Tag Archives: Muscle

Ladder Up! The Perks of Agility Training

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I include agility training in many of my boot camp classes and with my personal clients as well. They think it’s fun and a nice change to get their cardio in. However, I always have a reason for the way I conduct their training. It’s not just fun, but it serves a purpose as well!

“A new study from the Air Force Research Laboratory shows that agility training can improve your cognitive performance.”

“Military personnel were divided into two groups for six weeks of training. The first group participated in the military’s standard physical training (jogging with calisthenics like jumping jacks and burpees), while the second group underwent agility training (ladder drills and shuttle runs). After six weeks, the first group increased their endurance. On the other hand, the group performing agility training improved their VO2 max, athletic footwork, memory, and concentration.”

I believe in working multiple muscle groups at the same time. Technically your brain isn’t a muscle, but why not train it as one?


Photo credit: http://www.writingriffs.com/2014/01/dr-rickhanson/

““Agility training incorporates components of learning, focus, balance, and coordination,” says study coauthor Erica M. Johnson, Ph.D. This type of training can stimulate richer connections among multiple brain regions by demanding them to work together, she says.”

Also, they help quicken your reaction time and who doesn’t need that? They are a great addition to a functional training program.

So what exactly is this agility training I’m referring to? I found a YouTube link with an excellent visual and narrated description of 13 different agility drills. These drills are widely used in sports training, but are beneficial for everyone! It’s listed at the end of this post.

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Agility training is a great way to spice up your workouts.




Check it out and give them a try!







Understanding Protein

If you’re confused about how much protein you need per day, you’re not alone. There’s not a cut-and-dried answer. Everyone has a different “need” depending on gender, weight, activity level and goals.

I’ve been doing a lot of research to try to answer this question for myself. There is a lot of information out there. Here is the lowdown on what I found.

What is the RDA for protein:

The purpose of the RDA guidelines is to inform you how much of a specific nutrient your body needs on a daily basis to function properly. So basically, depending on your weight and activity level, the RDA for protein can be viewed as the minimum requirement to keep you healthy.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for men is 56 grams per day and 46 grams per day for women.

Chances are you may need more. But how much more and why?

What is Protein?

Protein is one of the basic building blocks of the human body, making up roughly 20 percent of your total body weight. Muscle, hair, skin, and connective tissue are mainly made up of protein. Also, protein plays a major role in all of the cells and most of the fluids in your body.  Although your body is good at “recycling” protein, you use it up constantly, so it is important to continually replace it.

Protein is made up of smaller units called amino acids. Your body can produce some of these amino acids, but others must be consumed through the diet. Animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) and many plant foods are good sources.

Follow this link to see what’s included in the protein food group:


Protein and Weight Loss

When you want to gain muscle and lose fat, eating the right amount of protein is key. Protein and the amino acids that make it up are required for two main reasons.

1) To construct muscle – they are the building blocks

2)  They act as a switch to ‘signal’ that it’s time to start up the “muscle building machinery”.

Leucine is probably the most important amino acid that stimulates this “switch” and is highly present in protein rich food.

Because protein is required to build muscle AND to signal the body to start this process, it’s important to spread out protein consumption evenly throughout the day.

How Much Do You Need?

“When it comes to building muscle and losing fat, research consistently shows that doubling the RDA spaced out throughout the day is the path you want to take to get the best results the fastest”. (BJ Gaddour, “Men’s Health, Your Body is Your Barbell”). This seems like a good rule of thumb in general. Let’s see what other people say.

Nutritionists use a standard to estimate your minimum daily protein requirement.

Multiply the body weight in pounds by .37.

Using this formula, a 150 lb. man would require a minimum of 55 grams of protein per day. This falls right in with the RDA.  And if you’re very active and exercise frequently, professionals agree you can nearly double this requirement. Be advised, though, if you’re shooting for a gram of protein per pound of body weight, or more, you’re probably overdoing it. The extra protein will not necessarily benefit you. Also, that’s a lot for the body to process and the extra calories will most likely end up as fat.

To look at it another way, it is recommended that 10-35% of your daily calories come from protein. This is a rather large range and where you fall in it also depends on your weight and activity level. For a  diet of 1800 calories per day, this means anywhere from a minimum of 45 grams of protein to over 150 grams of protein per day. That 35% is a pretty high number and may be overdoing it for a lot of people. In my diet, I lean towards around 20% protein.

So you see, there are various rules of thumb to figure out the ideal protein for you.

Tracking the Protein Grams you Eat

Many foods contain protein, but at the end of the day, how do you know how much you’ve consumed?

Here is an easy rule of thumb:

Remember the numbers 1, 5, 10, 15, 25 to roughly estimate protein intake.


  • 1 gram of protein for every serving of fruit and vegetables
  • 5 for every egg or handful of nuts you eat
  • 10 for every cup of milk or yogurt
  • 15 for every cup of beans or half-cup of cottage cheese
  • 25 for every 3-4 ounce serving of meat

Protein and Exercise Recovery

After a workout your body switches immediately from performance mode to recovery mode. It’s important to rebuild broken down muscle so you can come back stronger in your next training session. It is a great idea to refuel with protein right after your workout. Try a protein shake. Whey is a rapidly digested protein source loaded with leucine that will help maximize muscle recovery and growth.

Nutrient Timing: Exercise Recovery and Carbs

I found an extra helpful tidbit in my research about muscle recovery and carbs.

Nutrient timing is the concept that certain foods benefit your body more at specific times of the day than at others. After exercise, your muscles want to restock their supply of carbohydrates in the form of  glycogen. This is the time that your muscles are primed to take in the carbs you eat. In fact, after exercise is one of the few times carbs are preferentially transported to your muscles and away from your fat cells.

It’s a great idea to plan your starchiest meal of the day within 2 hours of your training. This could be breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on when you workout.

Your other meals of the day should consist of protein and nutrient dense carbs and vegetables.

A Few Last Words…

I hope this helps answer some questions you have about protein or got you thinking more about nutrition. As a trainer I am all about the workout but honestly, 75 – 80% of the weight loss equation concerns what you put in your mouth.

Wishing you much success!






The Power of Push-ups

I love pushupsI’m always greeted with squeals of excitement in my gym when I ask clients to perform push-ups for 60 seconds straight – said me Never! And why? It’s not a mystery. I know first hand that doing consecutive push-ups in proper form is hard.

By proper form I mean in prone position (face down), on your toes, hands placed slightly wider than your shoulders, your back is in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles (no saggy center or pike butt), bending your arms and lowering your body until it’s just off the ground (chin and chest first, no forehead bobbing) and then pushing yourself back to the starting position while maintaining proper alignment. Yes, that one rep took two seconds, now keep going for another 58. No wonder I hear grunts and see blank stares.

I’m not in love with doing pushups myself, but I do love what they do for the body.

Everyone can do them because there are so many variations! If you feel you’re not strong enough to start on your toes, then start on your knees, use a bench or the wall, and if you have wrist issues you can use your knuckles.

Pushups require many muscles. The primary muscles used are in the upper body. Pushups use your pecs (chest area), deltoids (shoulders) and triceps (back of the arm). Once you reach the top of the exercise, your body must stabilize itself and calls on secondary muscles to do this. Your body engages the muscles of the core, neck, hips and legs to help your body maintain a balanced horizontal position. There is so much going on!

Benefits of pushups include strengthening, toning and building beautiful muscle in your chest, upper arms and shoulders. Who doesn’t like to look at (or show off) a well toned upper body? They also strengthen and help tone your core. I love the benefits you can see!  Perhaps more important though are the benefits you don’t think about or can’t see. Pushups will also strengthen your wrists, forearms, elbows, and like other weight-bearing exercises, they help reduce bone loss and promote stronger, more dense bones. Because they use a large number of muscles at the same time, your heart rate will increase adding a little cardio element to the mix. It’s all good!

You get so much bang for your buck with push-ups! They will love you even if you don’t love them back. Give them a try!

My Favorite Way to Work Out and Why! (With Bonus Sample Workout)

Take it from a former Cardio Queen, walking on the treadmill or doing your Mama’s old school aerobics is not going to change your body.

Don’t get me wrong, any activity is a good thing. Any activity will burn calories. But if you’re going to put the time in anyway, why not make it really count?

The key is to burn calories during your workout, and also change your body composition, (build muscle) so that your body runs more efficiently and burns more calories all day long.

My Experience

I’ve worked out my entire life. Before I was a fitness trainer or even a fitness enthusiast, I was a cardio junkie. My vice was high-impact aerobics. I didn’t like lifting weights for a couple of reasons. First, I had no idea what to do. Second, what little  experience I did have reminded me that after I lifted weights, I felt pain. That was enough for me to avoid any kind of resistance training completely.

I will never forget the summer I put in about 5 hours per week in aerobics class and then couldn’t fit into my jeans after Labor Day. I was sure I was at least maintaining, but some how I had gained  weight. That was it! Time to get serious!

How I got started

When I truly got serious about transforming my body into what I hoped would be a fat burning machine, I started working with a personal trainer.

I did’t know the proper way to do anything, so I thought this was a great way to go. If you want to see results from your workouts, form and accountability are key. And with someone watching your every move, you can’t get away with anything. That is exactly what I needed!

How Long did it Take to see Results?

The first couple of weeks were pretty brutal.  My muscles had never been worked like this before. After I regained use of my noodle legs, I started feeling stronger, powerful even. I loved that feeling. I began seeing results in myself in about 2 months and others started noticing in about 3-4 months. That’s pretty amazing considering I had been reigning the cardio kingdom for a few years and I saw absolutely no results.

Fitness is my Passion

I was so excited to see results in myself that I decided to become certified so I could help others.

Over the years, my fitness plan for myself and my clients has evolved as I learn what’s new in the industry. I always use myself as the guinea pig, and if I like what I’m feeling and seeing, then I bring it to my clients.

My Favorite Way to Work Out

Finally, we get to it!

My two main goals with every workout I create are:

  1. Burn as many calories as possible during the session
  2. Focus on strength exercises to build lean, body transforming muscle. This muscle will help you burn more calories all day long.

If you compare how many calories you burn during an hour of weight lifting vs. an hour of running, running will win hands down.  Cardio does burn mega calories while you’re doing it, but traditional cardio isn’t going to build up the lean muscle you want.

In designing workout programs, I include a cardio element to ensure the heart rate is always up. The increased heart rate will help you burn more calories during the workout session and the strength exercises will build up muscle so you continue burning more all day long.

20 Minute Workout Plan

There are so many articles, trainers and opinions regarding the best way to work out. Who’s right? Well, a lot of people! There is no ‘right’ way to get there. There are numerous avenues to get you from A to B. The key is to find something that fits in your life. You have to like it.

I like variety and a fast pace. Can you complete your strength training for the day in 20 minutes and get results? Yes! This is your starting point. You can add on later when you’re in beast mode.

Planning your Workout

There are 4 categories below. This is not an exhaustive list. It’s very basic. But you can create an effective workout with these exercises. I encourage you to add your own!

If you have a question on form or how to perform a certain exercise, google and YouTube are great sources.

Total Body Cardio Exercise (Choose 1)

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Squat Jumps
  • Burpees
  • Jack-Push-Climb (3 exercises put together. Start with a Jumping Jack, hop down to a pushup position and do one pushup, finally, still in the pushup position bring each knee into the chest for a mountain climber. Hop back to your feet. That’s one rep)

Lower Body Exercises (Beginners don’t use weights) – Choose 2

  • Squats
  • Lunges – You can choose which type: 1) Stationary, with up and down motion, 2) alternating forward lunges, 3) alternating backward lunges, 4) walking lunges
  • Curtsy or Bowler’s Lunge
  • Lateral (Side) Lunge

Upper Body Exercises – Choose 2

  • Bicep Curls
  • Tricep Dips
  • Overhead Press – hold weights at shoulder level and press straight up overhead – advanced add squat to this making it a total body exercise
  • Lateral Raise
  • Row

Total Body/Core – Choose 2

  • Pushups
  • Cable Rotation
  • Wood Chop
  • Pull ups
  • Plank to Pushup (Begin in pushup position, go down to plank position on forearms, go back to pushup position. That’s one rep).
  • Renegade Row (alternate rows from plank position)

Write down your exercises, but in the order below.  I’ve also included my exercise choices:

  1. Total Body Cardio – Burpees
  2. Upper Body – Bicep Curls
  3. Lower Body – Squats (holding weights in each hand)
  4. Total Body/Core – Pushups
  5. Lower Body – Curtsy Lunge or Bowlers lunge (with weights in each hand)
  6. Upper Body – Dips
  7. Total Body/Core – Renegade Rows

Do 8 Reps of each.

Only rest after an entire round. Do as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.

If you’re advanced, you can increase the time to 25 or 30 minutes, OR choose a number of rounds, say 8 – 10, and continue until the number of rounds are completed.

If you’re a beginner, start with no weight for the lower body exercises and light weights for the upper body. Concentrate on getting your form down first. Then add the weights.

The point is to keep your heart rate up the entire time. Challenge yourself! Be creative and add your own exercises, alternating between upper and lower body.

Another consideration: Try to include at least one exercise where you rotate (cable rotation, wood chop, adding an upper body twist to your lunge) and at least one exercise where you move in a lateral (side to side) direction. (This would include side lunges or curtsy lunges. You can also add motion to your squats by walking in a lateral direction.) This will ensure that you’re training in all 3 ranges of motion equally: forward and backward motion, side to side movement and rotation. Life calls you to move in all of these directions. You should train this way!

Just Keep Moving!

This is my favorite way to work out because you get strength and cardio all at once. Boom, you’re done! I still love doing cardio and dedicate a couple days a week to just that, but I add this type of workout in about 3 times per week.

Try it, you might just love it!

You are a Calorie Burning Machine!

Have you ever wondered how many calories you burn during the day, and how? Working out is a great way to help ensure you burn more than you consume, but your workout is only a small portion of your entire day.  What about the rest of the time? Do you burn calories watching tv or sleeping?

You may not realize that your body is like a fiery furnace which burns calories each day, all day long.   While working out and other physical activity helps maximize this burn, it really accounts for only about 15-30% of the calories you burn in an entire day. Your actual burn through activity depends on your exertion level, fitness level and many other factors.

So how does your body burn the remaining 70-85% of calories each day? How can you maximize this? (And YES, you can make your body burn calories more efficiently!)

What is Metabolism?

The standard, scientific definition of metabolism is, “All chemical reactions within organisms that enable them to maintain life.” What?

Simply put, metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy.

Your Body needs Energy for 3 Primary Purposes:

  1. To maintain the ‘hidden’ basic functions in the body such as breathing, blood circulation, repairing cells, adjusting hormone levels, etc.
  2. To power physical activity
  3. To process the food you eat

A Closer Look at #1 – This is called your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

  • You burn the most calories during the day with no effort at all!
  • Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR is the total calories burned by maintaining a heartbeat, breathing, maintaining body temperature, etc. It includes only the calories you burn at rest.
  • RMR accounts for 60 – 70% of your total daily calories burned

RMR is Different for Everyone

  • RMR can vary as much as 25% among different people, mostly because of differences in muscle and organ mass
  • Resting muscle requires a lot of energy to maintain itself. It is more metabolically active than fat and makes the greatest contribution to RMR
  •  75 – 80% of your RMR is determined by your muscle mass…do you see a pattern here?
  • Women have lower RMRs than men
  • During sleep, RMR falls by about 10%

A Closer Look at #2 – Physical Activity

  • Your body burns calories during all types of physical activity including exercise, sports, work, leisure activities and everyday activities, even fidgeting and keeping good posture!
  • Physical activity accounts for 15-30% of total daily calorie burn
  • This is where most people focus on burning calories
  • Fit people can exercise with greater intensity and duration, burning more calories overall

A Closer Look at #3 – The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

  • You burn calories by eating!  Chewing, swallowing, digesting, absorbing and metabolizing the nutrients you take in is called the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
  • TEF peaks about 1 hour after eating and lasts approximately 5 hours
  • Protein maximizes TEF – it takes more energy to digest
  • TEF is lowest for fat – it doesn’t require much energy to store excess dietary fat as body fat
  • TEF accounts for about 10% of your total daily calorie burn

Burn More Calories!

If you are currently working out, excellent! Please continue! And if you don’t currently have an exercise program, you should begin!  In either case, you should focus your workouts on increasing muscle mass, which will, in turn, maximize your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Muscle is the best fuel to feed your fiery furnace!

Remember, your RMR accounts for 60-70% of your total daily calorie burn.

Muscle is your most metabolically active tissue. Not only does it create all calorie burning movement, but it requires a lot of energy to maintain itself.

Increasing your muscle mass burns more calories at rest and at play.

Burning more calories at rest? I like that!

How Do You Gain Muscle?

The best way to gain muscle is by adding resistance training to your workout schedule. I would suggest doing some sort of resistance workout 2 to 3 times per week to start.

What is Resistance Training?

Resistance training or strength training are collective terms for a variety of strength-building exercises that make use of resistance to grow muscles. There are many ways to do this!

  • Body weight exercises are a great way to start, especially if you’re new to exercise.          Body weight exercises include pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, plank, etc. where you use the weight of your own body as the resistance.
  • Lift weights
  • Use resistance bands
  • TRX

There are so many more options!

Happy Lifting!



Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

BJ Gaddour, Metabolic Training Certification, 2012

“Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories”, Mayo Clinic Staff, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolism/WT00006