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Muscles are helpful, as we’ve discussed in the last few newsletters. They make you healthier and safer, and can significantly improve your quality of life. Unfortunately, you can’t just go to the store and buy more muscles. You need to coax your body into making them.

As with most things, building muscle is slightly more complicated than it seems on the surface. Muscles are big bundles of protein that look like a rope. If you cut a rope and look at it, you’ll see that there are many small strands that twist together to form one big unit of rope. Muscles are similar in that there are fibers, bundles of fibers, then bundles of those bundles. However, muscle isn’t twisted in the way that rope is.

All the protein that makes muscle has to come from somewhere. When you eat a meal, any protein in the food is broken into amino acids. Your body uses those amino acids to construct new proteins, such as muscle. 

As the biggest storage of protein in your body, muscle serves a purpose other than helping you move. It acts as a reserve tank of protein that you can tap into whenever you need it. To get protein from your muscles, your body breaks it back down into amino acids and sends it into the bloodstream.

The best analogy for building muscle is a piggy bank. Your goal over time is to add more money to the piggy bank than you take out. If you take out too much, your piggy bank runs low. If you store more money than you spend, your piggy bank grows.

Similarly, your body is always building and tearing down muscle. Your job is to make sure it’s being stored more than it’s being broken down. If you can do this, you have a net gain of muscle.

Things that cause muscle breakdown are:

Things that cause muscle building:

For the most part, the formula to gain muscle is simple: lift weights and eat enough protein to build muscle (roughly .8 grams per pound of body weight per day). However, it’s important to note that exercise can decrease muscle mass, particularly endurance exercise. Anyone who loses weight will lose part of their weight from muscle, and it’s important to mitigate that by lifting weights and eating a sufficient amount of protein each day.

For most of the 20th century, scientists and doctors believed that aerobic activity was the key to health and longevity, while weight training was purely for vanity. That narrative is beginning to change. 

Sure, aerobic activity is great for your health. It helps you stay at a healthy weight, improves heart and lung health, and improves mental wellbeing. Jogging, using a stair climber, vigorous walking, and cycling all count as aerobic activity (also known as endurance training). 

Throughout the 20th century, aerobic exercise was studied extensively, and it proved time and again to be beneficial. However, weight training research only began to take off more recently. It shows that muscle mass may be one of the key components to living a healthy lifestyle.

First, consider the quality of life. If you’re more muscular and stronger, you’re more independent. You can carry more groceries and for longer distances, haul furniture around, and pick up your kids or pets. Elderly people who lift weights have better balance and are less likely to fall, which reduces their chance of bone fractures and infections.

As you age, it becomes harder and harder to build and maintain muscle. Most people lose muscle in their 50s and 60s, but those who don’t exercise in their 20s and 30s are at a significant disadvantage as they age.

A study published in the Annals of Medicine in 2018 explains that people with less muscle mass tend to have higher surgical and post-surgical complications, take longer to heal and leave hospitals, have a lower physical function and lower quality of life, and generally don’t live as long as more muscular counterparts.

Another study, published in Clinical Nutrition, looked at the healthcare costs of sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass due to aging). The researchers concluded that health problems caused by the loss of muscle mass alone will contribute to rising healthcare costs in the future as the aging population increases. 

Organizations like the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine now recognize that strength training is as important for your health as an aerobic activity. Lifting weights can help prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease, improve the quality of life for cancer patients, and help with a myriad of other conditions. The positive effects of lifting weights have become too powerful to ignore.

Your Frequently Asked Questions Answered 

At TS Fitness, one of our core values is growth. By educating our members on fitness and health, we hope to provide context behind what we do. Your exercise routine becomes more effective when you understand both the why and how to get the best results. We have designed our training programs intentionally to optimize results. 

Q:  How many times should I do strength training and what should I be doing on the days that I'm not at TS Fitness?

A: We recommend taking a look at this article where Noam is featured in Self Magazine addressing the perfect workout week. It’s actually one of the top Google results for “How many times should I workout a week?”  

The perfect workout week depends on what is realistic for you. We develop an ideal workout week for each of our members as part of our programming. 

Q: Why does my program stay the same for about a month? 

A: By having the same program over the course of the month, it gives you the opportunity to get better with each movement. If your form is off during a movement, then you won’t get the full benefit of the exercise and you can even possibly injure yourself. If you change the workout every time train, you won’t perfect the basics and you won’t get as strong as you could by progressing up. 

In order to build more muscle tone, you must progressively increase the weights, which you can do over the course of the month. The stronger you are, the more muscle tone you can put on.

Q: Why do we do 2 exercises back to back? 

A: We alternate between the upper body and lower body. This allows you to do two exercises back to back at a higher intensity because your body won't burn out as quickly. 

Q:  Why should I go up in weight? How do I know if I should move up in weight?

A: First and foremost is to improve form! If your form goes, then you shouldn't increase weight.  You can injure yourself.  It's best to perfect form and then increase weight.  

Increasing the weight that you are lifting is very important--weight progression helps to create muscle tone. To assess if you should go up in weight, ask yourself after a set,  “Could I have done 2 more?”.  If yes, then go up in weight.

You can also use the 1-10 exertion scale. If you feel that your exertion level is a 8-9 out of 10 then that's a good level of difficulty. 

Q: Why don't we do a lot of arms? Why do we do big movements like squats and rows?

A: The big muscles are going to help you put muscle tone on and increase your heart rate. These movements are going to get you stronger but they also incorporate the small muscles like your biceps. It’s an efficient way to work out!

Q: Why don't we do a lot of abs?  I want to tone my abs. 

A: You use your core more than you know. We use our core when we do swings;  we engage our core when we row and squat.  

We do core activation and exercises at the beginning of the workout to get them activated. You can't spot train your abs. The best and quickest way to see your abs is to lose body fat. That's done mostly through good nutrition and consistent exercise.

Q: Why do we do kettlebell or jumping exercises first?

A:  We start with these movements because they are explosive exercises and you have the most explosive power at the beginning of the workout.  These exercises get your heart rate up and help you gain strength while also burning calories.  

Q:  What should I do if I don’t feel like I’m not grasping an exercise?  

A:  If you are struggling with a particular movement, you should reach out to our team via info@tsfitnessnyc.com . We will work with you to improve your understanding of an exercise and determine the root cause of the difficulty. 

At TS, we are all about growth and education. We want to make sure that you understand and excel at all the exercises we give you.

How many problems are attributed to age? Hangovers, knee pain, or an expanding midsection, just to name a few. However, a new study from Science suggests that age might just be a number after all when it comes to burning calories.

First of all, it’s important to figure out what the researchers were studying. They looked at something called total daily energy expenditure. To get that number you have to add your metabolism (the number of calories you would burn just lying on the couch) with the number of calories you burn from daily activity. This number is important because if you burn fewer calories you’re more likely to gain weight.

The study included over 6,000 participants, both male, and female, from 8 days old to 95 years. What the researchers found is quite surprising. Around 1-years-old, energy expenditure peaks. It then remains high until around the age 20. From there it drops, but here’s the catch: it doesn’t drop again until around 60 years old. 

That means from age 20-60 your metabolism stays about the same. However, there’s one big caveat - muscle mass. Muscle is considered highly active tissue because it consumes a lot of energy. Fat is mostly inactive. The researchers found that the tissues in your body remain active from ages 20-60. 

If you lose muscle mass, however, you lose tissue. That means your goal to maintain a healthy body weight from age 20-60 should be to gain or maintain muscle mass. No, you don’t have to be the hulk, but losing muscle mass is probably the main contributor to weight gain as you age.

Estrogen is the main female sex hormone, equivalent to testosterone in men. In the world of exercise, testosterone gets a lot of good PR. Both male and female athletes sometimes cheat by taking synthetic testosterone (steroids) to gain an edge in their sport. While testosterone is widely regarded as a performance booster, what does estrogen do?

In females, estrogen regulates things like the menstrual cycle, weight gain/weight loss, and bone formation. However, its role in athletics seems to have been downplayed. According to a study published in Frontiers in Physiology, estrogen helps build muscle mass and improve strength. It can also make connective tissues stronger.

In women, estrogen seems to play a similar role as it does in men. Testosterone is known as an “anabolic” hormone in men. Anabolic means that it helps build tissues, such as muscle mass. Estrogen seems to do the same for women. 

However, the study also points out that estrogen can make tendons and ligaments more flexible. This can be bad news for women who have high estrogen because it makes them more prone to injury. For example, ACL tears are more common in women than men. The ACL is a ligament that connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone). 

If high estrogen causes ligaments to soften and become more pliable, it could explain why women are more susceptible to ACL tears than men. It might seem odd that estrogen would weaken tendons and ligaments, but scientists propose a hypothetical reason that involves childbirth. As a baby passes through the birth canal, the hip bones need to widen. It’s much easier for them to move if ligaments are lax.

In addition to boosting bone formation, estrogen helps build muscle and strength. This comes at a cost of loose ligaments and tendons. While the researchers don’t propose a solution to this problem, it’s important to point out that estrogen can, in some ways, be considered a performance enhancer for women who lift weights.

Training to failure means performing an exercise until you can’t complete another repetition. In the real world, failing usually implies that you didn’t complete a task. In the gym, it has a positive stigma. Sometimes, failing IS the task.

There are two types of failure in the gym: fatigue and technical failure. When you fail from fatigue, it means that you can’t physically lift the weight or complete the rep. Technical failure means that you could complete the rep, but your form would be terrible. In other words, when you lose technique, you fail.

At TS, we fall more into the camp of technical failure. While some hardcore gymgoers might insist that you need to push your muscles to the absolute limit, research shows that isn’t necessarily true. Instead, you just have to get close to your limit.

Technical failure combines the hardworking mentality of training to failure with less risk and the same amount of reward. By pushing close to absolute failure, you fatigue a muscle close to the max. However, when you stop before your form deteriorates, you avoid injury.

One way to do this is by leaving 2 reps in the tank. By the end of the set, you should feel like you could’ve done two more repetitions if you really tried. It works because when you go for the final one or two reps before your muscles shut down, form tends to deteriorate. 

Next time you’re in the gym, try it out. It might take a few sessions to get the feel for where your limits are, but over time you’ll have more awareness of how you are to failure.

You should consider your morning routine as a warm-up for your day ahead. You want to get your body -- and mind -- ready for what’s to come. Here are some healthy morning rituals that we recommend to stay on track through the day.

Drink water

This sounds remarkably simple, but it’s probably the most important thing to do on the list. In the hot summer months, you can get dehydrated quickly during the night. It’s important to rehydrate in the morning because dehydration makes it harder to think and exercise. Water also helps keep your digestive system running smoothly. Start your day with a full glass, maybe even two. If you drink coffee, try to match that with another glass of water.

Journal

Meditation is incredibly helpful, but few people take the time to learn how to do it properly. Even fewer people do it on a consistent basis. Writing in a journal isn’t the same as meditation, but it counts as a form of mental wellness and many find that it’s easier to stick to. This can include writing out your intentions/goals for the day, writing down your dreams from the night before, planning out your schedule, or simply writing down your morning thoughts. All you need is about five minutes to scribble something down. This can declutter your mind and get you focused on what’s to come.

Light stretching

Dogs and cats often do little stretches when they wake up from sleeping. Why don’t we? First thing in the morning, wake up your joints and iron out any stiffness by doing a light stretching routine. You can even take your favorite exercises from the TS warmup and do them every day. Doing a few light movements like child’s pose, cat/cow, and pigeon pose from yoga is enough to start your day.

Eat a light breakfast (Optional)

Some people hate breakfast and others love it. While you don’t need to eat in the morning, you might function better with some food in your stomach. If you choose to eat, try to find something that’s balanced. The ideal breakfast has protein, fat, carbs, and fiber. An example is an omelet, oatmeal with protein powder, or yogurt with granola.

Starbucks stretches the limits of what’s acceptable to put in coffee. Their drinks range from black coffee to sugar-infused, whipped-cream topped coffee milkshakes. Then, a company called Bulletproof started adding fats to coffee as a way to supercharge your morning (they originally started by putting butter in coffee).

What you put in your coffee seems to be a controversy in the nutrition world, with some diet gurus claiming that you can’t possibly put half and half in your coffee and expect to lose weight. In this week’s newsletter, we’ll go over what you should (or shouldn’t) add to your morning cup of joe.

First thing’s first, whatever you put in your coffee probably won’t have a big impact on your weight loss. Half and half, which is probably the most caloric additive in the coffee world, contains 40 calories per 2 tablespoons. There are 9 calories in one serving of sugar, but most people probably have 2 if they like sugar, so let’s go with 18 calories.

Regular, black coffee contains about 2 calories per cup. That’s a total of 60 calories in a standard cup of coffee with half and half and regular sugar. That’s equivalent to a cup of raspberries. 

Let’s assume you want to cut down on the calories in your coffee. You might switch to 2% milk and alternativee sweeteners. 2 tablespoons of 2% milk is 14 calories, and a serving of Stevia sweetener is 0 calories. That puts your cup of coffee at roughly 16 calories. 

Despite some bad press, artificial sweeteners are safe for consumption. The only note is that they can be very sweet, so use them sparingly!

Another popular coffee additive is syrup. Starbucks uses syrup flavorings to make your coffee sweet and delicious. Just note that they can be a fairly large source of calories. Torani, a popular syrup, contains 50 calories per tablespoon. If you use too much in your coffee, the calories can add up.

You should enjoy your morning coffee, but don’t be afraid to explore different combinations. The calories don’t add up too quickly, so don’t be afraid to add delicious things. However, there are plenty of alternatives if you want to cut down on calories.

The things that are the most helpful tend to be the things we often overlook. Vegetables, for example, are very healthy. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make vegetables sexy. Steaks, cakes, and pasta are all sexy foods.

Similarly, it’s hard to make a warm-up sexy. Deadlifts, sprints, and pull-ups are all fun, but the warm-up seems like more of a burden. Similar to vegetables, the warm-up is important for your health. 

First, it helps to know what you’re trying to accomplish during the warm-up. Raising body temperature is the primary goal (didn’t see that coming!). When your body temperature rises, muscles become more pliable (flexible).

Secondly, warming up is also about moving your joints. When a joint moves, it produces something called synovial fluid. Think of it as WD-40 for your joints. It acts as a lubricant to make your joints move more smoothly.

When you do a warm-up, your heart rate increases and you get more alert. Your body prepares itself to exercise so that you start with more oxygen in your blood and more energy in your muscles. In other words, the warm-up helps you perform better.

How The Warm-Up at TS Works:

First, you prepare your joints and muscles to move with mobility exercises. Then you warm up muscles like the hips and core to prepare them for the workout. Finally, you do calisthenics to get your body warm and ready for the workout.

 Tips to Master the Warm-Up:

Want to feel your abs? Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet planted. Roll up a small dish towel and place it under your lower back. Exhale and press your lower back into the towel as hard as you can, squeezing it into the floor. 

You should feel your abs light up and even start shaking. Try it again, but this time do a crunch or sit-up after you squeeze the towel. Notice a difference? This is how you should be working your abs on every rep in the gym.

There are four abdominal muscles. They help you flex your spine (lean forwards) and rotate. To get all four abdominal muscles activated, you have to make some technique adjustments. For example, pressing your lower back into the ground as you crunch activates your obliques more (the muscles on the sides of your torso). 

Proper breathing can help you feel your abs more. The abdominal muscles serve a secondary purpose: assisting your diaphragm in pressing the air out of the lungs. They normally don’t kick in when you’re breathing unless you do a forceful exhalation. When you do ab exercises, try breathing forcefully out through your mouth. 

Some ab exercises need to be tweaked to get the most out of them. The plank is a classic ab exercise, but many people think it’s too easy or don’t feel their abs. A simple fix is to press your toes into the ground and up towards your shins. At the same time, dig your elbows into the ground and pull them down towards your feet. By creating tension, the abs are forced to work harder.

Protecting your lower back is important when you do abs. If you have lower back pain, avoid things like crunches, sit-ups and heavy rotational movements. Instead, stick to plank and anti-rotation exercises.

An anti-rotation exercise involves holding a band or some form of resistance as it pulls you from the side. By resisting the rotation from the band, you’re forced to use the same muscles you’d use to create rotation: the obliques. However, by avoiding rotational movement you save your back from extra stress.

We save the best for last at TS. The finisher is the final segment of the class, consisting of quick bursts of exercises and core workouts.

To get the most out of our finisher, here are a few tips:

Don’t Sacrifice Form 

When the music is blasting, your coach is yelling and you’re trying to squeeze in the last few reps, it’s easy to let your form slip. It’s natural to try to make an exercise easier when you’re tired. However, an injury can seriously derail your progress. To avoid injury, focus on your form as time winds down in the finisher. When your form starts to slip, stop what you’re doing instead of trying to squeeze in a few extra reps. 

Set Goals

The best performance comes from a little competition. Motivation can come from inside, trying to beat your own expectations, or competing with someone else in the class. Competition is healthy and can help you push a little bit harder. Try to set numbers in your head for each exercise, or ask the coach to give you a target to shoot for. Then, try to beat that target. 

Manage Your Resistance

The finisher is not the time to get stronger. If weights are involved you don’t need to go heavy. Instead, you should shoot for higher rep counts. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Tap Out

When you’re pushing your body, it’s not uncommon to feel dizzy, nauseous or shaky. If that happens, stop and let the coach know. Often, if you stop early enough and manage your fatigue, you can get back into the workout after a short break. If you try to push too hard, it can set you back longer. 

At TS Fitness, we want you to get stronger both physically and mentally. One of the best ways to do that is through strength training with dumbbells, kettlebells, trap bars, and barbells. Even if getting stronger isn’t your main goal, strength is helpful for preventing injuries and makes life outside the gym a little easier (aka lifting and moving heavy things). 

We’d like to make your strength training journey as simple and effective as possible. With that being said, here are 4 of the most common mistakes people make when they train for strength.

Going Too Hard

If you don’t push yourself in the gym, your results might not come very quickly. However, if you push yourself too hard you can get injured or lose motivation (burnout). In the long run, it’s better to take things a little easier than be forced to take time off from injury or lack of motivation. As you get stronger, pay attention to your body. If you get aches and pains or dread going to the gym, lighten things up.

Doing Too Many Reps

Our programs are designed to get you stronger by limiting the number of reps you do on certain exercises. As you progress through the program, you’ll start to see more and more limited rep counts. That’s because you have to lift heavier weights to get stronger, and the best way to do that is by limiting your reps to 10 or fewer. By doing fewer reps, you save more energy to push harder and lift more weight.

Not Eating Enough

If your goal is to lose weight, you probably want to cut down on calories. However, eating too little can cause your strength gains to slow down or halt. If you feel sluggish or if you’re not making progress, try eating a little more to fuel your body for the workouts. For strength training, carbohydrates are your friend 🙂

Being Afraid Of Heavy Weights

Part of the mental benefit of strength training is seeing that your body is capable of more than you thought. Everyone can become stronger than they are right now, as long as they train properly. Your coaches will help you select the appropriate weight and keep your form in check to avoid injury. Still, there will be moments when you’re afraid of bigger weights. That’s totally normal. As long as you focus on using correct form and make reasonable increases in weight, injuries are very unlikely. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and try a heavier weight to find out what you’re truly capable of.

Working with kettlebells is a rewarding experience, but it takes a while to get used to them. Since they’re not commonly used in commercial gyms and can look very intimidating, most people don’t use them until they start training at a specialized gym like TS Fitness.

When you start using kettlebells, don’t panic. At TS, there is a wide range of weights available, so you’ll be able to find something appropriate for each exercise you’re assigned.

  1. When you grab your first kettlebell, you’ll notice that the handles vary in sizes. They get thicker as you go up in weight, so don’t be surprised if the heavier kettlebells you use for exercises like the deadlift are thicker.
  2. Grip pads are gloves are recommended if you find that the kettlebell handle is rough. However, you should use your bare hands at some point to get used to gripping the kettlebell.
  3. On exercises like the swing and kettlebell clean, your grip should be more relaxed than you think. It might seem illogical, but keeping a relaxed grip reduces the friction in your hands and allows the kettlebell to swing more freely. It also saves your forearm muscles from unnecessary pressure.
  4. Some kettlebell exercises require you to maintain a “racked” position, where the kettlebell is resting on your arm, shoulder, chest, or some combination of all three. For these movements, there are a few things to keep in mind.
    1. Take off any fragile jewelry, and flip around or take off your Apple watch. In the long run, this can save you from damaging anything on your wrist as the kettlebell sits on your forearm.
    2. Another common problem is bending at the wrist. Your wrist should remain straight anytime you use the kettlebells, as though you were about to throw a punch. In the long run, holding a straight wrist can save you from injuries or problems down the road.

If you’re having any other problems with kettlebells, let our coaches know and they’ll help you troubleshoot!

Perhaps the most boring nutrition advice ever given is “eat more fiber.” It’s something your grandparents or parents might say before pouring you a helping of bran cereal (yum). Unfortunately, most of the things that are good for you are also very boring.

Fiber might not be the most miraculous substance on earth, but it can help you lose body fat. A research roundup published in 2017 that looked at 12 different studies found that fiber supplements helped people lose weight. On average, participants in the studies lost 5.5 pounds. The studies lasted anywhere from 2-17 weeks.

The important thing about the studies is that they used fiber supplements. By isolating fiber in the form of a supplement, you can see how much of an impact it truly has on the body. Perhaps one of the reasons why fruits and vegetables are so healthy is due to their relatively high fiber content.

According to the University of California, San Francisco, most adults should eat 25-30 grams of fiber every day. The average intake, however, is around 15 grams. They also note that you should get your minimum amount of fiber from food, not supplements.

To get fiber, eat a combination of the following:

Before you go reaching for a weight burner supplement or some other gimmick, perhaps you should try taking grandma’s advice: eat more fiber. Try to get it through food first, but if that doesn’t work or if you find it difficult, try a supplement!

June is Men’s Health month and so we are focusing on ways that men can improve their lives and their fitness.

Nutrition is as important to your fitness goals as exercise. Before starting any nutrition plan, Lisa Jubilee, certified dietitian, and nutritionist as well as co-founder of Living Proof, recommends visiting your doctor for a checkup and requesting blood work. “Generally speaking, I find that my male clients do not go to the doctor as much as women. Women usually see their gynecologist at least yearly and have blood work done,” Lisa said.” The pandemic has probably delayed you from visiting your doctor as regularly as you would have.

Your doctor will be able to advise you on any specific deficiencies or medical concerns before consulting a nutritionist. Lisa starts her nutrition consultations an analysis of her clients' most recent blood work, as well as a 5-7 day food journal review, in order to create a more comprehensive plan and to address any deficiencies.

Don't overdo the protein

Many male gym-goers are looking to building muscle so protein intake is critical to the process. Often non-professional athletes tend to overestimate the amount of protein needed in their daily diets. “A good rule of thumb is one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you consume too much protein, your body will actually begin to turn the protein into sugar through a process called gluconeogenesis,” Lisa said.  There is a wide range of protein products in the market but Lisa recommends whey protein from grass-fed cows, pasture-raised whole eggs, and wild Alaskan salmon as great sources of protein.

Vitamin D Is Integral for Immunity

Eggs (specifically the yolk) are not only a great way to get protein but are one of the three main sources of Vitamin D in addition to wild Alaskan salmon and mushrooms. Vitamin D is crucial for the immune system and for controlling weight. Men with low levels of Vitamin D have a higher risk of diabetes. You can also get Vitamin D from sunlight--Lisa recommends that men with lighter skin be exposed without sunscreen for about 15 minutes per day, while darker-skinned men should find approximately 20-25 minutes in the sun. “You may find yourself with more energy during the summer as the weather is nicer. This can be partially attributed to your body getting more Vitamin D from the sun,” Lisa said. If you are low in the Vitamin D, you can also take supplements, which may be particularly helpful during the winter months.

Vegetables are sometimes overlooked as an integral part of building muscle. “I find that my male clients have a bit of a tougher time eating vegetables than my female clients so it is important to seek out greens-- the darker the better,” Lisa said. “Darker greens like kale, collard greens, spinach, and watercress can help give your body valuable co-enzymes that help develop muscle.”

Post Workout Considerations

After a tough weight training or HIIT workout, it is crucial to stay hydrated; drink 1 ounce of water per every 2 pounds of body weight or 1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water.  To help your body recovery, Lisa also recommends increasing your magnesium through nuts like pecans and walnuts or supplements as magnesium aids in muscle recovery. Give yourself ample time to sleep each night to fully leverage the benefits of a good workout as growth hormone is active at night. Men need more sleep than women- Lisa recommends that men get about 8-9 hours each night.

Everyone builds muscle at different rates. It depends a lot on your genes, somewhat on your age, and a little on how hard you train. Give two people the same exact program with the same exact weights and they can gain muscle at completely different rates.

Some people are deemed “non-responders,” meaning they can go through a strength training program and see no progress. This is a small group of people, but they exist. Others make incredible strides in short periods of time.

A study published this month in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that people who gain muscle quickly also lose it quickly. In the study, researchers found that people who gained muscle quickly lost much of their progress when they took 6 weeks off of strength training.

That means maintaining muscle can be frustrating for those to whom results come quickly. It means consistency is even more important than it is for someone who takes a while to progress. It also means that slow-growers can calm their jealousy, because they might have a hidden advantage of hanging onto the muscle they gain.

This can also explain large fluctuations in weight that some people experience when they start and stop strength training. Typically, changes in the scale are attributed to body fat, but that could actually make up very little of the fluctuations some people experience. If you find that your weight and muscle mass is fluctuating, remember that consistency is perhaps more important than any other factor in training.

What’s the point of the kettlebell swing? It’s a legitimate question that many clients ask.

Of course, the answer isn’t short and the move itself isn’t easy to learn, either. But in the end, it’s well worth it.

How To Do A Kettlebell Swing

To do a swing, you start with the kettlebell on the ground. With both hands on the handle, hike the weight between your legs, then snap up to attention and swing the bell forwards. From there, you stay in a back and forth swinging motion until the set is it over and you put it down.

What Muscles Are Used In A Kettle Bell Swing?

Let’s quickly think about the muscles involved. Your hips (glutes) are perhaps the most important contributor to the movement. When you swing the kettlebell forwards the glutes contract and push the hips forward, creating enough force to swing the weight.

The hamstrings, a companion muscle to the glutes, also contribute to that motion. Your lower back muscles keep the back from rounding as you swing back and forth. While the big muscles of the legs and back move the weight, your forearms work hard to keep the kettlebell from flying away. Don’t be surprised if your hands and forearms hurt after a set of swings.

When you do the kettlebell swing, you probably won’t feel any particular muscle burning. That doesn’t mean there’s no benefit, it means that you’re doing a total-body movement and the strain is distributed throughout your body. 

How To Make Kettlebell Swings Harder

As you perfect your technique with the kettlebell you can go up in weight to make the movement harder. You can also focus on speed and try to get more reps with the same weight during each round. There are multiple ways to make the movement harder.

When you increase the difficulty of the weight your muscles, lungs, and heart work harder. Kettlebell swings require muscle strength, speed, and endurance. As you make the exercise more difficult, you’ll start to feel more of a burn and feel breathless.

If you’re just starting with swings, be patient. First, you have to learn proper techniques so that you don’t injure yourself. Since it’s a fast movement, there’s a chance you can tweak something if you’re not doing it correctly. However, as you get better and increase the difficulty, you’ll feel the exercise more and the benefits will come.

Have you ever had a long day at work, filled with problem-solving and meetings, then felt so tired that you can’t work out? Zoom fatigue is a prime example of the kind of mental strain that the modern workplace causes.

Typically, the answer for fatigue from work is physical fatigue (exercise). Sitting all day is bad for your body and mind, but a long day of work can leave you feeling exhausted.

Mental fatigue isn’t like physical fatigue in that your brain gets sore when you work too much, but something called cognitive fatigue impacts your workouts.

A 2020 study published in Sports Medicine found that cognitive fatigue was detrimental to physical performance. The researchers synthesized 73 studies that looked at cognitive fatigue and exercise performance. In the studies, participants in the experimental group went through mentally demanding tests before their workout. 

Overall, the studies showed that fatiguing your mind before a workout hurts performance. This was true for a variety of different types of exercise, including resistance training and aerobic workouts. 

This research shows that a draining day at the office can absolutely hurt your workout. If you find that it’s a battle to drag yourself to the gym after work, you might want to try coming in the morning. 

The irony is that exercise is typically used to alleviate the stress from work and constant focus. It’s possible that during periods of mental stress at work you should take it a little easier at the gym, rather than fighting that tired feeling.

With Memorial Day coming up and summer being right around the corner, you may finally have vacation plans!

How do you find time to exercise while traveling?

First, appreciate that you're taking time to relax and it is okay to skip the gym for a few days, especially if you're staying active in other ways.  While you’re on vacation, you have the luxury of changing things up--you don’t necessarily have to stick to your normal gym routine to get your exercise in. Plan some fun physical activities like hiking, surfing, or skiing so you get to experience something adventurous while working out.

Workout First Thing

“I try to plan my workouts for the morning since that is the most predictable part of the day. Usually, you are a bit drained in the evening while you are vacationing so you’re likely to have the most energy in the morning” says TS Founder, Noam Tamir.

Over the past few years, hotels have started paying more attention to their gyms and their on-site fitness programs. Some hotel properties now offer gym clothes for rental while others install treadmills or exercise bikes right into your suite. If your hotel does have a gym, Noam recommends some sort of circuit training that incorporates full-body exercises, allowing you to maximize your workout in a short period of time so you can get back to relaxing.

Traveling to new places allows you to experiment with local studio classes, too. Depending on where you vacation, you can ask your hotel concierge for recommendations. You never know what you can learn!

Bodyweight Exercises to Get the Job Done

When Noam doesn’t have access to a gym, he turns his hotel room into a small fitness studio. “I pack a fitness band or a TRX. I’ve been known to set up a TRX on the room’s door jam so I can do pull-focused exercises.” Even if you don’t smuggle equipment into your carry-on, you can rely on bodyweight exercises for a great workout.

To make the most of your workout time, Noam recommends creating a quick AMRAP (as many reps as possible routine). Start with a few warm-up exercises and run through the AMRAP for at least 15-20 minutes. “An AMRAP workout is great because you are putting in a lot of work in a short period of time. You take rest only when you really need it and you become a little competitive with yourself during the workout, comparing the number of rounds you were able to complete with previous times you’ve done it.” His go-to workout below "is intended to hit the whole body, work multiple planes of movement, keep the body balanced, and improve endurance and strength,” he said.

Noam created a video of his favorite 20 minute body-weight workout on-the-go.

 

The Workout:

Warm-up:

AMRAP Workout:

3 Circuits: Repeat each circuit 3x with 10 seconds of rest between each exercise

“What’s the point of this exercise?” is something that might’ve crossed your mind at one point or another during a workout. That’s normal since many exercises feel unnatural or even uncomfortable. 

Perhaps the least comfortable is the single-leg deadlift. For this exercise, you stand with a kettlebell or dumbbell in one or both hands and lift one leg straight back while leaning forward with your torso.

You’ll quickly learn that the single-leg deadlift requires balance. Standing on one leg and moving with control is challenging enough. Adding weight takes the exercise to a whole ‘nother level. As you fight to focus and maintain balance, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually strengthening something.

The name partially describes the exercise - single-leg deadlift. It may not look like a deadlift, but there are key similarities. The first is that your knee doesn’t bend very much, most of the action comes from the hip joint. Regular deadlifts emphasize the hips over the knees.

When you use your hips to lift the weight, the muscles used are primarily the hamstrings and glutes. In the single-leg deadlift, the hamstring does most of the work. Your hamstrings come out of the sit bones in your butt and go all the way down to your knees. That’s a long muscle!

It can be hard to feel the hamstrings working. Most people don’t feel a burning sensation like they do in other exercises. Instead, you might feel a stretch. However, if you wake up and your hamstrings are sore for some reason, it’s probably from single-leg deadlifts!

Keep in mind that it’s a tough exercise. Give yourself time to learn the movement and slowly increase the weight you use. As your balance and coordination improve, you’ll be able to use more weight and feel the exercise.

Headache? Advil. Back pain? Advil. Sore muscles? Advil. Ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Advil, acts as an anti-inflammatory in the body and helps relieve pain.

Some people say that you shouldn’t take ibuprofen for pain if you’re trying to maximize your workout. Instead, they prefer to tough out the pain. Joint and lower back pain are common reasons for taking ibuprofen after exercise, but if ibuprofen negates your workout, should you simply tough out the pain?

First thing’s first, make sure ibuprofen works with your body. Ask your doctor before taking medications for pain. Even though Advil is relatively benign, it could cause complications. For dosage, you can either ask your doctor or follow the instructions on the bottle.

With that being said, what do scientists say about taking ibuprofen after exercise? A 2008 article published in Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism confirms that high doses of ibuprofen taken after workouts can prevent you from building muscle. 

The researchers wanted to see if low to moderate doses had the same effect. They had subjects take 400mg (roughly a standard dose) after workouts. The researchers found that ibuprofen didn’t block the muscle-building effects of the workout.

Interestingly, they found that it didn’t help reduce soreness either. That means you’re probably safe to take ibuprofen after a workout in small doses from an exercise perspective. However, don’t take it if your muscles are sore! Chances are, it won’t help much.

At TS Fitness, we’re celebrating the hard work and dedication of our TS Community mothers. Over the years, we’ve had numerous pre-and post-natal clients train with us. Studies show that exercise may prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), build the stamina needed for labor and delivery, and relieve stress.  Both expecting and new mothers have a wide variety of challenges and things to consider when continuing their exercise routine.

Exercising While Pregnant

Women should incorporate some kind of movement/ exercise during pregnancy unless they’ve been advised by their doctor not to do so. If you are not an exerciser, it is wise to start something that is mild. But pregnancy is not the time to decide you want to get into professional weight lifting so you should stick to routines you know. 

If you are already active, you should consider sticking to similar types of exercises but scale them back as needed over the course of your pregnancy. Exercising is a great way to avoid gestational diabetes and prepares you to regain your level of fitness post birth. We recommend limiting workouts to about 3 to 4 times a week for about 30-60 minutes, depending, of course, on how your body feels. It is vital to listen to your body and as a frequent gym-goer you should be familiar with what feels good for you or what is pushing you past your limit.

We also suggest that pregnant women be cognizant of a few specific changes in their bodies. As you’re training, you need to be aware that your core body temperature can fluctuate, which can lead to overheating. Pregnant women may also experience an elevated heart rate, which may reduce their output during high-intensity exercise. We always recommend speaking to your trainer about modifying your workout HIIT classes with that in mind.  

Additionally, as your pregnancy progresses, your joints and ligaments become more pliable and elastic as your body prepares to give birth. Though you may be more mobile, you are at a greater risk of injury if you do not maintain your muscle strength. It is important to incorporate exercises that improve your core and supporting muscles. We recommend squats with lighter loads to help develop the pelvic floor, lower back, and hip muscles which will be relied upon during labor.

Upper body training is often neglected in expecting mothers. You need to build upper body strength to deal with the impending need to physically carry a child. A few of our favorite upper body (partial core) exercises are farmer’s and rack carries to build stamina. These carries will help when you eventually hold your baby. Rows and pull-ups are great exercises to counteract the postural downside of having to carry a baby in your arms, too!

It is also important to understand your limitations and abstain from movements that can hurt your baby and yourself. During your second and third trimester, make sure you avoid movements that put you on your back as your growing uterus has the potential to put pressure on the main vein circulating blood back from the lower body. But there are easy modifications to keep you training-- for example, try doing an inclined bench pressure versus a traditional bench press movement. We also recommend avoiding rotational movements like Russian twists and bouncing exercises like jumping jacks.

Post-Natal Working Out

After birth, don’t expect to rebound right back into your old routines. You should treat your body as if it had recently gone through a major injury. Fortunately though, if you were staying active during your pregnancy, you should have an easier time getting back into the swing of things. If you have a cesarean section, be patient and don’t get frustrated as your recovery may take longer than if you had a natural birth. A pregnant mother will experience separation in the abdominal wall so we suggest practicing diaphragmatic breathing and exercises like the dead bug after birth to help repair the deep muscles of the abs.  

 

Have you ever noticed that some people work out half as much as you do, but seem to grow muscles twice as fast? Or, have you tried to pick up running or cycling just to find that you were so slow that time seemed to be moving backward?

Everyone is good at something, but most people are average. At least, in terms of muscles, they are. On the outside muscles look similar. Some are bigger, some are smaller and wirier. If you could look inside, you’d see even more differences.

The fibers of your muscles come in three different types. The first is called type 1, or slow-oxidative. That’s the endurance running type of muscle because it moves slow but can keep chugging away forever.

The second type is called 2x, or fast oxidative. This is the hybrid of muscle fibers. It’s kind of fast, kind of slow, and can transform to whatever type of activity you’re doing.

The third type is the sports car of muscle fibers, type 2b or fast glycolytic. This muscle fiber is like a lion that sleeps all day then does one big burst of activity. It’s the pure weightlifting type of muscle, and just so happens to be the biggest as well.

Most people have a little of both the super slow and super-fast muscle types and a bunch of the hybrid. That means they can train to be pretty good at anything. However, some people have disproportionately more of the extreme slow or fast fibers. With a lot of the slow fibers, they might have small muscles but they can run a marathon without a problem. With a lot of fast fibers, you can build muscle easily and lift the heaviest weights at the gym, but can’t run a mile.

As you try different types of workouts, pay attention to how your body reacts compared to others. What do you excel in, and what do you hate? Or, are you the jack of all trades and master of none? Regardless, you are what you are. Play to your strengths. 

Are you a morning person or a night owl? The time of the day that you choose to you exercise depends on your schedule and your energy levels. Some people burst out of bed in the morning and head to the gym. Others fumble in the dark until they chug enough coffee to open their eyes.

So, when is actually the best time to work out?

That depends partially on your circadian rhythm. Throughout the day your hormones fluctuate. Sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen), cortisol, and melatonin are some of the most well-known. When you wake up your cortisol levels are high, when you go to bed your melatonin levels are high. Your body uses hormones to make you sleepy or energized.

A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that early evening was the best time to work out, based on hormone levels. That’s when researchers saw the best performance overall. However, they note that it’s completely different for each person.

Your circadian rhythm changes based on what you do throughout the day. Our bodies like to have a schedule. If you consistently work out in the morning, your body will get used to it. If you work out in the evening, that’s when you’ll have more workout energy.

Changing your workout schedule too much can throw off your circadian rhythm, so it’s best to stick to one general timeframe. If you’re a morning person, researchers recommend warming up more, because the body is still stiff and not used to moving from your night of sleep.

Evening warriors can cause disturbances in their sleep if they do an intense workout within an hour of going to bed. For that reason, make sure you include some buffer time between your workout and when you want to fall asleep. With that being said, working out in the evening can actually help you sleep, as long as it’s over an hour before bed.

If you have to switch your schedule around, or if you want to experiment, give your new schedule some time. Your body takes a few days or weeks to adjust to a new schedule (think about jetlag). However, feel free to experiment, you might discover that you’re more of a morning person or night owl than you thought!

 

Few supplements work, most don’t, and some are downright confusing. None will leave your head in a tailspin more than Vitamin D. It’s a hormone/vitamin that you can get from food, pills, and the sun. It boosts your immune system, helps build strong bones, and fights depression (all good things, right?) but you shouldn’t have too much of it.

Confused yet? We are. Thankfully, the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements has a big, long article on Vitamin D that you can read here. In lieu of taking half your day to read the research, here are some of the most important points summarized:

What is Vitamin D?

Also known as Calciferol, it’s a fat-soluble vitamin (which means it gets stored in fat cells). It’s produced when UV light hits your skin. You can also eat it in food. Here are some of the highest sources of vitamin D:

How Much Do You Need?

Adults 19-50 need 600 IU per day. That can come from a combination of sun exposure, diet, and supplements. Most people reach their requirements through sunlight. 5-30 minutes per day is sufficient for most people, but depends on factors like sunscreen (blocks UV rays), skin melanin content (melanin blocks UV rays), pollution (blocks UV rays), and cloud cover (also blocks UV). Windows also block UV light.

Tanning beds are also effective at synthesizing vitamin D, but any form of sun exposure is dangerous for your skin. Therefore there’s a trade-off between having too much sun exposure and not enough.

Vegetarians and vegans may need more because the type of vitamin D found in plants is less usable for the body than that found in animals. In that case, supplementation might be helpful. Your doctor can tell you if your vitamin D is low using a blood test, and recommend solutions.

There are a couple of other causes of low vitamin D. The first is the kidneys taking too much out of the bloodstream. The other is the intestines not taking enough out of your food. 

Supplementation

There are a few types of vitamin D. The first is D2, which isn’t very effective in pill form. D3 is much more effective. Another, called 25(OH)D3 is the most effective, but not yet available in the US. It’s hard to say how much to take, but the experts caution against taking too much. Once again, your doctor can help you decide how much to take. Vitamin D isn’t flushed out of your system quickly like vitamin C, it’s possible to have too much.

Supplementing can help somewhat with things like depression, weak immune system, and weak bones (when taken with calcium). Research is still relatively inconclusive on how effective supplements are, but there are some signs of benefit.

-Coach Henry Halse

There’s been a lot of buzz about BMI recently, due to the underlying conditions exceptions for Covid-19 vaccines. BMI stands for body mass index, which is a measurement that scientists use to determine how heavy you are relative to your height.

The controversy is over the accuracy of this measurement. Namely, are scientists able to determine whether or not someone is obese, and therefore qualified to get the vaccine, using this measurement?

First, let’s go over how to calculate BMI. You can use this link to calculate, or use this formula:

703 * (weight in lbs) / (height in inches)^2 = BMI

So, if someone is 5’5 and 150 pounds, they have a BMI of 25. Here are the categories:

So, a BMI of 25 is technically “overweight.” There’s been an outcry over the inaccuracy of using this system, and for good reason. It doesn’t take into account what you’re made of. If you have tons of muscle and very little body fat, you could be considered overweight or obese. The measurement simply looks at how much you weigh on the scale.

This is also the beauty of BMI. It’s not intended to be accurate on a person-by-person basis. It’s made to measure changes in size of large populations. Think about it this way: you can calculate the BMI of every person in a country who either has a drivers license or passport, simply because height and weight are disclosed.

So, is BMI inaccurate? Yes, if it’s misused. If it’s used to measure changes in a large group of people, it’s surprisingly accurate. That’s why the government felt confident using it for vaccine purposes.

-Coach Henry

Find Mindfulness One Nostril At A Time

Things are starting to pick back up in New York and your schedule might be filling up. On top of normal life stress, you have to worry about a pandemic, so anxiety might be through the roof. To control your fear and anxiety, you can try alternate nostril breathing.

You might’ve been exposed to this breathing technique in a yoga or meditation class. Some apps might use it as a tool for relaxation. Here’s a brief video and description of how it works:

 

With your index finger, gently close your right nostril. Exhale fully through your left nostril, then inhale. Hold your breath, release your right nostril and gently close the left. Exhale through the right nostril, then inhale and hold. Continue to switch nostrils, breathing evenly and gently. Continue this for 5-15 minutes.

You might find that initially, one nostril breathes better than the other. After a few minutes, they should start to balance out. Try not to do forceful breaths, but keep it gentle and even. This technique was tested in a 2017 study published in BioMed Research International.

The researchers took two groups and had them perform a public speaking test (gasp). One group did alternate nostril breathing for 15 minutes before the test. The other group simply sat in the room, stewing in their own thoughts. Then, they performed the dreaded test. The group who practiced breathing beforehand had less anxiety during their performance.

This is a powerful tool you can use daily to relax. Rather than forcing yourself to sit quietly and attempt to meditate, this active breathing technique gives you something to focus on that’s proven to work.

Coach Henry

Noam, TS owner and CEO,  was recently featured and interviewed on Natfluence. Natfluence is a platform for top business leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators to share their paths to success and help empower like-minded movers and shakers.

Learn more about Noam's and TS's philosophy of Together Stronger.

At TS Fitness, we have a philosophy that guides our culture: Together Stronger. It’s what our “T” and the “S” stand for. I believe in creating stronger people, not just stronger bodies. I aim to strengthen people by pushing them out of their comfort zone to help them grow. I like to say, “We are here to build you up not break you down.”

Plus read about how Noam started TS and his motivations in supporting his clients. 

If you aren’t growing, you're dying. When people stop learning and wanting to grow that's the beginning of the end.

 

Your whole life, you were told that drugs were bad for you. The drugs you ingest might be bad, but the drugs your brain makes are lots of fun! Exercise has been known to increase things like dopamine and serotonin, which are feel-good chemicals.

These neurotransmitters contribute to the feeling of euphoria that some people describe as “runner’s high.” Sure, you might think running is boring, but if you run long enough you can experience that same euphoria. 

The good news is that these highs aren’t just reserved for runners. While serotonin and dopamine are important, there’s another, perhaps more important drug called Brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF.

BDNF is produced in the brain (specifically the hippocampus) when you exercise. It’s been shown to have neuroplastic and neuroprotective effects. That means it helps the brain grow and change while protecting it from degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.

BDNF has been credited with curbing anxiety and depression in people who exercise. It also improves brain function. While initial research showed that endurance training increased BDNF, there’s now evidence that HIIT training does as well.

A study published in February 2021 shows that as lactic acid increases, it can stimulate your brain to release BDNF. Lactic acid is produced when you sprint, circuit train, or do high-rep weightlifting. 

That means you don’t need to be a runner to feel something like a runner’s high. You can also reap the mental and neurological benefits of exercise with many different types of workouts!

Make Meal Prepping Lunch A Breeze

Meal prepping is one of our favorite ways to eat healthy, save money, and save time during the week. 

We spoke to Samantha Goldstein, @fitfoodchicknyc, about some of her favorite tips to make meal prep simple. Samantha is all about making quick and easy lunches. 

Find A Good Grocery Store

It’s important to keep a well-stocked fridge with your favorite fruits, vegetables, and meats so that you avoid the temptation of ordering take out or picking up fast food. Over the course of the pandemic, many of our clients have started getting their groceries delivered. Samantha has had a great experience with FreshDirect, where she has found the quality of the produce and meats to be high and has success securing timely delivery windows. If you rather shop in person, Samantha recommends visiting Whole Foods as they have a great selection of organic vegetables and grass-fed beef. Though Whole Foods may seem expensive, they are priced similarly to smaller NYC grocery chains but usually have a larger and better selection. Trader Joe’s is great for bagged salads and pantry staples. 

Portion Control and Balance

Samantha recently completed TS Fitness’ Nutrition Challenge which focuses on portion control and balancing each meal with carbs, fats, and proteins. When you’re prepping your meals, make sure that you start with a carb like brown rice, butternut squash, sweet potato, or grains like farro, barley, etc. along with an assortment of vegetables. Then add your protein (chicken, fish, grass-fed beef) along with a little bit of healthy fat. Samantha is a huge fan of avocados and finds that they add great flavor and are satiating, keeping you full longer. When it comes to vegetables, try roasting your veggies (such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, carrots) for improved flavor and texture. 

To roast vegetables, Samantha recommends using high heat so crank your oven to 425 degrees. Toss your veggies with salt, pepper, and olive oil and roast for 10-15 to brown the veggies and then reduce to 400 degrees to finish cooking.

Pre-Washed and Pre-Cut Is a Huge Time Saver

If you have the opportunity to purchase pre-washed lettuce, go for it! This is a huge time saver during the workweek. Just open a bag of greens and dump it right into your salad bowl. Samantha personally enjoys bagged Baby Arugula, which is often sold pre-washed. Pre-cut veggies can also be a time saver though they usually are a bit more expensive.

Super Sunday

Make your workweek easier by prepping your proteins and veggies on Sundays or the evening before if that is more convenient. It should only take a few minutes to assemble a healthy salad or bowl filled with pre washed greens and home-cooked ingredients during the day.

 Following Samantha’s tips will make your week easier and your meals healthier. 

 

 

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