Archive for August, 2007

Keeping on the Heels when Squatting

Friday, August 31st, 2007

In my last article, I covered how low you should go when squatting. Another common squatting issue is with weight distribution and balance. In order to be completely effective, the squat must be completed with the weight primarily on the heels. Unfortunately, for many people, their weight is generally forward, on their toes. Keeping the heels firmly on the ground helps with alignment and when driving through the lift in this manner, force can more efficiently be exerted than when the heels are lifted and weight is forward.

Learning to keep weight on the heels may not be as easy as one would think. This can be due to a multitude of reasons from habit to lack of flexibility. Fortunately, once again, crossfit comes to the rescue. Greg Glassman has written a great article called, “Two Training Aids”. The article describes two “homebrew” pieces of equipment that can be made fairly easily, including a simple heel-to-floor tester that helps a squatter keep their weight on their heels. It’s an interesting read and if you’re looking to improve your squat, this tool may definitely help your form.

How Low Should I Squat?

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

The squat is an essential exercise. For the lower body, there is probably nothing better. It hits all the important lower body muscles with a knock-out punch and can really help tone the thighs and butt. In order for the squat to be as effective as possible, it’s important to make sure that you squat low enough.

How low is this? It’s important for the tops of your thighs to be at least parallel with the floor. I’ve seen it done at the gym where the bottom of the individual’s thighs are barely parallel. This is definitely not as taxing on the leg muscles and therefore nowhere near as effective.

Most squatting racks will be setup infront of a mirror. Unfortunately it’s difficult to trust what you see in the mirror. What you may think is parallel may be a ways off. Instead of trying to guage how low you’ve gone by eye, try squatting over a box that’s about the height of where you should be squating to. You could alternatively use a medicine ball, low bench or dumbbell. Lower yourself until you touch the box and if you can’t touch the box for each rep in a set, you’re not going low enough. Try lowering the weight.

Random Circuit Workout Generator

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Hrmmm… what should I do for my workout today? As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I like to mix it up at the gym. I rarely do the same routine more than a couple of times a month.

To assist in the mixing, I’ve created this “Random Circuit Workout Generator”. Click the button and it suggests 4 exercises to group together in a circuit style workout. It’s simple and it may make suggestions that aren’t too good, but sometimes it puts together what could be a pretty good circuit.

I think some useful additions to this “tool” might be:

  • Include categories of circuit types - bodyweight, barbell, dumbbell, machine
  • Allow choice for number of exercises for circuit
  • Classify exercises with muscle groups so that the same muscle group isn’t repeated

Floor Wipers

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Some nights I’m just not up to going to the gym (this is especially true on Wednesdays for some reason). So tonight, instead of heading down there, I decided to head downstairs to my home gym and do it up in the comfort of my own home. As the workout progressed, I figured I’d do a demonstration of floor wipers.

Floor wipers became all the rage when the movie, 300, came out and popularized the “300 workout“. Floor wipers are a fairly simple exercise, but they really work the upper body. Lie on the floor, under a barbell. Press the barbell and touch your feet to the right side of the bar and then to the left side. That’s a rep. In my version, I perform another press every 5 reps. Here’s the demo. It’s my “Internet video” debut :).

What to Look for in New Running Shoes

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

So I’m putting on my shoes for my Tuesday night run and I think to myself, “wow, I’ve had these for a long time.” Unfortunately it’s true, I’ve had my pair of running shoes for years. Well over the suggested mileage. In fact, it’s been so long since I last purchased a pair of actual running shoes, I’d actually be at a bit of a loss as to what to look for in a new pair. Fortunately we live in an age of infinite wisdom thanks to the Internet.

My wife was a member of the Running Room for one of their intro to running programs last year. She really enjoyed it and from what she’s told me, the programs are very informative and their staff are quite knowledgeable. Their website has some good tips on what to look for when purchasing running shoes.

First off, there are three shapes for running shoes - straight, curved and semi-curved. The shapes are called “lasts”, named after the wood composite form used to make the shoe. The multiple shoe shape options are available to help match various feet. Wearing the wrong shaped shoe will cause rolling off one side of the shoe when running or walking.

When running, your feet will naturally pronate or roll off various parts of the shoe. Depending on how you run, the various shoe shapes will make a difference and could save yourself from unnecessary pain or injury.

  • Overpronation is when your feet roll excessively inwards. The Running Room suggest straight or semi-curved shaped shoes.
  • For normal pronation, a semi-curved shoe is best.
  • Supination is when the feet roll outwards. If you’re a supinator, they suggest getting a curved shoe.

I’m a pronator. My feet roll inwards quite alot. I can remember my grandmother telling me that I’ll “trip over my own feet” if I don’t work on correcting the pronation. I have no idea what kind of shoes I wear, but there’s no doubt that they’re beat up and I need a new pair and I’m going to try and get the right shoes for my feet.

The Running Room suggests that I take in my shoes to one of their stores for them to examine and help me pick out the best shoe possible. I think it’s a good idea. A good pair of running shoes will last quite a while and if used on a regular basis, make a fantastic, relatively inexpensive fitness investment.

Ring Masters

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Gymnastics - an amazing display of strength, flexibility, agility and balance. This great montage of some serious ring work demonstrates what I’m talking about.

Where’d the Summer Go?

Monday, August 27th, 2007

It’s about this time of year that many of us are thinking, “whoa - where’d the Summer go?” There are only a handful of days left before September, only a few weeks left before Fall officially begins. Did we get everything in that we wanted to? Are there things that we didn’t even think about doing that, come to think of it, we should have done?

For me, I’m wondering if I actually took full advantage of the warm weather. Sure I ran a couple times per week and played beach volleyball every Thursday night, but my bicycle is still hanging in the garage and my inline skates have remained at the bottom of a container in my basement since last year. Two Summer activities that I really love to do have gone undone through all of these amazing Summer days we’ve had thus far in 2007.

But there’s still hope, right? If I schedule things properly, I can get in some good skating and biking before sweater weather comes blowing in. But what else have I failed to do this year? What other Summer activities should I try and enjoy before I have to wait until next year?

Here’s a top 10 list of Summer activities to try and get in before the Fall comes guns a blazing around the corner.


Video Review - Tony Horton’s Ab Ripper X

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

I recently used Tony Horton’s Ab Ripper X video for a couple of exercise sessions. As the title suggests, it’s an exercise video that focuses primarily on the abdominal muscles. The abs are a group of muscles that don’t require long bouts of work and as such, the routine is really quite short. But was it any good? Read on to find out…


Handstands in Wasaga

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

We went up to Wasaga Beach this weekend and had a blast with my sister and her husband. Although it was a little cooler and rainy on Saturday, it didn’t stop us from jumping in the lake for a swim. I also had a chance to do some handstand practice. I’m getting better at holding the handstand position for longer without losing balance - about 10 seconds. My ultimate goal is to be able to hold for at least 30 seconds. It’s a ways off.

The Fit Blog Tip #3

Friday, August 24th, 2007

The whole gym or running thing got you down? Not that exciting sometimes, is it.

Have you ever thought about joining a team sport? Amazingly, a recent study has found that the fitness benefits of football (or soccer) are so massive that it’s even better than running for fat burning. Most communities offer local soccer leagues for all sorts of skill levels from recreational to competitive, for all ages. And not only are they a great way to get in shape without the monotony of a regular running\gym routine, team sports are a great way to meet new people and have a great time.

The Grunting and Shadow Boxing

Friday, August 24th, 2007

I have very few pet-peeves. I consider myself a fairly laid back kind of guy. However there are some things that just bite at me until I find it incredibly difficult to continue to tolerate. When at the gym, it’s gotta be the grunters and shadow boxers.

I’m not talking about under your breath grunting that comes with the strain of the last few reps of a set, I’m talking about what often sounds like yelling or moaning as though in excruciating agony. And it’s one thing to let out a few weeps when you’re struggling, but does making an incredible amount of noise really help get through some warm-up curls? Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but sometimes it seems like a form of attention seeking.

The shadow boxers are the other group of gym-goers that occasionally make my eyes bulge. The gym that I attend has a fairly large number of martial arts classes and thus many of the gym’s members practice some form of boxing. But just because you’re practicing for an upcoming Muay Thai competition, it doesn’t give you the right to run around the gym, in between sets, punching and kicking the air. It gets kinda freaky, actually. Again - do you just want attention?

For the most part, I like my gym best when it’s quiet - when everyone is actually working out - when I can focus - just me versus machine. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. So please, if you can, do others a favor and leave your shadow boxing in the ring and save your grunting for when it’s actually needed.

Holy Jumpin Bodyweight Overhead Squats

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

This is a great crossfit video clip. Nicole - a super strong crossfitter makes several attempts at overhead squating her body weight for 15 reps. I struggle with 10 reps at half my body weight. Can Nicole do it? Watch the clip to find out.

p.s. yay crossfit.

The Fit Blog Has Migrated to WordPress

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Blogger has been a great blogging framework. During the course of the last few days, however, I’ve migrated over to WordPress. I still use Blogger for some other blogs of mine, but as The Fit Blog grows, I figured I needed to move to another framework that supports more features. Blogger doesn’t offer the same sort of trackback system that most of the other frameworks support. I’m also not really fond of the commenting system on Blogger. There are also some other issues, particularly when using their FTP process, that I’d like to see changed. I’m not saying that Blogger isn’t a great resource. It is. It’s just that it isn’t right for me for this particular blog.

WordPress, on the other hand, is a constatly maturing product that has a huge user community and numerous features and plugins that I’m hoping to eventually take advantage of. For the time being, however, the site is pretty much the same as it was on Blogger except for a few minor differences (though the commenting is quite a bit better IMO).

If you’re a little interested in the technical side of things, read the rest of the article after the jump…


Why Weight Training is Important for Weight Loss

Monday, August 20th, 2007

When most people think of a weight loss program, they first probably think of dieting. Second to that is usually some for of cardio - walking, running, elliptical, whatever. These two components are definitely important parts of losing weight. However, what many people don’t realize is that resistance training is also very important.

Resistance training is pretty much synonymous with strength training. It’s working your muscles against some sort of resistance. This includes body weight exercises like pushups, situps and air squats as well as other forms of resistance training including weight training.

Yikes - did you just say weight training? But I don’t want to get huge like Arnold. I just want to lose the bulge.

A common misconception is that weight training should be relegated for those individuals looking to gain muscle mass - who want the big guns. While it’s true that weight training is a necessity for bodybuilders, it’s pretty much a myth that lifting dumbbells and barbells translates into getting huge. In order for this to occur, bodybuilders need to eat a large number of calories on a daily basis. It’s just a difficult thing to do - especially for women. Substantial muscle growth requires hormones (like testosterone) that just isn’t as readily available in women. Even many men have much difficulty getting the big guns. For dieters, who are probably on some sort of strict diet (hopefully a Zone diet), getting huge should not be a worry at all. It aint gonna happen - not even close.

But muscle mass is a good thing for the dieter and it’s very important to include resistance training in any sort of weight loss program. Here are some reasons why.

  • More muscle equals a higher metabolic rate. Research has shown that regular resistance training may boost your metabolic rate up to 15%. A higher metabolism means more fuel gets burned faster making it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Resistance training can boost bone mineral density, decreasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • It can strengthen weak body parts and joints, reducing the risk of injury in day to day activities and sports.
  • Resistance training creates muscle and changes the body composition which improves an individual’s appearance.
  • Muscle takes up less space than fat. Building muscle changes the ratio of fat to muscle on the body, helping to create tone.

So if you’re currently on a diet and have been thinking about getting to the gym and incorporating some weights, find a good weight training program and add it to your weekly routine. If you have always thought of weight lifting as a guy’s thing or something that’s strictly for bodybuilders, think again. Weight lifting and resistance training is great for all of us, regardless of our goals.