Exercise at an early age = Healthy Gut, Healthy Brain, Healthy Metabolism

In 2015, there has been an explosion of research directly linking the health of your gut microbiota to your overall health…or lack thereof.

When your Mom told you to “eat your yogurt”, she had no idea why eating live bacteria was a good thing…she just new that it was.

Today, researchers are proving Mom right.

In this latest study, researchers at the University of Colorado have discovered that exercise at an early age has a powerful effect on the health of your microbiota…leading to improved brain health and metabolic activity over the course of your entire life.

The researchers concluded that there “may be” a window of opportunity during early human development to optimize the chances of better lifelong heath via physical activity & optimal gut health.

“Exercise affects many aspects of health, both metabolic and mental, and people are only now starting to look at the plasticity of these gut microbes,” said Monika Fleshner – fleshner@colorado.edu, a professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology and the senior author of the new study. “That is one of the novel aspects of this research.”

Microbes take up residence within human intestines shortly after birth and are vital to the development of the immune system and various neural functions. These microbes can add as many 5 million genes to a person’s overall genetic profile and thus have tremendous power to influence aspects of human physiology.

While this diverse microbial community remains somewhat malleable throughout adult life and can be influenced by environmental factors such as diet and sleep patterns, the researchers found that gut microorganisms are especially ‘plastic’ at a young age.

In the study, researchers found that juvenile lab rates who voluntarily exercised every day developed a “better” microbial structure when compare to sedentary juvenile rats and adult rats, even if the adult rats exercised.

A robust, healthy community of gut microbes also appears to promote healthy brain function and provide anti-depressant effects, Fleshner said. Previous research has shown that the human brain responds to microbial signals from the gut, though the exact communication methods are still under investigation.

Also under investigation is at what age is the microbiome most plastic & most susceptible to improvement via exercise OR other interventions (diet, sleep, etc).

What does this mean to you?

If you’re the parent of young kids…make sure they are active every day.

Mom didn’t need scientific research to know that the bacteria in yogurt was good for you. You don’t need to wait for any further research to know that physical activity is good for your kids.

Reference

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Green Coffee Bean Extract for Weight Loss

The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar giant with hundreds of companies telling thousands of half-truths to separate you and your money.

Which supplements should you buy?

In an attempt to look past some of the supplement companies B.S., I employed the power of big data (via Google Trends) to identify the top 10 weight loss supplements….as decided by the millions of people who use Google to research weight loss supplements.

  • No marketing B.S.
  • No fraudulent claims from supplement companies
  • No advertorials masquerading as honest information

Just pure data collected by the giant brains at Google.

Supplement #9

Green coffee bean extract is made from coffee beans that have not yet been roasted.

Research shows that the roasting process of coffee beans reduces the amount of the chemical chlorogenic acid found in the bean’s natural “green” state. Therefore, green coffee beans have a higher level of chlorogenic acid compared to regular, roasted coffee beans.

It is the chlorogenic acid in green coffee which is thought to have health benefits for weight loss. 

In addition to these health benefits, there is some research indicating that green coffee bean extract may be helpful for:

How does Green Coffee Bean Extract promote weight loss?

The research is still in the early stages, but the commonly held belief is that green coffee bean extract promotes weight loss via the prevention of calories from carbohydrates being absorbed in the intestines.

In essence, green coffee bean extract is thought to work as a carb blocker...forcing the body to ignore carbs and allow them to leave the body as waste.

Green Coffee Bean Research

Want to learn more about green coffee bean extract & weight loss? Check out the science….

Where can I buy Green Coffee Bean Extract supplements?

Here are the best online sources for Green Coffee Bean Extract:

Note: If you make a purchase from one of these online retailers, I receive a 6-10% “finders fee” …almost enough to pay for this site. Thanks in advance 🙂

Like this article?

The info in this article came from my Special Report – The Top Weight Loss Supplements for 2016.  

The full report is available to @HealthHabits subscribers, so if you want to see numbers 8 – 1, subscribe now by clicking on the button below. Number 10 is available here.

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New Research : Bodybuilding and the Mind-Muscle Connection

In the bodybuilding world, one of the most important “principles” of lifting is the need to establish a mind : muscle connection.

It’s not enough to lift the weight. For maximum success, the trainee must put all of his/her intention into the muscle that is being worked.

For many of us who aren’t bodybuilders…who lift for strength, power, endurance, athletic performance, etc…this seems like a giant load of new age nonsense.

Until now:

In this new study, researchers found that when trainees (working with loads between 20 -60% of their 1 Rep Maximum) focused on the muscles being worked, they were able to increase muscle activation…without decreasing the activity of other muscles involved in the lift.

By focusing on the muscles, they actually made the muscles work harder.

Which is exactly what those bodybuilding gurus have been saying for decades.

arnold-concentration-curl

What does this mean to you?

If you lift weight in 20-60% of 1 Rep Max range, focusing intently on the muscles being worked seems like a really great idea.

If you lift in the 80+% 1 RM range, there is no need to focus on the working muscles…you should be focusing on perfect form & execution…your nervous system will look after how many muscle fibers are contracting to complete your lift.

In the 60-80% range, I don’t know what to tell you. The researchers in this study focused on intensities of 20, 40, 50, 60 and 80 % of the pre-determined 1RM.

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Reference

Chia Seed for Weight Loss

The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar giant with hundreds of companies telling thousands of half-truths to separate you and your money.

Which supplements should you buy?

In an attempt to look past some of the supplement companies B.S., I employed the power of big data (via Google Trends) to identify the top 10 weight loss supplements….as decided by the millions of people who use Google to research weight loss supplements.

  • No marketing B.S.
  • No fraudulent claims from supplement companies
  • No advertorials masquerading as honest information

Just pure data collected by the giant brains at Google.

Supplement #8

chiabanner

Chia (aka salvia hispanica) is a flowering plant from the mint family, native to Mexico & Guatemala.

Most famously known for the Chia Pets flogged on late-night tv back in the day, the chia seed has been found to be a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and as a treatment for:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease, and
  • Stroke

How does Chia Seed promote weight loss?

The fibre found in Chia is mostly insoluble and as such, absorbs a LOT of water as it travels through your digestive tract.

In addition to the relatively high levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in chia, it is this high fibre content that is responsible for chia being touted as a effective weight loss supplement.

  • As the chia fibre expands in your digestive tract, a feeling of satiety is created & hunger is reduced…leading to a reduction in calories consumed.
  • There is some thought that the high-fibre chia bolus traps other food sources and prevents them from being effectively digested…eventually being eliminated as waste.
  • There is also some research which indicates that chia helps to lower the blood sugar response to other carb-hydrates consumed at the same time as the chia. For this reason, chia is being used as an ingredient in traditional carbs foods (bread, pasta, etc) as a way to lower the glycemic index of those foods.

Chia Seed Research

Want to learn more about chia seeds & weight loss?  

Check out the science….​

Where can I buy Chia Seed supplements?

Here are the best online sources for Chia Seed:

Note: If you make a purchase from one of these online retailers, I receive a 6-10% “finders fee” …almost enough to pay for this site. Thanks in advance 🙂

Like this article?

The info in this article came from my Special Report – The Top Weight Loss Supplements for 2016.  

The full report is available to @HealthHabits subscribers, so if you want to see numbers 7 – 1, subscribe now by clicking on the button below. Number 10 is available here. Number 9 is here.

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Can You Be Fit AND Fat : Research Says NO

According to Swedish researchers, the idea that you can be Fat and Fit is 100% false.

In this study, it was found that obese men with a high level of aerobic fitness are more likely to die than normal weight men with below average levels of aerobic fitness.

The Science

Looking at a group of 1,317,713 Swedish men with a median age of 29, researchers investigated the association between aerobic fitness, obesity and death.

Here’s what they found…

  • Men in the top 20% of aerobic health had a 48% lower risk of death from any cause as compared to the bottom 20%.

man runningIn regard to the “fit and fat” hypothesis, the researchers found that men of a normal weight, regardless of their fitness level, were at a lower risk of death compared to obese men who were in the top 25% of aerobic fitness.

In fact, the men with extreme levels of obesity lost all of the benefits associated with aerobic fitness.

is it possible to be fat and fit

What does this mean to you?

  1. Fat and fit is a myth.
  2. While this study focused on men, it would be foolish to believe that overweight women are somehow different.
  3. Going for a run after eating a whole pizza is not a solution.
  4. Obesity is a killer.

Reference

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Coming Soon : HIIT for Health

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Early in the new year, I will be publishing an ebook on HIIT and why it is  such an amazing tool for improving your health.

I have been providing some version of this report to those of my personal training clients with significant health issues over the years. Since then, their doctors have slowly begun to see the benefits of HIIT as a tool to prevent & recover from serious health conditions.

In addition to to the scientific arguments for HIIT, the book will include a LOT of printable HIIT workouts and instructions on how to easily craft your own personal HIIT workout program.

This publication will be available 100% FREE for @healthhabits subscribers.

 

If you already subscribe to @healthhabits, keep an eye on your inbox in the first week of January

If you don’t subscribe to @healthhabits, what are you waiting for?

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Train Smarter : Movements v.s. Muscles

Over the course of history, humans have evolved from single-cell organisms into the multi-cellular complex beings we are today.

In our current form, we are a collection of cells, neurons, hormones, enzymes, bones, muscles that all work together like a super-efficient mega corporation. 

And just how does this relate to working out?

It relates if you are still training like a bodybuilder from 1977

screen-shot-2015-06-23-at-11-59-36-am

Because if your workouts are focused on muscles instead of movements, you are making a big, big, big mistake.

Just like all those cells that came together to become a liver that filters waste products that would quickly build up and kill the entire organism, your muscles weren’t designed to work in isolation.

Even in that most muscle-centric of exercises – the bicep curl – your biceps need your triceps and core muscles and leg muscles and deltoids to pitch in and stabilize

The same holds true for all weightlifting exercises…no muscles ever work in isolation.

Trying to force them to work that way goes against how they are supposed to work.

Think about it…when you walk or run or sprint, you never focus on individual muscles or muscle groups. Instead, your brain sends out the signal to all involved muscles that it’s time to work together and get running.

To that end, one of the best things you can do to improve the efficiency of your resistance training workouts is to stop thinking about muscles and start thinking about movements

Here is a list of the “basic” movements that will serve as a framework for your new movement-based workout program.

  • Push Vertical
  • Push Horizontal
  • Pull Vertical
  • Pull Horizontal
  • Squat
  • Hip Hinge
  • Walk
  • Run
  • Sprint

That’s it for today.

Over the next few days & weeks, I will explain these movements fully and provide exercise examples and teach you how to put them together in a complete training program.


If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year. Only subscribers will have access to these reports.

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Caffeine for Weight Loss

 

The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar giant with hundreds of companies telling thousands of half-truths to separate you and your money.

Which supplements should you buy?

In an attempt to look past some of the supplement companies B.S., I employed the power of big data (via Google Trends) to identify the top 10 weight loss supplements….as decided by the millions of people who use Google to research weight loss supplements.

  • No marketing B.S.
  • No fraudulent claims from supplement companies
  • No advertorials masquerading as honest information

Just pure data collected by the giant brains at Google.

Supplement #10

caffeine banner.jpg

 

Caffeine is the 10th most popular weight loss supplement around the world. But weight loss is not all that caffeine is good for. In addition to being an essential part of my morning coffee ritual, caffeine is a chemical found in tea, cola, guarana, mate, etc…

How does caffeine work?

Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system (CNS), heart, muscles, and the centers that control blood pressure. Caffeine can raise blood pressure, but might not have this effect in people who use it all the time.

Caffeine can also act like a “water pill” that increases urine flow. But again, it may not have this effect in people who use caffeine regularly. Note – drinking caffeine during moderate exercise is not likely to cause dehydration

In addition to weight loss, caffeine has many other health-promoting uses, including:

  • mental alertness
  • pain reliever
  • asthma treatment
  • gallbladder disease treatment
  • ADHD treatment
  • low blood pressure treatment
  • as a cream to reduce skin redness & itching
  • athletic performance enhancer

How does Caffeine promote weight loss?

Caffeine promotes weight loss via two separate pathways:

  1. Appetite suppression. Research shows that caffeine reduces your desire to eat for a moderate period of time.
  2. Calorie burning. Studies have shown that caffeine stimulates thermogenesis — forcing your your body to generate heat and energy from digesting food.

In short, caffeine supplements promise to make you crave less food and burn more calories regardless of exercise.

 Caffeine Research

 Where can I buy Caffeine supplements?

In addition to your local health food or drugstore, I have listed some of the best online sources for Caffeine.

Note: If you make a purchase from one of these online retailers, I receive a 6-10% “finders fee” …almost enough to pay for this site. Thanks in advance 🙂

Like this article?

The info in this article came from my Special Report – The Top Weight Loss Supplements for 2016.  

The full report is available to @HealthHabits subscribers, so if you want to see numbers 9 – 1, subscribe now by clicking on the button below.

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Fish Oil Switches Fat Storage Cells into Fat Burning Cells

Researchers from Kyoto University have discovered that fish oil can switch your fat storage cells into fat burning cells.

Specifically, they found that consuming fish oil:

  1. Activates receptors in your digestive tract which…
  2. Engages your sympathetic nervous system…
  3. Causing fat storage cells to metabolize your fat

Background Info

Fact #1. You have three types of fat cells 

  • White fat – which stores calories and contributes to obesity
  • Brown fat – initially thought to exist only in babies, brown fat arises from infant muscles and is designed to help keep their little baby-bodies warm. “More recent imaging data suggested that adults, too, maintain some brown fat’.
  • Beige fat – similar looking to brown fat, beige fat doesn’t come from muscle, but is created by the “browning” of white fat in adult humans. It is found in “scattered pea-sized deposits beneath the skin near the collarbone and along the spine in adults”

Fact #2. Previous research has shown that fish oil has a number of powerful health benefits…including fat accumulation.

These two facts led the scientists at Kyoto U to investigate how fish oil and brown fat cells interacted.

The Study

Researchers fed a group of mice “fatty food” while feeding other mice “fatty food with fish oil additives.

The researchers found that mice who ate the fish oil supplement gained 5-10% less weight and 15-25% less fat compared to the non-fish oil eating mice.

 Figure 1: Fish oil intake reduced body weight gain and fat accumulation

srep18013-f1

Fish oil intake decreased body weight (A) and abdominal WAT (B) gain in mice. Mice were fed a control diet (C), control diet containing low-dose DHA-enriched fish oil (LD), control diet containing high-dose DHA-enriched fish oil (HD), control diet containing low-dose EPA-enriched fish oil (LE), and control diet containing high-dose EPA-enriched fish oil (HE) for 10 weeks. 

The scientists also found that the fish oil supplements caused an activation of the sympathetic nervous system, forcing white fat cells to transform into beige fat cells.

Figure 2: Fish oil intake induced UCP1 expression in interscapular BAT (brown fat) and inguinal WAT (white fat)

srep18013-f2

Fish oil intake induced UCP1 protein expression in interscapular BAT (A) and inguinal WAT (B). Fish oil intake also induced UCP1 mRNA expression in interscapular BAT (C) and inguinal WAT (D). Fish oil intake induced beige adipocyte-specific gene expression in interscapular BAT (E) and inguinal WAT (F). 

 

The researchers concluded that it was this transformation of white fat storage cells into beige fat burning cells that protected the lab mice from their “fatty food” diet.

What does this mean to you?

If you’re concerned about gaining or losing body fat…start eating more fatty fish and/or supplementing with fatty fish oils.

Fish Oil Supplements

Which Fish Should You Eat?

The following infographic shows which fatty fish are healthiest (re their good oil) and which fat are the healthiest (re low levels of mercury)

fish-omega3-mercury

Reference

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A Better Whey to Boost Your Health

Every year, bazillions of dollars are spent on drugs that promise to lower our cholesterol & triglycerides levels.

Some work, some don’t.

In a recent study, researchers discovered an inexpensive and yummy way to lower LDL cholesterol & triglycerides.

That’s right…I said yummy.

Here’s the plan/recipe

  • 45 grams of whey protein
  • 150 mg of supplemental calcium
  • 0.75 μg of vitamin D3
  • 2.5 g of prebiotic dietary fiber
  • 500 ml of water

Toss all these “healthy” ingredients into a blender with some frozen fruit and some cinnamon (for taste & GI control) and you’ve got a health booster that has been shown to have a significant effect on…

  1. Reducing low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels
  2. Reducing triglyceride levels

…in just 21 days.

And it tastes great too.

Reference

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“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon”

According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, “eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon.”

As news of this research spread around the web, Vegans reacted like this….

tumblr_lbvabxXijT1qbi71b

But wait…before everyone flips out…

Let’s take a closer look at the study

In this study, the Carnegie Mellon researchers were investigating how three different USDA-esque weight loss plans would impact the environment.

Here are the three diet plans

  1. Reducing caloric intake to achieve “normal” weight without shifting food mix…aka same diet as before, just less of it.
  2. Switching food mix to USDA recommended food patterns without reducing calories…aka “healthy” diet, same calories as before
  3. Reducing calories & switching to USDA recommended food patterns…aka “healthy diet” AND fewer calories

How did they measure the environmental impact?

To compare the three diets, the researchers calculated how…

  • growing,
  • processing,
  • shipping,
  • selling
  • and storing all the foods consumed in the three diets

…impacted energy use, blue water footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

They crunched all that data to arrive at a series of environmental impact scores (energy, blue water, GHG) per kcal for each food.

From there, they calculated the overall energy, blue water & GHG scores for each of the three diets

Their findings?

Dietary Recommendation #1 resulted in a decrease in energy use, blue water footprint and GG emissions by approximately 9%.

Which makes sense…2000 calories of pizza is going to use less energy than 3000 calories of pizza.

Dietary Recommendation #2 increased energy use by 43%, increased blue water footprint by 16% and increased GHG emissions by 9%

The data showed that eating more fruits, vegetables, dairy & seafood bumped up the global footprint because of their relatively higher resource use and emissions per Calorie.

Even when the researchers dropped the caloric intake of the healthy food for Dietary Recommendation #3, they still saw an increase in energy use of 38%, an increase in blue water footprint of 10% and an increase in GHG emissions of 6%

And that’s where we get our headline…“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon”

bacon

Even if you starve yourself on healthy food, you are harming the environment more than if you ate the standard American diet of grains & processed food.

This can’t be true, can it?

Yup…it’s true. But here’s why.

Our current food production system is geared towards producing the food most of us eat…processed grains and cheap fats & protein.

We are incredibly efficient at producing crap food. 

From farm to table, our mainstream food infrastructure is an amazing artificial organism.

Conversely, our infrastructure for healthy food is a joke in comparison. Small-scale healthy food producers give us amazing foodstuffs, but at a per-unit cost (financial & environmental) far in excess of their mainstream competitors.

If our healthy food producers had the infrastructure of our less-than-healthy food producers, they would match them for price & crush them in terms of environmental impact.

But they don’t and as a result, we are left comparing apples & oranges.

karl_smile

So cheer up my vegan brothers & sisters. And keep eating your fruits & veggies.

As more and more “normal” people start eating healthier, the financial & environmental costs of healthy food will drop.

Reference

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The Top Weight Loss Supplements for 2016

Unlike a lot of personal trainers, I am not a big fan of weight loss supplements.

In the 20+ years I have been transforming bodies, my clients have sculpted new bodies thanks to:

  1. A total commitment to eating healthy, and
  2. Exercising smarter.

However, there have always been a minority of clients that have needed some help in the form of supplements or pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, in the past 5 – 10 years, that small percentage has been growing and growing.

I don’t know if it’s…

  • genetically modified foods,
  • the chemicals found in processed food,
  • a lifetime of poor food choices manifesting as broken metabolisms

Whatever it is, more and more of my clients NEED weight loss supplements to help boost the effectiveness of their new diet and fitness routines.

Because of this, I have put together a report of the top weight loss supplements for 2016.

Starting with a list of 30 popular weight loss compounds, I used the big data of Google Trends to identify the most popular weight loss supplements as decided by the millions of people who use Google to research weight loss supplements.

  • No marketing B.S. 
  • No fraudulent claims from supplement companies
  • No advertorials masquerading as honest information

Just pure data collected by the giant brains at Google.

With all that data, I was able to identify:

  1. The top weight loss supplements for 2015, and more importantly 
  2. The projected top weight loss supplements for 2016.

SO….HOW DO YOU GET THE REPORT?

  • If you are an email subscriber to @healthhabits, you don’t have to do anything. A copy of the report should be sitting in your inbox right now. If not, shoot me an email, and I will get one to you asap.
  • If you don’t already subscribe to @healthhabits email updates, hit the button below, follow the sign-up procedure and a report  will be flying to your inbox in mere seconds.

Junk Food Can Damage Your Metabolism In Just 5 Days

The human body is an amazing machine. Capable of:

  • Climbing mountains,
  • Adapting to environments as disparate as the arctic and the tropical rain forest.
  • Running for hundreds of kilometres at a stretch,
  • Lifting freakishly heavy weights.
  • Amazing technological advances,
  • Creating art that can elevate the soul

Unfortunately, what your body can’t do is consume junk food – aka the Standard American Diet – without starting to fall apart.

Here’s the science:

According to this new study, after just 5 days of eating a diet that included sausage biscuits, macaroni and cheese, and food loaded with butter, healthy college-age students experienced a significant change in how their muscles processed nutrients. And not for the better.

According to the researchers, eating a starchy, fatty diet disrupts how your muscles metabolize glucose, “which could lead to the body’s inability to respond to insulin”, leading to insulin insensitivity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and a reduced quantity & quality of life.

NOTE: In the study, the test diet was designed to have fat make up 55% of the calories – as opposed to a “normal” 30% fat diet – with the inclusion of foods such as sausage biscuits and mac & cheese. And while I agree that a diet in which 55% of the calories comes from fat can be called a “high-fat” diet, I would argue that it would be more accurate to call it a “high fat AND carb” diet or a “high fat AND starchy carb” diet or a “high fat AND high gluten” diet.

To infer that fat is the villain here may not be wholly accurate. We need a bit more research before we start blaming a single macronutrient.

What does this mean to you?

  1. As yummy as sausage biscuits smothered in gravy and bacon smells, you may not want to eat it very often. Your body hasn’t evolved (devolved) to handle this type of food.
  2. If you can’t resist the siren song of Mac ‘n Cheese, space it out with some healthy food, like a Big Salad, to help your muscles sensitive to insulin.
  3. The next time you hear about a study saying High-Fat or High-Carb diets are bad, take a closer look at what the researchers consider high-fat or high-carb.dia

Reference

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oscillation training fitness exercise healthhabits

Oscillation Training – Get Stronger, Get Fitter, Get Healthier

A couple of years ago I wrote an article entitled Increase Your Bench Press…thanks to Koji Murofushi.

In that article, I introduced you to oscillation training and how you can use this training method to:

  • rehab injuries,
  • prevent injuries,
  • improve muscle imbalances,
  • thereby increasing strength,
  • and agility,
  • and speed,
  • and power

Since then, I have read numerous studies looking at the effectiveness of weightlifting with:

  1. Stable loads on unstable surfaces – ie Barbell squats on Bosu, foam mats, Swiss ball, etc
  2. Unstable loads on stable surfaces – ie Dumbbells, kettlebells on floor, benches

My unofficial meta-analysis of these studies shows that:

  • Stable loads on stable surfaces allows for maximum force production of the prime mover muscles.
  • Unstable loads (DBs, KBs) on stable surfaces reduces force production in the prime movers (agonists) by a negligible amount while producing a similarly tiny increase in synergists & core muscles.
  • Unstable loads on unstable surfaces (Bosu, Swiss ball, foam mat) further reduces force production in the prime movers while ever so slightly increasing force production of synergists & core muscles.

There have also been numerous studies which postulate that training with unstable loads on stable & unstable surfaces will eventually lead to increases in muscular strength & power as muscle imbalances are corrected, core strength improves and all muscles involved in athletic movements – agonists, antagonists & synergists – are trained to work together more effectively.

And now for the new research:

In this latest study, researchers tested the effectiveness of oscillation training via a series of parallel back squats with an unstable load (weights suspended from the bar by an elastic band)

oscillation_training_overhead_squat
Couldn’t find a good back squat with hanging bells video to create a gif 😦

The Study:

  • Fifteen resistance-trained males completed ten repetitions of the back squat with 60% of their one repetition maximum in both stable and unstable conditions.
  • Peak vertical ground reaction force and the integrated muscle activity of the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medius, biceps femoris, soleus, rectus abdominis, external oblique, and erector spinae muscles on the right side of the body were determined.

Results

  • The unstable load resulted in a small (3.9%), but significant decrease in peak vertical ground reaction force. This makes sense considering the previous research on unstable loads.
  • The unstable load also produced noticeably greater muscle activation in the rectus abdominus, external oblique, and soleus.

This may turn out to be highly significant – where previous studies on trained individuals found that DBs or KBs or vibration platforms or Bosus or Swiss balls produced small increases in muscle activation in these “helper” muscles, the use of oscillation training was much more powerful.

Oscillation training may actually turn out to be a really useful tool for athletes and wanna-be athletes.

What does this mean to you?

If you are one of the following trainees, systemic use of oscillation training may be just what you need:

  • Someone stuck at a strength/size/power/speed plateau
  • Someone with sore shoulders or knees or back or…
  • Someone who plays a sport
  • Someone who finds their body is feeling “older”
  • Someone who has poor posture
  • Someone who wants the health benefits of yoga and/or pilates bust hates yoga and/or pilates
  • Someone who want to be as fit as they can possibly be
  • Someone who just started doing Crossfit and doesn’t want to destroy their shoulders
  • Someone with a big gut
  • Someone who wants to maximize the health benefits of weightlifting without getting “too big” or spending too much time.

How to incorporate Oscillation Training into your program?

  1. Start small. This is supplemental work, meant to make the rest of your program work better.
  2. Don’t do oscillate before doing big compound lifts using the same muscle groups/movements. You don’t want to wear out your assistance muscles prior to needing their help on a big compound lift.
  3. You can do oscillation work after doing big compound work, or
  4. Do oscillation work on off-days – rest days or days where other movements / muscle groups are being worked.
  5. You don’t “need” a fancy bamboo bar. It’s nice to have, but you can just hang plates off the ends of normal barbells with a good set of Jump-Stretch style bands.

If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on social media 🙂

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fitbit surge healthhabits review

Fitbit Surge Review : Is this the fitness tracker you’ve been looking for?

When it comes to reaching your fitness goals, steps are just the beginning. Fitbit tracks every part of your day – including activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep – to help find your fit, stay motivated and see how small steps make a big difference.

https://fitbit.com

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Fitbit via Mode Media>. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Fitbit.

As per my policy on review articles, I only post reviews of products & services that I would recommend to my “real world” clients and I only request payment when a company wants time-limited exclusivity, meaning that I won’t review a competing product for a specified period of time. This is one such case.

When a rep from Fitbit called me last fall and asked if I wanted to review Fitbit’s Surge fitness tracker / wearable / watch, my initial reaction was…NO WAY!!!

I have tried out LOTS of fitness trackers over the years…with the end result being that after a few months, all of them found their way into the back of a drawer and were never heard from again.

Don’t get me wrong. The data that I received from most of my previous fitness trackers was useful, but only to a point. Up until now, fitness trackers were great for runners & walkers, but pretty much useless for anything else.

And while I wasn’t surprised that the Fitbit Surge has the latest & greatest technology for runners:

  • Measuring heart rate in real time right from your wrist without having to push any buttons while you run.
  • Using that real-time heart rate data to gauge & adjust training intensity on the fly.
  • A built-in GPS giving you data on pace, distance, elevation, floors climbed, split times, route history, route map and workout summaries to help you adjust your running program as needed.

Even with all this, I still wasn’t interested in doing the review. Like most fitness folk, I do more than go for a run or a walk.

  • I lift weights,
  • I sprint hills.
  • I do yoga.
  • I circuit train.
  • I do a bunch of different stuff.

That’s when the Mr. Fitbit smarty-pants told me that the Surge can be used to track all sorts of different workouts:

  • Running
  • Walking
  • Cross-training
  • Hiking
  • Pilates
  • Weight training
  • Spinning
  • Circuit training
  • Yoga
  • and more

By now, I was a little intrigued. But, I still said no because as cool as this thing was sounding, my history with previous fitness trackers told me that:

  • I would still end up putting it on for workouts…
  • Taking it off for the rest of the day…
  • Occasionally forgetting to put it on in the morning…
  • And eventually losing track of it altogether until it popped up at the back of my junk drawer in the kitchen.

What I needed was a good reason to wear this thing. Something more than all the fitness tracking technology.

Here’s my reasoning:

  • Most of us used to wear a watch.
  • But, as soon as we all got mobile phones, a lot of us ditched our watches because our phones had a clock.

Why did we do that?

  • Pulling your phone out of a pocket is much less convenient than a quick glance at your wrist.  
  • Why would we abandon a superior piece of time-telling technology for an inferior one?

Simple.

  • The annoyance of carrying two pieces of technology outweighed the annoyance of having to dig your phone out of your jeans when you wanted to check the time.

Don’t believe me?

  • My clients who self-identify as runners wear their fitness trackers 24 hours a day.
  • My clients who don’t identify as runners wear their fitness trackers for workouts and take them off when they settle in for the night at home.
  • Normal people (who want to be fit) buy fitness trackers and eventually stick them in drawers.

Unless the annoyance of wearing a fitness tracker on your wrist is significantly outweighed by the benefits, it’s gonna end up in the back of your junk drawer in the kitchen. Believe that.

So I asked Mr. Fitbit…what can the Fitbit Surge do to make my life better, in addition to improving my health & physical fitness?

Mr. Fitbit replied that the Surge will allow you to:

  • See who is calling or texting you on your mobile phone without having to pull it out of your pocket
  • Pause or fast forward your phone’s music player QUICKLY and EASILY while you are working out.

Two things that would make my life just a little bit easier, and would get me to wear a watch for the first time in over 5 years.

Here’s my review:

Looking at the technology, the Surge has all the functions I want in a fitness tracker…

fitbit surge review - ultimate fitness super watch fitbit surge review app fitness

  • GPS Tracking & Mapping
  • Continuous heart rate readings. 24 hours a day. No straps. No clips.
  • Continuous activity monitoring
  • Multi-sport functionality
  • Workout intensity monitoring
  • Sleep Monitor – quality & quantity
  • An excellent (IMHO) Computer / Smartphone app interface….very simple & intuitive.

fitbit surge review app fitness

    • It also works with a bunch of third party health & fitness apps. Which is great if you’re already an active member in one of the major online fitness communities.

And if you’re not part of an existing online fitness community or online fitness training advice service or motivation app, Fitbit also allows you to contact/challenge/praise/shame your fitness friends as well as make new friends via the Fitbit community.

Note: Fitbit also offers a “premium” service, providing personal training, nutrition & sleep consulting. I didn’t try this service, so I have no idea how good (or bad) it is.

Moving on to the reason why I decided to review the Surge

I couldn’t be much happier with the Surge, because in addition to all the cool fitness tech, it made my smartphone even smarter.

Call & Text Message Monitoring

      • With the Surge, I can monitor phone calls & text messages during situations when I “can’t” check my phone .i.e. during business meetings,
      • Or when I’m walking, running, working out, etc,
      • Or when it’s charging across the room.

Music Player Control

Not as big a deal as the call/text monitoring, but still pretty useful for me.

When I’m working out at the gym or running, I use my smartphone as a music player. Sometimes, I need to pause the music or skip one of my less favorite songs.

Prior to testing out the Surge, I had to pull out my phone, open the screen-lock, open the player and pause/skip to the next song. I realize this is the very definition of a first world problem, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to just reach over to my wrist and push the pause or FF button

You’re going to appreciate this when someone interrupts your workout at the gym.

Things I would change about the Fitbit Surge

      1. The display is a back lit monochrome LCD display. Considering that competitors like the Microsoft Band and the upcoming Apple Watch both have high definition OLED screens, the Surge LCD touchscreen looks very 2014.
      2. While the phone call/text notifications are FANTASTIC, it would be nice to receive notifications from Facebook, Twitter, etc. Not essential, but nice.
      3. Re music player control, some people prefer to use streaming services rather than playlists stored on their phones. Control of these services would be great for those users.
      4. Style wise, it would be nice if Fitbit had an option that looked less like a sports-watch and more like a watch-watch…something that would look nice with a suit.

NOTE: Online, the Fitbit Surge is getting compared mainly to the Apple Watch. And I have a bit of a problem with that comparison. While the Surge gives you on-board GPS and optical heart rate monitoring, the Apple watch uses less accurate optical heart rate sensors and the watch doesn’t have GPS.

Which kinda sucks if you bought the Apple watch to be your fitness tracker.

It’s like comparing these two pair of shoes.

basketball-shoes

Sure, they both look like basketball shoes, but each was designed with different purposes and for different consumers. One’s a fashion shoe. The other is a fitness shoe.

  • The Apple watch is a smartwatch with fitness features.
  • The Fitbit Surge is a fitness tracker with smartwatch features.

Which one you choose depends on your needs for the product. At least, IMHO.

NOTE: I have no idea if Fitbit is looking into adding more smartwatch-esque features in the Surge 2.0 or if they looked into them already but decided against them due to cost constraints.

I’m pretty sure they could have put in an OLED display and added more connectivity options, but that stuff costs money…which would be reflected in the purchase price.

Maybe Fitbit could offer two different Surge versions…the current version at $250 and a second version with OLED screen & Twitter updates for $350.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the strongest recommendation I can give in support of the Fitbit Surge is that I very seldom take it off and I have no plans to stick it in my kitchen junk drawer.

  • At first, I fiddled around with the watch commands…swiping the touch screen, pushing buttons…trying to get the thing to do what I wanted it to do.
  • After a few days, I was pretty good with it and was developing a habit of using the watch and checking my dashboard daily.
  • After a few weeks, I was really comfortable using the watch and I had developed a dashboard routine that took about 2 minutes per day.
  • As I was already a giant fitness nerd, I didn’t exactly need the Surge to motivate me to exercise.
  • What it did allow me to do what get a better handle on how my training was affecting my overall health.
  • As a result, I have made some minor lifestyle & exercise changes which have paid off nicely. Definitely worth the $250.

At the end of the day, I can heartily endorse the Fitbit Surge.

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Motivate Your Lazy Butt with these Fantastic Fitspiration GIFs

We’ve all had one of those days. A day where nothing seems to go our way….

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But wait…it could be worse.

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Then again…maybe things aren’t as bad as you thought. Maybe your luck is about to turn around…

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Maybe you’re starting to get your feet under you and your day is starting to look better.

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Maybe you’re stronger than you think.

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Maybe you’re a real-life badass…

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Capable of enduring the tough times…

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with grace…

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power…

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and a burning desire to never, ever stop…

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NOTE: Please share these images via social media. We all need a kick in the butt every now & then. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this collection of fitness images is worth at least a few thousand.

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Subscribe to @healthhabits and my friends at Mail Chimp will make sure that every time I scribble an article for @healthhabits, it will end up in your email inbox.

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