Category Archives: Fitness Strength

OUR SHOPPING SPREE

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Precor AMT

It’s Black Friday and that seems like a good time to tell you about some of the exciting new things we’ve purchased for the Club.  It’s an extensive list and a lot of time and effort was involved.  There were lengthy deliberations and three different road trips, but the orders have all been placed.  We’re now anxiously awaiting delivery of a great selection of new strength equipment, as well as some nice upgrades for the cardio area.

 

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Stepmill

The big-ticket items for the cardio area are Precor’s newly improved AMTs.  We have several of the original versions of this machine already in place and they are very popular…smooth, easy to use, and a great workout.  The new models deliver all of this along with an increase in stride length  and more versatility in stride pattern.  You can do anything on these things…use it like a standard elliptical, a stair climber, or even simulate a running motion.   At a list price of over $10,000 each, you ought to be able to fly them like helicopters!  Additional changes planned for our cardio lineup includes the replacement of some older recumbent bicycles and the addition of two more Stepmills.

Downstairs the area that will see the most changes is the free weight/bench press room.  Virtually all of the older equipment in that room will be upgraded to brand new Hammer Strength units, including the benches and the Smith machine, and we’ll also be bringing back a military press.  There will be two new plate-loaded machines, an incline press and a “Jammer” that should be popular with both athletes and with those doing multi-chain exercises.

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Hammer Strength Jammer

The dumbbell area will also see quite a few changes.  Along with new thicker flooring under the dumbbell benches, the majority of the machines in this area will also be getting replaced.  This includes the big Body Master multi-station cable crossover.  It will make way for a unit from Life Fitness that is very similar but has some great additional features that make it quite a bit smoother and more functional.  It will have both a single and a dual pulley lat pulldown, and a dual pulley seated row.  The old piece served us well for many years, but it’s time for it to be retired and this new unit will be much nicer overall.

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Hammer Leg Press

We will also be squeezing a few select pieces into our stable of weight machines on the main floor and replacing a few others.  Lower body enthusiasts will be happiest about these changes, as among the new pieces there will be three different leg presses and a prone leg curl.  We’re making space for these additions by shrinking the lounge area back to its previous (before remodel) dimensions.  This won’t decrease seating capacity, it will just shift it closer to the front entry.

We sincerely feel that the addition of this new top-of-the-line strength equipment will give people using the main weight room a training experience that is  unsurpassed in both quality and variety.  Our hope is that these changes will also eliminate their need to use the weight room on the second floor, because major changes are going to be taking place there as well.  

Deciding on a strategy to re-equip the upstairs  training area gave us many challenges and was the driving factor behind the three road trips.  We are replacing every piece of equipment in that room and we wanted to make sure we got it right.  As our long-time members will remember, for its first decade or so we used that space as a women’s only area.  It gave novice users who weren’t comfortable in a coed environment someplace less intimidating to work out.  Love it or hate it, it was our imperfect solution to an imperfect world.  Then a few years ago someone threatened us with a discrimination lawsuit, so we had to open it up to everyone.  It wasn’t the end of the world, as the room’s users still tended to be novices and predominately female.

When our big remodel took place we made some equipment changes in that room;  we moved some very good older machines in there that we no longer had space for downstairs.   Memories of the past had faded and more and more men began finding their way up to use them.  Gradually and inadvertently the space lost its identity and it was no longer the quiet, safe haven it was intended to be.   So we’ve embarked on a plan to change that.  While we realize our plan may be a little controversial, our intention is to return that room to those exercisers who aren’t yet comfortable downstairs.  We plan to make it the best-equipped beginning weight training room possible. 

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Optima Leg Extension

Our search for the perfect equipment for this room was a little like  the story of Goldilocks.  The first line we looked at was just a little too basic and simple…we thought our members would expect more.   The second was a bit too advanced…we felt like there were too many adjustments and it was too close to what we already offered downstairs.  Finally on the third try we felt like we’d found the right fit, the Optima Series from Life Fitness.  It’s a solid line of equipment with a good selection of the most popular machines.  It will fit just about anyone with one or two simple adjustments, but it’s not quite as advanced or as heavy-duty as the equipment that’s downstairs.

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Optima Lat Pulldown

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Optima Dual Pulley w/ Touchscreen

The second part of reclaiming this room for beginners was determining how we could make it clear that this space was reserved for novice exercisers.  We already play mellower music in that area, but obviously that isn’t enough.  We joked about switching to a pink and baby blue color scheme, but that seems like overkill.  So instead we’re going to give the room a new name and hope that by posting it conspicuously on the wall everyone will get the point.  Once the new equipment is installed the upstairs weight room area will be called “starting strength“.

While we won’t be barring anyone from using this space, our intention in re-naming the room and bringing in a line of weight equipment more suitable for beginners is that the space will regulate itself.  When you add in all the great new equipment we’re adding downstairs, there really shouldn’t be any reason for someone that’s comfortable on the main floor to come upstairs looking for more.  We sincerely hope that this is the case, and that both our experienced users and our novices find a great selection of  fantastic equipment that suits their needs.

All of this new equipment is coming from several different manufacturers and will start arriving the first week in December.  Our hope is to have everything in place before we begin the new year.  We also have several projects scheduled (pool plastering, wall repairs, additional storage and cabinets installed) so things will be a bit hectic with selective closure of portions of the building.  Fortunately December is about as “quiet” of a month as we get around here in terms of Club usage, so you shouldn’t see any major disruptions.  Just plan to be a little flexible as we make these improvements and be prepared for some exciting changes.

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Coming Attractions-STRENGTH

Kinesis Stations

Sometime in early January we’ll be relocating our reception counter to the front of the building where it belongs.  That will allow us to finish up a few minor remodeling projects in the main weight room, and once that’s complete, we’ll be able to start putting our strength areas back together and outfitting them with some new equipment.  

When we took out the old Studio 2/basketball court we added about 1200 square feet to our weight room.  While this certainly gave us considerably more flexibility, deciding how to best allocate this space was a considerable challenge.  We knew that we needed to expand the amount of room we offered for functional training, and that is how most of the additional space was used.  It looks like this has been a popular move, as the number of people using the balls, racks, platforms, and kettlebells seems to be increasing every week.

Hammer Chest Press

Adding new things is relatively painless and always popular; but replacing or eliminating existing equipment is another story entirely.  It seems that even the least-used pieces are inevitably loved by at least a few people.  We also had to make some difficult decisions regarding the allocation of different types of equipment.  Free weights, plate loaded machines, and weight stack machines all have their proponents.  There was no way to give everyone everything they wanted, but in the end we believe we ended up with a wonderful selection that will give our members an unequaled amount of variety.

The layout will remain fairly similar to the way it is currently set up.  The area under the cardio deck will be all free weights and plate-loaded equipment, mostly for legs, shoulders and chest.  The old basketball court will house the dumbbells and a selection of equipment focused on the back and arms.  The main weight room floor will have the functional equipment around the perimeter and a nice circuit of new weight stack machines at its core.

Freemotion Adjustable Cables

It’s in these weight stack machines where you’ll probably notice the biggest changes.  They’re simpler to operate and more comfortable to use.  Most will allow you greater freedom of movement, which in turn makes them more functional and more effective.  Many will allow you to use each arm independently which promotes better balance.  We’re especially excited about the six Kinesis pieces we’re bringing in.  These are the very latest technology–intuitive, simple and natural–they allow full 3D movement and are very unique.  

We’ll also be adding and replacing several pieces of plate-loaded equipment with new Hammer Strength units.  Hammer is very popular amongst athletes, and you’ll find it in the weight rooms of many professional and college sports teams.  We’ll also be installing two of their power racks.  These are the full-size racks with pegs top and bottom, and they also have an adjustable bench that locks into place.  We bought these for their versatility–you can set them up to perform squats, bench press, incline press, or military presses.

Also included in the mix of new equipment will be two different dual adjustable cable units (one wide, one narrow).  With these (and all the attachments that come with them) there’s virtually no limit to the number of different exercises you can do.  To make room for these we will be eliminating some things that we felt were redundant or had limited usefulness.  We wanted to bring in pieces that were versatile, effective, and would appeal to the broadest range of users.

We believe that the mix we’ve selected will offer you a tremendous range of options for your workout.  Our hope is that you will take advantage of the new training technologies and incorporate something fresh into your training regimen.  When new things begin arriving our trainers will be offering several special classes and programs that will show you how to use it to make your workouts more exciting and more effective.   Once you try it we really think you’re going to love it!

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WEIGHT ROOM REDUX

Pull-up bars, racks, power platforms, kettlebells, medicine balls, jump boxes and more...welcome to our new functional training area!

Over the Thanksgiving weekend we made a few minor adjustments to the way we have our equipment arranged.   We moved the kettlebells into their new permanent home along the north wall next to the ball throw area.  This completes the layout of our new functional training area  along the perimeter walls of the main weight room.   We are expecting some new heavier kettlebells to arrive any day, and with this addition anyone who is into Crossfit style workouts should have everything they need.  The free weight area suffered a few temporary casualties, but more about that later.

One of the most interesting things that we noticed when we were adding all of our new racks, platforms, and functional equipment was the generation gap that it exposed.  The border seemed to be set somewhere between 35 and 40 years of age.  The people older than that would look at what we were doing and ask “what’s this for?”  Younger people’s eyes would light up and they would simply exclaim “YES!”  Many had seen the same brand of equipment (Rogue) featured on the telecast of the Crossfit Games on television.

At its core functional training is a return to many of the same exercises that were popular at the birth of the fitness movement in the first half of the 20th century.  Pull-ups, kettlebells, olympic lifts,  medicine ball training, and working out with rings and ropes were all popular more than half a century ago.  Gradually the industry moved away from this type of training, and with a big assist from our ex-governor, became more reliant on machines that trained specific body parts.  These machines were heavily promoted as being easier and safer for beginners to use and became the standard equipment everywhere.  While they definitely work as advertised, over the last decade we have come to realize that there are some drawbacks to this type of training.

Often this type of machine keeps your movement isolated in a fixed plane of motion.  This is fine if you’re a bodybuilder focused on making one specific muscle larger or stronger.  But most of us aren’t bodybuilders.  Most of us want to have the type of strength that allows us to be physically active.  Whether that’s playing a sport or lifting groceries out of our car, it’s something that involves multiple muscle groups acting together.  Functional training is all about training your body to be able to handle whatever life throws at you.

Here’s a quick and extreme example of the difference.  Take your inner and outer thigh machines….standard equipment in virtually any weight room.  Does isolating and training your adductors and abductors really serve any useful purpose?  Those machines were only created for one purpose…to sell memberships!  When someone comes in and asks what they can do to firm up their flabby thighs, we’re supposed to say “try these great machines”.  They’re easy exercises to learn,  easy machines to use, and for those reasons some people like them.  But how effective they are is debatable.

Functional training is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.   Take a heavy medicine ball and see how far up the wall you can throw it.  Pick it up and do it again.  Repeat. Repeat.  It won’t take you long to find out why this type of exercise is so much more effective.  You’re activating nearly every muscle in your body, from your toes on up through your core and into your fingers.  It’s hard work!    It’s also incredibly efficient and it trains us in a way that is more suitable to the rigors of our daily lives.  That’s why these exercises were first developed decades ago, and why they’ve returned to popularity today.

It’s also the reason we are devoting more space to the balls, bells, the racks, and this type of training.  Granted not everyone is going to want to be doing power cleans; that’s why we’ll also be adding more machines that are functionally based.  While they will look similar to many of the machines you’re used to using, they will add a functional element.  Arms will operate independently and handles will be attached to cables, allowing more freedom of movement and more muscle activation.  

Once our temporary front desk gets moved out of the weight room, we’ll also begin rearranging our selection of free weights.  The bench presses will move into the same room as the dumbbells, which will clear space  for new power racks and some new plate loaded equipment.  Upon completion there will be a few less single-purpose machines and a lot more equipment and space that is adaptable to use in multiple different ways. 

If you have any specific requests for new equipment (or old standbys you can’t live without) be sure to let us know.  While we have already gotten lots of feedback and advice, we are making every attempt to move forward in a way that all of our members will appreciate and enjoy.  There is no single “best” way to train; we’re all individuals with different needs.  HealthQuest’s goal is to make sure that we have the most diverse selection of equipment possible so that everyone can perform the type of workout that they feel will be best for them!

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Dumbbells Make You Smarter

We already knew that weight training was great for building bone density and halting muscle loss.  But new research suggests that it also improves brain function.  What’s really interesting is that it seems other forms of physical activity do not to have the same effect on the brain.

In a study conducted in British Columbia, 155 women between the ages of 65 and 75 were divided into three groups.  One group exercised once per week with dumbbells and weight machines, a second group did this weightlifting routine twice per week, and a control group did a balance and toning workout twice per week.

After 12 months the women were given tests that measured executive cognitive function (the ability to make decisions, resolve conflicts, and focus on subjects without being distracted).  The control group, despite their twice weekly workouts, experienced a slight decline, 0.5%, while both weightlifting groups showed a significant improvement.  The group working out once per week  increased their scores by 10.9%, while the twice-per-week lifters showed a 12.6% improvement.

Evidently lifting those weights builds more than just muscle and bone, it also leads to better brain health.  Make sure your exercise routine includes some strength training, and that you’re pumping  iron at least once per week.

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Stone Age Approach Prevents Aging?

Ever See a Fat Caveman?

Earlier this week I blogged about the Paleo Diet, and mentioned how it is more of a lifestyle than a diet.  Today I am going to discuss another aspect of the stone-age movement, caveman workouts.

One of the pioneers in this field is Aurthur De Vany.  He is  Professor Emeritus of the University of California, and the creator of Evolutionary Fitness.  A life-long student of exercise and metabolism, he certainly seems to be doing something right.  At 6′ 1″, 205 pounds, and  less than 8% body fat, he certainly looks better than most 72 year-olds you’ll see.

The Paleo Diet espouses that we evolved over millions of years and our bodies are designed to only eat foods that were avaiable during that period.   Evolutionary Fitness makes the arguement that our exercise programs should more closely match the rigors that our hunter-gatherer ancestors experienced over those many years.  De Vany believes that training at various levels that include high intensity bursts mimics how our ancestors lived.  He claims that this helps us retain our metabolic fitness and retards aging.

Some folks today are taking these principles quite literally.  Rather than participating in traditional exercise programs, they have chosen to return to the daily activities that kept our cave-dwelling cousins fit eons ago.  They walk almost everywhere they go, often barefoot, and sometimes return to the forests to scramble over, under, and around the natural landscape.  They stay agile and limber by crawling through the brush, and build their strength by throwing rocks.

Those who live in more urban environments might work out at a fitness center, but you won’t see them lounging on the inner thigh machine.  They will be doing bodyweight exercises and multi-chain lifts that more closely approximate movements in the everyday world.  They will be climbing ropes and performing routines that increase agility, strength and endurance.  Unlike the modern man who builds muscle solely for the way it looks in the mirror, the caveman seeks functional fitness that will aid in his survival and keep him at the top of the food chain.

The fitness industry has shifted in this direction as well.  Gone are the days of putting everyone through a circuit of Nautilus equipment.  Many fitness trainers now avoid the machines entirely if they can.  Suspension systems, kettlebells, and a return to free weights are body-weight exercises have taken their place.   Boot-camp style classes have also become much more popular.  Check out one of HealthQuest’s Blast Classes if you want to see the latest in functional fitness training.

Both intuitively and scientifically it seems to me that this is a more natural and efficient way to train the body.  It’s up to each of us to decide how far in this direction we want to go.  We could all benefit from adding some functionality to our exercise programs.  I started to write “you’re not going to see me out throwing rocks anytime soon”, but then realized I’ve been out throwing the shot put lately.  I guess maybe I’m more of a caveman than I realized!

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HQ Lifters Claim World Records

S1675You don’t have to go to the circus to see a strongman (or woman), you can catch their show at HealthQuest almost every day. Read about the power-lifting team here in this Napa Valley Register article: http://www.napavalleyregister.com/articles/2009/11/14/sports/doc4afe6ad93c706164098595.txt

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Endless Abs

I don’t know where it started, but somewhere along the line it became fashionable to perform massive quantities of abdominal exercise.  My guess is that it may have started with the military fitness tests.  They all have a muscle endurance component that tests how many sit-ups or crunches a person can do in a fixed amount of time.

So maybe since you have to do a lot of reps to pass these tests, and you have to be in good shape to pass the test, and you have to be in good shape to have washboard abs, maybe everyone just assumed that doing a lot of reps is what leads to washboard abs?  I haven’t seen any other theories, so that’s what I’m going with.

Anything that you see or read now has moved away from this practice.  Most experts suggest limiting abdominal repetitions to 8-15 per set, and doing 2 0r 3 sets of 2 or 3 different exercises that target the abs in dissimilar ways.  But it seems to me that a lot of people are still stuck doing things the old-fashioned way, cranking out sets of 25, 50, 100, or more.

Here’s my advice…set your sights on quality and  intensity instead of endless repetitions.   The abs work the same way as any other muscle in your body.  Slow down, keep your form strict, and take the exercise through its entire range of motion.    If you can do 20 reps, find a way to make it harder.

For an abdominal routine to be effective, you have to really feel it.  If an exercise has you crying for your mommy after 6 or 8 reps, that’s a keeper in my book.

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