Thursday, September 25, 2014

Three "stupid" things you might be doing at the gym, and the best ways to fix them.

1. You skip squats because they're bad for your knees.

Squats don't ruin your knees; the way you're squatting does. Many men butcher the move, and then complain of knee pain. And that's a shame, because the squat is one of the most effective exercises you can do. It works nearly every muscle in your body, and burns a ton of calories. In fact, physiologists at the Mayo Clinic have found that squats place less stress on your knees than leg extensions, a popular machine alternative.

There are some guys who have past injuries or musculoskeletal issues who should stay away from the exercise, but they're rare. So stop skipping it, and start reaping the benefits of this classic. If you properly execute a good squat pattern, your knees shouldn't hurt. Here's a brief breakdown on how to properly back squat.


1. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to create a "shelf” along your upper back. This is where the bar will sit. Maintain this "shelf" throughout the entire exercise.

2. Before unracking the weight, step under the bar so it's across your shelf, and pull down on it. This will help engage your lats—which are the largest muscles in your back—and provide more tension and stability in the spine.

3. Unrack the bar, and take two steps away.

4. Brace your abs, squeeze your glutes, and keep a neutral spine.


1. Push your hips back like you're sitting in a chair.  (To maintain proper form as you lower, I tell clients to pretend as if they're crushing a can between their butt and hamstrings.)

2. As you sit back, open up your hips by pushing your knees out. Your kneecaps should stay in line with your middle toes.

3. Your knees may glide forward over your toes a bit, and that's fine. It's impossible to squat without that happening. You just want to minimize this glide as much as possible.

4. Push your hips back until your quadriceps are parallel to the floor or slightly past parallel. Going past parallel (110 degrees) puts no added joint stress on your knees than staying above parallel (70 degrees) or going to parallel (90 degrees), according to a study in Clinical Biomechanics. 


1. Stand up by thrusting your hips forward and squeezing your glutes. That's it. 

2. You bench press with your feet on the bench. 

When it comes to bench pressing, proper technique ensures steady gains and fewer injuries. Unfortunately, I see a lot of guys doing the lift wrong. One of the biggest mistakes: Putting up your feet on the bench. While many guys say it helps them work their pectoral muscles harder, I'm here to tell you that's just not the case.

Sure, it might help isolate them a little more than the standard version, but benching with your feet up makes you unstable. That means you can't lift as much weight.

Instead, keep your feet flat on the floor, and drive through your heels as you press up the weight. This creates a solid foundation and allows you to press as much weight as you possibly can. Progressive overload is what builds a stronger bench press and, subsequently, larger pecs—not lifting lighter loads with your feet on the bench. 

Other guys put their feet on the bench to flatten their backs. For some reason, they falsely believe benching with a curved back is a bad thing. But have you ever seen a powerlifter bench? They arch their back every single time! It gives them a mechanical advantage to lift more pounds.

Now, I'm not saying you should bend your back until it looks like St. Louis' Gateway Arch. But your lower back has a natural inward curve that you can maintain throughout the lift.

3. You work your biceps with curls.

Your biceps are the size of tennis balls, yet you'll work them with 17 different variations for more than half an hour. Stop! There are tons of other exercises that work your biceps while also targeting a ton of other muscles groups. It's time to get more bang for your buck.

That's why I have a strict rule in my gym that if you can't perform at least five strict chinups (sternum to bar), then you can't do a bicep curl. The chinup not only hammers your biceps, but it's one of the best ways to work your latissimus dorsi, the biggest muscle group in your upper body.

Strong, wide lats give you the coveted V-shaped torso. And if vanity alone won't compel you to work your back muscles, maybe this will: You'll increase your gains at the gym. That's because your lats and the other muscles of your upper- and mid-back are key to stabilizing your shoulder joints. Stable shoulders allow you to lift heavier weights. If those muscles are weak, however, almost every upper-body lift—including your precious arm curls—will suffer.

If you can't perform chinups with perfect form, concentrate on the eccentric, or lowering, portion of the move instead. There's greater potential for growth during this phase if you go slowly and under control.

DO THIS: Stand on a bench, box, or step under a pullup bar. Jump up and grab the bar so that your sternum touches the bar. Hold this position a couple seconds as you try to keep your body from swinging back and forth. Slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully extended. Drop down onto the bench, box, or step. That's 1 rep. Perform 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps 3 times a week. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Your Best Bets for Joint Supplements

Find out which popular dietary supplements doctors recommend.

Article Image If you suffer from joint pain due to arthritis, chances are you've taken either over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers, namely non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). But the risk of stomach ulcers and kidney damage are steering people toward other sources of pain relief, like natural joint supplements.
The trick is finding supplements that actually take away your pain, not just your money, says Natalie Azar, MD, a rheumatologist at the Center for Musculoskeletal Care at NYU Langone Medical Center. There's not a lot of hard science behind most supplements, but many people say they help. Here's a breakdown of some popular options.
Related: Safe Everyday Meds for Joint Pain
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are both precursors to a type of protein called proteoglycans. This protein is the building block for the cartilage that cushions your joints, explains Azar. Glucosamine helps build and repair cartilage, while chondroitin keeps it from breaking down. Most glucosamine and chondroitin supplements come from animal sources.
"Supplements claim they can help your body to start building and repairing cartilage on its own, but studies haven't been able to show that," she says. Study findings haven't been consistent about pain relief, either. But results from one of the largest studies examining supplements for osteoarthritis are encouraging. Nearly 1,600 people with knee pain took daily doses of 1,500 mg of glucosamine, 1,200 mg of chondroitin, or both. The supplements didn't delay cartilage loss, but they did provide significant pain relief to people with moderate-to-severe pain.
Azar recommends taking both glucosamine (1,500 mg) and chondroitin (1,200 mg) daily. She says these supplements may or may not work, but she also won't argue with the fact that many of her patients feel better taking them, and the supplements do no harm.
Long touted for their anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, such as joint pain and swelling. A review of 17 studies reported that using omega-3s for three to four months reduced joint pain, stiffness and tenderness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. It also reduced the need for NSAIDs to relieve pain. Another study found that combining omega-3 with glucosamine is even better. Azar says you can also boost your omega-3 intake by eating salmon, krill, flaxseed and walnuts.
Related: 10 Foods Your Joints Love
A newcomer to the pain relief spotlight is magnesium. "It works as a pain reliever and muscle relaxant, and can make you a little sleepy, too," says Azar. She recently began prescribing the mineral to fibromyalgia and arthritis patients at 300 mg in the evening – less than the daily recommended intake (400 mg). Another perk is that magnesium is cheaper than many other supplements.
Whatever supplement you choose for joint health, Azar suggests trying it for three months. "If your joints feel better, keep taking it. If not, don't bother." But before you take anything, discuss it with your doctor.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Your Midtown Tip - Losing Belly Fat

Find out how to burn belly fat fast and enhance your love life in the process.

Trouble performing in the bedroom? You're not alone. It's estimated that 1 in 10 men worldwide suffers from erectile dysfunction (ED), which is an inability to get or maintain an erection. If this sounds like you, check your middle. Belly fat doesn't just spell trouble for your heart and blood vessels. Having a spare tire is horrible for your love life, too.

How does belly fat affect you below the belt? Deep abdominal fat, known as omentum fat, takes up residence around your liver and other vital organs. When fat is released from the omentum, some of it goes straight to your liver and then on to your arteries. And omentum fat can do serious damage to your blood vessels. Clogged arteries and blood vessels reduce blood flow not just to your heart but also to other critical organs, including your genitals. Without good circulation down there, men can have trouble getting or maintaining an erection. And both men and women need increased blood flow in sensitive areas to maximize sexual pleasure.

Did you know? Carrying as little as 9 extra pounds increases your risk of blood vessel damage (and heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers). The good news? It doesn't take much to turn up your fat-burning furnace and get your energy levels, self-esteem, and sex life back on track. Here are four easy steps to lose belly fat fast:

1. Walk more. Walking is one of the best exercises for minimizing that gut. Taking a brisk 30-minute walk every day helps keep your fat cells from expanding. Burn even more belly fat by adding 10 minutes of weight training twice a week; increasing muscle mass will whittle your middle even faster.

2. Grab a tape measure. Waist size may be a better indicator of health than the numbers on your bathroom scale. Your waist should be a little less than half the number of inches in your height. And as a general rule, anytime a man's waist size reaches 40 inches, his health and sex life are at risk. (Women's waists should be no more than 36 inches.)

3. Grab the whole grains. When it comes to foods that burn belly fat, you can't beat whole grains. And it's a pretty simple trade-off. Just replace some of the processed foods in your diet with three daily servings of 100% whole-grain cereals, breads, and pasta to lose inches off your waist.

4. Get your ZZZs. In one study, dieters who slept 8.5 hours a night lost twice as much fat and retained more lean muscle compared with the folks in the study who slept only 5.5 hours nightly. The longer sleepers also burned an extra 114 calories a day. That type of additional calorie burn can translate into as much as 10 extra pounds lost a year!

Gut Check
Losing that spare tire isn't just about getting healthy. It's about living a better life and feeling your best, too. Let's face it -- few things feel as good as a little extra room in your waistband. And looking in the mirror and liking what you see is a pretty great feeling, too.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Track Your Training

Training for a marathon or running a race is a big undertaking. There are many factors to consider and lots of information to track.

SportTracks stores all your fitness data for you. The program then helps you set goals before your next big run.
 It also works for cyclists, triathletes and other outdoor adventurers.
With SportTracks, you can monitor training times and distances. You can even link it up to your GPS gadget to help you map out your training course.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

6 Ways to Burn Fat Faster (No Running Needed!)

  Take your walk to new calorie-burning    heights with these little tweaks

6 Ways to Burn Fat Faster (No Running Needed!)1. Go up (and down).
Do 15 minutes of a 35-minute walk on hills, not flat ground, and you'll burn close to 100 extra calories, according to walking guru Mark Fenton, author of The Complete Guide to Walking: For Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness. Not only will walking up and down hills burn more calories, but it can also help sculpt your butt. If you're on a treadmill, hike your incline 15% for 15 minutes of your walk (break it up by raising the incline for a few minutes, then lowering it, then putting it back up again).
2. Make it a game.
Really pick up the pace for 30 seconds every time you see a dog, a mailbox, a red car, or someone sipping coffee. Making a game of it can keep your walks more interesting and make you faster over time. Every time you speed up, you'll burn more calories. Then, let your pace go back to normal (but no slower than that) while you catch your breath. Tip: When you put on your short bursts of speed, make sure that your steps are faster, but not smaller. Next week, try making the faster parts 5 seconds longer. Keep at it.
3. Get (a little) speedy.
If you're walking 20-minute miles, make it your goal this week to do one 19-minute mile each time you walk. Even if you go faster for just 1 mile of your 3-mile circuit, you're making progress. Work up to 19 minutes for each mile of your workout. Once you can do that, try doing 1 mile at 18 minutes.
4. Do 5 minutes more, here and there.
This week, either add 5 minutes to three walks, or add a 15-minute mile to one walk. Your choice. If you weigh 150 pounds, that small investment of time can nix almost 90 additional calories (those are the chocolate kisses you ate last night). Take a longer loop back home, or reset your treadmill timer. Just keep up the pace; if you walk slower when you walk longer, your additional calorie burn won't add up to much -- if it moves the needle at all.
5. Add music.
In one study, people who worked out to up-tempo tunes covered 11% more ground -- without even feeling like they did anything extra. So try walking to music with a makes-you-want-to-move beat -- it can give you that lift you need to walk a little faster. Anyone ready for "Rock That Body" by the Black Eyed Peas?
6. Go Nordic.
You can burn 20% more calories just by adding springy fitness poles to your walks -- you know, those long poles you see some walkers using that look like they were borrowed from Nordic skiers. Even though you're doing more when you use poles (working your arms, walking taller), your workout might actually feel easier, as the poles help propel you forward.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Do you suck at getting in shape?

It seems like everybody is trying to get in shape these days but nobody is actually succeeding.  Ask anybody, and 9 out of 10 will say “I’m trying,” or “I’m on a diet,” or “I’d like to lose a few pounds.”  However, considering two thirds of the United States is overweight…it seems like everybody sucks at this stuff.  Most reasons fall into these categories:
  • I don’t care
  • I don’t have time
  • I lack the motivation
  • I don’t know what I’m doing
If you’re not in shape, it’s probably due to one, two, three, or four of the reasons listed above.  I want to address each of these individually and see if we can suck-proof your plan to get in shape.

The “I Don’t Care” Crowd

For a lot of people who are overweight and out of shape, getting healthy is the last thing on their mind.  They’re too busy wrapped up in their job, their families, World of Warcraft, etc. and getting in shape is NOT a priority.  I’d guess that for a lot of these people, they are extremely unhappy with how they look and feel, but have hit a point of giving up and instead hide behind a “I don’t care” shield.  I don’t want you to be one of these people.
You need to find a reason to care:
  • People that are in shape are more successful in life. Let’s not tip-toe around this issue: good looking people go farther in life.  It’s true – it’s not fair, it sucks, but it’s true.  There’s a reason everybody is after plastic surgery, lipo-suction, and ‘the Hollywood look’.  Everything else being equal, the good looking guy/girl will get the job.  The good looking dude will get the girl.  The good looking guy will be a better salesman.  That’s how life works.  If you want to be successful, you should care about your appearance if you want to keep up.  Yes, I know it’s not fair, but that’s how it works.
  • Do you have kids? Do you want to see your kids graduate high school?  Do you want to see your grand kids?  If you do, you better get started down the path to being healthy today.  I don’t have kids yet, but I want to be around to see my great-grandchildren.  I know a lot of you readers are young (20s) and probably haven’t even thought that far down the road.  Think of this like a 401k investment – if you start investing now, you’ll be loaded by the time you’re 65 (as long as the economy doesn’t collapse again) thanks to all that extra time for your savings to grow.  If you start eating healthy and exercising now, before you have health issues, you’ll be in much better shape later on.  Don’t try to play catch-up after the damage has already been done.
  • Being unhealthy is freaking expensive. I haven’t been to a doctor for anything health related in years.  No co-pays, no expensive medicines, no stupid forms to fill out.  The only time I ever get sick is generally during my day-job’s cruise season, when I go four or five days straight on minimal sleep.  Our nations health care debt is spiraling out of control, and instead of attacking the source (prevention), we’re dumping money into treatment.  Why continue to put band-aids on a cut when you can stop the cut from happening in the first place?
I’m going to guess that very few of you are in the “I don’t care” club, because you probably wouldn’t be reading a fitness website if you were.  If you ARE in that club, here’s what you need to do to stop sucking:
  • FIND A WAY TO CARE. I don’t care if it’s your doctor telling you to get in shape, your kids poking you in the gut and saying “daddy you’re fat,” or just taking a long look at yourself in the mirror.
  • Be selfish and vain – You know what?  I want to live as long as possible, and I want to look as good as possible.  I’m sure you do too.  I don’t care what your reasons are: maybe you want to pick up chicks, look better at the beach, and live long enough until they figure out cryogenic freezing.  Whatever your reasons are for getting in shape, if it gets you in shape I’m all for it.  The ends justify the means in this case.
  • Be smart – I just read “Spark,” a book that talks about exercise and the brain.  I won’t bore you with the details, but here’s the gist of it: you’re an idiot if you don’t exercise.  From making you more alert in school and at your job to helping stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia when you’re older, exercise has WAY more benefits than just making you look good.  It can make you smarter too.

The “I Don’t Have Time” Crowd

This one is my favorite, because I don’t buy it for a second.  After hearing story after story about single mothers with two jobs who find the time to exercise and venture capitalists who work 80-hour weeks and still squeeze in a morning jog, I find it hard to believe that people can’t find 20 lousy minutes a day to get in shape.  My guess is, “too busy” involves at least an hour or two of television at night and mindless hours spent crawling Wikipedia and YouTube.  If you really analyze your day, I have no doubt that you have time:
Make time – There’s no excuse.  I don’t care what yours is, because nobody will listen.  Put it in your daily planner, add it to your Google calendar, schedule it as a “Meeting with Major Pain” or whatever.  They say those who find success are often too busy to be looking for it.
Exercise in the morning – According to the studies referenced in the previously mentioned Spark, people that exercise in the morning retain a ****-ton more information in the hours after exercise than those who don’t exercise.  Here’s another reason why you should exercise in the morning: how many times have you made a plan to exercise after work, and then you get stuck at your desk for an extra two hours, or you come home and your friends have broken into your house and are playing Halo on your TV (this happens at my house approximately twice a week), and suddenly all that exercise time you just had to go out is now gone.  This is what you need to do:
Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier - While your wife is sleeping, while your kids are asleep, while your roommates are asleep, get your ass out of bed, and get your 30 minutes of exercise done.  You’ll be more alert at work, you won’t drag ass through your morning meetings, and your afternoons are free to do whatever the hell you want (like playing Halo with the aforementioned roommates that break into your house).
Don’t think you can get a workout done in 20 minutes? Try 20 minutes of interval running and then tell me you’re not worn out.  Not enough?  One of the actors from 300 completed the 300 challenge in under 20 minutes.  Only have 5 minutes?  Do some Tabata. Just don’t come crying to me after.
I think everybody who says they don’t have time either fall into the previous “I don’t care” category or the “No motivation” category and are just hiding under the “I don’t have time” clause.  let’s talk about why that group sucks, and how to get out of it.

The “No Motivation” Crowd

I bet quite a few of you have been in this crowd before.  You’ve tried to get in shape, you had a good two weeks where you went to the gym every day, you ate right, and you lost 10 pounds!  Then, it rained, a new video game came out, you got sick, whatever, and all of a sudden you’re right back to where you started.  Your heart is in the right place, but something just didn’t line up.
What didn’t work last time? What is going to be different this time?  You’re a smart person (this might be a stretch, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you are), so you need to determine why you failed last time.  That way, when the same thing happens this time, you can recognize it and plow through it.  Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
Find your motivation – You’ve seen Rocky IV, right?  When Rocky arrived in Russia, he put a picture of Drago on the mirror that he looked at every morning.  Every freaking day, Rocky would wake up, probably at 4AM, load on four layers of clothing and go run in three feet of snow.  Why did he do it? Because Drago killed his best friend!  Maybe you don’t have a giant Russian man that you’ve sworn revenge against, but I bet there’s a picture of something you can hang up to make you hungry for success.
I’m going to be honest, I sat down last night after a long day of work and didn’t want to write today’s blog post.  I sat at my desk, stared at a blank Word doc, and then read the sign I have hanging above my computer:
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” – The Shawshank Redemption
If you’ve met me, you’re probably aware of my unhealthy obsession with The Shawshank Redemption.  This movie is the reason I made the move to Atlanta, it’s the reason I started Nerd Fitness, and it’s the reason I have my current day job at Sixthman (the absolute best company in the world to work for).  Every morning, I wake up and read this quote before I go out the door.  It’s this quote that makes me want to make something of myself and appreciate what I have.
Whatever your motivation is, find a way to live it every single day.
Set Specific Goals – To reference Shawshank again, the main character Andy Dufresne had specific goals in mind.  He wanted to:
  • Break out of Prison
  • Move to Zihuatanejo
  • Open a hotel on the coast
  • Fix up an old boat
  • Play chess with his friend Red
It’s these goals and  dreams that kept Andy going for 19 YEARS while he sat wrongfully imprisoned.  Without those goals, I bet Andy would have been given up in that tiny jail cell.  Instead, he ended up with everything he ever wanted (spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie). What are you specific goals?  Don’t tell me you want to ‘lose weight,” I want to hear something like, “I want to lose 50 pounds by June, I want to do 10 pull ups, I want to fit into a pair of jeans with a 34 inch waist, and I want to finally ask out the cute girl at the coffee shop that I go to every morning.”  Get specific, and then work every day towards those goals.
Tell Everybody – When you have people counting on you to pull through, you pretty much have to do it.  Last week, I didn’t post a blog on Friday because I was home for vacation and simply too tired and worn out to write anything.  That day on Facebook (become a Nerd Fitness fan), NF reader Jack jokingly (I hope) left the comment, No Friday post. I feel like a blind man this weekend.”
I’m sorry Jack!  It won’t happen again, because I HATE letting people down – hopefully today’s post will get you through the weekend.  Want to see what accountability can do for somebody’s health?  Check out Tyler over at, who has lost over 125 pounds since January, Steve over at, and Juncti at ScatterShotMind.  Accountability works.

If you don’t want to start a website, then tell all of your coworkers, your friends, and have them keep you accountable.  Don’t suck!

The “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing” Crowd

This one is tough.  You care, you have time, and you’re motivated, but you’re still not losing weight.  You think you’re eating right, you go to the gym, but the weight just doesn’t seem to come off.  That means something ain’t workin’.  Luckily, you have the three toughest reasons for sucking out of the way, let’s take care of the fourth.
You Can’t Outrun Your Fork. I’ve said it before, I’m saying it now, I’ll say it again – you can’t outrun a bad diet.  It can take you an hour to burn 500 calories, and then 2 minutes to put them all right back.  I’ve already written 2000+ words on how to NOT suck at losing weight; to sum up those 2000 words in two sentences: stop eating junk food, stop eating fake food, start eating fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.  Cut out the sugar, processed grains, simple carbs, and soda.
Do you really know how many calories you’re eating? If you’re overweight, I’d wager that you’re probably underestimating how many calories you eat on a daily basis.  That handful of animal crackers, 5 Hershey’s Kisses, and half a can of soda all add to your calorie total for the day.  Keep track of your calories for a week, and if your weight didn’t go down, find a way to knock off 500 calories a day and you’ll start to lose a pound a week.
Get Better - Your diet is probably 80-90% of your success or failure, so just fixing that will fix 80-90% of your issues.  However, if you’re interested in building some muscle while losing fat, you’re going to need to do some strength building exercises.  If you don’t have a gym membership, start doing some of these body weight exercises.  If you do have a gym membership, make sure you don’t suck at working out.  Whatever it is you’re doing, make sure you’re getting better or faster at it over time.  There’s only one way to know if that’s happening…
WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN – Did you get stronger or weaker since your last workout?  Faster or slower?  The only way you’ll know this is if you keep track of what you did last time.  I don’t care if it takes you 20 minutes to walk a mile.  The next time better take you 19:59 or less.  Everybody has to start somewhere – make sure you always know where that “somewhere” is so you can do better than that next time time.

What did I leave out?

These are the four biggest reasons I could think of.  What other reasons are out there for why people suck at getting in shape?  Have you been in one of these groups and worked your way out?  How did you do it?

-reposted from a guy named Steve