Why You Should Be Using Kettlebells

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Why You Should Be Using Kettlebells

First, what are kettlebells?! Kettlebells were first developed in Russia and are traditionally cast-iron rounded weights with a handle. Though you may have seen or used one in an exercise class, they’re actually still used a lot by special forces, martial arts masters, and national champion lifters, as well.

What makes this certain type of weight so special, you may ask? It’s because of how many athletic components you’re able to work. Research has shown kettlebell-specific routines to increase strength, strength endurance, general endurance, work capacity, balance, coordination, and agility, and to lower heart rate and blood pressure. A study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) in 2010 found that, during a kettlebell snatch (a type of olympic lift) workout, subjects were burning at least 20.2 calories a minute. This is equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace, and they compared that calorie expenditure to the amount of calories burned while cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace. With all of these possible benefits that basically cover every spectrum of fitness and athletics, why not train with kettlebells?

If you’re just getting into training and are overwhelmed by all the different machines and weight types throughout the gym, the kettlebell can be your answer to simplify things. I recently earned my StrongFirst Kettlebell Certification, which focuses on 6 lifts that can essentially be the entirety of your workout routine. You may need a couple different weights, but you can basically replace an entire gym full of equipment with just a couple of kettlebells. A national champion track and field thrower, Dan John famously said “with this kettlebell in my bedroom I can prepare for Nationals.” Form and technique are very important while using kettlebells to train, so make sure you’ve got a coach that can introduce you to the basics - as StrongFirst says: “safe execution first, perfect is a journey.” Even with light weight, just because of the nature of the exercises using this modality, you will get a large training effect.

For those athletes out there trying to up their game, this style of training will be hugely beneficial for you, as well. A big component of what makes kettlebell training transfer to sports is the relationship between relaxation and tension that is ever present. To hit a ball it’s furthest, or to throw the most powerful punch, an athlete needs both of these components at certain times. First starting loose so that they can react, then an initial tensing as they initiate the movement, followed by another relaxation period as the arm or bat flies to its target at top speed, and finally when connection has been made, tensing with everything the athlete has against his or her target. With this order, you can achieve maximum speed in the movement while backing it with power and strength. By training with kettlebells, you’re working on these same ideals, especially during the kettlebell swing which, of the main kettlebell lifts, most closely mimics this order. In the swing, you’re relaxed as you swing in the down motion, followed by tension to initiate the movement, relaxation as the bell starts to swing up, and finally achieving full tension at the top of the swing. The swing, snatch, and clean are all considered “ballistic” movements by StrongFirst and will follow this same basic principle, while the get-up, front squat, and overhead press are considered “grinds” that’ll improve the amount of tension and strength your body can achieve. Prof. Leonid Matveyev, a soviet scientist, noted that higher-level athletes could relax their muscles faster, observing an 800% difference between novice and olympic-level athletes in the speed of tension to relaxation in muscles. If you can’t relax your muscles, then they can’t hit maximum speed, which will ultimately hinder how much force you’re able to produce.

What does all of this mean? It means that any level of athlete can gain big benefits from a kettlebell workout routine, whether you’re training for a sport, competition, or just to look better. If you’re looking to mix things up - or to improve your own kettlebell skills - I suggest looking for a Strongfirst SFG certified trainer and get swinging!


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The Benefits of Rest Intervals During Resistance Training

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The Benefits of Rest Intervals During Resistance Training

Hey everyone, my name’s Taylor Kennon and I’m the newest movement specialist at Perform for Life. I recently graduated with my master’s degree in Kinesiology and I’m excited to begin my career here in San Francisco. Something that really interests me is the physiology behind exercise and the research supporting it. I wanted to write a little bit about rest interval timing because it’s an important variable that, when used properly, can be used to amplify the effects of a good exercise program.

Exercise causes adaptation in the body because it causes physiological stress, which causes the body to improve. Some examples of physiological stress from an acute bout of exercise are glycogen storage in the muscle, acidity in the muscle and blood, and decreased enzyme availability. All of these stresses cause the body to in turn increase its capacity to handle that specific stress in the future, resulting in an increase in performance for future workouts. For example, after the body becomes more acidic following a resistance training bout, the body can handle (buffer) that amount of acidity more efficiently in the future.

There is ample research advocating the use of multiple sets of an exercise during resistance training to induce increases in muscular strength and hypertrophy (muscle growth) adaptations in the body (Kramer et al., 1997). The amount of time taken between these sets are known as rest intervals, which have important implications in both acute responses and chronic adaptations to a resistance training program. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), rest intervals should differ based off of the training goal, whether it be muscular strength, muscular hypertrophy, or muscular endurance.

If multiple sets of an exercise are used, the physiological stress to the body can be repeated, causing greater adaptation and inducing the associated increases in performance (Krieger, 2009). Each type of goal calls for a different rest interval, and if the rest intervals are correct according to the training goal, the stress can be even greater. That’s why rest intervals are so important: they allow for manipulation of the amount of physiological stress. Take a look at the table below to see a few different ideal rest period lengths:

 Source: NSCA, Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (Baechle & Earle, 2000)  

Source: NSCA, Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (Baechle & Earle, 2000)  

Depending on the training goal, long or short rest intervals should be used. For example, if the training goal is muscular hypertrophy or muscular endurance, shorter rest intervals are required. This is because these two training goals require incomplete rest to cause a greater amount of stress to the body. Conversely, strength (and power) require higher rest intervals because this training goal requires a more complete rest to perform in subsequent sets. For example, if you perform the bench press for 5 repetitions at 85% of your 1 repetition maximum (strength training parameters), you would need a long rest interval to perform on the next set due to the high intensity (weight). With muscular hypertrophy and endurance, a shorter rest is more ideal because the intensity isn’t as high and one could still perform optimally in subsequent sets, even with the short rest intervals.

Another important thing to note is the effect that rest interval length has on hormone production. There’s an abundance of research supporting the claim that shorter rest between sets of an exercise causes a greater hormone response for exercise when measuring for anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone. Indeed, a study by Buresh and Berg (2009) showed that the anabolic hormone response is greater with 1-minute rest intervals when compared to 2.5-minute rest intervals during resistance training. Both of these hormones are paramount to building and maintaining muscle mass.

If repeated sets are used in a resistance training program, rest intervals are important to consider so that the correct amount of muscular recovery can be obtained between sets, depending on the training goal. If rest intervals are used properly, the appropriate amount of physiological stress can be obtained, leading to the associated hormone and performance benefits. At Perform for Life, we want to help you reach your fitness goals, and using correct rest intervals as a part of an effective program designed to properly stress the body will help you optimally do so.

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Sources:

Kramer, J. B., Stone, M. H., O'bryant, H. S., Conley, M. S., Johnson, R. L., Nieman, D. C., ... & Hoke, T. P. (1997). Effects of single vs. multiple sets of weight training: impact of volume, intensity, and variation. Journal of strength and Conditioning Research, 11, 143-147.

Krieger, J. W. (2009). Single versus multiple sets of resistance exercise: a meta-regression. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(6), 1890-1901.

Book source: Baechle, T. R., Earle, R. W., & National Strength & Conditioning Association (U.S.). (2000). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics.

Buresh, R., Berg, K., & French, J. (2009). The effect of resistive exercise rest interval on hormonal response, strength, and hypertrophy with training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(1), 62-71.


 

 

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"Can I Work Out if I'm Pregnant?"

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"Can I Work Out if I'm Pregnant?"

Our co-founder, Justine Sharifi is a newly expectant mother, and you may have seen her being a total badass handling business per usual at the gym, directing the build-out of our second location, and even boxing with one of our pro boxers, RJ! I've been training her for the past few months, and I wanted to answer a few questions about exercising while pregnant for other expectant mothers.

Is it safe to exercise while pregnant?

Yes, in most cases.

You should always check with your doctor, but if you were active before being pregnant, then you should be alright to carry on with physical activity. In fact, it’s usually recommended that pregnant women do at least some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day. Of course, goals will change when you’re pregnant, so it’s important to keep in mind that the focus of your exercise will need to shift from aesthetic, fat loss, etc. to your individual needs while pregnant.

What types of exercise are best?

As far as exercise selection goes, choose exercises that are:

  • Low impact (to minimize joint stress)
  • Low to moderate intensity (due to the fact that your heart rate and body temperature are already elevated from pregnancy)
  • Resistance-based, aerobic, or a mix of both.
    • A couple of notes:
      • Resistance training should focus on spine support and addressing low back pain by strengthening the hips.
      • Avoid exercises that keep you in a supine position (on your back) for long periods of time.
      •  Limit static stretching (i.e. yoga - instead, look for prenatal yoga).

Due to the changes your body’s going through, you have to take into consideration the extra stress to your body added by exercise and hormonal changes. For example, an increase in the hormone relaxin is to be expected, which is secreted to relax the ligaments down below, the uterus, and the cervix to prepare your body for child development and labor. However, the increased relaxin levels will also affect other parts of your body, such as the muscles preventing stomach acid from coming back up, which can lead to heartburn. Further, you’ll have to keep physical activity at a low to moderate intensity because your body is already stressed and working hard to create another human.  

What are the benefits of exercising as an expectant mother?

  • Stress control/relief
  • Maternal muscle strength (pelvic floor strengthening)
  • Helps with urinary inconsistency
  • Weight control (pre- to post- pregnancy)

Don’t be afraid to exercise, but don’t over-do it! Always be sure to get your doctor’s approval before starting an exercise routine. Do things that will complement this significant change to your body and to your life, and do things that will make this experience the best that it can be.


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Why I'm a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker

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Why I'm a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker

I’ve always thought that hearing someone’s story about why they do what they do can be one of the most fascinating ways to get to know a person. I get to understand where they come from, what type of experiences they’ve had, what they’re passionate about, what drives them when life gets tough, and if I’m lucky, I get to learn something that I might never have known about them through regular conversation and interaction. Through hearing the stories of others, I’ve been able to learn from the experiences of others, grow in my respect for those individuals, realize that I have much to be thankful for in my own life, and become inspired to press on with my dreams. I wanted to share with you my story about why I’m a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker - why I do what I love to do. I realize now how much I’ve hyped up my story so just as a disclaimer, I’d like to say that I don’t think my story is so crazy that you’re going to learn from the experiences of my 23-year life or become inspired to take over the world, but hopefully, I’ll be able to entertain you and you’ll be able to learn a thing or two about me that you didn’t know before.

The Origin Story

The first time I ever went out of my way to work out on my own (I’m making a point to emphasize this as I grew up playing a variety of sports casually and competitively), I did so because I was being a dramatic teenager in high school and I thought my world was shattered after a girl had “broken my heart”. The truth was that I was just a dumb and awkward teenage boy. In my dark, spiraling depression, I told myself that I didn’t end up with that girl, and that I was never going to end up with any girl at all, because I didn’t look a certain way - because I didn’t have a six pack and I didn’t have arms so huge that they couldn’t be lifted above my head.

So what did I do? I turned my emo pain into anger, and I used that anger to fuel my intense P90X and Insanity workout routines. I didn’t know a thing about exercise, so with P90X and Insanity’s promises to get me ripped and lean, I was sold on the video workout plans. I worked out twice a day during one summer, and when the school year started up again, I’d get up an hour earlier than normal to work out before classes - only to have to go to tennis practice for hours after school was over. Every time I wanted to give up during a workout, I reminded myself of what it felt like to have been rejected so that I would press on. At first, it seemed as though my efforts were futile, but as time went on, and as I consistently pushed myself and strictly adhered to my diet, I began to see results.

To make this part of a long story short, I wasn’t facing my romantic problems appropriately and I was only using fitness to cope with my issues instead of using it to better my health. I did, however, learn something extremely valuable: I learned that if I set my mind to something, if I put in hard work and sacrifice and countless hours of dedication, I could achieve anything.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college at the University of San Francisco. I was a biology major with hopes for going to medical school, which means that I was a biology major with family, relatives, and friends who had extremely high hopes for me to go to medical school - no pressure or anything. That pressure was then coupled with dwindling hope as I was barely passed my core classes and was withdrawing out of the chemistry class that I was about to get a D in.

The Epiphany

So what went wrong? What happened to the all-knowing and wise Austin who just learned that he could achieve anything he set his mind to? Why was he getting a D in freshman-level chemistry? The problem was that, instead of studying compounds and electron configurations for classes, he was studying set and rep schemes on Bodybuilding.com so that he could figure out how to get jacked. He was learning that you can’t just achieve anything, but rather that you can only achieve something that you actually give a damn about.

And that was the problem: I didn’t give a damn about chemistry or biology. I loved movement and I loved the way the human body worked, especially in relation to exercise and nutrition. By the end of my freshman year, I had switched my major to kinesiology and it was the best academic decision I could have ever made. Instead of studying “life” by staring at bacteria in a microscope, I was running a living person on a treadmill to figure out their cardiac output. Instead of figuring out how elements were interacting in a beaker, I was learning how the perfect balance of macronutrients can fuel various athletes for optimal performance. For me, kinesiology was the perfect balance of science and movement, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Journey

My time at USF flew by and before I knew it, it was the summer before my final semester of school. I was loving everything I was learning about, and I was very seriously considering a career in personal training. I wanted to help people feel good and look good, but I also wanted to use training as a medium to share with people the lesson that I found so valuable: that they could achieve anything if they worked hard and set their mind to it. I looked into personal training internships and I happened to stumble upon one at Perform for Life.

I applied and was interviewed by Bryant and Justine and accepted for the summer internship. It was everything I wanted and more - like, lots more. Lots more of waking up at 5 AM, and lots more of doing difficult and seemingly endless business assistant work. It was hard work, but I learned more than I could have ever hoped for - I learned the value of community, what customer service and networking in the real world is like, how concepts of training and exercise physiology pertain to real people and not just textbook examples. While learning these positive skills, I also had to learn a hard lesson early on during my time at Perform for Life: how bad the feeling is of my client getting hurt.

I asked myself all kinds of questions. Was it my fault? Could we have avoided the injury? How long will my client be unable to workout? How much is this going to impact their daily life? As you could guess, this drove me to become very careful and methodical in my approach to training. I obsessed over pain and injury management with movement and devoted myself to learning as much as I could about corrective exercise as a means to help people with serious issues. Immediately after earning my kinesiology degree from USF, I went to massage school for a year so that I’d have an additional skill to help my clients - but I didn’t stop there. I took functional neurology courses such as P-DTR so I’d have an even wider variety of tools to help people in pain. My client’s injury made me feel like the heart-broken high schooler again as I immersed myself in anything and everything I could learn about from courses and my mentors so that I could feel like I was making things right.

I may have been going a bit hard on myself, but this time, I wasn’t just using my learning to cope with my issue. I was learning about methods and modalities for healing in movement and bodywork that I genuinely had a passion for. I loved, and still love, learning everything there is to know when it comes to the ways our bodies move, function, and heal, and since our bodies are still such a mystery to us, I know I’ll be learning for a long time.

I think that’s what I love most about being a professional in the health and fitness field - I’m never going to stop finding new things about the way we move and the way we can heal. It’s a never-ending chase to learn about the latest finding or the new best technique and that’s what I love about being a Movement Specialist and Bodyworker. So why do you do what you do? What’s your story? Hope to hear from you soon.


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Screw the Scale

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Screw the Scale

I get this question a lot: “I just started exercising, so why am I gaining weight?” I’m pretty sure many of us have experienced this. We start a new training program and the number on the scale stays the same, or even worse, it goes up. Truth is, this is completely normal - and temporary. When we start a new exercise program and our bodies aren’t adjusted to that type of stress, our muscles may become inflamed. Most of the weight you see on the scale is probably not fat, but temporary water weight due to inflammation. However, it could also be an increase in muscle mass. Yay!

Again, one reason you may have gained weight in your first month of training is due to inflammation. When you work out a given muscle, you’re basically causing tears in your muscle fibers. This is usually referred as "microtrauma" and is why you feel sore the next day. But on the bright side, your body heals these little tears and makes your muscles stronger as you continue to lift heavy weights - essentially, your body adapts to the stress. That’s how you can get stronger and more fit: you create adaptation to whatever you’re doing, whether its cardiovascular training or strength training. During the first month of a new training program - especially if you’re new to fitness - there’s definitely going to be a lot of adaptation going on and these fluid build-ups caused by inflammation might show up on the scale. But don’t worry, once your body is adapted to this stress, the scale should go back down. Just keep working hard and trust the process.

Another reason why you might see weight gain within the first few weeks of training is that you’re building muscle faster than you’re losing fat. Muscle is more dense than fat, thus taking up less space. Next time, rather than stepping on a scale, measure your circumference instead. It’s often the case that, if you do gain muscle mass, the scale might go up, but you’ll probably fit better in your jeans.

Often times, we define fitness by body weight. I’ve seen so many people throughout their fitness journeys lose motivation because the scale wasn’t budging. But what does that number really mean? Does that mean they’re not progressing? Not getting stronger? Not becoming healthier? Chances are, the answer is no. Place the scale aside and focus on what really matters. Do your clothes fit better? Do you feel better? Are you happier? If the answer is yes, disregard the scale.

People may not consider the early changes to their bodies as a good thing. The key is to not let that number define your hard work and discourage you from working out or eating healthy. So, instead of weighing yourself, pay attention to what really matters: strength, endurance, health, how you feel, and most importantly, happiness. You’re so much more than just a number! Again, once you’ve been working out consistently, your muscle gains and water weight should stabilize. So keep doing what you’re doing and don’t lose faith. Be patient. Stick with your program. Don’t let any arbitrary number tell you how well or not you’re doing if you’re seeing positive physical changes. Like what successful people say, “Age is just a number.” Well..your weight is just a number, too.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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