Compound Movements

If you want to increase calories burned and jack up testosterone production a little higher, doing combination movements are the best way to do this.

Examples of these are power cleans rather than deadlift.  Snatches instead of high pulls.  Clean and press rather than presses, etc, etc,

Another thing I like about compound movements is that it saves you time when your training session is going to be limited.  You get the most out of the time you have.

Over the years I have come up with unique exercises through creative thinking or just dumb luck.  Well dumb luck hit me recently!

The other day I was doing seated calf raises and my workout bag was behind me.  My cell phone inside my workout bag started ringing.  Expecting an important call I reached over and down to grab it while performing the calf raises.  I noticed it gave my abs and oblique’s a good stretch and contraction!

So after the call, I proceeded to experiment with this strange compound movement, calf raises and crunches of all things!  Who would have thought you could have put these two together.  Almost as bizarre as chocolate and peanut butter right?  🙂

So below is a YouTube video showing how this can be done.  Of course there are all kinds of variations and you can always add a plate to hold across your chest while you perform the crunches.

Lifting up towards the ceiling while coming up and going side to side hits your core from different angles as well.

So enjoy and remember, always try something new to be…Fit Forlife!

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Give me a B, Vitamin B that is…

This is a continuation of the importance of vitamins in one’s diet and health as we move on through the alphabet.

Again, we will look at how each vitamin functions in your body, what foods provide them, what quantities should one consume, side effects if any, and whether they are soluble or insoluble.

Vitamin B…

From Wikipedia:

B vitamins are a class of water-soluble vitamins that play important roles in cell metabolism. Though these vitamins share similar names, research shows that they are chemically distinct vitamins that often coexist in the same foods. In general, supplements containing all eight are referred to as a vitamin B complex. Individual B vitamin supplements are referred to by the specific name of each vitamin (e.g., B1, B2, B3 etc.).

As noted, there are 8 vitamins that falls under the umbrella of B’s and thus refered to as the B Complex. They are as follows:

B vitamin molecular functions

Vitamin Name Molecular Function
Vitamin B1       Thiamine Thiamine plays a central role in the generation of energy from carbohydrates. It is involved in many functions including the nervous system, heart and muscles.  This is because it plays a major role in the flow of electrolytes in and out of nerve and muscle cells, enzyme processes and carb metabolism. Known to help in maintaining a positive mental attitude and called the anti-stress vitamin.

Deficiency in this vitamin is exhibited by weight loss, weakness and pain in limbs, and irregular heartbeat.

Food sources of thiamine include beef, liver, dried milk, nuts, oats, oranges, pork, eggs, seeds, legumes, peas and yeast.

There are no known toxicity levels.

Vitamin B2        Riboflavin Riboflavin is involved in energy production.  It is important for body growth, red blood cell production and releasing energy from carbohydrates.

Deficiency in this vitamin is exhibited by cracked lips, sensitivity to sunlight, inflammation of the tongue and sore throat.

Food sources for riboflavin comes from dairy products, eggs, green leafy vegetables, lean meats, legumes and nuts.

There are no known toxicity levels.


Vitamin B3           Niacin Niacin is used to help lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides in the blood.  Also used to help lower the chance of heart attacks and to treat coronary disease.  It does this by playing an important role in energy transfer reactions in the metabolism of glucose, fat and alcohol.

Deficiency in this vitamin can result in aggression, insomnia, weakness and mental confusion.

Side effects of taking too much niacin are nausea, vomiting, redness of skin followed by tingling and itching sensation.

Food sources high in niacin are fish and lean meats as well as brown rice.


Vitamin B5  Pantothenic acid Pantothenic acid is involved in the oxidation of fatty acids and carbohydrates. Also critical in the production of red blood cells, as well as sex and stress related hormones produced in the adrenal glands.  Also important in maintaining a healthy digestive tract as well as assisting other vitamins in their functions in the body.

Deficiency in this vitamin can result in acne although rare.

It has no known toxicity levels.

Food sources high in B5 corn, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, avocado, legumes, lentils, egg yolks, beef (especially organ meats such as liver and kidney), any fowl, milk, split peas, peanuts, soybeans, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, whole-grain breads and cereals, lobster, wheat germ, and salmon.

Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine, Pyridoxal, Pyridoxamine Vitamin B6 is known to assist in the production of serotonin which influences a variety of psychological functions related to mood, sexual desire, appetite, sleep and memory.

Deficiency in this vitamin can result in neurological problems.

Food sources for this vitamin include grains, legumes, carrots, spinach, peas, potatoes, dairy products, fish, liver and other meats.

Vitamin B7     Biotin Biotin plays a key role in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates like some of the other B’s.  Especially helps produce fatty acids and amino acids and activates protein/amino acids metabolism in hair roots and cells.

Deficiency typically does not cause symptoms in adults but can lead to neurological issues in infants.

No known toxicity levels.

Food Sources with the most biotin is liver as well as egg yolk, soybeans, nuts and grains.

Vitamin B9    Folic acid Folic acid acts as a co-enzyme in the body that helps in utilizing amino acids (the building blocks of protein), form blood cells in the bone marrow, ensure rapid cell growth and control blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine (in combination with vitamin B6 and B12) which is associated with heart disease.

Deficiency and produce anemia and elevated levels of homocysteine which can impact heart health.

Side effects are that it masks B12 deficiency which can lead to permanent neurological damage.

Food sources like in many of the B’s can be found in liver as well as dark green leafy vegetables, beans, wheat germ, egg yolk, dairy products, beets and whole wheat bread.

Vitamin B12      Cobalamin Vitamin B12 is involved in the cellular metabolism of carbs and protein.  It is essential in the production of blood cells in bone marrow and attributed to boosting mood, concentration and the immune system.  Also used for treating Alzheimer’s disease and controlling homocysteine levels which contribute to heart disease.

Deficiency comes in the form of anemia and memory loss, more than likely in elderly people.

Side effects are acne like rash and skin lesions.

Food sources comes from meat, fish and dairy products.

Supplementation Levels…

Below is a chart with RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for each of the B vitamins. Personally, I take a multi-vitamin with the highest amount of B Complex and in addition to that, a B Complex only vitamin.

I feel the B’s are one of the most important vitamins you can take especially if you are active. It is extremely hard to overdose on them, they are water soluble meaning you piss away any excess, and they serve too important of function in the body to be skimping on them.

I take my multi-vitamin in the morning then the B complex tablet on top of that about an hour before working out.

My levels are much higher than the RDA but this will give you a guideline. Even if you have a perfect diet, if you train, take a high level B multi-vitamin.

Vitamin B Dosages

Vitamin B Dosages

Increase your B’s if you want to BE….Fit Forlife!



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Vitamins from A to …

We all know or at least heard that vitamins are important as part of your regular diet.  But what is a vitamin and how does it contribute to your overall health and wellness?  In addition, how does each one function and which ones should I pay particular attention to?

Wikipedia defines a vitamin as follows:

A vitamin is an organic compound and a vital nutrient that an organism requires in limited amounts.  An organic chemical compound (or related set of compounds) is called a vitamin when the organism cannot synthesize the compound in sufficient quantities, and it must be obtained through the diet; thus, the term “vitamin” is conditional upon the circumstances and the particular organism.

In the next series of posts, I will briefly describe each vitamin, how it functions in your body, what foods provide them, what quantities should one consume, side effects, and whether they are soluble or insoluble (more on that soon).

So without further ado, here we go starting with…

Vitamin A…

This vitamin is known for its benefits towards vision and the immune system.  To make things a little confusing, there are two types on vitamin A, one that comes from animal sources known as retinoid and the other from plant sources known as beta-carotene.

The vitamin A you get in supplements are from the plant source, beta-carotene.  The recommended minimum requirement is 10,ooo IU per day.  An IU is defined as a quantity of a biologic (such as a vitamin) that produces a particular biological effect agreed upon as an international standard.

Most nutritionists will tell you that you can get 65% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A by having five servings of fruits and vegetables a day but the reality is, how many people have the capability of doing that?

Food sources…

Vitamin A plant sources come from sweet potato, carrots, spinach, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, beet greens and squash in that order.

Vitamin A animal sources come from eggs, whole milk, fish (in particular tuna), liver, and fortified skim milk.

Retinoid or Carotene?

Although some vegans would debate this, the most efficient way of getting your vitamin A is from animal sources not plant sources.  This is because no matter what source you get it from, it must be converted to retinoid to be fully effective.

This means plant source vitamin A has to go through a process.  The downside to that is that it takes six units of carotene to produce one unit of retinoid.  Highly inefficient!

Fat soluble or Water soluble?

Vitamins are either fat or water soluble.  From it is identified as such:

Vitamins are classified as either fat soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K) or water soluble (vitamins B and C). This difference between the two groups is very important. It determines how each vitamin acts within the body.

The fat soluble vitamins are soluble in lipids (fats). These vitamins are usually absorbed in fat globules (called chylomicrons) that travel through the lymphatic system of the small intestines and into the general blood circulation within the body. These fat soluble vitamins, especially vitamins A and E, are then stored in body tissues.

Fat soluble vitamins, once they have been stored in tissues in the body, tend to remain there. This means that if a person takes in too much of a fat soluble vitamin, over time they can have too much of that vitamin present in their body, a potentially dangerous condition called hypervitaminosis (literally, too much vitamin in the body).

Persons can be also be deficient in the fat soluble vitamins if their fat intake is too low or if their fat absorption is compromised, for example, by certain drugs (that interfere with the absorption of fat from the intestine) or by certain diseases such as cystic fibrosis (in which there is a deficiency of enzymes from the pancreas which similarly interferes with the absorption of fat from the intestine).

What this amounts to is this.  Fat soluble vitamins being that they ae stored in your body’s fat, are not urinated away like in water soluble vitamins.  This means that if you take too much of fat stored vitamins, you may start hitting toxic levels.  As noted above, vitamin A is fat stored.

Side Effects…

Is there such a thing as too much vitamin A?  While rare, Yes…

Some common symptoms of too much vitamin A include:

blurred vision, headaches, drowsiness, decreased appetite, bone pain, nausea, skin and hair changes, sensitivity to sunlight just to name a few.

This concludes the first in a series of vitamins.  Stay tuned as we hit the B’s, a very complex series of vitamins for the body in order to stay…. Fit Forlife!






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2016 Here you come!


Here we are, the year is almost over and most people start reflecting what they accomplished and if they are honest with themselves, where they have failed and most importantly, what can they do to improve for the new year.

When it comes to training and staying on an exercise and nutrition program, the vast majority of people fail.  You can always see what someone’s New Year resolution is towards the end of December and beginning of January. This is when gyms across the country start to enroll new members.

This is always a great thing to see but sadly, I have read that 70% of the people that commit to change to a healthy lifestyle quite within two weeks and by the time March rolls around, over 90% of the new members stop going.

How to succeed…

There are several things that you can do in order to succeed this time around.  Here are just some:

  1. Be realistic – examine your personal and work life and set up a plan that is realistic and will fit into your circumstances. A lot of people are too gung ho and will plan for either too many training sessions in a week or duration of each training session, or both.  This is not a race, being fit is a lifetime process.  There is no need to try to ‘catch up’ for lost time, it will not accomplish anything but disappointment.
  2. When – once you have set up frequency and duration based on lifestyle, you then need to set up at what time you will train. While there are benefits for performing cardio versus resistance training during certain times of the day, your first goal is to just get a routine going. So pick a time that is most convenient to you.
  3. Where – again, in order to be successful, you need to keep it simple.  Where are you going to train, at home, your community fitness center or a local gym.  Do you want to train near the house or near work?  What fits best into your schedule. For example, if you are training at lunch time, pick a gym as close to possible to work, reduce drive time. Don’t get lured into the ‘big box’ gyms like LA Fitness, Bally’s, etc.  There are many small local gyms that are just as nice, the crowd is usually friendlier, and some of the amenities may be better, i.e. workout and shower towels provided.
  4. What – so now you have frequency, duration, time and place, so what do you do? It depends on what satisfies you the most and/or what’s readily available at the place you are training.  The key is to get into a routine. The best way to accomplish this is by making it fun.  For example, if the place provides a spin class while you are there, how about 30 minutes of resistance training followed by joining the spin class towards the end?  Or vice versa? Don’t think you have to take one of the gyms classes for the entire duration. If you are pressed for time, do what you can fit in.
  5. Training partner? – This one is tough.  On the one hand, a partner can be an inspiration when you are feeling down and vice-versa.  On the other hand, they can also be a deterrent by convincing you to skip a workout or showing up late.  I only have used training partners when I competed where I needed someone for a spot or to coach me.  Other than that, I prefer to train alone.  If you are going to take on a training partner I would suggest your spouse or significant other. This way you can motivate each other.
  6. Prepare to fail – yes, it is ok to fail.  Changing your life with exercise and nutrition is not easy.  There will be bumps in the road, setbacks, etc. As long as you mentally prepare for that, and know that it is ok to fail as long as you analyze why, you can always get back on track.  For example, you may have been too ambitious on the amount of days you can train per week.  Don’t worry about missing workouts and throwing your routine off schedule, just adjust the number of times you can train and start over again.
  7. Ctrl-Alt-Del – what does that mean?  It means that even if you totally quit from your New Year’s resolution at some point during the year, it does not mean that you wait till next year to try it again.  You life is like a PC, you can CTRL-ALT-DEL at any time and start all over again.  I always tell people, every Monday is your chance to start all over again, how cool is that!!!!
  8. Take advantage of facilities – if you join a gym and this is the first time that you are really going to make a go at getting fit, try everything they have to offer.  Personal training services, spin classes, yoga, Zumba, etc.  You may come in with one frame of mind of what you want to do and come out with another goal after you have tried different exercise routines.  The key is that it is enjoyable enough that you will want to come in on a regular basis!

So, start planning and get ready, make 2016 the year you make it happen and you too can be …Fit Forlife!

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Progress through injury

I know this sounds crazy and counterintuitive, how can one make progress while they are injured?  Well the answer is, yes you can.

Now I do want to exclude some injuries.  If you play a sport like football where it sometimes seems like the objective is to knock the other player out for life, this blog post doesn’t necessarily apply to you.  I am not talking about injuries involving broken bones, blown out knees, etc.  This is more along the lines of pulled muscles or joint pain.

Getting injured…

In my 40 plus years of competing and training to stay fit, my experience has shown me that I get injured in one of three ways.  Overtraining, not using proper form, or using too much weight.  All three are related to one another meaning, having one of those symptoms will bring about the other ones.

There are many side effects of overtraining.  Losing focus is one of them.  The other one is feeling weak or tired.  When that happens, you tend to not concentrate on what you are doing when performing an exercise.

When you have lost focus, you do not pay attention to the form you are using when performing the exercise.  Your body then tries to ‘cheat’ the exercise by swinging your body, contorting your frame, not tightening up during the lift or all the above.  This is when you can hurt your joint or pull a muscle.

When you are trying to go too heavy either for one rep or a set for a certain amount of reps with a particular weight is another instance where you can get injured.

Unless you are a world class athlete competing at the highest levels and always going for a personal best, there is no rush to get better as quickly as possible.  This is not a sprint but rather a lifelong marathon.  You sneak up on personal bests only after you have proven over a period of time that whatever your max is, that you consistently hit it week in and week out.  Only then do you attempt to go up.

How injuries help…

So how does an injury help you get better?  For one thing, it helps you analyze why and how you got injured.  Chances are, it is due to one or more of the three instances cited above.

When I was competing in Olympic lifting, if you did not use proper form you got injured as you went up in weight.  Constantly injuring my back through pulling muscles, taught me the proper way to perform a snatch or clean and jerk.  I had no choice but to do it right otherwise, I could not go any heavier, improper technique was going to win out every time through failure.  The same was true in performing proper squats, etc.

These injuries usually came about from overtraining.  Feeling tired but still pushing myself, even after I learned the proper technique would always cause me to ‘cheat’ the lift, thus resulting in an injury.

Trying to go for a record by more than a five pound increment was always risky as well.  If my max was x weight, I was safer and better off to go for a record of x plus 5 pounds rather x plus 15 or more pounds.  I was just setting myself up for injury.

Perfect example…

A perfect example of this which led to this blog post is what happened to me recently.  Doing something stupid in the gym and knowing that I was pushing it (plus not following proper form), I hurt my lower back severely.  A very painful pulled muscle.  I have had this similar injury before and thought it would go away in 2-3 days but this one was pretty bad.

I was kept from doing a serious type of workout, free weights, for about two weeks.  I did machine work but very light in order not to pull it further.

Yesterday was my first day where I could lift free weights.  My plan was to not go too hard.  Well to my surprise the weights felt very easy.  I was doing dumbbell incline presses.  I normally go up to 90 for ten reps then cut back down to 75 for a 4X set of ten reps.  I have been doing this weight for the past six months relatively easy.

Yesterday everything felt so good I went for 80 for a 4X set of ten.  I accomplished 3 sets of 10 with my 4th set at 7 reps.  I would not have been able to do this prior to may back injury.  Why? I was overtraining that is why.  Due to the layoff where I still worked out but held back on the weights, I had the strength to go for a record for me this year in this lift.

What this taught me was that I was going too hard every week and that what I need to do if I want to continue to progress is take it easy every other week or so.

So if you get injured, do not get discouraged.  Take the time to figure out how and why, adapt and change accordingly and move forward to become…Fit Forlife!

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