The Pallof Press

In case anyone was wondering, the Washington Capitals have been on an absolute tear lately.  They took it to the New York Rangers last night with 2-1 thumping to go up 3 games to 1 in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.  Andre Burakovsky netted both goals, so let's take a look at his 2013-2014 highlight film before we dive into today's post. 


Last week we discussed the Deadbug exercise.  We're going to continue the series by exploring another core exercise you may not have heard of; the Pallof Press.

The Pallof Press

This exercise can be performed in every conceivable position; supine, half-kneeling, tall-kneeling, standing, split-stance, even on one leg.  I typically recommend people begin with the standing version, and move to supine if they feel themselves compensating in some way, shape, or form.  Tall-kneeling is another excellent choice, as it takes the quads out of it and really forces stabilization using the glutes.  Remember that this exercise should be done in a low-threshold state, holding a steady breathing pattern throughout the entirety of the exercise.

The Pallof Press is an anti-rotation exercise.  The band (or cable) causes a rotary force that forces you to stabilize and resist the motion, and will do wonders in developing your internal and external obliques, as well as your transverse abdominus. These are typically the core muscles most misunderstood by the general public and, as such, you should make deadbugs and pallof presses a staple in your program!

A good starting point would be to perform 3 sets of 5 presses per side, pausing for 2 sec at the outstretched position.  You can add a rep each week, until you get to about 8-10, then adjust the difficult by standing further away from the point of attachment, using a stronger band, holding the pauses for a longer period of time, or choosing a more difficult position.  Below are two videos, the first showing the correct way to perform a pallof press, and the second showing the incorrect way.

Pallof Press - Correct


Pallof Press - Incorrect

Percolating Lies- Why I Hate Nutrition Sensationalism

I've got a super busy day ahead of me, full of meetings and programs, but I didn't want to leave SAPT blog fans bereft of information. Here's a post a wrote about a year ago referencing the science teacher, John Cisna, who lost weight eating only McDonald's (link to the original article below). I abhor sensational headlines, particularly when they short outrageous nutritional claims.

It's Monday. We all need to be reminded to head into the week with a heavy dose of critical thinking.


This is why America has no idea what to eat. This is why our collective relationship with food is so darn complicated. The following is akin to the constant stream of media articles that claim a food is horrible one week and a wonder food the next. (We all know how  frustrating and confusing that is!)

Time ran an article about an Iowan science teacher, John Cisna, who ate nothing but McDonald's for three meals a day for 90 days and lost weight. It's also HERE entitled: "Man Loses Nearly 40lbs Eating Only McDonald's."

That's an extremely misleading title! While I can't blame the new sites for wanting catchy titles to reel in readers, the articles don't expound too much on Cisna's diet (or what the nutritional composition of those meals were) and they down play the plethora of other factors within his self-experiment.

A quick run-down on the facts expressed in the articles (in case you don't want to read them). With the help of his class, John Cisna:

1. Constructed 3 meals based on a 2,000 calorie diet and the recommended intakes for protein, carbohydrates, and fat by the USDA (which I think are bunk, but that's a whole 'nother ball game).

2. Walked 45 minutes per day (when previously, he was doing no extra physical activity)

3. Resulted in a 37 lb weight loss and a drop in cholesterol from 249 (dangerously high) to 170 (decent level). His LDL dropped from 173 to 113. (also insanely high to an ok-level).

I'll state the glaringly obvious that, any a man who was quite overweight to begin with (280lbs) performing NO extra physical activity, and was probably over-eating anyway, WILL lose weight with calorie reduction and added physical activity. That's just physiology. At this point, ANYTHING he does towards reducing his calories and increasing his exercise will produce weight loss. Also, the cholesterol reduction is a result in the weight loss, not necessarily the food he ate. Can you start to see why this title is misleading?

To quote the man himself, "The point behind this documentary is, Hey, it's (a) choice. We all have choices. It's our choices that make us fat, not McDonald's." source

On one hand, I agree with Cisna; we are not victims of our environment, we do have the option to choose healthier foods when out to eat. No one forces us to purchase a Big Mac over a salad. It is imperative that we be wary consumers when fast food is involved (the food companies strive to make their food palatable, cheap, and addictive) and Cisna proved that when one digs a bit and is aware of the caloric values of food, that empowers us to make smarter food choices.

On the other hand, the real message is convoluted and lost amid that headline. It presents the situation as a justification for choosing McDonald's instead of  a home cooked meal. Or instead of a meal composed of WHOLE, minimally-processed foods ('cause I guarantee that McDonald's has very few whole foods on the menu.). Conveniently, you can read along with this handy ingredient guide. You'll want to refer to this as we move on.

Cisna admitted to having double cheeseburgers and a Big Macs throughout the experiment. Hmmm... Big Macs have roughly  29 grams of fat (and not the good kind check out the "Big Mac sauce"), 46 g of carbohydrates (definitely not the minimally processed kinds, look at the guide under "regular bun"), and 25 g of protein (but, really, where does that meat COME FROM?)

"Yeah Kelsey," you say, " we already KNOW that's not a 'healthy' choice." Fair enough, let's take a gander, shall we, at the yogurt parfait he ate regularly:

2 g of fat, 30 g carbohydrates, and 4 g of protein. Once again, I question the quality of the source of the fat and protein (from the milk). I can't imagine that the milk used in that is really that great. However, that is overshadowed by that 30 grams of carbs, that is, SUGAR. Highly processed, sugar (though there's a smidge of natural sugar in the milk and fruits, but it's NOT 30 grams worth). Don't believe me? Look up yogurt and granola in that handy guide. Ick. Sugar has, time and time again, been shown to be a culprit in increasing inflammation in the body and creating insulin resistance (to keep the list short), both of which are risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. The same criticism rings true for the maple oatmeal he ate, except that little bugger has some light cream in it... yum!

At first glance, the Eggwhite Delights that Cisna consumed seem like a good idea, only 250 calories each, oh but wait, check out the "whole" grain muffin and egg white and margarine ingredients. Super appealing right?

I could continue in this vein for a while, but I'll cease my tirade and allow my point to actually surface: 240 calories of crap is still crap. The composition of food absolutely matters. The message, as it stands on the surface, is still, "reach for processed foods over whole foods." How much BETTER do you think Cisna would feel if he had chosen whole, minimally processed foods?

I applaud Cisna for sticking with his endeavor, to keep walking even when he didn't want to, and to making conscientious food choices. I'm so glad he lost weight, is healthier than before, and has learned the value in monitoring caloric intake. This is a great stepping stone on his path to a healthier lifestyle. I hope very much that he will be able to continue without the help of McDonald's.

I think the true message of this experiment is food quantity and quality matter, along with regular exercise. Unfortunately, the second half, food quality, is buried under the lie that choosing "healthy" options at McDonald's is a viable way to improve health. Again, crap is still crap. Don't let the media's sensationalism divert you from the truth of eating real foods.

real food gas
real food gas

Deadbugs: The Best Core Exercise You Aren't Performing

Hello Ladies and Gents!  Today will be light on words, but heavy with information, and we'll be covering everyone's favorite topic: Core Training! Chances are high that most of you have, at one point or another, tried achieving that sought after 6-pack.  Ask most people how you're supposed to train your abs and they'll throw out the following: situps, planks, and leg raises.  These are all well and good (maybe not the situps), but there are so many other options out there for core training.  Coach Jarrett wrote an excellent post providing 12 gut-wrenching core exercises that will make you harder to kill and easier to look at, so be sure to check that post out.

Today we'll be covering one particular core exercise that I absolutely love.  It's called the Deadbug, and it has a number of progressions and regressions that make it a tangible training option for trainees of all levels.  This is an anti-extension exercise that, when performed properly, will strengthen your rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal and external obliques, and deeper spinal stabilizers, while also improving the motor control of the muscles involved in stabilizing the lumbopelvic hip complex.  In short: this may be the best core exercise that you aren't currently performing!

In the below video, I'll touch on a few of the progressions and regressions, but understand that there are a number of variations that I don't mention.  With that, enjoy!

That's all folks!  Remember to BREATHE when performing these!

The Apple Health App

Today I just wanted to share this really cool article that I found by the tech savvy folks over at PC Magazine. The Health app is one of the many built in apps on many late generation Iphones. Many of these apps such as Newstand are a bit annoying but for those looking to track and store health and wellness data at their fingertips the Health app can be a great tool.

Since reading this article I have began using the app to track my daily steps and mileage and often find it fun to challenge myself to go further. Today I have already gotten over 24,000 steps!!! Another great feature of this app is its ability to play nicely  and share information with other health and fitness apps such as MyFitnessPal. This makes things much easier to track as everything rolls into a centralized app.

If you have an Iphone I highly recommend checking out the Health app and seeing if any of its capabilities can help you in your health and well situation whether you are trying to track macronutrient intake or keep track of your steps.

Supplements: Top Recommendations

First, before we get into talking about various supplements, I have a few notes: 1. They're called "supplements" for a reason. The bulk of your nutrients should come from eating REAL food. Most of the time, I would argue, if you're eating a healthy diet chock-full of lean meats, fish, lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts/seeds, eggs, and the ilk, supplements are not necessary. I do, however, live in the real world and recognize that sometimes it's not always an option to eat perfectly and so supplements can prove a useful addition.

2. I'm not a doctor. Don't take the information provided here and start adding stuff willy-nilly without consulting your real doctor.

3. Should you choose to supplement, do your research! Most of the information in today's post came from the smart people over at They have a plethora of supplement research so you can easily determine if the product the advertisements are claiming you "need" is legitimate or a waste of money. Also research the company you purchase from- ingredients matter!

Onward and upward! This is going to be a two (maybe three?) part series as I can't cover everything out there-- nor do I want to since does a way better job than I could hope to do. I will mention the main points of each common supplement along with a link to the research page in case you want to know more.

Whey Protein-

- 1 of the 2 proteins found in milk (casein is the other). It is actually a group of proteins categorized by their water solubility.

- One class of peptides (protein structure comprised of chains of linked amino acids) called immunoglobulins are bioactive in the immune system (in various ways). They can help bolster immunity. For example, the amino acid L-cysteine is involved in glutathione production- which is an antioxidant the body produces.

- Due to it's high content of the amino acid leucine, whey will stimulate protein synthesis (making more protein i.e. muscle tissue). Best results are found when whey protein intake is paired with exercise. Exercise breaks down protein during a work out and that breakdown stimulates the repair process (aka protein synthesis). Whey protein is a natural fit, no? However, it doesn't stop protein breakdown over the long term, so real food is needed to provide a continued supply of protein post-workout. Real life application: drink whey right after a work out, then have a protein-rich meal a couple hours later.

- Note that whey protein on it's own doesn't inherently stimulate and increase in protein synthesis, meaning your body will do it above and beyond it's normal rate, unless you're currently under-eating your protein needs.

- While it does not induce fat-loss, on a calorie-restricted fat loss protocol, whey appears to enhance fat-loss and preserve lean muscle

- Three types of supplemental whey: whey concentrate, whey isolate, and whey hydrolysate. Concentrate is the least processed and can contain anywhere from 35%-80% protein by weight; though the general standard for supplements is 80%. Isolate is roughly 90% protein by weight. Hydrolysate is the most broken down (via enzymes and acid) to produce very small particles; it's more easily absorbed thus resulting in faster protein synthesis. Is this necessary? Meh, maybe not. It would be best utilized for athletes who are performing 2x/day workouts and need quick recovery between them.

My thoughts: I love whey protein. I use it post-workout, mostly because I don't do well with solid food for a few hours after a workout so it's an easy whey (pun totally intended) to ingest adequate protein when my body needs it. I will also use it in a pinch- while traveling or during periods of time where I know I won't have access to decent food. Outside of those times though, I relegate my protein intake to whole foods. And for crying out loud, whey protein does not cause kidney damage!

I recommend it to athletes looking to put on muscle mass, as it helps with that, and clients who are on a fat-loss diet as it can help preserve lean mass on a calorie restricted diet (and it helps keep you full).

Fish Oil-

- Contains the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaeic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), typically found in fatty fish (salmon, cod, sardines etc) and plankton (krill). Not to be confused with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) a plant-based omega-3 found in flax and chia seeds.

- Another fatty acid group, omega-6, is highly prevalent in Western diets (from things like canola and soy bean oil and all the animals that eat it). It's not a bad thing per se, but the ratio of 3:6 needs to be kept in check- the recommended ratio is 1:1. Unfortunately, the typical ratio is anywhere from 1:6 to 1:10. Thus, the recommendation to supplement with fish oil to bring that ratio back in balance. (Note: if you eat fatty fish 2-3x/week, you probably don't need to supplement).

- Fish oil is one of the most researched supplements, almost ad nauseam, so here's a run down on the benefits that have the best scientific support: lowers triglycerides, improves depression, decrease ADHD in children, lowers blood pressure, increases HDL (the good cholesterol), decreases inflammation (all over). Fish oil also has many positive effects on the neurological, cardiovascular, and immune system. They're way too many, so I suggest digging into the article.

- Notably for athletic performance, fish oil seems to have an influence over glucose and fat metabolism in muscles. What does that mean? Muscles use either glucose (sugar) or fat for fuel, fish oils seems to make the transition between the two substrates fairly easy. This possibly makes fat a preferential fuel during activity which will aid in fat loss(more study is needed).

My thoughts: I like fish oil too. I've been taking it for almost ten years now. My doctor was pleased to find I was already taking it when I started treatment for Lyme, and I believe it definitely played a role in keeping my body from utterly tanking when I started treatment. Given it helps reduce inflammation and improves cognitive function, it serves valiantly in my treatment protocol. While I never "prescribe" it to anyone, I highly recommend it as an overall beneficial supplement to just about anyone.

Vitamin D

- Fat-soluble vitamin, the body makes it from cholesterol and sunshine. It's also found in small amounts in fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products.

- Definitely attain blood levels through testing before deciding to supplement. Since it's fat-soluble, D will stay around in the body longer than the water soluble vitamins, which could increase the risk of toxicity. Most people are not utterly bereft of D, but do not have optimal levels, therefore supplementation is often recommended. The generally accepted safe dosage is 1-2000IU/day (though I've seen up to 10,000IU/day if someone is really, really low). You want to get D3 (cholecalciferol) over D2 (ergocalciferol) as it's more useful in the body.

- There's still a lot of research that needs to be done to prove conclusively some of the preliminary benefits of vitamin D. Anecdotally, though, I noticed an improved mood when I started taking vitamin D.

- Noted benefits: decreased blood pressure, decrease risk of bone fractures, decrease in fat mass, increased cognition, and decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and diabetes. It also has positive effects on athletic performance and overall mood.

My thoughts: I was low in vitamin D and it made a marked difference when I started supplementing with it. I've heard the same from multiple other clients, colleagues, and friends who started taking it regularly. I don't generally take it during the spring and summer (since I'm outside a lot more). Given it's wide range of health benefits, it was no surprise  that my doctor added it to my regimen (enough to get to adequate blood levels) for Lyme treatment.

Whew, I think that's enough for now. We'll hit a few more next week!