Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

February 2019

The Golden Years - by Ralph Weinstein

The golden years are only golden if we are healthy enough to enjoy them. Decreased mobility as a result of an injury or illness can lead to a loss of independence. For more than 20 years my wife provided pet therapy for senior citizen with our Pug dogs. She visited residents of nursing and assisted living facilities and on occasion I accompanied her. It surprised me to see so many Seniors needing assistance to help care for themselves.

As we age change is inevitable, but these changes need not become crises. Throughout our lives, it's important to maintain focus, explore new challenges and find new meaningful activities. For example, traveling, new hobbies, joining social groups, taking classes, and of course, exercise.

An important part of your exercise routine should be a High-Intensity Strength Training Program. The benefits go beyond improving physical appearance. Strength training can improve your movement and control, giving you functional independence and improving your ability to do day-to-day tasks. The benefits extend to increased cognitive skills, confidence, walking speed, reduced blood pressure, enhanced cardiovascular health, lower body fat, and a decreased chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

Don't waste your most precious resource. You are never too old to start a strength training program. I started training at the age of 64 having never worked with weights. I had been physically active throughout my life and I assumed my being active would keep me healthy. Now I know better.

Because I've learned that strength training helps to improve the biomarkers of aging, my workouts have become a top priority. At age 66 I had back surgery. Eight months later I had a full hip replacement. Four years later I had a full hip revision. Thanks to my strength training program I suffered no major issues after these surgeries nor have I suffered the loss of independence.

In a few days, I will celebrate my 76th birthday. I ride a recumbent trike on the W&OD trail at least four times a week and I walk 18 holes of golf every day based on weather and scheduling. I'm a body in motion and that helps to retain my independence as I continue to age. I recommend strength training, mental and physical activities and good nutrition. To quote Frank Lloyd Wright "The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes." That's my goal.

Posted February 28, 2019 by Matthew Romans

The Crazy Practices of Professional Athletes - by Matthew Romans

The Annual National Football League Scouting Combine takes place next week, and as a former college player and self-admitted football junkie, I usually tune in and watch for an hour or so. If you have never watched the Combine before, it's essentially a job interview for prospective football draftees in which they are tested on speed, jumping ability, strength, and their ability to perform football-related drills. It's hard to accurately describe the amount of insanity that is present at this event. The atmosphere resembles a meat market, where the players are poked, prodded, and given rigorous medical exams by team physicians. They participate in football drills that are supposed to gauge their abilities to play in the NFL, yet they perform these drills in a t shirt and shorts, not in helmets and shoulder pads. There are "strength" coaches and football coaches screaming all kinds of inanities in the hope of motivating the players to perform at their peak level. While the atmosphere is circus-like it is entertaining to watch for a little while, and that's why I tune in.

You might ask what this has to do with exercise. Watching the collection of physical specimens reinforces my belief that the vast majority of professional athletes (and not just football players) are people who have won the genetic lottery; they probably make up less than one percent of the population. They will get larger and stronger in spite of their weight training/conditioning program rather than because of it.

There are two types of conditioning: general and specific.

General conditioning (weight training) should be done to increase strength, metabolic and cardiovascular efficiency, enhance flexibility, and improve resistance to injury. Weight training, above all else, should be safe and efficient. Unfortunately, most of what professional athletes perform that passes for weight training is anything but safe and efficient. Exercises are often performed in an explosive fashion, with no consideration to the primary cause of injury (force); workouts are too time-consuming and are performed too frequently. In my opinion, these practices increase the risk of injury unnecessarily; participating in a sport already carries an inherent risk for injury. One's weight training routine shouldn't add to that risk.

The other type of conditioning is specific (skill) conditioning. This involves practicing the specific skills that are utilized in playing a sport. There are three types of skill transfer: positive, negative, and indifferent. Positive transfer occurs when the activities of practice and performance are identical and this is beneficial for the athlete; negative transfer occurs when the activities of practice and performance are almost the same, such as shooting on a nine foot basket; indifferent transfer occurs when the two activities are completely unrelated, such as weight training and football. Outside of specific skill practice involving positive transfer, most of the activities performed by professional athletes produces negligible benefits at best, and at worst can decrease skill and exponentially increase the risk of injury.

Baseball players often swing a weighted bat while in the on-deck circle prior to an at-bat. Because the weighted bat is slightly heavier than the bat they will use in their at-bat, this results in negative skill transfer. Boxers punch a heavy bag during training for a fight. While it may look impressive, they will not face a heavy bag inside an actual prize ring. It is a completely different skill to hit a stationary bag than it is to try and hit a live, moving target that is punching back at you. Former National Basketball Associaion All-Star Alonzo Mourning began practicing his free throw shooting with a weighted basketball during the mid 1990s. This resulted in a significant decrease in his free throw shooting percentage for a few seasons. Because the ball he was using in practice was heavier than the ball he used in games, it resulted in negative skill transfer.

As a former high school and college football player, I experienced first hand many of the drills and so-called exercises that were designed to help us improve as players but in reality, accomplished very little. I'm fortunate that I was able to walk away from the sport without incurring a serious injury.

The takeaway here is that the practices and conditioning routines of professional athletes have almost nothing to do with safe and effective exercise. Proper weight training, like the philosophy we hold at Total Results, should emphasize workouts that are brief, infrequent, and intense, while tracking muscle and joint function properly and using a very slow speed of movement. If you are preparing for an athletic contest or competition, in addition to weight training, practice the specific skills required in the performance of that competition. Remember, just because a genetically gifted professional can do something and get away with it doesn't mean that the rest of us can or should.

Posted February 22, 2019 by Matthew Romans

Machines, Free Weights, or Body Weight Exercises? by Matthew Romans

One of the oldest topics of debate in the field of exercise and on website message boards centers around which is the most effective tool to use to get stronger and fitter. Are free weights better than machines, or vice versa? Can you benefit from simply doing body weight exercises? Varying opinions have been put forth over the years; some of them have been reasoned, others much less so. In order to come up with a clear answer, we need to briefly examine the history of all three mechanisms and compare and contrast them.

While the history of the dumbbell can be traced back to Greco-Roman times, the barbell is a comparatively recent invention. Many physical culture experts trace its origin back to sometime in the mid-19th century. Use of the barbell gained steadily in popularity after the turn of the 20th century and into the golden age of strongman and bodybuilding competitions through the 1960s and 1970s. It is still widely used today in commercial gyms, weightlifting competitions, and by collegiate and professional strength coaches.

The origin of exercise machines goes back to Gustav Zander, a Swedish physician and orthopedist. He designed his first exercise machines back in the 1860s, and later established his own institute in Stockholm. After Zander, very little innovation was made in exercise machine design for nearly 100 years, until the Universal Gym Company was founded in 1957. These machines were usually one large exercise station, with several exercises comprising one unit. Arthur Jones released to market his first Nautilus Pullover exercise machine in 1970. It was Jones' desire to improve upon the limitations of the barbell, as well as the flawed design of Universal machines. He did this by creating a machine that had variable resistance through the entire range of motion by use of a resistance cam that was shaped much like a nautilus shell. This was light-years beyond anything that had come along before. Ken Hutchins, founder of Super Slow Exercise Protocol, took it a step further by designing his machines to track muscle and joint function more effectively. These resistance cams are engineered based on an ideal slow speed of movement (much slower than Nautilus Exercise Protocol), which allows the muscles to be most effectively targeted.

Bodyweight exercises have probably been around since prehistoric times. Chin-ups, push-ups, sit-ups (or abdominal crunches), and bodyweight squats have been performed in military physical fitness evaluations and physical education classes for decades. These exercises are still performed today in fitness classes and in preparation for athletic contests.

Which of these methodologies is best? Free weights, machines, and bodyweight exercises, to varying degrees, can all have a place in a comprehensive and effective exercise program.

While free weights can be used effectively for exercises in which a machine may not be available (such as a bicep curl or wrist curl), this modality is limited by several factors. First, you may need to use a spotter or partner (on exercises like the bench press or squat), as you may be put into a potentially dangerous position. Depending on how much weight you're using, the spotter and the lifter can be compromised. Second, certain exercises cannot be done using free weights, such as the Pulldown exercise (this is probably the most effective exercise for the upper body). Third, a barbell or a dumbbell has no way to vary the resistance based on leverage factors. That means that the resistance may be too heavy in areas of the the range of motion where you are weakest, and it may be too light in areas where you are strongest.

While bodyweight exercises can be effective for a time (particularly if you don't have access to any other equipment), they ultimately fall short because there is no way to progressively increase resistance. In order to gain strength, you need to continually challenge the muscles with a greater amount of resistance. Unless you continue to gain body weight (not really what you want) or constantly increase the number of repetitions (which makes the workout too long), your initial strength gains will eventually plateau.

Well Designed exercise machines offer greater safety and stability, and are usually cammed to allow variable resistance based on leverage factors. Your muscles' primary function is to produce force; this is what enables movement. In order to get the optimal exercise stimulus, it is best to push your muscles to the point of momentary muscular fatigue or failure; this is more safely and easily accomplished on a machine than with free weights or bodyweight exercises because you don't have to worry about dropping a weight on yourself or putting yourself into a compromising position. The machines that we offer at Total Results are engineered to fit our exercise protocol; they allow us to progressively add resistance in small increments (as little as 1.25 pounds), facilitate safe entry and exit, track muscle and joint function properly, and have minimal friction in the weight stacks to accommodate our slow movement speed.

At Total Results, we mix in select free weight, body weight, and even manually resisted exercises to many clients' programs. You can make gains in strength by using free weights and bodyweight exercises, but our exercise machines, combined with the ideal exercise environment, technical instruction, knowledge, and experience provide the safest, and most productive exercise stimulus possible.

Posted February 18, 2019 by Matthew Romans

How frequently should you workout?

How frequently should you workout? The good news is that you don't have to workout frequently to get in great shape or to stay fit. In fact, you definitely should NOT workout more than twice per week, or for more than 30 minutes per workout, or else you may well do more harm than good. Even once per week is often ideal depending on the individual. However, you do need to move your body every day in addition to your occasional workouts to be successful in your health and fitness.

At Total Results, we have specific definitions of working-out versus simply moving your body. We define exercise as putting a meaningful load on your skeletal muscles to the point of momentary muscular fatigue or failure. This is the absolutely necessary stimulus required to improve the skeletal muscles, bones, cardiovascular system, and various metabolic pathways, including blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity. Exercise must be done using a safe and efficient methodology in order to minimize the chance of injury, minimize time required, and maximize the body's recovery opportunity. Exercise must also be progressive, meaning the goal must be coninuous incremental improvements in resistance levels, time, and form. Exercise is our specialty at Total Results and we fulfill all of these requirements. Workouts are brief but intense, and they are performed using a safe slow-motion protocol with 100% supervision at all times. Perhaps most importantly, workouts at Total Results are infrequent. The maximum frequency allowed for clients is twice per week, with at least three days between workouts.

Sure, we could increase our revenue if we encouraged our clients to come three times per week or more, like most of the area gyms and personal trainers do. However, if you perform an actual meaningful workout, your body cannot handle more than two intense sessions of exercise per week (Admittedly, most people in gyms are not performing meaningful workouts most of the time; rather, they do a few exercises with big breaks in-between, they demonstrate their strength to others, they show off their fancy workout gear, they socialize, etc. etc.). However, if you are actually exercising, by our definition of exercise, more than twice a week, your body will not reach full recovery before your next workout, much less make gains in strength, muscle size, cardiovscular efficiency and more. Additionally, excessive volume or frequency of exercise will depress your immune system, making you more susceptible to the flu or other illnesses. You will also be more prone to injury because your body will be in a perpetual state of suboptimal strength and readiness.

Now that I have defined exercise and explained the need for brief, intense, infrequent workouts, let's discuss the need for daily body movement. What do I mean by movement? I mean any physical activity that is not exercise by our definition. Some examples are walking, hiking, snowboarding, cycling, bowling, gardening, house cleaning, sports participation, treadmill, yoga, Pilates, dancing, martial arts, and many, many more. None of these activities have the all the needed factors to be considered exercise: safety, progressive in nature, achieving muscle fatigue, brief, in accordance with muscle and joint function, fully supervised, etc. Note that many of these activities can be quite rigorous. You can have significant exercise effect by taking part in these activities. You might sweat, or become out of breath. Your muscles might fatigue. However, none of that is necessary or even desirable as long as you are exercising properly once or twice per week. However, your body does need to move. It does not need to be intense or exhausting, but it can be once in a while for the sake of recreational enjoyment or competition (ex. mountain biking, snowboarding, basketball games). Movement mainly needs to be a frequent event, multiple times per day. Why is daily movement necessary? Although movement doesn't neccesarily increase our strength or fitness levels, moving has many necessary benefits: it helps us digest food, reduce our stress levels, reduces our blood pressure, burns more calories than non-movement, improves socialization, increases endorphins which can improve mood and reduce pain, and many more.

I recommend at least walking every day, preferably several miles. Low level activity is fine, as long as you are exercising properly once or twice per week. It is probably more beneficial both physically and psychologically to mix up your movement from day to day or even hour to hour. For example, you might walk in the morning and garden in the evening. Play tennis at lunch time and take a quick bike ride after work.

When you combine daily, frequent, low-level movement or recreation with infrequent, brief, excercise sessions, you are getting an ideal mix of stimuli your body needs to thrive. Remember, too much exercise is as bad as too little. Get out there and move every day, but don't forget your proper, infrequent exercise once in awhile!

Posted February 14, 2019 by Matthew Romans