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Total Results Blog

The Importance of Standardization in Exercise, by Matthew Romans

In any endeavor, there needs to be a certain uniformity in terms of language and methodology, otherwise confusion can occur and best practices cannot be achieved. That is the case in the medical field, computer programming, and in criminal law. Standardization helps to ensure that everybody involved is on the same page, and it also allows the best opportunity to arrive upon an optimal outcome. At Total Results, our goal is to give you the best workout experience money can buy, and we are obsessive about the little details that make that possible. Standardization is one of many things that sets us apart from the rest of the industry.

The most important things to standardize are form and speed of movement. This is critical certainly from a safety perspective, but it is also necessary to ensure proper loading of the musculature. In order to achieve a proper exercise stimulus, momentum must be minimized (if not eliminated) by keeping the movement slow - between 8 and 12 seconds on both the positive and negative phases of the movement. When momentum is introduced into the equation, there is little to no mechanical work being done by the skeletal muscles. Remember, we want to fatigue the musculature thoroughly enough to stimulate a growth response by the body. We will be able to more effectively achieve this end by moving slower rather than faster.

What is meant by proper form? Certainly speed of movement is a factor, but it's more than that. Proper form means that we not only want a slow movement on each repetition, but a smooth and evenly-paced movement as well. We want to perform turnarounds (change direction) without firing out or unloading the musculature. It's important to avoid form discrepancies such as ratcheting, breath holding (Valsalva's maneuver), and movement of the head and neck (to avoid exercise-induced headache and potential neck injury). Form discrepancies should be acknowledged and corrected right away, to reinforce good habits and prevent bad habits from gaining a foothold. Perfect form is the ideal and the standard that we measure ourselves against. While we strive for perfection, we expect that we will fall short, but achieve excellence and positive results along the way.

Everything that we record on a client's chart during the course of a workout is considered data. This includes order and selection of exercises, machine settings, weight, and time under load (TUL). If we deviate in terms of order and selection of exercises (or time in between exercises) from one workout to the next, we cannot make a reasonable comparison of progress. While some variety of exercises can be a good thing, it is not absolutely necessary. Most of my twice per week clients perform an "A" and a "B" routine; this helps us to cover some of the smaller muscles that do not get as much involvement in larger compound exercises. However, I keep the order and selection of exercises in each routine the same, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as injury or exercise-induced headache.

We generally record TUL rather than number of repetitions because I believe it is a much more precise measurement of how one performs on a given exercise. Counting repetitions is a step function; you may complete five repetitions and get halfway through a sixth, but by this measure you only get credit for the repetitions you finished. With TUL, you would get credit for the time you spent working on that sixth repetition without finishing it. In my opinion, this paints a more accurate picture. In the case of negative-only or manual exercises, we do record the number of repetitions, simply because it is most feasible. In addition, standardization of language and chart notations is helpful when and if you need to work with a different instructor. This makes the transition seamless.

Why don't other exercise protocols and instructors require this level of detail? One reason is that many other instructors don't take safety as seriously as we do, and they are also ignorant of the fact that muscles are unloaded with faster speeds of movement. The instructor certification for our exercise protocol was the most demanding and detail-oriented in the industry, and we have an obligation to our clients and to ourselves to continue to meet the highest standards in the field of exercise. We will continue to educate and improve ourselves to show that we are worthy of your business. Twenty years of excellence at Total Results is an accomplishment we are proud of, and we look forward to serving you in the future!

Posted April 07, 2020 by Tim Rankin

Time to get in The Best Shape of your Life!

Due to the COVID-19 Crisis, many more of us are working from home. Others, like me, are unable to work now due to State or local orders. Still others are just staying put out of concern for their health or that of a loved one. We are not traveling for work or pleasure. We don't have obligations to take the kids all over creation. There are no live sports to watch or attend. Most of us have some extra time on our hands (less commuting time, less shower and make-up time, less travel time).

Why not use this time to get in the best shape of your life?

Although you don't have access to our studio at Total Results or your local fitness facility, there are still a ton of things you can do in order to get healthy, become younger biologically, and improve your immune system.

  • Get 30 minutes more sleep. The benefits of more sleep are many, including helping your immune system, optimizing your hormone levels, increasing your energy, repairing cellular damage, and more. Go to bed a little earlier and wake up a little later. Just do it. You will thank me.
  • Walk more every day! Up your daily steps. If you average 5000, up it to 10,000. If you are a professional who works at a desk all day, get out first thing in the morning for a two-mile walk. Low level activity like walking, weeding the yard, bike riding, or cleaning the house is great for your health, both mental and physical. Getting outside gives the added benefit of absorbing the sun's rays which will increase the Vitamin D production in your body and benefit you in many ways, including a stronger immune system.
  • Exercise at home! By exercise I mean a few minutes of intense muscular effort, once or twice per week. How can you do this at home? Pushups in your bedroom, chin-ups on your back yard swing set, squats or wall sits using your dumbbells as extra resistance, etc. Do these exercises slowly and safely until you can't complete another repetition. You need some intense effort like this every week in order to stimulate the muscles, enhance your cardiovascular system, and perhaps most importantly to improve your metabolic processes, which are critical to your health (ex. Flushing the glycogen out of your muscles which helps maintain insulin sensitivity and prevent Diabetes).
  • Cook and eat like a top athlete. How? It's easy, really. Eliminate junk food. Use fresh ingredients. Limit drinks to coffee, water, and tea. Minimize alcohol. Get adequate protein (eggs, fish, poultry, beef). Complement that with plenty of vegetables and healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, etc.). Here is a great sample day: Breakfast - egg scramble with spinach, bell peppers, and cheddar cheese, plain organic yogurt with blueberries added; Lunch - leftover protein and veggies from last night's dinner or salad with various greens, turkey or chicken, avocado, olive oil, balsamic vinegar; dinner - grilled salmon filets, cubed potatoes cooked in air fryer, brussel sprouts cooked with bacon (bacon makes everything better!)
  • Relax. Stress kills. I know this crisis and the repercussions on our lives are a huge stressor. However, increased levels of stress will lower your immune defenses and increase the inflammation in your body. How can you mitigate this stress? Practice relaxation and breathing exercises and techniques. Try some brief yoga poses. Listen to or watch some comedy programs. Read some meditation books. Anything that helps you remain calm and centered in the face of our current situation will help your health and fitness on both the short term and the long run.

At some point this crisis will end. When it does, many of us will be thrust headlong back into commuting, travel, kid taxi duties, and more. At that point it will be more difficult, but not impossible, to become the best physical specimen you can be. Since we have this temporary slowdown in our lives, use it to your advantage. Follow the above steps to get in the best health and shape you possibly can!

Posted April 02, 2020 by Tim Rankin

What is the Best Way to Improve Core Strength? by Matthew Romans

A very popular concept that has been bandied about in the mainstream fitness world over the past couple of decades is that of the importance of core strength. What exactly is your core, and why is strengthening it considered so important? According to the Mayo Clinic, the core muscles include, "...Your abdominal muscles, back muscles, and the muscles around the pelvis." Although the Mayo Clinic mentions the muscles of the back and those that surround the pelvis, my experience is that most people associate "core" solely with the abdominal muscles. How important is it to strengthen these muscles, and should we make them a higher priority than other muscles of the body? What is the best way to strengthen these muscles? These are questions that we often answer during initial consultations at Total Results.

The muscles surrounding the spinal column can perform four movements: flexion (bending forward at the waist), extension (leaning backward), lateral flexion (bending to the side), and rotation (as in turning to check your blind spot when driving a car). All of these actions are things that we do in everyday life. There are many muscles, both superficial and deep, that work in concert to perform these functions. Trunk flexion is performed by the Rectus Abdominus muscles, which are superficial and most visible to the surface. Trunk extension is performed by several groups of muscles. The most superficial group is called the Erector Spinae (sacrospinalis), which is made up of the Iliocostalis, Longissimus, and Spinalis. If we go a little deeper, we find the Transversospinalis group of muscles, which include the Semispinalis, Rotatores, Multifidus muscles (the Multifidus runs nearly the entire length of the spinal column). Also contributing to the performance of trunk extension are the Interspinalis, as well as the Internal and External Intercostal muscles. Lateral trunk flexion is performed primarily by the Internal and External Obliques, Quadratus Lumborum, and Erector Spinae, with some assistance by the Rectus Abdominus, Semispinalis, and Iliopsoas. Finally, trunk rotation is performed by the Internal and External Obliques, Multifidus, and Rectus Abdominus muscles.

Now that we have a better understanding of which muscles perform which functions, we should ask if certain muscles are more important to strengthen than others. Your body is not just a collection of different muscles and body parts; rather, it functions as a unit. You are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain, and muscular imbalances can lead to an increased risk for injury, whether you are a professional athlete, weekend warrior, or just a regular person trying to function every day. While most people place a higher level of importance on the abdominal muscles (partly because they are more visible in a mirror, and many of us romanticize the idea of the so-called "six pack"), lower back pain is still the leading cause of missed days from work. Most of us have seen in fitness and bodybuilding magazines exercises that will target the abdominal muscles, but there are very few exercises that can adequately address the spinal erector muscles, and even fewer properly designed exercise machines that can safely build strength in that area. Unlike many, I am not a believer in the concept that you strengthen your lower back by performing abdominal exercises. In my opinion, the best way to reduce lower back pain and improve function is to directly address the spinal erectors.

What is the best way to improve core strength? In my experience, it is important to perform an overall balanced exercise routine, with an equal emphasis on the upper and lower body musculature and equal amount of pushing and pulling movements. Your abdominal muscles are certainly important (ask any woman that has had a Caesarian section), but they are involved in every exercise that is performed in a Total Results workout, as you can tell by performing the torso slump on exercises like the Pulldown, Chest Press, and Overhead Press. We do perform direct exercise for the abdominals, such as the Floor Crunch and Linear Spine Flexion, but performing a lot of specific exercises for this muscle group is neither necessary nor optimal. In order to address the trunk extensor muscles, especially the deep muscles, we use the MedX Lumbar Extension (low back) machine. By immobilizing the pelvis, using knee restraints, and properly positioning the legs, we can effectively target the spinal erectors while minimizing the involvement of the hip and leg muscles. This translates into a more effective exercise stimulus for these difficult to address muscles. I have seen no other machine that accomplishes this as effectively as our machines do.

Increasing strength in the core muscles of the trunk will lead to greater stability, as well as an increased resistance to injury. In addition to working to strengthen these muscles, it's important to be conscious of and try to practice good posture and avoid sitting too long at one time. If you are an athlete or weekend warrior, it's important to practice the skills specific to the nature of your sport or activity; this will also enhance stability. Regular Total Results exercise performed on properly-engineered equipment will keep you strong, fit, stable, and resistant to injury. We look forward to working with you!

Posted March 31, 2020 by Tim Rankin

Get a Grip, by Ralph Weinstein

The strength of your body starts with your hands so grip strength is very important. It affects most muscle groups you use and most exercises you do. There are 35 muscles involved in movement of the forearm and hand, with many of these involved in gripping activities. During gripping activities, the muscles of the flexor mechanism in the hand and forearm create grip strength while the extensors of the forearm stabilize the wrist.

Our fingers don't have any muscles of their own. They move through the pulling of tendons attached to the bones that are controlled by the muscles in the hand and forearm. This is one of the main reasons that strength training is so important for lower arm health; as we age our muscles begin to lose tone and strength and this can lead to problems in finger strength and coordination.

Last year I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) which developed in two fingers in my right hand. RA is symmetrical; however, it did not develop in my left hand. My X-rays and bloodwork showed I had RA even though it wasn't in both hands. My fingers are swollen constantly and the pain is very intense.

My weekly workouts at Total Results helps immensely to retain and build the strength in my hands but I found it's too long between workouts. So I purchased a set of hand grips which are two handles joined by springs. These devices isolate your forearm muscles when squeezed helping build your grip strength.

I do one set of 35 to 40 reps every morning. It helps my blood circulation and relieves the pain. The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily shut down Total Results and we are encouraged to exercise at home during this period. Hand grips are very inexpensive and should be a part of your home routine. Should you not want to purchase them a tennis ball will suffice. Simply squeeze very slowly.

Keeping your fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms strong and healthy is critical to your quality of life. Without these body parts capable of functioning fully, you can lose not just your mobility but your independence as well.

Posted March 28, 2020 by Tim Rankin

Local vs Systemic Exercise Effect, by Matthew Romans

The ostensible purpose of performing regular Total Results exercise is to increase muscular strength. As we have learned, building strength leads to a number of other physical improvements, such as increased insulin sensitivity, improved metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning, resistance to injury, and even facilitation of fat loss. Each exercise that is performed in the course of a workout will have an effect on the muscle or muscles that are involved in that particular exercise ( e.g.- the biceps muscles during a bicep curl). This is referred to as a local effect. Exercise also leads to what is called a systemic effect, which is the impact that the entire exercise session has on the whole body in terms of stimulus. What does this mean, and is one or the other more effective for producing physical improvements? Let's take a closer look.

I have stated in previous articles that there is a dose-response relationship to exercise, and that according to Dr. Doug McGuff, exercise has a narrow therapeutic window. This means that too much exercise can have a toxic effect on the body, and that not enough exercise will not stimulate any physical improvements. We want to perform the minimal amount of exercise necessary to elicit the stimulus; too much exercise and/or too much activity between exercise sessions will prevent the body from making adaptations, and can increase the risk for injury or illness. In order to stimulate the greatest overall exercise effect, you need to exercise briefly and intensely, and cover all of the major musculature of the body.

To achieve optimum benefit, workouts should last no more than 30 minutes, preferably 20 minutes or less. The longer an exercise session lasts, the more the body releases the stress hormone cortisol. This is problematic because cortisol can impede your body's most important functions, such as sleep and digestion, and it can also contribute to weight gain. Advocates of split training routines train way too long and too frequently. They generally subscribe to performing multiple sets of each exercise, and as a result, rarely train with anything resembling high intensity (effort). Bodybuilders that utilize this approach fail to understand that the body is far more than the sum of its parts. The body functions as a unit and should be exercised as a unit. One properly performed set of each exercise is all that is required to elicit the stimulus; multiple sets just reintroduce the same stimulus more than once and consume valuable recovery resources, but do not provide additional benefit.

Weight training exercises can be classified as either simple or compound movements. Simple movements generally involve one joint and smaller muscle groups, while compound movements involve multiple joints and larger muscle groups. Both movements have their benefits. Compound movements involve a greater amount of muscle in a shorter period of time, which will lead to shorter and more intense workouts. On the other hand, simple movements effectively target smaller muscles more directly, such as in the Cervical Extension exercise for the posterior neck, and in the External Rotation exercise for the muscles of the rotator cuff. This is certainly beneficial from a rehabilitation standpoint.

Both a local and systemic exercise effect are important for us to achieve maximum health. Someone suffering from lower back pain due to a herniated disc will need to perform direct (local) exercise for the spinal erector muscles in order to strengthen the spinal column and reduce pain. By the same token, if our workouts consist only of simple movements to cover the body's major musculature, the workouts will be far less efficient. This is why much of the workout should consist of compound movements, so that we can cover more ground in less time. Larger exercises like the Leg Press and Pulldown will stimulate growth in muscles that are not directly involved in those exercises. Arthur Jones (founder of Nautilus and MedX) referred to this as the indirect effect. I have often told clients that if they were in a time crunch and only had time to perform two exercises, the Leg Press and Pulldown exercises would cover all of the body's musculature with the exception of the neck. Conversely, a simple exercise like a Triceps Extension will do very little to stimulate musculature outside of the triceps.

Reaching momentary muscular failure on each exercise creates microtrauma, which are microscopic tears in the individual muscle fibers. Between this event and your next exercise session, the body produces an inflammatory response, which stimulates the release of growth hormone. This growth hormone is released in proportion to the amount of muscle inroaded during an exercise session. In the interim, the body must (through proper diet) replenish its glycogen stores (the primary fuel source for intense exercise). Now the body goes about the process of repairing the muscle tissue that has been damaged during the intense workout. If the exercise session takes too long or uses up too many recovery resources along the way to the stimulus, the repair and recovery process will take longer (if the variables of exercise frequency, duration, and intensity are properly regulated by your instructor, you should recover within 3-7 days). When the above requirements have been met, your body will adapt and you will then be ready for your next exercise session.

We want to achieve both a local and systemic exercise effect in order to optimize physical improvements. Our goal is to strengthen any problem areas (joints) you might have, while giving you the best overall metabolic effect possible. We will use both simple and compound exercises to get the job done. Less than one hour of exercise per week is all that it takes. We are here to serve you. Stop putting it off and start today.

Posted March 25, 2020 by Tim Rankin