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     The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2011 issue 11



Product Review:  BWC USA

I've been a big fan of suspension training for the past few years.  Gymnastic rings, Blast Straps, TRX... there are quite a few options on the market nowadays that will allow you to perform any of the countless exercises that suspension training provides (suspended pushups and inverted rows being among my favorites).  However, for those of you that know me, or have been reading my newsletter, my first impulse when looking at purchasing a piece of equipment is the "I can make that" thought. 

Much of the suspension equipment out there is overpriced in my opinion.  I did an article back in 2009 about how I made my Do-It-Yourself Blast Straps.  Which are a personal favorite of mine (over the TRX design) due to the independent arm movement.  The only drawback that I have with the blast straps, or any of the other adjustable suspension straps, is the need to adjust them.  This can slow things down when working with multiple people and I have actually made multiple sets of blast straps just because of this.

I have been subscribed to for a few years now and they have gotten more and more attention lately regarding their version of a suspension training device called the USA (Universal Strength Apparatus).

As you can see from the picture, the USA has a series of rungs like a mini ladder.  This allows you to rapidly switch positions, level, and resistance simply by grabbing a different rung of the ladder.  A very simple yet practical solution to my biggest complaint.  The USA handles are designed to rotate freely which allows for less friction on the skin, yet forcing fingers, wrists and forearms to work harder than on a stabilized bar. The unique design of the USA also allows for it to be used in a non-suspended manner for both isometric and resisted exercises as you fight your own body force. 

I've actually made my own agility ladder before and it was no picnic... a lot of work involved with all the rope threading through the PVC and knot tying.  In looking at this design, the measuring involved, and the stability that I would want the finish product to have... I thought that the purchase of the USA was justified. is running a special currently for $79 (+shipping) and it comes with 3 DVDs (over 3 hours worth of exercises), 2 door anchors, 4 spring clips, 2 foot straps, and a mini zipper duffle... not a bad deal when compared to the competition.  I just received mine a week or so ago and I do not regret it!

There are certain advantages to the USA versus the competition:

  • The USA can be climbed!  Climbing this thing w/o using your feet (you can put your feet behind you or in front of you while climbing) is a really great exercise.  Just start on your butt and grab rung after rung. When two USA apparatuses are attached to one another in series you get a total length of about 16 feet and 24 steps. That's a lot of climbing fun!
  • No adjustments necessary. Beginners can do exercises (ie. pushups) starting with higher rungs on the ladder. As strength builds you can start going to lower rungs to make the exercise harder. All positions (Easy/Moderate/Hard) are readily available w/o any need for adjustment. BIG plus.
  • With a novice client, most are unable to do chinups or a pullups. The USA allows them to utilize leg assistance while pulling up on the higher rungs or a bar the USA is attached to. They can control how much leg assistance they want.
  • Like rings, the USA is portable and anything that can be done on rings can be done using the USA.
  • You can do Isometric training with the USA. 

There are Two "Mastering the Basics" DVD's included with the USA. The first disc demonstrate a variety of exercises for different muscle groups. There are exercises for the Chest, Back, Arms, Shoulders, Legs and Core. Each exercise is demonstrated and explained exactly to which part of the muscle group it targets. For example, lower part of the chest or posterior parts of the shoulders. Disk one also contains a variety of exercises specific only to the Universal Strength Apparatus. Those exercises are muscle vs muscle dynamic resistance exercises and quantum static isometric resistance exercises. A large variety of exercises is shown in each section.  Disk two demonstrates the training routines. You can choose a routine for conditioning that hits the whole body in one workout or split routines.  There is also a promotion for you to choose an additional DVD from the BWC selections at the time of purchase... not a bad deal!

USA is a MUST HAVE for people on the Go!  It's like having a GYM with you at all times that weighs less than 5lbs!  Click here to view the USA page on the BWC site, or if you are interested in ordering your own.

Thin Does Not Always Mean Healthy

I hear comments all the time about being able to eat whatever I want just because I'm in shape and workout all the time.  That is simply not the case.  I'll be fighting the battle with high blood pressure and cholesterol for the rest of my life due to the family history.  Sure, exercise and eating right help... but that's no reason to bypass regular doctor visits to keep tabs on these things.  So rather than judging a book by it's cover... I found this interesting article in my latest edition of the IDEA Fitness Journal...


Individuals with a thin physical appearance take heed:  Health is much more than skin deep.  A study done at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England, discovered that some individuals who appear to have low body fat may actually be at high risk for health problems.  The study is published in Nature Genetics (2011; 43, 753-60).


The scientists analyzed the genetic code of more than 75,000 people to single out genes associated with lower body fat percentage.  They located a gene - IRS1 - that seemed to be linked with lower subcutaneous body fat.  However, individuals possessing this gene also had higher levels of blood glucose and cholesterol, as well as visceral body fat.  The authors posit that this is evidence that individuals with the specific variation of the gene store fat differently than those without the variation.


"People, particularly men, with a specific form of the gene are more likely to be lean and to develop heart disease and type 2 diabetes," warned the study authors in a press release.  "In simple terms, it is not only overweight individuals who can be predisposed to these metabolic diseases, and lean individuals shouldn't make assumptions that they are healthy based on their appearance." 


The authors added that these findings underscore the importance of engaging in healthy lifestyle activities, regardless of one's physical appearance.

- IDEA Fitness Journal - Oct. 2011


Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Deep Prayer Squat


Here's another exercise that I recently became reacquainted with thanks to the P90X DVDs.  I like the deep prayer squat due to the simplicity of the exercise while providing good targets for my clients to aim for in order to keep their form in line.  The exercise itself is not very difficult, so I like to do sets of 50 or more repetitions.  Additional resistance can be added by wearing a weighted vest such as the 40 lb one that I have on in the picture above.


Target:  legs and butt (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals)

Count:  2 count

Description:  Start from a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart and toes turned slightly outward.  With your head up and back straight, squat down and place your palms together while touching your elbows to the top or inside of your knees (this requires you to push your butt backwards).  Stand back up while raising your hands up in a Y position.  Repeat for high repetitions.

Dynamic Better for Pre-Run Stretching

I've read more and more about the growing change in opinion regarding the age old practice of stretching before running... or before many other forms of exercise for that matter.  I'm sure that most of us grew up touching our toes, doing the hurdler stretch, or other examples of the standard stretching that was so commonplace.  However, there have been quite a few articles published lately regarding the belief about the need to warm-up prior to stretching, as well as the preference towards "dynamic stretching" (flexibility during sport specific movement; aka ballistic) over "static stretching" (slow, constant stretch involving hold of the end position).  The following is one such article that elaborates on this growing belief trend...

Here's another entry in a growing list of studies that suggest that pre-exercise static stretching may hamper athletic performance.  This current study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2010; 24 [9], 2274-79), included 10 male collegiate athletes who participated in a 60-minute treadmill run on two occasions.  One run took place after 16 minutes of static stretching of the major lower-body muscles; before the other run, participants simply sat quietly for 16 minutes.  Subjects were then instructed to run for as long as possible without any knowledge of distance or speed.  The study authors found that "performance was significantly greater in the nonstretching vs. the stretching condition, with significantly greater energy expenditure during the stretching compared withh the nonstetching condition."

Why does pre-run stretching hinder performance?  "When you stretch prior to exercise (or when you're not warmed up), you stimulate the 'protective mechanisms' within the muscle," states Jason Siegler, PhD, ATC, FACSM, professor in the department of sport, health and exercise science at the University of Hull in England.  "Depending on the level of the stretch, you override the [muscle] spindles and probably also inhibit some of the afferent neural pathways to the brain."

In lieu of static stretching, personal trainer and running coach Meghan Kennihan of Chicago suggests incorporating dynamic stretching techniques into a pre-run routine.  "With dynamic stretching you combine the stretch and warm-up."  Kennihan suggests the following sample exercises to help your clients prep for the long run"

  • walking lunge

  • high-knee running
  • butt kickers
  • carioca/side shuffle
  • straight-leg march
  • leg swings

-ref.  IDEA Fitness Journal, January 2011

It's Go Time!

Shhhh... what's that?  I heard something.  Go run downstairs and see what it is!  What do you mean there is nothing there?  Go run downstairs and check again... and while you're at it, throw in a set of burpees with those stair-intervals!  The scary thing is that it's as simple as that folks... the next thing you know, you're working out!  It doesn't take much to get a workout in... just some motivation to go do it!  Now the motivation part can be tricky, I know.  We don't always have the halloweenys ringing the doorbell to make us get off the couch or zombie's chasing us down the street.  Zombie's chasing us down the street... now there's a thought.  From what I can tell, zombies aren't all that into cardio... or flexibility for that matter.  They're always lunging around, stiff legged and gasping for air.  Seriously, I don't think I can help you much if you're worried about a foot race with one of these guys!

I've been lucky so far... my daughter actually isn't all that into Halloween candy.  Sure, she'll have a few pieces of something... but most of it sticks around until the following Halloween!  I guess we set a good example in the house or something... or my daughter is just unusual J  At any rate, everything in moderation!  A piece here and there isn't going to kill you, but don't get out of hand!  Oh yeah... one more thing... candy corn is NOT a vegetable according to the food guide pyramid!  Have a safe and Happy...


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Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT


“My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better.” - Steve Jobs


youtube of the month --> Universal Strength Apparatus
DVD promo for the Mastering the Basics DVD that comes with the Universal Strength Apparatus (USA). | Personal Training | News | Tips & Tools | Fitness Stuff




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