Ask The Trainer: Top Exercise Questions,
Answered by Julio A. Salado, NSCA-CPT., USAW Coach.
I was recently asked by a publisher to answer a slew of popular questions regarding fitness, nutrition and personal training. The questions ranged from "Is it safe for pregnant women to workout?" to "Is it better to perform cardio before or after lifting weights or should
cardio be done on a completely different day?" to "What should a personal trainer take into consideration when working with each individual client?".
My answers are based on exercise science and collective experience of other health and fitness professionals. Due to space, I focused on the most important aspects of my answers, if you need further explanation or have your own questions, please do not hesistate in contacting me.
Is it true that some exercises produce results faster than others? Is so,
which exercises provide the best and worst "returns on investment"?
Great question! First you must ask yourself "what results you are looking for?" I always tell my clients "you are investing your money (monthly dues/pt training) and TIME into this journey. What are your goals?" .
Once you know your goals, we can start the process of elimination of what exercises NOT do! Secondly, after you know your goals a proper fitness evaluation should be done. Again, if you are investing your time and money then let's take it a step forward and get some baseline of your current fitness.
For example, bodyfat to lean muscle percentage, musco-skeletal assymetries ( Hip hike, right shoulder internally rotates significantly more than left), cardio vascular testing, listing past injuries etc. After this is established and factoring your current lifestyle (sedentary, active), you can begin to select exercises that will maximize your time.
Another example, if it is weight loss then you want to work more muscles per movement, we call this compound exercises e.g. squat to bicep curl to overheard shoulder press. Focusing on a single muscle group such as abs, biceps especially within the first 90 days will not yield the same caloric expenditure as when you perform compound movements.
Lastly, I highly recommend learning how to move/exercise in all anatomical planes. The majority of the population work mirror muscles train in a linear pattern e.g lunges, squats, chest. If you introduce movement in all planes of motion such as side to side, rotational exercises, hip dominant exercise, single leg exercises, up, down, left , right, forward, reverse and circular. Your body will be using more muscles than ANY nautilus machines.
Worst "return on investment" nautilus machines best "return" bodyweight, free weight, cross train with kettle bells etc.... machines may compliment a program however it should NEVER substitute free form training.
Yes, free form training requires more time to learn correct form however combined with appropiate intensity, rest and nutrition, your investment will yield results!
Is it a good idea for someone to workout if they have a cold?
I do not recommend working out with a cold. I believe the calories you use to workout would be best utilized by your immune system to fight the cold. You may be prolonging your cold by continuing to work out. The rest, hydration and proper care of your cold will allow your body to recover. Injuries and hitting a plateau are more likely to occur if you workout under the weather. Use discretion and common sense.
If your cold stays with you for over a week and you were working out then connect the dots and stop exercising! Stick to walking, stretching or foam rolling till you feel better.
Is it better to perform cardio before or after lifting weights or should
cardio be done on a completely different day?
There are many opinions on what comes first. I apologize in advance because I am going to repeat what I said earlier....it depends on your goals and current fitness level. 99% percent of my clients will do cardio after their workout the 1% is my mature/senior clientele 70,80,90+ yrs old. Cardio raises your core temperature and does NOT prepare the muscle group/joints for the workout ahead.
However, "dynamic warmups" which last 5-10 minutes will MAXIMIZE your potential, a few benefits: raise your core temperature, lengthen muscles, stimulate the nervous system, assist in improving joint mobility/stability, increase blood flow, improves mind/body connection, injury prevention and prepares the body for the workout ahead.
On strength and conditioning days, my clients will do cardio for a minimum of 20mins and max 30. On cardio days, they will still do the "dynamic warmups" and cardio time is usually 45mins-1hr. If their goal is to develop lean muscle then the cardio time and intensity will be significantly reduced, because resting is a major factor in developing lean muscles.
If its bodyfat loss, their cardio programming needs to have combination of high intensity cardio training with a shorter time and days of long cardio with lower intensity. Knowing how many times my clients can realistically go to the gym is another factor of cardio programming.
I will end with this fact, cardio does NOT increase metabolism only strength training and too much cardio may lead to weight gain if the body adapts, this is called hitting a plateau.
If someone doesn't have the time to spend hours cooking healthy meals, how
can they still eat healthy?
I believe once you know your caloric intake, macronutrient percentage and weekly workout plan and it is written down on paper your motivation to eat healthy will improve. It is a lifestyle change and it does not happen over night.
I am not a diet fan, I believe in eating healthy nutrient dense foods. If diets worked, everyone would be thin! In other words, eat nutrient dense foods. For example, compare the calories and fat grams in a fast food burger, the total calories is easily above 500 calories. Now, you can eat more with less calories e.g. lean deli meats such as turkey breast over a salad (low-fat dressing) with a slice of whole grain bread. It's not about time, it's about changing behaviors.
Most restaurants offer low caloric selections and provide the nutritional value of their menu. It is up to the individual to repeat old behaviors or start new healthy behaviours.
A motivated individual looking to sculpt their body will take the extra step to learn about food nutritional value. Now, if you are overwhelmed with my first suggestion then start to significantly reduce or eliminate white sugar and white flour from your daily food intake. Be wary of prepackage food because they may have high sodium and preservatives, this is also true for fast deep fried food. You can also really rack up the calories with sugar laden drinks such as sodas too, cream in coffee and white flour baked goods.
When in doubt more veggies, lean protein, less starch and more water intake.
If someone has a job where they don't move around a lot, what can they do
to increase their activity during the day, when they're not working out?
The human body was designed to move, not to be in a seated position for long periods of time. However, many jobs today are sedentary which leads to muscle dominance in the kinetic chain. When this occurs low back pain, stiff neck, plantar fascitis arise from this sedentary lifestyle... here are couple of tips. If you take public transportation get in the habit of standing up rather than sitting.
After each meal, plan a 10-20 minute walk, bring a coworker. While at work, learn some stretches for your neck, shoulders, low back, hips and calves. Every movement that you do can counter the adverse effects of having a sedentary lifestyle. It's worth the investment.
Is it safe for pregnant women to workout?
First, consult with your doctor before beginning a fitness program.
Women who led a more sedentary lifestyle prior to their pregnancy should first seek assistance from a health professional. Women who HAVE participated in a long term physical training program prior to being pregnant. That being said here are a few tips for the woman who HAVE participated in long term physical activity prior to being pregnant.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The first trimester is a very susceptible time for the fetus. The fetus is unable regulate its own body temperature to that of the mother. During this trimester pregnant athletes should avoid exercising in hot conditions and for duration exceeding 60 minutes.
Consistency of your training program is very important.
3-5 times per week is sufficient.
Includes any physical activities (25 minutes or more).
Heart Rate: Your target heart rate zone is 60%-70% of your resting heart rate ( non-athletes should not exceed 140BPMs). You should take your pulse during your training. You may use a heart rate monitor to detect your heart's beats per minute. Please note: Heart rate will NOT be 100% accurate due to the physiological changes occurring in your first/second trimester.
More importantly, your perceived rate of exertion is key ( stay within a comfort zone).
You will want to be mindful of your internal temperature and levels of stress.
There are other important variables to consider and it changes dramatically from your 1st trimester to the 3rd. For example, After the first trimester you will need to modify your exercises and stop supine or exercises on your back. Lastly, you will also need to minimize standing exercises during your third trimester.
If you decide to work with a trainer make sure they are prenatal-certified and experienced.
What should a personal trainer take into consideration when working with
each individual client?
I love this question. Basic considerations. Learn the client's short term goal (3-6months) and long term (6 month-1year) goals, age, current lifestyle-sedentary or active, past medical and injury history from childhood to adulthood ( everything from plantar fasicitis to carpal tunnel syndrome), past and current physical activities, realistic weekly committment to participate in a training program, discuss current food selections, cardio vascular capacity, medication that may interfere with training and ask when in their life "were you in the best shape of your life" and why? Lastly, there should be 110% focus on the clients form, breathing and feedback during the session.
I do not believe in "cookie cutter" workouts. Meaning having your clients do exercises that you enjoy doing or what you read in the latest fitness magazine or book.
Another important factor in developing a solid customized result driven program is having a timeline and having the client do a "movement screen" which will help identify any musco-skeletal assymetries. No client should ever began a training program without a thorough fitness evaluation.
Programs should be reviewed every 30 days and progress tracked to ensure program is working.
Again, if you need further explanation or have your own questions, please do not hesistate in contacting me.
Be well and stay ACTIVE!!
Julio A. Salado, NSCA C.P.T
TRX & Kettlebell Instructor.
USAW Level 1 Coach
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