Prepare for your Exam
The NCSF Personal Trainer Blog is a professional media outlet that addresses current topics and issues facing the Personal Training Profession. Blog topics cover a variety of content domains that fall under the scope of professional practices of the Certified Personal Trainer. The blog entries are created by subject matter experts and are designed to engage both practicing and aspiring personal trainers. Subscription is optional and entries are added on a regular basis. The organization encourages you to participate and hopes you find the NCSF Personal Trainer Blog assistive in meeting your professional needs.
Memorial Day is often designated as the unofficial first day of summer in the United States. Across America, youth baseball and soccer tournaments are occurring alongside family get-togethers and mini-vacations. While Memorial Day provides for a wonderful long weekend to enjoy outdoor activities, it is important to not forget the origins of the holiday.
Cardiovascular training is essential for reducing the risk of a variety of western diseases, losing weight and generally improving one’s quality of life. The direct benefits of cardiovascular training on the heart include improvements in stroke volume and a lowered resting heart rate. While significant improvements can be made in 3 months of training, a high volume of aerobic conditioning is required for optimized results. According to the literature, aerobic training should be performed most days of the week and total of 14-20 calories per kilogram of body weight burned. Due to the high frequency of training needed for cardiovascular improvements, it is easy for training to become stale, leading towards incomplete adherence or even cessation of the training program. Therefore, it is imperative that trainers find ways to not only make aerobic training efficient, but also enjoyable for the client.
Walk into any fitness facility in the early morning hours and interview exercising individuals about their pre-workout eating habits and you will most likely receive a large variety of responses. It is a common belief that if one works out early in the morning, it is imperative to consume a small meal prior to commencing exercise. The belief stems from the notion that the working muscles will be devoid of energy if one has not eaten since the night before. While there is a benefit of a pre-workout meal as discussed in this article, the prior concept of “muscle energy” is completely false.
Anaerobic endurance training focuses on the physiological improvements in the muscles’ ability to endure force output through both neural and metabolic mechanisms. System efficiency is best demonstrated during prolonged stress upon the anaerobic system. Interestingly, repeatable actions lasting 30-60 seconds are highly dependent on the interaction of the anaerobic and aerobic systems. For individuals looking to maintain force output and lean mass, while attaining better endurance, the focus should be placed on the anaerobic system. A common error among many athletes and fitness enthusiasts is to do cardiovascular exercise in attempts to get in better shape. However, for both anaerobic and aerobic improvements without the consequences of aerobic training, higher intensity exercise should be used. To successfully implement the anaerobic endurance phase, an understanding of work:recovery ratios needs to be established.
If any number of athletes were asked about vitamin and mineral supplementation, they would most likely read off a laundry list of various pills and powders that they consume. In general, most athletes and health conscious exercisers are apprehensive about not reaching adequate vitamin and mineral intake. However, no current research supports consuming vitamins and minerals above RDA (recommended daily allowance) will lead to improved performance.
Circuits are a useful training system for anaerobic exercises as they allow for higher volumes of training in a shorter period of time. An added benefit of this style of training is its ability to help maximize caloric expenditure while performing exercises that promote lean mass maintenance. The work-to-rest ratios commonly used can also improve muscular endurance as well as add to cardiovascular efficiency. Circuits are a popular choice among personal trainers because of the time-tension relationship which helps with the two-three day workout schedules common of the clientele. Additionally it allows for diversity in a manner that addresses multiple goals simultaneously. The system can be employed in numerous ways, but in most cases anywhere from 6-12 exercises are performed in a sequential fashion for a predefined period of time or specific repetition range; with only transitional or short (15 sec) rest periods between actions.
During the flu season, those who exercise vigorously on a regular basis should take extra steps to ensure their immune system remains strong. Many do not realize that an intense training regimen can suppress immune function; especially when combined with inadequate recovery and nutritional support.
The benefits of exercise can be greatly improved by consuming appropriate nutrients with optimal timing before and/or after the event. While macronutrients such as protein and carbohydrates are commonly associated with optimized post-workout recovery, recommendations related to specific food choices vary across the board and are subject to opinion.
Isolated exercises can be useful for maximizing specific muscle activation, but many clients will obtain greater benefits from the steady inclusion of compound, multi-joint exercises that connect cooperative force couples across the kinetic chain. Cross-joint, closed-kinetic chain lifts are advantageous for promoting maximal muscle activation and caloric expenditure, enhancing stabilizer muscle strength/endurance, and improving how well cooperative body segments work together during functional movements. Body segment connectivity can be improved with exercises that effectively connect the sling systems through the refinement of motor patterning and neural synchronicity. Lifts that connect segments of the kinetic chain can also serve to improve muscle balance and absolute force/power output potential over time. Muscles that work cooperatively produce more force than those that work in isolation.
Thanksgiving is here, and so follows vast images of food. While historically a feast was the foundation for a celebration of giving thanks – it is unlikely the forefathers envisioned what has turned out to be the greatest national caloric imbalance. This emphasis on eating for the holiday is well reflected in its common nickname - Turkey Day. Thanksgiving is undoubtedly a time for gathering with family and friends for a meal dutifully prepared by the host to show their care for those whom the meal is shared. Appreciation for the effort given in preparing such an extravagant meal is clearly demonstrated, as many people eat to discomfort. Psychological sciences professor Don Saucier of Kansas State University says the over-indulgence is due to society’s shift in vision, from simply gathering together for social enrichment to eating a large meal, for social validation.
Successfully reaching most fitness goals takes time, effort and dedication; concepts that are becoming seemingly foreign in today’s “I want it now” culture. For example, losing fat or gaining muscle are both generally slow processes that require notable caloric expenditure, intelligent caloric intake and specific exercise stresses. Many people love to entertain the thought of pursuing such goals, but when it comes down to taking on the actual work that must be engaged, as well as setting realistic objectives - the allure of the challenge can quickly dissipate. Poor exercise adherence or completely giving up on a fitness goal is often based on physiological and psychological factors that limit success.
Fat loss is one of the most common goals among individuals seeking personal training services. Most trainers know that a multifactorial approach is best when attempting to help a client lose fat in a safe and expedient fashion. The training program itself must focus on maximal caloric expenditure. Concurrent nutritional modifications must promote a negative caloric balance while still preserving macro/micronutrient adequacy for health and lean mass conservation. Fat loss is obtainable for all clients, albeit at varying rates depending on their physical condition or any limitations/special needs; but proper protocol must be followed to facilitate ideal results. The first step in this process is to filter through the various misconceptions surrounding fat loss to ensure all efforts help drive the client toward their ultimate goal.
It is well known that numerous forms of bacteria thrive inside the human body. For example, it has been estimated that about five pounds of bacteria reside within the intestinal tract of a healthy adult. Unfortunately, our coexistence with microorganisms does not end there, as bacteria also flourish on every inch of the skin. These bacteria propagate in varying quantities in different areas; about 100 bacteria live within each square centimeter on one’s forearm, versus 10 million per square centimeter in the armpits, navel, groin, and spaces between the toes. These colonies have a large role in the development of body odor when an individual sweats, even though perspiration in itself is known to be sterile and not produce foul odors. New research shows that it is primarily the environment we provide for these microbe havens (in the form of clothing) that has a major impact on the development/severity of embarrassing aromas.
Consumers are increasingly turning to over-the-counter (OTC) enzyme supplements based on the belief that they can aid digestion and improve overall health. However, as with most supplements, research has demonstrated minimal positive results when compared to anecdotal data. In clinical settings, enzyme supplements are prescribed for individuals suffering from issues that impact digestive function, such as pancreas dysfunction. Conversely, OTC enzymes such as bromelain or papain (derived from pineapples and papaya respectively) are readily consumed by healthy individuals.
New legislation is making “gluten-free” labelling more stringent. This marks the end of a year-long period of adjustment that companies were given to reduce the gluten content in food items labelled “gluten-free” to 20 parts per million. The rationale behind 20 parts per million is at this density, the majority of individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity will not suffer an inflammatory reaction.
Despite iron being a key mineral in the formation of oxygen-binding molecules within the body, iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. In fact, approximately 30-50% of the adult female population is believed to be iron deficient. Dietary iron comes in two natural forms; non-heme iron found in plant-based foods (2-10% absorption rate), and heme-iron found in animal products (10-30% absorption rate). Heme-iron is known to have the highest bioavailability, even when compared to iron supplements.
The phrase “dog years” is often used by veterinarians and pet lovers. When used it is intended to refer to the correlation between a dog reaching maturity and aging – providing an easy comparison to human aging. But when it comes to your heart, is there such a thing as “heart years”? Cardiovascular research has pointed to the use of carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) scores to indicate heart age. The IMT (measured in mm) is based on average plaque thickness, and has been directly correlated with age. For example, average scores start at 0.56 mm, at age 40, and subsequently increase to 0.65 mm, 0.74 mm and 0.80 mm as age increases to 50, 60 and 65 years respectively. However, lifestyle factors can greatly increase or decrease an individual’s IMT score at any age.
Flexibility is technically defined as the ability of a joint to move through a full range of motion (ROM) around its axis. However, a lack of flexibility at a given joint can negatively impact all the surrounding tissues. Mechanics are based on moving parts and stabilizing segments, and when dysfunction occurs it affects the kinetic chain. Flexibility plays a major role in posture, joint function, muscle recovery, reducing the risk for injury, and optimal performance during physical activity. Static, dynamic, ballistic, active-assisted and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretches as well as various myofascial release techniques can be used to enhance ROM. Fitness professionals unfamiliar with the science behind flexibility will not understand how each technique functions as a potential tool for improvement, and may find themselves making poor decisions based on a client’s needs.
Numerous public health initiatives have been implemented throughout the US in recent years aimed at potentially reducing the prevalence of obesity. Most have focused on either promoting increased physical activity levels or educating the general population on how to make better nutritional choices. A well-known example implemented at the state level was the recent attempt to ban the selling of oversized sugary beverages by restaurants and businesses in New York City - aptly recognized as the “soda-ban”. According to new updates, New Yorkers can now sip their super-sized sodas without concern if they choose. Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to limit the sale of large sugary drinks was recently rejected by the state's highest court, which ruled the local health board overstepped its authority in approving the regulation.
It may be argued that almost any positive behavior can be taken to an extreme that actually ends up impacting physical and psychological health in a negative manner. Exercise is one of those behaviors, as regular engagement is beneficial and can contribute to health, disease prevention, and mental well-being; but it can also become an addiction. “Exercise addiction is a process addiction in which a person engages in compulsive, mood-altering behaviors with the intention of avoiding painful feelings,” said Kim Dennis, MD, CEO and medical director of Timberland Knolls Residential Treatment Center. “Those addicted to exercise chase the ‘high,’ and this behavior ultimately becomes unmanageable and destructive.”
In a culture that seeks instant gratification, personal trainers must often cater to clients who desire to lose weight and lose it now. Clients requesting assistance in rapid weight loss must be educated on how the body functions as well as its adaptation responses. Clients must also be made aware of the processes behind physiological changes and the increasing potential for negative physical and psychological side-effects once the safe threshold of 1-2 lbs lost per week is surpassed. Remember, losing just one pound in a week requires a negative caloric balance of at least 500 kcals per day. Let’s consider the request of losing 10 lbs in a month – what is the client really asking to accomplish? In theory, he or she can only attain this goal if a 35,000 kcal deficit is expedited over the course of that month. This equates to ~1,166 kcals per day; even if split evenly between exercise and nutritional modification, daily demands would stand at limiting food consumption by ~580 kcals while also burning ~580 kcals via structured exercise. One less meal per day could be consumed while performing additional voluntary work equal to about a 6-mile run.
Since Wikipedia’s launch in 2001, it has become the most popular general reference site on the Internet. It is a widely used resource for health care information among not only the general public but also physicians and medical students; 47-70% of whom admit to using it as a reference. Wikipedia’s fundamental design as a “collaborative database” allows users the ability to add, delete and edit information. This characteristic has raised concern in the medical community regarding the reliability and accuracy of the information on the website. A recent study published in the in Journal of the American Osteopathic Association has substantiated these concerns, finding numerous factual errors in 9 out of 10 Wikipedia articles when compared to recognized peer-review journals.
Consider this: your best friend tells you that she is going to audition for American Idol and performs her try-out song for you… and it’ s terrible. She can’t carry a tune. What do you do? Do you risk hurting her feelings and tell her the truth; that she is a terrible singer and has no chance of winning? Or, do you play it safe and tell her she sounded great and wish her luck? Unfortunately, most people opt for the latter.
Safe driving makes the road better for everyone; buying homes, having children and going to school are activities that encourage economic growth. These behaviors provide relatively clear benefits, from both monetary and ethical standpoints, to society as whole. In return, safe drivers receive discounts and cash bonuses from their auto insurance companies and Americans are able to deduct expenses related to the above activities from their annual taxes. Essentially, when people participate in activities or behaviors that save money, they are being financially rewarded. These rewards provide motivation and appear to strongly encourage the continuance of such behaviors. This begs the question then, why is this same principle not applied more heavily to preventative health measures?
In February, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a 43% drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year old children over the past decade, suggesting that young Americans are making strides in the fight against obesity. According to this report, about 8% of this population was obese in 2011-2012, down from 14% in 2003-2004. Headlines in The New York Times touting this new information read, “Obesity Rate for Young Children Plummets 43% in a Decade”. Cynthia Ogden, a researcher for the CDC and lead author for the report, cautioned that while this research was “exciting”, these young children make up a very small fraction of the American population and that the figures for the broader society had remained flat or had even increased; perhaps suggesting that this headline may be sending an inaccurate message about obesity in America. Nonetheless, many theories arose to explain this decline in childhood obesity.
The supplement industry has always been a buyer-beware market due to a lack of manufacturer oversight and regulation before products reach the marketplace. The weight-loss supplement, OxyElite Pro, manufactured by USPLabs, illustrates a recent example of this risk. The product claims to be a thermogenic fat-burner to aid in weight loss, but it seems to have the potential to negatively impact organ cells outside of adipose tissue. It has been directly linked to 97 cases of hepatitis; nearly half of which required hospitalization, three created the need for liver transplantations and one resulted in death. These findings were presented in a paper authored by Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance in the New England Journal of Medicine (April 2014). Hepatitis is a serious medical condition defined by inflammation of the liver caused by a range of viruses; or less commonly, bacteria, funguses or parasites. Non-pathogenic causes include tainted drug/supplement intake, excessive alcohol consumption, fatty liver disease as well as autoimmune or metabolic disorders.
Clients who regularly compete in events from 5Ks to marathons and beyond will agree that steps must be taken to reduce the risk for gastrointestinal (GI) tract problems during both races and training sessions. It is well-known that long-duration endurance training can directly damage the GI tract and cause debilitating symptoms, especially when combined with inappropriate nutritional intake. Research indicates the 30-50% of endurance athletes experience some sort of GI issues related to their training.
Current statistics show that obesity rates amongst individuals in the US have remained relatively stable over the last 10 years. Meaning, little progress and little loss seems to have been attained in the battle against this epidemic which impacts society at every level. According to a new study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 8.1% of infants and toddlers, 16.9% of 2- to 19-year-olds and 34.9% of adults aged 20 years or older were obese. These values were attained from 9,120 participants who took part in the 2011-2012 nationally-representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Overall, there have been no significant changes from 2003-2004 through 2011-2012 in high weight (for recumbent length) among infants and toddlers, obesity among 2- to 19-year-olds, or obesity among adults. However, there was a significant decrease in obesity among 2- to 5-year-old children (from 13.9% to 8.4%) and a significant increase in obesity among women aged 60 years and older (from 31.5% to 38.1%).
In 2014 heart disease has remained the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Interestingly, most people fear dying of cancer rather than suffering a fatal cardiac event; and according to a new report from the Cleveland Clinic about three-quarters (74%) of Americans do not fear dying from this most likely cause. The Cleveland Clinic conducted a survey of 1,005 adults (502 men and 503 women 18 years of age and older) living in the continental United States as part of their consumer awareness campaign coined “Love Your Heart”, in recognition of Heart Month. In addition to the seeming apathy Americans have for heart disease, the survey also identified that most people are generally misinformed concerning heart disease prevention and symptoms. Among Americans with high risk, such as those with a family history of the disease (39%), 26% do not take any preventative steps to protect their heart health. This may be no surprise as the majority (70%) of Americans are unfamiliar with the symptoms of heart disease; yet 64% of those surveyed have or know someone who has the disease.
Do you suffer from Caffeine Use Disorder? Caffeine is the most widely-used drug in the world, and with social acceptance a key driver, many people are demonstrating clear signs of addition. Caffeine is found in many beverages including coffee, tea, and soda; but is also common in over-the-counter pain relievers as well as a whole host of dietary supplements (including food and beverage-based products) branded with some form of the word "energy." Products like 5-hour energy and caffeine shots are very common items at most convenience stores and remain available to all consumers including children; demonstrating the casualty of the drug.
Physical activity is a key component to maintaining a person’s physical and mental well-being – so why do doctors not use it as a vital sign? In the past, independent measures have been used including blood pressure and resting heart rates as indicators of health with the assumption that these measures are indicative of a healthy lifestyle. But without using participation or assessment of physical activity as a relevant component to health, how can a physician gauge all of the other attributes associated with active lifestyles; including positive effects on musculoskeletal function, systemic inflammation, stress, and psychological wellbeing.
The fitness industry is constantly giving birth to new methods of training. Many of these methods are not supported by scientific research but are rather fueled by anecdotal claims and flashy marketing. While some stand the test of time others fall to the wayside once associated infomercials run their course. Occasionally, a new training method arises which seems to have true merit the fitness industry - one such method is Whole Body Vibration Training (WBV). The idea behind WBV is to overload both the muscular and nervous systems to expedite adaptation responses within the body. The body’s ability to produce force is calculated by multiplying the mass of an object by the acceleration of that same object (F = m x a). Traditional resistance training helps to improve force by increasing the mass component of the equation while WBV training functions be increasing the acceleration component of the equation.