Muscle Devlopment 101: Hells Angles

Happy Friday friends! As I have finally gotten back into the swing of my own workout routines, I’ve been experimenting more and more with the methodologies behind growing muscle strength and size as well as creating the sculpted look.

This will be part one of a two part series in which we explore some of the basic fundamentals of optimum muscle enhancement through resistance training.

Today, we are going to discuss angles!

Believe it or not, the angle at which you perform a lift, or the angle at which you hold your resistance plays a huge role in not only which muscles are worked, but what part of the muscle is worked.

If sculpting, building muscle or strength for particular muscles is what you are aiming to do, then this information is vital for your everyday life.

By hitting certain angles you can isolate muscles to the work allowing them to reap the benefits, as well, when changing the angle you can hit the various heads of muscle tissue creating strength that is functional through the entirety of the muscle, not just in your tried and true method.

Some examples of this in practice:

When performing the Bench Press, when our hands are directly over our shoulders or closer to our midline, more of the effort work is placed on the triceps muscle as opposed to the pectorals. Continuing from there, if we move our hands further apart, the effort work shifts more into our pectoral muscles and less in our triceps

Your elbows angle to your body during many exercises also plays an important role in this. When performing a pushup, if our elbows are up at 90* to our torso, most of the effort work will be transferred to the front of our shoulders in the deltoid. A 45* angle to the torso will put most of the effort work into our pectorals and a 0* angle will focus most of the effort into the triceps.

Curious to experiment with these angles? Give it a try! Pay very close attention to your body, perform the moves slowly and feel the muscle and sinew contract in the various locations. The slower you go, the easier it will be to determine which muscles are working the hardest.

Some more examples? Let’s take a look at the legs. If we were to take a supine position (laying down on your back) and perform hip raises, the angle of our knees would directly determine how much effort would be performed by the glute muscles and the hamstrings. If we were to move our feet FURTHER from out buttocks, the effort is more concentrated in the hamstrings. If our feet are closer to our buttocks, the effort is transferred more into the glute muscles.

We can also change the angle by raising our shoulders onto a surface. This will also drive more of the force into the glute muscles.

These are just a small number of examples. The truth to take from this is that angles play an important role all over the body with resistance training.

If you are ever uncertain, slow it down, take a moment, and listen to your body and how it is responding to the work you are making it do.

The next important part of this is about the planes of motion and how we as human beings can manipulate the space around us, but we’ll talk more about that next week!

Till then, I urge you to experiment for yourself. If you are trying to develop one muscle, try various angles and listen to how your body responds.


Prehab vs. Rehab

In many of my previous posts I have discussed our body’s anatomy, how injuries occur, and then how to recover from those injuries. Today I want to take the time to discuss how to prevent those injuries from happening in the first place!

Prehab is a pretty common term in the healthcare and physical therapy fields and is now starting to make its way into the fitness industry. Trainers and coaches are starting to realize the importance of not only sport-specific training for their athletes, but functional prehab training to ensure their athletes remain injury-free throughout the season.

For most elite level athletes there really is no “off” season, but the brief period of time that they do have to recover from the previous season should be when prehab takes place. Before pre-season training even starts, all athletes should undergo a functional movement assessment to check for any muscle imbalances or asymmetries that could lead to injuries during training or game play. This baseline assessment will give the trainer/coach the information they need to implement any corrective exercises the athlete may need to perform prior to their sport-specific training.

How does this information apply to the “Average Joe” non-elite level athlete? Well, really anyone who is active should get an assessment from a certified professional who can properly diagnose movement impairments and design a corrective exercise program. Asymmetries between the right and left sides of the body are fairly common, and are the leading cause of injuries.

It is much easier to prevent an injury than it is to rehab one. Once an injury has occurred, the recurrence rate of injury increases significantly! Thus, prehab is starting to play an important role in recovery for surgical patients as well. Studies have found that surgical patients who participate in prehab training prior to surgery can recover up to 3 times faster than those who do not.

Over the summer I was lucky enough to attend a seminar with a physical therapist and trainer from EXOS (Core Performance) who gave a great lecture on the importance of prehab as part of  an overall training program for injury-prevent and recovery. The EXOS website has great tips for getting started with a prehab program:

So, for you athletes who have never been through a movement screen, I strongly suggest getting an assessment… you’ll probably be surprised at what you find. And for you trainers and coaches who are not familiar with the FMS (Functional Movement Screen), I highly recommend getting certified or working with a colleague who is to ensure your clients are working at their highest potential with minimal risk of injury.

H2 More!

Happy Friday friends! Today I want to talk to you about perhaps the most important thing to life as we know it. All living creatures need it for survival and are mostly made of it! I am of course talking about WATER!

I’m sure you’ve heard this at least once before, “You should be drinking more water.”

As well, I’m also sure you’ve probably said to yourself “I should drink more water.”

But, other than “Cause it’s good for you!” Do we actually know why?

Let’s take a look at just what water is doing inside your body, especially for your fitness and health.


Our body has many locations at which the bones articulate called joints. These joints are protected by tissues and synovial fluids. The word fluid is our big indicator there. Like all fluids in the body they are mostly comprised of water, and the cells that make up those tissues are also mostly water and rely on it to function properly!

If we were to reduce our bodies overall water content, our joints would suffer from lack of lubrication and cellular function in the tissues would become strained! This can lead to injuries and aggravate tissues that already have problems to begin with. So, not only is water good for you, but it keeps you moving loosey goosey.

Muscle Tissue

We just addressed how cells rely on water in talking about the joints. In the exact same fashion, your muscle tissues require adequate amounts of water to perform properly and at their maximum capacity. Without water, they will get stressed out and won’t be able to stretch and contract as needed.


We know nutrition is important, we know our body needs to get its nutrition to function. But, we eat food, how could water be important to that? Our blood is our life juice and is mostly water too. It transfers oxygen and nutrition to our cells while taking waste away. Our body turns the nutrition we intake into water soluble particles that our blood can then carry and transfer to our cells.

Weight Control?

Alright, so water definitely isn’t a miracle liquid that makes you shed pounds, yet one thing that is common amongst healthy and fit people is the consumption of massive amounts of water. Beyond the biological benefits if you drink water instead of a high calorie beverage, you’re removing excess sugars that you probably don’t need. As well, foods that are rich in water contain fewer calories simply because their content is mostly water.

Cleaning Up Your Act

Water while it is our life blood, is also our very own liquid plumber. Our waste is mostly water and is the primary vehicle used by the body to get rid of anything toxic or a waste from our system. Drinking lots of water gives our digestive process the water it needs to digest, our kidneys the stuff it needs to keep the cleaning factory operational, the bowels won’t try and hold in excess water (leading to constipation!)

Whether we sweat it out, cry it out, or evacuate it out, water will keep our body nice and clean.

So the next time someone tells you to drink more water, or the next time you tell yourself, now you’ll have an earworm as to just why you should be!

The Savvy Pirate

Happy Friday friends! Recently the gym I train through has changed locations and given their equipment a serious upgrade. Between all of the new toys and the new atmosphere I have been absolutely as giddy as a school boy on Christmas. Two particular pieces of equipment the gym has added is an Ergometer (Rowing Machine) and a Heavy Bag.

This leads me to what I want to discuss with you today, one of my all-time favorite full body routines that combines the lightning pace and heart thumping action of cardiovascular exercise with hard hitting plyometric and functional strength, along with some stability and balance.

The Savvy Pirate

Alright everyone, let me introduce you to my routine I call The Savvy Pirate.

The Ergometer (Rowing Machine)
The first portion of this routine involves using an Ergometer (or Rowing Machine.)

Using an interval style training mode, begin at an easy pace to warm up the muscles and get some blood pumping through your body.

After 2 minutes, crank up your intensity (without sacrificing the rowing form: Core tight, back straight, drive through the legs and finish the motion with a mighty row) starting with 30 seconds and gradually building up to an entire minute, followed by reeling back your intensity.

Follow this format for 5 minutes, increasing your time spent up to 20 minutes.

The Heavy Bag
Next up, it’s time to throw some punches and kicks. Unfortunately, you may not have access to a heavy bag. Fortunately, everything can be done via shadow boxing. But, let’s work under the assumption for this article that you do in fact have access to a heavy bag (I would advise having some kind of covering for your hands with wrist support; be it knuckle wraps, boxing gloves, or striking gloves.)

This exercise will be done in rounds.

Start off with 4 rounds, 2 rounds of punches and 2 rounds of kicks.

Each round will last for 1 minute.

During your punching round, it will be divided into two 30 second rounds. Keep one foot forward, this will be your jabbing side as the amount of power you can generate is diminished by the off-centered stance. Your side with the foot back, will be your power side, or “Cross.”

Start simple, 2 jabs and 1 cross. Concentrate on alternating between head level blows, and torso level blows. Once you feel confident enough with your strikes, you can transition your punching rounds into free style, alternating as you please between punches.

Your kicking rounds will also be broken into two separate sections of 30 seconds, left and right side.

Again, stand off-center; your kicking leg will be your back leg. Turn into your kick, torqueing your body. Bring your knee up high and turn your hips over so you can strike the bag with the lower part of your shin. Point your toes and avoid contact with the ankle, top of the foot, and toes.

Once 4 rounds come easier to you, start adding in 1 extra round of punches and kicks.

No bag? No problem! Follow the same routine but shadow box it out.

Stability and Balance
The next part of this routine will work your balance and stability. If you are a beginner to balance, follow a simple regimen of side leg lifts and reverse leg lifts, maintaining a straight position and keeping your core tight perform up to 20 repetitions going both ways.

If your skill level allows you, instead, perform squats on the flat side of a BOSU ball and practice balancing on one foot on the BOSU. Work up to these by first learning to balance on the BOSU.

Advancing beyond that, while balancing 1 foot on the BOSU, perform side leg lifts and reverse leg lifts.

So there you have it, one of my very own killer routines. I had the fortunate opportunity to resurrect this one and used it myself. It delivers the full body blasting that I remember so fondly.

Why the Savvy Pirate you might wonder?

Well, every sailor worth their salt can row a boat, knows how to fight, and can balance on sea legs like they were born with them. Oh, also, it never hurts to be savvy.

Take Me To The Food

Welcome friends and happy Friday! Today, I want to discuss the topic of healthy eating. Lately I’ve been hearing this; “Healthy eating is great, but it’s just too expensive.”

It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last time.

My only response when I hear this is … “Where did you get that information from?”

I can tell you for a fact, that eating fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole cut meats can be very affordable. In my case, switching over to a healthier diet cut my average grocery bill into a third.

Unfortunately, sometimes when the words “healthy diet” appear they are associated with the word organic, or GMO free, or several other labels that drive up an items marked price.

So what is my definition of a “healthy diet?”

For me, a healthy diet and clean eating go hand in hand and are synonymous to each other.

Let’s take a look at fruits and veggies.

Did you know that certain fruits and vegetables have a season that they grow in? What that means is certain fruits and vegetables are in high supply during certain seasons of the year.

When a fruit or vegetable is in high supply, the price typically responds by going down.

When buying fruits and vegetables, purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season or on sale, it will guarantee you the best price.

Here you can find a link that lists vegetables and their respective seasons

Here you can find a link that has a really nifty chart showing the growing seasons for many fruits

Next up, let’s look at meats!

When walking through the meat section, pay close attention to how the prices scale. Meat with the bone still in will be less expensive per pound (This is to account for the weight of the bone and less work that goes into the pre-packaging by not removing the bone.) These can be a great money saver.

As far as brands, organic, free range, etc. if you don’t have moral objections to how your meat was raised or views on the label that should be slapped on it, you’ll generally find the stores own brand to be the most cost effective.

Another thing to consider, chicken will generally be the cheapest meat you’ll find and if you’re planning on preparing the meat that day, look for managers specials in which the meat will spoil sooner than the required shelf life and will be marked down.

Still not enough savings for you? Couponing can be an awesome (yet time consuming) way to also save a few bucks while shopping healthy.

Not convinced? Plan out your next trip (accounting for the meals of the week) and bring an old grocery receipt with you. You might be pleasantly surprised when you compare the two!

Recurrent Injuries: The SI Joint

Recently my body reminded me that dancing at age 30 is not as easy on the body as dancing at age 20.  One of my many previous injuries has decided to rear its ugly head again… SI joint dysfunction.

The SI (sacroiliac) joint is the joint in the pelvis that connects the lower body to the torso and acts as a transfer station that absorbs and distributes forces from the ground up, and from the upper body downward.


 The SI joint is a stabilizing joint with very limited mobility. Stability is provided to the SI joint by large muscle groups in the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, as well as a vastly complex web of ligaments. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is a common cause of low back pain, and is thought to be the most common cause of it in professional dancers. Dancers sacrifice stability at the SI joint for increased range of motion, making them more susceptible to injury.

Weakness in the gluteal muscles is often a contributing factor to SI joint dysfunction which can then lead to tightness in the hamstrings due to overcompensation. Because the SI joint is such an integral connection between the trunk of the body and the lower extremities, pain and dysfunction in this area can cause numerous problems in the lower back, hips, and knees.

Additionally, since there are so many large muscle group connections in this area it is highly innervated, making it more sensitive to pain and causing increased frequency of referred pain, often in the glutes, hips, and groin area.

Treatment for SI joint dysfunction should include heat, stretching, and progressive corrective exercise over a 4-6 week period:

Week 1: Apply heat to lower back for 15 minutes then proceed with passive stretching in a non-weight bearing position (i.e lying on your back.)  Stretching should include knees to chest, right and left trunk rotation with knees bent, straight-leg raise, and single-leg internal and external rotation. Stretches should be performed 3 times per week, with each stretch held for 30 seconds.

Week 2: Apply heat to lower back for 15 minutes then proceed with the same passive stretching exercises from week 1. Begin incorporating stretches such as supine hip flexion/external rotation, quadruped lumbar flexion/extension (aka Cat/Cow stretch), and prone cobra stretches. Passive stretches should be held for 30 seconds, while active stretches should be performed in 3 sets of 10 reps 3 times per week.


 Week 3 & 4: Apply heat to lower back for 15 minutes. Begin with stretches from week 1 & 2. Strength training should begin with resistance band exercises in a non-weight bearing position, such as: straight-leg raises with a resistance band, side-lying abduction/adduction, and hip extension in quadruped position. Exercises should be performed in 3 sets of 10 reps 3 times per week.

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 Week 5 & 6: Apply heat to lower back for 15 minutes and proceed to active stretching. Begin to incorporate low-impact, weight bearing corrective exercises such as squats, walking lunges, walking high knees, and standing single-leg hip adduction/abduction and extension with weight cables. Perform each exercise in 3 sets of 10 reps 3 times per week.

Acute SI joint dysfunction often occurs due to muscle strain or trauma and should respond well to these exercises. However, chronic dysfunction results from muscle imbalances and compensatory movement patterns due to poor ergonomics, and therefore these exercises will only serve as a temporary solution if poor postural habits are not corrected.

Why The Ferret?

Apologies for the lateness of this weeks post. Unfortunately, one of my furry little friends finally lost her battle with cancer the evening of 10/02/14. A lot of pent up anxiety and grief took hold of me for a little bit hindering my productivity. But now it is time to honor her memory and get back to doing what those little carpet sharks inspired me to do in the first place. It is time, to be the fittest of ferrets once again. This weeks article was written and inspired by the final days of Izzy’s struggle, taking an inside look at “Why The Ferret?” I hope you enjoy! – Ferret

Welcome friends! Once again it is Friday (Sunday, actually) and time for another story with The Fit Ferret. Today is a particularly special Friday though. The Fit Ferret (Blog) has officially been up for a year, and this post marks post #52 (for those of you unaware, there are 52 weeks in a year!)

One year ago today, I set out to do something I had never done before. On top of creating an educational and engaging platform for my knowledge, I also accomplished a feat that I have struggled with my entire life.

It may come as no surprise to the people who know me, I am a huge procrastinator. This has followed me through my entire life and in every facet of it. Not only have I discovered I work incredibly well under pressure, I used to lead the life style of BSing my way through just about anything that didn’t directly interest me or benefit me in some immediately extrinsic way. That being said, when I set myself to something, I always attacked it with tenacity and delivered nothing but my best (what a terrible combination.)

When I began this blog, as much as it was a way for me to connect with all of you and provide you with information in a fun way, it was a serious test to myself. It was a challenge that I have failed many times previously with many projects I start.

Like many of you out there, I start all of my projects with the best of intentions. But before I finish, before I really get the snowball rolling, I would always lose interest.

I cannot take all of the credit for seeing this project through for an entire year. That credit is directly given to each and every one of you.

To the ones who took time to tell me how a post helped them.

To the ones who stopped me and started a sentence with “So I read your post the other day…”

To the people who encouraged me, mostly by doing nothing more than expressing interest in what I was doing in the first place.

For the past year I have used this platform to connect with you and today I want to use this platform to thank each and every one of you who have stuck by and taken the time to not only read what I had to say, but encourage me to keep doing it with your kind words.

From here … the sky is the limit and I am continuing to seek out the best professionals I know to help expand the knowledge I can deliver to you (Spoiler: We may have a nutritionist blogger soon!)

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, I want to take the rest of this space to get a little philosophical with you and answer a question I get a lot.

Why a Ferret?

From as far back as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with these creatures. I met one only ONCE and became absolutely infatuated with it. As I grew up and started my journey “coming of age” I was always told I could not have one. I was told I could not have one for many reasons.

They smell awful (Ferrets have a slight musk, and like you if they aren’t cared for, start to smell.)

They are overly aggressive (They play like dogs (Tug of war, fetch, hand wrestling) and snuggle like cats. Like any animal, the amount you socialize them and the love you give them is representative of their demeanor.)

They will destroy the house (Ferrets are curious and clever animals, if you aren’t spending time outsmarting them, they will spend their time outsmarting you and can become bored easily.)

The cat is their natural enemy and will try to hunt and kill them (Hah … I’ve watched my ferrets gang up on the cat and she has no idea what to do with them.)

With all these “well thought out” responses as to why I could not be a ferret parent, it was safe to assume the person giving the answers fully knew and understood these creatures.

Being the strong-willed and determined child I was, I refused to accept these facts and researched the small mammals as often as I could, always trying to improve my counter argument and presentation as to why I should be allowed to be a ferret parent.

What I discovered through this process was two-fold. Things we do not understand scare us, and the ferret is a terribly misunderstood creature.

As a child, I was very misunderstood. My super friendly personality (I once tore through the neighborhood in my superman pajamas waking up the neighbors to wish them a “Good Morning,”) curiosity (the word why in the most genuinely way possible exited my mouth more than the air I expelled,) and need to physically experience the world around me (I learned early on how to Houdini my car seat and only learned what hot was after touching a stove,) was called ADHD and medicated (which I refused to take after a while and the powers that be gave up trying.)

Today, these very personality traits that were discouraged define a lot of who I am.

Fast forward many years to my adult life and the day I finally became a proud ferret parent.

As a ferret parent I learned many things and many things about myself and life.

Love is Patient

The two ferrets I adopted first had been abused and neglected, leading to long term health problems. One of them had significant brain damage and was very “slow.” Out of the three ferrets I have parented, she was by far the most challenging, and despite her inability to be litter box trained due to brain damage, she was loved none the less and cleaned up after constantly.

The ferrets’ capacity to love is quite incredible, especially for such a small mammal with such a small brain. When my little Yogi approached his final days, ridden with cancer and unable to not mess himself, his sisters still continued to cuddle with him and would actually bring food from the dish to him.

They would patiently wait, covered in HIS mess, and accepted the excess bath times without complaint.

Nothing is Lost, Just Sometimes … Misplaced

Ferrets can be little thieves and are quite capable of moving and hiding things that weigh a considerable amount more than their own bodyweight. I once caught Yogi dragging a hammer across the floor that I had been using to hang picture frames.

Any time I felt that something was lost, I simply had to check a few hiding places to quickly locate it. This also applied much to life. When we feel stressed, or as if we have lost our good vibes, they typically aren’t very far and we simply need only search in our usual hiding spots to find what we’ve “lost.”

On that note above Size is Hardly Relevant

Watching a small animal move weight significantly heavier than them through clever use of physics? What’s your excuse?

Despite having a natural frame of 5’10 and 160#’s I have never let that stop me from being capable of moving weights heavier and larger than myself. This has been very apparent during the lateral pull down exercise where if I am not careful, I will go up with the bar.

Never Pass Up a Good Nap

Ferrets sleep like a boss. Seriously, 16 hours of their day is spent sleeping, even if it’s broken up into 100 naps. Ferrets truly understand the importance of sleep and enjoy the heck out of it. Take advice from the ferret and stop depriving your body of the sleep it wants.

When You Are Awake, Live in The Moment

Since ferrets sleep so much of their life, it only makes sense that during their time spent awake they must make the most of it, getting their nutrition in and getting their play on. They don’t have time for frivolous things or concerning themselves with the troubles of yesterday or the worries of tomorrow. Ferrets truly live in the moment.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Why the ferret you ask?

Because I identify with those tiny creatures, and through parenting them I have learned so much more about myself and the world around me.

Also … I REALLY REALLY like alliteration, puns, and word play.

So cheers to a year and to another great one ahead!