Protecting the Aging Brain

This article, written by  Cody Sipe, PhD, outlines the effects of aging and specific actions we can take to help extend our lives with health and productivity. I encourage you to read and adopt the changes that work for you.  Make the New Year a fresh start for improved health and wellness for yourself and those you love.   Be well, stay strong.

Protecting the Aging Brain




The Best Fat Loss Program…

Beach run, Maui

Fit For Life!

The best fat loss program requires a multi-layer approach that incorporates proper nutrition, adequate rest/recovery, affirmative mindfulness, and appropriate physical movement. Periodic modification and persistent adherence in each of these lifestyle areas will produce healthy and sustainable change.

The article below describes a guideline to resistance training that I believe meets the needs of most of us who struggle with how to perform the correct exercise routine in the most productive manner.

Please read the article and contact me with any questions or needs you have on implementing it.

Be well, stay strong. Pedro


THE 7 SIGNS OF A HIGH PERFORMER: Nick Berry,  CEO Fitness Consulting Group

This post is about the other key ingredient in the formula for a high performing business – a high performing YOU. The distinction is critical, and you’ll see why by the end of the post.

#1 – They meet their commitments.
On anything from making good on payments to giving their word, they recognize the importance of a commitment. If life gets in the way, like it does for all of us, a high performer owns failures and works to make them right.
One of our Core Values is “We do what we say we’re going to do”. We want to instill in our Team that maintaining commitments is non-negotiable.
It’s no accident that high performers are known for their dependability.

#2- They are open to criticism.
They usually aren’t the person who has a reason ‘why’ for everything, they’re usually the person who has an example of how they made a mistake and how they’ve learned from it.
Learning from mistakes and accepting feedback is one of the biggest factors that separates high performers from the rest.

#3- They are learners.
Down to their core. It never shuts off with them. They may not even realize how much they are absorbing from everything that’s going on around them – but they do recognize the importance of always learning.

#4 – They are up to the challenge.
If you put a high performer among peers, they are going to respond by upping their game. They become more focused, more diligent, and more responsive.

#5- They recognize all aspects of their health.
This does NOT mean that they are always at peak levels. I would actually say that the key lies more in them being able to effectively manage themselves at less-than-optimal levels, and minimizing the effects of being less than optimal.

#6- They respect the needs of the business.
They don’t let a weakness of theirs become a neglected area of the business. High performers know that it has to be done, and they make sure that it is.

#7- They make all of their decisions with the long and short term in mind.
It doesn’t mean they are always right – it means they are always working to align the short term with the long term.

You’ll notice that all of these signs are behavioral. There’s nothing on this list that one person may be born with that another is not. There’s no mention of IQ, appearance, or any type of benchmark or score. You have control over everything listed.

High performance can mean different things to different people, but the constant for everyone is that it’s driven by how you act.

The most important lesson that I’ve learned from surrounding myself with high performers isn’t a metric, number, checklist or strategy but learning how high performers think and act.

A high performing business has to be built on a foundation of certain functional pieces, and those pieces have to be measured.
That’s not the case when we’re talking about the high performing YOU. The high performing YOU is built on the foundation of how you think and act.
The tools are there. What we can’t do is make your mind up for you. You have to do that in order to build your high performing self and your own high performing business.


Back Injury Prevention Using Neutral Spine Exercises: By Mike Bracko

Mike Bracko, EdD, is the director of Dr. Bracko’s Fitness and the Hockey Institute, and is a fitness educator, hockey skating coach, writer, and back injury prevention expert. Mike holds a doctoral degree in exercise science. He works with hockey players, industrial workers, and fitness professionals to improve performance and prevent injury. Mike is the author of 28 DVD’s and CD’s ranging in topics from Body Leverage Training, Ultimate Back Exercises, Lateral Training, Back Injury Prevention, and Safe Lifting.

Date Released: 23 Dec 2013

Back injury prevention is a concern for many people. In industry, it is a major issue for safety professionals. In sports, preventing back injuries is important to athletes as well as strength and conditioning coaches. Fitness professionals also take a special interest in preventing back injuries for themselves and their clients of all fitness levels. Injuries can be prevented in many ways, and training to improve the strength of the back and core is important in the process. However, exercises to strengthen the back and core must be safe, effective, and functional. While exercising the back and the core, it is important to maintain a neutral spine while so that the intervertebral discs are not weakened due to repeated truck flexion or hyper extension. This is why exercises that maintain a neutral spine are so useful in back and core strengthening (front plank, side plank, bird dog, and vertical core exercises).

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the research and risk factors for back injuries, and discuss the mechanisms of injury.
  2. Be able to explain, demonstrate, and apply neutral spine exercises for clients.
  3. Understand how to apply horizontal and vertical core training exercises.

Back Injury Overview: Back pain is one of the most significant health care issues in North America. Sixty to 80% of the population (including fitness professionals and personal training clients) will suffer from back pain or back injury at one point in their life (Andersson, Fine,& Silverstein, 1995). Stuart McGill, Ph.D., spinal biomechanist at the University of Waterloo, Canada, indicates that strains to the muscle and tendon are the most common cause of low back pain (2007). Most back injuries are caused by micro-traumas from sub-failure magnitude loads that eventually lead to a severe strain (McGill, 2007). For instance, the injury mechanism leading to a disc herniation is repeated trunk flexion (Tampier, et al., 2007).

True Core Stability: McGill (2010) indicates that core stability has little to do with the ability to balance on a gym ball. Exercising on an unstable surface is the ability to maintain the body in balance, which can be important and fun, but does not address the unstable spine. True spine stability is achieved with a balanced strengthening of all the muscles including the rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi and the back extensors (McGill, 2007).

If our clients are sitting all day at a computer (a risk factor for back injury/pain [Videman, Nurminen, and Troup, 1990]), or lifting objects for work, or driving medium to long distances, their backs can already be at risk for injury. Therefore, trainers would want to be aware of the client’s occupational postures and risk factors and not make them worse by prescribing back/core exercises that would further exacerbate the risk for back injury.

Rational for Neutral Spine Loading: This therefore makes a strong case for neutral spine loading. Some trainers believe that repeated spine flexion (crunches or full sit-ups) are effective ways to train the trunk flexors, but these muscles are rarely used in this way. Instead, they more often act as stabilizers, accelerators, and decelerators rather than flexors (McGill, 2010). For instance, in the activities of daily living, how often do our clients perform forceful trunk flexion using the rectus abdominis? The only time forceful trunk flexion would be performed would be if our clients are involved in competitive swimming (turning at the end of the pool), diving, gymnastics, pole vaulting, and other similar activities. Instead, many of our clients need a strong core for stabilizing the spine/trunk in activities such as pushing a door open, pushing a lawn mower, carrying groceries, holding a young child, or shoveling snow. Even our athletic clients require stabilizing core muscles for acceleration – deceleration and maintaining a strong upright posture for sports such as football, tennis, softball, ice hockey, swimming, hiking with a pack back, and biking.

Neutral Spine Exercises: The following are examples of neutral spine exercises (horizontal and vertical) that are effective for strengthening the back and core, and therefore helping to prevent back injury.

 Horizontal Core Exercises:

  Figure 1: Front PlankFront Plank

  • Front Plank – Bend elbows at 90 degrees directly under shoulders while balancing on toes with a straight body (head to toe). Maintain head in a neutral position and contract the abdominals to help maintain a neutral spine. (See Figure 1)

*Regression: Balance on knees instead of toes. *Progression: Lift one arm forward in the air, or lift one arm and the opposite leg in the air simultaneously.

Figure 2: Side Plankside plank

  • Side Plank (Left and Right Sides) – Bend elbow under directly under shoulder while balancing on stacked feet. Contract the abdominals to maintain neutral spine. Try to keep top arm 6-12 inches from the top leg. (See Figure 2)

*Regression: Balance on stacked knees instead of feet. *Progression: Move elbow forward so that it’s under the head, or hold a hand weight with the top hand.


Figure 3: Bird DogBird Dog

  • Bird Dog – While on all 4’s, maintain a neutral spine and extend right arm out in front of body and left leg backward. Lift R-arm and L-leg (with pointed toe) simultaneously, keeping elbow and knee straight. Lift as high as comfortable. Finger tips and toes should touch the ground each repetition. (See Figure 3)

Perform reps of R-arm/L-leg, and then switch to L-arm/R-leg. *Regression: Lift only one arm, or lift only one leg. *Progression: Move arm in 3 different positions – start with reps of the arm in front of the body, then move arm to the side, then move arm straight back beside the body.


Figure 4: Stir the PotStir The Pot

  • Stir the Pot – (This is an advanced exercise using a stability ball). Maintain elbows on the ball and toes on the ground. Stabilize with abdominals while maintaining a neutral spine. Perform repetitions by moving elbows in a circle clockwise, then counter-clockwise. (See Figure 4)


Horizontal Core Exercise Workout: Perform 2 – 3 sets of the exercises in the following order:

Front plank: hold for 20 – 30 counts Left-side plank: hold for 20 – 30 counts Right-side plank: hold for 20 – 30 counts  Bird dog: 15 – 20 reps Stir the Pot: 5 – 10 reps in each direction for a total of 10 – 20 reps


Vertical Core Exercises:

Figure 5: Standing Arm ChopStanding Arm Chop

  • Standing Arm Chops – Place feet slightly wider than shoulder width with knees bent. Hold hands together with fingers interlocked and elbows straight. Perform repetitions by moving arms up and down as fast as possible. (See Figure 5)

*Progression: Hold a medicine ball (as seen in Figure 5) or Theraband soft weight.

  • Standing Arm Rotation Swings – Body position should be the same as Figure 5 above. Perform repetitions by moving arms side-to-side with little trunk rotation and a lot of arm/shoulder movement (so that the core has to accelerate – decelerate the arm movement).

*Progression: Hold a medicine ball or Theraband soft weight.  Figure 6: One-leg Pelvic Stability Running

  • One-Leg Pelvic Stability Run – Stand/balance on one leg with opposite knee flexed at 90 degrees and raised to hip height. Maintain pelvis parallel with floor. Lean forward (maintain a neutral spine, rather than flexing forward) bending balance leg and extending opposite leg backward. Mimic running by moving arms forward – backward. Perform repetitions balancing on the right leg, then perform repetitions balancing on the left leg. (See Figure 6)One Leg Pelvic Stabilty Run


Vertical Core Exercise Workout:  Perform 2 – 3 sets of the exercises in the following order: (These exercises can be added to the Horizontal Core Exercise Workout above or completely separately on another day)
Standing Arm Chops: 20 – 40 reps (moving arms as fast as possible) Standing Arm Rotation Swings: 20 – 40 reps (moving arms as fast as possible) One-Leg Pelvic Stability Run: 10 reps with each leg

Andersson, G. Fine, L. & Silverstein, B. Musculoskeletal Disorders.  Ed: Levy, B.S. & Wegman, D.H.  Occupational Health: Recognizing and Preventing Work-Related Disease. Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1995.

McGill, S. (2007).  Low back disorders: Evidence based prevention and rehabilitation, Second Edition, Human Kinetics Publishers, Champaign, IL, U.S.A.

McGill, S. (2010).  Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention, Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32(3), 33 – 46.

Tampier, C., Drake, J., Callaghan, J., McGill, S. (2007).  Progressive disc herniation: An investigation of the mechanism using radiologic, histochemical and microscopic dissection techniques. Spine, 32(25), 2869-2874.

Videman, T. Nurminen, M. and Troup, J D, (1990).  Lumbar spinal pathology in cadaveric material in relation to history of back pain, occupation and physical loading, Spine, 15(8), 728-740, 1990.