All Posts by Nate

Why is good form so important?

Why is good form so important?

We all know that guy at the gym who's doing bicep curls with a weight that's 20 pounds too heavy.

He's huffing and puffing, throwing his back forward and backward, and doing anything he can to get that weight up. The most important thing in his mind is getting as much weight up as possible, and he's completely sacrificing his form to do it.

What is good form, and why is it so important to have? Even if my form isn't perfect, at least I'm still working out, right?

What does it mean to have good form?

In every exercise that we attempt, there is a right way and a wrong way to perform it. The right way generally involves keeping a neutral spine, or making sure that you don't round your back or curve it during the exercise, as well as making sure we are activating the right muscle groups (check out this website for more information on keeping a neutral spine). For example, if the guy we were just talking about were to correctly perform a bicep curl, he would stand up straight with a neutral spine and activate only his biceps to perform the motion. If he finds himself leaning over or bending back to try to get the next curl, he should probably choose a lighter weight. 

good form bicep curl

When we use good form in performing any given exercise, we allow our body to activate both primary mover muscles, such as our biceps brachii (arms), quadriceps femoris (legs), and latissimus dorsi, or lats (back), as well as secondary movers, which are deep muscles used primarily for stabilization purposes. While we may be able to go a few days, months, or even years with bad form and notice some growth in our primary movers, over time our stabilizer muscles will start to deteriorate and become unbalanced due to bad form.

Why is bad form so bad?

When our stabilizer muscles are not working properly, become over or under active, or don't supply the kind of support that our body needs, we can sustain serious injuries. Movements that should be routine and easy when using the whole kinetic chain and the proper muscle groups will begin to place a huge burden on your primary movers and cause destabilization throughout your entire body. Imagine an amazing, beautiful bridge that has an incredibly strong walkway and a few really big strong pieces throughout, but the nuts and bolts as well as the smaller structural supports are rusty and weak. While the big powerful parts may keep it up and running in the short run, over time it will eventually break down.

Another serious concern to keep in mind when considering if it is worth the effort to maintain good form is your spine. Almost every physical position possible to take exerts pressure on your spine, and this pressure compounds every second of every day. Standing straight up with a neutral spine exerts almost 100 pounds of pressure; sitting straight up exerts almost 140 pounds of pressure; and sitting with a large slouch can exert almost 275 pounds of pressure on your spine! This pressure can lead to numerous problems, such as back pain and herniated discs.

Luckily our spine is built to withstand a certain amount of pressure, so most of us don't need to be concerned about our spine suddenly collapsing while sitting here reading this. But unnecessary added pressure over a period of months or years, especially from weight-bearing movements that we perform while exercising, can lead to numerous spinal and health problems if  not addressed. 

The solution is to study the proper form for whatever exercise you are performing, and to make sure that you never compromise your form to get those extra reps. It is important to push through a certain degree of discomfort while exercising, but not at the expense of form. Have someone watch you, film yourself, and take note of what muscles you feel activate while doing a given exercise. As you strive to have and maintain good form while exercising, you will experience all of the positive benefits of exercising while eliminating most of the risk of injury. Good luck, and good form!

- Nate Powell

  • November 3, 2018

Don’t Run Before You Can Walk

Don't Run Before You Can Walk

You're finally back in the gym! You're so excited, you run over to the biggest weight you can find and start throwing it around...

... Aaaaaaaand then you throw out your back.

Or your shoulder. Or your hips. Or your knees. On and on, you get the the point.

No, this didn't happen to me since I made the commitment to get fit, but we've all heard the story of the guy who thinks he's still on the high school football team trying to carry a couch down the stairs.

Why does this happen? Is it because we just weren't strong enough? Is it because we're getting old?

The Kinetic Chain

Actually, according to NASM (the National Academy of Sports Medicine), there is this thing called the kinetic chain that influences every muscle and every move that we make. The nerves, muscles, and joints work together in a system to produce movement, and if one part of the human movement system is not working properly, it will affect the other systems and ultimately cause some problems.

Think of it like a car, plane, or any other machine, where if there is even one little problem the entire system could be compromised.

So how do we make sure that our kinetic chain is well cared for and functioning properly? By starting with functional fitness instead of going right for the good stuff, getting our feet wet before we jump off the high dive straight into the deep end. 

Three Levels of Fitness

There are three levels of fitness that each person should try to hit before they can be considered fully fit: Stabilization, Strength, and Power (click here to see diagram).

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At the stabilization level, we are trying to make sure that our muscles are balanced, and that none of them are working too hard or not working hard enough. Generally, when we throw out our backs or have injury after not having exercised for a while, we have a problem in this area.

At the strength level, we start to lift weights, we begin to increase our cardio endurance, and we begin to see some real results from our training beyond just our functional ability to move around.

At the power level, we are finally able to lift heavy weights, sprint, and build up our kinetic chain to attack any fitness obstacle in our way.

As we go up each level, our fitness level increases, allowing us to do more and more and get the most out of our body. We can't skip a step, or we won't be able to achieve that optimum level that we all want. If you follow me every week, I'll help you climb up each level until we reach the top of the chain.

Now that we know the foundation of what we are trying to do, we can start to take control of our health and fitness and make sure we don't just look fit, but that we ARE functionally fit.

Starting next week I will start giving you some exercises that you can start right now to get in the best shape of your life, but you've got to bring it. No more excuses. It's time to get the results you want and feel better than you ever have.

I'll see you next week!

- Nate Powell

  • October 27, 2018

Fitness Motivation

Fitness Motivation

Motivation is like a fuzzy TV during the season finale of your favorite show.

Half the time you see the vision, you love what you're seeing, and you're excited to see what happens next; the other half, you wonder where it went and how long it will take to get back.

It's not that the show was bad-- you'd give anything to have it back! You just need to spend some time to fix the TV and get it back.

If you're anything like me you've said that you'll start a new fitness plan a million times, but rarely followed through with it because of a million different factors that I feel boil down to one thing: motivation.

Finding motivation that is strong enough to last is hard. Just ask my dad, who lived out of shape for more than 20 years before he finally found his motivation and achieved his fitness goals. If it were easy to find motivation that is strong enough to push through any obstacle, everyone would do it.

In order to find what your motivation needs to be to succeed, you have to dig deep and be honest with yourself. You have to ask yourself how bad you want it. If the answer is not enough to push through the pain and the obstacles that will inevitably come, then you need a better reason to keep going.

My motivation is based in a love of fitness and a love of being healthy. It comes from countless days of being sick and knowing what it feels like to not be where you want to be physically. It comes from a desire to enjoy my life and get the most out of it.

Whatever your motivation for getting in shape is, I challenge you to make sure that it's strong enough to get through any obstacles you face. Simply wanting to look good or have a six pack isn't enough for most people to push through the pain and cultivate the discipline required to take control of your life. You have to want it bad enough to actively do something about it every single day of your life, to get up and take charge of your health and fitness, to REFUSE to give up and give in.

Your fitness motivation is out there. Go find it this week. I'll see you back here next week so we can get started on the good stuff together.

- Nate Powell

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  • October 19, 2018

Back in Shape

Back in Shape

We all have excuses.

I'm too tired. I'm sick. I'm not feeling it today. I've had a long day, I'll get it tomorrow for sure. It's time for dinner. It's the weekend!

Any of these sound familiar? They definitely do to me.

We all have an excuse for why we didn't go to the gym or get any exercise today. Or yesterday. Heck, when was the last time we went to the gym? Back in high school we were so fit, so driven, we could do anything, but now...

I've had a pretty tough go of it the last few years. Not making excuses (okay maybe a little), just stating facts:

I had cancer, an osteo-sarcoma that led to nine months of chemotherapy and 40 pounds of lost muscle. I almost broke my neck in a crazy surfing accident. I separated my clavicle in my shoulder, which combined with surgery took 2 years to recover. My immune system is shot, so whenever I try to get back in shape, I seem to get sick.

But you know what? I'm done making excuses. I'm ready to make a change.

I'm not an expert (yet), I'm just a regular guy who loves fitness and wants to get back in shape while helping others to do the same. I'm ready to make a dramatic, life-altering change in both my fitness and my career, dedicating myself full-time to helping myself and others get in shape.

My plan is to get myself in shape and get certified as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. As I do this I will share everything I learn in a weekly blog with you, with the goal of helping us both get in shape. We can do this together, finally get back to the fitness level we once knew. Or maybe never knew! Either way, we have an end-goal in mind, and we're ready to go.

I'm excited and a little nervous to start this new journey, but I won't let anything stop me in my goal to get back in shape, and I'll do everything I can to help you get there too.

Join me in my journey to get back in shape and live life to the fullest, healthy and fit. I'm making a commitment to you, publishing this online where everyone in the entire world can see it, that I WILL get back in shape, and you'll get there too if you stick with me. 

So let's do this, I'll see you next week.

- Nate Powell

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  • October 13, 2018