Five Feats Of Strength You Need To Be Able To Perform

Fitness provides us with the ability to live active lives. It allows us to have more experiences. And it keeps our bodies young.

Here are five fitness tests you should be able to perform.

#1. Broad Jump your height. The broad jump demonstrates lower body power and the ability to move quickly and explosively, one of the first things to go as we age. The broad jump also demonstrates our ability to decelerate and absorb force with control, something that protects our bodies from injury.

#2. Deadlift 1.5 times your body weight for five reps. A total body exercise demonstrating leg strength, grip strength, and core and shoulder stability. Being able to lift something from the floor and then put it back down with control plays a major role in staying healthy and avoiding injury.

#3. Pull Ups. Men 5+ reps, Women 3+ reps. This is ultimate test of  strength to bodyweight ratio, and helps determine if you are carrying too much extra weight.

#4. Push Ups. Men 25+ reps, Women 15+ reps. Don’t tell me how much you can bench press until you can at least hit those numbers. It is surprising how many guys can bench 300 plus pounds, but can’t do 25 good push ups.

#5. Carry half your body weight in each hand for 40 yards. Grab two kettlebells or dumbbells each weighing half of your body weight and perform a farmer’s walk. This will demonstrate your real life, total-body, functional strength.

Test yourself. How do you measure up? If you are not able to get one or two, or even any of them, don’t get down on yourself. These are just benchmarks to give you and idea of how strong you are and where you have room to improve.

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The Ugly Truth About Cardio

The Ugly Truth About Cardio…

Is logging countless miles day after day really worth the effort? Is running a marathon the epitome of health and fitness? Does keeping your heart rate above 80% max produce the best results?

What if you where were told that the answer to all of those questions was “NO”?

Blasphemy right!

Now for the really hard news, what if cardio isn’t even good for you and is possibly doing your body more harm than good?

This is exactly what we are going to look at. While the media, your neighbor, your doctor, and some high profile celebrities tout the benefits of cardio; we are going to dig into the unspoken, ugly truth about cardio.

But first, an explanation of cardio is needed. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, cardio is “any type of exercise that causes the heart to beat faster and harder for a period of time.”

“Faster and harder for a period of time”, this is where things have gotten a bit skewed. In our more is better American mindset we have pushed cardio past its beneficial limits. Technically, any activity that increases your heart rate is cardio whether it is for 10 seconds or 60 minutes. A quick sprint up the steps: cardio. Running to the bathroom: cardio.

So why do so many people have such a skewed belief about what cardio is and what is needed to get in shape and lose weight?

Well, the answer goes back to the 70’s with Jimmy Fixx’s release of the book “The Complete Book of Running”, which started a fitness revolution with many people hitting the pavement running. Fixx later died of a heart attack while running at the age of 52, full disclosure he did have a family history of heart disease related early death and was a former smoker.

Today we are still hit with the same message that more is better and if hard is good, harder is better. If you don’t believe this just turn on the TV or Google search “fitness trends”. You will be bombarded with fitness programs claiming how challenging they are, how many calories they burn per workout, or that they produce they fittest people on earth. We have even gone from the once popular 5K races, to races that range from three to ten miles and provide obstacles with electric shock while in water. We are a culture of extremes, which is why we have the skewed version on cardio in our minds.

So what is the truth about too much cardio?

The quality of your workout is more important than the duration.

It doesn’t matter how long you exercise, it is more important what you do in your workout. With cardio you need hours to burn significant calories, because there is no Afterburn Effect – the result of an elevated metabolism for 36-48 hours post-workout where your body is burning calories at an increased rate. With cardio this doesn’t happen, you burn the 500 calories in your workout and when you stop your metabolism goes back to it normal state. With other forms of exercise, such as strength training and interval training your body keeps burning calories for hours afterwards.

This was first seen all the way back in 1994 by Angelo Tremblay in his groundbreaking study the “Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism.” In this study he looked at the comparison of endurance training (cardio) versus interval training. What he found was that while the endurance group burned nearly twice the amount of calorie as the interval group, the interval group lost nine times more body fat.

Less work, less calories burned during the workout, and a leaner body? How is that possible?

Well, it goes back to the Afterburn Effect, which increases the amount of calories burn in those 36-48 hours after the workout. It also is due to two other factors. Your body’s energy system used and the Compensation Effect.

Your body has two different energy systems and they burn calories much differently. Aerobic exercise (cardio) burns calories through the use of oxygen in the body to create energy, while anaerobic exercise (interval training and strength training) uses stored muscle glycogen to create energy. This is a very important difference and results in anaerobic exercise burning calories at a ratio of 5 to 1 and even 7 to 1 in some research, over aerobic exercise (cardio).

*A side note, every calorie burn tracking device is programmed with the aerobic equation making them not very accurate with interval and strength training, but that is all that is currently available on the market outside of a high-tech university lab.

The Compensation Effect is much simpler. With long extended periods of cardio or really any type of exercise that goes past the 50 minute mark your body signals a hormonal response that makes you extremely hungry, especially for carbohydrates, and results in you eating more and storing fat for energy to get through your next workout.

Now for how too much cardio results in muscle wasting, slowly the metabolism, and can harm your cardiovascular health.

“But, wait! I’m doing cardio to improve my heart health and increase my metabolism. And what is muscle wasting?”, you say.

Let’s take each of these one at a time, starting with muscle wasting.

Muscle wasting happens when your body burns and loses its muscle tissue. This is typically why people lose weight when they do high amounts of cardio. They don’t actually lose body fat and in many cases they tend to increase their body fat percentage due to the loss on muscle tissue. This can be seen in the photos below of the athletes.

The athletes on the left are Olympic level long distance runners who spend hours each week doing cardio. And the athletes on the right are Olympic level short distance, explosive athletes who train primarily through strength training and short burst interval training.

Who looks better?

Not only do the athletes on the right look better, the ones on the left look older. This is because high amounts of cardio actually speeds up the body’s aging process, while strength and interval training that supports the body’s muscle tissue keeps you looking younger.

Ever hear of oxidation? That is what is happens when you do high amounts of cardio. Your body burns oxygen as its’ primary fuel in the body, this leads to oxidative stress, or the inability of your body to detoxify the reactive intermediates. When your body can no longer keep up with the detoxification, free radical damage begins to happen. This is why and how high amounts of cardio ages the body and can lead to injury and a weaken immune system. Additionally, all of this oxidative stress leads to excess cortisol in the body, which again to leads to muscle loss, fat storage, and a high incident of chronic disease.

“So how does cardio slow my metabolism?”

Think of your body as a car engine. If you have a high fuel economy you get good gas mileage, if not you don’t. Doing cardio is like driving a Toyota Prius on the highway. You’ll drive forever with out burning much gas. On the other hand you have strength and interval training, which is like driving V8 Hummer around town. It burns through gas like crazy and is not very efficient. This is good for burning calories and fat, you don’t want to be efficient.

And now for the harmful effects high amounts of cardio can have on your cardiovascular system.

This is the side that is very rarely spoken about cardio and can be hard for many cardio queens to even read, but the research is there to support it.

Research has shown that people who do more than 10 hours per week of cardio or extremely intense workouts day-in and day-out have been shown they could be causing damage to the heart through the right ventricle beginning to stiffen and result in trouble maintaining a regular heart beat. Research out of the Mayo Clinic has shown that doing this for ten plus years will actually irreparable damage the heart and shorten your life span.

In 2010 the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Montreal, found that extended cardio, such as running marathons, actually increases your cardiovascular risk by seven-fold.

It has also be shown that short-burst activities provide better health and fitness results because they mimic the lifestyle of our hunter-gather ancestors and our current day-to-day activities to some extent. Which lead us to:

“So how should I be working out?”

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes per week of exercise with a heart rate between 50 and 80 percent maximum for the best health benefits. This also seems to be the sweet spot for fat loss, with clients who do more not getting as good of results, or not any better results.

Those 150 minutes of exercise are best split up into three workouts over the course of the week, preferably with a day of rest in between.

To get the best results your workout should begin with some soft tissue work, like foam rolling, and then move into a dynamic warm-up that is focus on movement patterns.

Each workout should contain at least twenty to twenty-five minutes of pure strength work hitting every major movement pattern. How this is done doesn’t matter as much as just getting it done does.

The core should be trained to support and the spine, rather than flex it. This means planks and woodchops are preferred over crunches and sit-ups.

Heavy carries should be done in every workout. If you want to see your heart rate increase grab a pair of heavy kettlebells and go for a walk, your heart rate will increase fast.

Finish with three to five minutes of high-intensity interval training. This could be twenty seconds on, ten seconds off using the Battling Ropes or on a bike.

And finally, cool-down with some primitive movement animal flow drills for a few minutes to help your body begin the recovery process.

If you do all of that three times a week, every week, your body will change in ways you never imagined or saw with your old cardio workouts.

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Exercise of the Week – Goblet Squat

Tone and tighten you butt, legs, and core with this weeks exercise of the week the Kettlebell Goblet Squat.

Why it works?
There is no better exercise for your lower body than squats. By using a kettlebell goblet variation you will place less stress on your back and force your abs to work more.

How to do it:
Grab a kettlebell by the horns (sides of the handle). Place feet slightly wider than hips with toes turned out slightly. Push hips back and sit down between your feet. Stand back up by pushing the floor away from you through your heels. Keep your back flat and chest up at all times.

Add a couple sets of 8-12 reps to your next workout.

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Recipe of the Week – Rustic Cabbage Soup

Try a bowl of this hot cabbage soup this winter. The beans and potatoes make work as a hearty meal, or you can enjoy the soup as a side.

tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
pinch salt
pepper, to taste
lb potato, skin on, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I like the red skinned ones.)
garlic cloves, chopped
large yellow onion, thinly sliced
cups stock, can use broth (your choice)
1 1⁄2
cups white beans (precooked or canned)
medium sized cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch 1/4 inch ribbons
pass a good quality olive oil, for drizzling and parmesan cheese

1. Warm the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the salt and potatoes.

2. Cover and cook until they are a bit tender and starting to brown a little bit for about 5 minutes. It’s ok to uncover to stir a couple of times.

3. Stir in the garlic and onion and cook for a few minutes until the cabbage softens up a little bit.

4. Add the stock and the beans and bring the pot to simmer.

5. Stir in the cabbage and cook for another couple of minutes, or until the cabbage softens up a bit.

6. Now, adjust the seasonings; getting the seasonings right is important or your soup will taste flat.


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Closed For The Holidays Workout

The gym maybe closed for Christmas, but that does not mean you can’t get in a workout.

Here is our “Closed for the Holidays” Workout, to help you burn off some of the cookies you ate yesterday.

Mountain Climbers – 25 each leg
Speed Squats – 50
Push Ups – 25
Reverse Lunges – 25 each leg
Dolphin Plank – 25
Jumping Jacks – 50
3 Rounds, rest as needed

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A Letter To Santa…

Dear Santa,

I’ve been really good this year, well mostly good anyhow. This year I’m asking you to bring me a gym I enjoy going to, so I will stick with my new years resolution this year.

I asked my husband for this last year, but he got me some DVD call “Insanity”. Have you tried that? I mean come on I nearly died halfway through the first workout. I think we may need to check his sanity too this year.

Now my friend goes to this gym, I think she calls it her box, actually I know for sure that is what she calls it because she talks about it all the time. It’s kind of annoying really. We get it you go to the gym, A LOT. I tried it once with her. Not for me. I’m really not the competitive type and I kinda felt bad about myself afterwards because I couldn’t do what the class superstars where doing. Plus, my friend is always hurt. I want to feel better, not worse.

I also have another friend who goes somewhere I can’t remember. But, she told that all the trainers wear a microphone and yell during the workout. My boss yells at me enough all day, he really is a cranky old guy, but I’m sure you already know this and that his on your “naughty list”. Anyhow, I don’t need someone else yelling at me while I exercise. Plus, from what she has told me she spends most of her workout on the treadmill and rower doing intervals with some other exercises, but mostly cardio. I already have a treadmill I don’t use, because it is boring. Come to think of it, you may have brought that for me a few years ago actually.

Santa what I really want is a gym with a supportive environment that is fun. I want a coach who cares about me, my goals, and understands me. I want to fit back into my skinny jeans, and I want to feel good about myself again.

If you could please bring me a gym like this, this year that would be great!

If you are look for this type of gym, Pittsburgh North Fitness is that place. Here we specialize in people just like you who want to live fit lives, feel confident in themselves and how they look, and workout with a group of supportive members. The coaches here care about you and your goals, they will take the time to listen to you, and help you every step of the way.

If this is you, come give us a try. We’d love to meet you!

Recipe of the Week – Creamy Cauliflower Bacon Soup

Enjoy this warm, delicious soup by the fire on a cold night.

1/2 pound sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 quart homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, plus more as needed
2 bay leaves
1 cup half & half or heavy cream
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until bacon is completely crisp. Remove from Dutch oven with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the fat in the dutch oven.

2. Add onions, half of scallions, and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add chicken stock, bay leaves, half & half (or cream), and cauliflower. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until cauliflower is completely tender, about 30 minutes,

4. Working in batches, blend soup until completely smooth (if you don’t have a very powerful blender, remove the bay leaf before blending. If an extra-smooth soup is desired, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer after blending); if soup is too thick, whisk in additional hot chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve sprinkled with crisp bacon pieces and remaining scallions.

Recipe Source:

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Exercise of the Week – Kettlebell Renegade Row

Get more from your workout.

Work your core, back, and arms all at the same time with the Renegade Row.

Grab a pair of kettlebells or dumbbells and get into a push-up position holding them. Press one into the floor and pull the other up to your side. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Keep you back flat and do not allow your hips to twist. Perform three sets of ten alternating sides every rep.

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Why Are You So Hard On Yourself?


Why are you so hard on yourself?

In two weeks you leave for vacation, but you are not excited.

What should be a fun week with your husband and kids has become a huge stress. You have been going to the gym religiously and watched every thing you have ate. You have even lost ten pounds and in the best shape of your life. But, the thought of wearing a swimsuit at the resort has you freaked.

You know you should feel confident and good about yourself, but the media, magazine covers, and lingerie ads make it nearly impossible.

Stop being so hard on yourself. Stop buying in to the media’s message of what women should look like.

You are amazing, you are strong, you are awesome, and you are wonderful.

You cannot chase perfect, but you can be wonderful.

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12 Days of Fitmas Workout


Give this challenging, festive workout a try.

It goes just like the song, starting at one and then building up one at a time repeating everything below until you finish.

Bonus: Extra calories will be burned if you sing along!

On the 1st Day of Fitmas – 1 Minute Plank
On the 2nd Day of Fitmas – 2 Burpees
On the 3rd Day of Fitmas – 3 Squat Jumps
On the 4th Day of Fitmas – 4 Reverse Lunges
On the 5th Day of Fitmas – 5 Push Ups
On the 6th Day of Fitmas – 6 Goblet Squats
On the 7th Day of Fitmas – 7 Kettlebell Swings
On the 8th Day of Fitmas – 8 Mountain Climbers
On the 9th Day of Fitmas – 9 Medicine Ball Slams
On the 10th Day of Fitmas – 10 Second Squat Hold
On the 11th Day of Fitmas – 11 Overhead Presses
On the 12th Day of Fitmas – 1200 Meters Rowing

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