The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2009 issue 7



The Pooch Belly

Ok... I know that the title of this article alone probably drew the attention of a number of my female readers.  And why shouldn't it?  The "pooch belly" is a common condition nowadays that makes most women cringe.

The pooch belly refers to that abdominal roll of belly fat right above the belt line that can often be a challenge to get rid of and there are a variety of factors that can contribute to the pooch.  Diet, stress, pregnancies, posture, balance, and exercise, ... all these things can play a role in appearance or disappearance of the pooch.

Diet - Your diet can obviously be a major contributing factor to your abdominal appearance. However, even if your diet seems clean, you could still have food intolerance to certain foods that could tend to bloat your lower intestines and contribute to the “pooch belly” syndrome. Wheat gluten is one very common intolerance and tends to interfere with good digestion thus causing inflammation and bloating.  In order to determine if you have this kind of food sensitivity, you will need to experiment with foods and take not of how you feel and look afterwards.  This is of course in addition to the old calories in - calories out monitoring!

Stress - When your body is constantly stressed, losing body fat is extremely difficult. By reducing your stress level with such things as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong, you will dramatically improve your mental and physical wellness. Make sure that you're getting a good amount of sleep, drink plenty of water, and eat as organic as possible.

Pregnancies - After pregnancy, the body needs to normalize and it takes 9 months or more to get back into physiological balance. This balance is not just hormonally-related but also related to body weight, proper posture and normal muscle tension. If all of these things are not in balance, you will tend to have inflammation that inhibits the inner (muscular) unit and you will have a higher incidence of abdominal wall and inner unit dysfunction.

C-sections do not help and can make things more challenging either. With multiple c-sections the amount of time between childbirths could also be a factor.  If less than two years, the physical structures which contribute to childbirth may not have repaired completely before they were asked to do it again. The net result is weakness and that contributes to the lack of stabilization.

Posture & Balance - Visceroptosis is a condition in which the internal organs have been compressed and displaced by poor posture and the enlarging womb from pregnancy, and this has a direct effect on inner unit dysfunction.  The displacement of internal organs can stretch the attachments which hold the stomach, liver, and kidneys in their proper place in the upper abdomen. As a result, they are left suspended in a lower position. This produces a tendency for the inhibition of the inner unit. It also influences other structures such as blocking or squeezing of tubular structures, ducts, blood vessels, and nerves. This can lead to all kinds of problems such as indigestion, kidney problems and constipation.

The long and short of all this is that your insides have to be in shape for your outside to be in shape and that requires exercises that most people are not doing.

Resistance Exercise - An exercise program needs to balance muscles that may have become unbalanced. One way to do that is to include a lot of body movement on unstable surfaces such as a swiss ball. Another way is with special exercises for the inner unit.

The inner unit is a group of deep muscles that provide the necessary joint stabilization for the spine. If the inner unit doesn’t activate your spine properly, your spine, pelvis and joint structures are placed under a lot of stress and this can lead to orthopedic injuries (and other dysfunctions like your lower abs “pooching” out, regardless of body fat levels).

The inner unit consists of the transverse abdominis, multifidus, the pelvic floor and the diaphragm. Research has shown that the inner unit muscles operate on a different neurological loop than other core muscles.

The Transverse abdominis (TVA) is the deepest, innermost layer of all abdominal muscles. Think of the TVA muscle as your body's natural weight-lifting belt. When the TVA contracts, it causes hoop tension around your mid section like a girdle or corset. If the TVA muscle does not tighten up and work properly, acting as a girdle around your waist to stabilize your spine and pelvis, you are at much higher risk of injury (or dysfunction, as in a protruding aka "pooching" abdominal wall!!!)

To activate the TVA, draw your belly button up and in towards your spine. This activation should be done before any bending over or reaching overhead, especially with heavy loads. A little trick is to get a string and tie it around your waist at the bellybutton level. Draw your abdomen up and in toward your spine as far you can, then let it out about three-quarters of the way and tie the string at that point. It should be tight but really not noticeable. If your TVA relaxes and extends your abdominal wall, the string will tighten up and you will immediately get feedback.

The next inner unit muscle you have to consider is the multifidus. This muscle lies deep in the spine spanning three joint segments. The multifidus provides joint stabilization at each segmental level. Each vertebra needs stiffness and stability to work effectively to reduce degeneration of joint structures.

The third set of inner unit muscles are the pelvic floor muscles. It’s important for the pelvic floor and the inner unit to work properly. In many cases, due to operations such as hernias, hysterectomies and C-sections, the inner unit muscles have been cut, reducing communication to these muscles. By doing some very simple, but very important exercises, you can re-establish communication between the nervous system and the muscles, tighten and tone the muscles, and prevent or reduce incontinence, leakage and pelvic dysfunction.

If you’re not specifically working each of these three inner unit muscles, plus the diaphragm, your lower abdominal area will not achieve the strength or muscular look that you’re after.  Here are a few of these inner unit exercises for you:

• Four point transverse abdominis tuck
• Horse stance series
• Pelvic Tilt
• Heel slides

Click here for the description of the exercises from

Cardio Exercise - It’s especially easy for your body to adapt to aerobics. When you do too much aerobic exercise, your body becomes more energetically efficient. As you run on the treadmill, it says you burned X amount of calories, but you’re really expending less energy at a given workload as you keep getting in better condition than you used to be.

So the question is, what is the alternative? One solution is to begin alternating some of your conventional steady state cardio with higher intensity interval training. Interval training is very challenging but very effective, not to mention time efficient and it’s a good way to break a plateau if your body has adapted to conventional long duration, steady state cardio.

After your interval program, then go on to do your regular resistance training for the entire body or do a simple circuit weight training program, depending on your goals and amount of time you have. Resistance training builds muscle and more muscle means you burn more calories and more body fat. Resistance training also elevates your metabolism for many hours after a training session.

Ref: David Grisaffi -

How Many Calories?

It's no secret that you have to create and maintain a calorie deficit if you want to burn fat.  With 3,500 calories equating to roughly a pound of body fat, everyone is looking for a way to pinch 500 - 1000 calories a day to hit that 1 - 2 pound per week goal through diet and exercise.

But how many calories do you need?  That is the big question that a lot of people don't understand.  There are quite a few methods for figuring this out... depending on how detailed that you want to get.

If you just want a general idea of your calorie need you can just go with the averages.  For fat loss, men typically need 2100-2500 calories per day, while women need 1400-1800 calories.  For maintenance, men typically need 2700-2900 calories per day, while women need 2000-2100.  These are average numbers and should be in the ballpark if your body size and activity levels are average.


You can also get a quick idea of your calorie need by doing a little bit of math.  For fat loss you want to shoot for 10-12 calories per pound of bodyweight while maintenance is in the 14-16 calories per pound range.  Your activity level will determine which number that you use.  If you are lightly active you would use the lower number, moderately active the middle number, and the higher number for very active.

If you're one of those people that want to get a very accurate estimate of your calorie needs and maintenance levels you can use the Harris-Benedict formula that utilizes your basal metabolic rate (BMR) or the Katch-Mcardle formula which incorporates your body fat percentage and lean body mass.  I won't bore you with the complex details but you can click on this link for additional information.

So as you are putting together your game plan for your "lifestyle change" take your caloric requirements into consideration to ensure that you are staying on target.


Elite Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Mountain Climber / Mountain Jumper

Although mountain climber exercises were common in old school gym classes and track and field practices, many people dismiss the exercise as just extra work.  When performed properly, the mountain climber can serve as an excellent dynamic stretching exercise, warm-up, and even cardio.  The mountain climber can be performed as pictured above with and alternating lunge type pattern, or even by basically running in place with your hands on the ground depending on the training effect that you are targeting.  The mountain jumper is another alternative similar exercise that adds an additional focus on the abdominals.


Target:  abs, legs (rectus abdominis, hamstrings)

Count:  2

Description:  For the mountain climber, begin with your hands on the ground and one foot forward with the knee close to the chest.  Jump your hips up to allow you to change positions with the alternate leg.  The mountain jumper is basically a squat thrust, without the squat.  Go from a pushup position and jump your feet forward with your knees near your chest.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Which is exactly what my intension has been with the website, podcast, YouTube channel, Facebook group, and pretty much everything that I've done under the TODAY! Fitness umbrella.  Since I don't have to rely on my personal training as my primary source of income, I get to focus my efforts on helping people by trying to provide useful information that can help them to better their workouts and exceed their goals.  There's something to be said for the satisfaction that you get from doing what you love to do : )

I know that many of you may not find this as interesting as me, but since it's my newsletter, I figured there's nothing you can do about it (except unsubscribe) so I'll take the time to give you a quick overview on the TF Stats to date ; ) 

I created at the end of 2005 and began The Day After Yesterday eNewsletter in January 2006. For the website, the average hits per month were over 128,000 in May with around 10,000 visits (4,100 hits per day, 312 visits per day).  It's funny when I look at what people are searching for when they happen upon the site.  The top 5 strings have to do with the homemade fitness equipment with chin-up bar, suspension straps, and kettlebells being the most searched.  And after all that effort that I put into the exercises : (  Email distribution of the monthly eNewsletter is roughly 350 peeps in addition to anyone who hits the page directly from the website. 

I only started the TODAY! Fitness Facebook group a few months ago, but we have roughly 50 members to date and membership has steadily been increasing.  Next step it to get some open dialog on the group for more blog type discussions.

I currently have 14 videos posted on YouTube under the user name TodayFitness and I try to add one or two every month.  The TodayFitness channel has over 30 YouTube subscribers and adding more each week.  The Ab Circuit video that I posted up there has over 1,500 views in the past year.

The TODAY! Fitness video podcast that I recently posted on iTunes a few months ago has been impressive.  It's amazing how much larger the audience gets with this media channel.  Looks like the podcast generated over 7,000 hits in May, although I still haven't been able to determine the number of subscribers.  Video content is similar to the YouTube channel, but the audience is HUGE!

Anyhow, that's my update on the latest from TODAY! Fitness.  Part of the reason for this is to give you a heads up about the other content that I have out there in addition to the eNewsletter.  As always, your comments, questions, feedback, and suggestions are appreciated... so keep the emails coming.  Thanks for your support!

It's Tornado Season

Well, judging by the comments and searches that have been performed on my website and videos, there's apparently a decent number of people that are interested in my homemade fitness equipment articles.  It just goes to show that you don't have to dump a lot of money into building a gym or purchasing fancy equipment.  Given this level of interest, I figured I'd take this opportunity to show you my latest creations that is super easy to make.

If you look in some of the fitness supply catalogs that sell functional training equipment, you might have seen an item called a "tornado ball", "slam ball" or "rope ball".  This is basically a medicine ball with a rope that runs through it and is very useful for core training.  Using a tornado ball you can perform standing rotational slams with your back against a brick wall, overhead chops, or russian twists as I am demonstrating below.

However, this equipment in the catalogs can run over $100 for a good size ball.  I found some plans on the internet that were super easy... here's what you'll need:

  • a sturdy medicine ball (your choice of weight)

  • a basketball net (~ $3)

  • a shoelace

  • a short piece of rope or strap thick enough to hold onto (handle)

  • some duct tape

And here's what you do:

  • Take the basketball net out of the package and lay it out.

  • Weave the shoelace in and out of the short loops at the one end of the net.

  • Pull the shoelace tight and tie a couple knots in it, clipping off the loose ends. 

  • Although not really necessary, I like to grab the loops of the other end in bunches of 3 and use a little duct tape to bind them together about 1.5" from the top. 

    This makes it easier when you thread your rope or strap through which is the final step after you put the ball in. 

  • That's it... swing away! 

* Disclaimer:  TODAY! Fitness does not assume any responsibility for loss or damages if you are over anxious and decide to test this out against the drywall in your house... and no, I didn't learn that lesson by accident ; )

It's Go Time!

O-oh say can you see.. that your pants are too tight?  Don't believe that you've failed.. with success you'

Ok... my sad attempt at an independence day jingle... but you get the point!  You haven't failed until you quit trying!  It's easy to give up, to make excuses.  I'm too old, I don't have time, when the kids are back to school, when the kids are out of school, I need to by this really cool fitness gadget, I need to join a gym first... please, check the excuses at the door.  Whether you are trying to convince someone else, or yourself, there is really nothing productive to come from them.  Rather than focusing your energy with coming up with a believable excuse, put your mind to coming up with an effective action plan.  (see the quote of the week below ; )

Reminder for my local readers that are athletes or parents of athletes... our FREE pre-season boot camp is scheduled to begin on Saturday, July 11th in Bear, Delaware.  For more information or to register online, visit the following link .  

For prior issues of this newsletter go to  

Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT

"Make Time, Not Excuses"

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