Category Archives: Training

Posts and articles related to training.

6 Positive Effects of Resistance Training

Here is another old gem I dug out from my 2012 newsletters from back in the day.  I’ve always been a huge advocate of resistance training, and below I’ve outlined 6 key reasons as to why it should be an important part of your lifestyle.  Enjoy!


1.  Increased Sensitivity to Insulin

Research has shown that resistance training improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin.  Why does resistance training effect insulin sensitivity?  Well the short of it is because with resistance training you primarily stimulate your type I and type II muscle fibres.  These are your faster twitch muscles and are more sensitive to insulin.  They contain greater oxidative and mitochondria capacity and a higher capillary density.  Skeletal muscle is the target tissue where most of the insulin-stimulated glucose uptake takes place.  So, it is not surprising that the stimulation and hypertrophy of this tissue would have such an effect. Why is this so important?  The more sensitive your body is to insulin, (meaning the less secretion you need for your body to maintain normal range glucose levels) the better your energy use will be, enhancing your metabolism.  Insulin regulates glucose in your blood stream so the more glucose you have circulating, the more insulin your body produces.  If it can’t find a use for your glucose, it will also stimulate lipogenesis (fat creation and storage) as a way to regulate the levels in your blood stream.  Hence, consistently high insulin levels will also increase fat storage.  With fat gain you also get the feelings of sleepiness and lethargy.

2.  Increases Oxygen Consumption & Metabolism Efficiency

As you learned above your type I and type II muscle fibres have greater oxidative and mitochondria capacity and a higher capillary density.  This makes your metabolism more efficient and causes greater oxygen consumption.  The more oxygen you take in the more calories you will burn, regardless of the activity you choose.

3.  Increases Bone Density

The muscular contractions caused by resistance training load the bones stimulating the manufacturing of protein molecules that are deposited in spaces between bone cells.  This process is called bone modelling which leads to the creation of a bone matrix that becomes calcium phosphate crystals giving the bone a more rigid structure.  This reduces the risk of osteoporosis or skeletal injuries caused by weak, brittle bones.

4.  Joint Integrity

The stabilization of your joints relies on the strength of the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding them.  Often joint pain and injuries are caused due to a lack of stabilization that causes unnecessary strain and torsion on the joint causing it to eventually fail.  Strengthening the muscles around your joints can help prevent this allowing more mobility, flexibility and pain free movement.

5.  Increased Neuromuscular Control

The communication between your brain and muscles is very important.  Studies have shown that when performing a single action, sedentary people activate a lower percentage of their muscle mass than people who resistance train.  Resistance training increases the motor activation units in your muscle fibres increasing body awareness and overall muscle activation.  This helps improve strength, speed and endurance and also allows you to use more muscle in your day to day activities causing easier body composition maintenance.

6.  Increased Strength

A lot of injuries occur because of inadequate strength.  The body adapts to tasks it is asked to perform to carry through even if it can’t perform it properly, it will get the job done.  If your body cannot perform the task properly that compensation pattern can lead to injury, especially if repeated like many do in their professions.  My favourite example is grip strength.  So simple.  Let’s say you carry a bag of groceries home from the store.  Everyone can do this but how they do it differs from one person to the next.  When you grip that handle and lift the bag if your grip is not really strong enough to bear the load, subtle compensation patterns start to occur, that you think are normal or take for granted, such as shifting your hips a certain way to make it easier to bear the load.  Now instead of that load and your body weight being aligned properly over your center, it’s twisted causing stress on other parts of the body.  The weakest link will go first which is usually a smaller muscle that had nothing to do with your inability to grip your shopping bag properly or so you thought.  This might not occur right away, but how frequently do you go shopping?  Eventually this pattern will cause wear.

Of course there are many more positive benefits to resistance training.  These are just a few that I believe need mentioning to hopefully help motivate you to put more focus on you resistance training if all you do is run like a hamster.

The Old Cardio vs. Resistance Training Debate… You need both!

Back in 2012 I used to send out a fairly regular newsletter to clients.  I was going through some of my archives today and came across this old one.  “Cardio vs. Resistance Training… You need both.”  I decided that it was worth a share since I still often see and hear people fall into this sort of pattern.  Enjoy!

MARCH 2012

Cardio vs. Resistance Training…  You Need Both!

I see it over and over again.  People who come into the gym wanting to shed a few pounds or trim a few inches, and they gravitate straight for the treadmill, bike or elliptical cardio machines.  Of course the majority of people have been lead to believe that cardiovascular activity is the best way to lose weight and trim inches.  So it makes perfect sense to just jump on that piece of equipment and perform a cyclical motion over and over again until eventually you get what you want right?

There are a few things to consider first.  Your safety should be a primary concern.  If your lifestyle has previously been sedentary for the most part, your body will not enjoy the sudden and repetitive impact that an activity such as running will provide.  Your bones, joints and muscles will incur unnecessary wear and tear that can be eased with proper preparation.

If you have structural imbalances, and we all do, and you are unaware of them, most of us are, and you jump on to a machine and perform your cyclical motion; you could be making imbalances worse and/or wearing down tendons and ligaments that will weaken and eventually lead to injury.

I’ve seen tones of people fall into this trap over and over again.  First they will perform their cardio for several weeks and notice great improvement.  This is common because your body is trying to adapt to the sudden change in lifestyle, plus you are getting the benefit of extra caloric burn when you are performing your cardio.  A couple of things tend to happen at this point.  A nagging pain starts to occur somewhere within the body, and you push through and make it worse and can’t train.  You stop training to rest and when it feels better you jump back into the same routine and the injury comes back.  Another scenario is that you plateau, lose interest and stop training.  There are also extra strains that will be put on your adrenal system offsetting important hormonal balances that will also have a great effect on your body.

From all of these scenarios, you generally stop training.  Since you have stopped training you are no longer burning those extra calories that you were and because your focus was on cardio you have more than likely reduced a fair bit of muscle as well therefore slowing your metabolism.  Without the constant activity that you were previously giving your body available to you, you will relapse and begin to regain weight or inches.  Since your hormones are also out of whack from over stressing your body it will go into its natural survival state and begin compensating for the events that had previously taken place.  This usually results in putting you back to square one or even further back.

If you work just one muscle in your body, that one muscle will get noticeably stronger and have slight radiation effect improving other areas as well, but you still need to work the other muscles to have proper balance and harmony.  You hopefully don’t want to be one of those dudes with arms bigger than your legs.  Cardiovascular activity primarily works your heart and vascular system.  So its purpose is to improve the strength and efficiency of your circulatory system!  Sure the radiation effect you see from cardio is great, but you still have an abundance of other muscles that need to be tended to as well.  Your body works as one whole unit, so you need to train everything in order to maximize your results and avoid injury.

Don’t get me wrong, I think cardio is an excellent tool for physical fitness, but you can’t use a hammer to fix everything.  You need to have a variety of tools to build a healthy vessel.

Movement Prep Tip: Maintaining Healthy Shoulders

With 9 muscles crossing it and 17 muscles attaching to the scapula (shoulder blade), the shoulder joint complex is one of the most complex joints in the body.  It’s highly mobile and one of the most unstable joints.  As a result, it’s one of the most frequently injured areas of the body.  In the future I will get into more depth regarding this incredible joint, but today’s post provides a movement preparation demonstration to help maintain a healthy shoulder complex.

Resistance Band High Row to External Rotation and Overhead Press

This is one of my favorite movements to help activate and warm-up the shoulders prior to a workout.  It can also be used as a great rehab or correctional exercise depending on the context of your situation.  Be sure to seek advice from your professional practitioner before engaging in any exercise movements.  I like this movement because it tickles and coordinates nearly all the muscles involved in shoulder movement in a couple of simple actions.  If you’re pressed for time, the warm-up usually suffers, so this is a great exercise for efficiency to save you time.

Here are the key points to keep in mind while performing this movement.  Watch the video below for a full explanation and demonstration.

  • Clamp feet to the ground
  • Keep knees soft so that they don’t lock out
  • Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement
  • Sustain core stability, including your glutes throughout the movement
  • Elbow should be kept at shoulder height on row and rotation
  • During external rotation keep hands aligned with elbows and pivot around the fixed elbow position thinking of rotating the shoulder ball in socket
  • Aim for keeping arms inline with ears as you overhead press thinking of upward rotation of the scapula
  • Use a slow and controlled tempo
  • Things to avoid: early shrugging and internal rotation, leaning back and excessive back arching

Suggested Variables:

2-3 sets with 45-60 seconds rest in between, 5-10 reps, 1-2 second pause at the top of overhead position, slow and controlled tempo.

As this exercise involves many stabilizer muscles, it should NOT be performed to exhaustion.

Movement Prep Tip: Glute, Hams & Foot Intrinsic Activation

Here is a wonderful movement prep exercise that I learned from a couple of my colleagues at Active Life Conditioning.  I’m calling it the Resistance Band One-Leg Mule Kick.  It focuses primarily on glute, hamstring and foot intrinsic activation and coordination.  The video below gives a full explanation of the movement, but here are the key points to keep in mind.

  • Keep spine neutral throughout movement
  • Eagle claw supporting foot into ground
  • Keep supporting knee soft or slightly bent throughout movement
  • Maintain a proper hip hinge throughout the movement
  • Keep hips and shoulders square with one another
  • Ensure that supporting leg foot and knee stay aligned with each other throughout movement
  • Use a slow controlled tempo

Suggested variables:

3-6 reps per side, holding a 5-10 second isometric contraction at full extension for each rep.

8 Minute Full Body Dumbbell Complex Workout

Last year I put out quick calisthenics workout for the lower body that required minimal equipment as well as time.  I’ve since received some inquiries about a workout that could be done in a similar manner for the whole body.  HIIT workouts are fantastic for getting your heart rate elevated especially when you are pressed for time, but one of the things that is rarely taken into consideration with many of them is structural balance when choosing exercises.  Bilateral, multi-joint movements rule this realm, and for good reason.  They are generally the best for getting the most bang for your buck in short periods of time.  However, if you are performing a HIIT workout, you should already be proficient with the movements that you will be doing and have good structural balance so that you aren’t going to injure yourself.  Of course, most people that I see doing HIIT workouts are the ones that probably shouldn’t be doing them in the first place.  Taking that into consideration, here is a workout that I’ve put together maintaining a HIIT spirit and incorporating some structural balance.

Quick disclaimer this post is intended to give you ideas of how to structure a workout and should only be performed if you are well versed in the movements described and have consulted your physician or healthcare provider before engaging in physical activity.

The whole workout can be completed within an 8-12-minute time frame depending on how many rounds you wish to do.  This workout could possibly be used as a finisher as well for some of you more ambitious trainees out there.  To keep the equipment needed to a minimum, you will only need one dumbbell.  When choosing your dumbbell, select a weight that you can comfortably perform the One-Arm Power Snatch with for an 8-10 rep set.  This exercise dictates the weight used as it is the most complex of the movements.

Single Dumbbell Complex

A1:  One-Arm Power Snatch – 4-6 reps/arm

A2:  Goblet Alternating Reverse Lunge – 16-20 reps

A3:  One-Arm Feet Parallel Bent Over Row – 8-10 reps/arm

A4:  One-Leg Contralateral Romanian Dead Lift – 8-10 reps/leg

A5:  Push-ups – 8-10 reps

3-5 rounds

Tempos: 2-3 second negatives, explosive snatch, 1-2 second positives for all other movements

Rests:  Minimal in between exercises, 2-3 minutes in between rounds.

Please see the video below as a reference for the movements and enjoy!

2018 Winter Chalkboard Challenge

Each season at Active Life Conditioning we do something called the Chalkboard Challenge.  Basically, we layout a physical challenge of some sort, and the participant with the highest score/lowest time or whatever metric we are using for that challenge gets their name on the chalkboard.  We divide the population into age divisions such as 20-29, 30-30, 40-49 etc.  We try to create something that is usually doable for all levels of fitness as you work within your limits and do the best you can.  Only the top dog for each division gets posted so you’re just competing with yourself.  It’s also a fun little baseline test, as you can retest the challenge at the end of the season, to see your progress.

We try and include everyone at Active Life and so I thought it would be a fun idea to extend this challenge to all of you too.  To be sure that you’re doing the challenge properly I would ask that you submit a video of you completing the challenge and your age.  For this season’s challenge, it only takes 2 minutes.  I’ll post top times in this blog but leave names out for privacy purposes.

Ready the challenge?  This season we chose something basic and explosive to challenge some agility and the anaerobic A-lactic energy system.  We have two exercises with a 30 second time cap where you perform as much as you can within the 30 seconds.  One exercise will favor your shorter limb and stature body type, and the other you longer limb and taller body type, to try and keep things relatively fair.  I must thank coaches Katie Hamilton and Sarah Applegarth for collaborating with me on this one!  Here are the instructions:

30 Seconds Straddle Hops + 30 Seconds Row

  1. 30 seconds straddle hops – (bum must touch step and you must hop or step on to box and stand up tall at the top)
  2. 1 minute rest
  3. 30 second row for total meters
  4. Calculate total score. The number of straddle hops, plus the number of meters equals your score for this challenge.
  • If you retest, do the exercises in the same order that they are written.
  • Set up the rowers to count down 30 seconds.

Here is a video reference for you to see the form we are looking for.  Le me know how it goes, and enjoy!  This little challenge might also be used as a fun little finisher for those of you that like that little burst at the end of a workout!