Posted on 18 April 2014

When our co founders Noa and Bryan headed to the states, they went off with a mission to get all your fitness queries answered by some of the best trainers in the US. Check out what they had to say!

If I'm planning on doing cardio and strength training on the same day, which should I do first?

I always tell my clients to separate the cardio and strength training on different days so they can focus the most amount of energy on that training style. Being fatigued for either will affect performance, which in turn will affect muscle adaptation, and ultimately your results. But if you must do both in one day, do strength training first. Reason being is you want to be at your strongest when strength training — if you're exhausted from a vigorous cardio session, your performance will undoubtedly suffer, increasing your risk of injury and increasing muscle fatigue, which will prevent you from lifting your true potential. And make sure to follow your session with a meal or shake that has a mix of carbohydrates and protein to speed recovery and help with muscle repair.

Check out our blog post on the best foods after your workout for more tips on what to eat after a strength session.

-Adam Schersten, Tier 3 Trainer, Equinox Printing House, New York City

Is there a way to spot train a specific problem area? (i.e., love handles).

Spot training is a myth. Love handles are the result of increased fat tissue around the waist and abdomen, and are thus impacted greatly by diet and exercise. Here’s what you can do to fight them:

  1. Measure your waist circumference or get a body composition test done.
  2. Engage in a program of strength and cardiovascular exercise designed to optimize caloric burn and build lean body mass, which increases your metabolism. 
  3. Perhaps the most important element in the equation is diet. You must be strict on keeping saturated fat, processed carbohydrates and refined sugar out of your diet while eating healthful "clean" foods at regular intervals throughout the day. 
  4. Lastly, make sure you are getting optimal rest. If you are sleep-deprived, the hormones leptin and ghrelin are negatively stimulated, which can set the stage for weight gain through overeating. 

— David Harris, VP, Personal Training

I've been hearing so much about balance training for abs. Does it really work?

Adding an element of instability to your training is a great way to continue to challenge the core as you progress and get stronger. I'm always throwing toys like the BOSU or medicine balls into my clients' routines to keep their bodies guessing. Here are three of my favorite moves to try:

  1. Do a plank with hands on a medicine ball instead of on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. As you improve, try using one ball under each hand. Really a pro? Add balls under each foot, too. The added instability forces abs to engage (if they don't you will literally fall over). Build up to a one-minute hold.
  2. Single-Leg Squat/Row: Holding a cable in your right hand, do a single-leg squat with left leg either in front or behind you. As you come up from the squat, row with right arm. This contra-lateral relationship recruits more core muscles to move and balance the body. Do 12-15 reps. Switch sides; repeat. Do 3 sets.
  3.  BOSU Ball Shoulder Press: Flip the BOSU and stand on the flat surface holding a dumbbell in right hand, elbow bent, weight at right shoulder, palm out. Slowly press the dumbbell overhead, then return to start. You're simultaneously toning your shoulders and abs since your core must tighten to keep the BOSU steady. Do 12-15 reps. Switch sides; repeat. Do 3 sets.

— Ben Hart, Personal Trainer, Equinox 76th St. 

I get so bored working out. What are some tips to keep me motivated?

I get this question all the time! Usually it's hitting those cardio machines that gets a bit redundant. I always recommend a jump rope circuit to anyone looking to shake things up. It's incredibly fast, extremely effective and pretty fun — it's like you're a kid again!

Jumping rope burns more calories per minute than almost any other modality (about 10 calories per minute). That's more than running! Combine that with some toning moves and bam: You've got one powerful fat melting and body sculpting workout.

Move briskly through this 12-minute circuit three times so your heart rate stays elevated:

1 minute: jump rope at a moderate intensity (a 5 on a scale from 1 to 10)
1 minute: power squats as fast as you can
1 minute: jump rope at a high intensity (an 8 or 9 on that 1 to 10 scale)
1 minute: push-ups or plank

Bonus Tip: Make sure you choose the right length rope for you. Step on the rope with both feet, holding handles in either hand. The rope should come between your armpit and shoulder. And try to find one with a bearing so the rope rotates properly. — Scott Katzenstein, Equinox Group Fitness Instructor, CPT, AIS, NASM

I do functional training classes like ZUU, Tabata, HIIT and Shockwave to do my strength training. Is this sufficient or is a more traditional weight session necessary to maintain a toned body?

Provided you are using the appropriate weight in the classes to overload your muscles — meaning weights that are heavy enough that by the end of the set you can barely finish — then yes. Why? Because these types of classes are HIIT (high intensity interval training), which maintains a healthy body composition, meaning more lean mass and less fat mass. They combine strength and cardio work that require large multi-joint movements, so your entire body is working. You are getting a high caloric expenditure in a short period of time.

However, too much HIIT training can be detrimental and actually hinder your abilities to reach your goals or even maintain your fitness, so make sure if you workout hard, you recover hard. Recovery is crucial for maximum results with minimal injury. After a class, you need 24 - 48 hours to rest those muscles. It would be wise to take them on non-consecutive days, and if you do workout the day after, do a lighter workout, focusing more on cardio. The main benefit of HIIT-type classes is that you can reduce the number of workouts or the length of time you have to do each workout. But the trade-off can be sore muscles and fatigue. The "work" happens during the workout, but adaptation (aka results) take place in the recovery. In other words, if you take my MetCon3 class on Thursday night, I don't want to see you in my Tabata the next morning!

-Rachel Buschert, Equinox GFI & Schwinn Master Trainer

Why do you only do 1 set of each exercise in Pilates? And fewer reps than you'd do in a conditioning class?

Unlike other forms of strength training, most Pilates exercises are only done 3-5 times and never more than 10. Why? Well, simply put, there are only a few reps because when you do the exercises correctly that's all you need.   Joseph Pilates created an intricate system of exercises for the mat and for special equipment. According to Joseph, “Contrology [Pilates' original name] is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily ad-nausem." Each exercise requires you to incorporate 6 principles: concentration, control, centering, precision, breath and flow. And when you do, you only need to do a few reps to reap the benefits.   Pilates sessions can have around 20-25 exercises for a beginner all the way up to 45 or even more than 50 for an advanced, with each exercise building on the one that came before it. Every session includes flexion, extension, rotation and side work and each one is working multiple body parts simultaneously.  So fewer repetitions does not mean you are exercising less. Give your best for a few reps and flow into the next exercise. As you progress in your practice, the repetitions will lessen, your pace will quicken and the number of exercises you complete in a session will increase. -Lesley Logan, Equinox Pilates Instructor

I want to lose weight quickly — what's the fastest way to do it safely?

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter. You lose. And I don’t mean weight. When one drops weight rapidly regardless of the method (diet, exercise, medication) the body initiates a wide array of defenses in an attempt to prevent further weight loss. These responses are hard wired and represent evolution’s survival technique. None of our ancestors would have made it through the ups and downs of famines and failed hunts without this physiology.

When there is a sudden decrease in caloric intake one’s metabolism immediately slows, energy level decreases, and appetite is intensified. Even the mechanism behind enjoying food is upregulated. This is why the calories in/calories out model is inadequate.

Protein also becomes a significant energy source resulting in muscle loss. So it’s not just the fat you’d hoped to kiss goodbye.

The only reason there can be a monthly cover story “the last diet you will ever need” is because they are not sustainable. They all work in the short term. But no one can stay on them.

The only way to successfully lose weight and keep it off is to do it slowly. You have to go under the radar so your body doesn’t know. This translates to 1 to 2 pounds per week. Men should not consume less than 1500 calories per day; for women that number is 1200 calories per day.  

 —Paul Spector, MD, Tier 4 Trainer

I can't seem to fit in my full workout these days. Is there any benefit to doing a much shorter version?

Absolutely, 100 percent yes. In fact, there are some major benefits to doing a shorter, more intense workout in place of a longer, moderate-intensity session. Here's why:

  1. According to one study, exercisers who did short, high intensity interval sessions lost nine times more fat than those who stuck to longer duration, moderate intensity cardio.
  2. You'll Improve Your Mood: Science says that Beta-endorphins (the chemicals responsible for elevated mood) increase significantly following short-burst interval training.
  3. You will cut your injury risk: Studies repeatedly show that the longer and more frequent the workout (especially when it comes to running) the greater the risk of experiencing injury — most commonly an overuse issue. However, the literature shows little association between exercise intensity and injury.
  4. A study from the University of Georgia reported that those who did just 20 minutes of exercise 3 days per week increased their energy levels by 20 percent and decreased feelings of fatigue by 65 percent.

— Nadya, Swedan, MD, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist

How can I get definition? I'm already exercising five times a week and all I do is lose weight.

Seeing definition in your body is about losing subcutaneous body fat — the layer of fat that’s between your skin and your muscle — and building muscle. There could be a few reasons why you’re not seeing the definition you want. First, you could actually be losing muscle weight when you work out if you’re not strength training, so try adding resistance exercises to your routine 3 times per week on non-consecutive days. You may also want to talk to a nutritionist about your diet. Lack of definition in your muscles can also be caused by too much sodium in your diet or excess water.

— David Harris, VP, Personal Training

What do you do when you stop losing weight? Even though I keep up with my workouts 5-6 days a week and watch what I eat, I'm having a tough time losing. I've lost 28 kgs in the last year and now I'm stuck!

First of all, losing 28 kgs is an amazing achievement, so good for you. Now, what you’re describing is a plateau. This is a metabolic issue. Your body has become accustomed to the type of diet and exercise you’ve been giving it (even if it’s a healthy diet and a considerable exercise routine), so it knows what to expect, and it’s no longer being pushed to change. You need to do two things: first, switch up the volume, frequency, intensity, and duration of your exercise routine. This is based on the scientific principle of periodization, which shows that mixing up these four elements of your workout forces your body to change to adapt to the new stimulus. The second thing you should do is get a metabolic evaluation. This will tell you how many calories you burn at rest and during activity so you can work to create the caloric deficit you need each day to lose weight. Good luck! And if you need more guidance, talk to the personal training manager at your club. He or she can help find a trainer to guide you.

— David Harris, VP of Personal Training


Hope you found this helpful. What other fitness questions would you like answered? x.

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