Which exercise professional is best for you

Which exercise professional is best for you?

Not just their personality. 🙂 Each type of exercise professional has different scope of practice. Learn the difference.

Personal Trainer. Exercise Physiologist. Strength and Conditioning Coach. What’s the difference?

Every industry has it’s own terminology. These can sometimes lead to confusion. This article seeks to clear things up. By the end you will know how to choose which exercise professional is best for you. Please keep in mind that there are differences between countries.

Broadly speaking, the distinctions between Personal Trainers (PTs), Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) and Strength & Conditioning Coaches (S&Cs) come down to three factors:

  1. Health sector or sport and recreation sector
  2. Training general or specific populations
  3. Tertiary qualified or not

Whether you choose to train with a PT, EP or S&C you should:

  1. Check that they are, in fact, qualified (the fitness industry is self regulated)
  2. Make sure they are insured
  3. Check that they have industry Registration (professional Code of Conduct, minimum standards, etc.)

which exercise professional personal trainer

Personal Trainers

  • Professional Registration: Fitness Australia
  • Scope of practice: General population (low risk only, not sport specific)
  • Qualification: Certificate 4 in Fitness (may be completed in less than 6 weeks)
  • Usual work: Fitness, Strength and Weight Loss

A Personal Trainer is a fitness professional involved in exercise prescription and instruction.
Proper exercise prescription may result in improved body composition, physical performance, heart condition and health outcomes. A trainer pays close attention to their client’s exercise form, workout routine, and nutrition plan. The decision to hire a trainer may be due to the perception of proper exercise selection and coaching or motivation and adherence.

PTs motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback and accountability to clients. Trainers also measure their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. These fitness assessments are usually performed before and after an exercise program to measure their client’s improvements. They may also educate their clients in many other aspects of wellness besides exercise, including general health and nutrition guidelines. Qualified Personal Trainers recognize their own areas of expertise. If a trainer suspects that one of his or her clients has a medical condition that could prevent the client from safe participation in an exercise program, they must refer the client to the proper health professional for prior clearance.

There are scarce studies with men, but some with women. According to those studies, women working with personal trainers achieved:

  • greater increases in strength
  • higher workout intensities
  • higher perceived exertion during exercise
  • self-select heavier loads

than women who did not.

In summary, the scope of practice for a personal trainer is to enhance the components of fitness for general, healthy populations.

which exercise professional exercise physiologist

Exercise Physiologists

  • Professional Registration: ESSA (Exercise and Sport Science Australia)
  • Scope of practice: Specific population (med-high risk, disease/injury management)
  • Qualification: A Minimum 4 Year University Degree
  • Usual work: Fitness, Strength and Rehab / Medical condition management

Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) are allied health professionals.
They specialise in the delivery of exercise for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries. AEPs provide graded exercise therapy and lifestyle interventions for ‘specific populations’. These are clients that have developed, or are at risk of developing, chronic and complex medical conditions and injuries. AEPs work in hospitals and private clinics, occupational rehabilitation companies, employment agencies, seniors gyms and research institutes.

AEPs are not Personal Trainers. They are allied-health professionals and are trained members of the health and medical sector. AEPs are eligible to register with Medicare Australia, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and WorkCover and are recognised by most private health insurers.

AEPs provide training in safe manual handling. They perform functional assessments and fitness tests. They also provide lifestyle education to help people manage their health conditions.

In summary, the scope of practice for an exercise physiologist is to assess and manage the components of fitness for specific, at-risk populations.

which exercise professional strength and conditioning

Strength & Conditioning Coach

  • Professional Registration: ASCA (Australian Strength & Conditioning Association)
  • Scope of practice: Sporting population, primarily sports/teams
  • Qualification: Coaching Accreditation through the Australian Sports Commission; Tertiary Qualifications Available
  • Usual work: Sporting Performance, Injury prevention/management

Strength and conditioning coaches (S&C) have two primary goals.
The first is to improve athletic performance, which usually means improving athletes’ speed, strength,and power.
The second primary goal is to reduce athletic injuries.
Let’s address each.

S&C Coaching for Athletic Performance includes:

  • Developing systematic training programs for both teams and individual athletes
  • Working in close association with skill coaches
  • Teaching proper lifting techniques
  • Supervising and motivating athletes as they work out
  • Assessing their performance before and after the program.

The nature of the conditioning program will vary depending on whether the sport is in season or not. During the off-season, conditioning programs can be quite rigorous. In season, conditioning programs tend to focus more on maintaining athletes’ conditioning than on improving it. Conditioning programs also vary by sport, and even by position within the sport.

S&C Coaching for Injury Management includes:

  • Designing regimens to strengthen body parts that are prone to injury in a particular sport
  • Preventing athletes from getting injured during training
  • Teaching correct exercise and lifting techniques
  • Monitoring athletes’ general health

S&C coach’s may also create nutrition plans for athletes, or liase with nutrition professionals. This is usually designed to provide the best possible nutrition to keep each athlete at peak condition. Additionally, proper nutrition helps to speed up muscle recovery time and provide the necessary energy for competition.

Maintaining accurate workout records for all athletes is an often overlooked but still important aspect of the job. Proper record keeping helps to ensure that individuals and teams accomplish the training they need on the right schedule. The right training increases the team’s odds of success in games over the course of the season.

Conditioning coaches usually meet regularly with the team’s coaches to determine what individual athletes, or the team, needs to work on in the conditioning facility. If working with an injured athlete engaged in rehabilitation, conditioning coaches will also consult with the sports medicine or athletic training staff to be sure they do not ask the injured athlete to do anything inappropriate in training.

In summary, the scope of practice for a strength and conditioning coach is to enhance the components of performance for specific/sporting, healthy populations.

Often a Personal Trainer with an interest in performance, rather than weight loss, will undertake additional training to become a strength and conditioning coach. (Like I did!) 🙂

So, hopefully now you know which exercise professional is best for you.

Please share and comment if you found this article helpful. Thanks!

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Back pain treatment – drug free!

Looking for effective back pain treatment?

There can be multiple causes and multiple solutions.

The first steps in any back pain treatment are:

  • Diagnosis
  • Figuring out whether it’s a muscular, skeletal or nerve issue
  • Seeking help from a health care professional.

back pain treatment

**The following article presumes you don’t have something nasty like a herniated disc or sciatica.**

If your (particularly lower) back pain is deemed due to muscular tightness, there is a drug free back pain treatment you can try. It’s like this. In my experience, doing this gets rid of the problem in 9 out of 10 cases. Even if it isn’t the solution, it won’t do any harm.

Sounds like a pretty good back pain treatment, right?!

Here goes:

Squat and Stretch.

That’s it.

Check this out for the ‘What’, ‘Why’ and ‘How’:

First of all, let’s start with the squat.
Here’s a video of Coach Nav with a beautiful demonstration.

Having a squat that goes deep without losing back position is fundamental to hip and spine health.
No part of the system is having to compensate for another part.
If you can squat like this then chances are you don’t suffer from back pain. 🙂

squat

gluteal stretch

shinbox stretch

hip flexor stretch

pretzel stretch

hamstring stretch

plank hold

Here’s a squatting drill (do this freestanding or holding a post):

  • Go to the bottom of the squat
  • Hold it there
  • Hang out as long as you can (up to 10 mins)

If you can stay there for 10 minutes, you probably don’t have back problems (anymore!)
If you can’t stay there (muscles of the legs or back start hurting too much), then do this every other day – building up to 10 minutes.
We aren’t looking for excruciating. Aim for improvement over time.

Now stretching. Hold each for at least 30 seconds. Let’s have a look!

Gluteal Stretch

Tight, weak ‘glutes’ are a common factor in sore lower backs.
Turns out, muscles ‘go to sleep’ when you sit on them 8+ hours a day!

Get into this ‘figure 4’ position and pull your knee towards you.
Play with the knee position until you feel it in the meat of the muscle.

Alternative Gluteal Stretch

For those that ‘don’t feel’ the other one, this is an alternative that works for many.
Get the foot of one leg to touch the knee of the other leg.
Stay ‘tall’ and hinge at the hips to apply the stretch. Don’t bend your back.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Chronic sitting leads to short hip flexors.
This set of muscles attaches to the back of your pelvis.

  • Get into a long lunge position
  • ‘Tuck’ your tail bone under to get into the front of the hip of your rear leg.
  • Let your hips ‘sink’ forward as you relax and breathe into this stretch

Pretzel Stretch

A great multitasking stretch.
This combines gentle lumbar twist, hip flexor, quad, pec and some thoracic mobility too.

  • Lie on one side and grab your ‘bottom’ leg at the back (like a quad stretch)
  • Bring your ‘top’ leg up to 90 degrees.
  • Aim towards getting both your top knee and opposite shoulder to the floor. Enjoy!

Hamstring Stretch

Another important link in the ‘posterior chain’.

  • Keep the stretching leg straight, or slightly bent
  • Don’t pull your toes back – that’s a nerve stretch
  • Your other leg can be bent or straight
  • This can also be done standing, but keep your back straight

The Plank

  • Use your posterior chain to keep your whole body in a straight line.
  • Great for developing global core strength and endurance.
  • Can be scaled back by putting your knees on the floor.

Check out these links for more ways you can move better, hurt less and look after yourself.

For more information on more serious issues and back pain treatment for them, read this article from Gordon Physio.

Why train Olympic Lifts?

I have been asked the question: “Why train Olympic Lifts if you’re not an Olympic Lifter?”

Simple.

Because they’re awesome.
Seriously though, it’s a good question and there’s a good answer (I think). Here goes.

Why train olympic lifts? - Weighlifting Woman

There are a few point to share that go into my thinking about training.

  1. People should be striving to improve themselves; Be “Better Than Yesterday”.
  2. Improvement can (and should) be objectively measured; see “What is Fitness“.
  3. Most people aren’t as strong as the could be; see “How Strong are You?“.
  4. Therefore progressive strength training is important; enabling greater work capacity, generally.
  5. Fundamental bodyweight exercises and powerlifting movements are relatively simple to learn* and develop strength well.
  6. Almost all physical activities require the application of strength at speed –> Power.
  7. One of the best ways to develop power is Olympic Lifting.

*Before all you powerlifters get upset, I’m not saying powerlifting is simple, just that it is less complex than Oly lifting. 🙂

So if you want to improve your performance at pretty much any physical endeavour, train the Olympic Lifts.

Have a look at this video for a bunch of different athletes from Catalyst Athletics performing Power Cleans.
Note the sort of weight they are moving. Think about their potential power output. Why train Olympic lifts? Now you tell me! :O

2014 in Review: Fitness and Health Articles

2014 in Review: Fitness and Health Articles

As we look forward to 2015, let’s look back and see what we covered last year.

This review of the articles posted to the FunFit website in 2014 let’s us reflect on what we’ve learned, and allows us to get the most out of this year.

Let’s get into to it! 🙂

FunFit Crew

Fitness (6 Articles)

Let’s start with how to define fitness. A definition of fitness let’s you set clear goals and measure your progress as objectively as possible.

http://fun-fit.com.au/what-is-fitness-measurable-definition/

Now that you know that strength is a fundamental component of fitness, you can figure out ‘how strong are you?’ and see if you have any relative weaknesses you can focus on.

http://fun-fit.com.au/strength-standards-how-strong-are-you/

If you are just getting (back) into fitness or would like a refresher on how to get the most out of training, then please read this guide for beginners. (Or send the link to a friend!)

http://fun-fit.com.au/fitness-newbie-success-guide/

For those of you who’ve heard of Crossfit, or have been doing it for a while, please read my take on the pros and cons of Crossfit.

http://fun-fit.com.au/love-hate-relationship-crossfit/

If you or someone you know is pregnant or considering it, please read this guide on how you can get the most out of training while pregnant – safely of course! (Please share!)

http://fun-fit.com.au/pregnancy-exercise/

The Primal Blueprint is hands down one of the best lifestyle books out there. Read my review of this fundamental work.

http://fun-fit.com.au/primal-blueprint-review/

little ninjas self defence

Self Defence/Martial Arts (3 Articles)

Understand the motivation behind self defence training.

http://fun-fit.com.au/real-self-defence-risk-management/

Are you a parent? Please read this to help your kids keep themselves safe when they’re out and about and are offered a lift. (Please share with other parents)

http://fun-fit.com.au/pick-password-safety-tip-for-kids/

I’m often asked how to correctly tie a belt for martial arts. Here’s a video to which you can refer.

http://fun-fit.com.au/tie-belt-martial-arts/

prehabilitation

Rehab/Prehab (4 Articles)

Move better. Improve your functionality. Reduce the likelihood or severity of injury. Prehab.

Sore lower back? It’s often down to poor squat mechanics, weak and/or tight quads and glutes and tight hip flexors and hamstrings. Check out this video to help you do something about it!

http://fun-fit.com.au/quad-hamstring-lower-back-mobility-video/

Following up on the lower back, here’s a 9 stretch sequence you can do with a band to maintain or improve your suppleness.

http://fun-fit.com.au/9-ways-bands-can-help-stretch/

For those who like to integrate suppleness and strength dynamically, there’s FlowFit. Move, play, flow!

http://fun-fit.com.au/flowfit-move-better/

Done something to yourself? Check this out so you know for sure – when to ice and when to use heat. (Thanks again to Chirotherapy for the guest post!)

http://fun-fit.com.au/injury-treatment-ice-heat/

nutrition

Nutrition (2 Articles)

I have no problem with people criticising the Paleo Diet. What I do have a problem with is people misrepresenting the Paleo Diet (straw man) and then criticising what it isn’t. Example here.

http://fun-fit.com.au/paleo-diet-criticism/

Just in case you missed it in the fitness section above – this is a fantastic book. Please (re)read my review.

http://fun-fit.com.au/primal-blueprint-review/

Recipes (5 Articles)

Yummy things!

Delicious and low effort, slow cooked Turkey.

http://fun-fit.com.au/recipe-slow-cooked-turkey-garlic-mustard/

For the sweet tooth – gluten free, dairy free chocolate brownies.

http://fun-fit.com.au/paleo-chocolate-brownie-bites/

Need breakfast ideas? How about banana pancakes?

http://fun-fit.com.au/paleo-banana-pancake-recipe/

Looking for a healthy snack? Look no further!

http://fun-fit.com.au/recipe-kale-chips-win/

Choc Raspberry Cupcakes. Check this out – you won’t regret it!

http://fun-fit.com.au/recipe-choc-raspberry-cupcakes/

What are your thoughts on what you read in 2014?

I have a few ideas for 2015 – What would you like to see?

Fitness Newbie? Read this getting started guide!

Fitness Newbie?

Get started with these 10 Tips For Success

Stepping into a new gym for the first time can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming.
You might see a bunch of people lifting really heavy things. Doing unfamiliar movements and using peculiar vocabulary. Fear not fitness newbie; these people won’t bite. They’re actually pretty friendly and supportive once you get to know them. It can be a lot to take in at first glance, especially if you’ve had limited exposure to functional fitness training prior to starting at FunFit. But don’t worry; we’ll look after you. The following are 10 things to keep in mind as you begin your FunFit journey.

1.) Have fun

Let’s face it, not all workouts are fun. But when it’s over, you feel a sense of accomplishment (or relief!). You shouldn’t be upset that you didn’t get as many reps as the person next to you. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Smile. Laugh. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. If you’re not having fun, why are you here?  Do you enjoy your overall time spent at the gym? Do you enjoy the people, the community, the knowledge and support that it provides? If so, then don’t be too concerned with your competitive nature.

The things you’ll learn at FunFit are fun: making your life easier and helping you engage more. Learn new skills of controlling your own bodyweight, kettlebells, movement, olympic lifts. A lot of the stuff you can’t do in a Fitness First. The attitude is different too; the feeling you’ll have the first time you get an unassisted pull-up or move with effortlessness is an amazing sense of power and accomplishment.

fitness newbie: challenge yourself and have fun

2.) Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, over and over again


It’s your time, money, and most importantly, health. If you don’t fully understand something, ask. If you still don’t get it, ask again. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t fully grasp the concept, or you think others in the class will get frustrated with you for taking up too much time. We were all a fitness newbie at one point. We’ve all been there. Learning the mechanics of certain movements like the squat, deadlift, or any of the olympic lifts takes lots of practice and critique from a trained eye. If you need help, just ask.

3.) You’re competing against yourself, not others


When it comes time to doing a workout, don’t feel like you have to do everything, or be able to complete as many rounds as other people right off the bat. Go at your own pace. Let the intensity find you. You need a solid foundation of strength and flexibility in order to progress into more demanding workouts.  Start light, get your form sorted out, and improve from there. Chase your own capacity before chasing the person next to you. Which brings me to my next point…

Fitness newbie: Leave your ego at the door

4.) Don’t be too proud to modify


Learn new movements. Progress to more complexity over time. You have to know your own body and its limits. Most importantly, there’s no substitute for common sense.

5.) What you eat is more important than what you lift

Nutrition is the key to every aspect of your life. It affects your energy levels, your recovery, and your overall defence against disease.

“Junk in, junk out.”

When you’re first starting out, the quality of your food is far more important than the quantity. Eat ‘cleanly’ (as much real food as possible / as little processed food as possible). If you’re eating as cleanly as possible, you don’t even need to worry about the quantity at this stage. You are a Ferrari. You wouldn’t put low quality fuel in a Ferrari, would you?


6.) Training isn’t everything


We are doing a strength and conditioning program that focuses on building general physical preparedness (GPP). It can improve almost every aspect of your life, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be your sport or your lifeblood. I train so that I can do whatever I want: Go out, play sports, learn new things. Having that GPP allows me to take on new challenges. Training is not my life. I train so that I can have a life… and get the most out of it.


7.) It doesn’t get easier, but you get better


Persevere. You get stronger, build a greater aerobic capacity, and become mentally tough.  All of these aspects, combined with experience, allow you to know when to push yourself and when to back off, so that you can do each workout to the best of your ability.

Fitness newbie: keep calm and do your best


8.) You won’t PR every day


Don’t mistake intensity for hard work. Even if you’re having a bad day and the intensity just isn’t there, you can still get a lot out of your time in the gym through hard work. Intensity and hard work are not the same thing. Don’t skip a planned session just because you’re feeling a bit flat. Not feeling too strong that day? That’s fine; scale back. Something is better than nothing.

9.) Respect rest and recovery


Too many people new to training (and even those of us who have been doing this a while) get caught up in over-training. Don’t be afraid to schedule in a de-load day once per week, or a de-load week every 4-6 weeks where you cut the weight, rounds, and intensity in half. You have to think about this from a longevity standpoint. If you’re killing yourself every time you step foot in the gym, week after week, month after month, year after year, you’re going to eventually break down. You need to respect your time outside of the gym. There’s an old weightlifting adage that goes something like: “You don’t get bigger and stronger from lifting weights, you get bigger and stronger from recovering from lifting weights.”

Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep all play their part in recovery, but you also need to listen to your body. If you continuously beat yourself down, you’re going to get hurt, injured or worse. Stay on top of your mobility work. Don’t know what that is? Ask!

10.) Thank yourself

Overcoming inertia and getting off the couch isn’t easy. Especially in winter. Thank yourself for making the effort, training consistently and reaping the rewards. You’re investing in yourself. It’s worth it. 🙂


So, what now?

You’ve made a commitment to yourself. You’re about to start eating better. Your vocabulary will soon include words like burpee, deadlift and snatch. See you in training. Welcome to FunFit.

Ready to get started? Get in touch!

Primal Blueprint Review: 10 ways to better Health

Primal Blueprint Review

There are a number of books on my shelf about fitness, health and nutrition.
The Primal Blueprint is my number one pick for “START HERE”. Other books can (and do!) go into more specifics. The Primal Blueprint is a great overview for the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle.

Primal Blueprint Review

The Primal Blueprint is not a weight loss or diet book. It’s a lifestyle program from an evolutionary perspective. Using historical and contemporary hunter-gatherers as a model, it attempts to apply those lessons to life in the 21st century. He does it in a way that’s accessible to nearly everyone.

Mark Sisson is an athlete, coach and student of health. The Primal Blueprint is the distillation of 20 years of his research and experience. Utilising aspects from a number of scientific fields, Mark has devised a concise list of behaviour principles to improve your health, fitness and participation in life.

If you keep in mind that this is a blueprint for general health, fitness and well-being – you won’t get bogged down in minutia. Or throw the baby out with the bathwater because of one or two things with which you disagree.

I like the fitness suggestions because they focus on functional movements, encourage strength training and some cardio for conditioning. Walking more will work for almost everyone.

I like the diet suggestions because they focus on real food. The Primal Blueprint principles are simple, practical and relatively inexpensive. They require minimal, if any, sacrifice or deprivation. Mark is not a drill sergeant. He tries to create a plan that will be sustainable in the long run, by staying positive and allowing for flexibility.

The most important take-aways are:

The 10 Primal Blueprint Laws
The Primal Food Pyramid
The Carbohydrate Curve
Walk lots, Sprint Occasionally, Lift Heavy Things

If you can, read the whole book, cover to cover. Then reread certain parts.
If you can’t/“don’t have time” then read the chapter summaries and ‘snippets’.

The table of contents is as follows

Welcome from Mark
Introduction: What is Going on Here?
Chapter 1: The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws
Chapter 2: Grok and Korg- From Indigenous to Digital: One Giant Step (Backward) for Mankind
Chapter 3: The Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy
Chapter 4: Primal Blueprint Law #1: Eat Lots of Plants and Animals
Chapter 5: Primal Blueprint Law #2: Avoid Poisonous Things
Chapter 6: The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws
Chapter 7: The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws
Chapter 8: A Primal Approach To Weight Loss
Chapter 9: Conclusion

Welcome from Mark

Read this just for the 80% Rule.
The gist. No one is perfect, but strive for perfection. That way, even if you don’t quite “get there” you’re still doing really well.

Introduction: What’s going on here?

Mark compares “Conventional Wisdom” and “The Primal Blueprint”. He does this by contrasting an archetypal hunter-gatherer called Grok, and his 21st century counterpart, Mr Korg. This section contains very brief sections on grains, saturated fat, cholesterol, eggs, fiber, meal habits, strength training, cardio, weight loss, play, sun, footwear, prescription drugs and goals.

Chapter 1: The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws

In this chapter Mark outlines the specific laws of The Primal Blueprint – the foundation of the entire book. If you read up to the end of chapter 1 and actually apply what you learn, your life will change.

Chapter 2: Grok and Korg – From Indigenous to Digital: One Giant Step (Backward) for Mankind

Mark compares the typical day of many Americans (this applies to many Australians now too, sadly) to a prototypical hunter-gather ancestor. It’s a frightening contrast.

Suffice to say, it’s been a different lifestyle scenario for the past blink in human evolution (some 10,000 years), and DRAMATICALLY different over the past few decades.

* Even if (like me) you’re not convinced of the ‘hunter gatherer model’ for health, what with so many factors, both genetic and environmental, that go into health – eating real food is still the right answer.

Chapter 3: Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy

If you eat real food and don’t eat fake food – you’ll look, feel and perform better.
Sounds hard to believe, but it’s true.
The longer you eat properly, the less you want to eat crappy food- because it makes you feel just that way, crappy.

This chapter also covers the role of insulin in fat storage, cholesterol and the lipid hypothesis of heart disease, the role of healthy fats, macronutrients and transitioning to a Primal way of eating.

*Here’s where people often get hung up. Even if you don’t buy into the insulin/carbohydrate hypothesis and think dismissal of the lipid hypothesis is dangerous – eating real food and cutting down on fake food is still generally the right answer for improved health.

Chapter 4: Law #1- Eat Lots of Plants and Animals (Insects Optional)

Mark has a sense of humour. The Primal Blueprint is NOT a textbook.  It’s professional, yet enjoyable and even comical at times. Perhaps that’s even one of it’s strongest aspects – since what good is great knowledge if the communication is confusing?

In this chapter, Mark gets more specific with eating habits and choices. The vast, vast majority I agree with. A few details here and there I’m not exactly in agreement with, but overall, another excellent portion of the book.

Here Mark presents the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid. On the whole an excellent, clear guide. I would swap the positions of meat and vegetables, but hey, that’s me, and the difference for most people would be negligible.

Regarding supplements, I’m not “anti-pill”, but obviously only take supplements if you actually need them (i.e. you have a tested, measurable deficiency in a vitamin or mineral).

Chapter 5: Law #2- Avoid Poisonous Things

In this chapter Mark argues against the ‘conventional wisdom’ surrounding grains in a systematic way. He goes into detail regarding the effects of grains, legumes, processed foods and sugar on insulin levels and immune function. He also discusses gluten, lectins, phytates and polyunsaturated vegetable oils and their effects on nutrient absorption and health, clearly and logically.

Chapter 6: The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws

Mark’s stance on exercise and physical activity is far superior to the run of the mill “chronic cardio” and bodybuilding crowd. I have read some accounts of the Primal Blueprint by fitness professionals that disagree with this section. I believe this is throwing the baby out with the bath water. In my opinion, moving frequently at a slow pace, lifting heavy things and occasionally sprinting is a great way to get basic general, functional fitness.

It is true that you can get into far greater specifics with how you lift heavy things, what heavy things and how often. That will depend on specific goals, training age, required recovery, energy levels and a host of other variables. What Mark offers here is a quick guide on how to effectively go from sedentary to moving (or from overdoing it to balance).

He discusses the case against chronic cardio and the importance of functional, compound movements in strength training and in play.

Chapter 7: The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws

Without proper sleep and sunlight the rest is built on shaky foundations.
Also, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” holds true for humans generally.
Mark ties these together and shows how they affect our health (mental and physical).

He also covers the final Primal Blueprint laws of “Avoiding Stupid Mistakes” and “Using your Brain” – making this book comprehensive and not just a typical diet or exercise book.

Chapter 8: A Primal Approach to Weight Loss

The chapter begins by linking, and purposefully repeating which aspects of The Primal Blueprint will help you lose weight (fat)- although I hope by the end of the book that most people will realize that health, body composition, daily habits, and so on, are all inter-related, and very rarely exclusive to one another.

The carb/insulin vs reduced calorie intake for fat loss debate is still raging. The jury’s still out. Studies have shown that just about every weight (fat) loss method that is adhered to is effective – at least in the short term.

The major advantage of the Primal Blueprint method (and others) is that it involves lifestyle change, rather than ‘dieting’. This makes it easier to maintain medium to long term – which makes the results last.

Primal Conclusion

A strong ending for an excellent book. This book is a gem in the field of nutrition and lifestyle.

Mark gets really down to earth and a bit more behind the scenes. Not only in terms of psychology, but also in what a few days out of his life typically look like – specific foods eaten, activities, and so on.

Also, what you appreciate at the end of a health book – a complete list of foods and habits to aim for, and foods/habits to avoid. Simple as it is, I think most people will really appreciate this final section – especially people new to Paleo/Primal thinking.

Personal Conclusion

Overall, I give this book my highest regard and recommendation when it comes to proper nutrition and positive lifestyle habits to develop. This is the definitive book on nutrition and lifestyle change, especially considering how practical the information is and immediately applicable.

There are detractors to this book. Apart from “you can’t please everyone”, there are some flaws in this book. Domestic plants and animals are very different now than in the Paleolithic. Does that mean eating real food is bad? Of course not!

I agree with 95% of the content of this book. The things I don’t agree with won’t stop you from being successful with this lifestyle change. If you get bogged down in minutiae you will find fault with this book, and Paleo/Primal in general. If you see the big picture of ‘eat real food’ and ‘move/use your body in a functional way’, then the Primal Blueprint is a great template.

Like what you’ve read? Please leave a comment.  🙂

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What is Fitness? Learn how to measure your progress

What is fitness? – A measurable definition!

Fitness is being physically able to do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it. If you are wholly-fit, you can do your job, play games and sports, and do the normal activities of daily living on any level you wish without limitations produced by illness, injury, low self-esteem or stress.

Physical fitness is how you look, feel and perform. It comprises two related concepts: Health-related fitness (a state of health and well-being) and Functional fitness (a task-oriented definition based on the ability to perform specific aspects of sports or occupations). Physical fitness is generally achieved through exercise, correct nutrition and enough rest. It is a vitally important part of life.

Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.


Health-related fitness

Crossfit Sickness Wellness Fitness Curve Diagram

This is a depiction of the the sickness-wellness-fitness curve in the 2002 Crossfit Journal Article defining fitness. (I’d look at body composition rather than just body fat; our understanding of cholesterol has developed since 2002; Systemic inflammation (through C-Reactive Protein and other markers) is also something I’d want to measure as a ‘wellness’ marker. This diagram IS a good starting point for understanding Health-related Fitness.)

Health

One way of looking at health is as our ability to survive and thrive RIGHT NOW. What’s your blood pressure? Blood sugar? Mental outlook? Stress level? Immune response? Ability to survive falling off a 12’ ladder? This is perhaps a simplistic view of health but I think it works quite well.

The indicators of sickness and wellness are measurable. The relative health of a person can be estimated using a range of biomarkers. Please keep in mind that across a population there are large variations in “normal”.

Using the scale, “Sickness” implies something may be amiss e.g Blood Pressure is above 140/90. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem or illness, but can spark further investigation and preventative measures if required. “Wellness” indicates normal or average health e.g BP of 120/80. A lower (but not too low) reading would suggest greater cardiovascular efficiency and greater “fitness”. Health and fitness do overlap, but the ‘ultra-fit’ do tend to be more prone to illness than ‘fit’. (Probably due to compromised immunity through chronic stress or inflammation)

Longevity

What if we considered health (the moment to moment ability to survive) over time? We would have longevity. Longevity is health over the long haul.

Longevity CAN simply mean surviving for a very long time. Quality of life does matter. One’s health may be such that any stressor, a cold, a fall, will be more than the individual can deal with. Conversely, perfect health, as measured on the day-to-day level, may curtail longevity. People who have a cold here and there tend to have lower rates of cancer. An occasional drop off in health may translate into improved longevity.

Functional fitness

Capability: Put simply, are you physically able to do the task?

Capacity: What volume of work/task are you able to accomplish?

The Crossfit model of fitness would include the concept that “He or she who does best at the widest variety of tasks is on average the “fittest”.” I would say that would make you the best generalist, or best at Crossfit. Ultimately, your ‘fitness’ is highly dependent on the tasks you wish to do.

Measures of Physical Fitness Summary Table

Recovery

The ability to recover after a physical challenge or illness is in itself an indicator of fitness. Consider two people. Both perform a gruelling task e.g shovelling a large load. At the end of the day, both are shattered. The following day, one is able to continue the task, the other can barely move. They have different levels of fitness / capacity (at least for that task).

Performance Health Longevity Optimal Venn Diagram

Having a performance bias may be at odds with health and longevity. Loads of endurance training may lead to oxidative stress, immune compromise and suboptimal dietary requirements necessary to fuel such efforts. If endurance sports are your thing, that’s fine. It’s perhaps good to know some of the down sides so one might make smart alterations to nutrition and training plans. Similarly if you aspire to be a Super Heavy Olympic Lifter you may need to consume an amount of food and carry a body mass that is absolutely at odds with health and longevity.

Another model is the notion that to be fit one should have a good balance in the development of all the engines that drive human activity: the ATP/CP pathway, glycolytic, and aerobic paths. The specifics of these energy pathways, ways to train them and implications for everyday life will feature in future articles.

What all this boils down to is for general fitness you need capability in various modalities, physical adaptations and metabolic engines, and capacity across a wide variety of tasks and time-frames. This offers a quantifiable way of measuring fitness. Do more work in less time and you are fitter!

Once again – Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.

9 ways bands can help you stretch

Have you ever used bands to stretch?

Aside from providing elastic resistance in workouts, bands are also a great tool for stretching. Improve your flexibility by using this guide for a 9 stretch sequence you can do with just one little band.

See also this video and these drills.

Give these a try and post your thoughts and experience to comments.

Upper Back Stretch
Upper Back

  • Keep weight on your legs – don’t rely on the band
  • Your arms stay as close to your head as possible
  • Try to get your bicep behind your ear
  • Relax and breathe into the stretch
  • Go to discomfort rather than pain
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Lat Stretch
Lats

  • Keep weight on your legs – don’t rely on the band
  • Your arms stay as close to your head as possible
  • Try to get your bicep behind your ear
  • Try to lengthen the whole way from shoulder to hip
  • Relax and breathe into the stretch
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Chest Stretch
Chest / Shoulder / Obliques

  • Keep weight on your legs – don’t rely on the band
  • Your arm stays above shoulder height
  • Try to open your chest as much as possible
  • Try to open from shoulder to opposite hip
  • Relax and breathe into the stretch
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Hamstring Stretch
Hamstrings

2 options:

  • Leg straight and toes pointed or
  • Leg slightly bent and toes back
  • Keep both hips on the floor
  • Band around upper back; Relax and breathe
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Adductor Stretch
Adductors

  • Same setup as the hamstrings stretch
  • Keep both hips on the floor
  • Open hips / take foot out to the floor
  • Band around upper back; Relax and breathe
  • Go to discomfort rather than pain
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Internal Rotator Stretch
Internal Rotators

  • Same initial setup as the hamstrings stretch
  • Put both feet into the band
  • Move your knees to outside the band (the band will run to the inner knee/thigh area
  • Move elbows/forearms to inside the band
  • Put your feet on the floor and add pressure with elbows
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Hip Stretch
Hips

  • Get into squat position with feet on the wall
  • Keep both hips on the floor
  • Run the band under you – at pelvis level
  • Loop the band over each knee
  • Let femurs draw to hips; Relax and breathe
  • Hold for 1 to 2 minutes

Hips and Shoulders Stretch
Hips and Shoulders (Less Intense)

  • Same initial setup as the hips stretch
  • Continue to keep both hips on the floor
  • Take broom handle “overhead” with hands wide
  • Keep neutral spine
  • Relax and breathe
  • Hold for 1 minute

Hip and Shoulder Stretch
Hips and Shoulders (More Intense)

  • Same initial setup as the hips stretch
  • Continue to keep both hips on the floor
  • Take broom handle “overhead” with hands narrow
  • Keep neutral spine (no raised or puffed chest)
  • Relax and breathe; allow shoulder to ‘sink’ open
  • Hold for 1 minute

As at the top: see also this video and these drills.

Technique Tuesday: Dave does a Power Clean

Here’s the first of our new regular feature, Technique Tuesday, in which Tim analyzes the technique and form of a particular lift. This week, the power clean as performed by Dave.

As always, we’re interested in your thoughts and comments, so please post them below!

Quad, Hamstring and Lower Back Mobility Video

Mobility Wod Quote

Here’s the inimitable Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD delivering a great lesson on how to improve mobility to hips and spine and flexibility to quad, hamstring and lower back.

Also check out an earlier post on thoracic spine and hip mobilization.

Check it out – and do it!

Also have a look at Kelly Starrett’s book, Becoming a Supple Leopard, for more great mobilization tips.