Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mom of 2 Loses 90 Lbs. Through Weightlifting

Amazing Transformation

A nice article I pulled off of the mainstream news. It is this aspect of weight training that got me started and has kept me excited and passionate for over 50 years. The idea that one can change and mold their body has always motivated me. Weights have always been a tool to sculpt my body and improve it. I never get tired of seeing this process take place.

At her yearly medical checkups, Helen Costa-Giles would nod along as the doctor told her she was in the “morbidly obese” category and insisted she lose weight. She would try weight loss pills and low-carb diets, but it would never stick — until 2014, when at 220 lbs., her doctor told her she was headed for major chronic health problems.

“My numbers were really off the charts and it scared the life out of me,” Costa-Giles, 38, tells PEOPLE. “That was exactly my turning point.”

The mom of two boys had watched her own family members deal with health problems from poor eating habits, and she didn’t want her sons to witness the same thing.

“I had to break that cycle, because it was up to me to lead them to a healthier lifestyle,” she says. “I basically came down from the doctor’s that day and I had my paperwork and I slammed it down on the kitchen counter and said, ‘That’s it. We’re done. No more yo-yo dieting, no more fads.’ ”
Costa-Giles immediately rid the family’s pantry of any processed or preservative-filled foods, “and we were literally left with no food,” she says. “And then we had to get groceries because we didn’t have anything in the fridge!”

For 30 days, she ate only “100 percent clean” foods, and spent hours every Sunday prepping healthy meals like vegetable-filled omelets for each day of the week. Those first days were “really hard,” but she started getting her energy back and saw her weight drop. She adjusted the diet slightly to include meal replacement shakes and cut down on her prep time, and in six months she lost the majority of her weight.

Costa-Giles was tracking her progress with weekly photos and soon decided it was time to hit the gym.
“My body reacted very quickly to weightlifting, and I started to lean out,” she says. “The scale wasn’t making huge differences, but the inches were changing. I kind of got obsessed because for the first time in my life, my body was actually doing what I asked it to do.”
She added HIIT training and Spartan Races for endurance, and eventually lost a total of 90 lbs.

Costa-Giles even started her own free workout classes — out of her garage in San Antoinio, Texas — four days a week at 4 a.m.

“My passion is to make it a movement,” she says. “We actually moved out of my garage because we got too big. We call it the No More Excuses Lifestyle. And some of these people don’t need to get up at 4 a.m., but they get a boost from the energy level of the other people. Some of them come and then go back to sleep!”

Costa-Giles, who also works full-time as a supervisor in automotive distribution, says her story shows that anyone has the time to lose weight — she’s even helped her husband drop 60 lbs.

 “I have two kids and a full-time job,” she says. “I know many people don’t start their fitness journeys because they have too many excuses. I like to share my story because it’s so relatable.”

And now, with her muscle-bound body, Costa-Giles is proud.

“I’ll be honest, I love everything about me. And that’s the first time in my life that I’ve been able to say that,” she says. “I take so much pride in every inch of my body because I know what it’s been through.”

This article was originally published on PEOPLE.com
Helen Costa-Giles
Stay with the basics

Helen Costa-Giles
Life is better when you are fitHelen Costa-Giles

Monday, June 26, 2017

Teens Are Just As Sedentary As 60 Year Olds

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Kids love being active, don't stifle it

Scary for the future if this is true. As a 60 plus year old myself, I don't really think that I am that sedentary, but I notice many of my peers are. Recently I got a new iphone with an app that counts my steps and gives a mileage number (not sure how accurate that is). Typically I walk 20,000 plus steps a day and cover 9-10 miles or so in just doing my normal routine. I seldom sit for very long. I have a grandson who is in junior high in larger city. His P.E. teacher uses pedometer readings as part of their grade. He told me that they are encouraged to get 5,000 steps each day. Taking into account that American school students spend most of their time sitting in desks, maybe this is realistic, but, to me, it seems to be a pretty low expectation and gives evidence to the claims of this article.

Teens Are Just As Sedentary As 60 Year Olds
Alice Park
Jun 16, 2017
TIME HealthFor more, visit TIME Health.
Obesity in American shows no signs of slowing, and the reasons why it's so widespread can be traced to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle that keeps people inactive, and eating, for more hours of the day.
The problem is especially concerning among children and teens, according to the latest study published in Preventive Medicine. The study analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey from 2003-2004 and 2005-2006. More than 12,500 people ages 6 to 84 years wore activity trackers to log how many of their waking hours they spent active and how many they spent sitting.
Not surprisingly, the older people got, the less active they were. The slowdown starts at age 35, a time of increasing demands of work and family responsibilities. By older age, medical issues and chronic diseases may prevent people from being as physically active as they would like. People in their 20s were the only age group to show increases in physical activity—especially in the early morning—compared to adolescents.
The most alarming data came from children and teens. While young children are often thought to be the most active, the numbers showed that rates of exercise actually declined during the teen years. In fact, 19 year olds age spent as much time being inactive and sedentary as 60 year olds. “It was definitely a big surprise,” says Vadim Zipunnikov, the study’s senior author from the department of biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Children should get at least an hour of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a day, according to the World Health Organization. But the study showed that among kids ages 6-11, 25% of boys and 50% of girls did not meet this recommendation. Even more teens fell short of the guidelines; 50% of adolescent boys and 75% of teen girls weren’t active for at least an hour a day.
Because the people in the study wore activity trackers throughout the day, the data also provide useful insights into when people in different age groups were most likely to be active and sedentary. Children in school, for example, were most active from 2pm to 6pm, which could reflect the fact that they’re sitting in classrooms for most of the day until mid-afternoon. Zipunnikov says that a single window of activity in the late afternoon may not be ideal, and that the data suggest that spreading out activity throughout the day more evenly could help encourage more exercise among kids.
 “We could start playing around with times of exercise,” he says. School start times, especially for teens, may also play a role; kids may not be getting as much exercise because they’re not getting enough sleep and are too tired to be physically active. “One of the major contributors to low levels of physical activity in children might be that they don’t get enough sleep,” he says.The message to exercise more intensely may also be backfiring, Zipunnikov says. Instead, people might be more open to programs that focus on encouraging exercise at certain times of the day: earlier in the day for people with job obligations, later in the morning for older people and throughout the day for children.

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Active kids grow into active adults

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Connecting the Head to the Body

Being Summer time here in the U.S., I have a lot of aspiring football players coming into the weight room to prepare for the upcoming season. A strong neck is high on the list of priorities. I ran across this article awhile ago. It brought back some memories. As a teenager in the late 60's and early 70's we tried a lot of different methods to increase our neck strength. The 4-way neck machines that we have now didn't exist then, not even in our imaginations. We did bridges, did neck lifts with head harnesses, and even rigged up an old football helmet with a dumbbell bar sticking out of the top which we could load with weights and work our necks from a variety of angles. Of course a strong neck is vital in contact sports, but even for non-contact athletes a strong neck is important and seems to be often overlooked today. Obviously a strong neck could save your life in a car accident. Even for throwing athletes, the body is one piece and having a strong, stable neck assists in being able to hold proper posture and technique through the finish of a throw. Pulling exercises and heavy shrugging does a lot to stabilize the neck area, but direct work of both flexion and extension is also valuable. It only takes a few sets a few times a week to make a difference. The only downside is that you may have to start getting larger dress shirts.

Strong Neck, Safer Head
By Mike Phelps

According to some experts, a simple way to help prevent concussions involves focusing on what some believe to be a lost art in strength training: the neck.
Neck strengthening will be one of many topics discussed at "The Legends" football strength clinic in Cincinnati in June, directed by former NFL strength coach Kim Wood. It is currently believed that a stronger neck and trapezius muscle will help cut down on the head and neck trauma that often leads to concussions.

"The neck is under the microscope more because of the tie-in with concussions," Cincinnati Bengals strength coach Chip Morton told the Bengals official Web site. "With the way the brain sits in the skull cavity and it bounces on the inside of the skull, one of the ways to hopefully reduce that is to strengthen the thickness or strength of the column that supports the head so the absorption of the force is that much better."

Ray Oliver, Director of Strength & Conditioning for the University of Kentucky, believes neck training has fallen by the wayside in favor of "glamour" exercises such as bench presses, power cleans, and squat thrusts.

"Remember looking at athletes 30, 40 years ago?" Oliver told the Bengals Web site. "You could tell they were athletes because they had the big necks. Now the legs are bigger, arms are bigger, chests, but not necks. I remember one of the first things Kim Wood teaching me was that the neck is the number-one priority."

Now we spend all this time developing faster guys with bigger bodies and train them for these huge collisions," he continued. "Then we stand there and gulp and can't breathe when one of them can't get up for five minutes."
Morton, however, believes neck strength could soon become a priority.

"Think about it," he says. "If you're missing games or practices because of a concussion, what's best for a team? A guy that can bench press 400 pounds, or he's out because of a concussion? What impacts the thinking more? It's fascinating."

Neck training is also in the news at the college level. Ralph Cornwell, a PhD candidate in health promotion/human performance at Virginia Tech, is conducting a study aimed at preventing concussions and also creating a neck strengthening protocol that he hopes strength and conditioning coaches will have to adhere to in the future.

To research his study--dubbed "Project Neck"--Cornwell has measuring and exercising the necks of students at Elon University. He hopes to learn about the effects of consistent neck conditioning on concussion prevention, with the idea that the muscles in a stronger neck will better disperse energy from a hard blow to the head.

"The stronger your neck is, the more likely it is to dissipate the energy from a blow," Matt Kavalek, Cornwell's lead research assistant and a sophomore at Elon, told The Times-News.

                                              Mark Philippi's head is well attached.

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So does this guy.
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Some Great Fat Loss Perspective

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David Rigert in his prime. 

Below is a great article the explains in a logical and concise way why starving is not a healthy or effective way to lean out. I wrestled a long time ago and did not finish out my eligibility in that sport mainly because the coach was always trying to get me to move down in weight. My own priorities included gaining weight for football, so there was a conflict from the start. In the end, football won out and I never looked back. Later as a high school coach I assisted in the wrestling programs over the years, and still do the weight certifications each year for our program here. I admire wrestlers and enjoy the sport. But I have to admit that over the years I have observed many former wrestlers who are obese adults. Of course this is not all of them and many factors figure in when this does happen. But, I am inclined to think that this long term abuse of  using unsound methods of weight loss for many years  during their careers has an impact.
While many modern day coaches are smarter than the old school wrestling coaches, there are still a few who resort to rubber sweat suits, starvation, and dehydration to cut pounds. This is so counterproductive. As I explain to my students, it may seem counter-intuitive, but skipping meals to lose fat will result in your body hoarding fat.  This article explains this well.

5 Reasons Crash Dieting Does Not Work
The market is obese with calorie-restriction weight loss diets, the great majority of which reduce more dollars than fat from the obese person. Crash diets rarely work because they try to fool the body, but the body doesn’t buy it. Rapid weight loss diets invariably fail because they are metabolically unsound, often unsafe, and just plain don’t work for these reasons: Crash diets don’t reset the fat point.
1. Metabolically unsound
When a person suddenly goes on a crash diet and restricts their calories, the body, fearing it’s starving, rebels to protect its set fat point by lowering the body’s metabolism to click into the fat storage rather than fat-burning mode. The body, in its wisdom, interprets the sudden caloric restriction as threatening its nourishment and therefore protects itself by changing its metabolism to resist the sudden change of diet. One way it does this is by increasing the production of the enzyme, lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which promotes the storage and transfer of blood fats into body fats. In essence, your body is working against you. When you suddenly reduce the amount of calories going into it, the body responds by taking those fewer calories and turning them into fat. Then when you start eating “normally” again, the body has already set itself to a lower level of calorie burning, so you gain weight back faster than you took it off. As we will later see, the key is to gradually trick the fat point, so that your body metabolically cooperates rather than fights fat loss.
2. Water weight loss
Crash diets (those that don’t work, don’t last, and are often downright unhealthy) often give you a rapid weight loss in what you see on the scale. For these diets, weight loss does not equate with fat loss, since you are often losing water weight (which you quickly gain back) or muscle weight. Both of these types of weight loss are potentially harmful to your well-being. The reasons for this false weight loss is that during the first week or two on a crash diet the body will first lose protein and water, since the wisdom of the body tells it to hold onto the fat as its last reserve. This loss of protein and water is the reason most people feel lousy during the first week or two on a crash diet.
3. Fat deficiency
Another reason why crash diets can be bad for your health is they cut out not only the bad fats, but the good fats, causing the dieter to have a deficiency in essential fatty acids, which can compromise a person’s health. The key to fat control is not only eating less fats, but eating the right fats. In fact, essential fatty acids may also be essential to maintaining proper fat-burning metabolism. Not only are crash diets unhealthy, many crash dieters eat more and regain more fat once they discard the diet – a quirk of nature known as the fast followed by the feast. The body was used to the fat it had and wants it back.
4. Fat-storing carbs
Another reason why crash diets fail is they don’t respect the interplay between insulin, carbohydrates, and fat storage. When you restrict your calories, your blood sugar may drop, causing you to get hungry and binge on carbohydrates, which triggers your insulin, the hormone which also promotes fat storage. In essence, getting hungry can promote fat storage rather than fat-burning in some people.
5. Downsizing
Ever wonder why it’s so hard to stick to a diet? The reason is your body naturally resists change, even when it’s for the better. It’s like a company that is overloaded with too many employees, inefficient, mismanaged, and downright unhealthy. The shareholders of the company, let’s call it Obese, Inc., vote to downsize. The support network or “employees” of the overweight company resists downsizing because they want to keep their jobs.The body acts in a similar way. In order to lug around twenty pounds of extra fat, the body develops a support network. The heart has to pump more blood, there are extra nerves, the hip bones widen to support the extra poundage around the middle, and extra calories are taken in to support this extra stuff. But the body gets used to this extra stuff and looks for strategies that help it hang on to all of its “employees.”Back to Obese Inc. In the early stages of trimming, the employees are uncomfortable. There are pink slips, layoffs, early retirements, demotions. Yet, management realizes that this initial discomfort is important in order to turn the company around. After a few months the company is running more efficiently, employees are happier, the stockholders are satisfied, wages are higher, and bonuses abound. The company is now trim, efficient, and making a profit. Now the support system fights to keep the company trim, easier to do now that those who had caused the company to become obese in the first place have been weeded out.
L.E.A.N. – Healthy Weight Loss
Metabolic changes occur in the body when the support system is healthy. The body initially fights the effects of eating less by resetting its metabolic set point lower, so it burns fewer calories. The body is uncomfortable. It may occasionally feel hungry. But after a couple months of resisting the change, the body realizes that it is now feeling better, leaner, trimmer, and is working more efficiently, with more energy. It has a new set point, a new way of working, and now it will fight to stay this way. Foods that it used to crave, it shuns. Habits it used to enjoy, it now perceives as threatening. And it keeps working harder to retain its new self.

Wise management changes a company gradually, so there’s less resistance. This is the best way to approach a new lifestyle, exercise routine, attitude about health and nutrition – the L.E.A.N. program. The body works better when you make wise changes slowly rather than trying to change your lifestyle, exercise habits, attitude and nutrition all at once. It really gets down to “quality” instead of “quantity.”

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Lean muscularity is not a result of starvation.
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Is This Good For Me?

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Find out for yourself what "GOOD" food is!

A typical question I get from athletes regarding food is, "Is this good for me", as if a single food could be the answer to athletic success. Or, on the opposite side, one serving of "bad" food will mess up weeks or months of preparation. A basic understanding of nutrition is essential. Otherwise trying to plan a good eating program from a contrived list of  "good" and "bad" foods is a never ending exercise in futility. Learn enough so that you can translate labels and marketing strategies into reality.

By Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, CSSD  | Thursday, May 25, 2017

When talking to young athletes, someone will always ask about a specific food or beverage and says, “is this healthy?” My answer is, “it depends.” More on the reason why it depends a little later in the column.

Food marketers have a simple goal: get you to buy more of their food. What they know is that if a food carries a health claim on the package, sales go up. (Check out this overview on the more than 1,000 public comments to the Food and Drug Administration on defining “healthy.”).

A recent survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation also found that we think a food is healthier if it is fresh versus frozen (even if the nutritional value is identical), if it costs more, if it is a brand name versus a store-brand, or if it is purchased from a natural foods store versus grocery or convenience store.

Let’s break down some of the health claims on food products that might be fooling you into believing they are healthier than they really are:
Wheat bread versus white bread. Wheat bread sounds healthier than white bread, but bread is made from wheat, whether is labeled white bread or wheat bread. If you want the healthier whole wheat bread, you have look at the ingredient list for “whole wheat flour” as the first ingredient.
5-grain bread versus wheat bread. The confusion here comes from the word “grain.” You might know that whole grains are healthy, but a bread touring 5-grains may not contain any whole grains. Again, the only way to know if there are whole grains is to look at the ingredient list.
Sugar-free yogurt. Yogurt (and milk) contain the sugar lactose; a naturally occurring sugar. Unfortunately, the nutrition label does not separate naturally occurring sugar from added sugar. A 5.3-ounce carton of yogurt (typical single serving size) can contain 4-20 grams of sugar; less sugar for plain yogurt and more for vanilla or fruit-flavored. A good goal is to stick to yogurt with 15 grams of sugar (the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar) or less.
Any food labelled as “natural.” There is no defining natural; a potato chip labeled as natural is not healthier than plain old chips.

Back to the opening question: “Is it healthy?” No single food can provide you with good health. It is the total diet that is important. Athletes require many calories to get them through training and competition, so if most of your food choices are healthful, don’t worry about a single food derailing a healthy diet.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian, certified specialist in sports nutrition, and professor emerita of nutrition at Georgia State University. She welcomes questions from swimmers, parents and coaches. Email her at chrisrosenbloom@gmail.com; follow her on Twitter @chrisrosenbloom.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

How coaches evaluate body language during a game

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Our body language can breed confidence

A thought provoking article on body language. It's no secret that how we present ourselves in stressful situations has a huge influence on those around us as well as on ourselves. Being aware of our body language allows us to inspire others as well as bolster our own confidence. Our body language not only reflects our inner feelings, but also can impact them. In other words, even when we may be scared or nervous in a competitive situation, putting on a brave and confident front actually breeds confidence. It's worth the effort to be aware of and to project positive and strong body language.

There’s a superpower that instantly impresses college coaches—and it has nothing to do with your student-athlete’s size, speed or agility.

It’s all about their body language. From shoulder shrugs to high fives of encouragement, a coach can learn everything they need to know about a recruit without even talking to them. And when your child displays confident, positive body language on the field, it’s a tell-tale sign they can make a successful impact on the team.

In fact, many college coaches adapt coaching techniques around body language. Mike Brey, men’s basketball coach at the University of Notre Dame, explains in an interview with Positive Coach Alliance that bad body language can be “cancerous.” His solution? Have players watch film to see how they communicate on the court, and then correct it.

But, like most of us, your child may not even realize the subtle physical messages they’re sending. Here are some common scenarios during a game when college coaches are taking note of your athlete’s body language—and what it’s telling them.


For those few seconds, when players are in a huddle around the coach, what’s your student-athlete doing? Are they engaged and actively participating, or wandering off? This brief interaction tells a coach a lot about your child’s personality.

For example, recruits who don’t hustle over, or are standoffish, are typically viewed as players who don’t work well in a team setting and would rather function independently. But those who take charge in the huddle and motivate others are viewed as leaders.


When your student-athlete is taken out of the game, coaches get a critical question answered: Will this recruit need a babysitter? Being benched, especially when a college coach is watching, brings out a lot of different characters (we’re talking about teenagers, after all). There’s the athlete who pouts, the one who argues with coaches, the ‘all about me’ recruit who doesn’t handle criticism well—you get the picture.

The truth is coaches have several other players and personalities to manage, and depending on the school, there’s a chance your student-athlete won’t see as much playing time their freshman year. Quite simply, coaches want to work with student-athletes who can handle sitting on the sideline with grace.


Mistakes happen. Actually, scratch that—mistakes are bound to happen. And this is when coaches get a glimpse of your child’s mental toughness. Specifically, they keep an eye out for what recruits do immediately after a bad play.

For example, if they throw their hands in the air, or always accuse other teammates, it shows they have a hard time with blame. Coaches also take note of how quickly your child bounces back from a tough play. Letting it go and moving on proves they’re disciplined mentally.


Coaches pay attention the entire game. When the ball is across the field, their eyes are still on your athlete. Why? Seeing how recruits act during plays they’re not involved in helps coaches determine how self-motivated they are. And motivation is not an easy characteristic to teach, especially among college-athletes who are on their own for the first time. In fact, it’s one of the reasons coaches request full game highlight videos.

Whether it’s a head hanging low or lack of hustle, certain movements tell a coach your athlete needs a little inspirational boost. On the flipside, coaches tune into recruits who display an all-in attitude and encourage teammates, even when they’re not a part of the action.

Skill evaluation is really the easy part. When coaches evaluate recruits in person, they already know their athletic ability. What they don’t know yet is character. And because of the huge impact of body language, your student-athlete can tell them everything without saying anything at all.

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I always tell my lifters to "Do it your mind first"

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Why Weight Training Is Ridiculously Good For You

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Weightlifting is good for the mind, body, and spirit

Here is an article from Time Magazine saying what we already know very well. It's nice to see a main stream news magazine saying it however. It's (un)common sense that working against resistance is a good thing. That is exactly what bodies were required to do for millenniums before the very recent development of technology. A mix of really hard but infrequent efforts mixed with very consistent lower intensity work was the pattern of life.It's only in the past few decades that most of us could make a living without physical exertion. It used to be that work was hard and recreation was easy. Now it needs to be reversed for most of us.

Why Weight Training Is Ridiculously Good For You
For many, weight training calls to mind bodybuilders pumping iron in pursuit of beefy biceps and bulging pecs. But experts say it’s well past time to discard those antiquated notions of what resistance training can do for your physique and health. Modern exercise science shows that working with weights-whether that weight is a light dumbbell or your own body-may be the best exercise for lifelong physical function and fitness.
"To me, resistance training is the most important form of training for overall health and wellness," says Brad Schoenfeld, an assistant professor of exercise science at New York City’s Lehman College. During the past decade, Schoenfeld has published more than 30 academic papers on every aspect of resistance training-from the biomechanics of the push-up to the body’s nutrient needs following a hard lift. Many people think of weight training as exercise that augments muscle size and strength, which is certainly true. But Schoenfeld says the "load" that this form of training puts on bones and their supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments is probably a bigger deal when it comes to health and physical function.
"We talk about bone resorption, which is a decrease in bone tissue over time," he says. When you’re young, bone resorption is balanced and in some cases exceeded by new bone tissue generation. But later in life, bone tissue losses accelerate and outpace the creation of new bone. That acceleration is especially pronounced among people who are sedentary and women who have reached or passed menopause, Schoenfeld says. This loss of bone tissue leads to the weakness and postural problems that plague many older adults.
"Resistance training counteracts all those bone losses and postural deficits," he says. Through a process known as bone remodeling, strength training stimulates the development of bone osteoblasts: cells that build bones back up. While you can achieve some of these bone benefits through aerobic exercise, especially in your lower body, resistance training is really the best way to maintain and enhance total-body bone strength.
More research links resistance training with improved insulin sensitivity among people with diabetes and prediabetes. One study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that twice-weekly training sessions helped control insulin swings (and body weight) among older men with type-2 diabetes. "Muscle is very metabolically active, and it uses glucose, or blood sugar, for energy," says Mark Peterson, an assistant professor of physical medicine at the University of Michigan.
During a bout of resistance training, your muscles are rapidly using glucose, and this energy consumption continues even after you’ve finished exercising, Peterson says. For anyone at risk for metabolic conditions-type-2 diabetes, but also high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and other symptoms of metabolic syndrome-strength training is among the most-effective remedies, he says.
Strength training also seems to be a potent antidote to inflammation, a major risk factor for heart disease and other conditions, says Schoenfeld. A 2010 study from the University of Connecticut linked regular resistance training with inflammation-quelling shifts in the body’s levels of cytokines, a type of immune system protein. Another study from Mayo Clinic found that when overweight women did twice-weekly resistance training sessions, they had significant drops in several markers of inflammation.

More research has linked strength training to improved focus and cognitive function, better balance, less anxiety and greater well-being.
Some of the latest and most surprising research is in the realm of "light-load training," or lifting very small weights. "It used to be thought that you needed to lift heavy loads in order to build muscle and achieve a lot of these benefits," Schoenfeld says. "That’s what I was taught in grad school and undergrad, but now it looks like that’s completely untrue."
He says lifting "almost to failure"-or until your muscles are near the point of giving out-is the real key, regardless of how much weight you’re using. "This is a huge boon to adherence, because many older adults or those with injuries or joint issues may not be able to lift heavy loads," he says.
If all that isn’t convincing enough to turn you onto weights, perhaps this is: maintaining strength later in life "seems to be one of the best predictors of survival," says Peterson. "When we add strength...almost every health outcome improves."
"It used to be we thought of strength training as something for athletes," he adds, "but now we recognize it as a seminal part of general health and well-being at all ages."

This article was originally published on TIME.com

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It's hard to not smile when you are strong!

Monday, June 5, 2017


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Adjustable blocks can be constructed in many ways and are very useful.

Here is some nice, concise advice from Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics, whom we quote often. As I have used blocks at times in my own training and with my athletes over the years. I find as I continue to gain experience (get older) that I ,personally, use blocks more and more. Snatches, Cleans, and pulls from various heights off of the floor can be much more forgiving on aging knees and lower back and still provide a lot of benefit in power development. Greg, below, gives a nice explanation of what to be aware of when deciding how to incorporate blocks into a program. 


Training snatches and cleans from blocks can be very effective for improving things like rate of force development, aggression, better movement under the bar, etc. - but often some of this benefit is reduced by the way you start the lift.

When lifting from a hang position, you're under tension and are using some degree of stretch reflex unless you hold the hang position for about 3 or more seconds (unusual). When lifting from the blocks, the bar is supported by the blocks, not you, meaning that tension and stretch reflex are absent. This means that your body has to create force far more rapidly and with less assistance than it does in the hang or during a lift from the floor.

However, this difference can be significantly reduced by starting a lift from the blocks with a dynamic start like you might from the floor - because the purpose of a dynamic start is to create additional tension and a stretch reflex to make initiating the lift easier.

This doesn't mean the lift is necessarily as easy, easier, or useless - but pay attention to what exactly you're trying to accomplish with lifts from the blocks and start them accordingly.

Check out our huge weightlifting exercise library with demo videos and information on execution, purpose, programming and variations.
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Another style of blocks

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And another
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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Which Sweeteners Are Best?

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Gold Medal nutrition doesn't contain too many artificial additives.

A nice article off of the Muscle Gauge Nutrition site that gives a good explanation of artificial sweeteners and their effects. For those of with a sweet tooth like me, this is good information. It seems that the best answer is to eat foods in the most natural state possible, use sugars in moderation, and brush and floss your teeth.  

Which Sweeteners Are Best?
Artificial Sweeteners
Eat too many sugary foods and you run the risk of weight gain and a trip to the dentist to take care of cavities. Some people say that we should use a more natural sweetener than table sugar, such as honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar. And what about sugar substitutes – are they safe to use on a regular basis?
Nutritive sweeteners such as table sugar, molasses, and polyols provide energy and contain 2-4 calories per gram of weight. Non-nutritive sweeteners contain no calories, because they are far sweeter than sugar and only tiny amounts are necessary.
Sucrose and fructose make up sugar and other sweeteners that occur naturally in foods. Our body doesn’t differentiate between the sugar in an apple, the sugar we stir into our coffee, or the sugar that sweetens muffins and cookies. Molasses, honey, fruit juice concentrate, corn syrup, raw sugar, and brown sugar are examples of sugars routinely added to commercially prepared foods or used at home.
Polyols are sweeteners that aren’t well digested and therefore provide about half the calories of sugar. Commonly referred to as ‘sugar alcohols’, the preferred name is polyol, because they’re neither sugar nor alcohol. Polyols sweeten lower-calorie foods such as ice cream, candy, and baked goods that are often labeled “sugar free”, “no sugar added”, or “no added sugars”. Foods that contain polyols are also allowed to use the health claim “Does not promote tooth decay”. Caution: some people experience gas, bloating, or even diarrhea if they consume too many polyols. Just because a food is sugar-free doesn’t mean we should eat a lot of it!
One of the most popular polyols is xylitol, which found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol has the same bulk and sweetness as sugar, but one-third fewer calories because it is not completely digested. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, chewing sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol between meals can significantly decrease risk of dental caries.
There are five different sugar substitutes currently approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, and neotame have undergone rigorous testing and are safe for normal use.
1.            Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low, Sugar Twin, Sweet Magic) is the oldest sugar substitute, widely used for over 100 years. It’s 300-400 times sweeter than sugar. In 1977 saccharin was banned due to research showing it caused cancerous tumors in rats. After thorough scientific review, in 1985 the American Medical Association determined that saccharin is safe for human consumption. Because other sugar substitutes with better taste and little or no aftertaste are now available, saccharin is used less often. Children should not use saccharin due to limited research on its safety in this age group. Pregnant women are cautioned to avoid saccharin because it crosses the placenta.
2.            Aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet, SweetMate, NatraTaste), 180 times sweeter than sugar, was approved for general use in 1976. The widespread allegation that the breakdown products of aspartame – methanol and formate – cause lupus, multiple sclerosis, or brain tumors is untrue, with additional research proving the safety of aspartame.
3.            Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, SweetOne, Swiss Sweet) was approved for use in 1988. It’s most often used in combination with other sweeteners or in soft drinks, and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. One of the byproducts of acesulfame potassium is phenylalanine, a naturally occurring amino acid. Phenylalanine is safe for everyone except for the small percentage of people with phenylketonuria who cannot metabolize it. That’s why you see the statement “Phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanine” on any food or beverage that contains acesulfame potassium.
4.            Sucralose (Splenda) is actually made from sucrose, or table sugar. That’s why the advertising for sucralose says it tastes like sugar. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar and is used in hundreds of foods and beverages. Sucralose is made by substituting three chlorine atoms for three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule. Chlorine is actually a natural part of many types of foods we eat every day, including lettuce, tomatoes, and melons, and the small amounts present in sucralose are safe for human consumption.
5.            Neotame is a sweetening powerhouse: it’s 7000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar! It was approved for general use in 2002, and is typically found blended with other sugar substitutes in foods and beverages.
Three other non-caloric sweeteners are currently approved for use in the US as flavor enhancers, not sweeteners. They are 50-3000 times sweeter than sugar, but require additional research before they can be utilized as sugar substitutes. Dihydrochalcones (DHCs), glycyrrhizin and thaumatin (Thalin) are found in beverages, chewing gum, and some baked goods.
Because sugar substitutes are so much sweeter than sugar, a little goes a very long way. Other ingredients, such as maltodextrin or polydextrose, are added to sugar substitute packets to provide bulk. The current trend is to blend two or more different sugar substitutes together for the best-tasting product.
The National Academy of Sciences’ Food Nutrition Board recommends no more than 25% of total calories should come from added sugars, including sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, and maple syrup. For a woman eating 1400 calories per day, 350 calories could potentially come from added sugars. Adding some sweetness to foods increases our enjoyment of eating, and keeping sugar consumption to a moderate level is definitely part of a balanced, healthy diet.
Up to 90% of consumers routinely use sugar substitutes, or foods that already contain sugar substitutes. The FDA determines an acceptable amount of each sugar substitute that can be safely used over a person’s lifetime, and includes a 100-fold safety factor. That means you could eat 100 times the recommended amount of a sugar substitute and not worry about health problems. Research studies show that the vast majority of people use healthy amounts of sugar substitutes.

Recent research published in the Journal of Food Science shows that the more artificial sweeteners we use, the more we crave sweet foods and beverages, which may increase our overall calorie intake and make it more difficult to lose weight. And the research we discuss in this newsletter brings up a disturbing possibility that using sugar substitutes may actually cause our body to crave more calories, so that we gain body fat. It makes sense to use the least amount of sugars and sugar substitutes possible, especially if they’re used in foods that don’t contain many healthy nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Water or skim milk are healthier beverages than diet soda; a fresh apple packs a larger nutrient punch than canned applesauce sweetened with Splenda, and candy is still candy – even if it’s sugar free !

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Real lifters eat real food, in large quantities.
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