Monday, July 30, 2012

Strong Foundations: Rediscovering the Importance of Including Fundamental Movement Patterns in Health Assessments

               Who knew that training smarter and not harder would take a lot of thought?  The time it takes to think through, design, and put into practice an individualized exercise program may become a buzz kill for those excited to just get moving and sweat off some pounds.  A surge of motivational energy is great to follow up with an immediate workout but it can cause many to overlook the value and effectiveness of taking extra time beforehand to strategically plan workouts.  Strategy is important when we’re involved with something for the long haul, such as living a healthy and active lifestyle.  It is very easy to over train, under train, or get injured without a clear plan in mind.  

               There is much truth to the phrase “everyone is their own best doctor.”  The value of self-awareness and self-examination stands in no comparison to the opinions of others, but there is no reason why external feedback cannot be included in an individual’s bank of personal awareness.  This is a reason why we implement physical assessments in the health and fitness industry.  It is also why we began to use the Functional Movement Screening™ (FMS) into our assessment process with EVERY member of the club.  The FMS™ is not a gimmicky service aimed at further distinguishing trainers from gym rats.  It is part of a well-balanced exercise program that should be as routine as “doing cardio 2-3 times a week.”   

              Movement screenings provide some of the most valuable information regarding strength, mobility, and stability that we do not get from a PAR-Q or 3 Minute Step Test.  Normal gym assessments involve some Q and A regarding health history. These discussions highlight previous injuries, health goals, and any contraindications to exercise.  Aside from that subjective information trainers also obtain objective information through measuring some of the body’s markers for physical conditioning, like body fat.  Trainers may also record results from tests measuring the performance of physical tasks.  All of this data is then compared to charts composed of current national standards.  Even though this information is great to have for recording progress in some ways, it does not cover some other details which are crucial to assessing a person’s readiness for certain types of exercises and activity. 

By and large the missing question is “How well are you moving?”  It sounds like a vague question but standards are being introduced that are just as testable and reliable as waist size.  It is even more important to ask this question if the goal is improving success in activities based on movement and not numbers.  The FMS™ is currently helping health and fitness professionals provide a measurable standard for movement that better enables health professionals to track progress.  Here at LTS we’ve broken down the techniques and tools of the FMS™ to a series of 6 tests combining the most fundamental movements of the human body.  What the tests do is ask the body to move in ways that are completely natural yet have a tendency to become unnatural as it gets deconditioned by the environment and other factors instilling faulty movement patterns (e.g. regularly working on a computer leading to rounded shoulders).   When we recreate these movements through the FMS™ then asymmetries, weaknesses, and strengths are more easily detected by eyes trained to recognize them.  With this information we can design a program that better addresses these discrepancies in order to help the body rediscover its ideal positioning for all sorts activities. 

             To put it briefly, the FMS™ can help us build a good foundation for movement.  More complex movements will become less efficient if they are performed without a good foundation.  The more able we are to perform fundamental movement patterns then the more efficient we will be at performing activities requiring more refined skills.  This is because we expend less energy fighting to use muscles not meant to serve as primary support for certain movements.  Instead we use our bodies as we should by recruiting the right muscles at the right times,  transferring energy to where it is needed, and taking it away from where it is not.  Better movement allows the body to get more benefit from exercise while making it less prone to injuries that can hinder or diminish gains acquired through training.  Performing a movement assessment every programming period (about 4-6 weeks) keeps us up to date on the effectiveness of a program and reveals where changes may need to be made in our approach.  It can reveal where there has been improvement and it can give permission to raise the bar on a foundation proven to be strong enough to support it.  

For more information on the Functional Movement Screening™ go to 

- Noel Poff, CSCS, CPT, LMT, FMS Certified, LTS Trainer

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stacking Sandbags at LTS

 “It’s not that it’s heavy, it’s just…cumbersome”

           Cumbersome was the word of the week during our move from Blue Fish Fitness Club in unit 200.  Fortunately there was enough help around for us to be able to move thousands of pounds of machinery down stairwells, into elevators, through narrow doorways, and onto trucks without incurring any serious injuries.   Aside from the difficulty figuring out how to best manipulate the equipment in order to get it out safely, it was also tricky learning how to arrange ourselves in order to best lift and carry things from point A to point B.  Calling it “cumbersome” is one way to describe it but there’s no way to get an adequate feel for this kind of work other than going out and doing it. 

            Even though you may have not had to move commercial exercise equipment you probably have done similarly complicated work before when you moved furniture, worked on the lawn, or even unloaded the car after a 5-hour errand run.  It’s no walk in the park but it’s no regular gym workout either.  These activities already require a greater demand of energy and neuromuscular activity simply from their unpredictable nature.  You can’t repeat or recreate these patterns over and over again with standard free-weights or machinery limited to single planes of motion.  You can however train in order to perform better when the time comes to move.

          There are a number of different tools and techniques being introduced to the fitness industry in order to improve performance of complex activities and reduce the chances of injury.  Usage of Free Motion® equipment and kettle bells are just a couple of examples of how training is evolving to help people meet the demands of real life.  Nowadays people can almost expect to find kettle bells, medicine balls, or power bands sitting next to dumbbell racks.  What they may not expect to see yet are bags of sand.   

          That’s right, bags of sand.  Don’t worry, there’s no flood to worry about, though we still can prepare for one by lifting some of these sand filled shells which were featured in Men’s Health Magazine® (see for article) as well as in other health and fitness news sources.  The malleability and “cumbersomeness” of sandbags makes them one of the best ways yet to provide resistance for movements with greater complexity and physical demand than functionally isolated types of exercises.  One of the features that allows them to be applied to a wide array of movements is their ability to be handled anywhere with any grip position.  They can be grasped by pre-installed handles for alternate grips or they can be held by grabbing a handful of the bag casing itself in order further increase muscular activity.

          Aside from providing the basic challenge of grabbing and lifting unbalanced objects the bags can be implemented in a variety of movements ranging from simply flexing your elbows to dynamically resisting a rotational force using your entire body.   When the complexity of movement increases so does the amount of muscular activity.  When more muscles are activated the body uses more energy in order to sustain the work.  The heart has to work harder in order to pump more blood to muscles used while the lungs work to provide oxygen to that blood.  These are aerobic effects coming from anaerobic work.    Consequently, another effect of this training is the increase on the body’s metabolic demands both during the workout and into the hours following.  This is just from minutes lugging around an unwieldy bag of sand.  You get all of the benefits of both cardiovascular and resistance training packed into one…bag.
           If you’re still unclear of what to expect from a trainer-approved bag of sand or are even doubtful about the effectiveness of this type of training then go track down something similar to a 20-pound bag of potting soil and chuck it on your shoulders.  Do lunges with it, press it over head, walk up the stairs with it, or just slam it on the ground angrily.  Play around with it like this for 5 minutes and see how you feel.  Then imagine doing the same thing for 30 minutes with a safely guided order of exercises performed with the camaraderie of others and you’ll get a good picture of what we’re doing at Long Training Studios.

- Noel L. Poff, CSCS, CPT, LMT, X, Y, and Z.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Hale and Hearty Limbo...

[The period of transition from Blue Fish Fitness Club to  Long Training Studios has left many members wondering about the fate of the their fitness getaway.  Future members may also be curious about what to expect from our services.  This entry is intended to give a brief introduction about the basic concepts we’re working with while we develop the studio and how they apply to exercise.]  

           As we continue to introduce people to the training programs at Long Training Studios (LTS) we are constantly coming up with ideas about the unique things we can do at our future home on 145 St. Philip Street.  The possibilities are endless.  Even though we are spitting out ideas as fast as Marvel spits out Spiderman movies most of our energy is geared towards grasping a time tested way of training proven to help people rediscover a level of physical potential they never thought they had.  What’s revolutionary about this model is that it does not promote the idolization of a certain physique or physical talent.  It instead leads people to rediscover the bodies and skills they already have by simply being human beings. 

      This is the philosophy behind what challenges you can expect to find at LTS.  We deliver multidimensional workouts constructed from functional exercises that change weekly but still follow a progressive and periodized training model.  Our highly experienced and knowledgeable staff will introduce and guide you through these programs in groups or in private.  This may not sound that much different than how gyms already try to operate, but one thing not mentioned yet is that you do not have to overcome obstacles by yourself.  The weight behind you reaching your goals is shared between all of the trainers, staff, and other members who you’ll get to know really well.  It doesn't matter whether you are training privately or with a group because not one person will be on their own, not one person will not know what to do, and not one person will be ignored.  

           If you are a strong believer in hours of solo-treadmill time or muscle-isolation training then you may be disappointed not to find much of these activities at Long Training Studios.  Regardless of your preferences, you should at least try a workout here in order to begin to get a taste for a whole different way of training altogether.  Since the dark ages of body-sculpting and the machine-market it is slowly being relearned that the best exercises cannot be replicated with machines.  These exercises require you to learn to be your own machine by learning to provide your own support for movement and your own resistance for building strength.  The programs reflect your level of awareness in these abilities and our regular assessments will help you determine where that level may be. 

          We have a lot to look forward to in the launch of LTS next month.  Not only are we excited about setting up a new facility, working out in a new area, and washing up in brand new showers, but we are also excited about the many friends to be made at LTS.  Until then we are going to continue making the most fun out of our temporary location on 360 Concord Street on the first floor of the Fountain Walk complex.  Hope to see you there or when things really get rolling on St. Philip.  Peace!

- Noel L. Poff, CSCS, CPT, LMT, LTS Trainer

Thursday, July 19, 2012

We Believe...

We believe fitness can change lives.

We believe fitness centers should exist to provide that change.

We believe there is no true support system in mainstream gyms for members to reach their fitness goals.

For these reasons, we have created a membership system with many options (yes, this is radial we know!) so that every member can get the level of guidance they need at a price they can afford.

If you are tired of staring at rows of equipment, endlessly walking on a treadmill to nowhere or making another year of payments to a gym you don’t use ….. come spend some time with us. 

We believe you can do it. 

We believe we can make a difference.

- Tracie Matthews, Owner Long Training Studios