Love It!

Posted: June 26, 2013 in Fat Loss, Health
Tags: , , , , , ,
Image Source: love-shirts.de
Image Source: love-shirts.de

Image Source: love-shirts.de

I have clients, friends, family and passersby coming to me everyday in a frantic search for truth and self-discovery. They contemplate whether or not it is even possible to look as stunningly beautiful as Kate or as devishly handsome as Pitt. They want a simple answer: YES or NO!? Well the answer, as formulaic and cliche as it may sound is: It depends.

Everyone’s genetic potential is vastly different. From the Pear to the Apple to the enviously desireable Hourglass, each bodytype is predisposed by genetics, much like eye color and hair type. You cannot do anything about this, but what I like to drill into their self-doubting psyches is that you can always, ALWAYS, look the best you possibly can. And this “best” is always within reach. Some may need to work just a bit harder than others.

What most people do not understand or choose to not see, is that fitness must be looked upon much like a marathon. Pacing oneself and looking at the big picture is important, but also taking one mile or goal at a time is crucial to any wellness plan’s success. Planning for a 30 lb loss within 3-4 months is a worthy goal to aspire to but can quickly become overwhelming when the loss doesn’t come as quickly as Dr. Oz promised it would. But breaking that goal into small increments of a few lbs per week or focusing on moving that belt loop just one hole over can do wonders for overall success.

I personally find the latter aim to be the most effective. Weight loss can be a tricky balancing act between water retention, muscle gain/fat loss, and clothing sizes, so it is best to look at how well your clothes fits to truly gauge your program’s success. If you look better and you have been told many times that you do, yet your weight seems to stay the same, don’t worry, you are doing absolutely fantastic.

What I want every self-doubter and naysayer to know at the end of the day is that  you must learn to love what the gym can do for you, to yearn not dread your next session. I ask that not only you learn to love what results you can reap but also begin appreciating the feel of your tired muscles, to hold dear the idea of feeling stronger each and every time you step into your workout place of choice, to feel a passion for your newfound diet. As sad as it is for me to admit, if you do not learn to love the fit lifestyle, you will always revert back to the start.

So please ask questions, get answers, and feed off this new life and I gaurantee you will never be more satisfied.

Happy Lifting,

Alejandro Lopez CSCS

 

 

P.S. E-mail me at lopezalex27@yahoo.com with any questions or leave comments at the end of this article.

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The Fun Way

Posted: February 20, 2013 in Fat Loss, Muscle-building

 

 

Image Source: rungametraining.com

 

Alejandro Lopez CSCS

If you are just plain tired of the typical set-rep scheme, traveling to and fro between passive machine exercises  and mundane free weight workouts; it may be time to try some plyometrics.

Plyometric exercises involve either ballistic (quick  muscular force production) jumping, skipping,or throwing motions throughout several planes using your own bodyweight to elicit improvements in power production primarily and strength secondarily. But the benefits don’t stop there. If done in circuit fashion, meaning multiple exercises strung together in a row before resting, you can develop a fantastic fat-torching workout that is equipment free and actually fun to do.

One simple plyometric exercise that I like to start my novice clients with is the squat jump or jump and reach. The exercise entails basically doing a normal bodyweight squat but at such a high rate of motion that your feet actually leave the ground. It is simply a controlled jump with proper squat form (back straight and never rounded, chest protruded and a full seated position before ejecting upward. Another is the forward power hop which is jumping with both feet  forward instead of upward like the squat jump with as much force as possible. Think about long-jumping and the athletes who perform the movement. They attempt to jump as far as possible with minimal vertical lift. You do not want to do a little bunny hop and call it a day.

If you really despise having to count reps and clock in rest times then you are in luck, my friends. Plyos are very condusive to Crossfit type training that has you performing several exercises strung together (circuits) for time. So you can try stringing squat jumps, hops (one-legged and two-legged), side jumps, etc and perform as many circuits you can do for 5 or ten minutes. My hope is that you will be tired and you will love the feeling.

Happy Lifting!

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Image source: trimmedandtoned.com

Image source: trimmedandtoned.com

We have a little discrepancy between the sexes that is as old as time. No, it has nothing to do with feelings or libido or television preferences. The issue is this: gentlemen tend to focus almost entirely on upper-body development while the ladies like to hammer their lower halves to carve out a well-defined backside and tighten their thighs. Now, while I am all for working out the largest muscle groups on a regular, rigorous basis; it may be time to focus on what’s above the waist, girls. Females possess roughly 2/3 of the maximal upper body strength that men do while having similar expressions of strength within the lower body (in relation to respective muscle cross-sectional area). Balance is vital in the gym and the strength you gain while consistently working your chest, shoulders, back, and arms will translate exceptionally well to the real world, allowing you to conquer all lifting tasks outside gym walls.

So focus on compound, multi-joint exercises like push-ups, dumbbell bench press, shoulder press, and free-weight (barbell or dumbbell) rows to round out your upper-body development. Soon you will be pounding out reps on the pull-up bar just like the huge, burly gentleman next to you and definitely squatting more than his tiny legs could possibly imagine! Happy lifting, girls!

View Source: sixstarpronutrition.com

View Source: sixstarpronutrition.com

Alejandro Lopez, CSCS

If you have exhausted every possible option for biceps training, traveling to and fro the usual barbell biceps curl and the preacher curl; it may be time to enlist the Zottman curl. This little gem will elicit greater gains throughout the entire bicep/forearm complex producing noticeable gains in your biceps, your brachialis muscle (a synergist which runs betweenyour biceps and triceps on the outer portion of your arm), and your brachioradialis(which runs along your outer forearm, lying just below the brachialis). The Zottman curl works not only by stressing these muscles due to the grip change at the top of the movement but but also by producing a hold during the top portion as well to facilitate the aforementioned grip change. Here is how to do it:

  1. Hold the dumbbells in each hand at arm’s length close to your sides with the usual supinated grip (palm facing up)
  2. Perform a normal curl by utilizing your elbow flexors to pull the wait to your shoulders in a steady, controlled fashion.
  3. At the topmost point in the movement, flex your biceps forcefully for a count of one and slowly pronate your grip by turning your wrist 180 degrees so your palms are facing downward
  4. With palms facing downward, lower the weight through the eccentric, falling motion, in a controlled manner.
  5. When the weight is at its lowest postion with arms fully extended at your sides, reverse your grip to a normal, palms up grip and begin again for reps.

Happy Lifting!

This exercise can also be performed by beginning with palms facing downward wtih a switch at the top to palms facing upward.

Power to the Elderly!

Posted: January 2, 2013 in Uncategorized
View Source: seniorsguide.net

View Source: seniorsguide.net

Alejandro Lopez CSCS

Strolling into your local gym, you will typically see all of the youngins swarmed around the heavy weights and latest machinery leaving the elderly participants relegated to the old-school machines and cardio machinery. They normally perform resistance and cardiovascular exercise with the lowest possible resistance at a very slow pace. Though this may seem to be the safe, proper form for the elderly, it certainly is far from the most beneficial.

When individuals age (past 40 and sometimes sooner), hormone levels including testosterone fall dramatically and muscle loss, sarcopenia, becomes almost inevitable when a sedentary lifestyle is the predominant one. Therefore, to delay the onset and progression of sarcopenia and osteopenia, bone loss, regular exercise is recommended. But which form of exercise is most beneficial and how is it best accomplished?

Muscle mass and, specifically,  its ability to express power, the velocity at which a weight is moved or displaced,  is the first to go and this proves problematic for the elderly who still require the ability to carry objects around the house without injury and without long delays. This means that when older gym-goers engage in resistance exercise the weight should be low enough to prevent injury but high enough to pose somewhat of a challenge (overload principle). The weight should also be raised at a relatively high rate of speed to improve on the power lost with age. It is extremely important to note that the weight should never be lowered quickly nor jerked back and forth forsaking form and function. Power training involves a quick concentric, upward motion and a more controlled, evenly paced eccentric, lowering motion.

Because safety is of the utmost concern when working with the elderly, machines rather than free weights should be utilized for power training. Machines typically offer a strict movement path for the exercise and a seated position to prevent slip and fall. So you can leave the light free weights for assistance work during arm and shoulder workouts.

So there you  have it. Though resistance training was solely mentioned, this does not imply that cardiovascular exercise is unimportant. On the contrary, maintaining function of the heart and lungs is vital for anyone, particularly the elderly.

Happy Lifting!

Image Source: moodleshare.org

Image Source: moodleshare.org

When we engage in physical activity, we know and accept that our muscles are contracting, tendons and ligaments are pulling and being pulled upon and our bone structure is the lever system holding it all together. This is news to no one.What may escape our notice are the underlying psychological processes and mechanisms that either hinder or aid in the physical manifestation of our biomechanical movements. We witness, time and again, the fluid, almost flawless movements of our top athletes and imagine a clockwork mechanic that must be running the show behind the scenes. Although it is almost certain that these elite athletes have progressed to an automatic form of psychomotor performance, they still must think, reason, fear, and worry while they engage in their dance.

Most young and underdeveloped athletes operate at a “cognitive” level when engaging in athletic events. This means that each movement is thought about thoroughly, from the next dribble to the ultimate shot or pass. At this stage of psychomotor reactiveness, athletic prowess is hindered severely and performance suffers. Have you ever wondered why things always seem to go wrong when you are constantly thinking about the outcome or process? This situation is no different. When you are thinking about an act, you tend to focus primarily  on the negative–of what can go wrong. This leaves little room for art and finesse.

With time, practice, and patience, one can ascend to the next level of athletic thinking known as “associative.” This stage is characterized by a more automatic appraisal of movement. The bat may move a bit more fluidly through the air, the shot’s arc may be more natural, and the pass to your wide-out may arrive successfully with little thought. But, you still aren’t quite there yet. You still focus too intently on the game’s outcome or you may count your strides too often. Things are coming far more naturally, but you simply cannot get over that ponderous hump. You are  associative, no more and no less.

And our last stage was previously mentioned as “automatic.” You have seen Wade and James flow down the court as if they were born for basketball and basketball alone. They have laser-like focus and their eyes beam to their one particular goal. Nothing else matters and everything else can wait. They are more than likely part of an elite group of individuals transfixed in the automatic phase. Though this is not intended to imply they are robotic; as everyone fears, but they are so in tune with their movements that it seems to come easy. Not perfect, but damn close.

So there you have it. The three major, accepted stages of psychomotor processes and biomechanical movement. Although, trait anxiety is a big determinant of where you begin and where you will go, Practice is the main predictor of where you will be within any given stage and the amount of drive will shove you from one stage to the next. Happy Lifting!

-Alejandro Lopez, CSCS

Weight training in a fitness center

Image Source: healthline.com

The following plan is one I concocted for a friend of mine who recently underwent a shoulder cartilage injury (Torn labrum). This is just a sample of what I am capable of now. (Haha, tooting my own horn, I know). But this plan also suits any individual, particularly older individuals and athletes, whose shoulers are of particular concern and desires a full body plan sans heavy shoulder work (As the shoulder joint-ball and socket- possesses such a high range of motion that injury is more likely compared to other joint types such as the knee or wrist). Here it is and any commentary is surely welcome. Thanks for reading!

Sample Plan

Alejandro Lopez, CSCS

1. Needs Analysis:

  • No Sport/General Fitness
  • Recovery from torn labrum (heavy shoulder movement counter indicated until further notice)
  • Rebound after deconditioning

2. Exercise Selection

  • Chest –Cable fly, Light dumbbell fly, Pec Dec, Decline Dumbbell Press & Floor Press (If indicated).

*Stay away from barbell exercises as range of motion is limited and may cause further injury.

*Focus on full range of motion and slow-controlled movement

*Never jerk weight up quickly nor drop weight down quickly

*Do not extend arm behind body, in other words stop weight a few inches above chest

  • Back– Light dumbbell single arm row, Machine cable row (wide grip and narrow grip to hit rhomboid, lats, and entire shoulder girdle), Medium grip lat pulldown (cable)
  • Legs– If squats are off limits for you (which I recommend until you heal and recover strength) focus on these exercises: Leg Press, Hack Squat (the machine where you stand diagonally and you squat to push pads on your shoulders up), Alternating Leg Lunge, and isolation exercises like leg curl for hamstrings and leg extension for quads.

*This is where you should go hard since nothing is off-limits as far as injury is concerned

  • ShouldersDo not perform isolation of shoulders
  • ArmsDo not perform any arm exercises over the head. Focus on alternating
    • Dumbbell curls through full range of motion (ROM) and isolation curls for biceps
    • Tricep pressdown [reverse (supinated, palms facing up) and normal grip (pronated-palms facing down) and Lying tricep dumbbell extension for triceps

3. Exercise Order

  • Always perform big, compound movements before isolation, but remember to keep your shoulder in mind, if big compound movements are causing pain, stop and move on to isolation.
  • Perform bigger muscle group exercises like legs before smaller muscle groups like chest or back.
  • Example: When performing chest exercises, Perform Dumbbell Decline or Floor Presses before Fly exercises
    • The compound workouts elicit greater release of hormones: testosterone, IGF-1, Growth Hormone, etc.

      4. Rep/Load Scheme

  • Typically, perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise. I would usually recommend going lower reps for higher poundage like 6-12 reps at 67-85% your 1 Rep Max) but you need to rebound from your injury and improve you muscular endurance since you have been out of the game for a while lol.
  1. Frequency
  • I recommend engaging in a full body workout three times per week for the following reasons:

    i.      You should not overload a muscle group too much after a period of detraining and injury, so working it slightly three times a week allows for muscle gain at a slow, steady, sore-free pace.                                                     

  ii.      The more muscle groups you stress at a given workout, the more hormones will be released to promote hypertrophy (muscle gain) and strength gains.

  1. Rest Periods
  • The less you rest between sets the more Growth Hormone is released and the greater calories burned; therefore, until further notice, I recommend utilizing a 30 sec-1 min. rest in between every set and 2-3 min rest between each workout.

   7.  Sample Workout

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Legs:  Leg Press3 sets of 15 repsRest 2 min b/w sets Rest or HIIT cardio 1-2 min high intensity spinning or running and 1-2 min of rest and continue-cycle for 15-20 min  Legs: Hack Squat3 sets of 12 repsRest 2 min b/w sets Rest or HIIT cardio 1-2 min high intensity spinning or running and 1-2 min of rest and continue-cycle for 15-20 min  Legs: Alternating Leg Lunge3 sets of 20 repsRest 1 min b/w sets Rest or HIIT cardio 1-2 min high intensity spinning or running and 1-2 min or rest and continue-cycle for 15-20 min  Full Rest,NoWorkOut
Back: One arm dumbbell row4 sets of 12 repsRest 1 min b/w sets   Back:Lat pulldown superset with cable row3 sets of 10 repsRest 2 min b/w sets   Back: One arm dumbbell row2 sets of 20 repsRest 1 min b/w reps    
Chest: Floor Press4 sets of 12 repsRest 1 min between sets(regular dumbbell chest press but on floor not bench)   Chest: Cable Fly superset with Cable Press3 sets of 10 repsRest 2 min b/w sets   Chest : Light Dumbbell Fly on incline bench2 sets of 20 repsRest 1 min b/w sets    
Biceps: Alternating Bicep curl3 sets of 12 repsRest 30 sec b/w sets   Biceps:Concentration Curl2 sets of 20 repsRest 30 sec b/w reps    Biceps: close grip cable curl3 sets of 10 repsRest 30 sec b/w sets    
Triceps: Tricep Pressdown3 sets of 12 repsRest 30 sec b/w sets   Triceps: Reverse- grip Tricep Pressdown2 sets of 20 repsRest 30 sec b/w reps   Triceps: Touching dumbbell floor press(floor press but make dumbbells touch whole time)3 sets of ten repsRest 30 sec b/w reps    

My Amazing Reason for Silence

Posted: December 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

Ever since I began my fitness blog journey only 5 months ago, I was extremely enthusiastic to demonstrate my knowledge of human physiology, nutrition, and general fitness and to hopefully engage my readers and lead them towards healthier, more-knowledgable choices. I was posting daily in hopes of garnering as many readers as possible in the shortest amount of time. I wanted nothing more than to teach–to provide no b.s., unadulterated, no strings attached information to the masses so that each reader may come to love the fit lifestyle as much as I do. The thing was, I was merely a health freak with no title and no backing.

But my last post was months ago and I am glad to, now, tell you why. For the past three months, I have been studying incessantly to transform a loved hobby into a lifelong career. I have sought the best available benchmark in fitness, strength, and nutrition, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and reached for the furthest star by seeking the most prestigious fitness certification available. I am very proud to say that I am now a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS)!!!

I pledged three months ago to not provide a single piece of advice until I had the distinction under my belt. I didn’t want to become Joe Shmoe delivering all kinds of broscience to my audience. Now I can truly claim that I know what I’m talking about and I sincerely hope that you will listen. Thank you very much.