Monday, December 29, 2014

Weight Loss: The New Year's Resolution Edition

The new year is upon us, and just like every year, one of the most common resolutions is to lose weight.  This comes as no surprise since almost 70% of Americans are overweight and around 35% are considered obese.  Along with decreased fitness and self esteem being overweight/obese is also associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.  With all the negative aspects of being overweight/obese it would be in one's best interest to figure out the best way to shed some weight in the coming year.  That is what this post is going to focus on.  I will present a priority list of what you should focus on if your goal is to lose weight and get healthier in 2015.  If you only make a few changes than focus on the things at the top of the list first, but for best results I would focus on the complete list.  So here it is:

1. Diet
This is the number one thing that you should focus on if you want to lose weight, change your body shape, and get healthier.  You can exercise all you want but if your diet is crap then you will look and feel like crap.  Seeing as the typical American diet is comprised of fast food, restaurant meals, packaged and boxed foods, and a plethora of additives and ingredients, you may have your work cut out for you if you are planning on a diet overhaul.  I am not saying it is going to be easy but it is necessary.  There are many diets to choose from and many have the potential to work.  The key is finding the right diet for YOU.  If you can't stick with it for the longterm then it is not right for you.  In general I would stick to a diet that focuses on lean meats, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and low fat dairy. One diet that I personally like is the Abs Diet.  Although it does sound very gimmicky it is simply based on eating a variety of quality foods that pack a lot of nutrients with relatively low calories.

2. Strength Training
Strength training is number two on the list.  Other than diet nothing has the power to change the way your body looks as much as strength training.  Strength training makes your body look strong and healthy.  It gives you curves and muscles in the right places, allows you to feel confident in your appearance, and boosts your self esteem.  Strength training also increases your metabolism by replacing fat with muscle, increases your ability to perform physical tasks, and can also provide you with a heart healthy cardiovascular benefit.  One book that I highly recommend for someone new to strength training is The New Rules of Lifting.  It is packed with useful advice and quality programming, and it is much cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.

3. Physical activity
This is an area that people often overlook but it can have a huge impact on health and weight loss.  You should focus on increasing your overall physical activity throughout the day.  Take the stairs every time and avoid the elevator, park further away in the parking lot, bike to work, take walks on your lunch break, do 10 squats every hour on the hour, go on weekend hikes, do jumping jacks during commercials, carry groceries instead of using the cart, etc. The possibilities are literally endless.  JUST MOVE MORE!  It takes very little extra time to perform these activities and it will create a huge caloric expenditure when spread out over a typical 16 hour day that can accelerate weight loss.

4. Cardio
Notice how this is number four on the list.  Typically it is number one for most people trying to lose weight and that is why many people fail.  Doing cardio exercise does help the weight loss process but it should be further down the list.  Think about it; you could jog on the treadmill for 45 minutes and maybe burn 300-400 calories or you could adjust your diet to create a caloric deficit of the same amount.  The former could take an hour out of your day while the latter takes zero time out of you day.  Strength training also trumps cardio because it builds muscle, increases metabolism, and burns calories.  Traditional cardio exercise primarily just burns calories.  And remember when I said strength training can provide a cardio affect?   Well it doesn't work both ways.  You cannot increase strength with cardio exercise, but you can increase cardiovascular endurance (although minimal) with strength training.  So it is great to include cardio in your weight loss program but if you are limited on time then don't make it your priority.

5. Sleep
This is the last one on the list but could be considered most important of all in some aspects.  You might not be building muscle or scorching calories while you sleep (although you do burn a large amount while sleeping) but the amount and quality of your sleep can have a huge impact on your day.  If you feel tired and lethargic then you are less likely to exercise.  But if you are well rested and energetic than you are more likely to charge through the day with calorie burning enthusiasm. Also, when you get adequate sleep your whole body tends to run more efficiently.  A good goal to shoot for is at least 7 hours of sleep each night with 8 hours being optimal.

And that completes the priority list for weight loss.  To recap you should focus on the following items in the order listed if your goal is to lose weight:

1. Get control of your diet
2. Start strength Training
3. Increase your overall physical activity
4. Include cardio exercise in your workouts
5. Get good quality sleep

As I mentioned before if you are only going to focus on one or two things than make them items that are higher on the list.  If you can take care of all the items mentioned then you should have no problems meeting your weight loss goals for 2015.  I hope that this New Year brings you plenty of health and happiness.

  ,Amerson Fitness

Monday, December 15, 2014

Secrets to a Six Pack

A six pack is a coveted attribute for most men.  It is a symbol of health, virility, and masculinity.  It is also a key body part that many women find most attractive in a male.  And whether they want to admit it or not, it is one of the major body parts that men find most appealing as well. It is also considered attractive to the general masses.  Need a little evidence? What is one key physical feature that most hollywood leading men have in common?

A muscular and toned six pack.  These actors go through months of training prior to movie roles in order to get the body that is going to make them look the most appealing on screen, and a big part of that is visible abdominal muscles.  There are books, diets, magazine articles, and exercise programs that focus solely on the acquisition of a toned and defined midsection so it must be a desired goal for many men.  So with today's post I would like to let you in on the secrets to getting that elusive six pack.  And here they are:

(Drum roll)

Consistency and Discipline.

(crickets chirping)

Not what you were expecting?  Were you hoping to hear about some new supplement, a targeted ab routine, or even a natural superfood? Sorry to burst your bubble but the key to getting a nice six pack, or really any other physical attribute, is making the appropriate behavior changes and lifestyle choices.  So lets look at these two characteristics a little closer.

In order to get the body you want you have to be very consistent with your exercise and diet.   You can't just get in a workout session here and there or eat clean some of the days of the week.  You have to make exercise part of your lifestyle and incorporate it into your routine on a daily basis.  As I have eluded to before that doesn't mean that you have to go to the gym everyday of your life.  Your body responds to stimulus and has no idea whether that stimulus is being applied at the gym, in your living room, or in a park.  You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to where and how you workout.  You just have to make sure you do it often and with adequate intensity.  Consistency is even more important when it comes to diet.  You have to make the right food choices most meals of the day and most days of the week.  That doesn't mean that you can't have pizza and burgers here and there. But consistently choosing the right foods, and avoiding the wrong foods, will do wonders for  your health and fitness goals.  I feel that I should mention, however, that it only helps to be consistent using a healthy diet.  If you are consistently eating a crappy diet then you can kiss that physique goodbye.  There are many great diets out there to choose from but the best one is the diet that you can stick to and also allows you to reach your goals.  It might take a little effort on your part to research and try different diets but when you find the one that fits it is well worth it. 

This is the other piece of the puzzle.  You have to be very disciplined with your diet order to get the body you want.  You have to be able to say no to those donuts at work.  You have limit yourself to one beer at dinner, not five.  At a barbecue you have to choose the grilled chicken over the hotdogs.  You have to be disciplined every week when you plan out what you are going to eat over the next seven days.  You have get up early every morning so that you have enough time to make a healthy and nutritious breakfast.  You have to plan and pack a lunch to bring with you so that you don't end up eating out for lunch.  You have to occasionally decline that invitation to go out because you know it will just lead to over-eating and drinking.  It is not always fun but you have to make the hard choices that are going to help you reach your goals.

Now with those things being said I would advise against making your primary goal the attainment of visible abs.  Nobody wants to be the scrawny guy with abs.

Instead, focus on getting your entire body stronger with multi-joint compound strength movements and dial in on a clean diet.  If you stay on top of those two things with consistency and discipline then the abs with come.

To end this post I would like to state that having six pack abs is not the end-all be-all of fitness.  There are people who are extremely fit but don't necessarily have a six pack, and conversely, there are people with visible abs who lead extremely unhealthy lives (I'm thinking the entire cast of Jersey Shore).  So while this post highlights how you can get a six pack don't think of it as a necessity.  Just focus on being happy and healthy.

  ,Amerson Fitness

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Top 5 Functional Exercises

Today I want to share with you what I think are the 5 most functional exercises you can do during your workout.  Before we get started, however, we have to define the term functional.  As I have alluded to before, which you can read here, function depends entirely on the goal or desired outcome.  So for the sake of today's article we will define a functional exercise as:

1. An exercise that uses multiple, large muscle groups in a coordinated fashion
2. An exercise that emulates common movement patterns seen in everyday life
3. An exercise that has a high degree of transferability to other activities
4. An exercise that is performed with no external support and requires dynamic stability
5. An exercise that safely promotes health and longevity. 

So with the definition out of the way let's get to the list.  Here are my Top 5 Functional Exercises.

1. Deadlift - This exercise is perhaps that most functional of all.  I am willing to bet that every person does some form of a deadlift everyday.  If you pick up baby, if you move a box, or if you rearrange furniture, you must first begin with a deadlift.  It might just be the simplest, yet most functional, exercise there is.  It uses the legs, hips, back, and shoulders in a coordinated fashion and is the best indicator of overall strength.  Just by improving your mechanics and strength in the deadlift you can improve many aspects of your overall health, function, and appearance.

2. Push Up - This exercise uses primarily the chest, shoulders, and triceps, but also engages the core and hips(when done correctly) to provide stability.  Getting better at push ups will help you get over obstacles, transfer force from your body to other objects, and will get you a nice looking upper body as well. Many people tend to skip pushups and go straight to the bench press, but the pushup is healthier for the shoulders and activates more muscles than the bench press.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

3. Farmer's Carry - There is a reason that so many top coaches recommend this exercise, it is just plain effective.  It promotes strong and solid posture, core activation, shoulder stability, and gorilla grip strength. Getting strong in the farmer's carry will definitely transfer over to other physical tasks.  You can carry weights in both hands to work on overall strength, endurance, and toughness, or you can do one hand at a time to focus more on core strength and stability.  To make it even more functional try carrying odd shaped objects such as rocks, animals, tree stumps, etc.

4. Pull Up - This exercise has long been a favorite of mine.  It is completely functional as it transfers over to any type of climbing motion and it works pretty much all the pulling muscles of the upper body.  It will give you a strong grip, solid arms, and a broad back.  If all you did for the upper body was pull-ups you would still look pretty descent with your shirt off, it is that good.  Being strong in the pull up ensures that you will always be able to hoist yourself out of a sticky situation if needed.

5. Step Up - This is a great exercise that intensely works the hip extensors, knee extensors, and balance all at the same time.  It mimics the same movements you would perform walking up stairs or a steep hill.  I chose this exercise over the squat(a great exercise as well) because during activities of daily living we spend more time in single leg or staggered stance positions than we do in symmetrical squatting positions.  The key with this exercise is to keep the core tight and drive through the hips and knees.  Do not simply lean forward and push off the opposite foot.  Step ups lend very well to increasing your ability to traverse over uneven terrain with ease and confidence.

So there are my top 5 functional exercises.  I am not saying that other exercises are not functional but I feel that these 5 best fit our definition of functional and will give you the biggest bang for your buck.  You would have a pretty well rounded program if you just did these exercises alone but I would suggest mixing them into your current routine for variety and better carry over to other activities.  To make these movements even more functional try performing them either on, or with, odd shaped objects.  You can do pull ups on tree branches, pick up and carry heavy rocks, vary your hand and foot placement with pushups, run up hills, etc.  The more variety you incorporate, the better you will become at adapting movements to different scenarios leading to increased function. Have fun.

 Amerson Fitness

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Who should do CrossFit?

CrossFit seems to be a very polarizing topic.  You have the group of people who live, eat, and breathe CrossFit then you have the group who label it as a gaurenteed injury and loss of gains.  I, however, seem to fall somewhere in the middle. I would not say that I am pro-CrossFit but I do think that it does have some merit and has helped thousands of people in the recent years. If you are reading this then you are probably contemplating whether you want to give CrossFit a try. It is my hopes that the following information will help guide in that decision process.  So lets get right to the main points.

Who SHOULD do CrossFit?
Those who need or want coaching
There is typically at least one, maybe multiple, coaches present at each workout.  They are there to guide the workouts, ensure the safety of participants, offer cues for correction, and provide motivation.  If you are new to exercise then a coach will be helpful in providing advice on how to train, how to use proper form, and how to make the most of your time at the gym.  These coaches also create the workouts and have them ready for you each day.

*Side note:  There is really no way to know for sure if the box you go to has a quality coach or not.  You can become a coach/trainer during a weekend certification.  You just have to be willing to make that gamble.  There are some really great coaches at CrossFit gyms but there are also some really poorly trained, dangerous coaches as well.
Those who want to be part of a fitness community
This might be the biggest draw of CF.  You don't just show up, workout, and leave.  You become part of a group.  People learn your name, you develop relationships, and you get instant accountability.  For some people that support system will make a huge different in exercise adherence.

Those who like competition
There is a reason that so many former athletes are attracted to CF.  Competition is a huge part of the CF atmosphere.  You have gyms against other gyms in local "games", the elite athletes competing for top numbers and times in WOD's, and then you have the average joe's just competing against themselves.  One could argue that to make progress you are always in competition with yourself but CF put a focus on it as evident by their many timed workouts.  The entire object of many workouts is to just finish in the least amount of time, much like a race(ie competition).  So if you are driven by that competition, whether with another group/person or yourself, then CF might be your cup of tea.
Those wanting a general fitness program laid out for them
As I mentioned previously, the coaches have a workout ready for you when you walk in the door.  These workouts are based on general physical preparedness and focus on whole body, compound movements and rely on utilization of multiple energy systems.  For some people this is great because they don't have to take time out of their schedule to come up with these exercise plans.  They simply show up and get to work.

Now let's talk about the flip side.

Who SHOULD NOT do CrossFit?

Those who have specific sports or competition goals
CF is based on general fitness and takes pride in avoiding any type of specialization.  If you are training for any specific event then your training plan should be specialized for that event.  CF does not jive with this model.  When you go to a workout, you do THAT workout.  It doesn't matter if it will take away from your specific goals, it is the WOD(workout of the day). Again, one could argue that CF training could help you in other non-CF arenas, but that goes against the law of specificity.  A law that states that in order to optimize performance in a particular skill you need to practice that specific skill.  So unless that skill is the CrossFit games then performing CF workouts will most likely limit optimal performance.
Those who like exercise freedom
This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons I wouldn't join a CrossFit gym.  I like to have the freedom to dictate my own workout.  If I feel like riding my mountain bike for the day's workout that is what I am going to do.  If I feel like doing an all body-weight workout that day I want that option. I don't really care for Olympic lifting but you can't walk in a CF gym without snatching or cleaning something.  I would hate to have my workout handed to me everyday and forced to do something I don't really want to do.  To me that is one of the great things about exercise.  You have full freedom to do what you want, when you want, and how hard you want.  At a CF gym that decision is made for you.  Some would think of that as plus but it is a real turnoff for me.

Those who are injured or prone to injury
Many of the CF workouts are based on time and total reps, both of which require speed.  If you are increasing the speed of movements, adding in complex exercises, and topping it off with accumulating fatigue then you drastically increase the chance of injury.  I am not saying that an injury with occur but the odds are definitely increased.  So if you are prone to injury because of previous or current conditions then the risk is not really worth it.  Also if you are currently injured then you will most likely have to modify movements or drop certain movements all together.  CF workouts are not very conducive to this.  CF workouts run best when everyone is doing the same thing.  Sure, a coach can let you modify the workout but they probably won't be able to give you the attention you need to protect your injury.  After all, it is not personal training, it is group training.  They have to do what is most beneficial for the group and tending to your specific needs does not accomplish that.

Those who don't like dogma
Not the 1999 movie starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, but the ideology. This is another big turn off for me.  CrossFit is filled with dogma.  If you talk to people that do CF then you will hear that there is one way to train (crossfit), one way to eat (paleo), one way to perform exercises (american kb swing), even one way to dress (reebok gear and ridiculous tube socks).  And if you disagree with CF dogma then there is typically a huge backlash.  On more than one occasion the corporate CF head honchos have filed lawsuits against people who "dis" CrossFit.  One dogmatic thing I find interesting about CF is how they wouldn't be caught dead using an elliptical trainer but they have no problem using a rower or Airdyne bike.  All three are big pieces of equipment that utilize large muscle groups in a coordinated fashion to elevate heart rate.  To praise one and condemn the other makes no sense.


So there are my reasons why one should or should not join CrossFit.  I tried to be as unbiased as possible as to help you make an informed decision about taking on a new exercise regime.  As I said before CF does have many benefits and has been a life changer for probably thousands of people but that does not mean it is for everyone.  It is up to you to make that choice I just hope this information will help.

 Amerson Fitness

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to improve your diet

I have said it before and I will say it again, you must have a good diet if you ever want to to reach your health, performance, or physique goals.  There really is no way around it.  Diet has the most influence over health and fitness related goals but the good news is that diet is also something that you have complete control over.  You can make the choice to buy and eat healthy foods or you can choose to stop by you local fast food joint and poison your body with garbage. I suggest you do the former. So with today's post I would like to offer some tips on how you can make those right choices and improve your diet one smart choice at a time.  

Go to the grocery store at least once per week
If you are only going to the grocery store once or twice a month then you are forced to buy products with a longer shelf life.  That usually means buying items in a box, can, or frozen bag, all of which lower the overall quality of food.  But if you go to the store every week then you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, know, the good stuff.  It might require a little more planning with your schedule but it is worth it in the end.  You will be fueling your body with fresh, nutrient rich foods that taste better and provide you with more health benefits.

Focus on whole foods
What do I mean by whole foods?  Pretty much if there is a brand name associated with it then chances are its not a whole food.  Good examples of NOT whole foods are ric-a-roni, hamburger helper, beanie weenies, lunchables, hungry man, etc.  Whole foods typically don't come in a package and usually do not have an ingredient list.  You are pretty safe choosing from fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle, most meats and fish from the meat market, and certain grains with just one ingredient(i.e., whole oats, quinoa).

Record 3 days worth of food intake
If you don't know where you are then you don't know where you should be going, and a food log can be a very powerful tool to help guide you.  Not only does it allow you track your intake over a few days but it makes you more aware of what you are putting in your body.  For instance, you might think about what you ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and say to yourself, " I did pretty good today."  But what you don't think about is that mid-day candy bar, the cocktail at dinner, and the ice cream before bed.  Those little non-meal items add up and can sabotage your hard work.  So for 3 consecutive days write down everything that you eat or drink no matter how small.  Then review your log to look for trends, deficiencies, and areas that need improvement.  If nothing else it will guilt you into saying no to that donut because you know you will have to write it down.

Invest in a lunch box (and use it)
I have been lugging around my lunch box (AKA Coleman Cooler) for years now.  At times I may look funny but I always have a healthy lunch when I need it.  I don't get tempted by fast food and I don't resort to eating whatever I can find close by.  Packing your lunch gives you complete control over your meals away from home and guarantees that you can have healthy and nutritious food on the go.

Learn to cook
I am not saying that you need to be a culinary expert when it comes to cooking but you should know how to do some basics.  Baking/broiling in the oven, sautéing over the stove,and grilling are some of the basic skills you should learn.  Doing a simple google search you can learn how to perform these skills within minutes.  As an example, one meal we had this past week was home-made fajitas.  I grilled some marinated chicken, sautéed an arrays of vegetables, and ate them with fresh avocado and a side of black beans.  It was a simple meal that required minimal cooking skills but tasted delicious.  Learning to make your own tasty meals with help you to avoid eating out when you get a craving.  Food made at home is always healthier than food ordered out.

Food should be enjoyed but it should also be monitored.  You should always be aware of what you are putting in your body and how it is affecting your health.  These tips will help you to tackle both of these objectives with really minimal effort.  Give them a try and see how your diet and health improve.

 ,Amerson Fitness

Friday, September 12, 2014

Modern Exercise: Taking the work out of workout

It is a sad state of affairs in today's modern world of exercise.  It seems in our attempt to make exercising safer and more efficient we have turned it into just another sedentary activity.  Machines are designed to keep you "comfortable" while you workout and gyms have movie theaters to distract you from the fact that you are moving your body.  Some gyms are even banning exercises that are deemed unsafe, distracting, and and unwelcome such as the deadlift.  Seriously!? No Deadlifting? The deadlift is the most basic, and most effective, strength exercise known to man.  It is completely functional, can be seen in almost anyone's daily life, and when done properly can lead to increased health and injury prevention.  To outlaw the deadlift is a huge step in the wrong direction.

This makes me die a little on the inside.

Todays's society has also turned exercise into just another sedentary activity.  People sit on the couch at home, sit in the car during the commute, and sit at a desk for work.  People should not be sitting while they exercise yet that is most of what you see at the gym.  Sitting on the bike while reading or watching TV, sitting at the machine that "tones your thighs", and sitting in the locker room updating your Facebook about your sitting...I mean workout.  If there is one place that you should stand and move your body it is at the gym.

Not an efficient use of your time or body.

This bring me to my next point, insisting on only exercising at the gym.  Can you imagine if you went back in time 100 years and told someone, "I leave my home and go to another place so that I can walk, without a purpose or destination, then I come back home when I have finished. And I pay money to do this."  They would probably think you are crazy.  Or what if you told a farmer back in the day, "I am going to go to a building and lift some heavy objects today but only with my chest muscles."  He would have no idea what that means, and for good reason.  It doesn't really make that much sense.  The "gym" has become synonymous with exercise, but exercise relates to what you DO with you body not where it is located.
This is not the only place you can exercise.

It has been said that complaining without offering a solution is called whining, so here are my solutions for combating the current state of modern exercise.

Focus on movements instead of muscles
Usually people do an exercise because they want to tone or shape a particular body part.  If they want to lose belly fat they hop on the stability ball and do crunches 'till the cows come home.  If they want to lose that pesky arm jiggle they sit on the tricep machine and "feel the burn".  And if a guy wants big guns he sits at the preacher curl bench and smashes his biceps into oblivion.  All of these exercises focus on specific muscles and have you sitting down to take all the other muscles out of the equation.  You would be better served to focus on movements that incorporate the whole body and work the muscles in a coordinated fashion.  If you just focus on moving your body in various positions, and moving heavy objects in a variety of ways, you will end up having a muscular body, low body fat, and minimal arm jiggle.  The primary movements you should focus on are pushing, pulling, squatting, and hinging at the hips.  You should also add in core stabilization, though technically not a movement.

Stop worrying about arm fat and focus on overall movement

Stand more, especially during exercise
If you focus on movements instead of muscles than you will most likely be standing more during your workouts.  But just in case try and find ways to incorporate more standing into your exercise routine.  Try to perform every movement on your feet and avoid seats, benches, or anything else that provides external support.  Force your body to support you in most exercises. Here is a list of exercises that you can trade out to make them more effective.

bench press --> all push up variations, overhead lifting
lat pulldown --> pull ups and bodyweight rows
leg press --> squats, lunges, deadlift
situps --> planks, weighted carries

Don't become dependent on the gym
There is nothing wrong with going to the gym to exercise but it becomes a problem when you rely on the gym to exercise.  Too often people say, "I don't have time to make it to the gym today so I will just skip working out".  You can literally exercise anytime, anywhere, and with anything.  You can do bodyweight movements in your living room, move furniture around your house, go up and down stairs on your lunch break, etc.  There is this very steep hill that I pass on my way home from school everyday and sometimes I stop and just go up and down it a few times.  Sometimes I walk it, sometimes I run, and sometimes I drag my wife and dog along with me.  I just make sure that I am moving and elevating my heart rate.

Better than a treadmill

Put the work back in working out
Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.  In fact, you should push your body on a regular basis.  There are a number of established principles associated with exercise and one of them is the overload principle.  It simply states that in order to cause an adaptation, or improvement, with exercise you must continuously stress your body more than it is accustomed to.  That doesn't mean you should go all out in every workout, but it does mean that you should gradually increase the duration or intensity of exercise over time.  The only way to do that is GET OUT of you comfort zone and progressively go harder, faster, or longer.  This principle applies to all forms of exercise. 

Making a funny face is a good sign you are out of your comfort zone.

I know I just pointed out all the things that are wrong with current exercise trends but the fact remains that any exercise is better than no exercise.  Sitting on a bench doing arm curls is better than sitting on the couch eating Cheetos   I just wanted to offer some advice and tips on how to make your exercise routine more efficient, effective, and worth the effort. Until next time.

Stay Fit,

   Amerson Fitness

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Build a home gym on a budget

Today's post is going to be on how to build a great home gym on a budget.  The two biggest excuses people give for not exercising are lack of time and lack of money.  Having a low budget home gym takes care of both of these issues.  You save a huge amount of time exercising at home because you don't have to drive anywhere, wait on anybody, or go out of your way.  You save money because you won't be paying a monthly premium that has you locked in for 12 months.  So today I want to share how you can create a great home gym with a minimal investment.  I will start the the cheapest options then offer some more expensive options for the person who doesn't mind spending a little extra money.

For the broke folks like myself...

A doorway Pull Up Bar
I would consider this piece an essential component for the at-home exerciser.  Pulls ups are an all around great exercise for strength, function, and body shaping, and this bar couldn't be any easier to use.  It assembles in less then 5 minutes, is made of steel tubing, and does not have to be installed into a wall.  Just set it up over a door frame and start pulling. They typically cost about $20 but I found one the other day at a discount store for $13.

Jump Rope
The classic cardio tool.  You can work on balance, agility, and coordination all while getting in a great cardio workout right in your living room.  You can find these almost anywhere and they start at around $5-10.  Check out this video for some ideas of how you can use your jump rope.

Furniture sliders
I bought a set of these at a hardware store a few years ago for less than $10 and I still use them today.  All you need is a carpeted surface and you are ready for action.  They also make some for hardwood floors as well.  You can do a multitude of exercises with them and they can be stored anywhere when you are finished. You can also use them to bust out some hot dance moves...

This one takes up a little more space but makes up for it with cost.  All you need is a sturdy bag and some sand.  I bought my bag at a sports store for about $7 and I got 50lbs of sand at the hardware store for less then $5.  If you google "sandbag exercises" you can see there are endless possibilities with these unique and functional tools.

Going up in cost a little...

Gymnast rings
These are great for developing upper body strength and building a solid core.  They do require some sort of high rafter to fasten them, so if you have a place for them I highly recommend you get a pair.  You can effectively train all of the muscles of the chest, back, arms, shoulders, and abdominals with this simple yet brutal tool.  They will typically set you back between $40-85 depending on where you get them.

I own a kettlebell and enjoy using it from time to time.  There are people out there who use kettlebells exclusively and get great results.  They range in weights from as low as 8lbs to all the way over 100lbs.  Most people, though, use weights between 35-53lbs.  The one drawback with kettlebells, though ,is that the exercises are highly technical and can be hard to learn without proper instruction.  If you are interested in kettlebells then I recommend you explore They are a great kettlebell resource.  These will typically set you back $75 or more depending on the size.

TRX Suspension Trainer
This is a tool that I own and use/endorse quite often.  It can easily be set up and taken down in your home, or taken outdoors, for a great full body workout.  It utilizes just your bodyweight as resistance and can be used to train all the muscles/movements of the body.  It is also a great tool for building core strength and endurance.  These can be a little pricey at around $200 depending on the model you choose.  You can get more info on these at

Barbell and Weights
This is likely going to cost you the most but if you are serious about your fitness than it is worth it.  Muscle has been forged for centuries with this piece of equipment and nothing will maximize your strength more than a heavy barbell.  You will need some space and a hard surface so a garage is an ideal place.  It still doesn't take up much space when storing and you will be able to use it for many, many years to come.  You can find standard sets of 300lbs. at your local sports store for $250-300.  Barbells and plates used for Olympic lifting, though, will likely cost you $500 and up.

If all you did was buy the first four items on my list then you could have a pretty descent home gym for less than $50.  But if you wanted to put together one KICK-ASS home gym then you could get all the items on my list for less than $750.  You would have all your bases covered regarding strength, stability, power, and endurance.  When you think about all the things that people spend money on, a couple hundred dollars is not that much.  Especially when it can make a huge impact on the way that you exercise and improve your health.  Hope this list helps. Until next time.

Stay Fit,

  Amerson Fitness

Thursday, May 1, 2014

TRX Endurance Workout

Today's post is going to be a quick one.  This is a workout that I do at home with my TRX that focuses on muscular endurance using high repetition sets and bodyweight exercises.  It trains all the basic movement patterns, provides a quick and convenient workout, and can serve as a periodic benchmark workout to test your endurance.  So here it is:

The first two exercises, the push up and TRX row, I perform as an alternating set.  For example, I do a set of pushups, rest about 30-60sec, do a set of rows, rest for 30-60sec, then repeat for a total of 4 sets.  I say max sets but really I try to leave in a few reps on the first three sets and make the last set a true max effort.

From there I do alternating sets with the suspended lunges and 2 point plank.

Then I do a final alternating set of hip presses and side planks.

The whole workout takes about 30 minutes and will leave you feeling pretty taxed if you put in the effort.  If you shorten the rest periods then you can get a pretty good cardio effect as well.  If you have a TRX then give the workout a try.

Stay Fit,


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fitness is a Lifestyle

Here are some statistics from the CDC that should be alarming.
  • 35% of Americans are obese
  • 33% of Americans have high chosterol
  • 31% of Americans have high blood pressure
  • 8% of Americans have diabetes
  • Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans

We are the greatest country in the world yet we cannot figure out how to stop killing ourselves with poor lifestyle choices.  Americans in general eat too much, move too little, overindulge, and basically treat their bodies like trash receptacles.  This must stop! So with today's blog I would like to offer some insight, and perhaps some motivation, as to what fitness really is... A LIFESTYLE!

Fitness is NOT about the newest and and most endorsed diet
It is about...

  • making the right food choices throughout life
  • planning your meals each week
  • going to the grocery store EVERY week
  • putting down the fork when you are full
  • learning how to cook in order to properly fuel your body
  • being able to recognize and name most fruits and vegetables
  • spending a little more on quality food

Fitness is NOT about going to the gym for an hour at a time
It is about...

  • preparing for and exercising for life
  • moving more
  • find time, not excuses, to exercise
  • taking the stairs two at a time, every time
  • carrying in all the groceries in one trip
  • doing a 5 mile hike on a whim 
  • not being the douche who waits 10 minutes for a close parking spot
  • being able to take care yourself and loved ones physically
  • always feeling confident in your physical abilities

Fitness is NOT about having the perfect body
It is about...
  • feeling good about yourself
  • embracing, not obsessing over, imperfections
  • being confident and comfortable with your appearance regardless of the season
  • restraining from taking constant selfies
  • focusing on health and not vanity

Fitness is NOT about how much weight you can lift
It is about...
  • making consistent progress at any level
  • taking care of your body so you can use it for life
  • going full range of motion
  • quality of movement
  • realizing that strength is just one component of health and fitness

We need to stop compartmentalizing our health and fitness.  You cannot concentrate on just your diet, your workout, or your looks and expect to fully thrive.  It is only through a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle that you can reach your full potential.  With so many health problems in our society that are completely preventable now is the time to make the right choices that will provide a better tomorrow for you and your health.