Body Essence Personal Training

To All Fitness Enthusiasts,

Below is an interview that Men's Fitness recently conducted with me on the use of foam rolling during workouts.

1) There are a lot of guys that advocate foam rolling at the beginning of a workout, but the vast majority of advice out there says to foam roll afterward. Why, in your opinion, should guys do this before their workout?

Pre-Training: Strength & Performance

Being on either end of the continuum – “too tight” or “too loose” – can negatively affect both strength and performance. Tyson, 2002 describes an altered actin-myosin position as follows:

"At the ideal muscle length, the actin and myosin have the best capability to make contact and cause a muscular contraction. The shortened position doesn't allow the muscle to contract efficiently, and the fully elongated position doesn't allow the actin and myosin fibers to make enough contact to have a strong muscle contraction."

Before a set, foam rolling is used to adjust muscle tone/density accordingly – release the tight tissue and then it will contract more efficiently.

Post-Training: Hypertrophy

Using the foam roller as a method of fascial stretching can increase size, but the conditions must be right for this to occur. Basically, the muscles must be pumped for maximum effect. The pump contributes to muscle growth due to compartmental stretching induced by muscles filled with blood. This has a pre-stretch effect on the fascia so the rolling must occur after a set. To enhance the pump, consume a high calorie, nutrient dense diet to load more glycogen. Overfeeding increases IGF-1, testosterone and insulin, also contributing to hypertrophy.

2) Foam rolling legs can have a positive influence on the squat. Can upper-body foam rolling help your bench?

The Science

The triceps and pectoral muscles, two of the prominent muscles used during the bench press, are enervated by nerves which originate from the fifth cervical vertebrae (C5) to the first thoracic vertebrae (T1). If these vertebrae are out of alignment, strength will be affected.

Decreasing the nerve supply to muscles will reduce strength. In the book “Optimal Muscle Training” by Ken Kinakin, he states that compression of only 10-50 mmHg (about the weight of a dime on the back of your hand) of the nerves from the spine to the muscles can potentially decrease action potentials by up to 40%.

Also, we know that posture can affect strength. In neutral, the levers are very strong. Foam rolling using the technique listed below can help reposition misaligned vertebrae and improve a kyphotic (i.e., hunchback) posture to ultimately increase bench press strength.

The Technique

For the upper back, first roll the tissue then perform thoracic extensions over the roller. This simple method I picked up from strength coach and competitive powerlifter, Eric Cressey, will help to normalize an excessive kyphotic curve (i.e. help to reverse that hunchback syndrome) and improve mobility. Trust me, your shoulder joints will appreciate this over time – improving your posture will improve mechanics and thus decrease unnecessary wear-and-tear on the joints.

Lie supine (face up) on a roller and roll back and forth from the middle of your back to the base of your neck. To improve the effectiveness of rolling the thoracic spine, you want to get the scapula out of the way by hugging yourself. After about 10 passes or so, position the roller under your midback and drop your butt to the ground. Interlock your fingers behind your head and pull the elbows together. Now perform thoracic extensions by pushing your head back toward the floor and sticking your chest out in the process. Pause at the bottom. Do 2 or 3 repetitions then slide the roller up one vertebrae and repeat.

3) We've got a textbook definition of what foam rolling does to the muscle and fascia. Can you put it in layman's terms for someone who's never heard of this? Foam rolling does what, exactly?

Consider it as a “poor man’s massage” – an inexpensive and convenient method to break down knots, adhesions, and scar tissue that accumulate over time. Foam rolling can help to improve soft tissue quality, range of motion and overall performance. As strength and conditioning coach, Mike Boyle, puts it: “Think of foam rolling as ironing for the muscles, a necessary precursor to stretching.”

4) You said in your article that foam rolling directly before a workout can increase strength by three percent. Where did you get the figure?

Specifically, lying (not rolling) on a foam roller – referred to as a spine roller by physiotherapists – lengthwise along the spine to restore normal spinal curvatures. Done for 15-20 minutes before a workout it will help to decompress the spine and open up the intervertebral spaces. According to Olympic strength and conditioning coach, Charles Poliquin, strength can increase by as much as 3% with this technique alone.

Click here for more foam roller tips.

Yours in Health & Fitness,

John Paul Catanzaro

Onions Absorb Bacteria

Here is an interesting article on onions that was sent to me by a client. Apparently, this piece is circulating around the internet. Whether it is true or simply an urban legend, you be the judge!

  In 1919 when the flu killed 40 million people, there was a doctor that visited the farmers to see if he could help them combat the flu. Many of the farmers and their families had contracted it, and many died.

The doctor came upon this one farmer and to his surprise, everyone was very healthy. When the doctor asked what the farmer was doing that was different, the wife replied that she had placed an unpeeled onion in a dish in the rooms of the home (probably only two rooms back then). The doctor couldn't believe it and asked if he could have one of the onions to place under the microscope. She gave him one, and sure enough he did find the flu virus in the onion. It obviously absorbed the bacteria, therefore keeping the family healthy.

Now, I heard this story from my hairdresser. She said that several years ago, many of her employees were coming down with the flu and so were many of her customers. The next year she placed several bowls with onions around her shop. To her surprise, none of her staff got sick. It must work. Try it and see what happens. We did it last year and we never got the flu.

Now there is a P.S. to this for I sent it to a friend in Oregon who regularly contributes material to me on health issues. She replied with this most interesting experience about onions: Thanks for the reminder.

I don't know about the farmer's story...but I do know that I contracted pneumonia, and, needless to say, I was very ill. I came across an article that said to cut both ends off an onion, put it into an empty jar, and place the jar next to the sick patient at night. It said that the onion would be black in the morning from the germs...sure enough it happened just like that...the onion was a mess and I began to feel better.

Another thing I read in the article was that onions and garlic placed around the room saved many from the black plague years ago. They have powerful antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

This is the other note. Lots of times when we have stomach problems we don't know what to blame. Maybe it's the onions that are to blame. Onions absorb bacteria is the reason they are so good at preventing us from getting colds and flu and is the very reason we shouldn't eat an onion that has been sitting for a time after it has been cut open.

Left-over onions are poisonous!

I had the wonderful privilege of touring Mullins Food Products, makers of mayonnaise. Questions about food poisoning came up, and I wanted to share what I learned from a chemist. Ed, who was our tour guide, is a food chemistry whiz. During the tour, someone asked if we really needed to worry about mayonnaise. People are always worried that mayonnaise will spoil. Ed's answer will surprise you. Ed said that all commercially-made mayo is completely safe. "It doesn't even have to be refrigerated. No harm in refrigerating it, but it's not really necessary." He explained that the pH in mayonnaise is set at a point that bacteria could not survive in that environment. He then talked about the summer picnic, with the bowl of potato salad sitting on the table, and how everyone blames the mayonnaise when someone gets sick.

Ed says that, when food poisoning is reported, the first thing the officials look for is when the 'victim' last ate onions and where those onions came from (in the potato salad?) Ed says it's not the mayonnaise (as long as it's not homemade mayo) that spoils in the outdoors. It's probably the onions, and if not the onions, it's the potatoes.

He explained onions are a huge magnet for bacteria, especially uncooked onions. You should never plan to keep a portion of a sliced onion. He says that it is not even safe to put it in your refrigerator in a zip-lock bag. It's already contaminated enough just by being cut open and out for a bit, that it can be a danger to you (and doubly watch out for those onions you put in your hotdogs at the baseball park!)

Ed says if you take the leftover onion and cook it like crazy you'll probably be okay, but if you slice that leftover onion and put it in your sandwich, you're asking for trouble. Both the onions and the moist potato in a potato salad, will attract and grow bacteria faster than any commercial mayonnaise could even begin to break down.

Also, dogs should never eat onions. Their stomachs cannot metabolize onions.

Please remember it is dangerous to cut an onion and try to use it to cook the next day, it becomes highly poisonous for even a single night and creates toxic bacteria, which may cause adverse stomach infections because of excess bile secretions and even food poisoning.

The Stick

The Stick is a revolutionary device used to segmentally compress and stretch muscle. It is highly effective in the treatment of muscle pain and trigger points.

The Stick provides the following benefits:

The Stick

  • Prevent and predict muscle injuries
  • Dramatically improve strength, flexibility & endurance
  • Rapidly prepare muscles for physical activity
  • Disperse the effects of lactic acid following activity
  • Accelerate muscle recovery
A tip I received from Dr. Mark Lindsay is to lightly roll The Stick up to three times a day to help loosen the fascial sleeve and promote circulation. It is unnecessary and counterproductive to go hard when rolling. As Dr. Lindsay puts it: "You're not trying to make hamburger out of the tissue!"


Click here for more information.


"Just imagine if we could solve the mystery of life sufficient to extend man's life expectancy to reach the century mark. What wonderful progress the human race would make in everything that is worthwhile. I believe the best tool we have of achieving that goal is barbell training and proper eating."
-- George Jowett, 1947

"Once a young fellow gets a barbell set and begins training, he's happy. He gets stronger, finds his legs have more spring to them and his friends comment on how splendid he looks. All is well in the world!"
-- Earle Leiderman, 1944

"Although it is presently shunned, I believe someday weight training will be used in all sports to improve performance."
-- Joe Weider, 1947

"Because I suffered a heart murmur I was told never to lift weights, but I didn't listen. I went on to be a strongman and today I'm still going strong while the doctors who advised me are long dead."
-- Dan Lurie, 1999

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