Anybody who knows me well enough knows that I like to at least look presentable when I’m in the gym. I’m particularly big on the shoes that I wear, and the anal retentive in me always has to match my shirt with my shoes. Because after all, if you don’t look good, you don’t feel good. And we all know that if you don’t feel good, you can’t workout hard, right???? RIGHT!! But, alas, I’m not here to discuss the do’s and dont’s of the Roy G. Biv spectrum.
We all have our own individual peeves when it comes to fashion in the gym. Some, however, seem to be at or near the top of everyone’s list. How about the guy wearing blue jeans, or the lady wearing her spandex just a little too tight?? Both of these, fortunately for us, are one bend of the waste away from showing us part of their derriere. If you’re like me, you really ain’t got time for that. What about the woman who’s wearing see-through spandex?? You know you’ve seen her before, and thought to yourself, WFT??? As a trainer, that makes me all sorts of uncomfortable. One of my personal favorites is the guy who’s shorts look like they might be in the next edition of Victoria’s Secret magazine. And obviously, by favorite, I mean I really hate this guy. Seriously, nobody wants to see those pasty white toothpicks you call legs. Grow some muscles, and then put on some real shorts.
I certainly get that different people have their own preferences of what to wear in the gym. There is nothing wrong with that. But, we shouldn’t have to call Staples and ask for their easy button to differentiate normal and ridiculous. With that said, though, it never fails. Once or twice a week I will see somebody sporting something in the gym that just boggles my mind. And every time it happens, like always, I’m left Shaking My Head.
Everybody loves a good slice of pizza. Unfortunately, those greasy, cheesy slices of pizza don’t always love us back. Here is a different approach to one of our favorite Italian meals. It is a little high in sodium, but overall it is a great, healthy alternative to pepperoni and sausage.
Whole Wheat Pita Pizza
SERVINGS – 4
COOK TIME – 7
TOTAL TIME – 35
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed with garlic press
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 ounces broccoli flowers, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
15-20 ounces garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
4 whole wheat pitas (6 inches each), split horizontally in half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 medium plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion and cook 7 to 10 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, and cook 30 seconds, stirring. Add broccoli flowers, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup water; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, 5 minutes or until broccoli is tender-crisp.
2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, with potato masher or fork, mash beans with ricotta and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt until almost smooth.
3. Arrange pita halves on 2 large cookie sheets. Bake 3 minutes or until lightly toasted. Spread bean mixture on toasted pitas. Top with broccoli mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake 7 to 10 minutes longer or until heated through. Sprinkle with tomatoes to serve.
Total Fat: 13 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 27 mg
Sodium: 1155 mg
Carbohydrates: 77 g
Fiber: 13 g
Protein: 27 g
Go into a fitness center, read an article online, or talk to a personal trainer… Pay close attention and I promise you will hear this phrase: Lose fat and build lean muscle tissue. Those may not be the exact words. But, if you wait long enough, you’re going to hear that in some form or fashion. It is what the majority of fitness programs and workouts are designed to do these days. But, if you’re like me when I first started getting into the fitness world, you might have the same question I did: Why??? It’s not the obvious “cosmetic” issue that I was wanting to understand. It was the science behind the argument of lean muscle tissue vs. fat. I hear the topic discussed all the time, so I want to share with you why it is that so many people are focused on lean muscle tissue.
Lean Muscle Tissue (LMT) – First and foremost, lean muscle tissue does not mean bulky. One reason most people are turned off by lifting weights is that they mistake LMT for huge, bulky muscles. Well, that’s simply not the case. Let’s first point out the discrepancy between LMT and bulky muscle.
Now, I’m not here to say which one is right or wrong, because quite frankly both of these women seem to be very healthy (I’m using females as an example because this is generally not an issue with men). I’m simply pointing out the difference between bulky and lean muscle. The female in the top picture would be considered bulky, with the larger shoulders and arms. The woman in the bottom photo would be considered more lean, with less definition in the muscles. Again, neither are right or wrong, just different.
So, back to the issue at hand. Why are so many people concerned with gaining LMT?? Well, there are many reasons, but I want to highlight a few for you. This will hopefully paint a clearer picture for you.
Metabolic Rate – We hear about metabolic rate all the time. But what is it?? Simply put, it’s the amount of calories you burn in a given day. You have different resting and exercise metabolic rates, obviously, with exercise being much higher. LMT affects this in a positive manner. Muscle has a MUCH higher metabolism than fat. So, it would make sense that the more muscle we have, then the higher our exercise AND resting metabolic rates would be. More muscle = more calories burned.
Increased Strength – This may not be a major issue for all of you. But, I’m sure you can think of multiple instances where it would be nice to be able to pick that heavy box up by yourself, or lift that heavier kettlebell next time in the gym. Whether we realize it or not, strength is a MAJOR component of health. Have you ever watched an elderly individual use up almost all of their strength to simply stand up from a chair??? Hard to watch, I know. Now tell me strength isn’t important.
Increased Bone Density – Again, this may not be next to “get in bathing suit shape” on your To Do List, but it is very important. Especially in the female population, bone density decreases significantly with age. The great thing about bones, you ask??? They are made to be stressed!!! No, not injured. Stressed. There is a difference. Bones strengthen whenever we place stress on them (i.e. lifting weights). The bones in the human body, particularly those within the spinal cord and lower body, are not only designed to, but benefit from, loads applied to them. So, although it may not be the most comfortable thing in the world, that barbell on your back during a squat isn’t the worst thing in the world, after all.
Balance, Flexibility, Injury Prevention – Is it true that if you don’t use it, you lose it??? Well, when it comes to muscle functioning, you better believe it. Resistance training increases balance by using bi-lateral movements (lunges, etc) that make you focus on balance and core activation. Flexibility can be increased without stretching simply by going through a full range of motion during exercise. Yes, you can actually improve flexibility without ripping your muscles off while stretching. Maybe more important than those two is injury prevention. It’s this simple… You want to avoid injuring your muscles?? Make them stronger!!! The stronger your muscles are, the more prepared they are to deal with the stimuli we present to them. What do you think supports your joints when you run, jump, or push something?? These things all go hand in hand with each other, and all depend on increasing LMT.
For those still not convinced…..
In case you cannot see, that’s 5 lbs of fat on the left and 5 lbs of LMT on the right. Now do you understand?? Outside of those reasons I just listed, this is the number one reason most people want to lose fat. Muscle tissue is MUCH more dense than fat tissue, which means for the same weight it takes up MUCH less space. Think of how much different somebody would look after losing 15 pounds of fat (3 TIMES THAT IN THE PICTURE) and gaining 3-4 pounds of LMT. It would make a world of difference.
The benefits of LMT are numerous, and I can’t express the importance of each one of them enough. Read this very carefully…. You don’t need a prescription from your doctor to lose fat!! You don’t go to the pharmacy to build lean muscle!! You need to drop the chips, get off the couch, and get on board with the great things that exercise has to offer!!!
This week I’ve got two exercises for your workout. But don’t jump to any conclusions just yet. Just because it’s only two exercises doesn’t mean it will be that easy. Your exercises are Burpee Ball Slams and DB/KB Thrusters.
Here’s the layout of the workout….
1) First Set: 15 Burpee Ball Slams – 5 Thrusters
2) Each Following Set: DROP 1 Burpee Slam and ADD 1 Thruster (14/6, 13/7, etc.)
3) Last Set: 5 Burpee Ball Slams – 15 Thrusters
* For each exercise you will end up doing a total of 105 reps.
** Finish your workout with 2-3 sets of 25 Situps.
As always, rest only when necessary. If you do not have access to a medicine ball or are not comfortable with a no-bounce medicine ball, do regular burpees. Start with 25 reps and work you way down to 15 reps.
You thought burpees and medicine ball slams were fun enough by themselves?? Well, I took your advice and decided to combine the two for this week’s exercise. Pretty standard as far as instructions go. As with all exercises, keep your core tight throughout, especially on the medicine ball slam, as that is the primary focus of that exercise.
Always begin this exercise in the standing position. Start with the burpee and go right into the ball slam. Try to make this as fluid of a movement as possible. Do not rest in between the burpee and the ball slam. If you must rest before completing your reps, rest AFTER the ball slam.
Notice here that I’m bending primarily at my knees, while pushing my hips back, during the medicine ball slam. There is going to be some rotation around the hip, as the exercise involves hip flexion, but try to bend at the knees as well on the way up and down with the slam. Do not lock you knees out at any point during the medicine ball slam unless you are standing straight up. When slamming the ball down, as I am doing above, focus on pushing the hips back and bending with the knees, much like a squat. This will minimize stress on the low back and help you focus on using your core muscles throughout the movement.
***NOTE: I am using a no-bounce medicine ball that is filled with sand. Make sure you know what type of medicine ball you are using before you begin. You can generally tell if the ball is “bounce” or “no-bounce” by simply dropping it on the floor from about the level of your hip. If it bounces, be extra careful to catch it or at least block it with your hands after doing the slam with this exercise.