Thursday, October 30, 2014

Joffey Press: Your Way to Tighter Abs and a Flatter Stomach
by Bob Wells, PES, CES

The stomach is probably the biggest trouble zone for everyone--men and women. I'm frequently asked for guidance about how to get rid of the muffin top or love handles, and how to get a six pack or just a flat firm stomach.

Obviously, diet is a huge part of the solution, and you can read more about diet by checking out "Sculpting the Perfect Body : One Bite at a Time." However, it is important to make sure that we are exercising properly to build the muscle that we want to be able to show off.

Doing "Ab Work" has historically meant doing countless numbers of sit ups and crunches to get a flat, tight stomach. However, these exercises are potentially injurious because of the strain that they place on the lower back and neck. Further, they don't take into account another function of the abdominals, which also function to prevent lateral motion.

A good way to think about this is to consider running mechanics. As you furiously pump your arms and legs to run as fast as you can, you are trying to prevent unnecessary lateral motion. (arms and legs moving sideways, as opposed to straight ahead.)

Ab routines that don't account for this function are incomplete and unlikely to get you to your performance or aesthetic goals. Here is a great exercise, the Joffey Press, to add to your routine.

To progress this exercise, you can add weight, or increase the complexity by trying the anti-rotational lunge, which is shown below:

Please feel free to email with questions and/or comments. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

   by Bob Wells, CES, PES, Pn1

In addition to time off from work, summer is characterized by trips to the beach and the seemingly endless parade of buns and guns there.

Courtesy: Swedish Bikini Team
So, whether you live in the United States, Russia, Turkey, or most other countries in the Northern Hemisphere for that matter, there is "still a little summer left" as George Costanza said. That also means that there is still time left to make your buns and guns worthy of admiration--and jealousy.

Joe Manganiello / AP
Matt McConaughey / AP
Hugh Jackman / AP

So without further ado, let's rock and roll with the workout:

Complete 10-15 repetitions of each exercise, starting with the ViPR Squat Press. Complete 3-4 rounds in this manner.

1. ViPR Squat Press. Check out former NYU diver Nealey Wallis as she demonstrates a great exercise to tone your glutes and arms. Don't worry if you don't have a ViPR, since you can substitute a barbell or dumbbells.

2. Lat Pulldown. Equinox Tier 3+ trainer Herman Soto shows us an exercise that targets the back and biceps.

3. TRX Hip Press. Actor and ab model Frank Monteleone demonstrates one of his favorite exercises to shape his glutes and hamstrings. If you don't have access to a TRX, you can do a glute bridge with your feet on the floor.

4. Bent over row. Soto shows us the bent over row, which is another amazing exercise to target the biceps and back.

5. Ice Skaters. Equinox Tier 3 trainer Karolina Pawlak demonstrates ice skaters--the secret behind her lean and toned legs and glutes.

6. Db. Triceps Kickback. Want lean arms like Karolina? Add dumbbell triceps kickback to your routine and watch the fat melt away.

7. Unilateral Squat Jumps. Globe trotter Ashley Castle shows us how she keeps her glutes so toned, even if she can't make it to a gym. Feel the burn as your glutes get much tighter!

8. Bicep Curls. For the last "gun" exercise of the day, Laura Fisher demonstrates a variation of the bicep curl designed to challenge you and get arms that look as if they were chiseled from granite.

Congratulations on getting through the workout. Repeat 2-3 times a week for the best results.

For more great exercises or workouts, check us out on YouTube at Bob Wells Fitness or on Instagram at Bob Wells.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Stand the Heat

Hydration Strategies for Summer Training
   by Bob Wells, CES, PES, Pn1

Courtesy Live NY Now
The long winter of our discontent is finally over. The snow has melted, and we have stored our sweaters, warm coats, and other winter gear in boxes, or in the back of our closet. We can finally breath a sigh of relief--summer is here!

The temperatures are soaring, along with our spirits about this development. The surplus of daylight hours and warm weather has many of us giddy. We can eschew the treadmill, and opt for a pre and/or post work run outside.

However, we need to take certain precautions regarding fluid intake to perform at a high level and stay safe. There are three periods that we have to take note of for hydration strategies:

  1. Before Exercise- Most of us don't think of proper hydration strategies until we have finished our training session, and we are sweating profusely. This thinking both compromises the quality of our workout and is dangerous. Underconsumption of fluids can lead to problems such as heat stroke and eventually death. Make sure you consume enough liquids, primarily water, by drinking 500mL of fluid (about 17 ounces) about 30 minutes prior to exercise.
  2. During Exercise- Once you start exercising, it is important to stay hydrated. Dr. John Berardi, of Precision Nutrition, suggests that athletes consume nearly 250mL (about 8 ounces) for every 15 minutes of exercise. This is a general guideline and temperature, one's body size, and intensity of the training session will affect how much fluid intake is appropriate. (Email me at or contact your local personal trainer or fitness professional to determine exactly how much fluid you should consume based on these factors.)
  3. After Exercise- Once your training session is over, fluid intake is key for recovery. If you don't replace the fluids that you have lost, recovery is delayed. One way to replace the sodium and carbohydrate losses is to consume 400mL-800mL (13-26 oz.) of a commercial sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade.
Courtesy NBA

To read more about hydration strategies and the importance of water, check out "Exploring the Relationship between Water and Fat Loss" or "Running in the Heat" by Jennifer Van Allen of Runner's World

Comments? Questions? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fat is Not the Enemy
   by Bob Wells, CES, PES, Pn1

Courtesy Pantry Paratus
For decades, we have had a hate-hate relationship with fat.

Fat has been denigrated for years, and we have been told that the consumption of it will lead to sickness and disease, most notably cardiovascular disease.

One of the earlier researchers--and creator of the military's K ration--Dr. Ancel Keys (1904-2004), led the charge against fat consumption. His Seven Countries Study showed that there was a causal relationship between saturated fat intake and prevalence of cardiovascular disease.

In his research, Keys highlighted the fact the the Western Diet featured meat and dairy. Not surprisingly, this high fat consumption resulted in high rates of heart disease. Keys therefore warned Americans to drastically reduce fat intake in order to avoid heart disease. Based on Keys' research and strong admonitions, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued guidelines to refrain from fat consumption. Later the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) joined the party, and issued directives to stay away from fat, setting up carbohydrates as the base of their food pyramid.

Courtesy Denise Minger
The food companies, with the blessing of the USDA, obliged, and began offering low-fat and nonfat fare. Fat intake plummeted, and carbohydrate intake began to rise, to the surprise of no one. Four decades into this paradigm shift, we are able to see this strategy for what it is: a complete failure.

Despite our decreased fat intake, Americans are sicker than ever. Bryan Walsh of Time writes, "The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes increased 166% from 1980-2012." Approximately 10% of the population suffers from diabetes, leading to astonishing health care costs. One estimate is that diabetes alone costs nearly $250 billion annually. To top it off, cardiovascular disease still remains the No. 1 killer in the U.S., despite this wide scale reduction of fat consumption.

The dubious connection between fat and heart disease should have been noted long ago. Countries like West Germany and France consumed high fat diets yet had low incidences of heart disease. Why Keys left such crucial data out of his research remains open for debate.

However, their inclusion might have led food companies and consumers alike to look earlier into the importance of a truly balanced diet. Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition shows that macronutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates) are most effective for health and desirable body compositions when they are consumed in the proper amounts. Read "Sculpting the Perfect Body : One bite at a Time" to get a better picture of what a balanced meal looks like.

As many of us now know, we should "Eat Healthy Fats Daily" to help look and feel our best.

In other words, fat is not the enemy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Sleep Matters

As a student at Duke University, our unofficial motto was "Work Hard. Play Hard."

There was a prevailing mythical notion that you could have it all--the high GPA that comes with talent--and numerous hours of study, yet not have to sacrifice all the fun that one should be having at university. The only sacrifice that needed to be made was the nightly eight hours of sleep.

While the years have passed, times have not changed--for our society at large. We stay up later than ever to party, study, and work. We erroneously believe that these extra hours awake will increase our productivity and make us better at school and/or our jobs. 

A major problem with this school of thought is that science has clearly demonstrated the negatives associated with "burning the candle at both ends" . According to Harvard Medical School, "...a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury." 

At the least, we've wasted our time cramming information into our heads that we have little hope to retain and be able to recall at a later date. At the worst, we potentially risk life and limb as a result of the depreciated cognitive and physical states that we are in due to this sleep deprivation. 

Long term, the effects are even more pernicious. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. In other words, the cumulative effect of all this sleep deprivation is making us dumber and fatter and sending us to an early grave. 

None of us want to be dumber, fatter, or die earlier, so how do we change this negative trend? Here are a few things that Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition advocates in "Hacking Sleep." that we should implement:
  1.  Exercise Regularly. "Exercising regularly helps normalize circadian rhythms, tone down the sympathetic nervous system, and regulate endocrine function." A caveat to consider: intense workouts at night can rev us up, costing us precious sleep. Berardi says that we should leave this intense workouts for during the day.
  2. Keep the Room as Dark as Possible. "Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain that signals to your body it is time for sleep. Making your room as dark as possible will maximize your melatonin production." The light from your electronic devices (e.g. cell phones, tablets, computers) inhibits melatonin production and makes it harder to fall asleep. So, turn these off before bed or turn your iPhone face down if you are using it as an alarm clock. 
  3. Courtesy Ashley Pahl
  4. Do a Brain Dump. Don't stress out about all of the things that you have on tap for tomorrow. This only increases stress and further prevents you from relaxing and falling asleep. Instead, write down everything that you need to do. An example is shown right. This gets it out of your head and allows for true relaxation.
Implement these three strategies to create better sleep patterns and get more from your sleep. 

To read more about sleep and sleep deprivation, check out these articles from Harvard Medical School, New York Magazine, Equinox, and Precision Nutrition.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Habit 5 : Eat Healthy Fats Daily

In our never ending quest for six packs and size zeroes, we try all manner of fad diets and exercise regimens. Still, each year, in advance of summer, we find ourselves back at square one on our quest for the holy grail of envy inducing long and lean muscles, like that of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master and world grappling champion Kyra Gracie. (pictured below right)

Courtesy : Total Pro Sports
One obvious reason for our failure to keep the weight off and the fat away is that the diets that we choose are not sustainable. Not if you want to have a life and not go crazy with the calorie counting and food restrictions.

One of the great aspects of the 5 Habits is that while we are fundamentally changing how we eat, it is not overly restrictive. We can still enjoy our favorites, such as pasta, breads, and deserts. In fact, we often limit things that should be a bigger part of our diets, like vegetables and fats, which brings us to Habit 5 : Eat Healthy Fats Daily.

Although the optimal fat intake for each of us is 20-40%, 30% is a good target to shoot for. In special cases, this percentage can be lower for a short period of time.

According to Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition, the balance between saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats is more important than total fat intake.

Dr. Berardi points out that while the ratios and percentages could be intimidating, we should instead focus on adding healthy fats of each type to our diet. Some healthy monounsaturated fats are extra virgin olive oil, some nuts, and avocados. Examples of good polyunsaturated fats include some nuts, some vegetable oils, and fish oil supplements. For more detailed information about the types of fats and how to include them in the diet, read "All About Healthy Fats" by Ryan Andrews.

By properly including and balancing healthy fats daily, we can improve our health, body composition, and performance. In short, we will feel, look, and perform better! Just in time for summer!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Habit 4: For Fat Loss, Eat a Majority of Other Carbohydrates After Exercise

Pastas, such as orecchiette with ricotta and drizzled in a chard pan sauce (pictured below), are mouth watering and delicious entrees. Almost as delectable are the warm, delicious breads that accompany these dishes, and that we partake of at many restaurants, or at home when we dine in.
Courtesy Better Homes and Gardens

Such gastronomic adventures come with a price--an expanded waistline and flabby arms that serve as a not so subtle reminder that perhaps we should have made different food selections and/or pushed away from the table a lot sooner, on more than one occasion.

Still, many of us shudder to imagine--and refuse to live in a world--without our favorite foods, even if they aren't so good for us. After all, what's the point of being in great shape if we are going to be miserable and subsisting on cardboardesque rice cakes and the like?

Life is about balance, and the same is true of nutrition strategies. Instead of eliminating our favorite foods, we can use Habit 4 to stay on track and stay sane as we strive to accomplish our fitness and weight loss goals. For weight loss, eat a majority of other carbohydrates after exercise.

"After your training session(workout), it is critical to eat carbs because it starts the whole recovery/muscle growth process,"says Equinox Tier 3+ Personal Trainer CJ Blackman. "Following a hard workout, your body is severely depleted of glycogen and glucose but this is mainly dependent on the intensity of the training session and whether it was mainly aerobic(such as jogging) or anaerobic(such as lifting weights). Your levels of glucose/glycogen will be depleted none the less."

The benefit of this strategy, according to Blackman, " that it allows you to eat a relatively large amount of carbs without contributing to weight gain since your body needs to turn all these carbs into fuel for your future training sessions." See, you can have your proverbial cake and eat it too.

However, Blackman does urge caution regarding post workout food selections. He highlights common foods that are to be avoided, such as Gatorade, Muscle-milk, NO-XPLODE, C4. Blackman explains his opposition to these, "I would caution against these drinks because they contain very large amounts of sugar, preservatives, and excitotoxins."

Instead, Blackman recommends healthier options such as fruit, with a source of protein such yogurt or whey protein. Fruits and nuts can also be a great combination if you are a vegetarian or vegan.

The bottom line is that when you are looking to lose fat/weight, save these other carbs for after the workout. You will have earned it, and it will taste that much better.

This is part four of a five part series on The 5 Habits of Good Nutrition. Stay tuned for the rest of the series. 

Special thanks to Carlton Blackman, a Tier 3+ personal trainer at Equinox for taking time out of your busy schedule to provide us with tremendous insight and invaluable strategies to lose fat without sacrificing all of our favorite foods.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Habit 3 : Eat Vegetables with Every Meal

Courtesy: Social Moms
From as far back as I can remember, my mother and grandmothers gently, and sometimes not so gently, reminded me of the importance of eating vegetables. They claimed that vegetables would make and keep me healthy, and that I would grow up to be big and strong--if I ate them.

The underlying assumption was that if I didn't, then I would be forever scrawny and weak. This fear compelled me, and countless other unsuspecting children I presume, to eat more than our fair share of vegetables, often opting for a second helping. To this day my favorite food is Brussels sprouts. 

What our mothers and grandmothers have always known, science is now able to prove. There is now a great deal of empirical data about the importance of vegetables [and fruits]. They are essential for optimal physiological  functioning, and they help provide an alkaline load to the blood.

Conversely, proteins and grains provide an acid load to our blood. Their over consumption can have detrimental outcomes, such as losses of bone strength and muscle mass.

Coach Ron McKeefery
Coach Ron McKeefery, a strength and conditioning coach of the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals explains this significance further.

"Over the long haul, those who do not balance their diet with alkaline foods (vegetables and fruits, primarily) become prone to weak bones, joints and muscles, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and a host of other health problems. In other words, long-term health and longevity have everything to do with acid-alkaline balance. "

Therefore, without this alkalinity, the loss of bone strength can lead to brittle and broken bones. The accompanying loss of muscle mass slows down one's metabolism, and makes it more difficult to lose fat. Additionally, some studies suggest that cancer rates are higher if our diets are too acidic.

Now that we can all acknowledge the importance of eating vegetables, we just need to know how much to eat.

"The amount of vegetables you need to eat depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity," says McKeefery. "Generally, adult men and women should eat 2-3 cups of vegetables per day.  As a rule of thumb, half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables."

McKeefery says the breakdown of vegetables should look something like this:

Assuming 17.5 cups per week (2 1/2 cups per day)
 - 1 1/2 cups per week of dark green vegetables - bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, kale, spinach, etc.
 - 5 1/2 cups per week orange/red vegetables - acorn squash, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, red peppers, etc.
 - 1 1/2 dry peas and beans (legumes) - black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, split peas, tofu, etc.
 - 5 cups per week starchy vegetables - green peas, corn, potatoes, water chestnuts, etc.
 - 4 cups per week other vegetables - green beans, artichokes, asparagus, beets, onions, egg plant, celery, cabbage, etc.

Develop this habit and help feel, perform, and look your best and stay healthy and disease free.

This is part three of a five part series on The 5 Habits of Good Nutrition. Stay tuned for the rest of the series. 

Special thanks to Coach Ron McKeefery, Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Cincinnati Bengals (NFL) for taking time out of your busy schedule to provide us with tremendous insight and invaluable information about sports nutrition and the significance of eating vegetables.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Habit 2: Eat Protein Dense Foods with Each Meal

Last week, we wrote about the importance of slowing down while eating. Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition pointed out that slowing down was important to allow our brain to recognize that we are full. This strategy allows us to stop before we overeat, and is a key element which will allow us to reach our fitness and aesthetic goals.

Martina Avellino, PhD.
Now that we have covered our bases in terms of how we should eat, let's look at what we should eat. Precision Nutrition advocates that it is crucial to eat protein dense foods with each meal, despite some statements to the contrary. Some experts would have you believe that this strategy involves eating too much protein--which is harmful at worst, or futile at best.

Martina Avellino, of Integra Training, and one of England's top trainers and brightest minds, disagrees with the protein naysayers. Avellino states, "Eating protein in every meal is important for satiety and to ensure that overall protein intake is adequate. Additionally, protein can positively affect hormonal balance that favours an optimal body composition."

This is because protein consumption aids in stimulating the release of glucagon. Glucagon, a hormone that is secreted by the alpha cells of the pancreas, breaks down glycogen to release glucose. This reduces the glycogen storage in the body, and in turn makes us less likely to store carbohydrates as fat.

In order to meet protein needs, Erika Volk (founder of Erika Volk Fitness) say that men and women should consume protein based on their weight and activity level.

 Erika Volk
Volk says that, "to prevent a protein deficiency, healthy adults need a baseline intake of .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, if you are participating in an exercise program or are trying to lose weight, you should aim to consume .64-.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight."

Michael Baker, a Tier 3+ trainer at Equinox has an easier way to measure the protein sizes if you don't have a digital scale handy. "A protein serving size should be between 20 and 30g, which is about the size of your hand."

"Women should seek to get one portion per meal, whereas men should aim for two servings of protein at each meal."

Follow these guidelines and you ensure that you consume adequate protein, rev up your metabolism, improve recovery, and reduce body fat.

This is part two of a five part series on The 5 Habits of Good Nutrition. Stay tuned for the rest of the series. 

Special thanks to Martina Avellino, PhD. of Integra Training, Erika Volk of Erika Volk Fitness, and Michael Baker of Equinox.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Habit 1: Eat Slowly and Stop at 80% Full

Most of us scarf down food like a young Yasiel Puig (LA Dodgers star outfielder), never knowing where our next meal is coming from. Many would classify this behavior as ridiculous or unsavory, given both the excess of and the access that most of us have to food. More importantly, this speed eating it is antithetical to our goals of leanness, performance, and health.

Courtesy: AP
Instead of devouring our food like a wild animal, we should eat slower and savor each bite. Each meal should last for an average of nearly 20 minutes.

Dr. John Berardi, of Precision Nutrition, says that this might be the most important of his 5 Habits. "It takes about 20 minutes for our satiety mechanisms to kick in. In other words, the communication between our gut, to our brain, and back to our gut is slow. Because of this, if we eat quickly, we're likely to eat far too much in the 20 minute time period before our brain finally says: "I'm content. You can stop eating now."

Admittedly, a meal that lasts for 20 minutes can be daunting for someone who has become accustomed to racing through meals. In that case, even slowing down a little can make a big difference.

This habit will help you to eat less and to better gauge fullness. So, the next time you sit down for a meal, relax and take your time. The future-and leaner you-will thank you.

This is part one of a five part article on the 5 Habits of Good Nutrition. Stay tuned for the rest of the series. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Get Fit with Frank: How to Take Your Fitness to the Next Level on the Road

Frank and Kathleen Monteleone / Courtesy
28 days into our resolutions and most people have strayed from the path. The last remnant of the 2014 resolutioners figures to drop off by Valentine's day. It happens-work piles up in the office, family obligations arise, and many are forced to hit the road to fulfill these obligations.

Actor and hotelier Frank Monteleone knows all too well the challenges of staying in shape while juggling these obligations. Family duties and work opportunities have Frank routinely traversing multiple time zones. 

There's not always a gym nearby, nor do the ones nearby always have proper equipment. This can make it difficult to get in quality workouts, so Frank brings his TRX with him on the road and leaves nothing to chance.

"The TRX is the easiest all in one workout equipment anyone needs," says Monteleone. "I can literally find a place to hang it wherever I go--hotel doors, trees in parks, etc. I find that at least 2-3 TRX workouts a week will keep me conditioned and toned."

One of Frank's favorite exercises is the TRX burpee. The TRX burpee is a fun and challenging full body exercise that really torches calories.

"I can always tell where I am in my conditioning by how well I can handle doing burpees. Nothing will get you hitting your goals faster than throwing in weekly burpees."

Another Frank favorite is the TRX row into pushup. For more of Frank's favorite exercises, check out the Bob Wells Fitness YouTube channel.

Don't forget to check out Frank Monteleone in the upcoming movie, Focus, with Will Smith.

Comments? Questions? 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

How to Make Your New Year's Resolutions Work For You
   by Bob Wells, CPT, PES, CES

2014 is in full swing and gyms and health clubs around the world are crowded, full of resolutioners swearing, nay, resolving that this year is going to be different.

This is the year-2014-that they are going to achieve all of their goals, especially their fitness goals. This lofty aims are understandable, since there are few among us who don't want to look great-naked or not.

However, we know anecdotally and empirically, for that matter, that most will fail in this effort. Those with the sturdiest of resolves will only last until the middle of February and perhaps even into early March, before abandoning their resolutions for the comfort of the status quo. So, how do you keep from becoming another statistic?

The answer lies primarily in the setting of goals, and specifically setting S.M.A.R.T goals. Based on the model first used in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran, S.M.A.R.T goals refer to goals that are:

  • Specific-The goal should be more specific than general here. Eliminate any vagueness. Instead of resolving to lose weight, set a goal of losing 15 pounds. 
  • Measurable-The goal should have tangible criteria for progress, such as that of losing weight. You can use a scale to measure body weight changes, but simply resolving to get into better shape is not a measurable goal.
  • Attainable-The goal should be able to be accomplished. In our example of losing 15 pounds, it is certainly an attainable or achievable goal.
  • Realistic- This characteristic is similar to being attainable, but here the goal should consider lifestyle choices or limitations. You can certainly lose 15 pounds, but not if you have a bottle of wine and three desserts each evening. 
  • Time-bound-The goal, rather accomplishing the goal should have an expiration date. I want to lose the aforementioned 15 pounds by March.
Use these S.M.A.R.T goals to achieve great success in fitness and beyond in 2014. Good luck and Happy New Year!

Comments? Questions?