Why You Should Do Butt Stuff

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Why You Should Do Butt Stuff

It’s Monday and you’ve already come up with a huge win for the week; you got up early to go to the gym. You’re not Arnold, but you’ve been to the gym before and you know that Monday means chest day; it’s pretty much an international holiday, right? But who decided you have to bench on Monday? Or any day! The beautiful thing about the gym is that you can do whatever you want (as long as you’re safe and considerate of others)! So why not try something new this morning and work out your butt? It’s really a great idea, let me tell you why.

For those of you who didn’t already know, your butt is actually the biggest muscle group in your body, comprised of the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and the gluteus maximus. This means that you should be training it! And not just to get the boys or girls to do a double-take. Functionally, your glutes have a lot of responsibilities and if you neglect them, you’re going to have a bad time in general and an even harder time being an athlete. Let’s go through just a few of those responsibilities here.

1.    Your glutes are the primary movers in hip extension. What’s that you ask? When your hip angle (between your trunk and your leg) opens up. Ninety-nine percent of people utilize this movement pattern every single day; it’s called walking. Any walking or running you do is going to be initiated by hip extension and if your glutes are weak other muscles (specifically your lower back and hamstrings) will have to compensate and that’s when you start to feel tightness, aches and pains. Nobody wants that.

2.    Your glutes also externally rotate the leg; if running and walking are extension patterns in the sagittal plane of motion (moving forward and backward) external rotation is what allows you to take a step in the frontal plane (moving side to side). The point is. That without your butt you don’t move very well.

So now that you know why you need to workout more than just your quads and hammies on leg day, and also that leg day can and should happen more than once every two months, how do you do it? I want to share with you some of the best booty building exercises around starting with the king of them all; the hip thrust.

Now I know, everyone says that if you want to build your butt you need to hit your squats and get your weight up. However, according to Bret Contreras, PhD, CSCS, an EMG study that compared muscle activation in the glutes between squats and hip thrusts yielded some interesting results (you can see those results broken down here and the actual study here). Hip thrusts are where you put a bar across your hips and push it up by squeezing your glutes and hamstrings. It can be uncomfortable sometimes in more ways than one and maybe draw some strange looks but it’s worth it, here’s why.

To make a long story short, when you are in the concentric portion of the squat (the part where you stand up to complete the rep) maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) of the glutes is at between 80-120%, the highest it will get during this movement overall, the mean activation of the glutes (over the entire squat) is only at about 50-70% because the glutes are fairly inactive during the majority of the movement. Now, in the hip thrust MVC of the glutes can reach between 120-200% and mean activation is typically around 100%. So…do your hip thrusts, but don’t leave your squats out to dry either; they’re still important, just not as much as you may have thought when it comes to the booty.

Your glutes are the biggest muscle group in your body. Skipping leg day isn’t doing you any favors, even if your goals don’t revolve around a rounder backside. Functionally, the glutes provide a foundation along with the core for all athletic movement. So, go on, the awkward eye contact is okay, have some fun and build those buns!

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The Real Deal With Fitness Trackers PT.2 - Runner's Best Friend?

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The Real Deal With Fitness Trackers PT.2 - Runner's Best Friend?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog about how fitness trackers, in general, don’t do a whole lot for us in our big-picture workout pursuits. They can give someone a good ballpark on total calories burned, heart rate,VO2 max, and steps, but they are not always super reliable. That being said, I want to reiterate how I closed then; if you like it, use it. One of the biggest pros of a fitness tracker is its usefulness as an external source of motivation and accountability; I can’t argue with that. However, if you’re reading this, you may be interested in how your tracker can help you run better, faster, or longer. Let’s dive in.

Out of the gate, I should point out that the trackers I wrote about in Part 1 of this tracker talk, namely the Apple Watch, won’t really be our focus here; it fits more of an everyday fitness crowd. That’s well and good, but I want to get a little more run-specific. I want to focus on watches and wearables that are specifically designed for runners, and how they work to improve your run.

Garmin and Fitbit have great watches (Garmin’s Forerunner series and the Fenix 5 Plus, the Fitbit Iconic) that link to Strava or Runkeeper or whatever app you like. These watches have the best GPS capability as well so that your run tracking actually reflects your location and speed accurately. Additionally these trackers have the HR tracking capabilities that you would find on any other fitness tracker. They’re not great, but a good estimate for tracking rate over time as you run.

So why does a GPS watch (or even an Apple Watch or Fitbit matter)? Why would you want one? There are a number of pros and cons, and while I could go on all day both ways, I’ll list the heavy-hitters here.

  • One of the biggest reasons runners invest in high quality running watches (or in this case, even an Apple Watch) is because it allows you to ditch your phone; whether you’re bluetoothing through a watch to wireless headphones or rolling music-less, the GPS equipped watches allow you to track your run, keep up with important notifications if needed, and give you a sense of security keeping you connected as you’re out on a run.

  • One of the biggest reasons you may want to skip the watch: it’s not necessary. While it’s nice to be able to view your running metrics (the depth of which will more than likely correspond with how much you pay for your watch in the first place), you can train effectively without a watch based on your perceived effort. While more information is nice, it’s not necessary, and you certainly don’t want to become reliant on some kind of expensive tool to get a good workout in. Sometimes it’s OK to keep it simple.

  • Finally, one of the reasons you may want to go all in on a running watch is that wearables have been shown to be effective motivators. According to research out of the University of Pennsylvania, fitness trackers and running watches do a really good job of motivating people to get their miles in. Specifically, through these wearables integration with fitness-specific social networks, like Strava, allowing for the formation of a community and competitions (both digitally and out in the real world). They also are a good way to track a “me vs. me” competition, making tracking progress super simple.

So, once again, here’s the bottom line: if you like it, use it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting down and dirty with data and tracking your runs using a cool watch; they really can give you a lot. That said, just take your data from your wrist computer with a grain of salt. It’s just one small tool in your arsenal. Don’t forget the basics and don’t let the numbers run your life. The most important thing is to consistently get your miles in and keep enjoying your training. If a running watch or tracker makes that easier, then go for it.

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Do Compression Socks Really Improve Running?

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Do Compression Socks Really Improve Running?

Compression socks can improve performance, decrease lactic acid buildup and minimize muscle soreness, right? If you’ve been running for longer than a year it’s likely that you heard at least one of these statements regarding compression socks. Some runners will swear that it works and others will say it’s a myth. If compression socks can increase running performance how might they do so, and what does the research say?  

Understanding the Claims

Before we get into the knitty gritty of physiology, let’s start with compression socks role in blood flow and venous return. Our heart’s number one job is to pump oxygen-rich blood to our muscles and organs. When we run the demand for oxygenated blood increases so, in order to fill the new requirement, our heart beats faster and we breathe harder. Once our muscles take the oxygen out of the blood and dump in waste products (like lactic acid) our body has to work twice as hard to get the deoxygenated blood back to the lungs and heart to be refueled. Bringing blood back to the heart is more challenging due to gravity, so our body uses our muscles as pumps. Everytime our calfs contract they squeeze the veins in the lower leg, giving the oxygen-poor blood an extra boost. Once the blood finds its way home the whole process starts again.

But what does this have to do with compression socks and performance? Well, the more blood we can send back to the heart the more oxygen-rich blood we can send to our muscles. If a muscle has a higher supply of oxygen it can continually convert that oxygen into energy through the mitochondria. Considering compression socks constantly squeeze the calf, it would make sense to assume that the added pressure would contribute to muscle contraction causing even more blood to be sent back to the heart. The more blood we send back to the heart, the more lactic acid byproduct we are getting rid of. If we can get more oxygen rich blood to our muscles while simultaneously removing lactic acid then running performance should improve! What these statements have in common is “if.”

What do the studies show?

I was able to find multiple studies that pointed towards a clear answer - YES! Compression socks have been shown to increase performance and reduce muscle fatigue during bouts of exercise. In the studies done, they had two trials where runners run without compression socks and then again with compression socks (to put it simply). In every study the experimental group that ran with compression socks did better on the second trial. But why? This is where the studies begin to diverge from popular opinion. One of the biggest factors for increased performance was athlete perception. Preconceived notions of the effectiveness of compression socks may have added a placebo effect which would result in higher performance. Although it may seem logical that lactic acid concentrations were lower in subjects using compression socks, studies found that groups wearing and not wearing the socks had no difference in acid concentrations after a bout of exercise. However, the studies did support and find a significant difference in recovery during bouts of exercise; but it may not be why you think. The constant pressure applied by the compression socks inhibited inflammation. When muscles are damaged during exercise an inflammatory response is created to remove any waste and breakdown muscle to form new, stronger muscle. Therefore, the compression socks were able to hinder inflammation because of the lack of room necessary causing a temporary increase in recovery rate during bouts of exercise. As for any other possible benefits of compression socks (like an increase in venous return) there just isn’t enough data to support a definitive answer.

Final Thoughts

We may not know exactly why compression socks work, but they do! Their effects on running performance are clearly seen through a multitude of studies. If you’re still skeptical, try them! Maybe you’ll hit a new PR.

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Transformation Bootcamp

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Transformation Bootcamp

Why is our Transformation Bootcamp Different from Others?

A lot of times, people are so scared of the word “bootcamp” because they think they need to be fitness enthusiasts to do it. When people hear the word “bootcamp” they automatically think “intense burst of exercises” and get scared. But here at P4L, we take our education very seriously. This is not your typical “no pain, no gain” environment. Instead, during this 4 week period, we will build you up from the ground up.

Here’s why our bootcamp is different from anyone’s else’s. First, every person joining our program goes through a 30 min assessment that includes an inbody assessment, PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire), and a brief functional movement screening. Personalized nutrition guidelines will also be provided along with a 30 min complimentary consultation with our health and wellness coach, Marley Wiley. This ensures that all of our boot campers are well aware of their own bodies and know what muscle groups they need to focus on and what movements they should avoid. These elements tell us what fitness level you will be at and therefore, we can match you with a perfect partner with similar goals, personality, and fitness level throughout this 4 week period to keep you accountable.

There will be four phases during this four week period. First week, we will focus on stabilization and endurance. Second week, we will focus on strength endurance/hypertrophy. Third week, we will focus on max strength and lastly on the fourth week, we will focus on power. This is based on NASM’s scientifically proven OPT model. What’s most important is that this is a 10 people max bootcamp. If safety is your concern, you can take that off the list.

And don’t worry, no class will ever be the same. Even though this is a structured program, everyday will be different.  We will incorporate a mixture of strength and conditioning work, cardio boxing, and metabolic conditioning/HIIT training to give you the best results possible. Kettlebells, barbells/dumbbells, plyometrics, sled push, battle ropes, assault bike, core focus work, medicine balls...you name it, we got you covered. Here at P4L, we value two things: education and community. We will provide the support you need to help you reach YOUR goals in a FUN and SAFE way. This bootcamp will bring you into a community of others who keep you accountable and encourage you to show up everyday! So sign up now and get in the best shape of your life!

*We encourage all levels of fitness from beginner to advanced to participate*



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Exercise Aids Parkinson's Disease Patients

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Exercise Aids Parkinson's Disease Patients

When you think of exercise, you probably picture people struggling to lift heavy objects while trying not to slip in their own puddles of sweat. You probably see the same people on the machines, the same meatheads in the free-weight area, and the same elderly people cruising along on the cardio equipment. But while those meatheads add to their puddles of sweat and dream about eating a meal other than chicken breast and steamed veggies, some of those on the cardio equipment may be quietly fighting an uphill battle with no concrete victory ahead.

The battle against Parkinson’s disease has been noted since the early 19th century. James Parkinson first published his findings about the disease which later took his name in his classical essay The Shaking Palsy in 1817. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) currently affects over 6 million people worldwide, with 60,000 new cases diagnosed every year in the U.S. alone. Since age has been deemed the number one risk factor for PD, this number will only continue to grow with lengthened life expectancies and the aging baby boomer generation. However, researchers recently discovered that exercise helps to slow the neurodegeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the basal ganglia.

The Science Behind Parkinson’s

PD is a neurodegenerative disease, meaning: symptoms worsen as time goes on, because cells continue to die. Dopaminergic neurons are the cells which continuously die out. These specific brain cells produce a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine works to help control motor functions, memory, and pleasure, among other things, so a dopamine depletion would impair one’s motor functions (a.k.a. voluntary movements). The depletion of dopaminergic neurons occurs in a brain region called the basal ganglia. Since dopamine works to control movement, the most noticeable symptoms of PD are the ones which affect motor functions like: tremors, rigidity (stiffness), and bradykinesia (slowed movement). PD symptoms may be managed, but not cured. The disease has no known cause or cure. The symptoms progress in severity as time goes on BUT exercise can slow the progression and make symptoms more manageable!

Exercise’s Effects on Parkinson’s

Exercise as an intervention for PD has shown to increase dopamine production through the formation of new neuronal connections, leading to more pathways for production. A study performed at the Cleveland Clinic showed the shear effectiveness of exercise on PD patients. Researchers found that exercise on a tandem bicycle activated the same brain regions affected by PD. The results indicate that the exercise was just as effective as medication for the disease. Findings like these may eliminate the need for medication so early on in the treatment process, making treatment much more affordable while simultaneously introducing an inexpensive alternative treatment. A German study found that forced exercise improves the walking patterns in PD patients. Since PD affects the motor functions of patients, researchers sought out a way to improve their walking patterns. Findings indicate that forced exercise elicited long-term positive effects on PD patients’ walking, combatting the dopamine deficiency. The combined effects from these studies show promising evidence that exercise can be used as an effective treatment to aid in the fight against Parkinson’s.

References

Alberts, J. L., Phillips, M., Lowe, M. J., Frankemolle, A., Thota, A., Beall, E. B., & ... Ridgel, A. L. (2016). Cortical and motor responses to acute forced exercise in Parkinson's disease. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, 2456-62. doi:10.1016/j.parkreldis.2016.01.015

Bear, M. F., Connors, B. W., & Paradiso, M. (2016). Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

Stuckenschneider, T., Helmich, I., Raabe-Oetker, A., Froböse, I., & Feodoroff, B. (2015). Active assistive forced exercise provides long-term improvement to gait velocity and stride length in patients bilaterally affected by Parkinson's disease. Gait & Posture, 42(4), 485-490. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2015.08.001



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