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PERSONAL TRAINER

Welcome to the internet's first on-line personal training service. Your service includes public question and answer columns, tips and confidential consulting services. A personal trainer provides advice about strength and flexibility training, nutrition, injury prevention and sport enhancement for all ages and experience levels. (See How to Select a Personal Trainer.)


Greg Niederlander
provides the personal trainer services in this section.

Greg brings over 20 years of experience in personal training, sports injury rehabilitation, and training of trainers on an international level. Greg has teaching degrees in physical education and adaptive physical education, a masters in exercise physiology and a minor in biomechanical analysis. Past clients include Vermiel Sports and Fitness (training organization for the Chicago Bulls), Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds. Greg is a Nike Fitness Athlete.


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Questions and answers about personal training.


Back Strengthening and Back Pain
Exercise as a Benefit
Exercise Equipment
Nutrition
Strength Training
Weight Control

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BACK STRENGTHENING/PAIN

Q. What can I do to strengthen my low back muscles?

A. Lie on a bed and position your hips at the edge so the feet rest comfortably on the floor with the knees slightly bent. Allow your chest and head to be supported by the mattress and position your arms at your side. Slowly raise chin and chest off the mattress, hold, and return. Repeat 10 times. This exercise may be performed off the edge of a bench or a low table top if desired.

Q. I've heard that tight leg muscles can cause low back pain. Is this true? If so, what can I do?

A. Tight hamstring muscles (muscles along the back of the upper leg) can be a contributing factor to low back pain. If tightness is noted, lie on your back on the floor, elevate one leg and position the heel of the foot on the edge of a door frame. The leg not being stretched should extend through the doorway and rest on the floor. Both legs remain straight. Move the buttocks toward the doorway until a slight stretch is felt. This position is held for 30 - 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Q. I do stomach exercises 3-4 times per week but have had little success with muscle development. Any pointers?

A. Abdominal development requires that you exercise the muscle properly. Avoid fixing your feet under any type of support structure. An abdominal curl or crunch is much more effective than a full, chest to knees, sit up. Incorporate a pelvic tilt into the crunch movement. Also, perform all abdominal exercises slowly and hold the end point 1-3 seconds. Remember both diet and genetics play a big role in obtaining that "washboard" ab look.

Q. Is it true that you can decrease low back pain by strengthening the abdominal muscles?

A. The cause of low back pain can vary greatly. Many who suffer from low back pain have weak trunk muscles and can benefit greatly by properly strengthening the abdominal muscles. However, many of those same individuals have equally weak, or weaker, low back muscles that should not be neglected.

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EXERCISE BENEFIT

Q. How many miles per week should I walk for general fitness benefits?

A. Think time, not mileage! 120 - 150 minutes per week is the general rule of thumb.

Q. If I am 47 years old, what should my heart rate be while riding my stationary bike?

A. 16 -18 beats per 10 second count for fat burning and 22 -23 beats per 10 second count for general calorie consumption. Consult with your physician if taking any medication that alters your heart rate.

Q. A staff member at my health club has told me that my heart rate should be between 20-24 beats per 10 second count. I'm having difficulty finding my pulse in my wrist. What can I do?

A. You may be pressing your fingers too firmly against your wrist. You may have more success locating your pulse by positioning your first two fingers along side your "wind-pipe" just below your chin.

Q. I've heard the term exercise "over-training". How do you know if you are over-training the body?

A. Often times you will feel more general body fatigue while exercising. Your workouts will probably take longer since your body needs more rest between exercises. The distances traveled (aerobic exercise) and weight loads lifted will decrease. You will find it more difficult to roll out of bed and will usually experience more muscle and joint soreness.

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EXERCISE EQUIPMENT

Q. What is the best way to purchase home exercise equipment?

A. I suggest you visit a store that specializes in home exercise equipment. Knowledgeable staff can be helpful even if you decide to purchase elsewhere.

Q. Are free weights more beneficial than machine exercise training?

A. Little or no experience with weight training dictates the use of machine exercise equipment. With experience, free weights add variety to the workouts. Variety further stimulates the muscles and keeps you from getting bored.

Q. I am overweight and have bad knees. What type of cardiovascular exercise equipment would your recommend for the home?

A. A stationary bike or a rower is typically easier on the knees. A treadmill (for jogging) or a stepper may be more stressful due to the weight-bearing effect.

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NUTRITION

Q. Is supplementing my diet with vitamins necessary or beneficial?

A. Generally, supplementing is most helpful if there is a dietary deficiency. Individuals who place above average physical demands upon their bodies are also candidates for supplementing. It is not necessary for everyone but is a way of not looking to a high calorie diet to get all the necessary nutrients the body requires.

Q. Will eating extra protein help me to build muscle size and strength?

A. As a guide, you should take in about 1.2 - 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (I kilogram = 2.21 pounds) each day. Excess protein supplementing or dietary intake is not directly related to muscle size or strength capabilities.

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STRENGTH TRAINING

Q. How many sets of a particular weight training performed for maximum exercise should be fitness benefit?

A. Optimal sets for a particular exercise are related to the intensity of the exercise. The higher the intensity level (going to true muscle failure on any given set) the less the number of sets needed to be performed. 1 -3 sets is the traditional range.

Q. While weight training, how fast should I move the weight?

A. The rule of thumb is that it should take one second to perform 90 degrees of movement while training with weights.

Q. I've heard how good lifting weights can be but I'm afraid of looking too muscular. What determines how much muscle is gained from weight training?

A. The amount of weight lifted per repetition, the volume of weight lifted per workout session and the number of days per week the weights are lifted all contribute to the amount of muscularity gained. As those factors increase, so will the degree of muscularity.

Q. What is the appropriate number of times a weight should be lifted per exercise, in order to tone the muscle?

A. Improved muscle tone can be achieved most safely with endurance related weight training. This method requires that the weight load allow you to achieve 10 -15 repetitions for upper body exercises and 12-20 for lower body exercises.

Q. What would be the most optimal amount of rest to give the body between exercise sessions?

A. A less conditioned individual typically requires 48-72 hours of rest between sessions. As fitness levels improve, 24-48 hours is more acceptable. Highly trained individuals can exercise two days in a row as long as different muscles and/ or activities are incorporated.

Q. Will eating extra protein help me to build muscle size and strength?

A. As a guide, you should take in about 1.2 - 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (I kilogram = 2.21 pounds) each day. Excess protein supplementing or dietary intake is not directly related to muscle size or strength capabilities.

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WEIGHT CONTROL

Q. How many pounds should I safely expect to lose per week if I'm attempting to lose weight?

A. Weight loss capabilities vary from person to person. However, 1 -2 pounds weekly is safe.

Q. I've recently started exercising and I'm finding that I'm gaining and not losing weight. Why?

A. Not uncommon! Exercise, especially involving weight training, builds lean muscle mass which weighs more than the fat you are losing. Hide the scale for a little longer.

Q. What types of aerobic exercise burns the most calories?

A. Activities such as rowing, cross country skiing and walking with exaggerated arm swings burn more calories per minute due to the involvement of both the upper and lower body muscles.

Q. I've heard that tight leg muscles can cause low back pain. Is this true? If so, what can I do?

A. Tight hamstring muscles (muscles along the back of the upper leg) can be a contributing factor to low back pain. If tightness is noted, lie on your back on the floor, elevate one leg and position the heel of the foot on the edge of a door frame. The leg not being stretched should extend through the doorway and rest on the floor. Both legs remain straight. Move the buttocks toward the doorway until a slight stretch is felt. This position is held for 30 - 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Q. What is a good amount of body fat to have? I'm a 38 year old female with children.

A. The national norm is around 28%. However, 18% - 22% is healthier.

Q. I am a 57 year old female, is there an exercise I can do to get rid of the flab on the backs of my arms?

A. The "flab" is fat and no exercise exercises fat. However, a high repetition, low weight resistance exercise combined with aerobic activity and a low-fat diet may prove beneficial. A resistance exercise suggestion would be to place an ankle weight around a broom stick. While seated in a high-back chair lift broom stick overhead. Now, slowly lower the broom stick behind the head and then return it to the start position (overhead). Repeat 10-15 times. If no ankle weights are available, you may substitute by holding on to a 5 lb. bag of flour or a gallon of milk.

Q. What are the average number of calories you should take in per day when trying to lose weight?

A. Traditional weight loss calorie intake parameters vary from approximately 1200-1800 calories per day. However, the proper amount of caloric intake should be based upon present body weight and activity level. A 2-3% weekly reduction in caloric intake is recommended until expenditure exceeds intake of calories.

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