How to Select a Gym for Health & Fitness Success!

I love my gym, both the one that I work at (and occasionally workout at) and the one that I predominantly workout at. They feel like a second home to me and rather than a place I avoid going, I look forward to going to them daily. It’s because of certain factors about each gym that I have been successful in my health and fitness journey. With so many people starting their fitness and health journeys here in the new year, I thought it would be appropriate to share some tips on how to select a gym to set yourself up for success on your health and fitness journey this year.

Selecting a gym may not seem like all that big of a deal, but for many people this can be the difference between sticking with a fitness routine and falling off after a few weeks or couple of months. If you want to stick to your fitness routine this year, make sure you’re taking your gym selection seriously and choose a gym that makes it easy to go to and workout at.

Before you start looking at various gyms and narrowing it down to potential suitors, it’s important that you plan out your goals and what you will need to achieve those goals. If you want to be a powerlifter, it’s likely that Planet Fitness or similar gyms won’t work for you. However, if you want to get in a great workout and have access to tons of equipment, Planet Fitness is an awesome choice. The important thing is to understand what it is you would like to achieve, and what it will take for you to achieve that.

Below are some key factors to consider when choosing a gym. Read through them, use the information when searching for gyms, and make an educated and informed decision that will leave you happy and on the road to success.

Location

Throughout the process of achieving my business degree, there was one saying that was common in every single class I attended: location, location, location. Location is one of the most important aspects of building a business and is even more important when deciding on a gym.

One of the most common reasons that people don’t stick to a workout program is because their gym is out of the way and inconvenient. At the end of a long day, when you’re tired and don’t have much willpower left, driving 15 minutes out of your way (or more) isn’t going to happen. Choose a gym that is either close to work, close to home, or on your way home from work. A close proximity to your work, home or the route you take between the two will greatly increase your chances of making it to the gym, regardless of what occurs throughout the day.

Cost

Cost is always going to be an important part of any purchase. Some gyms will be great and have everything you need, but they won’t be in your price range. Other gyms will be inexpensive, but may not have the equipment or environment you’re looking for. Find a gym that fits your price range and offers everything you want and need to achieve your results.

A quick note on pricing: gyms like Planet Fitness, and other low cost gyms, may seem enticing because of the affordability, but that low cost comes with its own issue. The cost is so low that you don’t have a financial incentive, or pressure, to use the facility like you would something that is more expensive. In general, you’re more likely to put a gym membership to use that is more expensive ($30-75/month) than a membership that is considered cheap. If you decide to sign up for an inexpensive gym, just be conscious of the fact you may give yourself more leeway to slack on using the membership because of the lower cost and be vigilant to fight against that.

Contract

Contracts can be an absolute pain, especially in the gym industry. Gyms are notorious for signing people into extended contracts and making it more difficult to cancel your contract than getting rid of that crazy ex of yours. Instead of getting stuck in a contract that you don’t want to, make sure that you read and understand the contract (a lawyer can help if needed), and only commit to something long-term if you truly believe that the gym is right for you.

Another option is to choose a gym with month-to-month memberships. Many gyms have gone to, or offer month-to-month pricing options, however these usually come at an additional cost. While that additional cost may initially deter you from the month-to-month, it may save you money down the road if you need to cancel your contract. In any case, make sure that the decision you make is made with a clear understanding of what you’re getting into and how to get out of it if necessary.

Hours

Every gym will have different hours that you can access and use the equipment. Some gyms will be open 24 hours, while others will have hours that vary throughout the week and weekend. The important thing is to decide when you will be primarily using the gym and then find a gym that fills that need.

Are you someone who gets up early to workout before you head into the office? Then it’s likely that you need a gym that caters to the early morning crowd, opening early and offering plenty of showers for you to use. If you’re someone who is likely going to workout later at night, take that into account and choose a gym that stays open late, or at least 24 hours. Finding a gym with hours that fit your needs is a great way to ensure that you stick to your workout program.

Equipment

This is arguably one of the most important tangible portions when it comes to deciding on a gym. If you’re someone who plans to spend a lot of time on various pieces of cardio equipment, you want to pick a gym that has plenty of cardio equipment for you to use. The same thing can be said for machines and free weights. There should be plenty of equipment to fit your needs and not get in the way of your training plan. That being said, there will certainly be days where the equipment you want to use is occupied, but that’s where adaptability comes in handy (a topic for another time). Just make sure that there is enough quality equipment to fit your needs and you should be able to make your training program work.

Additional Amenities

Depending on who you are and what your needs are, the additional amenities in a gym will either make or break the deal for you. Some people only need the bare bones type gym, just enough to get in a workout and nothing more. Other people will need additional amenities, like showers, hot tubs, pools, basketball courts, spas, kids care, etc. If you’re a parent, having a kids care option makes a ton of sense and can make it much easier to get in a workout if you have the kids around. Again, it’s about finding a gym that fits your needs and lifestyle so that working out fits seamlessly into your current life.

While hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms are nice, they may be something that you ultimately don’t use, so be honest with yourself and pick based off of need, rather than novelty or want. Are you actually going to sit in the sauna or hot tub after a workout to recover? Will you do it consistently? If not, these additional amenities don’t need to be taken into account when deciding on a gym. Remember, more amenities usually come with additional costs and are only beneficial if you use them.

Take it for a Test Run

Most gyms offer free, or very inexpensive, day or week passes. This is a great opportunity for you to try the gym out and get a hands on feel for what it’s like. If you decide to test run a few gyms, I suggest doing so during the time(s) you are most likely to be using the facility. This will give you a chance to see how busy the facility is during your training times and give you a better idea as to whether the equipment you want and need will be available when you’re there.

Know What you Want, Do Your Research & Execute!

As you can see, there’s a ton of variables that go into selecting a gym that will work for you and fit best for your needs. The first step is deciding what it is you want to achieve, and then figuring out what sort of equipment and facility it will take to achieve those goals. After you’ve figured out the details of what it is you need, then it’s time to dive into the specifics of the gyms in your area including things like cost, contracts, location, equipment and more. Taking these factors into account will give you a better opportunity for success by finding a gym that fits your needs and fits into your current lifestyle. Make the gym fit your needs and life, not the other way around!

Make the Most Out of ANY Situation to Live Your Best Life

My heart is pumping, my energy is electric, and my ears are still ringing. I just got out of a concert with my girlfriend and had an absolutely awesome time. The atmosphere was great, the music was pretty solid, and I got to spend time with the person I love and see her completely in her element, which brings the biggest smile to her face.

Admittedly though, the concert wasn’t something that I was overly excited about. It was for a band that I don’t really know, besides listening to the odd song (or twelve) in her car, and from what I do know, the music is not something I enjoy. In fact, I’ve been know to use the hyperbole, “this makes my ears bleed” in reference to the music on several occasions. Sound a bit dramatic? Well, I never claimed not to be, so as they say, “sue me”.

In addition to not being excited about the music itself, I also wasn’t very enamored with the idea of waiting outside for nearly 45 minutes in freezing cold weather. I’m not a concert goer, and didn’t realize this was a part of the process, so while I had on a jacket, let’s just say I didn’t dress appropriately (neither did she, choosing to look good rather than feel good, but that’s her choice). During this 45 minute wait, my patience wore thin and I began to get a bit grouchy. Realizing that this night wasn’t really about me and understanding how much it meant to her, especially the fact that I went with her, I did my best to put on a good front, but by no means was it easy. It helped to be able to physically see her excitement: a beaming smile on her face, abounding energy, and the literal jumping for joy that she did as we realized the line was moving and we were heading inside.

The concert as a whole was pretty damn amazing. The music was great, the atmosphere was killer, and there are few things more enjoyable than live music. If you’ve never been to St. Andrews Hall in Detroit, or another small, intimate venue for a concert, I highly recommend it (here I go recommending concert venues when I just said I don’t frequent concerts). I even loosened up enough to do some head banging and move around a bit (I wouldn’t call it dancing, because we were shoulder to shoulder and the music wasn’t conducive to my “stripper hip” style dancing, as my older brother calls it).

All-in-all, the entire experience got me thinking about how easily I could’ve had a terrible night, and even worse, ruined her night as well, but didn’t. In the past this likely would’ve been the case. I’m headstrong, I like what I like, and I have a tendency to be a bit of a curmudgeon when in a situation I’d rather not be. Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, and somewhat wiser, (those things never move at the same pace), I’ve learned how to open myself up to almost any situation or opportunity and make the most of it. As a result, my life has flourished, I’ve experienced more in the past few years than I have in most of my life, and I’ve grown immensely as an individual. I think this is a very powerful mindset to adapt, and I wanted to share some tips with you on how you can make the most out of any situation, find joy in everything you do, and live your absolute best life as a result.

Be Open to Opportunities

While you don’t have to be Jim Carrey in “Yes Man”, it’s important that you’re open to opportunities when they arise. You don’t have to say yes to everything, or get outside your comfort zone in everything you do, but you should be mindful of the mental blocks and barriers that may be holding you back from experiencing and enjoying life.

We all have those barriers. It’s a defense mechanism against change which the body can internalize as a bad thing, and does in most cases. That’s why situations outside your comfort zone make you nervous or feel awkward, your body is sending you signals to resist change, but change is growth and growth is truly the key to long-term success, happiness and fulfillment. Become aware of those thoughts, be vigilant in battling them, and remember that sometimes that bit of nervousness or fear (not the “someone’s about to murder me” type fear), is actually a really good thing. It’s a sign that you’re stepping into the next level of your self.

Embrace the Moment

Not only do you need to be open to those opportunities to actually embark upon them, but you also need to be open to embracing the moment itself. That means putting aside any preconceived notions or judgments you may have, and opening yourself up to the experience itself. It means being present and tapping into your inner child: that youthful, open-minded and excited for everything person that still lives inside all of us. Remember when you were a kid and anything could be fun if you tried hard enough? (Like going to the grocery store and playing hopscotch on the tiles). That’s how you should approach each and every moment if you want to experience new things and live your best life.

Maybe you don’t like the music at the concert, the sport that you’re watching, or the movie that’s playing etc., but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something enjoyable in the situation. There is always something to take away from and enjoy about a situation, but you will never be able to find it if you venture forth with a closed mind.

Challenge yourself to try new things and to do so with an open mind. Maybe it’s a new food, a different event, or an entirely new environment that you decide to stretch your boundaries with, regardless, make sure you are doing it free of judgment, bias, or preconceived notions. This will give you the opportunity to truly experience whatever it is you are doing/trying/seeing, and grant you the ability to objectively decide if that new experience is something you’d like to do again, or something you will pass on going forward (it’s important to say no to things, just make sure you’re saying no from a place of open-mindedness and understanding).

By opening myself up to and embracing the experience (that was going to happen regardless of if I enjoyed it or not), I was able to find joy in the moment, and even found a few songs that I liked! You never know what will come of experiences until you embark upon them, but I promise there will always be positives if you choose to find them.

“Fake It Til’ You Make It”

If nothing else works, “fake it til’ you make it”. Sometimes simply acting like you enjoy something, and buying into the process will give you a chance to enjoy something you never thought you would. In the case of the concert I attended with music that I never listen to, both the band and the genre, I was totally out of my element. I didn’t know how to dress, how to act, how to “be”. This easily could’ve put me in a place where I was closed off and unable to buy into the experience.

What did I do? I faked it. I watched and picked up on the vibes of the people around me, and did as they did. I moved to the music in a way that they did, bought into the energy they were putting out, and as a result I found myself far more engaged in and enjoying the music than I ever thought I could. It’s actually pretty amazing to think about, considering just a few hours prior to writing this I would’ve liked nothing more than to avoid ever hearing the bands music, and now, after the fact I am realizing I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect and moment of the performance.

If you’re at a concert, dance. And if you can, sing along. If you’re at a sporting event, join along in their chants and revelry. If you’re in a fitness class, turn up your energy and give it your all. No matter what you do, if you buy-in to the process, and even if sometimes you have to “fake it til’ you make it”, you’ll give yourself a chance to experience it as it should be, and you’ll find that more times than not, you find something enjoyable about the experience.

My hope for you is that you never shy away from experiences, just because of what you’ve heard or how you feel about that experience. While it’s certainly important to be able to say no and filter certain things out, I think it’s equally as important, if not more so, to be open to saying yes and trying new things. While you may not always find a new band you love, hobby you enjoy, or food you just have to have again, you’ll find more times than not that the experience, regardless of the outcome, is always worth it. Open yourself to new experiences and opportunities, embrace the moments when you’re in them, and if necessary, “fake it til’ you make it” until you buy-in to the process and experience itself. Doing so is going to open up endless opportunities for you to flourish and grow, and you’ll learn things about yourself you never knew.

A Different Approach to Achieving Health and Fitness Goals

The New Year is just around the corner, and regardless of who you are, you probably know that means people are going to start getting their fitness on. By the masses people will be flocking to gyms, health clubs, and other venues in hopes of starting their body transformation journey (for many, again) and prioritizing their health and fitness. You likely also know that most of these people will eventually fail at their health and fitness goals, many of them giving up for good, or waiting to try again next week/month/year. That’s not to be harsh, it’s just the facts. 

The New Year is just around the corner, and regardless of who you are, you probably know that means people are going to start getting their fitness on. By the masses people will be flocking to gyms, health clubs, and other venues in hopes of starting their body transformation journey (for many, again) and prioritizing their health and fitness. You likely also know that most of these people will eventually fail at their health and fitness goals, many of them giving up for good, or waiting to try again next week/month/year. That’s not to be harsh, it’s just the facts. 

In fact, statistics from the Statistic Brain Research Institute (via an article on CNN.com) showed that almost half the population (42%) made New Year’s resolutions in 2016, for the following year, 2017. Of these, roughly 25%were fitness and/or health related. After tracking these same people and their progress toward their goals, they found that less than 50% of those people were successful. Over half of them at the 6-month mark had not achieved their goals,with many of them giving up. This doesn’t bode well for you if you’re looking to shed a few pounds this New Year, and improve your health, but thankfully,you’re not a statistic.

You can be different, because you are different. You’re not just someone who’s going to start a diet and get into working out for a few months, you’re in this for the long-haul and understand that great progress takes time. You are going to be prepared and ready to rock out every workout, nail your nutrition plan (80% of the time, because life should enjoyable), and give your body and mind the respect and attention they deserve. 

If that super motivational speech didn’t get you fired up and feeling like you can take on the world, have no fear I have some legitimate and actionable information I am going to be passing your way. If you want to make a change in this coming year and start showing yourself the love you deserve by taking care of your health and fitness, you will want to continue reading and implement the strategies below. 

Getting Started

When it comes to achieving success at anything, having a plan is the first and most important step, but you must know what you want to achieve to be able to plan for it. It’s hard to understand how to get where you want to go, without building a plan and the steps to get there. Before you do anything, there’s some due diligence that needs to be done by you in order to give you the best opportunity to succeed. Below are some questions you should ask yourself, as they will guide to in your planning stage.

What are your goals? 

Goal setting can be such a valuable component to succeeding on any venture, and fitness is no different. Goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound)and should always be written down to improve your chances of achieving your goals. If you want to make the goal-setting process even more valuable, share those goals with someone else, and put those goals in plain sight. I even have clients who post their goals on their bathroom mirrors, or above their beds, so that they are constantly reminded of what they want to achieve.

It’s important to remember that goals should be process oriented, focusing on habits and behaviors, in addition to outcome-based where the focus is on more tangible aspects like weight loss and waist line reductions. Process-oriented goals are important because they focus on things that you can control: habits, behaviors, and the daily inputs that you truly have control over and ultimately, will lead to your outcome-based goals. Outcome-based goals are great but can also set you up for disaster as many of those goals are outside of your control. While you can certainly control the foods that you put in your mouth, and the exercise that you perform, you can’t control whether you lose or gain weight. That number on the scale will only change if your daily habits, behaviors and inputs change.Focus on what you can control, and the process of reaching your goals will be far more successful and enjoyable. 

By writing your goals down, making them SMART and focusing on both process and outcome-based goals, you can set yourself up to achieve nearly any goal you set your mind to. If you’re looking for help in assistance in setting both process and outcome-based goals, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via social media (Adam Son on Facebook and adamchosenson on Instagram) or send me an email at achievefitllc@gmail.com. 

How will you achieve your goals? What will you need to be successful?

After you have figured out your goals, it’s necessary to reverse engineer those goals to understand how you will achieve them. Ask yourself, “what do I need to achieve my goals(skills, behaviors, environment, etc.). This is an important aspect of the planning stages, as it aligns what you want to achieve with how and what you need to attain it.

If you want to become a world class power-lifter, or just build insane strength, it’s likely that you’ll need a barbell and adequate weights for progressive overload, adequate calories to ensure that you’re able to recover and gain strength, and a training program that will take you from where you are, to where you want to be. The same can be said with any goal, whether you want to lose weight, improve your health, or build muscle and get “strong like bull”, it’s important that you understand what it will take for you to achieve those goals. 

During this part of the planning process, it helps to reach out to others who have achieved what you are aiming for and can walk you through the process, or at least give you information and insight on what it takes to achieve your goals. If you know someone personally who has gone through the same process as you intend to, reach out to them and ask them what it takes to achieve their level of success. If you don’t know anyone who has traveled the path you intend to, then reach out to a professional who can assist you. Experience is something that is hard to replicate, so picking the brains of those who have it can be a huge boost to your chances of success.

The internet is another valuable resource but can also be a double-edged sword. While it’s true that there’s all the information you could ever need to find the answers, you seek for any goal you may have, there’s also far too much information out there and it can make finding what you need very difficult. The great thing about the internet is that anyone can post, but that’s also the bad thing about the internet, because anyone can post like that crazy old guy down the street who swears that aliens are among us, or like this article from PETA, an animal rights organization, posting about dietary needs based off your astrology sign (hint: there’s no merit to this,and the fact that an animal rights organization is writing about health and nutrition, using astrology as its basis, is absolutely absurd) . Unfortunately,people tend to believe that everything they read on the internet is true (which it most certainly is not), which becomes an issue when reading about fitness and nutrition where there’s so many conflicting ideas and information.

When it comes to figuring out the”how” of achieving your goals, it’s important that you do your research and gather information. Ask people you know questions, reach out to a professional, or perform your own research (just make sure you can sift through the B.S.). Use this part of the process to build an understanding of exactly what it will take to succeed in your endeavors. Doing so will make it much easier to outline your plan of action and achieve success. 

Build a Plan of Action

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making when embarking on their fitness and health journey is that they try to do it without a plan for what they’ll actually do. Goal setting is just the start, from there it’s important to build a plan for what you’re going to do in the gym, as well as one for what you’ll be doing outside the gym to improve your nutrition and daily habits.

This is where you would either find,create, or have a training and nutrition program created for you. It doesn’t have to be anything advanced or crazy, especially at the start, and should fit into your current lifestyle as seamlessly as possible. This means a busy person, say a parent with multiple children active in sports and other extracurricular activities, working out 5 or 6 days a week may not be feasible. Instead of trying to find the most advanced, difficult, or “hard-core” plans,find or create something that you can succeed at, especially in the beginning when consistency and habit are at their lowest.

The same can be said for the nutrition portion of your program. You may have heard about the Keto diet and are interested in some of the proclaimed benefits, however, if you’re someone who enjoys carbs or would struggle to eat large amounts of healthy fats (not just sauces and junk food, like I was known to do when eating Keto), Keto may not be right for you. Remember, there is no “best” nutrition plan or diet when it comes to losing weight, building muscle, or increasing strength,the best plan is the one that you can stick to and this usually means it fits into your life and is at least somewhat enjoyable.

Ditch the training and nutrition programs out of magazines or from your favorite “fitspo” model and focus on the basics and building a strong foundation to work from. This will set you up for success in the long term, rather than starting off at 100% intensity and eventually burning out, as well as make the process as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Be Aggressive in Your Actions and Patient with Your Results

This is a quote I heard once and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s also something that I used to struggle with on a consistent basis. I would have grand plans and goals that I wanted to pursue and achieve but would lack the aggressive action needed to achieve them and/or the patience to see it through. This led to me starting and stopping a million different projects or goals, without every achieving them (something I still struggle with to an extent). What changed everything for me was learning and cultivating patience by understanding that it takes time to achieve great things. Like they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and neither will your dream body.

If you’re looking to embark upon a transformation journey of health and fitness, it’s important that you have the understanding that it will take time and the patience to see it through, as well as consistent and thorough action on your part. For most people, this is where they fail. They want the easy route, the pill or wrap or magic diet that will allow them to achieve their goals in a matter of days, or weeks,rather than months or years. I’m sorry, but for most people those results simply won’t come that fast (either that or your goals aren’t large or challenging enough).

That’s why it’s so important to focus on the process of achieving your goals, rather than the goals themselves.It gives you the ability focus on the things you can control, while making small, daily progress that eventually leads to long-term success and goal achievement. Keep your goals in sight but understand that focusing on the daily habits and behaviors is what will ultimately lead to you achieving those goals. 

Win Early and Often

Have you ever noticed that it’s not always the best team or athlete who wins in a contest?

Oftentimes the winner of an athletic is decided by momentum. Which team has the crowd on their side, who’s players are on hot streaks, and teams that seem to “click” at the right moment, are all examples of momentum in athletics. The same principle can be translated to success in health and fitness, as well as every other aspect of life.

If you want to succeed, you must build, maintain and use the momentum of your successes to propel you forward.This means you must be able to win early and win often to improve your personal momentum and increase your chances of success. Therefore, when working with clients, especially at the start, we begin with simple, almost impossible to not achieve, goals. This allows them to “win” early in the process and often, letting those clients feel the positive effects of momentum and use it to propel them forward. 

If you want to make a change to your body, health, or life, it’s imperative that you focus on achieving success,even in small ways, early in the process. This will build buy-in, increasing your level of motivation, enthusiasm for the process, and engagement, making it easier to sustain your habits and continue progressing. For you to get those wins early in the process, make sure you are setting achievable goals for yourself. If you haven’t worked out in 10 years, and eat fast food every day of the week, telling yourself you’re going to work out 6 days per week and eat a whole-food based and healthy diet is a recipe for failure. Make small,sustainable changes in your daily life to achieve those early and often wins,which will build momentum and make achieving your larger, grand scheme goals far easier to achieve. 

If you’re someone who has health and fitness goals, regardless of if they’re tied in to your New Year Resolutions,it’s necessary to have the right approach and mindset if you want to give yourself the best chances for success. This means setting goals and building a plan of action to achieve those goals, which allows you to visualize what success will feel like and understand how you will get there. When it comes to taking action toward those goals, remember to be patient with the results, as they do not and will not happen overnight. Finally, regarding that action don’t forget to build positive momentum by setting yourself up for wins that happen early on and often in the process. By following this approach to your health and fitness goals, success will be far easier and more enjoyable to achieve.Just remember, it took time to get where you currently are, and it will take time to get to where you want to go.

P.S. If you’re looking to start a fitness and nutrition program in the New Year, stay tuned for article(s) to come on choosing a quality gym/training facility and how to feel comfortable and achieve success within that facility. These are two items that will be a huge component to success in your journey and can be the difference between sticking it out through the struggles in a gym you love and feel comfortable ino r giving up when things get difficult in a gym that is unwelcoming, not supportive, and doesn’t align with your goals and personality. 

Tracking Calories: NOT the Only Way to Lose Weight!

I’m a huge proponent of information and awareness. Regardless of what the problem or task is, having usable information and building awareness around the situation is paramount to success. Whether trying to solve the issue of bullying, world hunger, or in the case of many people I work with, trying to lose weight, the answer is almost always about gathering information and building awareness around the problem.

Without awareness of an issue, it’s difficult to understand first that there’s an issue to begin with, but second, where the issue actually lies and what solutions are available. This is why gathering information is so important, because it gives you tangible data to analyze and work from when trying to adjust and make changes. 

When it comes to dieting the same holds true. The need for awareness and information about an individual and their specific needs is a major component of any successful fitness and nutrition plan. This allows you to understand where the person comes from and gives you the ability to better help them get where they want to go. Without this background information, it would be like trying to hit a dart board in the dark, there’s going to be a lot of misses. 

As part of the gathering information and building awareness stage, I require clients to track and log their food over a 3-7 day period, usually with a food journal app like MyFitnessPal. This satisfies my need for information, by letting me know exactly what they eat during a short period of time, and increases their level of awareness about their eating habits and food choices that will be valuable going forward. 

While I don’t require clients to track their food beyond the 3-7 information and awareness period, I always recommend them to do so for several reasons. First, they will build a better understanding of portion sizes, and nutrition labels, allowing them to make smarter choices when preparing and eating food. Second, tracking their food gives me up-to-date information on their current habits, allowing me the ability to make more informed and accurate adjustments to the clients nutrition plan. Finally, and this is truly just my opinion, but one that many share, tracking is the most efficient way to lose weight, specifically fat. You can certainly lose weight without tracking calories, I myself recently lost 15lbs over a 5 week period without tracking or logging a single bite of food, but tracking makes the process so much quicker and more effective. 

As much of a supporter of tracking food and using a food journal I may be, I understand that it’s not for everyone. I too have to take a break from tracking food after doing it for extended periods of time, so I understand that tracking can seem or become tedious and difficult to do consistently. In these cases, it’s important to have other strategies and tools to help clients achieve their goals in an efficient fashion. 

If you’re looking to improve your health, and/or lose some weight, without the use of a food log or tracking everything you eat, check out the strategies listed below that will 

Portion Control

This is one of the best strategies as it’s something that will serve you regardless of what or how you eat. Learning proper portion sizes and how to adjust those to fit your needs and goals is a very beneficial skill to have. It works great on it’s own, or in unison with other styles of eating, including tracking calories and/or macros. Understanding portion sizes is a skill that I work with each one of my clients to hone so that they are well equipped to make healthy and smart choices when eating. 

If you want to improve your ability to estimate portion sizes, you first need to practice estimating portion sizes. This means either weighing and/or measuring your foods and matching it to what your thought or estimated, or simply using your hand as a basic guideline for portion sizes. If you’re interested in how to use your hand as a portion control guide, check out the graphics below: 

Low Calorie Alternatives

Low calorie and macro conscious foods are a rapidly growing and hugely popular industry right now. With obesity becoming the norm in many countries, including our own, companies are finding ways to make dieting easier and more enjoyable. As part of this movement, many companies are releasing lower calorie, health conscious versions of many of the foods you love. Foods like bread and tortillas, dairy products like milk, yogurt, and various cheeses, as well as many other options, are now available in lower calorie, and often times higher protein and fiber options which are perfect for the health conscious and/or diet-minded individual. 

Think about it. You don’t have to change anything you do as far as what you eat, you just have to swap it out for a lower calorie, healthier alternative. Without changing much about what you eat, you can easily slash upwards of 500 calories daily and put yourself comfortably in a calorie deficit working towards weight loss. This is a huge benefit for those looking to lose weight, but also for those looking to maintain weight who have a large appetite. It works on a principle called volumizing.

Volumizing is the process of eating more food in terms of overall weight and density, for less calories than before. For instance, I make french toast with 35 calorie per slice bread versus the traditional 70-100 calorie per slice bread, and it not only saves me hundreds of calories in that meal alone, it also allows me to eat 8-10 pieces of french toast, rather than 3-4 for the same amount of calories. This is a huge bonus when dieting, or when you simply have a crazy appetite and struggle to feel full because the eyes are a huge portion of how full and satisfied we are after a meal. The more food you eat in terms of visual size, the fuller you will feel afterwards, regardless of overall calories. It’s for this reason that I use this strategy of switching to lower calorie options year round, regardless of whether I’m working to gain, maintain or lose weight. It allows me to eat and enjoy far more food than I otherwise would be able to, and makes dieting much more enjoyable as a result. 

If you are interested in some low calorie swaps, some of my favorites include:

  • butters, cream cheese, yogurt, milk. Kroger has an entire line of dairy products called Carbmaster that is low in carbs and most products are lactose free.
Kroger CARBmaster, a dieter’s best friend
  • bread, buns, tortillas and other baked goods. These usually come packed with additional fiber as well, an added bonus to your health.
This brand is not only low calorie, they also taste GREAT
  • various meats. Swapping to leaner cuts and versions of meat, including beef, chicken, lamb, pork, etc, will save hundreds of calories, usually in the form of reduced fat. 
This can save you tons of calories and also increase protein intake in many cases
  • egg whites are a great option for reducing calories while still maintaining high protein content. There are many health benefits to the egg yolk, but it comes at the cost of an additional 45 calories. If calories are tight, stick to egg whites. 
Packed with protein and useful in a variety of recipes, egg whites are great to have on hand

Fasting

Restricting the amount of time that you can eat, aka your eating window, can be a big help in reducing calorie intake

Fasting, and intermittent fasting (IF), has garnered a lot of attention, especially over the last year or so. Many people claim that it’s a magical weight loss formula, and while it shows promise for certain health benefits, when it comes to weight loss it works on the same principle as everything else: calories in vs calories out. Fasting is just a tool that can be used to make creating that calorie deficit easier. 

There are many ways of fasting, which will be included in my next blog post which will cover everything you need to know about fasting and whether or not it’s right for you, but for now I’ll go over the most popular and promising versions. 

Easily the most popular version of intermittent fasting, the 16:8 protocol is used often because it fits so easily and naturally into people’s lives. The 16:8 protocol is when you have an eating window of 8 hours, usually from 10am-6pm, or something in that realm, and then fast for the remaining 16 hours. By limiting your eating window, or the amount of time you allow yourself to ingest food, you limit your chances of overeating. It’s much more difficult to overeat in an 8 hour period, than it is to overeat in a 12 or 14 hour period. With this variation all most people need to do is to skip breakfast, or your first meal of the day, and then avoid snacking or eating past a certain point. For most people, this is the easiest form to implement because of the simple and easy to follow guidelines. 

Another popular and promising form of IF is the 5:2 protocol. This involves eating ad libitum (whenever and however you feel) for 5 out of 7 days of the week, with 2 of the days being either fully fasted, or very low calories (500-600). This has been shown to be a viable and useful option for those who prefer to be extremely restricted for a couple days, followed by complete freedom on the remaining days during the week. These are just two of many variations of IF and can be used as a tool to help you control how much you eat, thus assisting in weight loss.

Cutting Out a Food Group 

It doesn’t matter which “team” you’re on, eat in a way that works for you

If you’ve ever eaten low-fat, low-carb, Keto, Atkins, or anything resembling these diets, you’ve implemented cutting out a food group as a way to lose weight. As much as people want to argue semantics over which food group is most important to eat or not eat for weight loss, beyond calorie control and adequate protein, it really doesn’t matter. The reason that diets like low-fat, Keto and others work, is because they cut out an entire macronutrient group almost entirely, making it more difficult to overeat their total calories.

Imagine you were from a family where you ate tons of carbs, pasta, bread, cakes, etc and every meal had some sort of calorie dense, carb portion. If you decided to one day switch to a low-carb diet, a large portion of your overall calories would be removed instantly. This could be very useful when trying to reduce food intake and/or the overeating of specific foods, those foods we like to call “trigger foods”. 

If you want to use this strategy to lose or maintain weight, the first question you should ask yourself is, “can I keep this up long-term?”. If the answer is yes, then you’re going to do just fine switching to a diet where one food group is removed. If the answer is no, you then have to ask yourself if you can consistently eat in this way to reach your goals, however long that may take, and then be able to transition under control back to a more balanced nutrition program. If you feel confident in your abilities to slowly introduce those foods back into your diet, without making drastic changes all at once, you’ll have a better opportunity to maintain the progress that you’ve made and the weight you’ve lost (or not gained), rather than have a negative rebound effect that many people experience after reintroducing a macro group to their nutrition program. 

While I will always require clients to record 3-7 days of food logs during the initial stages of any nutrition program, and will often push for them to continue logging for more efficient results, I understand that tracking food, calories, and macros isn’t for everyone. It’s important that those who don’t “click” with tracking their foods have alternative strategies they can use to make dieting, nutrition, and losing weight easier and simpler. The strategies listed above are great options to help you in improving your eating habits and losing weight, but they’re not exhaustive and there are plenty of others. You probably use many of them in your day to day life without even realizing it. This week take note of the choices you make on a daily basis regarding nutrition and eating, and figure out what you’re already doing to save calories that you didn’t realize at first. 

Listening: The Forgotten Half of Effective Communication

Like any other “normal” couple, my girlfriend and I have our issues. Those issues, while never major, do sometimes end up in some sort of dispute. These disputes over time have changed, but one thing remains: effective communication is the glue that always brings us back together. While we have both improved in our communication skills, it wasn’t always this way, and is something that we had to consciously work on. Through the process of working to improve our communication skills as a couple, I’ve realized how important communication is in everyday life.

If you want to be successful, happy, and fulfilled in life, learning how to communicate properly and effectively is a must. Most people know this, and those that do, tend to turn toward learning how to speak and talk better in a effort to improve their communication skills. While this will certainly help to some extent, it’s leaving half of the communication equation unanswered.

Speaking + Listening = Communicating

You see, communication is about far more than just speaking and entails a large portion, if not majorly defined by, listening. Listening is like the younger, quieter sibling. It’s not as flashy, loud, and easy to notice as it’s older, more sought after sibling, speaking. Speaking, because it’s so apparent as a part of effective communication, often overshadows listening but I urge caution in this regard: those who are truly successful in life, whether it be relationships, business success, or general well-being, are those who not only speak well, but often times those who listen even better. 

You may be saying to yourself, “I hear you Adam, I do, but how hard can it be to listen?” Well, my friend, you have just answered the question for yourself. Hearing and listening are two very different things, and just because you hear someone or something, doesn’t mean you were actually listening.

Hearing + Understanding = Listening

Hearing is the physiological act of your ears taking in auditory noises and sounds. It’s a passive collection of data with no analysis, understanding, or translation of what is actually being said or heard. While hearing is a component of listening (and not actually necessary, mind you, as there are loads of people who are deaf and communicate far more effectively than people with great hearing), there are many more pieces that build the listening puzzle.

Hearing, for most, is a human sense, whereas listening is a human skill. So, while you may not be able to actively improve your hearing (without the use of external devices), you can choose to improve your listening. And learning how to effectively listen will change every aspect of your life, from your personal relationships to those you have in business and beyond. 

Become a Better Listener in 4 Easy Steps

The first step in becoming a better listener is really freaking easy: CARE. It’s that simple. Those that genuinely care about others typically care about what they have to say and are better listeners as a result. So, before you do anything else start working on empathy and caring about others. Not only will this improve your listening and communicating skills, but you’ll start to see the world through a different, more open-minded lens as well.

The second, and arguably just as important piece to better, more effective listening skills is to UNDERSTAND. Rather than listening to a person speak just to wait for your turn to respond, work to understand what that person is saying and why they’re saying what they are saying. This understanding will build into the first point of caring about the person and what they have to say, as well as allow you to actively analyze what’s being said to better receive and interpret this message. By trying to understand the other person, you put yourself in a better position to receive their message, and they will be more likely to receive and understand yours as a result.

The third component to effective listening is CURIOSITY. Being genuinely curious about, or interested in what another person is saying is a great way to build a rapport and relationship with that person during communication. Treat it like a child does almost anything: ask questions, but ask them out of curiosity rather than judgment. And make sure to reserve those questions for the proper time, after a person has finished speaking.

That brings us to the fourth and final component of effective listening skills: PATIENCE. “Patience is a virtue” as they say, and this couldn’t be more true than when it comes to listening and communicating. Too many times when we communicate, we lack the patience necessary for effective listening and jump into the conversation before the other person has had a chance to finish their thought. Not only does this cut the other person’s thought process off, but it also shows that we weren’t fully listening to what they said in the first place. The next time you get that urge, that anxious feeling that you just “need” to speak, put it on the back burner and understand that if you want to be heard and listened to, you must first hear the other person and listen to what they say. You will get a chance to voice your opinion, thoughts, concerns, etc. and by showing patience, and practicing the effective listening skills listed above, you will put yourself in a better position to be understood as well. 

Ultimately, your ability to listen effectively, and thus communicate effectively, will depend on your ability to CONNECT with those that you are communicating with. The four components above all work in unison to help you create that connection in a healthy, and genuine matter and will create deeper, more meaningful relationships with those around you. These improved relationships will lead to more success at home, school, work, and anywhere else human connection and communication is required (everywhere). 

If you want to live a better, happier, and more fulfilled life, I urge you to work on your communication skills, specifically your ability to actively listen and not just hear. The effects that improving your listening and communication skills can have on your life can not be overstated. Whether you’re looking to improve your marriage, relationships with friends and family, get that promotion at work, or simply live a happier and more fulfilled, effective communication is the skill that will bring all of that together. 

When you go out in the world today, take some of the information within this article and use it to improve your communication by focusing on your ability to listen and understand the person. Forget about a response, or getting your point across, and simply try to fully understand what the other person is saying and why. You will be surprised at all the details and nuances you pick up on that enrich the conversation and improve communication.

Vitamin C for Colds, More like Vitamin B.S.

The cold has come, snow is falling, and as they say in Game of Thrones, “Winter is Coming” (more like it’s already here). With winter comes a whole host of changes: cold weather, hot drinks, and the dreaded common cold.

The common cold is the most frequent infectious disease that affects humans. Symptoms like coughing, sniffling, and runny noses, among other things, are common occurrences when dealing with a cold. It leads to an average of 12 sick days for adults, and over double that for children. That’s hundreds of missed days of work and school over a lifetime, and an increase in health care costs, so it’s no wonder that so many people want a solution to fight off the common cold. 

One of the most popular solutions, and where many people turn when they start to get the sniffles, is a Vitamin C supplement, like Emergen-C. The praise for supplements like Emergen-C is enough to make you believe that it can cure everything from the common cold to more serious issues like the flu.

But how truthful is that? What does the science say? 

If you’re interested in finding out more about Vitamin C, whether it has benefits for the common cold, and how you can do your best to avoid getting sick this winter, continue reading!

What is Vitamin C? Why is it so popular?

Vitamin C became popular nearly 50 years ago, when Nobel Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling made public his theory of high doses of vitamin C being able to prevent and/or speed up the duration of the common cold. Since that time, vitamin and supplement companies have done their best to capitalize on a growing industry, backed by the words and ideals of a Nobel Prize winner.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that your body does not produce and thus must be ingested through diet or supplementation. It’s involved in various functions throughout the body, including the production of collagen and assistance with immune cells in fighting off disease. When someone is sick, Vitamin C is depleted from immune cells, making it Dr. Pauling’s theory about Vitamin C helping fight off and speed up the duration of common colds and other infectious diseases. Unfortunately, like many things, what seems logical in theory doesn’t pan out in practice.

Emergen-C, the most popular brand of “cold fighters”, was introduced in 1978, just a few short years after Dr. Pauling made his theories about Vitamin C known

The research behind Vitamin C is rather thorough, and pretty straight forward. When it comes to Vitamin C there are only a few scenarios where supplementation is beneficial. The only benefits for the average person come from either taking it daily (at least 200mg) or getting it naturally through your diet, or taking an absurd amount (8g or more). Getting your daily dose of Vitamin C, while important, will only reduce the average number of “sick days” every year by about one. While it’s nice to get that day back, it’s important to realize that if you eat a well balanced diet you are probably already getting plenty of Vitamin C and reaping the benefits.

As far as the higher dosage, which in some studies has been shown to reduce severity and duration of illness, it can come with nasty side effects like nausea, diarrhea and possibly kidney stones. Luckily, Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, meaning that anything “extra” will be excreted through the urine and doesn’t pose toxicity issues like fat soluble vitamins and minerals. This doesn’t mean that you can ingest as much Vitamin C as you’d like without consequence, but that the consequences won’t be as severe as fat soluble vitamins. 

There is one very specific population that has shown marked improvement in severity and symptoms of common colds, but the average population doesn’t fall into this category. For those who exercise strenuously outdoors (marathon runners, cross country skiers, Armed Forces individuals), you may find that supplementing with Vitamin C (at least 200mg) will help you deal with less instances of colds, and for shorter duration, but again, if you’re eating a well balanced dieting you may already be hitting these numbers.

If Vitamin C doesn’t work, what does?

This is where things get a bit more boring, and a whole lot more practical. There are few things that will truly affect whether you get a cold or not, and how long that cold will last. None of them are as easy to take and easy to sell as Vitamin C though, which is why they get pushed to the side in search of other “cures”.

Sleep

Sleep is vitally important to your health and wellness, and it becomes even more important during the winter months when immune systems are constantly attacked by different viruses. I cannot stress to you enough how important getting both enough sleep, and quality sleep is. It will improve your immune system, and help protect you from colds and shorten the duration.

Sleep is your key to health and vitality, so prioritizing it is key. Try to get at least 6 hours of sleep every night, but 7-9 is more optimal. This means you have to plan ahead, and get in bed at a certain time to ensure you are getting enough sleep. You should also avoid electronics at least an hour before bed, keep your room somewhat cool, and avoid activities that are overly stimulating. Try to find an activity that calms both your mind and body to perform before bed like reading, writing, meditation, or stretching/yoga. These activities will help you unwind from a long day and signal to your body that it’s time for sleep.

Hydration

During the winter months, people tend to drink less water. It’s a result of the temperature dropping and not feeling the need to drink water the way we do during the summer months. I myself struggle with hydration during the winter months, and have to make a conscious effort to stay hydrated.

Lack of proper hydration, or worse, dehydration, has been shown to negatively affect numerous functions of the body. When it comes to warding of viruses and shortening the duration of those viruses, water plays an important role. It helps to boost immune function by delivering oxygen to immune cells and helping clean out waste and toxins. Hydration also aids in a quality night of sleep, as it helps to keep your nasal passages and throat moist so that breathing is easy and clear. 

To ensure that you are getting proper hydration, try to shoot for around 2/3 of your body weight in ounces of water. If you weigh 200lbs, like me (at times), your goal should be to drink around 135oz of water. To make it a bit easier to reach your target goal, make sure to start your day with a large glass of water (20oz or more) and always have a water bottle with you. I like to use transition times, like driving to and from work or waiting in line, to catch up and get ahead on water by drinking as much as I can during those moments. 

Wash Your Hands

There is a reason that your mother always told you to wash your hands before dinner and after using the restroom, because washing your hands can be a huge deterrent for viruses. Washing your hands helps to remove germs that can cause sickness, and stats show that consistent washing of hands reduces the likelihood of the common cold by 15-20%. 

If you want to stay healthy this winter, do yourself a favor and get in the habit of washing your hands, especially while in public. Anytime you go to the bathroom, wash your hands afterward and always make sure to wash your hands before you eat. The pores in and around your face are extremely absorbent, so avoiding touching your face (noses, ears, eyes, mouth, etc) and keeping your hands clean is a great way to help keep the colds at bay. 

Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet

Getting a variety of whole foods that are rich in nutrients is a huge part of living a healthy lifestyle. Foods like fruits and vegetables can play a key role in providing your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to assist and optimize the functions of the body, including the immune system. To do your best in fighting off colds and viruses, make sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables from every color of the rainbow. The more variety, the better (in most cases). 

Even though we know that fruits and vegetables are extremely important for health, it’s very easy to not eat them. To make it easier to consume enough fruits and vegetables, make sure that you always have some prepped and on hand. That’s the great thing about fruits and vegetables, they don’t need to be cooked, which makes them easier to include in your diet than foods that must be prepared. You can also bake several different kinds of vegetables at once on cookie sheets and prepare all your weeks vegetables in a matter of 20-30 minutes. The important thing is to then make sure that you have them with you and eat them. Keep snack bags of fruit and vegetables that you can grab and go, or leave at work to make life just a bit easier. 

Stick to the Basics, Live Long and Healthy

As you can see, staying healthy and fighting off colds and sickness isn’t as glamorous or complicated as people would like to make it, but simple doesn’t sell well. Instead of spending money on “cold fighters” that don’t make any difference, try focusing on the basics of health that are time tested for success. Make sure you are getting plenty of quality rest, be sure to hydrate sufficiently, wash your hands, especially in public places and when eating, and focus on a balanced and wholesome diet that will provide all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. 

Do you have any favorite cold remedies or family traditions for when you’re sick? Comment below and let’s share our favorite ways to get over being sick (or at least make it feel more enjoyable)

Improve Your Glute Training for Better Health, Strength, and Sex Appeal

If you spend an hour with me as your trainer, regardless if it’s in a one on one personal training setting or in a large group, there is one word you will hear repeated again and again: glutes. Squeeze your glutes. Engage your glutes. Contract your glutes. Stabilize with your glutes. Glutes, glutes, glutes. They are that important.

The glutes are involved in almost every activity we perform throughout the day. The glutes help to generate force and propel you forward as you walk or run. The glutes contract to help you walk up the stairs or jump over a fence. Even if you don’t care about having round and firm glutes that look great, you still want to tune in and learn how to train these muscles to function at their best for longevity and health.

Related image
You get glute exercises! You get glute exercises! Everyone gets glute-focused exercises!!!

Training for muscle hypertrophy?

You better TRAIN YOUR GLUTES as they’re a major piece in a well-balanced physique, regardless of if you’re male or female. Large glutes make the waist look smaller, leading to a more pleasing and aesthetic looking physique.

Are you a powerlifter or Olympic lifter needing strength and explosiveness?

The glutes may very well be the most important muscle as it is a huge muscle that generates large amounts of force and also stabilizes the pelvis, increasing the efficiency of your lifts and decreasing the likelihood of injury. TRAIN YOUR GLUTES.

Are you an athlete?

If so read the paragraph above again for good measure. Power, speed, and explosion is the name of the game for athletes, so, you guessed it, TRAIN YOUR GLUTES.

Do you have back pain, hip pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, etc?

Many times strengthening the glutes and re-patterning them will reduce tension on other muscles and joints, improve your posture and movement mechanics, and ultimately lead to less back pain and better overall functionality. TRAIN YOUR GLUTES.

Regardless of who you are or what situation you’re in, you need to train your glutes and ensure that you’re training them properly. This means training them with various rep ranges and weights, in several positions and muscle lengths, and having a good understanding of their function and a quality mind-muscle connection (how well you can “feel” a muscle working in various positions). Add those all up and you’ve got a great recipe for a rocking set of glutes that are nice to look at, perform well, and keep you standing upright, healthy, and pain-free.

First things first, let’s talk about the function of the glutes, because without understanding this trying to isolate, strengthen and/or grow your glutes is going to be a futile effort.

The glutes are one of the strongest muscles groups in the entire body and serve multiple purposes. In addition to assisting with stabilization of the pelvis, the glutes also perform hip abduction, external rotation, and extension.

 

Main Functions of the Glutes

Abduction of the hip is moving the leg, specifically the upper leg, away from the mid-line of the body. When you drive your knees wide at the bottom of a squat, or side step/shuffle, you are performing hip abduction. It’s important to note, that while hip abduction and rotation can seem similar, like in the bottom of a squat, they are not the same thing.

External rotation of the hip is the act of rotating the upper leg away from the body’s mid-line. When thinking about external rotation, imagine your thigh/upper leg has a laser pointer shooting straight out from the thigh. When relaxed that laser pointer will point at a target right in front of you. When externally rotated, like in the bottom of a squat, those lasers will point slightly outward at an angle. This is the difference between abduction and external rotation: when the hips abduct, the thigh, and conversely, the knee, are still pointed directly in front of you. In external rotation, this isn’t the case as the thighs and knees will rotate and point outward.

 

Hip extension is moving the upper leg behind the hips and torso. This is one of the most important, and difficult, functions of the hip as many people tend to have poor motor control and/or bracing techniques, leading to movement from lower back, rather than the hips. When you walk or run, you are extending your hip, further reinforcing the importance of strong and healthy glutes.

Hip abduction, external rotation, and extension are the primary functions of the glutes, and should make up the bulk of your glute training. A truly strong and healthy muscle is able to contract through its full range of motion, which means we must train that muscle through in various positions and ranges of motion (ROM). This calls for us to develop and master a strong mind-muscle connection that allows us to load, contract, and use our glutes basically any chance we get.

There are two main components of being able to load your glutes and hips properly. The first is the hip position and control of that position. A muscle functions and develops its best when working from a neutral position. For the glutes, this means keeping the hips as close to neutral as possible and avoiding excessive tilting in either direction.

anterior-pelvic-tilt
I often find strange analogies and ways to express to my clients how they should be moving and what they should be feeling. I call a posterior hip tilt a “tail tuck” because it’s like a dog tucking its tail after it’s been in trouble. An anterior tilt is what I like to call “stripper hips/arch” as it looks like the individual is arching their back to show off their backside. These are simply different ways of visualizing and understanding different movements and positions of the hips and pelvis, you may have different ways of seeing and feeling the movement for yourself.

Just as important, if not more so, is the control and stability of the pelvic position. If the pelvis isn’t properly stabilized, not only will you leak force production, reducing power, output and ultimately, growth, but you will greatly increase your risk of injury. When thinking about alignment and stability of the pelvis, especially during movement, it helps to think about your pelvis a cup full of water. The idea is to keep your cup (pelvis) neutral so you don’t leak or spill water, which is the equivalent of losing stability, leaking force production, and risking injury.

20181111_202717 1
Image borrowed from Eugen Loki, @pheasyque on Instagram. Check him out for other awesome illustrations and explanations that will help you better understand fitness and exercise!

Secondary to hip position and control of the pelvis, is learning how to properly flex and load your hips. Most people understand how to contract their glutes, they simply squeeze them. Learning how to load your glutes is the key to fully developing strong, healthy, and nice looking glutes.

Loading your glutes comes down to the flexing of your hips. Hip flexion is the act of folding your torso and bringing the lower half of your stomach and upper half of your thighs together. If you were to place hands, palms up, into the front of your pelvis and fold around them, you would be flexing your hips. When squatting and deadlifting you are flexing your hips at the bottom of each movement. Doing this properly allows the glutes to stretch and contract to their fullest, increasing the effectiveness and safety of the movements in which hip flexion is performed.

Many coaches and fitness enthusiasts use the cue “weight on your heels”, and while this can help some people, in many cases this actually interferes with their ability to flex their hips. Instead of flexing the hips, people tend to focus on shifting their weight into their heels, many times lifting the toes to accentuate the feeling. This is not only ineffective for glute training, it also greatly reduces stability and increases risk of injury.

Instead of worrying about your weight being on your heels, try to imagine shifting your hips as far behind your heels as you possibly can while maintain a neutral spine (no arching or rounding of lower back/shoulders). This will allow you to keep your feet planted, improving stability, safety, and power, as well as help to engage and isolate the glute muscles during movements like squats, deadlifts and lunges.

Another cue or idea I like to give my clients (when actively trying to target the glutes) is to keep the shins vertical, and control or restrict forward translation (movement) of the knees. Vertical shin position helps with force production and engagement of the glutes, and restriction of forward knee movement reduces involvement from the quads and emphasizes use of the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings). Learning how to reduce usage of the quads, and subsequent movement of the knees, is a huge factor in being able to isolate and target the glute muscles.

By now you must realize how important the glute muscles are to your overall health, regardless of what your goals are. Everything from sitting and standing, to walking and running, involves the use of the glutes. Learning how to isolate and use your glute muscles is key to being able to engage them to generate force, improve stability, and decrease the risk of pain and injury. Whether you are looking to build round, firm glutes that draw the eye, powerful glutes that can lift thousands of pounds, or simply want to improve your posture, and reduce pain/dysfunction, training your glutes (properly) is arguably the most important thing you can do.

Take the information that you’ve learned here and apply it going forward in your training. Doing so will make each and every workout more effective. And, for more information on the glutes, like the best ways to activate them and exercises to grow them, follow me on Instagram @adamchosenson or AchieveFit LLC on Facebook. Happy glute gains!

 

P.S. Keep in mind, many of the cues used in this article are designed to specifically target or increase output from the glutes and won’t transfer over to each movement. For instance, if you are squatting for maximum power and depth it’s unlikely that you will be able to keep your shins vertical and knees from shifting forward and that’s ok. The cues in this article are here to help you shift your intention on certain exercises (including squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc) to make them more glute focused.