Shoulder Strength Rehabilitation



Fifteen years ago, Richard was told by his orthopedist that both his shoulders would eventually have to be replaced. Richard had been a swimmer in high school and college, then a runner and triathlete and later played basketball at least five times a week for 35 years. The activity was brutal on his joints he says, and he knew he was eventually going to pay the price. “I used to ice a lot.”

Today Richard’s orthopedists tells him “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it,” because his shoulders are in better shape than they ever have been in the last fifteen years. So what’s to account for the turnaround? Richard says it’s his 20 minute, once-a-week workout at InForm Fitness in Manhattan, NY. Using the Power of 10 strength training method, under the guidance his personal trainer Mike Rogers, Richard has improved his fitness and health dramatically.

My Twist On Stretching

Studies Suggest Stretching Does Not Improve Performance, Prevent Injury or
Reduce Soreness 

While at a local park with my family, I looked over toward the soccer fields and watched the athletes preparing for their match. There they were, sporting team shirts and gracefully bending, turning and bowing as they stretched to get ready.

My wife had to hold tightly onto my arm to prevent me from running out onto the field and yelling STOP.

Their coach must not be keeping up with the latest sports medicine reports nor read the recent NY Times Article reporting that stretching isn’t a good way to start off any sports activity or exercise routine.

We’ve heard a lot about stretching. Stretch to warm up before a workout; stretch to improve your flexibility; stretch to loosen your joints and muscles… And we we’ve been led to believe that stretching is a pre– (fill-in your activity) best practice that will improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. Moreover, post-exercise stretching will prevent soreness.

Well, that’s a bit of a stretch.

There are some good stretches. Watching a cat or a dog rise from a nap, they might take a luxurious and gentle stretch. Mother Nature and animal instinct know something and we humans should take note. A gentle stretch can realign the spine and wake up tight muscles. These kinds of stretches are a good thing. If you want to practice a good stretch technique upon waking, or post desk sitting marathon, I encourage you to mimic your cat or dog’s routine. If you don’t have a dog or cat, borrow a neighbor’s.

If we stick with Mother Nature and animal instinct as a common sense guide, then we wouldn’t stretch either pre or post exercise. I’ve yet to see a dog doing any warm up stretches before engaging in ball fetching or squirrel chasing – both of which require speed, strength and endurance.

However, anecdotal observations rarely quell the intellectual curiosity or the skepticism of mankind (or our clients), therefore scientific studies are required.

What these studies observed is that stretching (Studies noted at the end of this post):

  • does not contribute to flexibility
  • does not “warm-up” your muscles
  • reduces your strength
  • leaves joints and ligaments vulnerable to injury and
  • can actually cause injury

Stretching Does Not Improve Flexibility: Your muscles have a primary function to protect joints and ligaments, and each muscle has a limited range of motion in order to hold its protective position. Stretching the muscles actually weakens the tendons and ligaments, and that puts you at risk for injury, it doesn’t make you more flexible.

In fact, during these studies it was observed that the increased range of motion resulting from stretching might be a result of an increase in stretch tolerance. That is, stretching does not improve tissue compliance (flexibility); rather, the stretching exercises increase stretch tolerance (the ability to withstand the pain) during the stretching procedure.

Stretching Does Not “warm-up” Your Muscles: The idea of stretching to warm up is misleading. Stretching actually puts your muscles into a cold state. Stretching pulls muscles and does not contract them. Since blood is drawn in during the contraction, stretching actually denies your muscles the metabolic activity that stimulates a warm-up. Should you practice stretching to warm up you are actually engaging a ‘cold’ muscle in its weakest, most vulnerable position.

Stretching Makes You Weak: As you stretch your muscles, you are actually putting them into a weaker state and depleting the blood surge needed to both muster the power and sustain the endurance.

There have been several experiments and studies measuring strength variations in pre stretch versus no pre stretching before a physical activity. Earlier this year, one such study produced findings that stretching before weight lifting actually left test subjects weaker during their workout. A recent compilation and analysis of data from previous stretching studies revealed:

  • an average reduction of strength in stretched muscles by 5.5%
  • muscle power falls by about 2% after stretching
  • explosive muscle performance drops by as much as 2.8% after stretching

Regardless of your status – professional athlete, weekend sports warrior, avid tennis player or golfer – the facts indicate that stretching will negatively affect your performance by reducing your strength and muscle power.

Stretching Leaves Joints and Ligaments Vulnerable to Injury: Another concept presented in recent studies is the observation that sarcomere (the most basic contractile units of muscle) length in an active muscle is heterogeneous (meaning that they aren’t all the same length). This is significant because when some of the shorter sarcomeres are stretched to the point that the actin and myosin filaments do not overlap, the force being absorbed is transmitted to the muscle fiber cytoskeleton, resulting in fiber damage. The loss of energy-absorbing capacity of overstretched sarcomeres is of importance indicating a higher risk of joint injury.

Over Stretching Can Cause Injury: Stretching isn’t for novices. Stretching should be guided by a trained physical therapist. The basic science literature has shown that stretching a muscle as little as 20% of its resting length, which can occur during correct stretching techniques, can produce damage in isolated preparations. These findings indicate that it may be difficult to define the correct stretching techniques to reduce injury risk.

Another study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine meeting in 2006 revealed the results of measuring strength before and after stretching, to conclude that post stretch muscles were actually weaker, not stronger.

So why would you stretch your muscles out to its weakest point before swinging your tennis racket, golf club or lifting weights? You would be better served warming up with some light shadow boxing, or jogging in place.

And for our golfers: A study on stretching before professional golf tournaments revealed, “The results of this inquiry strongly suggest that a total-body passive static stretching routine should be avoided before practice or competition. Results of paired t-tests revealed significant decreases in club head speed and distance.”


Journal of Athletic Training, National Athletic Trainers Association. Stretching Before and After Exercise: Effect on Muscle Soreness and Injury Risk – J. C Andersen

Bischoff C, Perrin DH. Injury prevention. In: Schenck RC, ed. Athletic Training and Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons; 1999:50–53.

Irvin R, Iversen D, Roy S. Sports Medicine: Prevention, Assessment, Management, and Rehabilitation of Athletic Injuries. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon; 1998: 26–29.

Cheung K, Hume PA, Maxwell L. Delayed onset muscle soreness: treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Med.  2003;33:145–164.

Fahey TD, Insel PM, Roth WT. Fit and Well. 5th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill; 2003.

Pope RP, Herbert RD, Kirwan JD, Graham BJ. A randomized trial of pre-exercise stretching for prevention of lower limb injury. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000;32:271–277.

Sackett DL, Straus SE, Richardson WS, Rosenberg W, Haynes RB. Evidence-Based Medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2000:133–138.

Shrier I. Stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of local muscle injury: a critical review of the clinical and basic science literature. Clin J Sport Med. 1999;9:221–227.

InForm Fitness Personal Training Testimonial



InForm Fitness is a unique gym in Midtown East Manhattan offering personal training in the Power of 10 Workout – a once-a-week, slow motion, strength training system that is so deep and effective it offers an entire week’s worth of total body exercise in a single 20 minute session. Here Denise Cumming, owner of Pip’s Place, the Gluten Free Cakery, offers her testimonial of what the Power of 10 system has done for her “I lift 50lb bags of flour daily so I needed to have a strong back and upper body strength and I have very little time.” Finding that doing squats, pushups and crunches 3 times a week was not helping her truly stay in shape and also difficult to sustain due to limited time Denise came to InForm on the recommendation of a friend. “I would say it was about 3-4 weeks before the definition started to come back and the lower back pain stopped… I felt strong again.”

The Unrefrigerated Egg


While working to set up our new studio in Santiago, Chile recently – I took time out to visit the city and to go grocery shopping. Visiting a large and well-stocked super market, I became fascinated as I walked down the ‘egg aisle’ that resembled any bread aisle in a U.S. super market. There they were – neatly stacked cartons of varying size and color eggs, sitting on shelves and completely unrefrigerated. This is a sight that you see most places around the world but never in the U.S. or Canada where eggs must be refrigerated to be labeled as “Grade A.”

I love eggs! We go through several cartons of fresh farm raised eggs every month at our house. Eggs are a super food full of Omega 3 and protein. I admit that I pay dearly for our eggs because they are direct from an organic farm where the chickens are raised on healthy diets, which makes these eggs richer in nutrients and less likely to contain dangerous bacteria. These eggs are only a few days old, unlike the ones at the grocery store and yes, you will sometimes find them sitting beautifully in a bowl on our kitchen counter – unrefrigerated.

So what’s the deal with refrigerated eggs versus non-refrigerated eggs? And does ‘organic’ really matter when you buy from a super market versus fresh from your local farmer?

It all starts with our government regulations requiring all USDA-graded eggs to be washed and sanitized to remove bacteria from the shell. The eggshell is naturally covered with a waxy cuticle (called the bloom) that seals the egg and helps to prevent bacteria from entering the egg. However, the eggshell contains approximately 7,500 pores making it a breathable membrane much like our own skin. This ‘washing’ process or chemical bath (often lye or chlorine), strips the bloom and exposes the egg’s pores. To re-protect the eggs for their long journey to your grocery store refrigerator, farmers then recoat the eggs, often using mineral oil. Mineral oil is a petroleum-based product, hardly organic and certainly never meant to be ingested by humans. But your store bought eggs are more than likely coated in mineral oil – and likely the egg’s open pores have allowed the oil to seep into the inner egg.

Truth be told, what your eggs are washed and then coated with is not government regulated and so you are getting with your eggs a mix of chlorine and mineral oil – yummy. Kind of takes the ‘organic’ out of the organic labeling on store eggs don’t you think? Not to mention that these chemicals can be carcinogenic and mutagenic.

Europe, Asia, South America – and almost anywhere around the world, you find the eggs unrefrigerated because they use water or dry brushing to clean the eggs before sending them to market. These techniques leave the bloom intact and so don’t require refrigeration. Small local organic farmers here in the U.S. do the same.

Eggs are only dangerous if the chicken that laid the egg was sick with an illness that would be passed on inside the egg itself. Healthy chickens do not produce unhealthy eggs – but since we seldom have access to the medical records of our eggs’ chicken-mama, I prefer buying my eggs from a local farmer who keeps a clean farm and raises healthy chickens.

The cleaning and coating process of commercial eggs is the main reason that I prefer the local organic farmer’s eggs rather than store bought eggs. But to answer the ‘refrigerate versus non-refrigerate’ question, let’s look at the time span from hen to table.

I get my eggs locally so they are less than a week out of the hen when they show up at my local farmer’s market. Where the eggs on the shelf at the grocery store went through an elaborate collection, cleaning and coating process – about a week, then traveled some distance shuttling between warehouses and transfer stations – another week – to finally reach your grocery store and get placed on a refrigerated shelf – potentially a third week. The eggs you buy at the grocery store are potentially 3 weeks old before you purchase them.

Supporting refrigeration for the commercial egg – salmonella will grow far less quickly in refrigerated eggs than it will in eggs that are left at room temperature. Eggs will also last much longer when refrigerated than they will when stored at room temperature. Given the distribution time involved, refrigeration is necessary to protect the general public from outbreaks of salmonella.

If you purchased eggs from the super market – it is not recommended that you decorate your kitchen with that French-country style bowl filled with eggs. A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the growth of bacteria that could contaminate the egg. This is why it is recommended that refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than two hours.

So . . . if your kitchen décor calls for a bowl of eggs, buy from your local organic farmer. If your dietary preference is organic foods then leave the organic store eggs on the shelf and visit your local green market to find your eggs.


I Drink Coffee


I’m a regular coffee drinker, and now that reports claim that coffee is actually a good thing, I no longer feel the need to be discreet about my caffeine addiction…um…attraction.

Join me in coming out of the java closet; let’s talk about coffee.

Always on the lookout for interesting and new facts about health, food, and exercise, to share on our “Fact of the Week” I regularly come across information about coffee while researching and writing our posts. If you follow us on Facebook, you’ve probably seen some of my caffeine related posts, along with a lot of other quirky, scientific facts.

Reading the latest research findings that stream across my screen helped me to realize that coffee is actually as complex a topic as wine. Being a fairly laid back guy, the last thing I need is to ingest a depressant that’s going to slow down the functions of my central nervous system – I decided to choose coffee over wine for my research.

The biochemist in me is driven to explore caffeine.  Coffee is a $70 billion industry worldwide and the second most tradable commodity after oil. I simply can’t ignore this fascinating molecule. Caffeine is the most widely used (or abused) psychoactive addictive drug in the world – and it’s not regulated like alcohol or drugs – a fact supporting my claim that it’s a worldwide addiction.

I want to explore:

  • The origins of coffee. Did you know that the word coffee comes from the Arabic word kaweh meaning strength or vigor?
  • Growing methods and environmental impact.
  • Are you really helping the farmers in third world countries by buying fair trade coffee?
  • Various types of coffee beans.
  • How brewing methods affect taste and strength.
  • Studies and findings on the health benefits and risks of caffeine.
  • The café culture.

I’m fascinated by my original research findings. I never thought of drinking coffee as an ancient ritual, or about the fact that it’s one of the most consumed foods in the world. Many of you are as curious as I am about coffee, so let me do the research and share my discoveries with you in periodic blog posts and in some “Facts of the Week.”

Until recently, I was not much of a coffee drinker. I grew up in a home enjoying the delicious aroma of my parents’ daily morning brew, but I didn’t have the desire to drink it. Coffee simply smelled much better than it tasted. I will admit that there were times during college when coffee was an absolute necessity to get me to my morning classes. Later, I became a social coffee drinker, occasionally having a cup of coffee after dinner while out with friends, or as a needed energy boost when balancing entrepreneurship with husbanding and fatherhood. Even so, I hadn’t become a regular coffee drinker. Invested in good health, I believed what I had always read and heard about the evil that brews from coffee.

A decade or two later, studies started revealing that drinking coffee in moderation is actually beneficial. While this was an interesting discovery, I still wasn’t hooked on the deliciously aromatic beverage.

To kick off my first “Coffee Chat” post, I’ll share with you the story of how coffee became a part of my daily routine.

It’s my oldest son’s fault – he got me started on coffee when he was three.

While my wife was pregnant with our second child, she was restricted to bed rest. We decided it would be best if she stayed with my parents in Long Island while I worked in the city. I would take Fridays off to spend the weekend visiting and to spend time with my son.

Early one morning, on our way to a nearby park, my son and I stopped at a local cafe to get a cup of coffee for me, and a soda water for him. When we arrived at the park, we sat on a bench like two regular guys, drinking our morning brews. It was a bonding moment. I didn’t realize just how much that moment meant to him until the following Friday.

The very next Friday, we headed to the park once again. This time I didn’t need a java jolt, so I planned to forego the café that morning. I got another kind of jolt instead. When my son realized that we were skipping the coffee and soda water, he threw a fit. I explained to him that I didn’t want coffee that morning, yet he was determined to recreate the previous Friday morning experience exactly as it had happened before. Anyone who has spent time with a three year old won’t blame me for having immediately rerouted back to the coffee house.

By the time my second child was born, I was trained into a habitual morning java drinker.

Here I am today, a serial coffee drinker, and a health and fitness expert whose entire business is based on making safe choices. So yes, I want to make sure that my new habit is not harmful, motivating me to explore the scientific, cultural, and environmental aspects of caffeine. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of discovery. If you haven’t subscribed to this blog yet, just click on the link to the right at the top of the page, and let’s get started.


The Perfect Workout


The perfect workout does not exist.

There, I said it and I feel better to have that off my chest.

Inconclusive medical and scientific studies along with supporting media hype, drive what doctors prescribe, how coaches and personal trainers instruct, athletes train, and the average motivated man or woman engages in working out.

Though most medical professionals are educated and well intentioned, many are ill informed regarding exercise. An abundance of dramatically different workout protocols claim to be “the perfect workout” and each has its cheerleaders. Everyone has a different plan for the perfect workout, many in diametric opposition to one another. You may wonder, how is this possible?

The core of the problem rests in the definition of exercise. Let me offer an analogy. If the given definition of a pencil was “a writing instrument,” a pencil could be a charcoal stick, quill, ballpoint pen, even a computer. The definition of ‘exercise’ is equally broad. Given the wide-ranging definitions for exercise, the prevailing confusion and anarchy in the workout world is no real wonder.

To anoint any one protocol “the perfect workout,” we have to agree on the definition of exercise.

Definition of Exercise

Is exercise simply “bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness” (Webster’s Dictionary); or “[an] activity that requires physical or mental exertion, especially when performed to develop or maintain fitness?” (Free Dictionary)

These definitions are too broad, much like my earlier analogy of the pencil. My friend and professional comrade, Dr. Doug McGuff, best defines exercise in accord with my beliefs in his seminal book Body by Science. His definition, which I paraphrase, is: Exercise is a specific activity that stimulates a positive physiological adaptation that serves to enhance fitness without undermining health.

The positive physiological adaptation to which he refers is strengthening muscle. The definition covers the key point that exercise should build strength safely. With that requirement in mind, you can examine the various types of workouts more intelligently. Ask yourself whether the protocol does what it purports, while doing no harm in the process.

The actual goal of exercise has to be clear. Goals are as misguided as they are cluttered with non-related exercise outcomes. For example, enhancing my social life is not one of my reasons for exercising: see Get A Life. And certainly, I know intellectually beyond any doubt that I cannot exercise my way out of a bad diet: see The Exercise to Lose Weight Conundrum.

Let’s examine three types of workouts and their goals:

  • Flexibility workouts, such as stretching and yoga, aim to improve muscle and joint range of motion, but measurable results are absent and, joint and muscle injuries are often caused in the process: see My Twist on Stretching
  • Aerobic workouts, such as running, cycling and swimming, aim to push cardiovascular endurance. And, as you should now have come to expect, I take issue with their high risk for injury: see You Must Be Insane.
  • And finally, even anaerobic workouts, such as weight training and high-intensity interval training, aimed to concentrate on muscle strength building, can often prove dangerous: see Should California Mom be Criticized  (and this pertains to non-pregnant people as well).

The Studies

Most studies recommending ”the perfect workout” are faulty. For example, our need for heart-healthy cardio is a widely accepted belief, but countered by a multitude of reported injuries. Contradicting the pronouncement that running and high impact workouts cause hip and joint problems in older people, one recent study evidences fewer hip replacements and fewer incidence of osteoarthritis in a group of seniors that ran with the results from the study.

One of the things inherently wrong with this study, and with the majority of studies, is the lack of consideration of the individual genetics of the test pool. Non-responders and ultra-responders are going to experience radically different outcomes from the same stimulus. The findings offered by this study are flawed, hardly evidence to support, let alone encourage, running as a safe workout.

My verdict is still out on the safety of running, or any steady state workout. I’ve seen too many clients with long-term damage from running to accept a conclusion that running is safe, no matter what the study shows. The level of injuries from steady state exercise range from acute, like a sprain, to more insidious injuries that appear later and are chronic, including damaged joints and heart arrhythmias. I don’t believe that steady state workout improves your overall health – in fact, it seems to do the opposite, as discussed in these articles from Science Daily and the Boston Globe.

In his book, The Meaning Of It All, Richard Feynman wrote “in science if there is an exception to the rule, then the rule is wrong.” His words certainly apply in this instance.

My Hypothesis Regarding The Perfect Workout

Committed to exercising for decades, I have witnessed a wide range of programs; some yielding great results, many producing serious injuries. Building strength, safely and efficiently, is the driving principle and basis for my program the Power-of-10. I believe the key to health and fitness is strengthened muscle through intense muscular work that does not undermine your health in the process.

Early in my career, my life changed when I discovered the work of Ken Hutchins, the father of Super Slow, whose dissertation I devoured. I soon became a zealous advocate of his technique. I have to admit that my unbridled enthusiasm is now a little embarrassing. What I have since realized is that we don’t know everything and the degree of intensity is not a ‘one size fits all’ program. To be safe and effective, we have to leave room for individual differences.

Intensity improves certain health markers. The volume of workout is not the driver for muscle strength. The intensity of the workout ultimately provides measurable results. I passionately believe that any attempt to strengthen muscle should not be a risky proposition.

To sum up:

  • Intensity over duration wins. Muscle strength is built with intensity and improves the body’s ability to absorb and tolerate glucose, reducing diabetes, stave off osteoporosis and other ailments caused by sarcopenia, which is age-related muscle loss.
  • Intensity over duration wins again. Studies (here we go again) have shown that endurance athletes are at a high risk for heart arrhythmias. Not everyone is genetically programed to withstand steady state workouts without suffering injury.
  • Slow is safer. I subscribe to Isaac Newton’s Law of Force. Force = Mass x Acceleration. If we reduce acceleration, we reduce force, thereby reducing the risk of injury. See ya later Cross Fit and P90X.
  • The Perfect Workout has two key components: safety and measurable results. Strength is easily measured and results support the Power-of-10’s efficacy.

How We Measure Results

When working with a client, every InForm Fitness instructor wears a stopwatch and carries a clipboard that charts the clients’ workouts. The stopwatch ensures a consistent 10-second speed during both the lifting and lowering phases of the repetition, and the trainer records the time to muscular failure. If we raise the weight and you stay under load for the same time, speed and form, then you are stronger.

We offer accuracy not available when you lift weights at variable speeds, away from the careful eye and instruction of a professional. InForm Fitness instructors control the variables, such as seat positions, settings, and the sequence of exercises, all of which affect performance. In a controlled environment, we track and measure results, so that we are comparing your progress with controlled variables. This data, accumulated over months, allows us to give our clients an accurate picture of their progress in building strength. Even if this method of measuring strength seems primitive, it’s the best we have so far. The important results are what our clients experience and their stories of how their lives have improved. Watch the two new videos  from our clients of their personal success that we have on our home page.

Good science may refute my core beliefs and force me to change my path, just as good science has led me here. Until then, I’ll continue…cautiously, of course.

For now, and as for the past fifteen years, my conviction is that the Power-of-10 protocol of exercise is, in fact, the perfect workout. No better way to exercise exists. I’m sincerely grateful to all those who have been willing to trust us and work hard! They have, as a result, realized the benefits first hand of using a technique that is as effective as the Power-of-10.


Exercise During Pregnancy – Should California Mom Be Criticized?


You may have seen the recent story about a mother of two, 8 months pregnant with her third, and continuing to workout lifting weights. As the story goes, the mother posted photos of herself lifting a heavy barbell on Facebook along with the boast “8 months pregnant with baby number 3 and CrossFit has been my sanity.” The woman’s Facebook profile also states her goal to be a HOT mom. The images and ideas quickly went viral and elicited a slew of responses ranging from support and encouragement to shaming and warning. The controversy caught the media’s attention, and so here we are, in the midst of a debate about women exercising while pregnant.

As the hysteria came to my attention, I couldn’t resist taking a stand and speaking out on the matter. Just last month I wrote a post on this very topic exercising while pregnant and so it seems we now have more to discuss on this matter. My short answer is yes, I support exercising while pregnant. But, I must re-emphasize being smart about it. So let’s explore the issues to make sure you are informed and can decide for yourself about the health benefits of exercising while pregnant. And if you want to pass judgment on this woman, that’s up to you.

First, let’s define pregnancy.

What is Pregnancy?

According to the article above, an undisclosed ‘medical professional’ was among those leaving supportive comments on the woman’s Facebook page stating, “I find it appalling the number of people who treat pregnancy as an illness.” This is an irresponsible and misleading comment.

While pregnancy might not be classified as an illness (pregnancy is a condition a woman’s biology is meant to support), it is, in fact, a physically compromised condition. Biologically speaking, pregnancy is a biotrophic parasitic condition. What this means is that the host (mother) is supporting a parasite (the fetus) that relies on the survival of the host to ensure its own survival. If you have ever been pregnant, you know that this is an accurate description, so please don’t shoot the messenger. The point is, that a pregnant woman’s resources are depleted as they are being used to support the fetus. This is in large part why pregnant women often feel tired, hungry and stressed.

Another biological fact about pregnancy is a condition known as joint laxity. During pregnancy, the body releases a hormone called Relaxin. Like its name implies, this hormone relaxes the connective tissue and ligaments to allow the rib cage to expand to make room for the baby and expands the pelvis to make room for the delivery. So, a pregnant woman is in fact in a physically compromised state given that her resources are being depleted and her joints are now vulnerable because of Relaxin flowing throughout her body. With these two biological changes, exercise recommendations during pregnancy should take these changes in consideration.

Next, let’s define exercise.

What is Exercise?

Physical exercise has been defined as any activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. Exercise can range from acts of gardening and housecleaning to running, Pilates, weight training, bicycling and the list goes on and on. Not much of a definition is it? So let’s try this.

“Exercise is a process whereby the body performs work of a demanding nature, in accordance with muscle and joint function . . . within the constraints of safety, meaningfully loading the muscular system to stimulate a growth mechanism. . .”  -The First Definition of Exercise, By Ken Hutchins

First and foremost exercise should be safe. This rule applies whether you are pregnant or not. As mentioned, the exercise that this California mother has chosen for her fitness program is CrossFit™. CrossFit™ is about as safe as playing Russian roulette. Doctors are familiar with a condition where the muscle cells actually explode and die from overuse, known as Rhabdomyolysis. Yes, this is as awful and potentially lethal as it sounds. Exertional Rhabdomyolysis is a rare condition usually only seen in extreme physical conditioning programs such as those used by elite military regimes. Yet, it has now become a somewhat common occurrence, in varying degrees of severity, in association with CrossFit™ training. Believe it or not, serious injuries are an accepted outcome to Crossfitters. The founder of Crossfit™, Greg Glassman, has said, “It can kill you. I’ve always been completely honest about that.”

So while this California Hot mom might be an exception to the cautionary rules regarding safe exercise and the risks associated with CrossFit™, her participation while pregnant is selfish and reckless. Her ego has clouded her judgment and her actions send a dangerous message to other expectant moms. So yes, this woman deserves to take a lot of criticism; not for exercising while pregnant, but for exercising unsafely and in the extreme to fulfill her ego driven goal to be a ‘HOT mom’ rather than choosing to be a healthy mom who doesn’t risk her own life or the life of her unborn child.

Now let’s take an even closer look at what this woman is doing wrong in her exercise program (photos included) and explore smarter, safer choices.

Too Much Exertion, Not Enough Rest

First, the woman states that she works out 5 days a week. This regimen does not provide enough rest in between workouts. Once again, pregnant or not, there is the need to give the body a chance to recover and repair itself, and allow new muscle to grow. I’ve discussed the need for rest in a post that covers adequate sleep and allowing enough time between exercises to let the muscles repair and grow stronger. Rest is one of the three pillars of the Power-of-10 system.

Athletics vs. Exercise and Safe vs. Unsafe

Next, let’s take a look at one of her now famous photos, side-by-side with one of our own, of a HOT mom, 8 months pregnant, working out at InForm Fitness.

Exercise During Pregnancy – Should California Mom Be Criticized? - InForm Fitness

The California woman squatting and lifting weights over her head while her body is compromised with joint laxity is reckless. This position is reckless for anyone, but especially for a woman who is 8 months into her pregnancy. She is performing an Olympic lift known as The Snatch which actually requires more skill than it does strength. The focus of this move is competitive, not personal health and fitness. As with all physical sports, there is a demand placed on the muscles which can result in increased strength, but that doesn’t make it an exercise. One of the most important reasons it shouldn’t be practiced as an exercise is that it is not safe.The lower back muscles in particular were never meant to carry the type of load demanded by this lift and only a slight move in the wrong direction can spell disaster at any point. If you would like to see what I mean, and have the stomach for it, check out this video from the 2012 Olympics to see just how dangerous this move can be.

In contrast, let’s look at our photo. Our client is working the same muscle groups while pregnant. She, however, is getting lumbar support angled properly to make room for her belly, breathing properly and getting the same muscular benefits, but with practically no risk to mother or fetus while working out under the guidance of a qualified and experienced fitness instructor every step of the way. So, you tell me. Which method would you choose when expectant with a precious new human life (or otherwise)?

Giving birth is an event of epic proportions and being physically fit is a key factor in the health and wellbeing of both mother and child. Optimal fitness will also play a major role in the mother’s recovery after giving birth. Exercising while pregnant is the right thing to do once cleared to do so by your OB GYN professional. Then give us a call and we will start you on the Power-of-10 program providing personal training that is safe and efficient.


Can I Exercise While I’m Pregnant?


Congratulations, you’re expecting! One of life’s most brilliant miracles is about to unfold and you have the best seat in the house.

Some of the physical changes to expect during pregnancy are:

  • You start to grow (and glow).
  • Now eating for two, you are increasingly ravenous and crave unusual foods (some not on your skinny plan).
  • Also now breathing and pumping blood for two, you are increasingly exhausted, and
  • The growing baby, combined with the extra pregnancy weight, increasingly challenges and strains your legs and lower back.

Expectant mothers are often advised to eat this, not that, and to supplement their diets with this, and avoid that. With countless myths and old wives tales running through every family and community circle, expectant mothers are bombarded with advice.

A ton of prenatal care literature is readily available and I’m certain that my wife read it all. Anyway, one consistency I found through all the literature, myths and wives tales is that adequate rest and good nutrition are the cornerstones to protecting both mother and child during the pregnancy, as well as during the big event! Yet, regarding appropriate prenatal exercise, no such consistency exists.

First and foremost, check with your OB GYN professional before you embark on any exercise program. Some circumstances warrant a range of caution, from limiting activities to total bed rest. High-risk conditions, such as placenta previa (complications involving the placenta) and pre-eclampsia (generally defined as pregnancy-induced high blood pressure) are conditions where exercise could prove detrimental to mother and fetus.

That said, during normal pregnancies, the conventional prescriptions for exercise are what you might expect, such as walking, or a pre-natal yoga class, and stretching. But, my opinion is this: exercise recommendations from trusted sources such as The Mayo Clinic and WebMD are as safe as they are useless with respect to preparing you for labor. 

While I agree that SCUBA diving and ice hockey should be avoided, recommending walks and stretching hardly suffice as preparation for the birthing experience. Stretching isn’t even a warm up, as explained in my last post, My Twist On Stretching.

From my experience, (my wife and I are the happy parents of two, and for fifteen years I have successfully trained scores of pregnant clients), I believe that women should exercise throughout a normal pregnancy, and that by doing so, ensure a more comfortable and easier birthing experience. Those women will also enjoy the added bonus of significantly swifter recoveries.

Being pregnant and giving birth can be one of the most demanding physical challenges a woman will endure. So if you don’t exercise now, you might want to consider starting. If you already exercise, congratulations.

But now that you are pregnant, the time to think seriously about exercises that will concentrate on supporting your pregnancy and the birthing experience is now! You will need strength and endurance, and that means muscle and metabolic conditioning.

Think of the pregnancy months like training for an Olympic event.

Labor is called labor for a reason – it’s hard work, accompanied by tremendous strain for both mother and fetus. It’s the real deal.

Building muscle strength is key. Without strong muscles, a labor can be more painful and stressful to both mother and baby and could result in the need for a C-section to prevent fetal distress.

Conversely, training to build muscle strength will not only help you throughout the pregnancy, labor and birthing experience, it will also be a key factor in regaining your pre-pregnancy shape.

Proper breathing is critical. Breathing technique requires special training in preparation for labor. Proper breathing is critical as powerful contractions and the intensity in the pushing cycle can raise your blood pressure, which is dangerous to both mother and child.

Slow motion high intensity training coaches you on how to safely breathe through extreme muscular exertion. Breaking the Val Salva/Sync (the tendency to hold ones breath during exertion) is what we teach. Training to breathe properly through labor contractions, and the pushing cycles during birthing, can hardly be accomplished with the recommended Yoga and Lamaze classes, as neither simulates the contraction/breathing experience. This gives the mother a false sense of preparedness and leaves the mother and child at risk should the Val Salva/Sync effect take hold.

Think about the last time you lifted or pushed something really heavy. You might recall that you probably held your breath as you pushed or lifted – that is a natural instinct, but not the safest. Instead of putting added pressure on a filled balloon, the best method is to breathe (inhale and exhale) throughout the exertion.

Rest is a cornerstone in prenatal care. We recognize that serious workouts require serious rest and our program is structured to avoid over training and encourages adequate rest. Rest is a key component of the Power of 10 program.

When training at InForm Fitness while pregnant, we are providing you with a weekly rehearsal that will make your big day a sporting day and quickly get you back to your pre-baby weight and shape.

Here is how the Power of 10 Exercise Program can help you through your pregnancy and birthing experience:

  • Overall improvement in strength and conditioning making the added weight and stresses to the body more comfortable during your pregnancy.
  • Building up a tolerance for the exertion and discomfort you are going to experience.
  • Teaches the breathing techniques necessary to break the Val Salva/Sync association and avoid the risks to you and your fetus
  • Instills focus and concentration during intense muscular challenges.
  • Training that concentrates on strengthening specific muscle groups you will rely on during birthing, including those addressed in Kegel exercises, and
  • Underscores the importance of rest as a cornerstone of protecting mother and fetus while still getting all the exercise needed with a once a week, 20-minute workout.

So, once again, and from all of us here at InForm Fitness – CONGRATULATIONS! Now get your OB GYN’s approval and come in to begin your training.