Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Build Your Bat Suit: The Importance of Core Strength

Last weekend I had the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds in the fitness industry at our annual TRX Instructor summit.  A significant amount of time was dedicated toward discussion about the latest research findings in the world of core strength.  “Core” has been a buzz word in the fitness industry for awhile now, but recently, the industry is realizing that core strength is much less about flexion (crunching) exercises and much more about bracing, planking, and rotating. 
We all have the ability to create our own “batsuit” to protect our spine and posture, but it takes some work and dedication!
Below is an article by Sports Medicine specialist Elizabeth Quinn with details on what the core is and some great ways to strengthen it.

TRX Rip Trainer Creator Pete Holman discusses the importance of building our own protective "bat suits"

The best core exercises may surprise you. It's not enough to just do ab crunches and sit ups. To build a strong core you need to exercise a variety of muscles from your hips to your shoulders. Most people think of the core as a nice six-pack, or strong, toned abs, but the truth is that the abdominal muscles are a very small part of the core. The abs have very limited and specific action, and what experts refer to as the "core" actually consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, and run the entire length of the torso. When these muscles contract, they stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle and create a solid base of support. When this happens, we are able to generate powerful movements of the extremities.
The core muscles also make it possible to stand upright and move on two feet. These muscles help control movements, transfer energy, shift body weight and move in any direction. A strong core distributes the stresses of weight-bearing and protects the back. Core conditioning exercise programs need to target all these muscle groups to be effective.

Different experts include different muscles in this list, but in general the muscles of the core run the length of the trunk and torso. The following list includes the most commonly identified core muscles as well as the lesser known groups.
       Rectus Abdominis - located along the front of the abdomen, this is the most well-known abdominal muscle and is often referred to as the "six-pack" due to it's appearance in fit and thin individuals.
       Erector Spinae- This group of three muscles runs along your neck to your lower back.
       Multifidus - located under the erector spinae along the vertebral column, these muscles extend and rotate the spine.
       External Obliques - located on the side and front of the abdomen.
       Internal Obliques - located under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
       Transverse Abdominis (TVA) - located under the obliques, it is the deepest of the abdominal muscles (muscles of your waist) and wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
       Hip Flexors - located in front of the pelvis and upper thigh. The muscles that make up the hip flexors include: psoas major, illiacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, sartorius
       Gluteus medius and minimus - located at the side of the hip
       Gluteus maximus, hamstring group, piriformis - located in the back of the hip and upper thigh leg.
       Hip adductors - located at medial thigh.

Benefits of Good Core Strength
       A Strong Core Reduces Back Pain
Abdominals get all the credit for protecting the back and being the foundation of strength, but they are only a small part of what makes up the core. In fact, it is weak and unbalanced core muscles that are linked to low back pain. Weak core muscles result in a loss of the appropriate lumbar curve and a swayback posture. Stronger, balanced core muscles help maintain appropriate posture and reduce strain on the spine.
       A Strong Core Improves Athletic Performance
Because the muscles of the trunk and torso stabilize the spine from the pelvis to the neck and shoulder, they allow the transfer of power to the arms and legs. All powerful movements originate from the center of the body out, and never from the limbs alone. Before any powerful, rapid muscle contractions can occur in the extremities, the spine must be solid and stable and the more stable the core, the most powerful the extremities can contract.
       A Strong Core Improves Postural Imbalances
Training the muscles of the core helps correct postural imbalances that can lead to injuries. The biggest benefit of core training is to develop functional fitness; the type of fitness that is essential to daily living and regular activities.

Exercises that Build Core Strength
Core strengthening exercises are most effective when the torso works as a solid unit and both front and back muscles contract at the same time, multi joint movements are performed and stabilization of the spine is monitored. Abdominal bracing is a basic technique used during core exercise training. To correctly brace, you should exhale and tighten in the middle; as if somebody were about to hit you in the stomach. This action primarily recruits transverse abdominus. You should be able to breathe evenly while bracing and no hold your breath.
There are many exercises that will strengthen the core. A large number of core strengthening exercises can be done at home with no equipment while some require the use of equipment and gadgets.
What Are the Best Core Exercises?
Core exercises are most effective when they engage many muscles throughout the torso that cross several joints and work together to coordinate stability. Core muscles need to work as a unit, contract at the same time, across joints in order to stabilize the spine. Some of the best core exercises are simple bodyweight exercises, including the following.

       Plank Exercise
       Side Plank Exercise
       The Basic Push Up
       Back Bridge
       Hip Lift
       Bird Dog
       Rip Stack

Have more questions about how to strengthen your core and build your batsuit?  Chat with any of our certified personal trainers, we have many great ideas!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

TRX for Balance Training

Not only do athletes (like log rollers!) need balance for performance, we ALL need to train balance for improvements in coordination and greater stability as we age, which can help prevent falls and keep us both strong and independent longer.  In the case of those suffering from neurological disorders such as Huntington’s Disease, MS, and Parkinson’s, the suspension trainer can help keep the user safe and stable while working through various balance exercises.  On the other end of the spectrum athletes need an advanced balance and stability challenge which we demonstrate in this video with a Rip Drag on a single foot.

This short clip demonstrates just one of thousands of ways the TRX Suspension and Rip trainers can support or challenge balance.  TRX Master Instructors Shana Martin and Casey Stutzman demonstrate the simple, yet effective, single leg balance

Monday, May 06, 2013

Fitness Teaching Vacations

An almost free vacation at an all-inclusive resort?!  Yep.
I promised my fitness friends I would wait until AFTER our trip to give the information about Fitness Pro Travel because honestly, I thought it had to be too good to be true.  Apparently, it’s true.  And good.

A few weeks ago Peter and I did our first “Teaching Vacation” through Fitness Pro Travel.  It was absolutely amazing.  We spent a week at The Grand Palladium in Jamaica, teaching stretching and TRX on the beach and water fitness in the pool.  We were done teaching by 12:30 every day and had the rest of the time to swim, snorkel, eat a ton (good thing we were teaching a lot!), and of course relax by the beach.  Through teaching and working with the entertainment staff we made so many new friends- it was very hard to leave! 

So, I know you aren’t reading because you want to know all about our fantastic vacation (although I would be happy to tell you all about it!).  Here is how the Fitness Travel Pro Program works (I actually didn’t understand it until AFTER I returned from our first trip!):

·      The company has negotiated contracts with hundreds of all - inclusive resorts throughout the Caribbean.
·      The contract states that the resort will reserve one room a week- free of charge- to an instructor that Fitness Pro Travel Sends.
·      We, as rockstar fitness instructors, sign up for an account and search for a resort based on what we teach and the weeks we are available to travel.
·      Fitness Pro Travel makes their money when we book a trip, as we will pay between $275 and $700 for a week at the resort based on the resort we select.  Some resorts also require a premium travel account, which is $75 per year.
·      After we book the resort our concierge will send an e-mail with all of the details we need to know: what we will teach, the times of the classes, transfer arrangements, etc. 
·      Shortly before the trip, our concierge will notify us of what “gift” to bring to the resort.  For example, Grand Palladium in Jamaica needed us to bring Children’s superhero costumes for their kid’s area.  This is a nice gesture to the resort so that they do not have to pay ridiculous shipping fees for simple things like yoga mats, etc.

So long story short, you pay travel fees and about $500 for a week at an all-inclusive resort for you, another adult, and usually up to two children under 12 if you are staying at a family resort.  Depending on the resort you will teach about 1-2 hours of classes a day (classes vary from resort to resort) and enjoy an amazing vacation.

And yes, we signed up for an affiliate account to hopefully pay for some wedding expenses.  SO if you end up signing up for an account please please please use this link: or at least enter my account number: 17325 when you register. 

More Tips and Things I was unsure of:
·      Read the reviews (under the “reviews” tab) of each resort to see the details of what you will teach and other details about the resort that the general description may not tell you.
·      Don’t be afraid to e-mail the concierge for the particular resort if you have questions.  She always responds within 24 hours.
·      Common teaching categories are: Yoga, Zumba, Water Fitness, and cycling.  Some resorts will have you teach one or two classes that you are able to teach.  For example, at Grand Palladium they wanted me to teach a Yoga class or a “stretch” class and then a “cardio” class after that.  I am not a yoga instructor so I did a TRX stretch class.  I also incorporated Rip Training for my cardio class.  They are all very flexible.
·      You absolutely need to be a certified instructor but if you cannot locate your certificate, FYI they never actually asked for mine. 

Hope you have an awesome fitness vacation!  Please e-mail me if you have any questions.

HD Awareness Month: Meet Ellie

May is Huntington's Disease Awareness Month.  Teaming up with the National organization our Wisconsin Chapter is featuring some HD heroes right here in Wisconsin.  Here is Ellie's story.