EFFECTIVE Program Design: Variation vs. Consistency in Physical Development

Hi folks!

Just an FYI…this one’s for the nerds (kind of a Kinesiology 101).

Last week I had a client who asked me a great question:  “Why we do so few “exercises” in a training bout vs. other trainers who have their clients moving all over the room?”  Actually, I told him, “I used to do just that.  I had the belief that being efficient and getting as much done as possible was the way.”  I did used to train like that for a while.   But, it was tiring and I didn’t seem to get a lot out of it.  For clients whose only respite from the cubicle was our workouts it worked.  Although, it seemed to take more discipline and energy than they really had left in their tank on a consistent basis.

Then, I read a book concerning business efficiencies and inefficiencies and they talked a bit about the concept of effectiveness vs. efficiency.  Efficiency gets a lot of tasks done.  Effectiveness gets specific tasks done that produce results!

So, I returned to the way that I had trained in college…careful, methodical, focused, attentive….with a few new tweeks and tools in my tool belt, of course.  This brings us to today’s topic…. the balancing of variation in a program vs. consistency.  In other words, “How to be EFFECTIVE!”

How do we balance variation versus consistency of movement?  We know that the body needs variation to adapt.  However, how is one to tell truly gauge progress when all variables are constantly changing?  Was the program effective and, if it was, what was effective element within it?

Here are some of the possible variables in a training program:  Resistance (weight), repetitions (volume), sets (volume), time under tension, body position, range of motion, direction of force or movement, unilateral vs bilateral movements, rest periods, speed of contraction, exercise order, stability, complexity of movement, change of direction of force, joint angle, heart rate, distance, acceleration/deceleration

Exercise science is just that…a science.  One of the main rules of the scientific method is that when doing an experiment, only one variable may be changed at one time while all others stay constant.  Otherwise the experiment cannot prove cause and effect as more than one possible cause has been changed.  Therefore, consistency must be kept in order to gather quantitative results.  And our clients’/athletes’ programs are nothing if not each an experiment in human adaptation.

However, the body is an amazing thing. It adapts to specific imposed demands.  Therefore, the more different types of demands we put on it, the more it may adapt.

With so many variables, how does one know which to keep constant and which to change?  Well, first we have to look at the client.  What are the needs of that specific person?  What will get them from where they are to where they need to be?  The only way to know this is through very thorough testing and evaluation.

Certain parts of a program need constant components while others need variable ones.  One needs to, based upon the results of testing, put together a set of exercises that need to keep consistent while only changing one progressive variable at a time over the course of a program. This is the “Core” **portion of the workout.  Most of the time, the basic compound movements will serve this purpose in the case of pure ‘strength’ training.  Jumping, sprinting, and other basic movements will serve in other conditioning aspects.

**not to be confused with “core” as in the center of the body

After determining the core portion, the variable exercise component should be added in a precise manner according to the testing in order to balance the body and meet any secondary needs.

For example, in the strength portion of a workout, the trainee may have ‘the deadlift’ as core exercise.  The weight and/or repetitions (intensity and volume) change from bout to bout.  But deadlift remains as the basic exercise in that portion of the workout.  The supporting strengthening exercises may change, such as lunges instead of step ups.  In parts of the workout for warmup, flexibility, athleticism, or correction, more variety still may be present based upon how the client feels and other day to day factors.

Jason Root, CSCS

Functionally Integrated Performance training

Happy Friday everyone!

So, I was at a gym today.  I look around at all the folks on all the machines and had two conflicting thoughts.  The first one was, “How wonderful all these people are here working on themselves.”  Then, I looked at what was really going on.  The peoples faces were blank.  Many were talking on phones, texting, reading magazines, and those with trainers were talking about anything but their development and the work being undergone.  The second thought, “Wow, it reminds me of that episode of The Walking Dead I saw last night!”

When undergoing a program of adaptation and development, engagement is crucial.  What is being engaged?  Focus on the job being done…..dynamics of the mind and body, satisfaction for the completion of the task, or even better….HAVE SOME F$%^&*G FUN!!!

Upon this sight, I started thinking about our lifestyles and a bit that a comedian I like did.  (Might’ve been Carlin…can’t remember). It goes something like this:

“We wake up in a box that we sleep in and walk within a bigger box that keeps our stuff and have meals, entertainment.  We get in a box that keeps our car.  We get in the car (another box) and go to work.  Work is a very large box with little boxes called offices or cubicles (box right in the word) that we’re put in to work.  Then, at the end of the day, we hop back in the car box to go to a box to exercise to counteract what’s happened to our bodies in all the other boxes.”

A good point he has there.  Then I think of the answer we (at RootHealth) use for this.  In the strength and conditioning industry, there’s a term for a type of training called Functionally Integrated Strength and Performance training (our program is called ‘Out of the Box’ training).  Well, what exactly is that!?

Let’s look at each of the words.  Functional.  This is a buzzword in fitness everyone seems to use but no one explains what it actually means.  I mean, if you move, your body is functioning…so, isn’t everything ‘functional’?  Yes, but ‘functional’ is more of a spectrum than a “this is functional and this isn’t” scenario.  In general ‘functional’ exercises are movements with components of stabilization, reactivity, strength, and/or different planes of motion that overload similar to what the human body is designed to perform in nature.  These functions are walking, carrying, running (both sprint and jog), jumping, pushing, throwing, pulling, and more.

Integrated is perhaps the most important word here.  Similar to functional, we’re talking about what the body has to do neuromuscularly.  We look at things on a spectrum from ‘isolated’ to ‘integrated’.  An integrated exercise uses more joints with more functions than another.  For instance, a machine press isolates the chest muscles by moving from point A to B in a single dimension.  A dumbell bench press is more integrated as control is need in multiple dimensions to control the weight.  A standing cable, even more so, in that the core must engage to keep us standing while the force is pushing horizontally back against us, a chest pass is even more integrated in that, now, there’s an acceleration/deceleration component.

Strength‘ is the maximal amount of force/tension the body can handle for a given movement for a given amount of time or reps.  And, ‘performance‘ is the measurements put on any given function, usually transferred to an activity outside of the weight room.

The tools we use to train in this fashion are free weights (usually kettle bells or weights with materials that shift…sand/water), something to jump on or to, bands, body weight, and especially SPACE!

Because, there is so much more neuromuscular activity going on with this type of training, a few things happen.  1) infinitely more engaging and FUN 2) KIS!  We ‘keep it simple’ so that programs are more repeatable, attain a better focus, and are more measurable in their outcomes 3) the need for space means we can work in an open environment…a big warehouse or, even better, OUTSIDE!…..so, outside the box (see what we did there).

So, over this long Memorial Day weekend, train…outside the box, have fun, and maybe have a beer in celebration of our military folk!

Jason Root, CSCS, EIM, other letters and stuff

Anti Oxidants/Supplementation

Hi all!

I’ve been asked about this several times in the past few weeks.  “I read a story about a study that says vitamins may be bad for you.  Is that true?”

Well, there’s a few things to look at.  Was the study good science?  Is the concept that everything is bad if we have too much (ie.  water and hyponatremia)?  Does the study point to isolated cases or ‘across the board’?  Does this conclusion fit a pattern with other studies?

Luckily, in the field of science and the body, there is Rhonda Patrick!  I love this lady and her videos.  She talks over our heads a bit.  But, she is VERY knowledgeable, admits when she doesn’t quite know something, and is very attuned to what is ‘good science’ and ‘bad science’.


In summary, of course:

Yes, there are cases where certain vitamins may be detrimental to your health.  However, in most ‘normal’ cases additional supplementation is extremely valuable in prevention of disease.  So at the very least, take your multi , eat a well balanced diet, and get some sun and exercise.

Jason Root, CSCS

Endurance Athletes: Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement

Howdy folks!

So, I am giving a talk to a group of runners this week.  Our subject is the role of strength training and cross training and how to avoid injury and improve performance.  Since endurance sports are some the easiest to participate in with busy schedules hampering our ability to join team sports, this is a very important subject for all of us.

When participating in endurance sports, strength and conditioning with cross training is of paramount importance.  With endurance events, motor patterns are performed thousands of times.  Think of your foot strike when running or your stroke when swimming. These highly repetitive motions are going to lead to imbalances of one kind or another.  There are the ways to correct those and keep your body healthy and feeling great for the next event.  Here is the big picture and my major tips to follow for strength and conditioning (without regard to the training of the sport itself):

Stabilization:  Joints need to be in sound stable condition to be able to do the thousands of repetitions that move our bodies over land or water.  The neuromuscular system of the ankle, knee, hip complex along with the shoulder and shoulder girdle should be able to balance and support us in unstable environment in multiple planes of motion for us to perform injury free.

How?  Perform exercises in an unstable environment.  A bosu, single limbed, balance boards, and even cushions and pillows are ways to create this with normal every day strength training exercises such as pushups, lunges, and squats.

Planes of Motion:  The body has three basic planes of motion: sagittal (front/back), frontal (side to side), and transverse (twisting).  In order to move our bodies through space (locomotion), each joint has it’s favorite way to move.  In endurance events, with so much of the same repetitions of movement for the muscles surrounding these joints occurring, the muscles and tendons may become inflamed or neuromuscularly shorten because of this repetition (even if movement is as mechanically optimal as possible).  Doing exercises that move the body in the opposite planes for each of these muscles will give them a fresh stimulus and keep them from having the aforementioned issues.

How?  For all the classic movements, simple do a version that moves a different direction than usual.  Ex, the side lunge or curtsy lunge.  Side to side pushups.  Pulls and throws in different directions for upper.

Core:   “You can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe!”  This is the best quote to exemplify why we need core strength.  The rest of your limbs cannot function optimally if they are pushing off of an unstable body.  The core, as we are going to define it, is made up of the deep muscles that support the spine and the pelvis.

How?  Positions that challenge your body to hold that position are best to isolate these deep muscles.  Planks, leg raises, and standing rotation are all example of exercises that try to force your body to change position while your stabilizers have to work to keep it.  However, the most forceful contractions in these muscles occur in our heavy, full body lifts.  Squats, deadlifts, presses, pulls, and weighted gait movements accomplish this.

Posterior chain:  The posterior chain is made up of the muscles starting at the back of your head and ending at the bottom of your feet.  Since these all work together neurologically for locomotion, I like to think of them as one big muscle.  These muscles are primary in moving us whether running, biking, or swimming.  Heavy low volume work on these muscles will give them strength for pulling you across land or water.

How?  Simple-The hip hinge exercises (deadlifts, stiff legged deadlifts), and pulls with a challenging weight for 5 or less repetitions for 3 or less sets each exercise.

Flexibility:  Last but certainly not least is flexibility.  As muscles move in short ranges of motion with very high repetition, the neuromuscular system begins to think that these muscles need to be short.  Also, the tendons around the muscles can have inflammation as well as wastes from the high level of activity.  Certain muscles, especially the ones most active can become tight and cause mechanical disadvantages leading to injury.

How?  Full body stretching with mindful attention toward the shortened muscles.  Use both static, dynamic, and contract/release techniques as well as myofacial release (foam rolling, massage).

Happy running, biking, and swimming!

Jason Root, CSCS

Eating Paleo

Hey everyone, welcome and happy February!

We’ve heard a lot in the past years about the Paleo Diet.  It is healthy?  What’s the premise behind it?  What are the rules?

Here’s another one from the folks at Precision Nutrition. I very much respect the work at Precision Nutrition and will be using their articles quite a bit in this blog.  The company is run by educated scientist with research based information.  So, this article can help clear some things up.


So again for our summary for those of you who just want the Cliff’s Notes version:

On processed foods, esp w/ flour/sugar: NO

On beans/legumes (which traditional Paleo doesn’t like):  All good

On meat:  Wild/Grass fed

Gluten:  If you don’t have celiac disease and eat whole grain

Dairy:  Small amounts and grass fed

Eat LOTS of fruit, veggies, nuts, and lean meats!

I hope we have given some great info and helped you out a little today.  Don’t forget to mix in some chocolate on Valentine’s Day!

Jason Root, CSCS

Picking Healthcare and Preventative Healthcare Practitioners

Happy Thursday!

So, I ran across this cool TED video.  Dr. Leana Wen points out some things that are very wrong in medicine and have some needed fixes…specifically what you should know about your doctor (or any practitioner).

Now, of course, I am on the preventative health/human performance side of the fence.  But, the concepts are the same all around.  Before picking a kinesiologist, physical therapist, PCP, specialist, psychologist, dentist, chiropractor, osteopath or any other person who’s going to work on your health, check out this video and ask these questions and for transparency.



Jason Root, CSCS

Vibration Therapy

Hey everyone!

Today’s blog is on vibration training.  What is vibration training?  Some of you may have been in a gym or rehabilitation facility and seen a large platform that people stood on and did exercises.  These platforms vibrate at varying frequencies and amplitudes for varying goals and varied persons.  They vibrated very fast and in multiple directions.

By vibrating very fast, when a person’s weight is on the platform, the muscles surrounding the joint with the most load (or tension) will experience the vibration.  The cells within the muscle are rubbed together by the vibration stimulating all these cells.

So, what are they used for?  What are the benefits?  Vibration plates are excellent for low level non-impact exercises for a variety of reasons.  Reasons one may use one of these are as follows:  DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)/Recovery, neuromuscular stimulation, building/maintaining bone density, balance/stabilization, decreased spasticity in those with neuromuscular disorders.

Who should use them?  Anyone recovering after an exercise bout, anyone trying to gain the benefits of low level weight training in less time and effort, anyone wanting to increase their balance, those wanting to increase/maintain bone density, those with neuromuscular disorders.

Who should not?  Those with bone damage (breaks, compressions) before full healing or osteoporosis.  In cases of osteopenia, caution should be used.

Here is some good research if you are interested in more detail on this:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=vibration+therapy

Have a great week!

Jason Root, CSCS


Hey everyone!

So, lately I’ve had a few questions from patients with cardiac problems regarding salt intake.  Doctors will recommend low sodium.  But, most doctors don’t know “how” to do this.  Where is the sodium?  Do I have to stop using table salt?  What should I avoid?  Well, here’s an article put out by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) on this topic:    http://www.cdc.gov/salt/food.htm

Summary:  Most of our salt intake is from restaurant food, packaged food (for flavor and preservatives).  Curbing added salt from table salt will make some difference if trying to avoid the problems of having too much sodium (high blood pressure, CV disease, systemic low pH balance): http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/salt-and-sodium/sodium-health-risks-and-disease/

But, it’s the processed foods and additives that hit us the hardest.  Also, add Mg and K to your diet to balance our electrolytes for better heart health.

Thanks!  Have a healthy Wed!

Jason Root, CSCS

Tactical Strength and Conditioning

Tactical Strength and Conditioning is one of the programs we have that help the community the most.  We train policeman, fireman, military personnel, and martial artists in how to have the most functional strength for those occupations so that they can keep all of us safe.

The training is a mixture of body weight, traditional strength, non-traditional strength*, high heart rate cardio-respiratory training, with balance and stability all structured for less injury and optimal results.

Here’s my demo for an example and some fun!


Usually using awkward weighted equipment (ie. sandbags, tire flips)


Low carb controversy!

Hey everyone.  So, there’s a lot of bad info out there on low carb.  I very much respect the work at Precision Nutrition and will be using their articles quite a bit in this blog.  The company is run by educated scientist with research based information.  So, this article can help clear some things up.

Here’s the article: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/low-carb-diets

Summary.  Low carb  in itself is not needed.  However, much of our carbohydrate sources are from processed sugars and flours which does have an inflammatory and fat storage effect.  So, whole food sources of carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, potatoes, whole grain rice, nuts, etc) are important to include in our eating while cereals*, breads*, pasta, pies, cakes, and other goods with refined flour and sugars will have a negative effect.  Also, eat enough protein! (.7g/lb of lean body mass/day is a good baseline).

*variable depending on ingredients

Hope this was informative!

Jason Root, CSCS