it comes to how much muscle you can build per year.

Beginners: This is someone who has just began their strength training journey, has little lean muscle mass relative to their weight, and does not have good muscular control. You are considered a beginner for the first 1-2 years of strength training – within the first year MOST people can expect to see 5-15lbs of lean muscle gain.

 The second year will be slightly less than the first, but usually you will see significant increases in lean mass when you are in this phase due to the body making quick adaptations to your change in lifestyle/stress put on the body (AKA increasing muscle).

Intermediate: A client who is entering the intermediate stages of weight training will most likely be in this phase from 3-5 years weight lifting. This is the stage where you get more efficient when it comes to movements in the gym and are pushing significantly more weight in the gym than the average person. You also will have noticeably more muscle mass than the average person due to muscle maturity and density of the muscle tissues.

Someone in this stage can expect to see 2-5lbs increase in lean muscle mass per year, as you see it is significantly less than a beginner. This is due the body already being accustomed to the individuals routine of going to the gym, leading to less adaptions made.

Advanced: As you can already see, the more years spent consistently working out, the less and less muscle mass you will gain each year. Even though it sounds disappointing, you would be surprised how much just 1lb of muscle can actually change your whole body! Not only will you have more definition, if you are eating correctly you will most likely lose body fat as a reaction to the increased lean mass on your body.

People in this category usually have been weight training consistently without time off for 5+ years and have near perfect form, years of experience, and years of piling on layers of muscle mass. You can expect to see .5-2lbs lean muscle mass added per year once you have reached this level.

As always, remember these are estimates and can change depending on the individual. Experience, genetics, past eating habits, and current eating habits play a large role in how much muscle you can truly gain.

Hopefully this makes you think twice before hitting that buy button from your favorite fitness influencers new fad diet. Hire a trainer, understand the science of exercise and nutrition, and keep doing scientifically proven workouts/dieting methods for years – thats how you get results! Thanks for reading.

Strength Training For Weight Loss: Less Cardio, More Weights!

For years now, there has been a big mis-conception that all you need to do to lose weight is start running, or hop on an elliptical for an hour. We are told to burn as many calories as possible during our workout and focus on cardio as our primary form of exercise.

Most of this idea comes from most people not wanting to look like a “bodybuilder” so they often avoid weight training, thinking they will become “bulky” from heavy weights and cardio will get them “toned”.

Don’t get us wrong, cardio plays a large role in losing body fat and keeping a healthy heart, BUT strength training is often the missing puzzle to breaking through a weight loss plateau. Keeping muscles strong and active will increase your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), so you will burn more calories at rest.

Building lean muscle mass is truly the answer to losing weight at a healthy pace AND keeping it off! Do you find yourself and people you know doing the yearly cycle of losing 20lbs from doing cardio and eating less, then gaining it all back just in time for the next New Year resolution? Building muscle from strength training can and will be the answer to stopping that cycle.

As stated above, most of us worry that strength training and lifting heavy will give us the “bulky” look when this is not true. Toning means building muscle, you need to increase lean muscle mass in order to “tone” your body – doing only cardio will not offer this benefit.

Losing it in the right places

Another benefit of weight lifting is that you will lose your weight correctly. As a personal trainer, I often see clients pay close attention to the scale when this is not the only measure of progress and can at times fool you that you are losing actual body fat. If you never build muscle on your weight loss journey – you won’t be very happy with flabby arms and “skinny fat” look once you’ve hit your goal weight.

Don’t forget the body has multiple energy stores including body fat, Glycogen, and water. If you have a significant amount of weight to lose and are only doing cardio – often times you will lose Glycogen and water storage which can be a huge amount of weight! Although this is a good thing and you will feel/look different, you haven’t tapped into actual fat storage which is what matters about keeping weight off. If you only lose Glycogen and water – you will most likely gain those pounds back very quickly and easily.

When you lift weights and increase muscle mass, you will again increase your metabolic rate and burn more calories throughout your day – resulting in better long term fat loss. Remember slow and steady wins the race when it comes to weight loss, quit looking for quick fixes and get to liftin’ some weights!

5 Ways to Avoid Weight Gain During The Holidays

Ah yes, tis’ the season for apple pies, warm bread with butter, family time, and of course we can’t forget some alcohol. Although we all look forward to the holidays, most of us also dread the thought of the expected weight gain from enjoying ourselves, a little too much. 

We’d like to offer you some advice about how to keep off the extra 10-15 pounds most of us put on during this time of the year. These are 5 extremely simple way to avoid weight gain during the holidays.

  1. Track your calories: Yes, download MyFitnessPal and make sure you are keeping track of how much food you’re eating at holiday parties. Even if the food at the party is homemade, you can find the macronutrient breakdown of a food similar and plug it into your food diary. As long as you don’t go over your maintenance calories, you will not gain weight. If you say you don’t have time for this one… you just bein’ lazy ;).
  2. Take a Walk During the Party: Invite your favorite family member to take walks with you around the neighborhood throughout your time at the party. Not only will your family members think its sweet of you to take your grandma out for a walk, you’ll be burning off those sweets in no time!
  3. Stay on Track With Your Workouts: This time of the year is crazy for EVERYONE, don’t think you are in this alone. We all have parties, presents to buy, and people to feed. Despite what life throws at you, you still need to put aside some time to work on yourself, get in the gym and get your workouts done. No matter how busy you are, there is ALWAYS time.
  4. Eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full: This one is self-explanatory and all it takes is a little self-discipline to get this one done.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Often times a large percentage of our weight gain over the holidays is water weight. We eat high sodium, carbs and fats which cause our bodies to retain water. You need to increase daily water intake to flush out the excess water retention.

All these are simple, effective, and theres no excuse to NOT do any of the advice stated above. Have fun and enjoy life – while still finding the balance of staying healthy!

The Importance of Stability Exercises in Your Training Program

Heart racing, muscles shaking, and sweat dripping are all things that come to mind when you are coming up with a workout program. Although these are all great and are the main focus of burning calories- most people forget to include the foundation of all exercise; stabilization.

Preventing injury should always be the number one focus in your training, avoiding injuries will ensure that you can stay in the gym for long-term, making it easier to stay motivated and reach your goals. Without a good base of stability, you will easily develop poor movement patterns and muscular imbalances from the exercises you are performing due to the inability to maintain posture.

We often see clients who are just getting back into working out after falling off the bandwagon for a long-time, eager to get back into running, jumping, and lifting weights. As personal trainers we take a more technical and safe approach before throwing advanced exercises at clients and focus on balance and stability, so that clients can isometrically maintain posture before throwing heavy weight, and fast movements at them.

Stabilization before or after your main workout?

We recommend completing stability exercises before AND after your main working sets of weights or cardio. This will essentially “wake up” your stability muscles around your joints and spine – helping you maintain the correct positioning during more challenging exercises.

Think about it – would you build a house without laying its foundation first? Stability works the same way as far as building your body goes. If you have questions concerning how to incorporate balance into your exercise routine or don’t know where to start – feel free to contact us below!

 

 

Nutrition 101 | The Fundamentals You May Have Forgotten

For many people the hardest part of achieving their fitness goal is understanding diet and nutrition. Given the magnitude of options, information, and suggestions that we are exposed to on a daily basis this shouldn’t be surprising. Typically the best thing to do is break the basic information down into “bite size” pieces. Before you start trying to figure out what to eat it might help to have a good understanding of where you’re at in the first place.

 

There are some simple and relatively accurate formulas to figure out what your daily calories should be based on your weight and activity level. The first thing you want to figure out is your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This is the number of calories that your body is burning before any physical activity. Basically this is what your body burns to keep itself running and functioning, and the equation is body weight times 10. So if you weigh 180 pounds then your RMR is 1800. From here you now want to factor in the activity level of your lifestyle in order to determine how many calories you would need to consume in order to keep your present weight.

 

If you lead a sedentary life and spend most of your time sitting at a desk then you would multiply your RMR by 1.2. If you exercise occasionally, maybe once or twice a week, multiply your RMR by 1.3. If you exercise regularly every week, say 2 to 4 times, then multiply your RMR by 1.4, and if you exercise regularly every week up to 5 times then multiply by 1.5. So let’s say your RMR is 1800 and you’re sitting at a desk all day with no exercise. The calories you would need to consume in order to maintain your weight would be 2160. Typically a person’s goal is weight loss so the effort from here would be to put yourself in a calorie deficit in relation to this number. As we discuss caloric deficit and how that breaks down it is important to note that the minimum calorie recommendation per day for men is 1800 calories and the minimum for women is 1500. It is thought that much below this is unsafe and should be monitored by a doctor.

 

Obviously these numbers are only relevant if you begin tracking what you eat, so pick your favorite food tracking app and give it a try. My suggestion would be to simply track what you normally eat for a few days so you can take that number and compare it to what is the number you got from your equations. Are you in the basic range of what you would eat to keep your present body weight? Or are you significantly over that number, meaning that your body weight is steadily increasing? This is important information to have in order to get an understanding of what type of changes are going to be required of you in order to have control of your diet and nutrition. If your goal is weight loss then you are going to want to be under the total calories that you got from multiplying your RMR by your activity level. An interesting equation for addressing this is the assumption that 3500 calories equals one pound.

 

If you know the number of calories you should eat per day to maintain your current body weight, and you are then able to safely reduce that number by 500 calories each day, the result after 7 days should equal one pound of weight lost. 500 times 7 is 3500. It is usually best to use these numbers and equations as reference points rather than strict guidelines. Body chemistry and weight loss is not an exact science and it might take time to figure out what works for you. The goal is to create a healthy relationship with food and to understand your body better and what fuels it to perform and feel its best. But as long as you can keep yourself in a calorie deficit under the calorie amount you got from multiplying your RMR by your activity level then you should steadily begin losing weight, the pace of which will be set by how much below that number you are safely able to go.

New Moms Can Still Be Fit Moms

Dedicated to my wonderful, amazing sister, Abby Maguire Klatsky, who is the genius behind this series of exercises.

In the spirit of Halloween we decided to have a little fun while bringing you a great series of exercises that new moms can do while spending some quality time with their baby. All exercises can be modified based on your strength levels and the age of your baby. Let us know if you have any additional moves in your routine!

Going for walks is a great way to get yourself moving again and get some fresh air. Once you’ve warmed up try upping the intensity by jogging behind the stroller. From there you can spice it up with some agility moves by doing side shuffles and walking lunges.

Getting creative with your workouts while involving your baby can be as simple as just modifying basic strength exercises but using your baby as resistance. As we’ve said in previous posts, glute bridges are fantastic for basic hip strength and health, and now you have a workout partner to keep you motivated! Adding in core exercises can be fun to, like doing planks around your baby, sit ups with a baby press at the top for some extra activation, or keep them on your lap while you do leg raises.

Big, full body exercises are doable as well with this squat to baby overhead press. Keep working your legs, core, and shoulders by doing alternating lunges with a baby press with each lunge. You can use a baby carrier for this next exercise while you work on a bit of balance with reverse lunges. And finally, you can tone up your arms by doing baby hammer curls with a chest press in between each one.

We hope this post is useful for all new moms, and please leave us a comment with any ideas of your own! Wishing everyone a happy, fun, and safe Halloween!

 

Written by Jamie Maguire

Protect Your Knees and Low Back by Keeping Your Hips Healthy and Strong

By far the most common and prevalent condition that I have seen in my career is weak hips and poor hip function. It is almost guaranteed that when I meet with someone to discuss training and to do a physical movement assessment they will have underactive glutes and overactive quads. To the point where I am actually surprised when someone isn’t like that. Generally the problem is a sedentary lifestyle, working at a desk, and driving everywhere. Basically constantly being in a seated position. That seated position deactivates your glutes, which is the major muscle group of your hips that should be moving you around and stabilizing your entire pelvis.

Strengthening your hips, and primarily your glutes, is actually one of the more simple things you can accomplish from working out. While the exercises in this video won’t make you the powerhouse that you should be striving for with hip strength, they will give you a fantastic platform to build off of as well as allow you to maintain basic hip health and function.

The glute bridge is one of the most basic and effective movements to stimulate muscle contractions in the glutes, building strength along with neural connectivity in the brain and increasing blood flow to the area. Start off with a basic glute bridge. By adding the resistance band you are able to increase the demand on the muscles and therefore get stronger. Incorporating single leg bridges into the exercise will enhance stability and the demand on your core for balance.

An often overlooked muscle group for strengthening are the hip flexors. During long periods in a seated position the hip flexors become shortened and tight. Therefore our answer tends to be to constantly stretch them out. This is not wrong but it’s important to also focus on strengthening them too. You can’t constantly stretch out a weak muscle, it needs to have some degree of strength in order for it to return to its optimal length. The first position in the video is less demanding on the core, so once you’ve gotten comfortable with this move, increase the challenge and demand on your stability by bringing your legs up.

The next two exercises are designed to enhance what you’ve done with your glute bridge by adding more depth to your overall hip strength and the different segments of your glutes. Clam shells and a hip extension will focus more on the side of the hips and your medial glute. But it’s important to point out that all of these exercises should be done with a conscious, consistent effort on your part to maintain tension in your glutes while you perform them. The exercises themselves should really be an enhancement to your intentional contraction of your glutes.

The final exercise is designed to bring everything together by incorporating a significant challenge to your balance and stability as well as drawing on the strong connection between your hips and hamstrings. Your hips to hamstrings complex is probably the strongest combination of muscles in your entire body. Being able to comfortably perform 15 to 20 hamstring curls using the stability ball indicates that you have achieved a solid level of hip strength, stability , and health.

Addressing and Overcoming Foot Pain

Chronic foot pain can be one of the more difficult problems that individuals have to deal with these days. It’s all but impossible to avoid using your feet, they’re literally the part of your body that connects you to the ground and all of your body weight rests on. A typical solution for these problems tends to be getting a shoe with more support and padding to protect your foot and wrap it in a cushion, or to install insoles into your shoe that are supposed to create additional support by replacing the things your feet should be doing for themselves like creating an arch. It’s time we ‘take a step back’ from this approach and examine the function of our feet and what a long term solution to foot pain might be.

If you think about what your feet do and the amount of stress you put on them every day, from standing and walking on them, to the types of shoes we wear such as high heels, you might first think that they do in fact need as much protection as you can give them. But the reality is we will always put a lot of strain and pressure on our feet, so maybe a better solution would be to make them as tough and strong as possible in order to handle all that abuse. Because the truth is that when you have pain somewhere, 9 times out of 10 the main solution is going to be that some muscle needs to get stronger. And yes, your foot can be made to be strong.

First things first though, if you’re experiencing foot pain you need to start off by reducing that pain in order to work on foot strength. We have put together a straight forward, 4 step approach to reducing and eventually eliminating foot pain that can be used in conjunction with foot strengthening techniques. Since foot pain is generally caused by weakened and bound up muscles in the foot along with muscle tension in the general area it’s best to start off by reducing the muscle tension in the surrounding area in order to give a little extra slack to the muscles in your foot for when you start directly working on them.

The first thing you want to do is address any tightness in your calf by going after it with a foam roller. The calf connects to the Achilles Tendon which then attaches to your heel, leading into all the tendons and muscles of your foot. Do a thorough job of exploring your entire calf muscle on the foam roller looking for tight spots, from the bottom all the way to the top and from one side to the other. If you find any tight spots roll around right on that area while flexing your foot up and down until the muscle begins to loosen up a bit.

From here you now want to go after any tight or bound up muscles in your foot by rolling out the bottom of your foot on a lacrosse ball or tennis ball. A frozen water bottle will also work. Just like with your calf you’re looking for any excessive tension or tight spots with the ball. Move slowly through both edges of your feet as well as the front of your heel and the ball of your foot, all the while flexing and extending your toes. This will accomplish two main things; breaking up any muscle tension or muscle fibers that have gotten “sticky” and aren’t sliding very well, and also encourage blood flow into the area. Tight muscles means that blood flow is being restricted, which can prevent the muscle from healing fully.

I recommend following all of this up with a good calf stretch just to simply reinforce what you’ve done so far toward encouraging healthy calves and feet without excessive muscle tension. I think it’s helpful to note that there are two main muscle groups in your calf that you want to be stretching. The upper part of your calf will get a stretch if you keep your knee locked out during the stretch in the video, and the lower part of your calf, which connects to the Achilles, will get stretched if you do the stretch with a slightly bent knee.

Once you’ve done this and have hopefully reduced some of the foot pain you feel it’s a good idea to activate the tibialis, the muscle on the front of your shin. This muscle is involved with connecting to the tendons in the foot which help your foot maintain a natural arch. As you can see in the video this is a very simple exercise that does not require any weights, just some type of resistance that you can flex your foot into in order to activate and ultimately strengthen the muscle on your shin, the tibialis. Follow this up with basic glute activation to ensure that the main muscles of your hips are fired up and ready to move you around.

From here you’re off to the races with foot strengthening exercises. A basic towel grab with your toes will help activate the muscles of the foot and get them on the road to being stronger and more resistant to pain brought on by weakness. Single leg exercises like a single leg squat or balance reach will also go a long way toward strengthening the muscles of your foot while they get better at balancing you. And if you’re looking to work extra hard you can try combining the two by performing a single leg balance reach while doing a toe grab with the towel.

I strongly encourage you to get more comfortable with working on foot strength rather than trying to protect them from the harsh reality that is being a foot. Try walking around barefoot for half a day once a week, flexing your toes as you walk around. Over time your foot pain will subside and you will begin noticing a distinct difference in the way you feel and move through your feet.