App of the Week: AthleteMinder

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What happens when you hit the gym, dig into a practice or head out to set your best mile time? Aside from that familiar increase in blood flow, you immediately become acquainted with the numbers that attach themselves so tightly to perceived performance.

Every machine at the gym flickers methodically while processing a whole slew of exercise variables. Heart rate monitors beep away, filling you in on cardiovascular strain and whether or not you’re pushing as “hard” as you were yesterday. Your coach shouts that you’re 12 seconds slower than your teammate.

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Q&A with Mike Furci

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A column by Bullz-Eye Fitness Editor Mike Furci that brings you research, trends and other info to help you with your fitness, health and nutritional needs.

Q: Mike,
I am a 60 year old male and love to do squats but my technique suffers at times because I always want to go heavy. I realize that you have other things to do than answer questions but I notice in the pictures that your eyes are looking straight ahead. I have been re-evaluating my squatting technique and was told that the eyes should be looking up as high as possible as you go down in the squat. The logic given was that this keeps your back straighter. Which is the right way?

How do you ensure that you are going low enough on each rep?
How many times a week should you do squats to get the most improvement?

Thanks for any help you can give.
Dave Patterson

A: David,
Thanks for your questions.
One doesn’t have to look up in order to attain proper form when squatting. However, looking up is an excellent way to help ensure your form is correct especially for those lacking experience. The object of looking up is to get your head to extend. By looking up it will help keep your back in the proper position by helping to prevent flexion or “rounding”. If you look up w/o extending your head slightly toward the ceiling, you won’t get a benefit. The body follows the head.

Another way to ensure your back is engaged properly is to take a deep breath right before lowering the weight. This helps ensure your chest is up and builds intra-abdominal pressure which helps stabilize the entire spine.

I look straight ahead most of the time when I squat. However, he heavier I go, the more my head extends toward the ceiling and deeper my breaths get.

To ensure proper depth, have somebody watch you while your warming up. “Parallel” is what you want to shoot for when squatting. Your femur or thigh bone should be level with the floor at the bottom of the movement. An easy way to judge this is by making sure the crease where your thigh meets your hip (at the bottom of the movement) is level with the top of your knee.

If done correctly, the squat is by far the single most taxing exercise on your body. For this reason I recommend only squatting once per week at the most. You will need this time to recover.

Keep up the good work. Let me know how you do.

Mike

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10 questions with US Soccer captain Clint Dempsey

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Clint Dempsey is the captain of the US Men’s National soccer team, which is only fitting, because he is one of the most decorated soccer players in US history.

The $4 million dollars English club team Fulham offered Major League Soccer (MLS) for his services in 2006 was the highest amount ever offered for an MLS player. Dempsey went on to score the most goals in the Premier League in franchise history, including becoming the first American player to score a hat-trick in the English Premier League.

In 2012, he was transferred to Tottenham Hotspur for $6 million dollars and made the highest salaried US soccer player of all-time. Dempsey has scored the fastest goal in World Cup qualifying history (53 seconds) and is one of only two American players (along with Brian McBride) to score goals in multiple World Cup tournaments.

We spoke to Clint about working with the Degree DO: MORE campaign, the World Cup and his career.

1. Talk about your partnership with Degree: DO MORE and how one lucky soccer fan can win a trip to Brazil in June to support you and the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team.

Degree is working with soccer and promoting the game. And also they’ve got the new deodorant now out with Degree Motion Sense technology where the more you move the more protection you get. The cool thing about it the campaign is, if you go to degreesoccer.com, a fan can win a trip to Brazil to join us at the World Cup this summer, so that will be exciting.

2. Does it feel different to score a goal in a league game compared to the World Cup?

Yes, because of the buildup and it’s such a difficult process to try to qualify for the World Cup. And when you’re there, you don’t know if you’re going to play three games or have the opportunity to play more. And then once you’re there, you advance out of the group, and then when you’re out of the group, then anything can happen and you got to the playoffs so you go farther and farther. You work so hard for four years leading up to three games, and you have to make the most of those three games, so that’s why you feel so much emotion when you do score and know the fans are behind the team, because you’ve waited for this moment for so long and you don’t know if you’ll ever get it again.

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Did You Know… with Mike Furci

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A column by Mike Furci that brings you research, trends and other info to help you with your fitness, health and nutritional needs.

…agriculture is trashing our environment. The Telegraph discusses what decades of agriculture has done to the life of our soil.

“American scientists have made an unsettling discovery. Crop farming across the Prairies since the late 19th Century has caused a collapse of the soil microbia that holds the ecosystem together.

A team at the University of Colorado under Noah Fierer used DNA gene technology to test the ‘verrucomicrobia’ in Prairie soil, contrasting tilled land with the rare pockets of ancient tallgrass found in cemeteries and reservations. The paper published in the US journal Science found that crop agriculture has “drastically altered” the biology of the land. “The soils currently found throughout the region bear little resemblance to their pre-agricultural state,” it concluded.”
(The Telegraph Nov 27, 2013)

It’s obvious what big agriculture and the government has done to our environment and food supply. It’s time to start supporting local farming.

…in the 1970s, researchers who believed our deteriorating diet had a profound effect on crime, tried to reduce crime through diet. “Research by Hippchen, Schoenthaler, Schauss, and others concluded that hypoglycemia, caused by a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, could account for most of anti-social behavior, they found that hypoglycemia causes the brain to secrete glutamate, a neurotoxin, which leads to agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, panic attacks and violent behavior.”

It’s becoming more apparent that our deteriorating diet in the U.S. is cause for alarm. The meteoric increase in many disorders and diseases (i.e., autism, depression, cancer and diabetes) has a linear relationship to denatured and devitalized modern foods.
((2013). Wise Traditions, 14(1), 19-35.)

…many trainers and coaches still espouse to pre-exercise warm-up that includes stretching. The objective of a study conducted by Brazilian researchers from the University of Sao Paulo was to compare the effects of static stretching, ballistic stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation on maximal strength, number of repetitions at a sub-maximal load (endurance) and total volume. All 12 participants completed eight weight training sessions. Four were designed to stretch prior to weight training. Researchers found that all stretching protocols significantly improved range of motion, but significantly reduce leg press one leg maximum, number of repetitions at a sub-maximal load and total volume. (J Strength Cond Res 26(9): 2432–2437, 2012)

…the barbell back squat (BBS) is widely regarded as the king of all exercises. It is without question. No other exercise works as many major muscle groups as thoroughly or as intensely as the squat. It is also a highly functional and safe exercise, and is used as a key component of many strength training programs including Olympic lifting. The BBS is also a mainstay in bodybuilding routines given its record for overall leg development. Because of its efficacy and versatility, the squat has been studied repeatedly for many different purposes. A review published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined studies that investigated muscle activation during the BBS to clarify how the exercise can be appropriately applied for different goals. The following are some highlights of this review:

• Increasing the stance width increases the activation of the adductors and gluteus maximus, but not the quadriceps or hamstrings.
• Activation of the muscles of the legs and trunk increase as a consequence of the increase in external load not stance width.
• Free BBS elicits and higher overall EMG (muscle activation) than squats in a smith machine, leg press and leg extension.
• The squat at moderate loads is a more effective method of activating the trunk stabilizers compared with other instability trunk exercises.
• Muscle activation is not influenced by the use of a weight belt.
(The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26(4):1169-1178, 2012)

  

Two Ways to Improve Your Health in the New Year

Just like every other year, 2014 began with people all over the world making bold resolutions, and many of them probably involved their health. While some just want to lose weight or get more exercise, others are interested in improving their overall lifestyle. This has become huge business for the health industry, and as a result, there’s an almost intimidating amount of products on the market these days. Though I don’t pretend to be an expert on the matter, I recently tested out two new health-related products that could be exactly what you need to ensure you actually follow through on that New Year’s resolution.

BASIS B1 FITNESS TRACKER

Fitness trackers were all the rage in 2013, but the Basis B1 is unique in that it not only measures things like steps walked and calories burned, but also tries to help you form new habits that lead to a healthier lifestyle. Using advanced sensors on the back of the watch that track your heart rate, motion and physiological materials like perspiration, the Basis B1 can uncover bad sleep patterns and levels of stress that you may not even be aware of. Yep, in addition to automatically recognizing activities like walking, running and biking, it also tracks your sleep, including how many hours of rest you get each night and when you go to bed and wake up. It then crunches all that data into an easy to read graph that shows when you’re most active, what time of day your heart rate is most elevated, how much you sweat and more.

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The Basis B1 has flaws just like any other fitness tracker (the Bluetooth syncing is particularly slow and it doesn’t account for things like stationary bike riding), but for those that want to know more than just how many calories they burned in a given day, it’s a great way to learn about your habits and even provides you with achievement-based goals towards becoming a better, healthier you. The Basis B1 also functions as a watch, and it boasts such a simple and clean design that it’s the kind of accessory you can wear without looking like you just came from the gym.

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