How to Lose Weight

In case you haven’t seen it yet, this is a really poignant short film. On the surface it’s about exercise, but it’s really about so much more. Many like myself find exercise important for a number of reasons like discipline, motivation, overall health–but one aspect of exercise that sometimes gets overlooked is its therapeutic power. If I’m ever having a bad day, all I need to do is hit the gym and in most cases I feel better. It gives me time, a place, and a reason to think about something else.

Three Exercises for Good Posture

Much of our daily life can be detrimental to our well-being. For many of us, sitting all day, stooped over a computer is just a daily fact of life. But as My Fox Atlanta reports, bad posture can cause everything from muscle and back pain, to headaches.

They talked to Kim Schaper, a certified personal trainer,  who helps clients dealing with these types of problems. According to Schaper, many of her clients in professional positions spend the majority of their day bent in unnatural positions. She shared three exercises that recommends for stretching out and strengthening muscles that support proper posture.

The first of these exercises is meant to help alleviate neck strain. Schaper recommends a strange looking, but very effective move to improve head positioning. Loop a towel around your head and with one hand, pull the two ends together in front of you. Next, simultaneously pull your neck backwards while pulling the towel away from you. Hold for 5-10 seconds and then repeat. Be sure to do this movement gently. If any pain is felt, you are probably pulling too hard.

The second exercise is meant to open tight shoulder muscles. Stand upright, with your back against the wall and your arms up and your sides. With the back of your arms against the wall, lift them straight above you before bringing them back to a right angle while keeping your arms and back against the wall.

While most of us stoop at our upper back and shoulders, the lower back and core are equally important to posture. To strengthen these areas, Schaper recommends lying on your back and tucking your knees upward. Your arms should remain at your sides, and you should lift your trunk up while holding your knees bent. Repeat lift and lowering your back and hips without stopping to rest on the floor.
Read more at My Fox Atlanta.

Erik Ledin – Getting the Most Out Of One Personal Training Session

Personal training is a great tool for those who can afford it and for those whose schedules will allow them to always meet when a trainer is available. For the rest of us for whom long-term personal Erik Ledintraining may not be in the cards, the folks over at Greatist have outlined some ways to make the most out of just one personal training session. Often gyms will provide new members with one or more free personal training sessions as a way of promoting your trainers. Here are just a few ways to turn such promotions to your body’s advantage.

Know Your Goals

Before meeting with a trainer be sure to know what you are looking for in your training regimen. Are you looking to lose weight? Build endurance? Just looking for a program that you can stick with? Whatever your goal, you want to have a clear idea of what it is so that you can articulate to your training what you looking for in your session.

Pick the Right Trainer

If you just ask for a personal training session, the gym will usually just pair you with a trainer whose availability fits your schedule. That is not the ideal way of beginning a training program. Do your research by reading trainer biographies and be sure to ask questions. You want to work with someone who is going to understand your goals and has a track record of helping people looking for the same results as you.

Ask Questions

Once you’ve chosen your trainer and are getting down to the business of working out, don’t be afraid to have your voice heard. Any questions that you have about machines or proper form should be a pleasure for your trainer to answer. So don’t be shy, particularly if you are not buying a training package because you will only have the one opportunity to have the question answered.

Take Notes

Your trainer is there to teach you something and you are there to learn. Do everything you can to commit what your trainer says to memory and that means taking notes. It worked in school and it works in the gym.

Check out the source article on Greatist for more tips.


Friends Can Impact Your Fitness Success

erik ledin friendsThink of your five closest friends. What jobs do these people have? Are they happy with their lives? Are they in committed relationships? What are their favorite things to do? Are they healthy? Do they exercise?

Our closest friends have a huge impact on our lives. We are social beings and it is easy to fall into behaviors in groups, like going out to eat with friends frequently or grabbing a drink after work a couple nights a week. Your friends will also influence what kind and how much work you put into your body and physique.

For example, if your friends go to the gym that is something you can do together to socialize. Additionally, you can talk about easy or hard parts of a workout and encourage each other to be consistent or even challenge each other to perform better.

It is important to keep an eye on your friend’s habits, because they are yours too. Do your friends engage in behaviors that help them remain fit, lean and strong or do they abuse their bodies with a lot of sugar and sedentary behavior? Do you see your friends encouraging and raising the bar for you physically or lowering the bar?

These are all important questions to consider as you take a look at your friends and how they influence your life. Some would say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Think about who those five people are and what that says about your lifestyle choices, health, and happiness. If you’re not happy with what you see, reconsider your relationships and always surround yourself with healthy, happy, active people.

The Science Of The Weightlifting Warm Up

erik ledin warm upHere’s a question I get all the time: Is there one single good way to warm up for weightlifting, or does it not really matter? While the answer is somewhat complicated, in general I would say yes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about warming up.

I’m going to describe a theoretical warm up–see if it sounds like you. After some stretches, you get on the bike or treadmill and do five to ten minutes of cardio to get your heart rate up. Then you do a high number of light weight reps (20 reps with just the bar, 15 with a couple waits, 10 with a couple more weights, etc.) before moving on to your work sets. Is this okay? Sure, I guess. Is it what I would recommend? No. Why? I’ll tell you.

Let’s stop for a moment to think about what the purpose of a warm up is, in regards to weightlifting. In this context, the warm up serves two functions:

  1. A neuromuscular rehearsal of the upcoming lift.
  2. An exercise which gets your body used to heavier and heavier loads.

Remember, the more motor units you recruit/activate in a warm up, the more force production will be possible when it’s time for work sets. But high rep warm ups get in your way and prevent maximum strength performance in two ways. First, they cause residual fatigue. Second, they produce lactic acid, reducing the pH of your blood  (increasing acidity) and impairing motor unit recruitment. So while light weight high reps provide a rehearsal for the lift you’re about to do, they tire you out quickly and reduce your maximal strength. What you really want to do is recruit/activate as many motor units as quickly as possible, and the best way to go about doing that is actually heavy weight low rep sets.

What does this look like? Well, say you’re benching 250 pounds. You’d start with 5 reps of 95 pounds, then five reps of 135 pounds, then 3 reps of 185 pounds, then one 225-pound rep, and then start your work set. This way, you accomplish the two purposes of warm ups while simultaneously avoiding the drawbacks of high-rep sets.

If you’re interested in going in this direction, I recommend taking it one step further and using this simple trick: instead of that last 225-pound single rep, try a single that’s even heavier than your work sets. So again, if you’re benching 250 pounds, try a single rep of 275 next time to potentiate your nervous system. Then, when you come back down to 250, you’ll find you have more motor units activated and you’ll be stronger throughout the work sets.

The Leg Curl Debate

erik ledin leg curlA lot of people these days are very down on leg curls, and not without good reason. Basically, the argument goes that leg curls just are not functional because the hamstrings never function without the gluteal muscles in everyday life, so the supine hip extension with leg curl exercise, which uses the hamstrings and glutes together, is much more useful. This is all accurate, and anybody training for athletic activity looking for functional routines should use SHELC variations (pull-throughs, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, etc.).

But at the same time, it’s also true that any exercise that allows you to add increasing amounts of tension to a muscle will over time lead to muscle growth. And if you are going to do leg curls, you want to make sure you’re doing them right.

There are two ways to do leg curls. The first is where your ankles are dorsi-flexed and your toes are pulled towards your shins. In this position, the calves are free to assist the hamstrings in flexing the knees, and you are able to lift much more weight. However, if you use the calves to plantar-flex the ankle, your hamstrings are required to do all the work, and you cannot lift as much.

While the second way is correct, many people are used to the first way, and they tend to get cramps when they first make the switch. If this happens to you, this is because the neural pathways for the exercise have been established in your brain, and your body trying to get your calves to help out like usual. Rest assured, this cramping will decrease over time as you get used to the new form. A good way to ease yourself into the new form is to start by doing the concentric with your ankles still dorsi-flexed, and then the eccentric with ankles plantar-flexed. Then as time goes on, you can slowly start to do the concentric with the ankles plantar-flexed as well.

Staying Motivated

erik ledin motivationWhat is motivation? How do you keep it up?

Take a second to think about this. What motivates you? Why are you doing this? The strict dieting, the constant saying no to off plan meals, the rough workouts (Bulgarian Squats, anyone?)…

Obviously, you must be doing all of this for a reason, that reason being that you want to get in better shape, look better, feel better, etc. This reason never changes, so why does motivation occasionally diminish? Is it due to lack of progress? In some cases sure, but look back to when you started this journey. I’m sure you look and feel quite different now, and I’m sure you a lot stronger as well. So it can’t really be due to a lack of progress now can it?

When it comes down to it, motivation can actually be a relatively easy thing to maintain. All you have to do is grab a hold onto WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. And by hold onto, I mean keep it at the front of your brain. Let it drive you. Constantly remind yourself how important your goal is to you, the more often the better.

Here’s a quote that helps me stay motivated when I’m trying to achieve my goals:

“Your level of motivation is basically the habit of positivity and that habit, like all others is created by repetition, in this case, repetition of thought.”

Determination isn’t something you’re born with. It doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful you’ve been in the past, how much you’ve stuck to or strayed from your previous goals. Determination is a habit that anyone and everyone can develop. It takes practice and it takes repetition. Push yourself to think every day, and I mean think deeply, about how you used to look and feel, how you look and feel now, and how you want to look and feel in the future. Do this, and there isn’t anything you can’t achieve.