Archive for Exercise

Weightlifting is the Answer! Here is why…

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance
We have spoken a number of times on this page about why weightlifting exercises (SEE Snatch, Clean, and Jerks) are awesome for developing speed and power in athletes, and thus why they should be included in many training programs.
While that is still true, I am going to discuss why weightlifting is EVEN BETTER for recreational athletes, and for that matter strength and conditioning coaches!
Let me talk about the second group first, because that is my cohort. As strength and conditioning coaches we are usually a competitive bunch (most are former athletes) and so love to compete no matter how old or out of shape we get. Add to that thought the concept of the high power output that is present in these exercises and it makes for the perfect avenue to compete in that still stays true to what we preach all day in the weight room! Wait, there is a cherry on top…these lifts are highly technical, and require a lot of practice and some good coaching. So as strength coaches, we always want to be working on our craft to provide the best coaching to our athletes. The more you can practice the lifts on your own, the better you get at coaching them and picking them apart.
Now let’s get to the recreational lifter and with that the crossfit population. I will go on record and say there are some things I really enjoy about crossfit. People seem to love it and love getting to the gym. This is great for the health and fitness of overall communities and the individuals within them. It is a system that also works well to improve overall physical capacities and body composition. So why do people hate on it, especially in the health and fitness community? Probably because they break people…some of it is from the crazy amount of volume everyone is expected to do, and some of it is just from the fact few members get taught proper technique for the weightifting exercises (let alone basic barbell exercises!!)…
Here are a few reasons why they are actually amazing lifts for the recreational lifter, even though they seem too technical and only for the ‘elite’…
Mobility! Here is the world record holder in both lifts at 77kg class, Lu Xiaojun. I have a huge man-crush on him for his weightlifting abilities. Not only are we talking about crazy amounts of power to move the bar, but he is catching the weight in a full-depth overhead squat. Even go back and see his starting position; Weightlifting requires a high level of mobility in your hips and ankles, as well as shoulders and upper back. These are the kinds of things the office-warrior loses quickly as they age, so just working on getting to these positions is highly valuable. Posture is such a large emphasis for these lifts that these muscles will get a ton of attention, and have no choice but to get their act together!
Metabolic Demand! These lifts use the entire body. So when you do a set of 8 or 10 reps at a submaximal weight, you are burning a ton of fuel. No wonder all the elite lifters are shredded (save for superheavy’s)…
Even working with a dowel (wooden stick, step 1) to get the positions and transitions correct, will be a great workout for most people as the volume is typically high and the attention to detail as well.
Cool Factor! Because they are so technical, not a lot of people do them well…walking into a gym, taking over the platform, and rocking some double body weight clean and jerks will definitely get you some attention. You will make a lot of friends that day. A lot of people can squat, but throw the same weight overhead as fast as you can? My mind just got blown.
It is with all of these reasons that we have begun a weightlifting club out of FITS Toronto where we work with weekend warriors to master these lifts, and so far the response has been impressive. If you want to really kick your training into another gear, and find something that you can really pour your focus into…then start learning how to weightlift!! (Consult a professional!!)
BONUS: Here is me hitting some PR’s yesterday as I journey to a bodyweight snatch…join me!
DOUBLE BONUS: Here’s Kyle beating Cory‘s PRs

The King of Exercises

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I’d love to start this off by saying how important deadlifts are for increasing strength and power, which translates directly to speed on the field, ice, and track. Here at REP that’s not our style though. What is more important about deadlifting is how crucial it is for EVERYBODY to move better and restore balance to your body. It is crucial to get out of constant hip flexion by introducing the best hip extension exercise. It combines a hip hinge and a squat pattern, two basic moves that everybody should master for physical literacy, yet with most clients, these are missing. If you aren’t comfortable doing a deadlift, or aren’t 100% sure you are GREAT at them, go see a pro and get some work in. If the deadlift is the ‘King of Exercises’ then a poorly executed deadlift just might be the ‘Kingpin of Exercises’, the mob boss responsible for crime and destruction on the streets…or your tissues…

The Basics

You want to set up behind the bar with feet about shoulder width apart. This stance should be more narrow than a squat. The bar should be right up to your shins. Play around with your grip (you can use double overhand or alternating grip… I’d suggest staying with double overhand until it starts to get too heavy) width to find what feels most comfortable.

The Setup

I just gave you the basics of positioning, so now let’s talk approach. From a standing position, make sure your chin is tucked down and core is engaged. Next, sit down a little bit, like a quarter squat, by pushing the hips back. Then you will hinge at the hip and place your hands on the bar. You should be looking at a spot on the ground about 3-4 feet in front of you, not at your feet.

The Lift

When you are executing the lift, there are 3 things that we absolutely don’t want. First, is your hips and shoulders rising separately. This will put a ton of strain on your back if your hips pop up, then your shoulders start to come up. Second is any major lumbar flexion throughout the lift. A lot of times, if your hips pop up first, then you are likely going to go into lumbar flexion, since your spinal erectors are rarely strong enough to lift the weight on their own. Third is an exaggeration at the lockout position of lumbar extension or cervical extension. You do not need to lean back to make sure it’s complete. Your shoulders should not end up behind your bum (looking from the side). We are looking for hip extension, not lumbar extension. Full hip extension should leave you locked out in a straight line, head to toe. With the neck, some people look way up to the sky for this same purpose. Don’t do it. Leave the chin tucked and the neck in neutral.

One of my favourite cues for having a well-coordinated lift off, is to try ‘pre-lifting’ the upper back/shoulders. This tends to give the stiffness in the arms and upper body that you need to ensure your legs do most of the lifting.

Here are a couple of videos that you can look at to help give you an idea of what to do…

(Unfortunately the above video was filmed before I understood the importance of neck packing; the chin should be tucked more than it is in this video for a straighter spine)


Some key points about deadlifting…

  • A 2x body weight deadlift is the bare minimum for any elite athlete.
  • Anybody who lifts regularly, no matter the age or athletic status, should be able to deadlift body weight
  • You do not need to go into hard lumbar extension to exaggerate the finish.
  • You can put serious mass on through your legs and upper back with deadlifts
  • If you don’t use straps, your grip strength will fly through the roof!
  • They do contribute greatly to the ability to jump and sprint
  • They are probably the best full-body posture exercise out there

If you don’t deadlift, start now. Get someone to look at your technique. Learn how a good deadlift FEELS then you can start progressing up in weight. Make them a cornerstone of your programming.

It’s About Getting Better!

Where the good stuff happens…

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I’m here to blow your mind.

All that time you’ve spent in the gym was awesome. Job well done. Unfortunately, that’s not where the good stuff comes from. The truth is, all the important results of your hard work are reaped while you’re resting. That’s the biggest secret to training.

Obviously you cannot make positive changes to your body or performance without the hard work. There must be a stimulus in order to change your body. You can’t get big biceps without ever working them, and you can’t reshape your body without doing some killer exercises. The real issue is related to priorities. We all seem to get caught up too much with the stimulus. With a little bit of trial and error, we figure out which exercises are good and which ones aren’t. The ones that are worth your time, and the ones that aren’t. So we put these into a program. All of them. Each workout involves super-setting and tri-setting and all sorts of tricks to cram tons of volume into a 1-hour workout. Afterward, you’re exhausted, but you think “wow, I did a great job today!”.

When I see this happen, I cringe. Don’t get me wrong, it’s such a relief to see people working hard, doing all they can to reach their goals. My problem is about how often we are emptying the tank. This is an analogy I think about often when it comes to programming for my clients. If your body is like a car, everytime you train you are using up fuel, like our sweet sweet gasoline. After the workout, you need to fill that tank all the way up again before your body can start making the adaptations you are looking for (for simplicity, we’ll say muscle building, fat burning, and increased neuromuscular efficiency for strength gains). Now at a gas station, the time to fill up is relatively quick, so it’s not that big of a deal. Yet with oil prices as they are, the cost can be great! You don’t want to have to pay 80$ to fill your tank everytime you drive your car do you? Seems excessive. The same can be said about your body. The truth is, most athletes spend way too much time emptying their tank and way less time filling it back up. So overall, they impair their own ability to build and grow. The same can be said for non-athletes looking to build more muscle or burn more fat.

It requires quality reps at an appropriate intensity to signal your body to improve in a specific capacity. For every exercise, goal, and person this might be different. Generally speaking though, we believe that there is a lot of work being done that is so far above and beyond this threshold, that people are actually putting in a lot of effort to slow down their body’s progress. The bottom line is this: if your results have been minimal or non-existent, increase your focus and time on the time spent outside the gym. Basically, get more food and get more rest!

Quality Rest

An expert is not just somebody that makes you tired, but somebody that makes you better. After all, it’s about getting better!

Understanding Post-Workout Nutrition

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Post-workout nutrition (PWO) is only one aspect of the whole nutrition plan but can be very important to the results you get from your training. Following specific guidelines can help maximize your time in the weight room or on the track, and set you ahead of the competition.

There are two concepts that are important to PWO and they are anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism refers to the production of muscle (think +) and catabolism is the degradation or destruction of muscle (think -). When your body is fuelled with all of the appropriate nutrients and a training stimulus has occurred, anabolism will occur and new muscle will be built. However, after about 45 minutes of exercise, the hormone cortisol is released and begins breaking down muscle for energy. This is catabolism. This continues until you can reverse it through nutritional intervention. The goal of PWO will be to limit catabolism, and shift quickly into anabolism.

Let’s make a checklist on the things we want to accomplish in PWO in order to stay in a positive balance, and avoid time in the negative.
– Replenish muscle glycogen
– Rehydrate
– Start the synthesis of new muscle

For the record, there are many great foods that have an appropriate nutritional profile for a post-workout snack. However, having your nutrients in liquid form, a post-workout shake, allows your body to absorb and assimilate nutrients much quicker, and ensure that you capitalize on this important 45 minute window.

Your body uses glycogen for higher intensity activities, so it’s important that you replenish this glycogen so that your body is ready for its next challenges. A number of studies have shown that ingesting carbohydrates inside this window of opportunity allows your body to reload its glycogen levels anywhere from 2 to 4 times faster than if you were to ingest the same carbohydrates later in the day. 1-3

Rehydrating is a very simple concept. Part of taking a shake post-workout involves using 500mL or more of water to mix the other nutrients, ensuring you start replenishing the water you lost in sweat and other metabolic processes.

Finally, with the right nutrients in this window of opportunity, we can quickly kick-start the processes that produce new muscle fibres. This is important for everybody, not just bodybuilders and athletes. Synthesizing new muscle is important not only to add to your body, but also to repair what was damaged during the workout, or broken down for energy. In order to achieve optimal body composition, you must always be maintaining the muscle you have, or adding new muscle. In a study by Levenhagen4, the group who consumed a carbohydrate/protein supplement immediately after a workout synthesized new muscle three times faster than a group who waited 3 hours. Also, this group had a significantly higher net protein balance. In fact, the group that waited ended up with a negative protein balance. How does that happen? While you are working out, you will always have a breakdown of muscle tissue for energy and from a build-up of cortisol. Then, once you ingest these important nutrients, your body stops breaking down your own muscle and begins to repair and rebuild. If this is done quickly, you will end up with more muscle then before you chose to workout. If you wait, you will actually have taken a step back for now. In fact, in some studies, the groups who took a carbohydrate/protein mix after their workout even burned more fat then those who took nothing. This goes to show that it’s always better to take in the right nutrients instead of starving yourself.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Everybody who is involved in strength training should be taking a post-workout shake. A shake with a 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio works best. While whey protein is a great choice, using branch chain amino acids or essential amino acids as the main protein source can be more effective. If you do not want to bother with mixing your own ingredients, then buy a post-workout product. Dymatize Xpand Post is a great product, as well as things like Endurox, Surge, or meal replacement beverages. Another simple solution is a serving of Gatorade powder, or a bottle of Gatorade and a scoop of whey protein powder.

When you are putting in a lot of time and effort into your training, do yourself a favour and use this important nutritional strategy to gain an advantage! It’s about getting better!

1Ivy, J.L, “Dietary strategies to promote glycogen synthesis after exercise,” Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 26 (Suppl): S236-S245, 2001.
2Ivy, J.L, Katz, A.L, Cutler, C.L, et al., “Muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise: effect of time on carbohydrate ingestion,” Journal of Applied Physiology, 64: 1480-1485, 1988.
3Ivy, J.L, Goforth, H.W, Jr., Damon, B.M, et al., “Early post exercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement,” Journal of Applied Physiology, 93: 1337-1344, 2002.
4Levenhagen, D.K., Carr, C., Carlson, M.G., et al., “Post exercise protein intake enhances whole-body and leg protein accretion in humans,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 34: 828-837, 2002.

Body Transformation: No Easy Task

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2010 by razorsedgeperformance

There is no shortage of people who would prefer a different body. Skinny guys looking to get huge, and almost everyone else looking to get more lean. The single reason why it hasn’t occurred yet for most of these people is difficulty. It is way too hard to change now that you’ve become this way.
Two weeks on a dedicated eating plan and workout program feels like an eternity. Most people will grumble about the lack of results and fall back into the same old, same old. No discretion in the buffet line, and “not enough time” to get to the gym regularly.
The human body is a miraculous machine. One of its biggest strengths is its ability to keep everything in homeostasis. That’s the status quo. It has all sorts of ways to compensate when something is trying to change your body. You get warm, sweat cools you down. You drink lots of water, you get rid of the excess.
Unfortunately this same resistance to change occurs with your body and its current composition. You workout for an hour, you get hungry. You starve yourself regularly and your body slows down your metabolism. It takes a habitual exercise and disciplined nutritional approach to create positive change in your body.
The other day someone at the gym made a comment to me about how it’s a shame that some poeple can never become fit/lean. His example was another member who comes in everyday for an hour or two and still looks the same as he always has.
My response was that human physiology is relatively constant, so the same principles apply to everyone. For some it may come easier than others, but with the CORRECT approach, even that member can change his body.
Personally, I have never seen this guy gasping for air, or breaking a sweat. Does he have any direction with his workouts? Do they have a point, or is he just winging it everyday? As for nutrition, has he adopted good strategies to follow on a consistent basis? I’m not talking about one meal here or there. Just like your workouts should have a plan so should your eating. From the moment you wake until you go to bed, you should know how you are getting your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) for the whole day.

The point of the story is that its not enough to just show up every day and assume you’ll end up looking like that guy on the most recent Men’s Health magazine. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we all do it in the spring when it’s tax time. If you aren’t getting the results you’re looking for, consult a professional, and get on a plan!

10 Ways to Keep Off Body Fat

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2010 by razorsedgeperformance

Seeing as this is turkey weekend, and most people are likely to eat their faces off on Sunday or Monday, I decided it would be a good time for a fat-loss article. Am I saying skip the gravy and the stuffing? Not necessarily. It may be a good idea to jump head first into some new habits as of Tuesday though.

Let’s face it, it’s always goal number one. Lose the fat. It weighs us down, it looks bad in tight clothes, and worst of all it actually leads us down a path of health concerns. So maybe it’s time you started to do all of the little things right in order to get rid of what’s hanging on, and prevent any new accumulation of adipose tissue. In no particular order, here are 10 things you can do to keep the fat away…

Drink Green Tea

                Except for water, green tea is the most consumed beverage in the world. While its health benefits are numerous, here is how it helps with fat loss. Green tea contains both caffeine and Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (ECGC), which are both known to increase your metabolic rate. Before you think about going Decaf, consider that these two ingredients work synergistically for maximum results. So while both caffeine and green tea extract (ECGC) can both be beneficial, it works best when they are together. Drink 2-6 cups of green tea per day.

Eat More Cinnamon

                Cinnamon is not only delicious but also plays a huge role in managing blood glucose levels. Most diabetics probably know about cinnamon’s ability to keep blood glucose down, keeping the insulin response in check. Insulin plays a very important role in the formation of new body fat. Using healthy amounts of cinnamon in your food can go a long way in keeping you from becoming insulin resistant.

Take Your Fish Oils

                Fish oils are very high in two important omega 3 fatty acids, DHA AND EPA.  While ingesting fat seems counter intuitive, it’s important to note that these omega 3 fatty acids are some of the most powerful substances in the supplement industry. In fact, ingesting EPA and DHA with your meals helps improve brain health, vein elasticity, inflammation, and the use of body fat as fuel.  Aim for anywhere from 3-10g of fish oils per day.

Cut Refined Sugars

                Refined sugars are the number one reason why obesity has skyrocketed in the past few decades. We tend to ingest way more sugar in our diet than we need for energy. After all, our body can actually create glucose through the conversion of amino acids; a process that is very costly metabolically, meaning you will burn more calories while doing so. Every time we ingest refined sugars, our body releases insulin to transport the glucose from our blood to our tissues. The more insulin we are exposed to, the more our body becomes resistant to its effects. In turn, our body has to release more and more insulin. As mentioned earlier, insulin plays a major role in laying down new body fat.

Eat More Protein

                This is probably one of the biggest pieces missing in the average diet, adequate protein intake. That is just to keep us healthy and on the right track regardless of goals. Now, consider that you are either trying to build muscle, or drastically improve body composition. Protein intake becomes increasingly more important. First, it takes a lot of effort for your body to breakdown and absorb protein, increasing your metabolism significantly after eating. Second, it insures that your body has the fuel necessary to maintain muscle mass, and build new muscle. Regardless of overall calorie intake, if protein intake is high, muscle mass will be maintained. This is crucial when trying to improve body composition. Too many people go on diets, reduce calories (with low levels of protein intake) and spend hours on cardio machines. This results in losses of both body fat and important muscle mass, essentially making you a small version of the same person. Body fat % does not improve, perhaps even getting higher. Aim for 1g/lb. of body weight of lean sources of protein (fish, chicken, turkey, extra lean beef, and protein powders) per day.

Have a Post-Workout Shake

                While many people picture the protein shake for the meathead body builder, anybody doing serious exercise would benefit immensely from consuming a mix of carbohydrates and protein, in liquid form, within 40 minutes of the completion of exercise. Not only does a post-workout shake signal your body to go from muscle wasting to muscle building, but it also signals your body to burn fat as an energy source for recovery. Your body is extremely sensitive to new nutrients within 40 minutes of a bout of exercise. This is the only time of day when it would be appropriate to ingest a serving of fast-absorbing, simple sugars. These sugars behave as an effective transport to bring protein and other nutrients into your body’s cells when they are in need the most. Also, taking in these nutrients in liquid form increases the speed of absorption and delivery. After the 40 minute window has closed, your body’s ability to recover from the exercise bout is reduced greatly. Try Interactive LeanGainer, or mixing a scoop of whey powder with a scoop of Gatorade powder for an effective post workout shake.

Lift More Weights

            Don’t think heavy weights only apply to skinny guy trying to bulk up, and athletes trying to improve. Lifting heavy weights activates more muscle fibres, which in turn burns more calories. It also insures that you are at least maintaining your muscle mass, if not building new muscle. Increasing muscle mass improves metabolism, which helps burn off body fat. This is the formula that will give you a fit and lean body, not lifting little pink dumbbells ad nauseum. Try to do some strength training 3 days a week for at least 20-30 minutes.

Do Intervals

            Usually when somebody is unhappy with the way their body looks, their natural reaction is to immerse themselves in copious amounts of cardio. When this fails miserably, a select few hire a trainer and begin to see results. The rest usually find themselves in a plateau, after minimal initial gains, and eventually gain all the weight back. Why? Your body is extremely good at adapting to current levels of stress, and becomes very capable of jogging for an hour on minimal energy consumption. Add in the fact that slow steady-state cardio activates very few muscle fibres and you have an equation that is not conducive to success in fat loss. Enter interval training. This involves any form of training that alternates bouts of very high intensity with periods of low intensity exercise. This could be a running sprint, rowing, biking, or even some forms of resistance training. These bouts of high intensity exercise put your body in a situation of oxygen debt, where you literally don’t have enough time to recover fully from these bursts. This creates a situation after your workout called EPOC; Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. When EPOC occurs, your body’s metabolism stays elevated for up to 48 hours after exercise. Trying a format like 20 seconds of very high intensity cycling, followed by 40 seconds of slow ‘recovery’ cycling, repeated 8 times can create an extremely difficult and rewarding workout. All in a total of 8 minutes, completely demolishing the benefits of a 40 minute jog. Start pushing yourself to higher speeds and you will be rewarded with faster fat loss and greater fitness gains.             

Eat Fibre

                We all know about fibre’s ability to keep us regular, and improve the health of our intestines and digestive tract. However, what most people don’t realize is fibre’s role in improving insulin sensitivity. When fibre is abundant in your meal, it has the effect of slowing down the rate at which your body absorbs the nutrients, thus keeping blood glucose levels low. This in turn prevents a large release in insulin, preventing your from becoming insulin resistant.

Drink Water

            Water is the most important nutrient for the human body. Period. Most people do not drink enough water and it hurts their physical performance at work, at the gym, and at home. Also, drinking more water insures your body is less likely to stay bloated, giving you a much leaner look. Water plays a role in so many of the body’s cellular processes that it’s not even worth it for me to explain any more. Just do it. Drink AT LEAST 2 litres of water every day.

Now that I’ve given you 10 ways to look better, feel better, and move better, you can go pig out on thanksgiving dinner.

Be sure to contact us at info@razorsedgeperformance to find out ways we can help you specifically improve your body composition today!

Good Luck Vince!

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , on October 4, 2010 by razorsedgeperformance

This summer, we at Razor’s Edge Performance had the pleasure of working with a new client named Vince. Vince is a professional hockey player from the GTA who has been playing in Europe for the past 4 years and has come back to play in the AHL this season. Vince is in training camp with the San Antonio Rampage, the AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, and hopes to not only make the team, but make an impact this season and catch the attention of the big club.

We  had 6 weeks to get Vince and his body in the best possible shape in order to perform on the ice. The first week we tested his abilities, taught some routines and exercises, and started building a foundation of fitness.  From then on, we trained 4 days a week for the final 5 weeks.

One of the biggest improvements we saw, came in his bench press. In 5 weeks, his projected maximum went up just over 30lbs! The exciting part is that we didn’t have enough time to focus on his bench press. We had to make sure his speed, power, agility, strength, and conditioning were all improving at the same time. We had to make sure his risk of non-contact injury on the ice was reduced as much as possible.

So why did his bench press improve so much when we only benched once a week? This one comes down to the central nervous system. When we are talking about improving strength and power, we often overlook the fact that the nervous system is one of the most important factors. Too many people focus on the specific muscles involved, then isolate and superset them for a huge pump. This is the definition of bodybuilder training. This may help you build definition, but it will decrease performance, and here is why. Doing high-energy, high-power movements like plyometrics, olympic lifts, and sprints improve the coordination between your brain and your muscles. Moving quickly increases your rate of force development, and the number of motor units activated. Since these improvements are related to your nervous system, the benefits are applicable to all movements, across all muscles. This way, every time we did a box jump or a sprint, we indirectly improved his bench press performance. Remember, the reason sports teams test the bench press is because it is a great measure of upper body strength and power.

Let’s all wish Vince good luck in San Antonio. I will try to update his progress regularly. For all the athletes out there, drop the body part splits, and start getting better at your sport!

PS – Vince scored a goal in each of the first 2 intrasquad scrimmages of training camp with the Rampage!

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