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Total Results Blog

Why I Strength Train - by Matthew Romans

There are a multitude of reasons why every person on earth, at least from adolescence on up, should regularly perform high-intensity strength training. Everybody has their own good reasons to want to get stronger and healthier: to protect against or rehabilitate an injury, prepare for the rigors of sport, to improve their golf game, or to get in better shape so that they can be more active with their children or grandchildren. This is something that we explore in detail with prospective clients during a Total Results initial consultation; it helps the instructor get to know the client on a more personal level, and it also helps the instructor understand what will motivate the client to maximize their genetic potential.

Why do I regularly strength train? While I ultimately ended up pursuing a career in the exercise industry, my story is probably not that different from many of you. I'm a former college athlete who first became interested in weight training in the eighth grade, after I completed a unit in P.E. class. I started lifting weights regularly the following summer to prepare for the rigors of high school football, and continued all throughout high school and college, but I didn't truly gain an understanding of proper strength training until I was in my mid 20s. Once my college football career was over, my weight training workouts became sporadic. Like a lot of athletes, I looked at weight training as a means to an end and figured if I wasn't playing anymore, it wasn't that important to workout. It was when I got my first job in the exercise industry and started instructing clients that I really began to understand the importance of regular strength training workouts, and since I began studying the Total Results exercise philosophy in 2001, I have only missed a handful of weekly workouts.

What has regular strength training done for me? I am 43 years old and I have no major injuries or medical issues. Regular high-intensity workouts have enabled me to (until recently) play competitive flag football at a high level against younger athletes, when most of my high school and college teammates stopped playing years ago. Total Results exercise enables me to go hiking, take a trip to the zoo with my family, move furniture, perform household tasks, and pursue recreational sports of many varieties, all without feeling deconditioned or experiencing joint pain. I've been able to maintain a consistent body weight (within a range of a few pounds) and wear the same size clothes that I wore in my late 20s. While I am fortunate to have a propensity toward leanness in my family (my older brother is built similarly), none of this would be possible without a sound nutritional blueprint and regular high-intensity exercise. I perform one weekly workout consisting of six exercises, just like many of our once per week clients. While I don't necessarily look forward to my weekly workouts (a feeling to which many of our clients can relate), I know that's not a valid excuse to skip. Most of us don't enjoy mowing the lawn or brushing our teeth, but there will be negative consequences if we don't do it.

I have a responsibility to Total Results clients to practice what I preach. How can I expect clients to follow my instructions and give a great effort if I don't do the same? Our mission as exercise instructors is to educate our clients and give them the resources they need to succeed. You don't have to be an athlete or an exercise professional to reap the numerous benefits of proper exercise, and it's never too late to start. Every person has a story. We would love to hear yours!

Posted June 07, 2019 by Tim Rankin

4 Steps to Reduce Your Healthcare Costs Today!

You have the right to care for your own health and wellness. You do not, however, have the right to neglect your health then force others to pay for your medical care. Some bureaucrats from the state or federal government may force others to subsidize your medical expenses, and the insurance industry works by healthy people paying for sick people, but that does not make it morally or constitutionally right, and it contributes to our current astronomical healthcare expenses. Unfortunately, many millions of Americans do just this - they eat poorly, they don't exercise, they don't sleep enough, they sit all day, and then they rely on medication and other medical interventions to manage their day to day health.

Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, many Cancers, Obesity, chronic pain, and other diseases and maladies of modern civilization are not pre-ordained. Most were highly uncommon just 50 years ago and did not even exist in pre-industrial cultures. Do you think you were meant to be sickly and in need of medical intervention most of your life? We surely would not have survived as a species this long if this high a percentage of people required pharmaceuticals just to get through a day. While a small percentage of people are born with genetic anomalies that cause disease, most of us have a very robust constitution, provided we don't abuse it.

While the spiraling costs of medical care in the United States are caused in no small part by government meddling and incompetence as well as corporate malfeasance, it is you who are the primary culprit. You are the one who has let yourself go, who eats and drinks too much, who sits indoors 15 hours a day, who doesn't keep your muscles strong, who has become dependent on the medical/insurance/government/big pharma complex.

Only you as an individual can reverse this state of affairs. Only you can take charge of your health and fitness. No one cares about your health as much as you! In our current economic and medical care environment, ONLY YOU can reduce your healthcare expenses and sever your dependence on the medical industry.

How can you do this? The following steps will free you physically and financially from your medical care bondage:

1. Get well! You do NOT want to be a guinea pig of the government/medical/big pharma troika. We don't yet know the long term consequences of many medications and medical procedures currently used by millions. You do not want to be visiting doctors more than you see friends and family, and popping pills on a daily basis (OTC or prescription). Get well. First, start eating better today. Stop eating garbage! You all know what foods are garbage. Most diet plans agree we must minimize excessive sugary foods (donuts, candy, soda, etc.) excessive high calorie, low nutrition foods (bagels, fast food, cereal, etc.), and cut out trans fats completely (partially hydrogenated fats found in most pre-packaged foods). Next, get off your butt! You must not sit all day. Get up. Walk around. Walk several miles every day. Rain or shine. We evolved to move. Sitting in front of screens all day goes against our evolutionary makeup. Your body atrophies. Next, strain your muscles at least once a week. Our ancestors did this naturally, climbing, lifting animal carcasses, hauling fire wood, etc. You don't do any of this, so you need to lift weights or you will be weak, frail, and probably osteoporotic. Finally, get some sleep! Turn off the television. Stop looking at Facebook and Instagram on your phone at night. You need 8 hours of sleep for your hormones to rebalance and your brain and body to operate at peak function. If you do all of this, you will have way less need for expensive medical intervention.

2. Opt out! Stop using your insurance plan and the medical industry as health maintenance. Insurance should be a risk management tool to hedge against large and unforseen financial loss. We have home insurance in case our house burns down, not to pay for a paint job or lawn maintenance. We have auto insurance in case we crash and need an expensive repair, not for oil changes and brakes. Likewise, once you get well, you do not need health insurance or the medical community for your day to day health needs. You only need insurance if a catastrophe happens (ex. Cancer, serious injury). Therefore, you can save a significant amount of money by opting for a high deductible medical care plan used primarily for absolute medical necessity.

3. Question Authority! Stop buying into big Pharma marketing and big government services and "guidelines". While there are many intelligent and well intentioned individuals in these organizations, they operate under perverse incentives. They are mandated to grow, sell more product, increase their services, and find more and more "customers". This necessitates you being unhealthy. Have you ever seen a pharmaceutical commercial say you could take their product, or you could just eat better and exercise more? Of course not. They need you to be impotent, sleep deprived, depressed, and overweight. Additionally, there are currently 74.8 Million people on Medicaid, compared to just 34.5 Million in the year 2000! Do you think this number will get any smaller? Of course not. That is not the nature of government. It is not in the interest of the "Authorities", either government or corporate, for you to be well. Question everything you see or hear from these organizations regarding health, medicine, drugs, nutrition, and exercise! Do your own research. Find your own solutions.

4. Maintain! Once you have gotten well, opted out of high priced health maintenance, and started questioning so called health authorities, the key becomes long term maintenance. You can't just go on a diet, lose weight, then once you lose it, go back to your previous unhealthy eating. All your weight, and more, will come right back. Likewise, you can't just exercise for a few months and expect lifetime results. You must make proper nutrition, daily movement, regular strength training, and a focus on great sleep constants in your life from here on out. This is the only way to avoid the medical/government/pharma leviathan. If you make habits out of these recommendations, you should expect to live longer on average than your peers and with a higher level of health and functional physical and mental abilities.

To conclude, medical expenses in this country are not decreasing any time soon. However, if you follow the steps outlined here, you can significantly cut your personal medical expenses way down, and at the same time improve your health, fitness and overall quality of life. The onus is on you. Do not wait for someone else to help you. Start today!

Posted June 07, 2019 by Tim Rankin

Overcoming The Mental Hurdle of Muscular Failure - by Matthew Romans

The word "failure" naturally has a negative connotation. In most other walks of life, failure is synonymous with not getting the job done, coming up short, or simply not being good enough. All of us have experienced failure in one form or another in our lives, and even though it has been said that we learn far more from our failures than our successes, the mere idea of the word failure is something that is unpleasant to most of us. At Total Results, we view the word failure in a completely different light. In the context of a high-intensity strength training workout, achieving momentary muscular failure means success.

Pushing to and beyond momentary muscular failure can do a psychological number on many of us in a couple of ways. First, the idea of no longer being able to move the machine's movement arm can be startling. Second, the burning that you feel in your muscles as exercise intensity increases (what we often call exertional discomfort) is often uncomfortable and unpleasant to deal with. This is why we proceed slowly in the first several sessions with new clients; in addition to teaching proper form and speed, finding proper settings in the machines, and mastering turnaround technique, we want clients to gradually get used to the discomfort that is a byproduct of intense exercise. We want to prepare you for the arrival of momentary muscular failure so that you are physically and psychologically ready to handle it. The ability to keep emotions in check and maintain focus as the exercise becomes more demanding is one of the most important skills a trainee can develop.

Why is achieving momentary muscular failure so important? Remember that the workout itself is merely the stimulus; the improvements that we seek occur as a result of maximizing recovery between sessions, getting enough sleep, hydrating and eating properly, and managing stress. Pushing to and beyond muscular failure ensures that we have done all that we can to stimulate the body, and it is also important from a standpoint of maintaining insulin sensitivity by flushing out the glycogen (stored carbohydrate) from the muscle cells. There are only two tangible measurements of muscular effort, zero and 100. Zero effort will not stimulate any benefits, and while we still do not know what the specific percentage of effort is required for optimum stimulus, we are safe in assuming that a maximum effort (going to muscular failure) will get the job done.

What can you do to overcome this hurdle? I'm reminded of a phrase that our colleague Al Coleman once used: "don't run from the discomfort, chase after it." The fear of exertional discomfort is often far worse than the discomfort itself. While the discomfort is unpleasant it is brief, lasting no more than three minutes, and once you accept the fact that the discomfort is inevitable it is easier to deal with. Try also to understand that the primary objective of each exercise is not to move the weight or complete a certain number of repetitions, but rather to inroad the musculature. Don't focus on whether the weight is moving or not; instead, focus on breathing freely and pushing against the movement arm, especially as movement slows or even stops. Muscular failure can come on suddenly or occur gradually; sometimes you'll know it's coming a repetition or two before it happens, and other times it feels like you've hit a wall. I can't explain exactly why this happens, but it can vary from one person or exercise to the next. The important thing is to not give into one's instincts when things get tough.

Arthur Jones once said that exercise begins at failure. While it's very natural to experience some distress upon reaching muscular failure, sharpening your mental focus when the exercise becomes most difficult will help you to achieve the optimal exercise stimulus. At Total Results, failure is success!

Posted May 31, 2019 by Tim Rankin

The Lumbar Extension - by Matthew Romans

The leading cause of missed days from work is lower back pain. This can occur as a result of a traumatic injury, overuse injury, genetic abnormality, or most often simple muscular weakness. One of the most unique and vital machines we have at Total Results is the MedX Lumbar Extension, which addresses the lower back. It is virtually impossible to find anything like it in a commercial gym setting, and while other equipment manufacturers have tried to produce variations and facsimiles, nothing comes close to the engineering genius that went into producing this revolutionary piece of machinery. The primary muscles involved in this exercise are the erector spinae and multifidus muscles, those responsible for extension and rotation of the spine. As Arthur Jones, founder of Nautilus Equipment Corporation states, "To the degree that muscular weakness is a factor in spinal pathology, the most important muscles are the extensor muscles of the lumbar spine&" (from: The Lumbar Spine, The Cervical Spine, and the Knee - Testing and Rehabilitation)

Arthur Jones founded the Nautilus corporation in the 1960s and forever changed the field of exercise. While Nautilus manufactured many machines that involved the lower back musculature (such as the Hip & Back and Lower Back machines), there was no mechanism in place to lock in the pelvis and most effectively target the spinal erectors. As a result, these machines were not truly able to measure or inroad (fatigue) strength levels in this vital musculature without involving the thigh and hip structures.

When Jones sold Nautilus in 1986 and created the MedX corporation, he established the first truly valid means of strength testing. The centerpiece of the MedX testing equipment line was the MedX Medical Grade Lumbar Extension machine, complete with computer feedback. Total Results' MedX Exercise Lumbar Extension machines were built on this framework but have enhanced cams to more effectively match strength with resistance. This machine (and all MedX selectorized equipment) has a weight stack without guide rods, which virtually eliminates friction. There are three seat settings and an adjustable foot plate, to accommodate people of varying heights. The machine has padded knee restraints (to minimize involvement of the thighs) and a rotating sacral pad to minimize irritation as your spine extends. A seat belt will be snugly fastened to contain the pelvis and arrest reactionary force. The Lumbar Extension has a possible range of motion of 80 degrees, and there is a range limiter than can alter either your starting or ending position to enable a safe and pain-free range of motion.

To begin the Lumbar Extension exercise, your instructor will have you enter the machine by first sitting on the seat and then swinging your right foot across (this guards against unilateral loading of the spine and pelvis). The positioning of the foot plate and knee restraints will be dependent upon achieving an angle of between 120 and 130 degrees at the knee joint, with the knees on a slightly higher plane than the hips. Once the seat belt has been fastened and the knee restraints have been sufficiently tightened, the movement arm will be brought to its starting position. Generally we set the start position at 50 degrees on the range of motion protractor; this was arrived upon years ago at the advice of the late Gary Lindahl, who was a physical therapist and owner of a high intensity exercise studio in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. The client will lightly grasp the handles of the movement arm, and while keeping the shoulders relaxed and the head in neutral position, should gradually increase the amount of force applied to the pad across the shoulder blades to commence movement. A squeeze technique will be applied, beginning with the third repetition, by pressing the movement arm against the end point for a few seconds and then gradually easing out. Once momentary muscular failure and thorough inroad have been achieved, the movement arm will be slowly and safely returned to the bottom out position.

Regular exercise for the spinal erector muscles is essential for maintaining good posture and spinal health, especially as an increasing number of us spend more time sitting at work and in our daily commute. The mere act of performing the function of trunk extension opens up the space between the vertebrae, which helps to relieve compression and impingement, and can be of great benefit to those with conditions like disc herniation and sciatica. I believe this exercise should be performed at a minimum of once per week; our exercise protocol and equipment are the ideal combination to optimize your strength and make spinal surgery largely unnecessary.

Posted May 23, 2019 by Tim Rankin

The Vegetarian Myth, a book review by Matthew Romans

A few weeks ago a colleague sent me a video interview with Lierre Keith, who is a writer, small farmer, and radical feminist activist. The interview covered a wide variety of subjects, but discussed at length was the vegan lifestyle and philosophy, as well as modern agriculture. I have to admit that when I saw the subject heading of the video I was skeptical, but as I started to watch the interview I became more intrigued. I discovered that Ms. Keith lived as a vegan for twenty years, and in the interview she touched on how she got into that lifestyle and what eventually caused her to rethink her choices. I was so impressed by the interview that I purchased and read her book "The Vegetarian Myth", and there are some takeaways from the book that I would like to share with you.

The author explains the reasons why most people embrace the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, and the close links to the animal rights movement:

-First are moral vegetarians, who believe it is wrong to kill animals for any reason.

-Second are political vegetarians. According to Ms. Keith, "these vegetarians aren't looking for truths about sustainability or justice. They're looking for the small slice of facts that will shore up their ideology, their identities."

-Finally, there are nutritional vegetarians, who live the lifestyle because they believe it is inherently healthier than a more ancestrally-based diet.

While most vegetarians are sincere in their beliefs, they fail to understand a couple of things. First, nature has no moral code. As Ms. Keith says "nature is no more moral than immoral. It's amoral, by definition." Both animals and plants in the wild are either predator or prey, and all living things must eventually die. Second, we humans were not designed to live on a diet solely consisting of plants and grains. Cows can live exclusively on grass; the bacteria in their stomachs digest the cellulose from the grass, and in turn, the cow consumes the bacteria. This is how cows have evolved to live, but we humans are largely carnivores. We were designed to eat primarily meat and fat, and it in no small part contributed to our larger brains and our ability to reason.

Another concept that vegetarians fail to recognize (or willfully ignore) is that exclusively plant and grain-based diets are nutritionally deficient and can lead to a greater risk of the so-called "diseases of modern civilization", due to a higher insulin response (insulin must be secreted by the pancreas in order for the nutrients to reach the cells). These diseases include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and certain types of cancer. The author details the extent of the physical damage she suffered as a result of the vegan lifestyle: a degenerative disc condition in her back, crippling depression (as a result of eating no meat and very little saturated fat, which affects serotonin production and inhibits your brain's neurotransmitters), constantly feeling like she had an upper respiratory infection, and permanently damaged insulin receptors. Some of this damage was lessened or reversed as a result of switching to a more ancestrally-appropriate diet (plenty of meat, fat, and vegetables/fruits), but some of it is irreversible.

The section of the book I found particularly interesting was where Ms. Keith discusses the damage that modern agriculture has done to the topsoil. She talks about the dust bowl conditions in the midwest United States in the 1930s, particularly in Oklahoma (this should be familiar to anyone who has read John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath") as a result of overplowing cotton and wheat. This destruction of the topsoil has a disastrous effect on trees, grasses, and birds. The topsoil is the most nutrient-dense part of the soil, and planting crops like corn and wheat deplete the soil of valuable nutrients very quickly. Irrigation and artificial damming have had a negative impact on fish populations, particularly in the Mississippi River.

Something else to consider about modern agriculture's impact has to do with the U.S. government's policy of subsidization. Corn is cheap and readily available as a result of this policy, and large farms use it to feed their livestock, particularly chickens, pigs, and cows. While corn will make the animals grow much faster than their native diet, it will also make them sick. They have to be injected with antibiotics in order to combat the sickness prior to slaughter, and unfortunately those antibiotics get passed along to the consumer. This is why it is safer and more nutritious to buy meats from animals that are raised on their natural diet.

While I may disagree with the author on a few political points (particularly her opinions on climate change), I think her book is well-researched (she references a few authors of which I am familiar) and full of important information. "The Vegetarian Myth" provides solid evidence to support an ancestrally-appropriate nutritional philosophy based on human biology and evolution; it also ruffled quite a few feathers within the vegan community. Ms. Keith's twenty year experience with the vegan lifestyle gives her a unique perspective and credibility with readers. If you are interested in optimizing your health (as a Total Results client or prospective client, I know you are) or looking to explode myths, this is a book I highly recommend.

Posted May 16, 2019 by Tim Rankin