Despite the snow last week, we still had intrepid ladies turn out for the Women and Weights upper body seminar. This week we hammered squat mechanics and practiced many progressions and variations of the squat. However, we didn’t have quite enough time to cover all the reasons ladies need to squat. Yes, that’s right, we need to squat. Coincidentally, on the same day we reviewed squats, this blog post showed up in my news feed and I felt inspired to make my own list. So, without further ado, here is my list of reasons why squatting is so important:
Jan 29, 2015
Jan 20, 2015
Week one of Women and Weights is in the books. Last week we discussed the core, it’s importance in injury prevention and exactly what it feels like to engage your core. Then we went over several different exercises that test one’s ability to engage and maintain their core. This week we are discussing upper body movements. This is where we start seeing some major differences in the sexes. In general, men and women respond to resistance training in similar ways. However, differences exist between the sexes in overall muscle mass, strength and hormone levels. The upper body movements are where this becomes most obvious. Upper body movements are much more difficult for women. Why is that, you ask?
Men tend to be larger, have more muscle, they are leaner and have higher levels of the sex hormone, testosterone. These sex hormone related strength differences are mostly found in the upper body. Women possess lower body strength levels similar to men relative to their body weight, but men have greater upper body strength relative to their body weight when compared to women. According to top trainer and researcher Brett Contreras, women possess 40-60% of a man’s upper body strength. That being said, when comparing strength per-pound of fat free mass (i.e. bones and muscle) the differences become less apparent. Women’s muscles are capable of producing the same amount of force as men’s muscles.
In our women and weights seminar this week we will be discussing proper form and will practice a few movements to help ladies increase their upper body strength. Here are a few women specific strength training tips to get you excited:
Learn how to engage your core and maintain it while exercising. Many women starting a strength training program initially posses poor levels of core stability; they utilize an array of lumbar-pelvic strategies when lifting and often end up overarching (excessive hyperextension) the spine during planks, push ups, pull ups and deadlift movements. If you lose your stable core during an exercise, stop the movement and re-engage before continuing.
Work your weaknesses. If you are already really flexible, focus less on stretching and more on building strength and stability. Women tend to have greater mobility in the shoulders, hips, upper back and pelvis and are more likely than men to possess hypermobility.This hypermobility results in less stability and a greater risk of injury. Women are also more likely to over-prioritize cardio. If your cardio is already sufficient, work on building some strength.
Utilize eccentric movements in your training. Women have good reactive or elastic strength, but poor starting strength compared to men. This means it is easier for a woman to lower herself down from the pull up bar (i.e. muscles are lengthening, eccentric movement), than it is to pull herself up (i.e. muscles are contracting, concentric movement). Use caution with eccentric training, as this can cause greater microtrauma to tissues, resulting in greater muscle soreness. Additionally, don’t short movements. Keep working throughout the entire range of motion; don’t just drop off the pull up bar, or drop the bar on a deadlift. Concentrate on lowering all the way down.
Do several total body workouts each week. Women have an advantage in recovery time. They tend to fatigue less and recover faster, meaning they can train the same muscles frequently throughout the week. There is no need to spend one day each week on a specific body part (i.e. chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, glutes on Wednesday, quads on Thursday, etc.) like many of the men in your life may be doing. One day each week on certain body parts might not be enough to produce the changes you desire. However, please remember, there is no such thing as spot reduction. There is no amount of tricep extensions that will get rid of ‘granny arms’ if you aren’t fueling yourself properly and engaging in other strengthening movements.
For more training tips and some hands on advice come to Women and Weights Wednesday nights at 6pm at the Downtown Athletic Club. Even better, schedule a one-on-one appointment with me, or email me to join my newsletter. Women and weights will only last until February 11th. Also, much of the information here can be found in Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body by Brett Contreras.
Jan 8, 2015
A couple months of holiday weight gain can set back your metabolic weight loss for the rest of your life. That’s because most people never shed those extra pounds, and so they build up year after year. Eating mindfully will help you to have your cake and lose weight too. These are a few techniques to take with you to Grandma’s house or the office Christmas party.
Slow down: Sit down to eat. Put your fork down in between bites. Chew each mouthful. Give your brain time to let you know that you feel full.
Control portions: Forget about forbidden foods. Sample a little bit of all your favorites. People often underestimate how much they really eat. Learn to eyeball what an ounce of hard cheese looks like. It’s the size of about 4 dice or a 1 inch cube.
Enjoy the view: Did you ever feel like something looks too good to eat? There are no calories in feasting your eyes on a beautifully decorated cake. Focus on presentation whether you’re serving vegetables or cookies.
Plan ahead: Even soggy crackers are hard to resist on an empty stomach. Don’t get caught hungry. Bring along carrot sticks and yogurt drinks on shopping expeditions. Sip a bowl of soup a half hour before cocktail parties.
Tighten your belt: Form fitting clothes will make you more conscious of every bite. Trade in loose dresses and elastic waists for a sleeker look.
Don’t eat alone: Do you overindulge when you’re by yourself? Keep plenty of witnesses around.
Work on yourself talk: Drown out the sound of those chocolate truffles calling to you. Tell yourself how much you want to stay healthy or wear a smaller dress size.
Don’t wait for New Year’s to contact us. Fight holiday weight gain by visiting a gym now. Have fun taking a break from shopping and party planning. Exercising will help you to burn more calories and resist temptation.
Nov 5, 2014
Topics: biggest loser club, Personal Training, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, healthly eating, Fitness Tips, healthier lifestyle choices, Baltimore fitness, eating habits, nutrition, cheat meals, best gym, fit tips
Jun 27, 2014
May 7, 2014
Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, weight loss and exercise, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, best way to lose weight, fitness, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, the best way to lose weight, being present
Apr 11, 2014
Looking at these pictures, I am reminded of why I love CrossFit. I can see the agony and determination on our faces. What’s more difficult to see is the the elation. This was one of the most fun and challenging competitions I’ve ever experienced. The pictures are from the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate Challenge, a team competition for CrossFitters from the entire Mid-Atlantic region. This weekend I’ll be competing for a second time. A lot has happened in the last year, including a shoulder injury, a lot of time off and rehab. Leading up to this point every time I think about it I fight back the urge to toss my cookies. All the old self-doubts surface. Am I ready to compete again? Will I hurt my shoulder? What if I let my teammates down? And so, on. What's worse is after last year I know just how bad it hurts physically. Why on Earth then, would I voluntarily put myself through the agony once again?
Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, baltimore gyms, help with weight loss, workout routine to lose weight, fitness, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate Challenge, Fitness workout, Personal trainer, merritt charm city crossfit, Baltimore fitness, get healthy, diet lifestyle change, group fitness
Feb 25, 2014
Topics: CrossFit, Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, baltimore gyms, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, fitness, mindful, Personal trainer, mental health, merritt charm city crossfit, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, being present, best gyms, yoga
Chances are by now you’ve heard about the “surprising” appearance and percentage of body weight lost by the most recent winner of The Biggest Loser. Rachel Frederickson, lost almost 60% of her body weight in only five months. The trainers and other contestants could hardly contain their surprise and seeming concern at her reveal and final weigh-in. This would be more shocking if it weren’t the logical outcome of a contest conducted in the manner of The Biggest Loser. The contest is judged on total weight loss and pays no attention to body composition; the percentages of fat mass versus lean body mass. There are some wonderful aspects of the show, but this aspect is very misleading. Don’t be fooled.
In this post I mention that weight is only one aspect of a person’s overall health...the one everyone obsesses over. Unfortunately, our attention to the number on the scale is misguided. What most of us are really concerned about is our body fat - a percentage of our overall weight. When most people say they want to lose weight, they really mean that they want to lose fat. The two are not synonymous. However, some people are still under the illusion that gaining muscle is bad, because it contributes to the total number on the scale or for fear of becoming bulky.
Gaining muscle is NOT bad. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself, especially if you are trying to lose fat. Muscle is expensive, calorically speaking. It takes a lot of calories to maintain and build muscle. The more muscle you have the more energy (calories/food) your body needs to maintain it. Gaining muscle helps you burn fat for energy even at rest, helping you reach your weight loss goals (or fat loss goals) even quicker. Gaining muscle will also make your stronger, not bulkier. Cinnamon buns make you bulky, not dumbbells.
Additionally, when you are too preoccupied with the number on the scale it is way more tempting to crash diet. When people crash diet (ever heard of the master cleanse?) they lose weight for sure - both fat and muscle weight. However, at some point after a crash diet you have to start eating food again. When the inevitable occurs your metabolism is now slower because you’ve lost calorie burning muscle. Meaning, you’ll gain more fat eating the same amount of food that you were eating before. And the cycle begins. You starve yourself to lose weight, you lose fat and muscle, eventually you have to start eating again, but now you get even fatter than you were before, so you starve yourself again to lose some weight…
Stop telling yourself that the number on the scale is the enemy!
Television shows like The Biggest Loser are for entertainment first and foremost. Unfortunately, they perpetuate idea that the scale is the enemy. Contestants are rewarded for losing the most weight, not the most body fat. The insane amount of weight the contestants lose each week is not realistic. It makes a more realistic and sustainable rate of weight loss seem disappointing. If you are trying to lose weight (and keep it off), you want to maintain your muscle mass, if not build upon it. Therefore, ideally most people will be losing some fat, and gaining some muscle each week. That’s why we say it is safe and most effective to lose 1-2 pounds each week...not 25. You have to take a gradual approach to weight loss if you want the results to be long lasting. Remember it’s a journey.
It’s time to end that unhealthy relationship with the scale. To get a more accurate picture of your overall health and weight loss progress find out your body composition. Ask a personal trainer to help you find your body fat percentage, or check out the Bod Pod that comes to Merritt several times each year. It is a quick and highly accurate way to test your body composition and get your estimated daily energy expenditure (the number of calories you burn daily ). The scale is not the be all and end all measurement of your health and fitness. Don’t give it more importance than it deserves.
Joanna Meade (view bio) is a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club. She is a Level OneCrossFit instructor and competitor. She can be reached at Merritt Athletic Clubs Downtown Club at 410-332-0906 or click here for a Free CrossFit Session.