Monday, January 27, 2014

Toning Up Your Body And What It Takes

When people discuss wanting to be “toned” they are usually referencing a defined body.  Many women today desire to have arms like First Lady Michelle Obama.  If you are working out by yourself and or taking a group class for an extended period of time you may have outgrown the levels of those respective intensity levels.  We all have unique bodies and have areas that would like to improve.  In order for those goals to be reached muscles need volume and stress whether your goal is to “tone” or “build” muscle mass.

High Rep vs. Low Rep Debate

From my conversations with clients and observations in gyms there is a major contrast between the weights used by men and women.

Some women will curl 5lb dumbbells for 25 reps in an effort to “tone” their arms, while some men will bench a ton of weight for only a few reps in an effort to put on muscle and increase strength.

The idea is that high reps help you lose fat and make a muscle more “toned”. On the other hand, low reps can help you build muscle and increase strength.

The firming-up or toning is due to an increase in muscle tissue as well as a low enough bodyfat percentage to see the definition and shape of the muscles and get rid of the of the undesired “jiggle."  Using heavier weights than you are accustomed to will give them the necessary stress to change and grow.

According to a recent study by Men’s Fitness substantial evidence argues that training in a moderate-rep range is the best way to build muscle mass. It increases hormone response, spares protein, and provides the necessary time under tension to spark muscle damage.

This does not mean doing away with your low-rep and high-rep regimens. To make sure your body doesn't adapt to a particular regimen you need variety.  Cycle periods of low-rep training and high-rep training into your overall program, while progressively trying to increase your strength and perfect your exercise form every time you perform strength training exercises.

Circuit Training

Gerard Butler
Circuit training is short bursts of resistance exercise that can combine weights, calisthenics, plyometrics and other exercises followed quickly by another burst of exercise targeting a different muscle group.

The switching between muscle groups with little no rest between exercises gets the heart rate up, which can serve as cardiovascular endurance as well.   A circuit workout improves both strength and endurance, and jump-starts metabolism.

This style of training is beneficial for anyone especially women as they tend to lose muscle mass at the rate of 1% per year in their late 30s and 40s.

Gerard Butler and the cast of the 2007 movie 300 went through an intense training regiment in preparation for their roles.  Mark Twight, a former world class mountain climber and now personal trainer designed the 300 Spartan Workout program consisting of the following:

  • Pull-ups - 25 reps
  • Barbell Deadlift with 135 lbs. - 50 reps
  • Pushups - 50 reps
  • 24-inch Box Jumps - 50 reps
  • Floor Wipers - 50 reps
  • Single-Arm Clean-and-Press with 36 lbs Kettlebell – 50 reps
  • Pull-ups - 25 reps

The program included tire flipping and gymnastic style training.  Five weeks before filming, Butler had additional training sessions with a former bodybuilder.   This training style simultaneously build muscle, increased muscular endurance, and stripped fat.  Crossfit uses similar style of training and pace to accomplish the same goal.  You get the resistance training benefits as well as the cardio benefits in one short and intense workout if designed correctly. 

The 300 Spartan Workout and Crossfit are intense styles of training and may not be what you are looking for or something you are in condition to attempt now.   What is beneficial about these workout styles and other kinds of circuit training is using large muscles with short rest periods in between.  If your fitness goals are to tone and build muscle it does not mean you want to build mass.

Intense effort needs to be given to your muscles for them to be stressed in order for them to change and grow.  And simply going through the motions will produce little if any results because the muscle is not being stressed enough and therefore will not adapt and change its current condition.

Do not be afraid to increase the weight and volume of your current exercise routine in order to shape your body in the way you desire.  Time is precious so utilize your workout time wisely and efficiently. 

Jamaal Piper 
Health and Wellness Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer
Instagram and Twitter @jamaalpiper

Monday, January 20, 2014

What's Under The Helmet

With Richard Sherman’s post game rant last night after the Seattle Seahawks victory in the NFC Championship Game has caused him to be a trending topic in the media and social media.  It has gone from simply not caring for his comments to racial epithets being posted all over his Twitter account.  

His comments toward San Francisco 49ers Michael Crabtree have stirred up a wide range of emotions.  What is being missed is the root of his comments are a combination of raw emotion and calculated behavior that has become common place among football players especially defensive backs and wide receivers.

Apparently Crabtree and Sherman have history.  Last year at Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald’s charity event Sherman went to shake Crabtree’s hand and Crabtree attempted to start a fight.  Sherman confirmed it this morning on Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback in which he contributes to occasionally, “It goes back to something he said to me this offseason in Arizona, but you’d have to ask him about that. A lot of what I said to Andrews was adrenaline talking, and some of that was Crabtree. I just don’t like him.

I call it the helmet complex.  Besides the quarterback very few football players are recognizable without their uniform.  We identify them with a jersey number and position.  We can barely see their faces behind the large helmets and facemask they wear.  The outspokenness of football players and defensive backs can be traced to Deion Sanders.

Deion Sanders senior year at Florida State he sat in his dorm room and came up with the “Prime Time” persona that would lead him to have Nike ads and other campaigns throughout his career that no one else at his position ever had. 

During his Hall of Fame speech in 2011 he stated, “"I pre-rehearsed the saying because I knew I had the substance," said Sanders. "I knew I had the goods, I knew I had the work ethic, but I needed to secure myself enough that my mama would never have to work another day of her life."

Sanders endorsements and large contracts throughout his playing career open doors for players at his position and a generation of young players who looked to him as a template of how to play the position and capitalize on their success.  Defensive backs are away from the action and only have a handful of opportunities to make plays during the game.  A casual fan may not appreciation their contributions because of that.

What Sanders and now Richard Sherman decided to do were to behave in a manner and talk so much that it would cause the public to look at them more closely.  It has been affective for both whether we agree with their methods are not.

As Jon Wilner of the Mercury News reported this morning, without that hyper-drive and that football-sized chip on his shoulder, Sherman would not have become a straight-A student and the first player from Compton’s Dominguez High School to earn a football scholarship to Stanford.

“The chip that makes him a great player also made him a great student,” said David Shaw, who coached Sherman at Stanford and remains a close friend and mentor.

What has gotten lost in all the chatter with Sherman is the raw emotion of making the biggest play in his football life and his personal story of what put him in position to make it. 

Sherman is from Compton, CA.  His father, Kevin, rose daily at 4 a.m. to drive a garbage truck -- and still does today. His mother, Beverly, works with disabled kids in the inner city and preached the value of education. She was happy to give her children money Richard and his brother and sister came home with A’s.

Sherman Nike Ad
Sherman's play and outspokenness has led to commercials with Nike and Beats by Dre.  In our society controversy sales.  Sherman plays a position that does not get compensated like quarterbacks.  Sherman was a fifth round draft pick and is still under his rookie contract that pays him $550,00 base salary.  Endorsement deals already have more than doubled Sherman’s salary, says his Las Vegas agent, Jamie Fritz, of Fritz Martin Management.

“There are a number of successful players in the NFL who don’t have endorsement deals,” Fritz said. “At the end of the day ... people have to like you. If they don’t like you, they won’t buy the product you’re endorsing. Richard has a perception of being loud and in-your-face, but off the field, he’s very sincere, approachable and likable.”

What Sherman missed is an opportunity to introduce himself to a broader audience.  More attention was drawn to his comments after a big play than the play itself.  His story his inspiring, but acting classless and personalizing a big play can hurt him in the long run.  Football is a humbling game, for his sake I hope he can find balance.  He is another example of what being behind a helmet can do and overcompensating to get attention.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Culture Wins, Culture Loses

As sports fans we can all be guilty of taking it too seriously.  We do have a right to voice our displeasure of organizations above and beyond wins and losses.  Born and raised in the Washington, DC I was spoiled as a child growing up in the 1980’s during the Joe Gibbs era with consistent winning football teams including five NFC Championship games, four Super Bowl appearances, and three championships.  I attended two of the NFC Championship games at RFK Stadium as the team was on their way to the Super Bowl.

What has become of the Washington Redskins and possibly your favorite team is an example of ownership what it takes to run a successful sports team.  And I hate to break the news to you that many franchises that are struggling under current ownership may not change anytime soon.

What is unique about the business of sports are that team owners accumulated their wealth in other business ventures and then decided to purchase a franchise.  What distinguishes successful franchises from unsuccessful franchises is not just the talent on the field, but the culture and philosophy that is created to build a team.

In business “culture” is a word that gets tossed around in regards to the importance it has to an organization.  The values and methods of how it conducts its business impacts an organizations employees and the clients/customers they serve.  Sports have a way of allowing us as fan to witness franchises that have put an emphasis on their culture and those that do not.  Certain organizations have a reputation for a strong culture such as the Miami Heat of the NBA and Baltimore Ravens of the NFL.

Robert Sarver, owner Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns were a consistent franchise for many years, but the last few they have struggled.  Owner Robert Sarver recognized what needed to be done to move his franchise back in the right direction.

"For all successful people in business, I think that the notion of taking a step back to take a step forward is a foreign concept," Sarver told Yahoo Sports. "You simply don't say, 'We're going to go backward for a couple years,' in business. But pro sports – especially the NBA – is different, and it's set up to do just that.

Sarver realized what was needed for his franchise.   A top basketball executive, a plan, maybe most of all, someone to restore his franchise's eroding credibility. Boston Celtics Executive Ryan McDonough interviewed for the General Manager position and had a plan for the franchise– his ideas for trades and gathering draft picks, scouting and player development, coaching candidates and player nutrition. Every time Sarver asked a question, there came a crystallized and clear-minded answer. The Suns were a mess, but suddenly Sarver started to see a way out.

Sarver did what many struggling owners are not willing to do, and that is listen to a professional, with proven success lay out a plan and trusts him and the process.

It is early in the NBA season, but the returns have been good for the Phoenix Suns who are surprisingly off to a 19-11 start in a very competitive Western Conference.

The unfortunate aspect of professional sports is there is not accountability for losing.  The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins are rivals on the football field.  But both have billionaire owners who franchise values are at the top of all of sports, but have a bad reputation of how they run their franchises.  Even though the win-loss record is disappointing to fans, their meeting with their accountants goes very well.

Safety Will Allen completed his second stint this past season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He was released from the Dallas Cowboys earlier this season before re-signing with Pittsburgh. 

In referring to his experience with Dallas Allen stated, "It was a very micromanaged atmosphere," Allen said to ESPN. "Everything was heightened. Everything was very tight. I didn't feel the relationship and the bonding between players and coaches. Maybe just the players or just a few coaches and a few players."

"We understand that it's a business, but football is a business. Winning is our business. But if we're not a team, if we're not together in it all, then we have nothing. That's the mindset in Pittsburgh.”

Arthur Rooney owns the Pittsburgh Steelers; they have had three head coaches since 1969.  All three have participated in multiple Super Bowls with at least one victory.

Jason Kidd and the Brooklyn Nets
The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets have high priced teams going through disappointing starts to the season.  Even though both teams are decimated with injuries to key players they made a decision to go for style over substance.  The Nets have a $200 million payroll with aging players (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry).  Traded away their 2014 first round draft picks that is projected to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. 

Brooklyn hired Jason Kidd as their head coach not soon after he retired as a player and he  “reassigned” his top assistant Lawrence Frank earlier this season for what appears to be his insecurity of not having any coaching experience and Frank being so vocal.   Frank was Kidd’s former head coach with the Nets when Kidd was a player. The Nets created this environment by not taking into account what is the right fit for their franchise especially without Kidd having any previous coaching experience taking over a team with high expectations.

According to James Heskett, culture “can account for 20-30% of the differential in corporate performance when compared with ‘culturally unremarkable’ competitors.”  John Coleman of the Harvard Business Review stated six components of great corporate culture.  Vision, values, practices, people, narrative and place.

Out of those six the Washington Redskins suffer most when it comes to values, practices and people.  For the amount of internal issues to become public doesn’t speak well of the type of culture Snyder has created within the organization.  As Coleman stated, a company’s values are the core of its culture. While a vision articulates a company’s purpose, values offer a set of guidelines on the behaviors and mindsets needed to achieve that vision.

There is not a company that can build a coherent culture without people who either share its core values or possess the willingness and ability to embrace those values.  Besides someone with name recognition like Mike Shanahan or even Joe Gibbs with his second tenure with the Redskins or Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman trophy.  Jason Kidd’s Hall of Fame career as a player and Garnett, Pierce, and Terry’s best days behind them, what are teams like the Washington Redskins and Brooklyn Nets looking for in people besides a name everyone knows. 

Paul Spiegelman, co-founder of the Inc. Small Giants Community, offered up some insights on culture.  There will always be people out there with the skills capable of doing the job. So Spiegelman suggests hiring people that, first and foremost, would work well in your organization. It may take a little longer, but it will pay off in the long term. 

The Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and Brooklyn Nets are all dealing with issues created by their culture.  Other franchises such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Miami Heat have been consistently relevant with minimal distractions because of their culture.

Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek is the prototype of what a successful coach is with today’s players’: no ego, but a steely confidence. He holds players accountable without humiliating them according to Adrian Wojnarnowski of Yahoo Sports.  It is more difficult in this day and age for a coach who is condescending towards his players, media, and fans to be successful.

Teams are under the microscope with the amount of television coverage and social media.  An up and coming coach with the attitude of a Bob Knight or Bill Parcells would struggle connecting with players and the public today.  Mike Shanahan appeared to have that problem in Washington.

So if you are wondering why your favorite professional sports team has been struggling for many years.  You probably do not have to look any further than their culture.  There is a fine line between winning and losing.  Even the best run franchises have their ups and downs, but they stick to their plan and adjust when needed.  Owners need to find and connect with front office and coaches who have common purpose.  My question to some owners is besides winning games do they have a purpose?