Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

June 2019

The Neck Machines and Exercises at Total Results - by Matthew Romans

An often overlooked and under-addressed group of muscles in the human body is that of the neck. Your neck muscles are responsible for holding up your head (which weighs ten to eleven pounds), and greatly influence your posture. Weak neck musculature (combined with excessive sitting and looking down at electronic devices) can cause the head to drop lower, which can eventually lead a lordotic curve in the thoracic region of your spine, and can be responsible for recurring tension and migraine headaches. Working to strengthen your neck musculature is absolutely critical to maintain good posture and protect against injury; this is important for everyone, but especially for people participating in combat sports (football, boxing, wrestling, martial arts), the elderly population, and those with a history of neck injuries.

The two major muscles of the neck are the sternocleidomastoid, which originates on your sternum and inserts on the mastoid process of the temporal bone of the skull, and the trapezius, which is a kite-shaped muscle that originates on the occipital bone of your skull and inserts into the clavicle (collarbone), acromion process, and the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade). These two muscles perform all of the gross motor functions of the neck, which include lateral flexion (tilting your head from side to side), rotation of the head (as in looking over your shoulder), cervical flexion (tilting your chin towards your chest), and cervical extension (as in looking straight up).

Most "trainers" and exercise enthusiasts simply ignore the neck musculature. It's probably best that they do, because most exercise protocols seem to make matters worse. The neck muscles are collectively very strong, but they are delicate and can easily be injured. At Total Results, we pride ourselves on being able to improve function and strengthen the muscles of the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine, and we have worked with clients that have a variety of spinal issues. Our exercise protocol is the only one that is safe enough to address the musculature of the neck, and we have a few different ways to do that.

We have two different four-way neck machines. One is made by Super Slow Systems (located in our front exercise room) and has a fixed head pad, no back pad, and has a timing crank to customize the resistance curve for each client (just like we have on the Super Slow Systems Leg Curl machine). Our other neck machine (located in the back exercise room) is manufactured by MedX, which features a horseshoe-shaped swivel head pad and has an adjustable back pad. It also comes with a footrest to minimize tension and unnecessary involvement of the lower body. While both of these machines allow us to perform lateral and cervical flexion, we almost exclusively use them for cervical extension, as that area of the neck needs to be addressed the most.

The seat height is adjustable, and we can even use an additional elevation pad if necessary. The seat should be set so that the base of the neck is aligned with the axis of rotation, and the back pad setting should allow your arms to be extended with the heels of your hands in contact with the handlebars. This ensures that your pelvis is contained in the seat. If the head pad slides on your head during the movement, you are not properly aligned. The exercise begins when the client gently increases the pressure on the head pad through the back of the head to initiate movement. The client should visualize trying to press the back of their head down towards their butt, pause in the most contracted position, and then change directions. The lower turnaround should be performed so that the plates gently touch, but the musculature should not be unloaded. A squeeze technique will be performed on all repetitions beginning with the third. Once muscular failure has been achieved, a thorough inroad should be performed for an additional five to ten seconds. After the exercise is completed, the client should ease off the effort and stand cautiously to avoid getting dizzy or light headed.

If performing a regular dynamic movement is contraindicated due to a previous injury, we can also perform the cervical extension exercise as a Timed Static Contraction. This can be done on either of the machines, or with manual resistance provided by your instructor. For clients that tend to suffer from exercise-induced headaches (EIH), we often perform the cervical extension exercise early in the routine to both strengthen and relax the neck muscles. This is an effective strategy to prevent EIH. As mentioned earlier, strengthening your neck in general, and specifically performing cervical extension will go a long way toward minimizing tension headaches, improving posture, and alleviating impingement in the cervical vertebrae. Start reaping the benefits today with Total Results!

Posted June 28, 2019 by Matthew Romans

Strength Training and Adolescents - by Matthew Romans

There has been a lot of debate over the years among doctors and fitness enthusiasts about strength training and members of the younger population. To my knowledge, no true consensus has been reached. In a way, I suppose that's a good thing; often when a consensus is reached, debate tends to cease. I believe it's important to place a premium on movement and activity with children at an early age. Sports, games, and other movement-based activities can help build self-confidence, improve problem-solving and cooperative abilities, and foster socialization. While stationary activities such as reading and electronic-based games certainly have some merit, I think establishing the importance of movement helps to create good habits that kids can carry with them into adulthood. Proper strength training is something that is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and is absolutely something that should be taught to pre-teens and adolescents.

While we often think of pre-teens and adolescents as smaller, younger, and more hormonally-charged versions of adults, there are actually some very important physiological differences between youths and adults that we need to understand. Children burn more fat as fuel, and have less than half of the glycogen stores (stored form of carbohydrate) of adults. This means that they may fatigue faster than adults, but also may recover more quickly. Children have more Type 1 (slow twitch) muscle fibers, which means they have less capacity for muscular hypertrophy (growth), at least until they hit puberty. It's also important to note that the brain is not fully developed until a person reaches their early 20s. Just like it is with adults, it's important to regulate the variables of exercise frequency, intensity, and volume in children and adolescents.

For years, doctors discouraged youth strength training due to fears of damage to the epiphyseal (growth) plates, muscular overgrowth, and even stunted growth. Fortunately, these myths have been disproved in recent years, and people are finally starting to see the benefits of beginning a strength training regimen at a young age, for both boys and girls. I believe that a much bigger injury risk comes in the form of early specialization in a particular sport. Continuously practicing the same movement patterns associated with one sport or activity at too young an age increases the risk of injury due to repetitive stress, and can lead to mental burnout. I've seen this happen many times over the years, particularly at the world class level of tennis. It's a good thing to expose kids to lots of different sports and activities, and if they find something in which they truly excel, they can specialize once they get a little older. Strength training is important for the young athlete to maximize performance and protect against injury, but even non-athletes can benefit from the improved body awareness, increased strength, and cardiovascular conditioning that regular strength training provides.

At what age is a youth ready for a Total Results workout? Three factors come into play: mental maturity, the ability to focus and process instructions, and the ability of the youth to fit into the smallest settings on our machines. Children develop physically and mentally at different rates, but we have had trainees as young as ten years of age. I actually think that mental and emotional development is a far more important factor that determines one's success; we can always modify the exercise routine as we go along. Performing body weight exercises like push-ups, chin-ups (or flexed arm hang), body squats, and abdominal crunches will encompass the major muscular structures and can be an effective introduction to our exercise protocol. Once the young trainee is able to use our machines on a continual basis, we are sure to emphasize the same proper slow speed of movement and careful turnaround technique that we do with our adult clients. One major difference is that while there is typically little change in the adult trainee's machine settings, the still-growing young trainee's settings can change frequently.

We have had many clients over the years that came to Total Results as teenagers and continued working with us into adulthood. Exercise is our passion, and we love to work with people of any age that want to be stronger, fitter, and get more out of life. A Total Results exercise regimen is absolutely something that can be of benefit to young people. Please contact us to get started.

Posted June 27, 2019 by Matthew Romans

The Chest Press - by Matthew Romans

The Chest Press is a staple of the Total Results exercise experience, and is usually one of the first two exercises that we teach to prospective clients during an initial consultation (the other being the Leg Press). We incorporate it very early on because it is one of the easiest to learn, is a somewhat familiar movement, and because it's a very important exercise. It is a horizontal pushing movement that encompasses the entire ventral upper body musculature (pertains to the front or anterior of the structure) . The primary mover of this exercise is the pectoralis (chest muscle), a muscle that performs the functions of flexion and adduction of the humerus (upper arm bone). The secondary muscles involved are the anterior deltoid (front of the shoulder), which medially rotates and flexes the arm, and the triceps (muscle on the back of the arm), which is largely responsible for extension of the elbow.

Our machine is designed differently from most traditional Chest Press machines, or even a well-designed MedX machine, for that matter. Most Chest Press machines that you see in commercial gyms have a movement arm that tracks horizontally, while MedX Chest Press machines track horizontally and in a slightly upward fashion while converging at the end of the positive phase of the movement. Our machine's movement arm tracks in a downward or descending fashion; we believe this enables us to involve the lower part of the pectoralis muscle, as well as the abdominal muscles much more effectively. The Chest Press has gently curved movement arm handles to allow for greater comfort, but we can also use sponges or hand pads if necessary. To maximize safety and effectiveness, a seat belt is used to restrain the pelvis and contain reactionary force. If a client has shoulder issues, your instructor can "gap" or move the starting position of the movement arm a notch or two forward to reduce irritation to the joint. The machine's cam is designed to make the resistance feel heaviest near the bottom out (where you possess the greatest amount of strength), and lightest in the most contracted position (where your strength is at its lowest level).

The key to maximizing your performance on this exercise is to focus on depression of your scapulae (shoulder blades). Elevating (raising) your shoulder girdle is the most common form discrepancy that we see on this exercise, and it places a greater demand on the smaller and weaker triceps at the expense of the chest muscles. Since the chest muscles are the muscles we really want to target, we want to engage them as much as possible by depressing the shoulders throughout the exercise. The seat should be set in such a way that the movement arm handles are just below the armpits, and the seat belt should be snugly fastened. The elbows should be at approximately a 45 degree angle from the rib cage. Movement will commence from the bottom out position, and the client should take six to seven seconds to completely straighten the elbows. From there, the client will take a few more seconds to perform a slight torso slump that permits the shoulder blades to come off the back pad. An upper turnaround will be performed and the weight will be lowered to bottom out, upon which the next repetition will start. Once momentary muscular failure has been reached, the client should continue to push for an additional five to ten seconds before easing gradually off the effort.

If joint irritation makes a traditional dynamic movement unfeasible, this exercise can be performed as a timed static contraction. In this case, the movement arm is pinned off somewhere in the mid-range of the movement and more weight is put on the weight stack than can possibly be moved. The client will then push against the immovable object for ninety seconds, increasing the intensity of effort in thirty-second intervals. Our Chest Press machine can also easily accommodate negative-only protocol, an off-shoot of our philosophy where the instructor hands off the movement arm to the client at the most contracted position and the client performs the negative (or lowering) portion of the movement.

The Chest Press can fit the tallest adult as well as the most diminutive pre-adolescent 10 years of age or older, although in the latter case an elevation pad may be required. This exercise is a key component of any balanced exercise routine, where we strive to give equal attention to pushing and pulling exercises as well as upper and lower body musculature.

Posted June 18, 2019 by Matthew Romans

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 Matthew Romans

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 Matthew Romans