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Deconstructing The Squat

The squat is the perfect analogy for life. It’s about standing back up after something heavy takes you down.”

~ unknown

When most people think about squats, what do they think about? Quads? Maybe glutes too? However, this foundational movement goes MUCH deeper than that! A weighted squat is quite literally a total body exercise, and this week we are going to break it down piece-by-piece for you:

START FROM THE GROUND UP
Not the other way around!

Instead of picking up weights, making sure they are secure and then bending your knees dropping into your squat, bring your attention FIRST to your feet! Weightlifting experts suggest focusing on broadening the foot, spreading the toes laterally, and making as much contact through the floor as possible. Imagine someone has placed several playing cards under different parts of your foot, and you are trying to prevent someone from pulling them out! You might be surprised to find how much more active engagement you feel throughout the muscles of the lower body. Ready? Yes you! Imagine those cards under each corner of your foot – now squat! Just a few, don’t burn yourself out – we want to take a moment to do just a few bodyweight squats with each paragraph to solidify what you’re reading and make it more real.

Next up are the ankles! Take a look at the graphic above. Notice the angle at the ankle – it is not 90 degrees with the knee directly over the heel, because that would shift your center of gravity too far to the back making it impossible to hold weight safely. Ankle mobility might be the most common limitation people face when it comes to getting into a deep squat. Try drawing the alphabet or big circles in both directions with the ankles, really pushing the range of motion and moving slowly throughout the range. Maybe move your ankles for a minute or two, then try another couple of squats – try thinking about pulling the front of your shin down towards the tops of your feet (but don’t pop up off those heels!)

Moving up the leg to the knees now. Many people struggle to keep their knees in line with their ankles/toes as they get deeper into their squat. This is most commonly due to inner thigh weakness, glute weakness, hip tightness or all three. Find a mirror! Watch your knees on the way down and continue to hold them in line – pay attention to whether you start feeling your squats in different areas! Ask a coach to assistance if you find your knees continue to fall in towards each other; there are a few ways to work through this common movement dysfunction. The Split Squat is one excellent example of a unilateral exercise that can help us identify instability and weakness. During split squats and side lunges take care that you don’t allow your knee to fall inward by engaging the outer glute and pressing through both the inside and outside of the foot. Hip lifts and single-leg hip lifts are also great exercise to help develop stable glute strength. Now you know what comes next – put it to work! Focus on the position of your knees while squatting and try keeping them pointing directly in line with the toes! Maybe try a few squats with your feet narrow, wide, in the middle, turn the toes outward a little. See what feels most comfortable.

Speaking of hips! The very first step for the squat is to send the hips back – THEN begin sitting. Too often we start bending our knees into our squat before we have even begun to send the hips back and this sets us up for dysfunctional movement right off the bat. Alright fine, maybe just one squat this time…start with the hips!

So that pretty much covers your lower body – but we haven’t even got past the hips yet! What happens above them is just as important for your squat form especially if you are going to be carrying weight. Squat Holds and Quad Rocks (see a trainer for demonstration) is a great exercise to help get you into the habit of engaging your core muscles during the squat. A quad rock IS a squat if you turn the movement vertical, however this variation drastically reduces the amount of weight you have to move. Often we forget about the upper body here and just focus on the legs, but especially if we are loading the squat we MUST have core engagement to ensure the safety of the spine. Tuck the chin in (double chin) to keep the spine straight all the way through the top, and don’t forget to pack those shoulders!

So there you have it folks – the squat in 500 words or so. There is even more that we could say if we wanted to continue delving into this movement, but let’s allow this to sink in and if you like seek out some one-on-one time with a trainer to fine tune your squat.

Diet Myth-Busting!

This week we are busting diet myths! First up, it’s…

EAT LESS, WEIGH LESS.”

While that CAN be true in some cases, usually people don’t want to lose weight – they want to lose fat! So, if you are comfortable depriving your body the nutrients it needs, feeling hungry all the time, and losing muscle, water and bone density – then this is the diet for you! In order to maintain muscle and proper body functioning (especially for people involved in strength training several times a week like our Ellipse members!) you need to eat at least a certain number of calories in the proper ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Now of course if an average person was eating 3,000 calories a day sure, cutting their calorie intake a little will probably help them lose some weight. For most of us however, when we “diet” we tend to cut out entire macronutrient categories (*cough cough* carbohydrates), and slash caloric intake below a baseline level needed to ensure your body doesn’t enter “starvation mode”.

LOW-FAT, LOW-CARB, SUGAR-FREE, DIET, LITE”

These are marketing terms dreamed up in a corporate office to sell cheap (in quality and ingredients, not always in price) products to the incredibly large market of people desperate to lose weight. We’ve discussed the downside to artificial sweeteners in the past, but products with these labels tend to be highly processed, and are often just junk food disguised as a guilt-free indulgence – however, they are anything but. Low or Fat-Free products often have added sugar to make it taste good enough to eat (see the classic example of fat-free frozen yogurt)

EAT SMALLER AMOUNTS FREQUENTLY TO BOOST METABOLISM.”

The truth is the number one way to boost your metabolism is by increasing the amount of muscle you have – that’s about it. Constant digestion has a negligible effect on your metabolism and might even do more harm than good for your teeth and intestines. Eating a healthy snack (think: Veggies and Hummus, Fruit and Greek Yogurt or Peanut Butter, etc) between meals however can help you to stay more satisfied during the day and prevent overeating at meal time.

EATING PROTEIN AND CARBS SEPARATELY AIDS IN WEIGHT LOSS.”

This one is patently UN-true because in fact the best way to ensure efficient digestion of protein is to pair it with a high-fiber carbohydrate. Many of the healthiest protein options come pre-paired with carbohydrates already like beans, nuts, seeds etc.

EATING FAT MAKES YOU FAT!”

This one is very important because many people striving for a healthy diet almost totally abstain from dietary fat, which is to their detriment because many vitamins (A, D, E and K) REQUIRE fat to be absorbed into the body. Also adding small amounts of healthy fat (EVOO, Coconut Oil, etc) to vegetables makes most people much more likely to eat them, and help you feel full! (Think: apple = still hungry vs. apple + peanut butter = energy + satisfaction)

DON’T EAT AFTER 8 PM!”

This might be good advice, but not because late night calories are really any worse than daytime calories. Most of the time late night snacks are our worst ones. High fat, high sugar snacks that don’t actually serve any purpose to sate hunger. Try not to go more than 5 hours without eating during the day to avoid being famished late at night, and try to contain your eating hours roughly within a 12-hour window – that alone might help you save a couple hundred calories per day!

Consider these myths BUSTED

Slooooowww Down

We’re a rushed, distracted, and “too-busy” society. Most people in North America eat fast. Really fast. We rarely take the time to savor our food… or sometimes even to chew it properly.

^^It’s gross isn’t it??^^

You almost can’t look away…don’t be like Homer!

Each time we consume food we are using all five of our senses. We taste and smell the food, hear the crunch, feel the texture, and see the food. Try sitting down to eat in a calm environment with minimal distractions to truly enjoy all the five senses, and get more satisfaction out of eating! Taking time to prepare your food and make it look presentable will help you to enjoy it. Add fruits, veggies, and spices to add a colorful “pop” to your meals!

Did you know it takes a full 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your mind (and mouth for that matter) that you are satisfied? Try spending at least 20-30 minutes eating each meal, and see what a difference it can make! Slowing down is an effective – and maybe the easiest – way to reduce caloric intake at a meal.

Eating slowly offers many benefits:
• Better digestion
• Better hydration
• Easier weight loss or maintenance
• Greater satisfaction with our meals

Digestion is a process made up of many equally important steps that prepare the body to break down everything you put into it to use for energy. Smelling, tasting, chewing, moving the food around, chewing some more, swallowing, chemical and mechanical break down in the gut… When we eat and chew slowly, we allow our brain and body to properly digest the food. Food that is not properly chewed, or eaten too fast can lead to GI problems as well as indigestion. To practice chewing slower, choose high-fiber foods that take more time to chew such as fresh fruits and vegetables. The act of chewing even helps your brain to feel more full – this is why shakes and smoothies can leave you hungry even when they have the same calories as a meal!

Now, we all know that awful feeling of eating way too much and feeling like a balloon. Eating slowly helps us avoid this “inflated” feeling, and gives the brain time to process satisfaction. One research study out of the University of Rhode Island done on women who ate lunch quickly vs women who ate lunch slowly showed those who ate quickly consumed 646 calories in 9 minutes while the women who ate slowly consumed 579 in 29 minutes! That’s 67 calories less in 20 additional minutes – you can see how weight gain can happen if this is happening for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! For weight-loss or more consistent maintenance, try aiming to stop eating when you are only 80% full. Don’t continue eating until about 20 minutes have passed. Then if you are still hungry eat a little more, but if you are not – then don’t.

Here’s a simple strategy to slow down: Count how many bites you take in a minute. The next time you eat, try cutting that number in half. At a minimum, you will be more conscious of your speed.

Check out these other shocking study findings about just how much MORE food we consume when we eat quickly!

The Inside Scoop (Part II)

Welcome back to day-to-day life for those of you who’ve been traveling or “Up North” as they say here in Wisconsin! We hope you all had a great 4th of July, and we know many of you haven’t made as many workouts as is routine this week so you will definitely want to read on to see what you missed during this week’s educational series!

Every day our workouts are a little bit different here at Ellipse Fitness, and we wanted to be sure that all of our members have some understanding of what we are aiming for with our workout programming. Here is our day-by-day look for this week:

(Monday)
Metabolic Conditioning in the broadest sense is a work:rest ratio implemented to elicit a specific response from the body. Different work to rest ratios call upon different energy systems of the body and help us work towards different goals (i.e sports performance, reducing body fat, increasing endurance). The key to getting the most out of “Met Con” is to push as hard as you can through the work period – “GO, GO, GO!” This increases your EPOC (excess post oxygen consumption) after your workout so you can continue to burn fat hours after your session is over!

(Tuesday)
Energy Systems: Ready? It’s about to get a little nerdy up in here…
Tuesday boxing combines cardio and strength. By combining both formats we can recruit all three energy systems (phosphagen, glycolytic and aerobic), boost metabolism, help prevent injury, and break the monotony of standard training protocol while still achieving significant results. The phosphagen system provides energy for all-out type exercises you can only do for 10 seconds or less, the glycolytic system is our intermediary system so to speak – for exercises lasting 30 seconds up to a few minutes minutes, and the aerobic system is utilized for those movements you can sustain longer.

(Wednesday)
HYPERTROPHY!! So much of what we design our workouts around revolves around muscle hypertrophy. In the simplest terms, this means “building muscle”. Hypertrophy includes both the ability to store more glycogen (stored glucose that is mobilized during the above-mentioned glycolytic cycle) and increase of myofibril size (the actual size and strength of the muscle fiber). We want to build more muscle for many reasons, not the least of which are an elevated metabolism and a less injury-prone body!

(Thursday)
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to offer greater benefits to your heart than moderate, steady-state workouts, and it is extremely effective for achieving fat loss, increasing endurance, decreasing blood glucose levels and promoting EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption). EPOC means your metabolism is elevated and you are burning calories/fat for hours following your workout. But there is a catch! During the peak times of the workout you have to push yourself to the limit to truly reap all the benefits of HIIT!

(Friday & Saturday)
Periodization may very well get its very own blog post dedicated to it in the future, because this here is a major piece of what separates a decent exercise routine from an exceptional one. We look at periodization on a day-to-day level, but also on a much broader scale with the understanding that many of our members are here for life! And while it is important to exercise throughout your life, if you just do the same movements the same way over and over and over and over and over…you get the idea…it will eventually lead to imbalance, chronic pain, boredom and most likely injury.

Periodization is a plan. Planned progressions to prevent plateaus. Planned management of fatigue to achieve continual muscular adaptations. Planned program design to avoid repetitive stress which can result in over-training and can set you back months or more.

Results at Ellipse Fitness come from our careful planning and management of your training program. To get the best results from your Ellipse program, arrive early to foam roll and warm up properly, understand the goal of the day’s workout, work to your full potential during the session, and then recover properly after you leave by eating well, getting enough sleep, and balancing stress. The program can’t work quite as well as it is designed if you don’t also do your part – and THAT is why we are stronger together, healthier together, and better together!

The Inside Scoop on Ellipse Workout Programming

A lot goes into our programming at Ellipse Fitness. This week we’ve brought you a sneak peek into the what some of the components are, and the how’s and why’s of what we do at Ellipse to get RESULTS from our members. Each paragraph corresponds to the respective workout of the day, in order throughout this week!

(Monday)
One important component we look at is Training Volume. # of sets X # of reps. More Volume = More Results/Muscle Growth. No matter the reps, the key here is to work up to – or close to – fatigue to continue to achieve results. However, ONLY doing high volume work can lead to burnout or injury which is why we do not perform high volume workouts exclusively.

(Tuesday)
Power is another factor we take into account when designing workouts. Remember our partner-resisted runs and broad jumps earlier this week? Power is a combination of strength and speed that reflects how quickly you can exert force to produce a desired movement. As we age, power diminishes even quicker than strength, so it’s important to make it a part of your fitness program. Power training increases reaction time (think catching yourself during a trip or fall). You can’t be powerful without speed, so if you are strong, work on your speed; if you are fast/reactive, work on the strength piece. It is important to train both aspects for overall health and quality of life.

(Wednesday)
How can you get better at a specific movement or activity? In short, work on the movement pattern! If you struggle stepping up on the boxes, to a specific height or with weight? Work on your split squat, increasing your range of motion first and then adding weight to the movement. If you can’t perform a solid chest press, a push-up will be a real challenge. Both movements require core stability in addition to chest, triceps, shoulders, and back strength, however a push-up forces the core stabilization and works on relative body-weight strength – making it a more difficult move. You may have heard us reference ways to practice push-ups without dropping down to the knees because this common regression takes most of the core work out of the movement, making it difficult to ever progress to a push-up from the full plank position. This principle is called Specificity.

(Thursday)
Much like power, Mobility declines drastically as we age if we don’t continue to work through a full range of motion. Mobility training also promotes healthy joints and helps to prevent injury! Flexibility is only one component of mobility. Mobility is flexibility under tension – think flexibility that you can actually put into practice in your day-to-day life. Passive stretching to improve flexibility can last as little as a few minutes sometimes, while mobility exercises actually change the way your body is able to move. Walking like a monkey is a lot more than just a fun move to practice

(Friday)
Rest Based Training (RBT) is another really effective way to achieve strength gains and fitness results. The motto: Push until you can’t; rest until you can again. This training format prevents overexertion, allowing even high intensity workouts to be executed safely. Studies have shown that when individuals are given the opportunity to control their own work to rest ratios, people exercise at a higher intensity than predicted by the researchers. The rest is shown to make exercise psychologically easier, often providing a more enjoyable workout in addition to being safe and effective.

(Saturday)
If you’re one of our members you’ve probably been waiting to hear us talk about this next one: Kickboxing! In addition to being a really great cathartic experience that allows you to melt stress right out of your body, kickboxing complements our strength training perfectly by addressing some other key factors related to health and well-being. It sharpens the mind by improving neuromuscular connections, coordination and proprioception, it has been shown to slow the effects of degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and it increases you aerobic capacity, abdominal and upper body strength!

Tune in next week for more!

Celebrating 10 Years in Allouez!

Happy birthday to Allouez!

Here is a special letter from Heather Trevarthen, owner of the Allouez (Green Bay) Ellipse Fitness:

It’s amazing how much can change in 10 years. How did it all start you may (or may not) have wondered?

In 2005, I married my wonderful and supportive husband John. John had recently been hired for a job that required us to move from the Green Bay to Appleton/Darboy. Our new adventure would pull me away from the only community I had ever known.

One of my first missions was to find out where my new fitness home would be. I had received a postcard from some place called Livewell (today known as Ellipse Fitness). I attended 5 classes and remember not only having a blast with kickboxing, to an actual boxing bag, but also asking the coach if it was normal to feel EXHAUSTED by the end of the week..seriously could not keep my eyes open. I was no stranger to the gym, by that point, and was used to spending hours in a gym each night…I knew there was something different going on, but what? I was curious how this would work. The trainer assured me it was normal and it was just my body adjusting to something new. He was right. I trusted that my goals were his/their goals. The workouts, even then, were unlike any other place I had ever been to. I HAD to join and be a part of this. I was extremely happy at the results I saw in my body and became more confident in my own abilities.

I knew it was my turn to give back when, in the summer of 2006, I saw this little Livewell studio was rebranding to be Ellipse Fitness and was looking to grow. Even then, I believed in Ellipse and saw the huge potential there was to change lives with this unique fitness concept. A few months later I, and my husband, took a huge risk and began the construction process, of the very first expanded location, in a virtually empty strip mall in Allouez.

Today the Allouez Village Shoppes filled to capacity and running strong!

And so it began! My goal and passion became us, Ellipse Fitness Allouez. We started to reach goals in Allouez. We started to feel better, move better, perform better, and look better!

Michelle was our very first “published” success story.

“Congratulations to you, and to the success of Ellipse!! I miss you and wish I was closer as Ellipse was a true highlight of my life!! I never felt better and my confidence was shining at Ellipse!!! I will always be grateful for that, it will always be home and highly recommended!!!” – Michelle

Thank you for trusting Ellipse and your support over the years! 

Guests and Friends of Ellipse Fitness – We would love for you to see what has kept us in business for 10 years. Community, amazing trainers, and professional group programming …all to get you RESULTS. In the end, that is why Ellipse members keep coming back. Try your first Ellipse Fitness session for just $10.

Watch in the coming months as we spotlight more locations  and some of our members too! If you would like to be part of our spotlight, let us know! We would love to feature your story!

10 Ways to Measure Success

10 Ways to Measure Success

There are plenty of “measurements” used to mark the progress of our clients. Contrary to popular belief, the scale, is the least important form of measurement. Too many people rely on this number to feel good, and then find great disappoint when they don’t see what they want. This happens all too often, though you may be eating perfectly, there are a lot of factors that go into achieving your goals in fitness and health. Here is what we look for at Ellipse Fitness, in no particular order.

1. Scale – As stated above, the scale is a form of measurement. Though we do not base results off of weight, we simply take note of these numbers.
2. Body composition – Ann Morrow, owner of St. Louis says it perfectly, “Measuring the amount of muscle and fat is so much better than weight. Weight doesn’t account for muscle. The more muscle we have, the leaner we appear!”
3. Reduced cravings – You know you’re on track when you push yourself extra hard in a workout because your reward is a protein shake! When motivation increases and someone is pushing themselves to reach goals, things like junk food, desert, and treats become less important and less desirable.
4. Increased Energy – With hard work in the gym and reduced cravings, healthy sleep is more prominent in our lives. With quality rest and nutrition, energy levels rise.
5. Increase in weight (of equipment) – You can tell a lot about progress when a client increases the weight in dumbbell, kettle bell or barbell.
6. Increase in level of body weight exercises – Lead Trainer at ThirdWard Milwaukee, Doug Mueller, explains it best, “Pushups is a great example of this, when a client first comes in and only is capable of doing a limited number of pushups from their knees and now they are doing a high reps from their toes. Also, going from a simpler move to a more complex move is another measure of progression. Going from floor glute bridges to a full kettle bell swing is an amazing progression on the glutes muscle group.”
7. Daily life – Reduction in out of breath moments and increased functionality in daily life. For example, performing yard work, caring for a loved one, more steps on a fit bit, or climbing the stairs. Heather Trevarthen, Owner of Allouez, says, “We had a recent short term program in which a participant’s goal was to feel better. Her knee would bother her and crack going up the stairs. 21 days of training later, her knee does not bother her going up the stairs.”
8. Decreased rest time – After the heart rate is increased, progression is measured by the amount of time needed to recover and be ready for action for the next round.
9. Clothes – Jeans or clothing size in general. This does not mean smaller sizes, but it does mean better fit! In the past, we’ve had a program at Ellipse called “Rock My Jeans.” Participants bring in a pair of jeans that don’t fit them anymore, and by the end of the program, the goal is to be able to zip and button them on comfortably!
10. Self-Esteem – The personal favorite of Ellipse is self esteem. We truly want people feeling better and happier. A new found appreciation for the image in the mirror, and not just because of results, but because of the smile on your face!

So there you have it! Don’t forget, quality of life far outweighs any numbers on a scale. Find your nearest Ellipse Fitness, you won’t regret it! 🙂

Fitness Tip of the Week: Kettlebell Figure 8 Wide Stance Squat

Are you looking for a move that will tone your inner thighs while tightening your booty as well?  Look no further than the Kettlebell Figure 8 Wide Stance Squat!

The wide stance position allows you to drop deeper in your squat with less pressure on your knees and lower back, and then engages and contracts the inner thighs and glute as you drive through your heels and return to a standing position.

In addition, by adding the kettlebell in a figure 8 movement between and around the outside of your legs, you will not only increase your aerobic output, but you’ll burn more calories, as well!  A win, win for low body toning and calorie burning!

 

 

Resistance Tube: Single Arm Triceps Extension

Trying your best to hide those upper arms under long sleeves this fall?  Eliminate the jiggle with this awesome and effective move!

The single arm triceps extension with the resistance tube isolates and strengthens the triceps, making them firmer and stronger.

Once in position, be sure to keep your palm facing up, and your upper arm next to your head while hinging only at the elbow to work the triceps most effectively.

Do this exercise 2-3 times per week and let the flags do all the waving at your next parade!

 

Tricep 2

Fitness Tip of the Week Kettlebell: Squat/Press

The Squat/Press is both a full body strength and cardio exercise.  The squat portion tightens and tones the lower body muscles, the press portion strengthens the shoulders, and the core is activated as you transition between the squat and the press – so it becomes a full body strength move!

Begin with your weight at your chest as you drop down into a squat, then drive through your heels as you propel your body up into an overhead press.

In addition to the full body strength benefits, the Squat/Press is an awesome cardio exercise and great for extra fat burning!