Saturday, September 16, 2006

Better Abs Without Crunches!

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE

Endless abdominal machines, crunch boards, sit-up devices and tortuous torso routines promise flat bellies and chiseled abs. Hardly a one of them works worth a damn, mainly because their makers show little understanding of human anatomy.
-- Dr. Michael Colgan, Renowned Fitness Expert and author of The New Power Program

Having studied human anatomy, nothing disgusts me more than watching one of those dumb ab machine infomercials make promises that their product will give a person a flat stomach. A lying abdominal machine will not give you a flat stomach, a seated abdominal machine will not give you a flat stomach and 1,000 crunches per day will not give you a flat stomach.

It's not my opinion. It's based on human anatomy. I'm not suggesting crunches or intense abdominal work isn't important -- it's absolutely vital for athletic performance and core strength. But, make no mistake about it, traditional ab exercises will not give you a flat stomach.

I want to provide effective exercises to give you a flat stomach.

First, we need a brief anatomy lesson. I won’t make this long or boring, but stay with me on this. If you understand this information, you’ll be light years ahead of the pack.

The abdominals are composed of four major muscles: the rectus abdominis, the transversus abdominis and the internal and external obliques.

-- This is the infamous, but improperly-named "six-pack." It’s actually an eight-pack. It’s a long, thin muscle that runs vertically down the body from the breastbone and fifth, sixth and seventh ribs to the top of the pubic bone. With supportive nutrition and efficient work, it can help create the much desired "ripples" that poke out detailing the "eight-pack," but it can't create a flat stomach. The muscle fibers simply run the wrong way for that to happen.

TRANSVERSUS ABDOMINIS -- The transversus muscle holds your gut tight and flat. It’s a thin sheet of muscle running along the sides of the abs, which joins connective tissue behind it. Its fibers run across the stomach, join into the rear area of the abs and wrap around the sides of the body. It attaches along the rib cage and into the back muscles. It's your body’s natural corset! When you suck your gut in, you have just used your transversus. This is the only muscle that can help create a flat midsection!

INTERNAL and EXTERNAL OBLIQUES -- The internal obliques are diagonal fibers that fan out from the pelvis and ribs to the rear of the "eight-pack." They provide a layer of support over the transversus. The external obliques, also referred to as the "love handles," are composed of fibers that run from the front of the pelvis and "eight-pack" back to the ribs.

Exercises for Flattening the Stomach
By this point, you know I’m going to focus only on the transversus. Don’t forget, you have to work all four areas of the abdominals for maximum effectiveness and core stability. But my focus is only about how to get a flat midsection. Practice these exercises three to four days per week and perform two to three sets of each.

1. Abdominal vacuum on all fours -- Position the heel of your hands under your shoulders and the knees directly under your hips. Keep your spine in a neutral position and maintain this position throughout the contraction.

Start by exhaling all the air from your lungs. Then, relax your abdomen and let it hang like a loose sling, but don't increase the arch in your lower back. Next, pull the belly button up and in toward the spine, without motion at the rib cage or pelvis.

If your pelvis or rib cage moves, you aren't isolating the transversus. It helps to watch yourself in a mirror and have someone put a hand under the belly button. Let your belly relax onto the person's hand and then contract and pull your belly off the hand. Try to hold the contraction for at least 20 seconds.

2. Abdominal vacuum -- This is a lot like the exercise above, but you’re just sitting up straight. In a seated position, exhale all the air from your lungs. After completely exhaling, pull the abdomen inward and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Continue to breathe lightly through your nostrils, but make sure you are pulling your abs in as if you are attempting to make your abs and back touch. Due to positioning, you may find this one a little easier than the first.

If performed with consistency and added to your regular abs workout, these exercises will yield outstanding results. Within three to four weeks, you’ll find your abs pulling in and feeling tighter. Just remember to supplement it with a healthy nutrition, weight training and cardio program.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month...

Every year thousands of people make resolutions to lose weight and get healthier. Two months have passed since New Year’s Day, the “D-day” for many of us. Are your resolutions already a thing of the past?

If you answered YES, then you are a prime candidate for The Perfect Diet. Stick around and learn the steps you need to take to lose weight and keep it off. You don't need surgery.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Good health --- put yourself in the driver's seat

"The link: obesity and disease

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two out of three adults in the United States are either overweight with a body/mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 or obese with a BMI of 30 and above.

Now why is there concern over America's weight problem?
Statistics now show that excess body weight raises the risk of chronic, even life-shortening medical conditions such as heart disease, even depression. And lately, the American Cancer Society had produced evidence th show that excess weight and obesity are strongly associated with increased risks for a host of cancers, in some extreme instances by more than 500 percent.

If you are concerned about your weight, ask your doctor for your BMI. If it is 25 or above, find out what you can do to lower it. If generally healthy, you might want to step up your daily exercise to 30 minutes of brisk walking, and adjust your diet to include foods that are rich in nutrients and low in calories. And be sure to keep an eye on the amount of food you eat; many of us routinely consume a couple hundred more calories each day than we expend, which can add up to a few extra pounds each year.

The good news is that adopting a healthier lifestyle doesn't have to mean making drastic changes, just modest and consistent ones."

***All source information from: Healthy Times a publication of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Inc.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Have you had your phytos today? Once upon a time it was thought that fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals were all the nutrients necessary for growth and health. Now we know there's another group of nutrients necessary for optimal health - phytonutrients. Despite its high tech ring, "phytonutrient" (from the Greek phyton for "plant") simply means a "nutrient from a plant."

Molecular science is finally confirming what mother always told us: "Eat your fruits and vegetables." As you will soon learn, the power-packed nutrients that give fruits and vegetables their many colors also provide a lot of Mother Nature's medicine.

While there are many phytos that have been identified, there are probably thousands more that remain to be discovered. The best known phytos are carotenoids, flavonoids, and isoflavones. Carotenoids include yellow, orange, and red pigment in fruits and vegetables. Dark, green, leafy vegetables are rich in the carotenoid, beta carotene, but the usual yellow color is masked by the chloraphyll, the green pigment in the vegetables. Flavonoids are reddish pigments, found in red grape skins and citrus fruits, and isoflavones can be found in peanuts, lentils, soy, and other legumes. You're familiar with vitamins, now we have "phytomins," which are less familiar, but equally important, health-promoting substances in food.

1. Phytos protect the body and fight disease. One day while I was watching my garden grow, I wondered how plants stay so healthy. They don't wear sunscreen or a raincoat; they don't go to the doctor. The answer: they make their own disease-fighting chemicals we call phytochemicals - phytos for short. The same phytos that help keep the plant healthy keep our bodies healthy. Phytos provide medicine for cell health. They help the cells repair themselves by stimulating the release of protective enzymes or those that rebuild damaged cells. Other phytos inhibit cancer-producing substances, reducing their ability to damage cells. When the repair squad can stay ahead of the damage, degenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis, can't get started. Phytos also keep cancer and cardiovascular disease in check.

2. Phytos fight cancer. Cancer starts with a cell out of control. As cells wear out or get injured, they replace themselves with new and healthy cells. Within each cell a network of inner controls (the DNA) keeps this process in check. But with this cellular cloning happening millions of times a minute, there are many opportunities for an occasional cell to defy the rules and get out of control. It may go on reproducing itself, eventually damaging the organ of which it is a part. Like a band of terrorists, the out-of- control cancer cells also try to infiltrate other organs by entering the body's blood vessels and traveling to places near and far, a devilish process called metastasis. Some cancer cells are probably formed in every person every day. Yet the body's own defense system recognizes these invaders and attacks. Almost always, the body wins the battle, so that these cancer cells either never have a chance to develop, or they are destroyed before they have a chance to spread or cause damage. Occasionally, the body's defenses aren't strong or effective enough to overcome these rebellious cells, and the person "gets cancer."

Phytos fight on the side of the body. Carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) can enter the body from all kinds of sources: tobacco smoke, pollution, pesticides, or just plain bad luck. Carcinogens attempt to enter cells and change how they develop. But antioxidant phytos nab the carcinogens before they have a chance to cause cancer in the cell. If the carcinogen manages to infiltrate the internal controls of the cell, other kinds of phytos help to shut down the precancerous cell so it does not multiply into a gang and overrun the neighborhood. This phyto protective mechanism explains why cultures whose diets are rich in plant foods have the lowest rates of cancer. The Mediterranean diet, for example, emphasizes garlic, tomatoes, onions, fruits, whole grains, and olive oil - all of which contain cancer-fighting phytos.

Phytos seem to be the most cancer protective against epithelial cells, those that form the lining of organs, such as the mouth, lungs, bladder, uterus, and digestive tract. These cells are the ones most exposed to carcinogens. They also have a rapid turnover rate, meaning they're replaced often. Even though there are anticancer phytos in all plant foods, those found in fruits and vegetables seem to be the most powerful. It's not only what fruits and vegetables contain that make them effective cancer-fighters, but it's also what they don't contain-saturated fats and chemical pollutants frequently found in animal foods.

3. Phytos help hearts. Antioxidant phytos can interfere with the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol on arteries. LDLs, the bad cholesterol, become harmful after an encounter with a free radical, during which they are oxidized. And when artery walls are damaged by free radicals, it's easier for oxidized LDLs to build up there. Antioxidant phytos, especially beta carotene, can block this process and thus prevent cardiovascular disease.

Is Alcohol Good for Your Health?
The studies claiming longevity and better health for wine drinkers should be taken with a grain of salt. It's likely that the health benefits were due to the antioxidant properties of the red grape skins rather than the wine itself. The harmful effects of potentially excess alcohol on health may far outweigh the benefits of moderate intake. Better to eat a handful of red grapes or blueberries than drink a glass of wine if it's health you're after.

4. Phytos boost immunity. Phytos, such as carotenoids and flavonoids, mobilize the body's immune cells, called natural killer cells and helper-T cells. These act like a protective armor to keep invading pollutants and germs from entering the cell.

One of the most important roles of phytos is acting as antioxidants. Here's why your body needs antioxidants.

When the cells in your body burn fuel for energy they burn oxygen as well. When oxygen is burned, molecules called free radicals are released. Free radicals are like vandals loose in your body. They have at least one extra electron, giving them a negative charge, which drives them around the body looking for cells with which they can react. These reactions damage the DNA and other substances in cells. Much of the time the cells can repair themselves, but the cell neighborhood can't protect itself from these gangs of free radicals all by itself.

Enter the antioxidant "police." Antioxidant molecules have a positive charge, so when they meet up with the negatively-charged free radicals they neutralize them - handcuff them so they can't do any damage. Your body needs more antioxidant police officers as you get older, since the body's ability to repair itself diminishes with age. Antioxidants also help to prevent damage by carcinogens, such as ultraviolet radiation, tobacco smoke, and environmental pollutants.

VITAL GREEN PLUS® - Over 50 Vegetables, Fruits and Phytonutrients
Vital Green Plus is a concentrated nutraceutical superfood containing over 50 vegetables, fruits and phytonutrients. it helps fuel every cell with what your body needs to perform at peak efficiency. You can find this product (Vital Green Plus) here at the Customer Product Store under the Wellness category.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Public Enemy #7: Alzheimer's

Although it was identified in 1907, it wasn't until ex-president Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with it that the public took notice. Now; experts predict that the longer you live, the more likely it is you'll get Alzheimer's. 10% of people over 65 have it. 20% of people over 75 have it. 40% of people over 85 have it. That amounts to about four million of us. The symptoms are loss of memory, mental capacity and disorientation. Death follows diagnosis in seven to ten years. It kills 100,000 people each year - but only after reducing its victims to human vegetables.

You don't want to come within one hundred miles of this disease.

The good news is that 20-30% of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia don't actually have the disease at all. They have, instead, a deficiencv of a single, specific vitamin. When given a tiny amount of this inexpensive vitamin supplement daily they recover their mental capacities and return from the living dead.

Have you ever known an older person who was senile? Could it be that they just hadn't taken enough vitamins? According to Dr. Irwin H. Rosenberg of the US Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University, "Much mental deterioration associated with aging can be prevented or reversed by vitamins."

In my next blog I'll share with you which specific vitamin to take to reduce the risk of you or someone you love from being misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's and how to reduce your risk of the real thing.

Public Enemy #6: Osteoporosis

Twenty-five million of us suffer from osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease. 80% of these are women over the age of 50. You've heard about older people falling and breaking their hips. In many cases, it's just the reverse. She was walking down the mall, and her hip spontaneously broke and then she fell. Her bones were so brittle that just walking caused them to snap. And it all started in her thirties. After age 35, your bones lose bone mass at the rate of about 1% per year. Menopause accelerates the bone loss so that by age seventy-five, 90% of women have osteoporosis.

What does this mean to you?

A third of the women over 65 suffer fractured vertebrae or fractured hips. And not to leave the men out, by age 80, a sixth of the men also break a hip. What's so bad about a few broken hones? Well, for 50,000 seniors last year, these fractures were a death sentence. Unable to walk and to be active, they were confined to bed. A quarter of them died within 6 months. That's one death every twenty minutes. However, osteoporosis is not just about broken bones. Have you ever wondered why some older people seem to wrinkle more than others? Osteoporosis actually causes your skull to shrink, too! According to one plastic surgeon, "The result of ... such bone loss ... is skin that sags, like a dress that's a size too big." If you plan on living a long, full life, you'll have to reckon with osteoporosis. The good news is that prevention is simple, costs little, and is available to everyone.

Public Enemy #5: Arthritis

Thirty million of us have arthritis. You might think it only happens to old people, but the average age at which arthritis strikes is 47 - hardly over the hill. And 80% of Americans develop some degree of arthritis by the age of 60.

If you hate pain, then you can take a few simple, inexpensive steps that might lower your chances of arthritis.

Public Enemy #4: Diabetes

Over sixteen million North Americans suffer from diabetes, with millions more worldwide. And it's on the rise. The incidence of diabetes has risen over 600% in little more than one generation. One in twenty of us will eventually get it. It's a major threat to our health. The longer you live, the greater the chance that you'll eventually develop diabetes. 40% to 60% of eighty-year-olds have it. Every year, it kills 300,000 people.

You don't want to come within a mile of diabetes.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Public Enemy #3: Stroke

Most of us are petrified of cancer without realizing that stroke kills more women than breast cancer, and more men than prostate cancer.

What is a stroke?

Most strokes are caused by the same problem that causes a heart attack. The arteries of the brain harden and plug up, eventually shutting off the flow of blood to vital parts of the brain causing, in essence, a "brain attack." Researchers at the University of Cincinnati recently found to their alarm that approximately 730,000 strokes occur in the USA each year, almost ONE THIRD higher than the previous estimate of 550,000. Of those victims of stroke, at least 150,000 will die. And many of the rest of them may wish they had died. Strokes are the number one cause of disabilities. There are 4,000,000 North American survivors of stroke alive today HALF of them have significant disabilities including paralysis, impaired speech , impaired vision, and memory.

You don't want to be a stroke victim and you may not have to be.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Public Enemy #2: Cancer

Cancer is the most feared and most expensive of all diseases. And for good reason. At least a million North Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year. 50% of those will die within five years. That amounts to 1,500 people a day or one every minute of every day in America and one every 3 or 4 seconds somewhere in the world.

We've spent billions trying to cure it. Far from being conquered, the incidence of cancer has increased 44% since 1950. Breast cancer is up 6000. Prostate cancer is up 100%. At this rate, cancer will soon pass heart disease as the number one cause of death in America. Recently, the news on the cancer front in the U.S. has shown some improvement. After decades of steady increase, the rate of cancer death seems to have peaked and is dropping about 1/2% per year That's good news for about 2,750 people this year. But little comfort to the other 547,250 who won't make it.

What are your odds of developing cancer?
The National Cancer Institute says: "that one American in every three living today will get cancer, and one in four will die from it."

For women, the most feared cancer is breast cancer. In 1950,only one in twenty women got it. Today it's about one in eight. Only 18% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will survive it for at least five years.18 About 45,000 women will die from it this year. According to Patrick Quillin in his book, Beating Cancer with Nutrition, even women who are lucky and beat it still lose an average of 19 years of lifespan.

For men, the most feared cancer is prostate cancer. Just about every man over 50 has an enlarged prostate. Doctors estimate that 30% of American men 60 years and older have prostatic cancer. Among men who live to 75, the number is over 50% That's one in two! And the older you get, the higher the risk. But don't panic! Prostate cancer usually grows very slowly and can be treated with great success. The ten-year survival rate from prostate cancer is over 86%.

If cancer is the most feared disease, it is also the least understood. Most of us think that cancer is something in your genes: some families get it, others don't. This is not necessarily so. Only 20% of cancer is attributable to heredity 80% is in your control.

So there is hope!
The development of cancer is not always a short, lightning strike event that's out of your control. It maybe a long process in the case of lung cancer 20-25 years. If you strengthen your immune system now, you can take back control and possibly keep cancer in check.