Archive for the ‘Strength’ Category

Which would you rather do? This…


Or This…


Here’s an article that I wrote recently about why training like an athlete is great for fat loss, overall conditioning, and is just plain cool…

As a former collegiate athlete, I see the value of a solid strength and conditioning program for performance. As a personal trainer to many clients in the Somerville, Massachusetts area; I have found that incorporating athletic movements is not only motivating and fun, it is a great way to lose fat and gain overall strength. People should not take this to mean that everyone should train like a college football player. Training like an athlete can be modified based on the level of the participant but the basis behind it is to perform large muscle group movements, lift heavier weights than you are normally used to, and have an overall plan that cycles throughout the year. Here are some specific details about developing your athletic movement training program.

1.Training like an athlete is FUN: Throwing medicine balls, pushing the Prowler, squatting, lunging, sprinting, performing barbell complexes, and swinging the kettle bell, are just some of the movements that can be done to lose fat using large muscle groups. The exercises tax the muscular system and the cardiovascular system. Metabolism is elevated and this ultimately leads to fat loss.

2.Using Large Muscle Group Movements: Squats, lunges, push ups, chin ups, and overhead pressing are often the cornerstones of our programs. These exercises burn a huge amount of calories and develop an efficient metabolism.

3.Combine Training Goals: Each workout provides training for strength, power, conditioning, balance, and flexibility. Try to avoid focusing on one goal or muscle group; instead combine them and force the body to move in unison the way it was meant to.

4.Lift Heavy Weights: Many people are scared to lift heavy for fear of “getting big.” Athletes need to lift heavy weights to develop strength and power. You must push the threshold in your body. Lifting heavy weights will not cause women to “get big”, instead it will create huge bursts in hormones, adrenaline, and overall metabolism which leads to fat loss.

5.Have a Training Plan: Athletes have a very structured training plan. The year is broken down into training cycles depending on the season or event they are competing in. Creating long term and short term plans for training based on your goals is very important. Training cycles should usually last 3-4 weeks to provide consistent progression for strength, fat loss, and conditioning.

Take a look at your workout plan and shift your way of thinking about training. Athletes are strong and toned, have high levels of cardiovascular conditioning, can move efficiently, and have low body fat percentages. Why would you not want to mimic their training programs?


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Let’s face it; the modern day training client does not have quite the same active lifestyle as people did even 10-15 years ago. In the age of conference calls, online shopping, blackberries, and commuting upwards of an hour to work; people are not moving as much. Walk into any gym and what do you see?



Nautilus machines, treadmills, and elliptical machines. I’m not completely knocking these implements (maybe just a little bit) but how much work do these machines do for you? The nautilus machines only move on a certain track and the range of motion is extremely limited around one or two joints. In terms of treadmills and elliptical machines; how often does the ground actually move you first? Using these tools will certainly burn you some calories but are you getting the most effective workout when it comes to building lean muscle, training your heart, and most importantly- burning fat?

With the sedentary lifestyle that people lead, many times their workouts at the gym or with a personal trainer are all that they do. Those training sessions need to be intense, efficient, and based around the goals of strength building and fat loss.

When clients begin personal training with me in Boston I find that most of them have two major things in common. They are doing a lot of “cardio” and they are not doing enough strength training, or it is done inefficiently. This is especially true when it comes to female clients. Cardio training is great for burning calories and training your heart and lungs, but if you are looking for a long-term change in your body composition and metabolism (the only real way to make your body a fat burning machine) then you must strength train. Now this does not have to be done strictly by lifting a ton of weight and doing body building type workouts. The most effective way to burn fat, build lean muscle, and develop your body into a strong, tight, fat torching specimen is to implement large muscle group exercises and perform essentially a full body workout in each training session.

“Old School” training styles include movements like squats, lunges, pushes, chin ups, as well as Strongman style movements such as Farmers’ Carries, Sandbag lifts, sled drags, and Kettle Bell movements.

Using this style of training will not only rev up your metabolism for that hour, but it will also create a great “after burn” and cause your body to burn a ton of calories and eventually develop a strong, healthy metabolism that will burn fat when you are not training- the ultimate goal!

There are many methods that can be used to develop this efficient and fun type of training. All movements can be modified based on the level of client and their training experience. Here are my top five “old school” movements (in no particular order) for ultimate fat loss and lean muscle development.

Barbell Squats- The ultimate lower body strength movement. There are many ways to modify the squat (front squats, back squats, overhead squats, Zercher squats) but each one will hammer the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and trunk. Working all of these muscles unison will guarantee a huge calorie burn.

Chin-Ups- The King (or Queen) of upper body exercises. This movement can be paired with squats for a killer circuit that will hit all of the big movers. Training your upper back, shoulders, and biceps all in one movement is great for posture and just like the squats; working all of these muscles together can ensure a huge burn for fat and calories.

Prowler Pushes and Sprints– The Prowler is the modern day version of the sled. It’s a great conditioning tool that will burn your legs and lungs like no other. Get rid of your treadmill workout and try a few 30-40 yard sprints, or load up the weight for a heavy push.

Kettle Bell Swings– Another one of the best lower body movements for fat loss and calorie burn. Swings are a quick and dynamic movement that forces the body to work all muscles together in order to keep good technique. The trunk is taxed as the bell is moved from the floor to the front of the body. Try this one in place of your traditional leg press movement!

Sandbag Lifts– Using a sandbag creates instability and essentially keeps the body guessing when it comes to the lifts. All muscles are trained together and a high level of calorie burn is guaranteed because the body is extremely taxed with each repetition. Exercises such as squats, cleans, presses, rows, and Farmers Carries are great individualized or as a circuit.

Using old school and conventional movements are taxing on the entire muscular system, nervous system, heart, lungs, and eventually will create a hard-core metabolism that will burn calories with ease and get rid of that stubborn fat that has been hanging around regardless of how long you run on the treadmill or rep out on the leg press.

The movement combinations are endless but the main goal is to incorporate as many large muscle group exercises as you can in order to efficiently train the body as one unit. In doing this you will see huge gains in fat loss, lean muscle gain, heart and cardiovascular heath, and overall posture and bone health. I have seen great success with my Boston personal training clients

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I just wanted to share this video…it puts everything into perspective and also makes you realize how rediculous the excuses are that people have for not working out. There is always something that will come up, so just plan your training accordingly and suck it up if you really want to meet your goals. If you don’t, then continue to settle for being average.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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As I sit here overlooking the cardio room of the gym I see something that disgusts me everyday. I see people doing the same monotonis workouts day in and day out. I recently read someone’s take on “working out” versus “training.” They defined it as working out is a hobby and training is a lifestyle and an attitude. I totally agree with that because I know a lot of people that “workout” and those same people also look the same forever. Now I give them a lot of credit for getting into the gym but honestly, why waste your time on an inefficient training program?

I also know a lot of people that train hard and live a healthy lifestyle. These people are constantly setting goals, pushing their standards, and developing new ways to improve themselves. That is what training is all about. I could rant all day about this but I wanted to give you all a few quick changes that can be made if your training program does indeed SUCK….

Problem #1: Using the elliptical machine for cardio

Reason #1 Why this sucks: The machine does a ton of work for you. It’s okay for people who have had injuries due to the low impact nature but if you are healthy, get off that machine, it’s way too easy and you will struggle to get your heart rate up.
Solution #1:Perform your interval conditioning on the bike, run sprints, attack the Prowler and you will burn a lot more calories and force your body to move without a machine doing the work


Problem #2: Using the Leg Press instead of performing squats
Reason #2 Why this Sucks: Many people can press a lot of weight but the problem is that you are sitting down! None of your stabilizer muscles are working and you are not even moving your own body. How many movements do we do from a 45 degree seated angle, pushing up or forward?


Solution #2: SQUATS If you have been reading my posts you know that I love squats. They are the king/queen of all lower body movements. You recruit all major leg muscles as well as stabilizers (trunk) and you burn a ton of calories by lifting some heavy weight in addition to your own body weight. Get off your butt and do some real work!

Check out that form!

Problem #3: Performing high repetitions with low weights

Reason #3 Why this sucks: Many women want to get a “toned” look and all the rage out there says perform high repetitions with low weight so you won’t get “bulky.” Well I’ve got news for you ladies, unless you are on the ARod steriods diet you will not get bulky. Women lack the testosterone and growth hormones to initiate such a reaction. Performing lots of reps is a waste of time and energy.
Solution #3: Increase your resistance and lift safely. Lifting weights is progressive and technique is crucial. Find a qualified personal trainer to help you out with your training cycles. Lifting heavy weights not only improves strength, gets you super fit, and burns a ton of calories which revs up your metabolism, but it makes you feel pretty bad ass!

Problem #4: Using body part split routines.

Reason #4 why this sucks:This training style was adopted by bodybuilders in order to achieve high levels of volume to ellicit the hypertrophy phase (muscle size). Unfortunately it carried over into the general population and for most people, it becomes pretty ineffective.


I don’t know about you, but I don’t have 5 days a week to devote to strictly lifting weights in isolation.

In the real world people need efficient and effective intense training programs that will help them achieve their goals. Now if you goal is in fact to develop volume and muscular size, this program works. If you want to get a lean, athletic, and fit look; you should be performing large muscle group movements and shooting for a full body training style. This style not only elevates your strength levels, overall metabolism, and torches that unwanted body fat because of the high intensity aspect.

Solution #4: Perform full body, large muscle group movements. 2-3 days a week of full body training with movements such as squats, lunges, chin ups, push ups, overhead presses, weighted core work, prowler sprints, and single leg work will get you in killer shape, create a lean and athletic physique, and make you feel energized and happy.


Problem #5: Most people are simply not exerting enough effort.


Reason #5 why this sucks: Plain and simple, if you are not working hard (and smart), you will not continue to see gains. I see people all the time that do the same routine over and over. I also see a lot of people do a set of bicep curls and rest for 2 minutes. The only time you should really be resting that long is if you are performing a high level power movement that requires nervous system recovery of 2-3 minutes. For most people with goals of overall fitness, strength, and fat loss; the training should be fairly intense in order to push your thresholds and burn calories.


 Solution #5: Supersets, Circuits, Higher intensity movements. These are just a few solutions to the lack of effort syndrome. Pair up a lower/upper body movement or a push/pull movement. This will allow you to do more work in a shorter amount of time because you are resting less and moving your body through larger movements that will develop more strength and also burn a lot of calories, and ulimately fat.

Don’t get stuck in a rut with your training programs. Efficient, intense, and athletic based fitness programs will get you that great trim body that you are looking for. Kick up the intensity through heavier weights, bigger movements, and interval conditioning for cardio.

Don’t end up like this guy with your useless workouts. Remember what happens to him at the end of the movie….


But hey, I like to break a mental sweat too…

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Fitness is a way of life for me. I love training myself and other people. I love the satisfaction of a hard workout and knowing that each time I’m making myself stronger, more athletic, and healthier. I love helping people reach their goals and helping them realize that they have a lot more to give then they usually think.

I also realize that it is not a way of life for everyone. Sometimes it’s frustrating to hear excuses, reasons why people didn’t get to the gym or why they ate 3 pints of Ben&Jerry’s over the weekend. Yes I understand that people are human, things come up and life happens.

BUT…changing your lifestyle to accept that you need to exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep or you will be sick, tired, sluggish, fat, and unhappy. It’s just the way it is. This doesn’t need to happen 100% of the time but it needs to happen at least 80%. If not, look at your lifestyle and start today to make a change. Sometimes it just takes a little reality check and someone to tell you that denial is more than just a river in Egypt…yeah, I said that…

Here are some quick fitness and lifestyle tips for you. Enjoy, apply, and repeat…

1. Make a plan
2. Tell someone about your plan
3. Set goals- long term and short term
4. Lift weights- heavy ones
5. Lift weights safely
6. Have fun with your workouts- train with a trainer and/or with friends
7. Sleep at least 8 hours a night
8. Learn how to squat
9. Eat breakfast
10. Schedule your workouts into your daily planner
11. Eat 5-6 times per day
12. Train outside
13. Push a car
14. Do pull ups and chin ups
15. Focus on how your clothes fit not the scale
16. Quit talking about it and take action
17. Don’t blame anyone but yourself for your poor health
18. Don’t give up
19. Quit focusing on “cardio” and do some real work
20. Always learn proper technique
21. Value yourself and your life- you only get one chance

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I joke about this little concept with my clients all the time. They know exactly what I mean and sometimes they are even noticing it for themselves when they are in the gym. I talk about this not to be mean, but to point out something to my clients that they want to avoid at ALL COSTS.

A skinny fat person. You have all seen them. Lots of cardio, no weights, horrible nutrition = high percentage of body fat, even if they do not weigh a lot. Now it’s not like you can tell their body fat by looking at them but you can disect the fact that they have little muscle tone and definition.

So many people work out every day, plugging away on the elliptical and avoiding the weight room like the plague. This is a dangerous combination because as you start to lose any excess weight, you are not supporting your weight loss with lean muscle tissue development. This does nothing to increase your metabolism. Increasing your metabolism leads to a higher amount of calories (and eventually body fat) being burned at rest. This is the ultimate goal because obviously we are not going to be working out and training more than 1 to 1.5 hours per day.

The other problem is that many of these people do not support their bodies with proper nutrition. Many times when weight loss is the goal, food restriction becomes the solution. Well this is fine when you are cutting out soda and ice cream, cutting out breakfast and a healthy mid-afternoon snack is NOT a good option. Restricting important calories (the healthy ones) will only aid in the slowing of your metabolism.

Combine an extreme deficit in calories, a lot of aerobic training that burns calories but does not develop lean muscle tissue, and an avoidance of anything that does develop lean muscle tissue and you have a recipe for the creation of what we can the SKINNY FAT PERSON.


This person has a super slow metabolism, and probably gets frustrated because they believe they are working out so hard, and why is their body shape not changing? Well…if you have a slow metabolism and you do not build lean muscle, you will not lose body fat. If you do not lose body fat and gain muscle, your body will look soft and you will not fit in your clothes the way you would like to.

In order to get rid of this epidemic of skinny fat people, we need to do three major things:

1. Lift Weights
2. Eat 5-6 times per day, small meals and snacks with high amounts of protein, fiber, fruits and dark leafy vegetables
3. Perform high intensity interval training for your conditioning to avoid steady state “cardio”

skinnyfat1There is a huge difference between a 150 pound person who has 18% body fat and a 150 pound person who has 35% body fat. The 18% person has 27 pounds of fat on their body. The 35% person has 52 pounds of fat. I can guarantee 100% that the 18% individual looks very sleek, tight, and muscular. Even though they weigh the same, their composition is TOTALLY different.

All of this information goes against what most people read in magazines and see on TV but think about it…is our culture doing so well with our fitness habits? It’s time for a change…

Ramp up your intensity, lift some heavy weights, and eat!

*Dec 03 - 00:05*Desk email

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Many people stick to their traditional gym workouts; cardio machines, nautilus machines, abdominal machines. Do you see a pattern developing?

Machines are ineffective tools for building muscle and losing body fat. They only move you in one plane of motion, they do not activate a large amount of muscle area, and they do not promote overall strength and power.
If you really want to step out of your comfort zone and train hard, efficient, and have some fun while doing it; try lifting and pushing some odd objects.

With odd shaped objects you recruit every muscle in your body to do the work, you burn a huge amount of calories due to that recruitment, you elevate your metabolism to levels you have never known and that can continue up to 36 hours post workout, and you test yourself mentally by moving with unstable circumstances that are not always perfectly placed like a machine or even a barbell.

Here are several ways to perform odd object lifting and to get the best training session of your life.

Kettlebells (Swings, Cleans, Snatches, Push Presses)

Can you tell that I love Lance or what?

Can you tell that I love Lance or what?

Prowler Sprints


Ring Exercises (Rows, Dips, Push Ups)

Keg (filled with water or sand) Throws, Presses, Cleans

One of the best exercises around

One of the best exercises around

Medicine Ball Throws (overhead, rotations, presses) Find a heavy ball and utilize a strong wall or go outside for some throws for power and conditioning

Sandbag (presses, lunges, cleans, squats, throws) This unstable element creates a huge workload no matter what the exercise. Throw that on your shoulders or hold it overhead for some squats, lunges, or farmer carries.

Farmers Carries (farmers walk implements, kettlebells, sandbags)

Scott showing how it's done

Scott showing how it's done

Tire Flips


Sledgehammer- use the tire that you just flipped for some rotation or overhead swings with this baby and your core will be on fire


Stone Lifts and Carries- This is a great method but most people do not have access to stones. If you don’t, you can always find some heavy and odd shaped ones in your yard and have some fun with that.
Give these exercises a try and you will see a huge gain in strength, lean muscle development, overall conditioning, and an elevated metabolism for ultimate fat loss.



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