STARFIT LOS ANGELES

IS BEING SKINNY FAT MORE DANGEROUS THAN BEING OVERWEIGHT?

Aaron HoyComment

BEING SKINNY FAT CAN BE DANGEROUS

The term “skinny fat” has been around for a while, but it seems to have exploded into our culture more recently with the increase of trendy calorie restrictive diets and the loads of misinformation spewed by scantily clad bikini “models,” shirtless buff gym rats, and celebrities claiming to be fitness experts. It is not body shaming nor is it a term to be thrown around lightly. This is the classic case of don’t judge a book by its cover. An outwardly skinny and supposedly healthy physique does not equal healthy.  As I will discuss below it can actually be quite dangerous, more dangerous than being overweight.

 

WHAT IS SKINNY FAT?

If you’re a little unclear on what exactly skinny fat means, it is a very real medical condition called sarcopenic obesity. It occurs when the presence of low muscle mass and either low muscular strength or low physical performance is accompanied by a fat mass above 28%. These individuals have what may be considered a normal/healthy weight, but metabolically, this person shares many health characteristics as someone who is overweight or obese – such as having high cholesterol, or hypertension. On the outside they look skinny, but internally, their body composition is unbalanced and even considered obese. Skinny fat people are not healthy.

Many people just assume that if they look good and their clothes sizes are readily available in shops they have nothing to worry about. This is where the danger lies, skinny fat people are typically unaware they’re unhealthy and at risk of the same diseases of overweight and obese people. Most overweight and obese people are aware of the dangers of their condition and may choose to do something about it whereas this is not the case with skinny fat people.

 

THE HEALTH RISKS OF BEING SKINNY FAT

Aside from the aforementioned high cholesterol and hypertension, a 2014 report on metabolically obese normal weight people found that they have a significantly higher risk of metabolic problems and death from cardiovascular disease than any other group.

Lab results can show vitamin deficiencies too, which can lead to fatigue or low concentration levels. A possible way to tell if you may be skinny fat is if you have a little extra belly fat or show cellulite while maintaining a skinny figure with very little to no exercise and a limited caloric intake.

 

HOW MUCH MUSCLE MAY BE GAINED IN 1 MONTH NATURALLY?

Aaron HoyComment

SETTING REALISTIC MUSCLE GAIN GOALS

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Ok, so it appears I crushed some folks dreams with my testosterone booster post earlier this week. You can still get those gainz, it will just take longer than expected. You must set realistic goals. And let me be 100% clear and direct, those athletes or actors that put on 25-40lbs of muscle in a matter of months or even a year are not natural. Yeah, I said it. And it may be steroids or SARMS or peptides, but that is absolutely not natural so do not think you will be looking like that anytime soon. You may look like that, just will take much longer and a lot more discipline.

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HOW MUSCH MUSCLE CAN I GAIN IN A MONTH NATURALLY?

Under OPTIMAL conditions, you can expect to gain around 1-2 pounds of muscle per month – though we’ve found that for most Rebels, closer to one pound is the reality. It's virtually impossible for somebody who's been training regularly to gain 30-40 pounds of muscle in a couple of months or even a year. The only person with the ability to potentially gain 18-20 pounds of muscle in a year is a gym newbie—someone who's never lifted weights or trained before and does literally everything perfectly (ie. nutrition, sleeping, working out, recovery) and has the genetics for it as well, so that is extremely, very, very extremely, rare.

And why are they the only candidates to be able to possibly achieve these increases in muscle? Their genetic muscular potential hasn't been activated yet. In other words, they haven't even approached their greatest gains. Someone with training experience, on the other hand, has hit or neared their potential, making lean muscle, fat-free gains much harder and much slower to be achieved.

Here’s a chart with more exact breakdowns by Alan Arogon. With over 20 years of success, Alan is known as one of the most influential figures in the fitness industry’s movement towards evidence-based information.

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HOW DO I ADD MUSCLE? 

It’s a combination of nutrition, exercise, and rest. In general, you will most likely need to increase your calories, especially protein. You will need an exercise program that challenges you and focuses on strength. And you will need to sleep 7-9 hours per night. For more details, please contact me with questions or look at joining my 1-on-1 coaching program here.

 

TESTOSTERONE BOOSTERS, DO THEY WORK?

Aaron HoyComment

DO TESTOSTERONE BOOSTERS WORK?

Ok, first off, low testosterone is not a disease, it’s a natural part of the male aging process like hot flashes and menstrual cessation is for women. Abnormally low testosterone is rare, yet according to the commercials, any mature man who isn’t able to leap tall buildings in a single bound or make love every night suddenly has a disease. This is just a case of pharmaceutical and supplement companies pushing pills, trying to sell a product, trying to make a dollar or rather billions of dollars.

There are supplements that promise to increase your libido or boost your testosterone or act as aphrodisiacs. Some supplements even tout to have developed a testosterone pill that accomplishes all three. Some of these companies will even claim their pills can increase fertility or muscle gain. All of this sounds amazing, like a miracle pill tailor made for men, but do they actually boost testosterone?

Libido Enhancers?

The majority of the market for testosterone boosters is supplements that tout themselves as libido enhancers. Unfortunately, the majority of them also have no effect on testosterone levels, but still sell like crazy.

Why? Because you think they’re working. When your testosterone levels go up, so does your libido. However, the inverse is not true — your libido levels can go up without your testosterone levels increasing. Most of these testosterone boosters work by making you feel ornery, leading you to think that your testosterone levels are higher, when they actually aren’t. In rare cases, supplementation will result in a 20% testosterone increase. This kind of improvement may sound impressive, but is irrelevant for practical purposes.

If you truly are just looking for a supplement to help with your libido, these may work well for you.

Testosterone Boosters?

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Let’s be honest, we’re talking about fitness here. We want energy and muscle. We want gainz! Can I get gainz and go all beast mode or not? Legitimate, working testosterone boosters do exist, but they’re not what you expect. They’re not gonna turn you into the Hulk overnight, or at all because, at most, they’ll increase testosterone levels by 20-50%. Compare that to a low-dose steroid cycle, which offers at least a 300% increase. I’m not recommending steroids, but rather putting it in perspective, it’s a negligible testosterone increase.

Do you put air in your tires without checking the air pressure? You may not be able to tell whether or not a supplement is working without getting a blood test. Even then, blood tests only take your testosterone levels at that exact moment, which can fluctuate based on a lot of different variables. It’s easy to promise a testosterone boost when very few people are actually checking their testosterone levels.

Popular Testosterone Boosters Examined

Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris is the top selling testosterone booster. It’s also the best example of a supplement that increases libido, but has absolutely zero effect on testosterone.

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Simply put, tribulus terrestris doesn’t work. And there is plenty of research to prove that it doesn’t work; we have direct and repeated evidence that tribulus terrestris doesn’t increase testosterone in athletic males. In other words, if you’re taking tribulus terrestris to become stronger or add more muscle, don’t expect much.

That’s not to say tribulus terrestris is useless. In fact, it could have potential benefits to the cardiovascular system and organ health. It just doesn’t boost testosterone. This is a very important point. You see, tribulus terrestrius most likely remains on the market and appears to work because it can be an effective libido enhancer. Usually, libido-enhancing herbs are used in testosterone boosters to make the users ‘feel the effects’ of testosterone. The unfortunate reality is that while higher testosterone tends to cause an increase in libido, these herbs increase your libido without affecting your testosterone.

D-Aspartic Acid

In theory, supplementing with D-Aspartic Acid (D-AA) should increase testosterone levels by improving the messaging system between the brain and testes. Scientists in Italy found that subjects who consumed roughly 3 grams of D-AA for 12 days observed a 42 percent increase in testosterone levels. The researchers also noted that the D-AA group still had 22 percent more testosterone than the placebo group three days after they stopped supplementing. Conversely, another study was done that spanned a longer time period found that after about a month of D-AA supplementation, testosterone levels returned to normal. A month isn’t long enough for elevated testosterone levels to have an effect on muscle growth and development.

D-AA has been found to provide increased fertility and testosterone when supplemented by infertile men, but it has no effect on athletes and people with normal testosterone levels.

Zinc and Magnesium

Zinc and magnesium (both part of the ZMA formula) are frequently recommended as testosterone boosters for athletes. These minerals are lost through sweat during exercise.

In one a double-blind placebo-controlled study conducted on 27 college football players suggested an increase in muscle gains by 11.6%, more than double the 4.6% gains by placebo. Additionally, testosterone levels increased by 30% compared to the placebo’s 10 percent increase.

However, another study performed took a larger sample size of 42 resistance-trained males to reveal that “ZMA supplementation during training does not appear to enhance training adaptations (i.e. muscle & strength gains) in resistance trained populations.” ZMA did not work here.

How is this so? In theory, participants of the second study had higher initial zinc & magnesium levels. In other words, ZMA’s benefits are conditional on initial zinc & magnesium levels. ZMA-users who already have sufficient zinc & magnesium levels won’t experience ZMA benefits, because, well… in a sense, they already are. So, again, if you’re deficient, supplementing with zinc or magnesium can take your testosterone levels to your normal baseline. Additional zinc or magnesium will not increase testosterone above normal levels.

Maca

The libido boosting compound in Maca was first observed in a 2010 study where the researchers identified a compound called “p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate” from the root and found out that it had aphrodisiac like activity.

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Soon few human studies followed where Maca was able to significantly increase libido and erectile quality in athletes, healthy men, and in subjects who had SSRI (anti-depressant) induced sexual dysfunction. Based on those results the clever marketers of the bodybuilding industry started selling Maca as a natural testosterone enhancer, and claimed those studies as a “solid proof”.

However not too long after that, several human studies found out that Maca had no effect on male testosterone (T), luteinizing hormone (LH), or follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels, even though it increased libido and erectile quality in all of studies. The results suggest that Maca increases libido and sexual appetite through some other pathway, but not via increased testosterone levels. So as you can clearly see, Maca is not – nor has it ever been – a legitimate testosterone supplement.

Fenugreek

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Initial studies (sponsored by a fenugreek manufacturer) showed very promising results, as fenugreek supplementation increased testosterone levels and improved body composition in resistance trained males. Since the herb has compounds such as apigenin, luteolin, protodioscin, magnesium, and calcium – all of which can contribute to increased testosterone production – it was all but plausible that fenugreek would become the next big thing in the supplement industry (and it certainly did).

The thing is that fenugreek extracts haven’t always performed this well on scientific studies. Although in rodents, the extract increased muscle growth, it failed to have any impact on circulating testosterone levels. In an effort to replicate the first human study sponsored by Indus Biotech, Bushey et al. found that in their trial, fenugreek did not increase either free or total testosterone levels, but it ended up lowering DHT due to 5-a reductase inhibitory effect. Lastly, a study using 600mg/day of fenugreek extract called “Testofen” on healthy male subjects, failed to show any increases in testosterone levels.

So what we have here is an herb that likely doesn’t do anything to testosterone levels, may slightly improve body composition, and disrupts DHT synthesis. This isn’t something most men looking for anabolic androgenic benefits would want. 

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There Is No Magic Pill

While it would be nice to buy a testosterone pill from the local supplement store and have your testosterone levels go up, such a magic pill does not exist. As you can see from the above rundown, while a few supplements may be somewhat effective if your testosterone levels are already low, none will significantly raise your testosterone above a baseline level.

10 LANDMINE EXERCISES YOU SHOULD BE DOING

Aaron HoyComment

10 MUST-DO LANDMINE EXERCISES

The landmine has been around for ages, it's not some new piece of equipment, only the design is new. What was once a barbell wedged into the corner of a gym is now a multi-directional weighted sleeve that a barbell fits into.

Although there are many advantages, a fat bar grip, easily add heavier weights, and unusual angles not targeted by machines or free weights,  I typically only see a few moves being done with landmines. In many gyms, you will only see squats, trunk twists, and "T-Bar" rows. Among the many, below are my top 10 must-do landmine exercises.

1.  Two-Handed Offset Landmine Squat (shown alternating)

May also be done each side individually. Very functional and applicable to real life where you will often encounter unbalanced weighted objects. Spine neutrality and core engagement is the key to this one.

 

2. Single Leg Landmine RDL (shown perpendicular)

Using a landmine, instead of a dumbbell, allows you to focus on raising your back leg more-so than touching the ground with the dumbbell. The cue when attempting single leg RDLs should always be that raising the back leg lowers the weight, not vice versa.

 

3. Deficit Landmine Reverse Lunge

These really get the glutes and legs firing. Start on a 2"-4" incline, this gets you greater range of motion and more glute activation. Be sure to keep your spine neutral. 

 

4. Hollow Body Landmine ALTERNATING SINGLE ARM Shoulder Press

Keep the core engaged and feet off the floor. Can be done without alternating as well. You may hold the unused arm out to your side for balance, but as your core becomes stronger, it will not be necessary.

 

5. Landmine Overhead Squat

Keep your spine neutral and drop those hips low. Overhead squats usually require some flexibility to keep your arms overhead as you squat, but thats where the landmine comes in handy. Unlike a barbell that could move forward as you squat while being less flexible, the landmine will provide resistance helping to push and keep those arms overhead as you squat.

 

6. Landmine Sumo Squat

Please use this one. It is so much easier on your lower back than using a barbell and much more effective as you can go lower than using a dumbbell. Huge glute activation with this and as always keep you spine neutral. 

 

7. Half-Kneeling Landmine Trunk Twist

Kneeling ensures you keep your legs out of the motion. It also isolates one side at a time versus doing them standing. Lower the bar and then explode it back to the top.

 

8. Push Up w/ Landmine Roll OuT

Use your core to bring that landmine back underneath your shoulder. Be sure to keep your body straight, both as you lower and return to the starting position.

 

9. Kneeling Landmine Lat Raise

Again, kneeling ensures that there is no cheating with the legs and it is a natural range of motion using the landmine. It ensures that you end slightly in front of your shoulder and not directly out  from it.

 

10. Decline Bench Landmine Sit Up (dual and single arm are shown)

Love these. It ensures that you sit up straight and not crunch your spine. Takes the guesswork out of using medicine balls where the cue is to raise the ball straight up, keeping it above your head, the landmine guarantees this. Using the single arm is also shown because it's a toss up here, consider it 10A and 10B. Resist turning your core, shoulders, or chest while completing the single arm sit up, keep your core engaged!

HONEST DISCUSSION ABOUT FASTED CARDIO

Aaron HoyComment

FASTED CARDIO?

Many people turn to fasted cardio because it sounds simple. You don't have to do more exercise or cut any calories or even take supplements. You just change the time you exercise and lose fat faster.

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Well, not so fast. If you dig into the research on fasted cardio you will find mostly empty promises. Fat burning does increase when you exercise in a fasted state, but it doesn’t appear to result in an overall greater fat loss.

A 2013 study compared the effect of 6 weeks of interval training on a bike in either the fasted or fed state in overweight young women and found that subjects lost the exact same amount of body fat regardless of which group they were in. The women in both groups decreased fat mass by 0.6 kg and increased lean mass by 0.6 kg.

Another study that combined a reduced calorie, higher protein diet with 60 minutes of exercise in either a fed or fasted state found no significant difference in fat loss after four weeks. The authors found that fasted cardio is a nice idea that doesn't pan out because it ignores the dynamic nature of the human body.

Why Fasted Cardio Doesn’t Lead To More Fat Loss?

You will burn more fat during fasted exercise, but total calorie expenditure will be lower causing the body to compensate by reducing the amount of fat used for fuel later during recovery. When losing body fat, you must look at how many total calories are burned, if the total expenditure doesn’t result in a caloric deficit then, in the long-term, the body will make adaptations and body fat will not be lost.

In one study, subjects did a 36-minute cardio workout fasted or after having breakfast. Although fat burning, as measured by respiratory exchange ratio, was greater during the workout in the fasted condition, by the 12-hour mark after training the results evened out. At the 12-hour mark, fat burning was much higher in the group that had breakfast than in the group that did not and remained significantly higher through 24 hours.

How eating pre-workout affects the amount of calories burned.

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Following both mid- and high-intensity exercise, people who ate pre-workout consistently burned more calories during the several hours following, known as the recovery period. Scientists explain this as the body’s metabolic adaptation. It senses a lack of food combined with exercise as dangerous therefore reducing total energy expenditure.

Lack of food may compromise quality of workouts.

While your average gym goer who may be walking on the treadmill for an hour won’t be affected, an athlete who has goals and progressions to adhere to, this won’t be the smartest idea. One way to help avoid the fall off from lack of energy is to supplement with caffeine pre-workout, but still would be best to consume food prior to workout.

Its negative affect on cortisol, the stress hormone.

Cortisol, a hormone that releases energy, is highest in the morning after overnight fasting. Cortisol levels will remain elevated and may even increase when breakfast is skipped. Couple that with cardio, which also increases cortisol output, and you may have highly elevated cortisol levels leading to negative effects on anxiety, fat loss, and health.

Making fasted cardio a long-term habit may lead to muscle loss because high cortisol levels causes the body to break down tissue in order to keep blood sugar steady. These short term effects may be diminished by consuming higher amounts of protein, but you are likely to lose muscle in the long-term.

It’s more often applied short term, any health benefits there?

A recent study, using a walking protocol preceded by an overnight fast, found an increase in gene signaling that is associated with better blood sugar regulation and insulin levels. In light of the diabetes epidemic and all the problems people are having with poor insulin sensitivity, this could be a game changer by improving metabolic health.

 One should also consider that post-exercise your muscles are hungry for glucose, your insulin sensitivity is maximized, and nutrients are absorbed better.  Assuming your workout isn’t compromised too much, an argument could be made that eating post-exercise is a smart option to feed the hungry muscles. Eating before and after is the smartest and most ideal option.

Improved metabolic flexibility is a possible 2nd benefit.

It is known that the overweight population lacks the necessary enzymes to burn fat effectively. This inability to switch between using glucose and fat for energy (metabolic flexibility) makes a high-carb diet necessary for them to sustain blood sugar and energy levels. This high-carb diet has negative metabolic consequences leading to their failure to have lasting fat loss. Improved metabolic flexibility is essentially forced when training fasted as the body is required to use fat for fuel. Remember though, that total calories burned is what is most important for fat loss and eating pre-workout showed to be more effective in that regard.

Fasted cardio when cutting?

Now we are to the one spot in which fasted cardio has some validity. Fasted cardio can work well for men with body fat in the low single digits (5-6 percent) and females with body fat in the low teens (13-14 percent), especially if they have specific problem areas like the lower back or thighs.

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Once people drop the majority of their total body fat, fasted cardio seems to work well on resistant or stubborn areas. Although there's no direct data to reference, it might be that when a person only has a small amount of fat lingering in hard-to-attack areas, exercising in a fasted state could spark those resistant fat cells to release stored fat so it can be burned for fuel.

It is important to understand the three steps the body undergoes when reducing body fat:

1) Mobilization of fatty acids. Mobilization is the process by which fat is released from fat cells. If insulin is high, you can't get the fat out of the cells, and it won’t be burned.

2) Transportation of fatty acids. Transportation is the movement of fatty acids within the blood stream so that they can be burned.

3) Oxidation (or burning) of fatty acids. Oxidation is the actual burning of fat and it only occurs after fatty acids are mobilized and transported to target tissues such as muscle, liver, and heart.

In very lean individuals, the body experiences adaptations to help it hold on to fat stores, particularly in the abdominal and upper thigh area. Blood flow to these regions is often reduced, decreasing mobilization and transportation of fatty acids. In this situation, fasted cardio might be worthwhile since it has been shown to increase blood flow to the abdominal and upper leg area, which could result in a favorable decrease in these stubborn fat stores.

The Bottom Line:

Fasted cardio is a tool that can be used in specific situations for a select period of time. It may be worth it in the following cases:

You are fairly lean and are trying to lose stubborn body fat. Use fasted training as a time to buckle down and give it all you've got. Don’t turn it into a long-tenn habit, because this will only lead to poor quality workouts, elevated cortisol, and muscle loss.

You’ve already established an exercise habit and want to mix things up. Trying something new is one of the best ways to kickstart fat loss results. Think of fasted training as a short-term fix (2 to 3 weeks) that may have metabolic benefits.

You use it selectively to boost insulin sensitivity and get more out of a lower calorie intake (due to increased absorption of nutrients). For example, you could train fasted on a periodized plan for a few weeks and then go back to eating pre-workout. Or you could do cardio or sprint workouts fasted, while eating prior to weight workouts. Instead of adopting fasted exercise as a iong-tenn habit, use it when you need it.

Avoid training on an empty stomach in these situations:

Your main goal is to increase muscle mass. If you're priority is muscle, you shouldn’t be doing cardio to begin with because it interferes with muscle building pathways.

You’re an athlete training for peak performance. Athletes need to take every advantage for optimal nutrition and recovery in order to elicit the greatest training adaptations.

Stress and high cortisol are a concern for you. Skipping meals and cardio are two of the worst things you can do if stress and high cortisol are an issue. Pairing them together is a disaster waiting to happen. Play it safe by choosing weight training and smart pre-workout nutrition.

 

QUIT WASTING MONEY, BCAAs WILL NOT MAKE YOU BIGGER

Aaron HoyComment

BCAAs WILL NOT MAKE YOU BIGGER

It’s 2018, the truth is out about branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). If anyone is pushing BCAAs to you (there’s hundreds of these “fitness pros” doing exactly that on social media), they are mental midgets and you should just go ahead and click that unfollow button on their page. They obviously care more about money than actually helping you achieve your goals or being truthful and trustworthy.

Truth is, if you eat protein, your blood has plenty of BCAAs. If you’re worried about your BCAA level going down while exercising, simply eat protein rich food 2-3 hours prior to your workout. If you don’t have the time just consume a fast absorbing protein, such as whey, an hour prior to exercise.

Supplementation of branched chain amino acids alone cannot support an increased rate of muscle protein synthesis. Researcher Robert R. Wolfe of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences concluded that ingestion of BCAAs leucine, valine, and isoleucine had limited effect on building muscle. Wolfe stated, "The few studies in human subjects have reported decreases, rather than increases, and muscle protein synthesis after intake of BCAAs.”

This is because BCAAs compete not only among themselves, but also with other amino acids for absorption. Therefore supplementing all three branched chain amino acids will undoubtedly limit the transport rate of amino acids into cells.

BCAA SLOWS THE RATE OF MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS

In the 1990s, two human trials were conducted in which the subjects were given BCAAs intravenously.  Widespread claims of increased rate of muscle protein synthesis were found to be false and that BCAAs, in fact, decreased the rate of protein synthesis and rate of muscle protein turnover.

The researchers found that infusing BCAAs did the opposite of the widespread claims. The infused BCAAs not only failed to increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis, but rather reduced the rate of muscle protein synthesis and the rate of muscle protein turnover.

Wolfe wrote, “While the infusion of BCAAs is not the conventional manner in which a dietary supplement would be consumed, intravenously infused and orally ingested amino acids have been shown to elicit comparable effects on muscle protein synthesis.”

USEFUL FOR MUSCLE SORENESS, NOT MUSCLE BUILDING

According to Jose Antonio, CEO of the international Society of Sports Nutrition, "BCAAs still play a role in reducing muscle soreness, there are instances where consuming whole protein just won't be convenient, for example, long training rides on a bike."

Studies have shown that there was less muscle damage and a faster recovery of muscle function in subjects given BCAAs vs those given placebo. Leading Antonio to conclude, "BCAAs should not be marketed as muscle building supplement, but something to take intra workout to reduce soreness."

THE TAKE AWAY

Due to these recent studies, Dr. Susan Kleiner, a Sports Nutrition formulation expert, says it’s important “to let clients know that BCAA supplementation may decrease their muscle protein synthesis and turnover, making them certainly not helpful, and possibly harmful, to their goals."

To repeat, BCAAs are more likely to hurt not help your goals of muscle building. Considering the billions of dollars earned by the sales and marketing of BCAAs for the prupose of muscle building, this may be one of the largest scams in the supplement world for the last decade.

FIXING YOUR T-SPINE

Aaron HoyComment

The Thoracic Spine

The thoracic spine should be able to bend, flex, extend and rotate to varying degrees, but often is the case with athletes and the general public alike, these motions get diminished over time. Mis-use, sedentary postural demands, and modern devices such as the cell phone, computer, and TV, have caused an orthopedic spinal epidemic. When a loss of thoracic spine mobility exists, the shoulder above and lower back below must become more mobile and less stable to compensate for lost movement.

With this loss of thoracic mobility, the scapula’s path of movement and its range of motion is altered, often to the detriment of soft tissue in the area. Poor biomechanics develop when the scapula is unable to move freely through elevation, depression, protraction, retraction, upward and downward rotation which may lead to pain.

When the scapula isn’t moving optimally due a stiff thoracic spine, any attempts to do anything overhead is going to result in a compromise at the lumbar spine. What was once a stable joint, now has to have a degree of mobility in order to complete the task. This increased mobility may lead to lower back pain.

Fix T-Spine Mobility, then Stabilize

Before we can maintain a strong extended position of the thoracic spine, we must create the necessary range of motion through both extension and rotation drills. Once the thoracic spine has been treated, mobilized and activated, it’s a prime opportunity to lock in these changes with strength exercises. All the mobilization and stretching in the world won’t do any good without retraining new movement patterns.

Below are a few exercises to help with extension and rotation. After achieving full range of motion and increased mobility, follow these with strengthening lifts such as front squats and kettlebell windmills.

 

Bench T-Spine Mobilization

Get into a quadruped position with the knees on the ground and elbows on an elevated surface, like a bench shoulder width apart. While holding a dowel, rock your hips back and press your chest toward the ground. As you do this, slowly bring the dowel over your head. Breathe into the stretch, then return back to the starting position.

 

Unilateral Leg Rock with Thoracic Rotation

Set up in a quadruped position, then extend one leg out to the side. Rock your hips back toward your butt slightly, place one hand behind your head and rotate in toward the base arm with the shoulder and thoracic spine. Once you reach your limit without compensating, rotate back out.

 

Quadruped Thoracic Spine Rotation w/ Lumbar & Shoulder Lock

Set up in a quadruped position, then place one hand behind the lumbar spine. Rock your hips back to maintain an ass to heel position, rotate in toward the base arm with the shoulder and thoracic spine. Once you reach your limit without compensating, rotate back out.

 

Hybrid Quadruped Thoracic Spinal Rotation

Set up in a quadruped position, place one hand behind your head and rotate in toward the base arm with the shoulder and thoracic spine. Once you reach your limit without compensating, rotate back out while rocking back with your hips to the ass to heel position. Rock forward to the quadruped position and repeat rotating toward the base arm.

 

Quadruped Band Assisted Thoracic Rotation

Attach a band to a rack, grab the band and then set up in a quadruped position. You want to be far enough away where there is tension in the band. Hold the band with the outside hand, and then let the band slowly pull your shoulder and T-spine into rotation. Avoid shifting your bodyweight with the band. We’re solely looking for the band to assist us into that thoracic rotation.

Wide Stance Horizontal Twist

Set up a band at chest height on a rack, hold it at the end and walk out with it till you feel tension. With the band at your chest, spread your feet wider than shoulder width, then press your arms straight out. While keeping the hips stable, and bracing the core, slowly turn the shoulders and thoracic spine toward the rack. Once you find your limit to where you can keep the hips stable, and not sacrifice the shoulders or elbows, turn back to the midline. It’s vital to the exercise that the rotation comes from the T-Spine rather than pulling with the arms.

 

Programming These Movements

It is vital to shoulder and low back health to practice these drills on a consistent basis. Without that consistency, there will be little to no progress on improving T-spine mobility. With each of these exercises, we’re looking to create an adaptation and not exhaust or overwork the tissue.

Starting off with extension will help loosen the tissue of the thoracic spine, thus making the rotation much more effective. Use this daily program to improve and maintain your thoracic spine mobility.

  1. Bench T-Spine Mobilization 1×8-12
  2. Unilateral Leg Rock with Thoracic Rotation 1×8-12
  3. Quadruped Thoracic Spine Rotation w/ Lumbar & Shoulder Lock 1×8-12
  4. Hybrid Quadruped Thoracic Spinal Rotation 1×8-12
  5. Quadruped Band Assisted Thoracic Rotation 1×10-15
  6. Wide Stance Horizontal Chop 1×10-15

 

5 BENEFITS OF SLED TRAINING

Aaron HoyComment

5 Benefits of the Sled Training

Sled training is a versatile training option for recovery, injury prevention, strength, muscle hypertrophy, and metabolic conditioning.

 

1. Easy to Learn

This is about as basic as things can get. If someone can walk or crawl, they can do sled work. The ability to set this up for youth athletes, elderly, and everywhere in between makes it a very valuable training option for all goals and ability levels. You can simply have the individual grab the handles, set their feet and push or grab the straps and pull the weight, or harness them up and have them start moving.

 

2. Total Body Conditioning Workout

The legs, glutes, core, back, shoulders, and arms are all thrust into action when completing sled pushes or sled pulls, regardless of speed being used or load. You may manipulate certain variables and change variations to better highlight certain muscle groups, however the systemic stress placed upon the anaerobic and aerobic systems is felt throughout the entire system.

 

3. Increased Power, Strength, and Size

Sled training when done for at least 30 seconds has constant muscle contraction. When contracting and producing force, sometimes near maximal levels if the sled is heavy, can create significant strength and size adaptations. Durations of 60-90 seconds can work muscular endurance and hypertrophy, 30-60 seconds producing strength and hypertrophy, with sprint’s of 5-15 seconds working the anaerobic power systems.

 

4. Perfect for Recovery

Sled training is primarily concentric muscle actions which means it is less likely to cause muscle damage resulting in muscle soreness. Sleds can be used for days off for “Active Recovery Days” or also after a hard leg workout to get the blood flowing.  The key for sled for recovery is not to go too heavy or to crazy, remember it’s for recovery not killing yourself

 

5. Low Risk of Injury

The simplicity and self regulating nature of this exercise makes these  straightforward and low risk movements for all fitness levels. By self limiting, it means that when you reach a certain weight you either get it or you don’t. Sled training is simple, it requires no spotting. If you can’t move it simply lower the weight. Self limiting exercises are great because the risk of injury is very very low.

 

 

MASKS ARE FOR HALLOWEEN, NOT TRAINING

Aaron HoyComment

ELEVATION MASKS

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 I couldn’t find a better starting quote that is more to the point than that of Alex Viada, a successful hybrid-training coach and founder of Complete Human Performance, says that such high-altitude devices "simulate altitude in the same way sticking your head in a toilet simulates swimming."

Users will claim they are able to breathe much better after a session with the mask, well if you had a pillow stuffed down your throat for a workout and then removed it, yes you will breathe better too.

Atmospheric pressure, including the partial pressure of oxygen, is reduced at high altitudes. Partial pressure being less means there is less oxygen in a liter of air at high altitude vs low altitude. Less oxygen per breath of air results in less oxygenation of your blood leading to less oxygen being delivered to your muscles.

Prolonged exposure to high-altitude air causes the body to increase myoglobin/hemoglobin content and capillary density, as well as increase oxygen transport to muscles. These adaptations could absolutely result in increased performance. Again though, it takes prolonged exposure, not just 40-60 minutes a day, but rather weeks, many weeks at high altitudes.

The reduced partial pressure of air at an altitude is much different than restricting air intake by using a mask. In fact, not a single person with a shred of physiology knowledge will support elevation masks' ability to increase hemoglobin. Elevation masks don't change the partial pressure of incoming air; all they do is simply reduce the total amount of airflow to the lungs. Again, imagine trying to workout with the aforementioned pillow stuffed down your throat, pretty shitty idea. Performance is not limited by the amount of air you get; it's limited by the amount of oxygen in that air, and how you use it.

If you’re looking to achieve the benefits of high altitudes, research shows that living a sedentary life at these high altitudes is the key. Not training there, but rather just living there. Any training should be done at lower altitudes where training may be maximized. Because the air is thinner at high altitudes, your body responds by creating more red blood cells to boost  its oxygen-carrying capability levels, even if you're just sitting or sleeping. This increase in oxygen in your blood can help power you through your aerobic workouts, but training at a high altitude will lead to poorer performance and slower times. So even if these high-altitude masks did what they claim (and they do not) you wouldn’t want to train in one, but rather live with one strapped to your face for 20-22 hours a day, 5 days a week. Picking up your kids from school with a mask, shopping, driving, working, sleeping with the mask would be necessary. Scary thought actually, so please save your money and save wearing masks for role-playing and Halloween.

For a fun read about what high altitude masks may accomplish read here:

Study Shows Elevation Training Masks Improve Instagram Efficiency By 35%

GOT SHIN SPLINTS? ...WHAT TO DO

Aaron HoyComment

SHIN SPLINTS SUCK

Just stating the obvious. Unfortunately, it seems no one cares about them until it’s too late and you have them. If that’s the case, I’ve got some bad news. Studies show, on average, it takes 71 days to rehab shin splits, so prevention should be a priority.

First, we will address what I get asked all the time. How do I deal with my shin splints? Once you have shin splints, you will want to ice your shins as much as you can 10-20 mins on, 10-20 mins off, repeat. You will also want to invest in some good arch support, either better shoes or insoles for your current ones. Some of the exercises that I will mention below will also help, but rest will be of utmost importance. To remove the stress that has been causing the inflammation of your soft tissues, or that may have even caused microfractures to your tibia is a priority. You will need time off, perhaps weeks up to a couple months. No one likes time off and some cannot afford it, so let’s dive into how to prevent them.

Preventing shin splits doesn’t take a lot of time, a few common sense practices and a couple strengthening exercises performed regularly will go a long way.  These are not 100% fool proof as each person is different and some shin splints may be caused by hip imbalances and improper running form which I may address in another blog later. This will however assist the majority of you that are prone to get or have had shin splints.

1.     You will want to slowly increase the distances or intensities that you run. It’s best to not to go from jogging a few miles to running a half marathon or from not running to running a 5k. Gradually increase your total distance week to week. Running on an incline, uphill can also assist as it will cause you to naturally land on the balls of your feet and increase dorsiflexion.

2.     I’m combining a few things on this one, but basically you want to lessen or soften the impact of your foot and the running surface. This can be done a few ways. Land on the balls of your feet when running, which is proper and allows your muscles to absorb the impact vs heel striking, which is your heel (a bone) taking on the impact. Better shoes or insoles can also assist with this by taking on the force of impact and assist with arch support. Lastly run on a softer surface if possible, grass or a track is better than the road or sidewalk. You basically want to soften the impact on your feet and legs which is also less stress on your shins.

3.     Do a few of the exercises and stretches in the accompanying video. Start with 1-2 sets of 8-12, work up to 3-4 sets of 15-20 for the exercises. Do each stretch for 2-3 reps of 15-30. You will notice the exercises focus on strengthening your anterior tibialis, toes towards your knee or dorsiflexion with exception of the toe grabs which is for arch support and toe strength. First 2 exercises, shown up close and at a distance, focus on driving through your heel and lifting your toes towards your knee. 3rd and 4th exercises focus on pointing your toes towards your knee, opposite of the resistance. Keep your toes off the ground in the 5th exercise or heel walk. The 6th and final exercise is toe grabs, stand on a towel and bunch it up using your toes, flex and relax repeatedly. Also incorporate the 2 stretches, the first stretches your soleus and the 2nd your gastrocnemius , the 2 muscles in your calves which are often too tight.

Any questions, comments, or feedback, please let me know. I'm all ears :)

Buying Online Training "Programs"

Aaron HoyComment

First off, any trainer or fitness professional that is selling you an 8, 10, 12 week program for any more than a few dollars is a rip-off, a used car salesman-like scammer. And I don't give a shit if I piss them off, it's true. This is a service industry and if you're not providing an ongoing service, don't be charging for it. These cookie cutter, made for everyone programs are crap! That's not providing a service, that's a lack of knowledge and laziness just trying to make a buck. No one "program" addresses the needs of many. They are not custom, they are not personalized. They are cookie cutter, generalized workout guides, not programs. A great trainer makes their money by making great adjustments to their programs, just as any great sports coach. You lay out a gameplan for that specific client and then you make the correct adjustments as they progress . If no adjustments are made, it's not specific to that client, and it's merely a gameplan or guide. If this is what you seek, save your money because these guides can be found in any strength, fitness, or muscle magazine for the last several decades. But on social media you may pay upwards of $125 for 8 weeks of some "custom program" from one of these fitness pros from Instagram.

A training program worth anything will be customized to you, specifically you. You are unlike anyone else. Your strengths and your weaknesses will decide what progressions you should be prescribed and how fast you should progress through them. A training program should be updated weekly or more often. If subject A is able to complete the prescribed 3 sets of 12, but subject B can't complete them, how are both moving on to the same exercises, sets, and reps the following week? What about injuries? Present or past? And how often do you find you're able to do supersets in your gym or even get to the 2 or 3 machines that are on opposite sides of the gym? How customized is that?  Do you travel? How well does that 12 week program from super social media trainer with 1.2 million followers adapt to that hotel gym? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking before forking over your hard earned cash. 

If you're looking for training guides, there's 1000s online for free as well in any magazine for a few bucks. If you're looking for something customized specifically to your body and your goals, I suggest hiring a trainer and if that's too costly, then hire a trainer to write you weekly programs is also an option. There's many ways to afford training. Even buying a few sessions from a great trainer at your local gym and having the trainer write you a weeks worth of workouts, repeat those for a month, then see the trainer again for a week the following month. The trainer will be able to assess your progress and adapt your program to ensure you get the most from it and that is better than some cookie cutter shit. 

I would be glad to help you with any advice you may be seeking. I'm also always open to suggestions for training guides to write that I provide for free on my site. If you're looking for something more customized, check out or ask me about my 1 on 1 coaching. I'd love to hear from you and help you achieve your fitness and health goals!