Why on Earth Do We Keep Lifting These Heavy Things??

It is frequently thought, pondered, and questioned, but often this question is not directly asked. Recently a former member inquired:

Why does we push heavy lifting here at Ellipse Fitness?

We can start with the 7 basics that most fitness professionals, weight loss experts, and physical therapist agree with.

7 Basic Reasons to Strength training and Lift Heavy

1. Builds confidence.
2. Burns more fat.
3. Strengthen bones.
4. Builds and strengthens muscles.
5. Prevents injury.
6. Improves endurance.
7. Defines the shape of a human body.

Enough said. Let’s just lift heavy, right? If only it were that simple…

The 4 Problems with Heavy Lifting

1. The term heavy is subjective. For so many of us, our body weight is heavy enough until we can move through the entire range of motion for any prescribed movement pattern. (That is semi-fancy trainer talk for perform an exercise, like a squat, correctly and without a load)

2. Adding a load and knowing when to increase it is confusing. Start small and increase minimally overtime. Increasing weights 2.5% each week or two can deliver amazing results overtime. The key is consistency. One heavy session is more likely to cause soreness, pain or injury as opposed to a progressive training program. Earning each pound added to any movement is required. Try adding load in small increments over the course of 4 weeks.

3. Fear of bulking up is something women tend to worry about more often than men. Some trainers respond with a line about women not having enough testosterone to bulk up, but the problem with this statement is not that it is entirely untrue – which is is. The problem is that the statement doesn’t even address the concerns of the client! Some women do build muscle fast and feel like they are bulking up. Many factors can be considered in this situation. Consuming too many calories, lifting too heavy too soon, etc. Accepting myths about women that change your perception like the “long, lean Pilates look.” That’s not real! We can’t lengthen muscles! These muscles are as long as they are going to be for adults. What we can do is tone and strengthen and maybe most importantly improve your health and quality of life.

4. Lifting as heavy as possible is not recommended every day. Discuss with your trainer how often you should lift heavy, max out, or PR (Personal Record). Muscles need recovery time to avoid injury. Limited recovery time is one of the most prominent issues we see. We are impressed by those who want to give 110% all the time. Inspiring? Of course. Smart? Maybe not always. Proper nutrition, sleep, stretching and foam rolling, and rest is the realm in which our bodies get stronger. Think about it. Lifting heavy causes fatigue and muscle soreness. We cannot, and should not, lift as heavy as possible again until we are fully recovered.

Program design plays a pivotal role in increasing muscle strength and endurance, changing the shape of our bodies, and fat loss. Ellipse Fitness provides many opportunities, on various days of the week, to lift heavy. When scheduling your sessions or selecting your weights on any given day, decide which day is best for you to lift heavy based on what physical activities you’ve planned for the rest of the week, whether you have time to eat a high quality meal near your workout, whether or not you expect to get a full night of sleep, etc. Discuss with your coach/trainer. Goal setting sessions are always available to our members.

Small group sessions allow our members to make strength training a priority. These sessions are available several days a week to ensure that we can get and stay strong. Custom programing is available for our members who have specific goals or limitations.

How heavy is heavy?

I don’t want to be a body builder. Do I really need to bench press my weight?

I don’t like Turkish Get Ups. Why do we do them?

I heard a loaded carry should be 75% of my body weight for 100 yards. Is this true?

We will find many landmarks for activities such as these. It is important to train the body to maintain strength. Once we stop challenging ourselves or even just visiting our perceived limitations, we begin to lose strength and definition. Our work capacity lowers. Our ability to get up and down off the floor weakens. We lose strength. We fall. We break bones. We gain fat. We lose confidence.

WHY should we lift heavy?

Because we can, and because it will ensure that we can into the future.

Osteoporosis and Osteopenia: What You Need to Know

Bone density is a measure of how strong and durable your bones are. Osteopenia is diagnosed when density levels drop, but aren’t quite low enough for an osteoporosis diagnosis. Bones naturally weaken with age as bone cells become reabsorbed into the body quicker than they are reproduced causing them to become weaker and more likely to break during normal everyday activity.

Why Are Women More Susceptible?

About HALF of Americans over the age of 50 get osteopenia! However, women tend to develop osteopenia/porosis much more often than men due to lower peak bone densities and the hormonal effects of menopause. Peak bone density occurs around the age of 30-35 and then begins to decline thereafter. So, young folks out there: try to do whatever you can to attain the highest possible bone density by age 30 to help prevent the natural decline as you age!

Am I at Risk?

Risk factors include, but are not limited to:
• diet low in calcium/vitamin D
• smoking
• inactivity
• regularly drinking colas
• family history
• heavy drinking
• removal of ovaries before menopause.
• chemotherapy
• steroid usage
• metabolic disorders
• GENETICS! Approximately 50-85% of bone mass density is genetic, so take heed if your mother or father suffered from osteoporosis.

Lifestyle changes can stop and/or reduce the progression of osteopenia/osteoporosis. Although some cases may require medication, there are many ways to stop or reduce the progression of bone density loss!

What Can You Do?


But unfortunately not just any exercise counts. Weight-bearing activity is critical, so things like swimming, cycling, etc while they have their own benefits with regards to osteoporosis resistance training is number 1.

Strength training helps prevent osteopenia/osteoporosis by adding stress to the bone causing it to grow stronger and denser – it is basically that simple. Ask your bones to handle higher load and they will respond by building themselves stronger!

Weight bearing is key, but jumping has higher force than jogging so jumping triggers more bone growth for instance, so plyometric movements are particularly effective for improving bone density!
*It’s important to note that for someone currently diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis you should consult your physician before engaging in high intensity exercise given the risks*

Get a Little Sunshine!

About 50% of people worldwide are low in vitamin D due to a combination of living in places with very little sun in the winter along with concerns around skin cancer many have avoided any sun exposure without sunscreen. Merely 10 or 15 minutes a day is enough for significant vitamin D levels!


Six Trainer Tips for Maximizing Your Program

You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”

~ Stephen King

Your trainer can do a lot for you, and well they should – that is what you pay them for after all! But there are some things that YOU must do in order to maximize the benefits from the work you putting in, before you can display any dissatisfaction with your program or lack of results.

Six Things You Must Do To Get The Most Out Of Your Program!

#1 – Foam Roll!

Before. After. At home while you watch TV. On the weekends. Foam rolling is maybe your best tool for preventing injury during workouts, improving your mobility so you can ingrain new functional movement patterns that will last, and improving recovery after workouts! Roll muscle bellies, avoid ligaments, tendons, bony processes and soft areas.

#2 – Do Your Homework!

The buck does not stop with foam rolling before sessions, consider adding mobility work into your daily routine to help open up your problem areas and allow you better movement. Your trainer should already know your tighter, less mobile areas so just ask for some suggestions. Froggers/Quad Rocks for tight hips; Inchworms for hamstrings; Lat Activation for shoulder mobility, etc.

#3 – Acknowledge Your Limitations!

There is ALWAYS a way to regress a movement pattern so that you can be more successful at it. It’s one thing to challenge yourself – and of course you should; it is another to force yourself into an injurious position you are not ready for! To push yourself beyond your limits will reduce and not expand them, working within the edge of your ability is how we get stronger without setbacks, complications and extreme hardship! It has to feel like work, but it doesn’t have to feel like suffering.

#4 – Ask for Progressions!

If you find yourself complacently meandering through a movement wondering why you are wasting your time, point it out to your trainer! We know sometimes people don’t want to be spotlighted or viewed as a show-off, but more than likely if it’s THAT easy you are probably missing a key point of the exercise. Help us help you by keeping open communication about what you’re feeling. Which brings us to our next tip…

#5 – Give Us Feedback!

Let us know what you like or don’t like, and WHY – If you don’t like it because it just feels too hard, maybe it’s time to talk about regressions so you can feel successful. If it hurts your back, knees, neck etc most likely something has gone awry with your movement pattern or a latent injury is rearing its head – both of which your trainer may be able to figure out ways to work around and ultimately help you overcome!

#6 – Do Your Part In The Kitchen!

All the training in the world won’t compensate for poor diet, and we have numerous blog posts that can help steer you in the right direction there. Whether you want to lose weight, bulk up, improve your athletic performance or just reduce your risk of developing the major diseases (CVD, Atherosclerosis, Diabetes, etc.) a major component of reaching your goals is going to be what you put into your body when you are not with your trainer.


We can’t push you to be your best if you are dehydrated or if you are dizzy due to low blood sugar or sluggish due to a belly full because you ate 20 minutes before your session. Get to know your body, try different things and see what works best for you! Below are some resources for more information on nutrition!

What to Eat, When to Eat and What it Means for Your Workouts.

Junk Food Disguised as Health Food

Clean Eating With Convenience

Water and Weight Loss

Deconstructing the Plank

This week we are going to completely break down another one of our most basic moves – the plank! Most people are aware of the planks most central component: a strong core. This week you will discover that there is MUCH more to it than that alone, but let’s start here.

We define the core as any and all muscles that attach to and/or stabilize the spine, which technically probably includes a near majority of the muscles in your body! Your core connects your lower body to your upper body. Most of our daily movement either emanates from the core or moves through it. Being able to actively “turn on” your core is vital for obtaining good posture, is key in balance and stability, maintaining a healthy back, and in everyday activities. Being able to quickly activate or “turn on” your core muscles is often the difference between sustaining injury or not when lifting and/or moving some everyday object or having to react quickly like catching yourself during a trip and near fall.

Now as we talk more about what goes into a quality plank it may help to imagine a soldier – standing at attention.

Their back is tall, ears aligned over their shoulders, legs straight. They are standing at a-TENSION! “Chin up, chest out, shoulders back, stomach in.” Flip them down on the ground with arms forward and you have a beautiful plank! The next time you plank, think to yourself, “if I were flipped up onto my feet, would I be standing tall and straight?” PUSH through your heels in your plank to create tension. Pretend a cat is climbing up your leg, digging in its claws (we know, ouch!). Instinctively your muscles would tighten, pulling the knee cap “up” on the thigh – the front of your leg is now “engaged”.

Next, pretend your pelvic bone is a bowl. Slightly tip the bowl backward like you are trying to pour water out of your back side (gross image, but bare with us). This engages, or creates tension in the external obliques, rectus abdominis, glutes, and hamstrings. Check out this great article to get more in-depth with pelvic tilt!

Hopefully by this point in the article, you have gathered that planking includes alignment and tension throughout the body! This continues into the upper body. Be sure your elbows are securely under your shoulders. Turn your palms down, and spread your fingers for the most sensory input (no prayer hands!). Push your body up into your upper back, or in other words lift yourself through the shoulders – don’t allow them to collapse together on your back. Your head should be aligned with spine – think about giving yourself a double chin. If there were a pole on your back it should make contact at the back of your head, shoulders, and tailbone.

Now that you’ve found all this tension in your body it is time to find a little movement! A strong plank is in part created by proper breathing, meaning breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. When you breathe deeply, you should feel your entire rib cage and belly expand to its fullest extent. When exhaling all the way you activate your deep core muscles, which is exactly what want to be calling upon during planks! So many of us are chronic “mouth breathers” which can lead to a whole host of issues like exercise induced asthma, sleep apnea, chronic hyperventilation and even increased allergy symptoms. Now, take a DEEP breath…or MANY deep breaths!

So that’s it. Nothing to it, just: TENSION (stand tall), feet dorsiflexed, quads/front of legs engaged (cat claws!), slightly tip the pelvis (belly button to spine and close to nose) for core activation, elbows under shoulders, chest into upper back, head alignment, BREATHE!

Go forth…and plank

Fitness Tip of the Week – Dumbbell: Plank w/Renegade Row

The plank with Renegade row is an awesome and one of our most challenging core stability moves, combing a lat row with a plank.

Begin in a plank position with your dumbbells under your shoulders and your feet wide for balance.  Alternate your rowing arm by leading with the elbow and contracting the shoulder blade; or modify this move by rowing only one arm, or rowing on your knees or in a table position with the opposite leg extended.

Remember, full body strength cannot be obtained without first developing a strong core and the Plank with Renegade Row is one of the most effective moves for getting the job done!

Breakfast Protein Shake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Breakfast Shake

■ 3 tbsp shelled hemp seeds
■ 1 tbsp cocoa powder
■ 2 tbsp PB2
■ 1 ripe banana
■ 1 cup non dairy milk
■ a splash of vanilla (optional)
■ 1 tbsp coconut nectar (optional)

1. Place all the ingredients into a blender and process until well combined.
2. For a frosty type shake add in some ice and blend until smooth.

A Tale of One Half Marathon

Having previously participated in the “Go! St. Louis Marathon and Half,” a weekend featuring foot races of many distances, I found it difficult in 2009 to leave the event off of my calendar entirely. I recently purchased my own fitness business, sent my youngest of three children off to kindergarten, and increased my volunteer activities in the community. My schedule was brimming with activities that my calendar simply couldn’t handle. I would be unable to train for the event and resigned myself to the fact that I would not be participating in the 13.1 mile race for the first time in four years. However, I decided forty-eight hours prior to the event that this would be my greatest half-marathon to date, and, as any experienced distance runner knows, it is hardly about the race but the preparation.
It was while watching a prime time weather forecast late Friday evening that predicted rain for the event that I recall wondering if I would be able to complete the race without a typical fourteen week training program. “Expect cold, wet pavement for the ‘Go! St. Louis’ events this Sunday…” Running in the rain has been something I, gratefully, managed to avoid in all the previous foot races. Running in wet shoes, I imagine, is not a pleasant experience. Imagine cement blocks tied to your feet. I suppose running 13.1 miles didn’t seem like enough of a challenge for me anymore. Add a literal April shower with zero mileage on my feet, I’d consider it.
I went to bed early Friday under a full moon wondering. Could I? Would I? Should I? As my eyelids became heavier, I was still unsure. My rooster would crow at 3am the morning of the event. Crossing the finish line remained in my dreams and the thought consumed me.
As the sun sank low Saturday night, I recall gathering my thoughts which were racing in my head already. Where are my shoes? What should I wear? My thoughts were scattered like the spring storms approaching the area. I needed them to come together like a cold air mass meeting a warm air mass to create the perfect storm.
As if on the saddle of a winged horse, I flew through the house collecting necessary accessories. I put on everything I would wear less than 12 hours from that present time. I charged up my iPod and created a musical playlist to stay entertained on the course. I knew I could do it, but I also knew it would not be easy
I thought a warm bath would hopefully begin the process of relaxation. The steaming bathwater made me sweat more than the run would. I started to map out the course in my head. Anticipating water stops, hill climbs, and iconic scenery of St. Louis, relaxation began to slip away. Anxiety and excitement replaced it.
Finally, I tied up all the loose ends and headed off to bed. After 60 restless minutes, I decided it didn’t matter anymore. I had too many doubts, questions, and valid concerns about my ability to complete this endeavor safely. As the owner of an increasingly popular fitness facility, I wondered how my demise would read as a headline in the newspaper. After all I didn’t even train. I am certainly not coming in first place. No one expects me to run. Therefore if I overslept, I simply wouldn’t go. I could easily forget this childlike motivation I felt for the past twenty-four hours. Everyone knows that it is the training that matters. It is not the race.
At the start of the next morning, which was at three o’clock, I stretched from head to toe before getting out of bed. The excitement did not go away. I was more motivated than ever. Good thing the clothes were lined up and waiting for me. I was anxiously awaiting my coffee cup. It needed to be filled, caressed, and emptied at least twice. I was waiting for the nerves to kick in entirely, but it felt like I was headed out for a recreational run in downtown St. Louis.
“The Star Spangled Banner” began the festivities followed by a gunshot that droves about 40,000 feet over the starting line. Running through landmarks such as the brewery, alongside the Mississippi River, and in front of the Gateway Arch represented the charm of a great city camouflaged in rain, thunder, prodding feet, and athletes of all abilities. My feet began to feel very heavy as the steady rain soaked them to the sole. The rolling hills of St. Louis City didn’t help matters. My thighs felt heavy as buckets of rocks.
I was determined to find a cadence. The perfect song, “American Idiot,” played through my iPod. How appropriate was that? Gliding through the course with an ease I did not expect at mile 10, a confidence allowed my feet to travel effortlessly as the miles flowed under my feet like water under a bridge. As the rain grew in intensity, the wind began to whip through the tall city buildings adorning Market Street. The Old Courthouse was at the top of the hill right in front of the highly anticipated finish line. Sprinting to the end came naturally. I crossed the finish line in two hours and four minutes.
It was a personal record and a mental victory that I will never forget. As a volunteer placed a medal around my neck, I realized that I had indeed trained for this event. It seems hindsight showed me that my life is much more difficult that running 13.1 miles in one outing.
Life is good training. Just make sure you are in good physical condition to run with it.

Ellipse Fitness to Sponsor 5k & 10k Brown Deer Run/Walk

March 24, 2011

Ellipse Fitness to Sponsor 5k & 10k Brown Deer Run/Walk

Milwaukee, WI. – Ellipse Fitness is pleased to announce they will be sponsoring the 5k & 10k Run in Brown Deer scheduled for April 30th 2011. Part of the sponsorship includes offering a 20 minute pre race warm up stretch as well as a 20 minute cool down and stretch session for participants of the race. Melaina Marinello, General Manager of Ellipse Fitness – Mequon will teach both classes. Her efforts helped secure the sponsorship with the City of Brown Deer.

“Ellipse Fitness is all about promoting health and wellness. This is a great opportunity to participate in and a fun community event. Our staff is very excited to meet the people in the Brown Deer community and help runners warm up and cool down. We also look forward to introduce our programs and teach people what Ellipse Fitness is all about.”

Ellipse will have an event table during the race for people interested to learn more about their fitness and weight loss programs. Over the last three months they have opened new studios in Brookfield, Mequon and Third Ward.

About Ellipse Fitness
Founded in 2002, Ellipse Fitness is a classes-only fitness and nutrition franchise specializing in providing regularly scheduled group exercise classes and nutrition programs for our members. Our proprietary workout programs emphasize functional movement, cardiovascular training, building core strength and increasing lean muscle mass. For information on programs and locations please visit For information about owning an Ellipse Fitness franchise please visit

For More Information, Contact:
Todd Weiss
Ellipse Fitness
Phone: 866-934-7167

Busy-ness vs. Wellness: You’re working too hard!

You can’t stop what you are doing to smell the roses, plan a healthy dinner, cook, exercise, etc. You are “way too busy for that.” Who will get the kids where they need to be, pay bills, cut the grass, put away the laundry. No one else is going to do it. Right? Of course they are not going to do it. You are absolutely correct. There are two key elements, or secrets even, to getting others to do more work so you don’t have to do it all. No one will do any work to help you unless YOU ASK THEM to do it. Want to know the other secret to getting those around you to work harder? Shhh…don’t tell anyone…ready? YOU HAVE TO STOP DOING IT! If you always do it, why would anyone else EVER do it? They don’t care how much you gripe and moan so long as it gets done.
Chances are you are doing work that is not yours to do. You are probably running yourself ragged so that your kids can play video games or watch tv “until it’s time to go.” You are most likely getting everything ready for everything so all anyone else has to do is pick up their fork or their car keys. What is that doing to your nutrition, fitness, stress levels, marriage, and overall wellness?  What is it doing to those around you?  You’re not really helping anyone.
A good business owner knows that training your staff must happen on a regular basis. It increases productivity, morale, and personal satisfaction. A good fitness instructor/trainer knows that training your body must happen on a regular basis as well. Working particular groups of muscles while others rest, repair, and gain strength. Don’t these traits apply to all individuals no matter their line of work, birth order, or marital status?
If you didn’t know it before, you know it now. Practice it. Train others. Set that example. We are all required to teach and share what we learn. It will increase your productivity, morale, personal satisfaction, and wellness.

Go! St. Louis

Well, the St. Louis contingent is fired up and ready to run.  Right?  Today is the first day of the Go! St. Louis Family Fitness Weekend.  The Missouri crew started training on January 1 of this year.  We have endured brutally cold tempatures, snow, rain, and temptations to go out to breakfast as opposed to running on more than one occasion.  It’s all about to pay off.

There is something pretty amazing about the fact that the hard part of the race is over.  You have all earned a spot at the starting line.  The finish line is out there and not nearly as far away as it may feel when the gun goes off.  Enjoy every step of the way, the comradie of the other participants, the sights and sounds of our beautiful city, and the support of the Ellipse family in Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York!  You are well trained (if I do say so myself) and ready for results!

There will be emotional and overwhelming moments on the course.  Embrace them.  Look at the inspiration all around you.  There are folks running in memoriam, with cancer, fighting obesity, building confidence, and a multitude of other reasons you can’t even imagine.  Run in their uplift.  Enjoy the fans.  They are there for YOU!

Have a great day.  GO TEAM!

Wear you medal all day.  Wear it all day on Monday too with your race shirt.  Be proud.  You’re amazing!