Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

Total Results Blog

Time is of the Essence

Time is the one commodity that always seems to be in short supply. We always think we have more of it, that the future lies far off in the distance, but then you wake up one day and realize that you are much closer to the end of your life than you are to the beginning. Time is precious, and as we come to grips with the fact that life doesn't last forever, most of us can feel a sense of urgency that we want to be able to make the most out of the time that we have on earth. We want to have meaningful experiences, make a positive impact on others, and do the things in life that we are passionate about. Nothing in life is worse than regret, and if we do not take the initiative to focus on the things in this world that we can control we can find ourselves looking back on our lives with disappointment.

Time is an important factor in exercise, in several ways. Most of us do not have hours each week to spend working out, so an exercise philosophy that involves brief and infrequent workouts is very appealing. Establishing good habits entails implementing a regimen that is not overly time consuming, because a large time commitment will provide an obstacle and excuse for many. It is no surprise that most people who start traditional "gym" workouts with a high frequency and many hours to invest generally flame out pretty quickly. Brief workouts are not only important from a scheduling standpoint, but also from a biological perspective. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released by the adrenal glands during times of stress and physical activity. If your workout proceeds for too long, too much cortisol is released and can have harmful repercussions. 20 minute, high-intensity sessions will properly stimulate physical improvements while not resulting in excessive cortisol production.

Time under load (TUL) is another way in which time plays a role in exercise. Rather than count and record the number of repetitions that are completed in an exercise, we make note of the total TUL that was achieved. This is advantageous for a couple of reasons. First, counting repetitions is merely a step function. Let's say that you complete six repetitions and get halfway through a seventh before reaching failure. If we merely recorded repetitions you would not credit for the partial repetition that you attempted, but if we record TUL you will get credit for that additional ten to fifteen seconds that you continued to push or pull while your muscles were still under tension. Second, an additional fifteen seconds means more stress for the musculature, which will result in a measurement of progress and a higher quality of stimulus. If we increase our TUL on an exercise compared to a previous workout (assuming standardized form) while using the same weight, we know that we have increased our muscular endurance. Bear in mind, however, that TUL is just one measurement of our progress. Never sacrifice form for an increased TUL.

The amount of time between exercises is important as well. We set up all the machines for your workout in advance for a reason. That is because we want to move as quickly and efficiently between exercises as possible. Minimizing time between exercises is critical for making metabolic and cardiovascular improvements. In order to improve the cardiovascular system, we need to perform quality work with the skeletal muscles, and working to and beyond muscular failure ensures that we have given a maximum effort. However, if we rest between exercises we give our circulatory and metabolic systems a chance to recover, and that defeats the purpose of what we are trying to achieve. Stalling only drags out the workout and shortchanges you of benefit. We don't want you to rush through your workout, but we do want you to be as efficient as possible.

The most important factor in your body's ability to recover and stimulate physical improvements is time. Sure, proper sleep is necessary to aid in tissue repair, and nutrition is critical to have the raw materials and essential fuel, but you can satisfy those requirements while still not giving the body enough time to build upon its previous levels of strength and conditioning. There is an inverse relationship between intensity of effort and the time it takes to recuperate. We want the minimum dosage of exercise that is necessary to stimulate physical improvements, because exercise has a narrow therapeutic window. Too much exercise creates a toxic effect, while not enough exercise provides little benefit. It takes between 48 and 72 hours for the body to replenish glycogen stores (your primary fuel source during intense exercise), which is why our clients exercise no more than twice per week with at least three days between sessions. This is not just something that we can get away with, but rather a physical necessity. You must give the body adequate time to repair itself and not interfere with the process by overexerting yourself between sessions.

As former Navy SEAL Mark Divine notes in his book "The Way of the SEAL", it is important to understand your purpose. Are you truly interested in accomplishing meaningful change, or are you just marking time? Most people spend a lot of time in the gym but perform very little (if any) exercise. There should be a sense of urgency when it comes to your health. The Total Results philosophy saves you time so that you can focus on what is important to you, and every session is an opportunity for tangible improvement. Do not put it off until tomorrow, for we do not know what tomorrow holds or if it will come at all. Start today. Time is of the essence.

Posted June 14, 2024 by Matthew Romans

The Same Actions Will Yield the Same Results

Many people are resistant to change. Once you have achieved a certain level of success or risen to a particular station in life, it is very easy to fall into a trap of becoming comfortable. Let's face it, change can be a scary proposition, but sometimes we must endure short-term pain in order to experience long-term gain. Accomplishing significant positive growth, whether it is in business, a relationship, or in academics means that you must get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Developing habits is great, and I am a firm believer in establishing a routine, but not if it isn't producing desirable results. While I am not advocating change simply for the sake of change, if you are stuck in a rut or not satisfied with your rate of progress, the same actions will yield the same results.

When I worked in commercial gyms early in my career, I would often see the same people in the gym every day doing the same things. Obviously they were grossly overtrained, but that did not seem to dawn on them. In fact, they would usually say something to the effect of "this works for me", even though over time their physiques changed for the worse. I am certainly not advocating ridiculous bodybuilding "strategies" of doing "instinctive" training or something different every day in order to "shock" muscular growth. That would be an absolute joke. You do, however, need to have an honest conversation with yourself and determine exactly what it is that you want to achieve and how you can tangibly measure your progress. If you are lifting the same amount of weight that you used six months ago, are seeing no positive change in your energy levels, and experience no discernible difference in how your clothes fit, it is clear that your exercise regimen is not working for you. It is a sign of courage and strength to ask for help, not a weakness.

The concept of accountability receives much attention these days, but I think the term is slightly misunderstood. In business or team settings, there is an emphasis on "holding each other accountable", and I do believe that there should be a standard that is upheld if one wants to achieve success. However, it is easy to confuse accountability with consequences. In the book "The 12 Week Year", authors Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington remark, "Accountability is not consequences, but ownership (author's emphasis). It is a character trait, a life stance, a willingness to own your actions and results regardless of the circumstances (author's emphasis)." They go on to say that, "Accountability is the realization that you always have a choice; that, in fact, there are no have-to's in life (author's emphasis)." We are the product of our choices, and sometimes we make poor choices. Accountability dictates that the individual is responsible for the choices they make, whether the results are good or bad. It is no one else's fault if one does not achieve the results they seek. I believe that if one develops a mindset of responsibility and is accountable for themselves, they are far more likely to succeed rather than fail.

What you need is an educated instructor to guide you through the process. That is where Total Results comes in. Our role is that of an educator, teaching concepts that are very new for most people who come through our door. We want you to understand the hows and whys of what we do, and we encourage you to adopt the proper mindset during each exercise so that you can achieve optimal results. Our teaching is not limited to what goes on during workouts. We explain the dangers of the traditional Western diet, and the importance of limiting sugars and processed foods, in addition to explaining intermittent fasting. Clients must also be aware of what they should and should not do between workouts in order to optimize recovery. You need a sensible plan with structure and a willingness to commit to it for the long term. Total Results can provide that framework.

Change requires courage, but it is important to remember that the only constant in this world is change. In order to survive as a species, man has had to adapt to his environment, and the best way to prepare yourself for the uncertainties of life is to be as strong and as fit as possible. If you continue to plug away, show up consistently, and give your best effort in your workouts, you will reap the benefits of increased strength, improved conditioning, reduced stress, increased injury resistance, and robust health. Don't be satisfied with the same old, same old. Be prepared for what life throws your way and have the fortitude to face it head on! Let Total Results show you the way.

Posted May 31, 2024 by Matthew Romans

What's Important Now

I believe that if you want to be successful, you should observe and learn from successful people and try to adopt some of their strategies. Succeeding in sports, business, or academics follows a similar formula - establishing and maintaining good habits! Relentless enthusiasm, positivity, and a mindset of accountability will go a lot further than pessimism and blaming others. I recently read Lou Holtz's leadership and success-themed book "Winning Every Day." Coach Holtz, as many of you know, is a retired College Football Hall of Fame coach who successfully turned around several programs and won the 1988 National Championship at Notre Dame. Since his retirement he has worked in broadcasting and has been a highly sought-after motivational speaker who has given presentations to many Fortune 500 companies. Although his book was published in 1998, the tenets of Holtz's WIN philosophy (What's Important Now) are just as relevant today as they were a quarter century ago.

Coach Holtz was successful in spite of his shortcomings. He was born with a profound lisp, so he is not the most charismatic speaker. As a player, he was 5'10" and 150 pounds, so he was not considered a star athlete (although he did play college football at Kent State). He was an average student, so he did not ease his family's financial burdens by qualifying for any academic scholarships. As a coach he was not considered an offensive or defensive mastermind, yet he was successful wherever he coached in college football. Notwithstanding Holtz's genetic limitations, he maximized his abilities by being disciplined, focused, having purpose, and setting goals. He notes, "You can't solve your personal issues until you define your purpose. What are you trying to accomplish? What have you done today to bring you closer to your goals? The moment we lose sight of our objectives, we founder." If you have a purpose and set a goal, you then have something to shoot for. Some things happen by chance, but our success (or lack thereof) in any endeavor is a product of our choices.

WIN is applicable in the realm of exercise, not just in terms of achieving some general, specific, and measurable goals, but also during the workout itself. What's Important Now can be phrased in the form of a question, or it can be a declarative statement. Let's say that you have a workout scheduled for 7 AM the next day. Is it more important to go out for a few beers in the evening with your friends, or get to bed at a reasonable hour so that you can be well-rested, focused and energized for your early morning workout? Only you can make that decision, based on what is important to you. Your primary goal is to lose body fat. Does it make sense to stick with single-ingredient whole foods and continue with intermittent fasting, or splurge on bad food choices? The more you think WIN, the more it becomes a declarative statement and less of a question.

During a Total Results workout, is it more important to focus on your time under load (TUL), or does greater value lie in simply giving your greatest muscular effort? Think about the assumed versus the real objective of exercise. Most people assume that we want to perform as many repetitions with as much weight as we possibly can. In fact, the real objective is to thoroughly inroad the musculature and create an effective stimulus, and often those two objectives are at cross purposes. If you compromise your form simply to finish more repetitions you will not only risk injury, but will diminish the exercise stimulus. When movement slows to a crawl or even stops, think WIN! Effort is the name of the game. If you push to and beyond muscular failure, regardless of TUL, you will have achieved your exercise objective. The ability to think WIN is what separates Total Results clients from everyone else.

Creating sustainable habits and developing the right mindset will breed success, and it fits in perfectly with Lou Holtz's WIN philosophy. Do not waste time on the trivial, or the things that are at odds with your purpose. This will impede your ability to reach your goal. You can be the best version of yourself if you identify your purpose, write out your goals, and focus on WIN!

Posted May 17, 2024 by Matthew Romans

Explaining the Squeeze Technique

We do not use repetition-assist techniques at Total Results. Some of the more popular approaches that bodybuilders use include forced repetitions, applied negatives, breakdowns, and pyramid schemes. These often give the illusion that the trainee is working hard, but much of it is for show. In my opinion, the aforementioned strategies provide questionable benefits and can compromise safety. It is vitally important to regulate one's dose of exercise, as well as frequency and intensity. The body has finite recovery ability, and it is very easy to overtrain or cause injury.

Most readers of this blog know that the Total Results exercise philosophy involves using a very slow speed of movement (10 seconds on the positive and 10 seconds on the negative), deliberate turnaround technique, and pushing to and beyond muscular failure. Our main exercise objective is a thorough inroad of all of the body's muscular structures so that we can create a stimulus that the body needs to make physical improvements. One method that we do apply to certain exercises in order to enhance exercise intensity and depth of inroad is called the squeeze technique. This is something that we typically introduce to new clients in their second or third workout. Keep in mind that the word "squeeze" is just a metaphor. Clients often ask about this and wonder what it is they are supposed to squeeze, and we have to explain to them that they are not actually squeezing anything. However, we use the word squeeze because it effectively represents the feeling that they should experience when they properly apply the technique. This requires good teaching and effective word selection on the part of the instructor, as well as a learning mindset on the part of the exercise subject.

The squeeze technique is used starting with the third repetition of an exercise, and is applied to all the remaining repetitions of that particular exercise. This is done for two reasons. One, the first two repetitions of any exercise carry the highest risk of injury, as your muscles are fresh and can produce the amount of force necessary to cause injury. By weakening the musculature to a degree with the first two repetitions, we can feel confident in your safety going forward. Second, the first two repetitions serve as a thorough and specific warm-up for the involved muscles and joints. Synovial fluid is released, thus lubricating the joints and making things work more smoothly. Applying the squeeze technique should last between three and five seconds when you reach the most contracted position in an exercise. A great example takes place on the Seated Leg Curl exercise, which primarily targets the hamstrings and involves the function of knee flexion. When your knees are in their most flexed position (with your toes pointed up), you will gradually add as much tension to your hamstrings as possible and contract them with maximum effort. You must remember to breathe freely while performing the squeeze technique; do not breath hold or perform a Val Salva. Try to really focus on your targeted muscle during this time. After three to five seconds of that contraction, you will gradually ease out of that position and continue with the negative excursion. This sequence will be repeated until muscular failure is reached and a thorough inroad is performed.

We utilize the squeeze technique on pulling exercises like the Pulldown, or any movement where the musculature is still significantly loaded in the most contracted position. It is generally not used on most pushing exercises, as force vectors are such that staying in a lockout position can unload the musculature briefly. Think of the Leg Press exercise. The end point is usually set to a position just short of full extension of the knees. Even with the end stop back there, if you tried hard enough to push on it, eventually your knees would lock and could result in serious injury. The Lumbar Extension exercise is another great example of how to use the squeeze technique. The cam fall-off on that exercise is significant, but you are still loaded in the most extended position. To apply the squeeze, you will gradually (never abruptly or suddenly) press the movement arm down on the rubber stopper that marks the end point. In your mind, think about trying to advance the movement arm further, even though the mechanics of the machine prevent you from doing so. Focus on your lower back musculature; that is the prime mover of the exercise. After three to five seconds of maximum effort, gently ease out of the squeeze and continue with the negative excursion. Other exercises that can accommodate the squeeze technique include Row, Calf Raise, Cervical Extension, and Linear Spine Flexion.

You do not need to perform all those rep-assist techniques that you see in gyms in order to create a thorough exercise stimulus. I believe those practices are actually impediments to progress. The squeeze technique can enhance the connection between your mind and the targeted musculature. After you become more proficient in using it, you might find that your time under load will slightly decrease. If so, that's okay; we are looking for quality rather than quantity. Remember, the main objective of exercise is thorough inroad. Mastery of this advanced strategy can help you achieve that goal.

Posted May 03, 2024 by Matthew Romans

"The Truth About Statins" - A Book Review

Barbara H. Roberts, M.D., is the Director of The Women's Cardiac Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. Before that, she spent two years at the National Heart. Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health. During her time at N.I.H., she studied the beneficial effect of lowering cholesterol and the occurrence of heart disease. Dr. Roberts earned her undergraduate degree from Barnard College of Columbia University, and obtained her medical degree from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The author published "The Truth About Statins" in 2012. Regular readers of this blog will note that last summer I read and reviewed a book called "The Statin Damage Crisis", and a lot of the information in this book is similar, but I learned a few things in this book that I did not already know. I think the additional details in this book are useful for the reader, in the event that their doctor wants to put them on a statin drug, plus going over the same concepts again helps with absorption of facts.

Statin drugs were first approved to lower cholesterol in 1987. The way that these drugs work is by inhibiting an enzyme that is integral for the manufacturing of cholesterol by the body, and statins also increase the uptake of LDL (low-density lipoprotein, the so-called "bad" cholesterol) by the liver. Unfortunately, statins also inhibit the production of HDL (high-density lipoprotein, the so-called "good" cholesterol). Many different statins have hit the market over the last three-plus decades, such as Crestor, Zocor, and Lipitor, and all of them have the same properties. However, cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies, and it serves many important functions. As the author says, "It's an integral part of the cell membrane that surrounds every cell in our bodies, keeping all the structures inside the cell from leaking out. It is a building block of other molecules that our bodies need to function, such as vitamin D, and many hormones. Cholesterol is used to make bile acids, which assist in digestion." Dr. Roberts goes further, saying, "But cholesterol, far from being the villain it's said to be, is a vital part of every cell in our bodies. This waxy fat, primarily produced by the liver, is absolutely crucial for the normal functioning of muscles, nerve cells, and the brain-and it's also the building block that our bodies use to manufacture many hormones, including the reproductive hormones estrogen and testosterone." These are facts that are rarely discussed by the pharmaceutical companies.

Statin drugs also carry some pretty significant side effects. Reported side effects from statins include muscle pain and muscle damage, nerve damage, cognitive dysfunction, tendonitis and tendon rupture, joint pain and stiffness, liver damage, mitochondrial dysfunction, ALS, diabetes, and congenital defects in children of women who took statins during pregnancy. Sounds pretty nasty, right? Myopathy is the most common side effect, which can result in mild muscle pain and progress to cramps, tenderness, weakness, and even a life-threatening condition called rhabdomyolysis. Unfortunately, all of these risks do not even translate into much benefit if you take a statin. According to Dr. Roberts, "So even though statins do not decrease the risk of dying when given to people without vascular disease, they do lower the risk of dying in people with vascular disease, albeit by only a few percentage points." It doesn't sound like the juice is worth the squeeze.

If your doctor notes that your cholesterol is elevated and wants to prescribe a statin, Dr. Roberts lists a series of questions that you should ask your physician. The first thing she suggests is to advocate for dietary changes to see if it improves the cholesterol numbers. Another recommendation is to ask for an explanation from your doctor about what the numbers mean and, based on the current guidelines, why they think it is the right course of action to take. The author describes in detail during chapter four the differences between women and men with statin use. Statins are far less effective in women than they are for men, in large part because elevated LDL cholesterol is much less harmful for women than it is for men. The good doctor concludes the chapter by stating, "In women under the age of sixty-five who don't have established vascular disease, we have zero evidence (her emphasis) that statin treatment lowers their risk of having a cardiac event...And women experience more side effects from statins than men do."

Dr. Roberts shares some patient experiences of being on statins, and she offers several alternatives to taking these drugs. There is a drug that she has prescribed called Questran, which is part of a family of drugs that are bile acid sequestrants, and she has also recommended Niaspan, which is a B vitamin that in high doses lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raises HDL cholesterol. Neither of these options have the awful side effects of statins. There is also an entire section of the book that deals with dietary recommendations, rare counsel for most doctors. The author espouses a variation of the Mediterranean Diet, and suggests hearty consumption of olive oil, vegetables, fruit, seafood, beans, nuts, and whole grains. She even includes several recipes in the last section of the book. Dr. Roberts warns us of the dangers of the traditional Western diet and cautions us to avoid processed foods and sugar.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. Some of the information was a little repetitive for me, but that is only because I have read about the subject before. The doctor's writing style is engaging, and I liked the alternative treatment suggestions that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. She does an excellent job of exposing the limitations of clinical trials and shining a light on how the pharmaceutical companies not only pay for the studies, but also manipulate how the results of the trials are released to the public. This has been going on for years, and not just with statin medications. Particularly useful is the discussion of metabolic syndrome risk factors, which are rarely mentioned by most mainstream outlets and are far more problematic than high levels of LDL cholesterol for people with atherosclerosis. My only disappointment with the book is that there was no mention of intermittent fasting as an alternative strategy/treatment. It could be that the doctor is (or was) not familiar with the concept, or that because this book was published in 2012 it did not garner as much attention then as it does today.

Books like "The Truth About Statins" give you more information to act as your own health advocate. You cannot rely solely upon your doctor to help you, and you do not want to be under the thumb of Big Pharma. Use this opportunity to take control of your own destiny. Knowledge is power.

Posted April 19, 2024 by Matthew Romans