The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2009 issue 4



Muscle Balance

Muscle balance is a vital component to injury prevention.  Muscle imbalance occurs when one muscle, or group of muscles, works harder than it should while other muscles don’t work hard enough.  It may not sound serious, but it can cause a wide range of problems, including sore shoulders, low energy, an aching back and even poor posture. 

The major muscle groups work in pairs and those muscle pairs need to be balanced in terms of strength and flexibility.  For example, we bend our elbow by using the biceps muscle.  It's pair is the tricep muscle.  The tricep muscle must be willing to stretch for the bicep muscle to contract and bend the elbow fully.

Here is an over-simplification of the major muscle pairs and what they do:

Muscle Pairs


biceps and triceps bending and straightening the elbow
deltoids (shoulders) and lattisimus dorsi (back) lifting the arm and lowering the arm
pectorals (chest) and trapezius (upper back) moving the arms/shoulders forward and backward
abdominals and erector spinae (low back) bending the spine forward and backward
quadriceps (front of thighs) and hamstrings (back of thighs) bending and straightening of the knee
hip abductors and adductors moving the legs apart and together
gastrocnemius (calf) and tibialis anterior (shin) standing on your toes or pulling your toes up toward your shin
iliopsoas (hip) and gluteals (butt) lifting the knee or moving the knee backward

If you are going to do bicep curls, for example, you also need to do tricep extensions in order to work both muscle pairs and keep them balanced.  When you maintain balanced muscles, you have better body symmetry and better posture.  Weight lifters who only work the chest muscles (pectorals) and neglect the upper back muscles (trapezius) will have forward stoop to their shoulders.  This is the appearance of unbalanced body symmetry which could later cause upper back pain.

Our daily routines can cause muscle imbalance.  We use more pectoral muscles than we do trapezius muscle because we do so much lifting of groceries, children, and other items.  We have more range of motion in front of us and so we do more things where we can easily see what we are doing.  We use more the iliopsoas more than we use the gluteals because we walk forward and upstairs more than we walk backwards.  We use our biceps more than our triceps due to lifting against gravity.  As a result of these naturally occurring muscle imbalances, we need to work the other half of the pair to maintain muscle balance.

Most of us have jobs that require us to stay seated or standing for long periods of time. If you use a computer, you’re probably sitting most of the day. That means some muscles don’t get exercised at all, while others do all the work. The ones that don’t work get weaker. The ones that do work get stronger, but not in the healthiest way. If we don’t give our bodies balanced exercise, our muscles can’t work together properly. Our bodies are designed to move throughout the day.

When muscle imbalances result, you need to stretch the muscle that is too strong and too short and strengthen the muscle that is too weak.  In some cases this may involve more than one set of muscle pairs.  Low back pain is a classic example of muscle pair imbalance.  Not all low back pain is caused by muscle imbalance, but much of it is.  When a muscle becomes equally strong with its opposite (antagonistic muscle), then we have achieved what is called an “equal length tension relationship” between the two muscle groups, which is the length at which the muscles can produce the greatest force.

In order to alleviate the symptoms of muscle imbalance, you must take corrective strategies, which involves enlisting the services of a physical therapist or a fitness trainer with special education in correcting muscle imbalances. If you experience any of the symptoms that include pain, seek a proper physical therapist or doctor before beginning any fitness-related activities, including working with a personal trainer.

TODAY! on iTunes

Sometimes I think I put more effort into the website, newsletters, and assorted other online tools, than I do with trying to get clients!  That's what happens when you cross a personal trainer with a computer guy I guess.  TODAY! Fitness has a MySpace Page, a FaceBook Group, a YouTube Channel, a blog, and now I've decided to venture into the world of video podcasts. 

For those not familiar with a podcast, let me give you a quick overview.  A podcast is like a radio program except people can download a podcast to a portable media player (such as an iPod or other mp3 player) and listen to it at their convenience.  Podcasts can be audio only, or audio and video and are distributed over the internet by syndicated download, through Web feeds, to portable media players and personal computers. a podcast is distinguished from most other digital media formats by its ability to be subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added.

Ok... so now that I've given you a quick lesson on podcasts, let me tell you about mine.  The TODAY! Fitness Podcast is now available free from iTunes in the "Heath" and "Fitness and Nutrition" categories.

I only have a few video's posted there now, but I have plans for regular installments that can be automatically be downloaded to those that subscribe.  My game plan for the video content will focus on functional training, bodyweight exercises and workouts, as well as the homemade fitness equipment that I have so much fun making ; ) 

In order to subscribe to the podcast, you can simply click on this link for the TODAY! Fitness Podcast or search for it in the iTunes Store and then click subscribe.  If you don't have iTunes, you can still check out the MP4 videos by clicking on the following RSS Feed

Just putting together a brief video starts with an idea, planning, practicing, shooting, editing, producing, and finally posting.  I'll tell you, I have a new respect for those that make a living in film.  Being in front of the camera without being able to feed off of people's expressions and feedback takes some getting used to also, but I plan to keep improving and to try to provide interesting and informative content that will keep people tuned in and motivated.  Feedback and suggestions are appreciated, but be gentle... it's my first time ; )


Elite Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Lateral Lunge

It's pretty easy to forget to work your hips and outer thighs when you're training legs.  Personally, I like this exercise much better than lying on my side and raising a leg in the air (abduction) as you see in many of the body sculpting videos.  Your primary focus on the lateral lunge should be looking straight ahead with a straight back, rather than bending at the waist.  In the demonstration above I actually have a broomstick handle taped to my treadmill to provide me with a target to duck under (you could also use a string or other horizontal line).  Great for working the outter thighs and hips.


Target:  legs and hips (quadriceps, Tensor Fasciae Latae, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus)

Count:  4 count

Description:  Whether you are using a barrier/target to duck under or not, you start the lateral lunge in an upright position, feet shoulder-width apart and straight back.  Start the exercise by squatting down on your outside leg and taking a deep step to the side with your inside leg.  You should maintain a straight, upright back throughout the exercise, keeping your head up with little or no bending at the waist.  Shift your weight to the leg you just stepped with and stand back up to the same upright position.  Repeat the motion back in in the other direction to complete the full repetition.

What Sup?  Green Tea Extract for Fat Loss

Green tea has long been used by the Chinese as medicine to treat headaches, body ache, poor digestion, and improve well-being and life expectancy.  Green tea is made from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis , a perennial evergreen shrub. Green tea has a long history of use, dating back to China approximately 5,000 years ago. Green tea, black tea, and oolong tea are all derived from the same plant.

Green tea extract (GTE) helps people lose weight.  It is not a magic bullet against obesity but it helps.  Scientists speculate that chemicals in the supplement called catechins are the active ingredients that fight fat.  One catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is particularly effective in promoting thermogenesis (increased calorie use) and speeding weight loss.  British researchers found that GTE increased fat use by 17 percent during 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (single dose containing 890 miligrams of polyphenols and 366 miligrams of EGCG).  In a second experiment involving blood sugar regulation after consuming a high-sugar drink, GTE lowered blood sugar faster than a placebo (fake GTE) with less insulin release. 

Green tea extract has other health benefits.  It reduces cell death and speeds recovery after a heart attack or stroke.  It also contains antioxidants that protect the cells from free radical damage.  Free radicals are destructive chemicals produced naturally during metabolism that cause destruction of cell membranes and DNA and promote heart disease, cancer and premature aging.  An 11-year study of more than 40,000 Japanese adults found that chronic consumption of green tea reduced death rates from all causes and from cardiovascular disease.  Green tea extract looks like an excellent supplement that promotes metabolic health and speeds weight loss.     (ref.  Fitness Rx for Men, July 2008 - American Journal Clinical Nutrition, 87: 778-84)


I started messing around with this idea after reading more about muscle balance and how it effects your joints with risk of injury and stability.  There is a product on the market called a DARD (Dynamic Axial Resistance Device) which I have seen for sale at Power-Systems for almost $80.  Not being able to break my habit of saying "I can make that" I set out to create something similar that wouldn't cost as much.  So after experimenting with different pipe sizes and lengths, here's what I came up with. 

I used 3/4" pipe which fits through most standard weight plates pretty well and cut some padding from a pool noodle which works very well and fits snug over the 3/4" pipe.  The total cost of this little device came in just over $20 (those pipe fittings aren't that cheap) which is still a quarter of the price of the alternative.  The weight can easily be adjusted based upon your leg strength and I can definitely feel my shin muscles working when performing the exercise.

For more information, check out the Budget Body Equipment page at

It's Go Time!

This just in... exercise is no longer required to achieve your goals and optimum body image!  APRIL FOOLS... what are you kidding me?  I'm hoping that my loyal readers are a little more tuned in than that!  Blood, sweat, and tears baby (well, at least sweat)!  Sure, you can make a significant impact in your weight by cutting calories from your diet, but if you choose to take that road without exercise, you may very well end up being a skinny fat person!  Hey, I didn't make that term up... it refers to someone that may very well be lighter, but still has a high percentage of body fat.  Exercise (both cardio and resistance training) is recommended for a number of reasons that I've discussed before, with your health, body function, and quality of life being at the top of the list.  Just putting in the time for exercise is good, but if you really want to maximize your results, make sure you are challenging yourself.  Remember:  They don't call it WORKing out for nothing!

For prior issues of this newsletter go to  

Good Luck!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour,
or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." - Lance Armstrong

youtube video of the month -->
Arnold Training
Couldn't resist posting this vintage video of the master! | Personal Training | News | Tips & Tools | Fitness Stuff




Get Toned!   Get Fit!   Lose Weight!   Feel Great!


TODAY! Fitness, LLC. , Bear, Delaware