50 squats

Everyday, my personal training clients know what to do to warm up:
50 shoulder dislocations and 50 full ROM (range of motion) squats.

It’s simple and efficient, gets the body warm, stretches and strengthens tissues, and gets the nervous system ready for action…hoo-rah!!

Invariably, I explain to new clients the reason behind my technique to warm up with squats, instead of a treadmill:
“As you squat 50 times, your muscle fibres and soft tissues get warm. This creates mobility in your joints, as your tissues stretch and relax. This improves pliability in your lower body and increases strength endurance, making you a winner 😉

I know that sounds a bit extreme, having a protocol for EVERYONE to follow, but the reason is simple…in real life, everyone squats!!

‘Squat’ is just a pretty word for standing and sitting…think car, chair, toilet, or ground.

So here is the perfect squat:

Start from a seated position in a chair. Stand up, keeping your chest up, eyes forward, then sit back down, reaching back with your hips…that’s it. Don’t cheat by using your hands, instead, tighten your abs and keep your toes light, as you stand through your heels.

Bonus points:
Externally rotate your hips to grip the floor with your feet.
Keep your knees pressed out to the side throughout the entire range of motion.
Get rid of the chair and squat all the way down, so your hamstrings reach the top of your calves, thus demonstrating your epic ankle flexibility and full range of motion!!

The inevitable question I’m asked next is: “Why 50?”

My answer:

“50 repetitions is enough to get you warm, and develop your strength for basic human activities.” This sub-communicates that if you can do 50 squats, you are increasing the probability you will never fall prey to life in a wheel chair, while simultaneously expressing your capacity to do more strenuous exercise.

Therefore, if my client is able to do 50 squats, he can probably handle a bit more than his de-conditioned, lethargic, human contemporaries, who don’t ever step into a gym…ooops!

If my client cannot perform 50 squats, no problem…that shows they were wise to hire me as their trainer!!

Most people I know exercise three times a week, and I would ask them to do 5 sets of ten squats with perfect form (as described above), making sure they squat at least parallel to the floor.

I would ask them to perform ten reps at first, rest about 1 min, then repeat 4 times, totalling 50 squats.

If the person struggles, I would ask them to perform as many as they could for five sets, again resting one minute after each set, then repeating four times. This person now has as a goal to match that number or beat it until they can hit five sets of ten.

In the case the client can do 5 sets of 10 without a problem, next time there will not be a chair to sit on. I will ask the client to perform the same routine, now squatting below parallel, and eventually right to the floor, as I help them improve their range on motion.

The next goal is two sets of 25 repetitions. Then, finally one set of 50!!

At that point, my clients are looking good, and I add variety, in terms of different squat variations or use of external loading, like barbells or dumbbells.

Happy squatting!!


SummerMany, many moons ago, when I started my career in fitness, summer would come and I would be desperate.

My personal training appointments would diminish, my class attendance would decrease and I would start thinking that something was wrong with me, that my classes were not as good as I thought and so on.

After a while I grew up, I guess, and realized that I am not that important. The attendance in classes and decrease in appointments were just facts of life. Summer starts, people are tired of being inside, they go on vacations, and they are more active during the weekends. Their schedules and priorities simply change.

If you are like many of my clients, your schedule changes during the summer and you want to enjoy the warm weather, without losing the progress that you have worked so hard to achieve. Well, here are some thoughts on health and well being.

Being born and raised in Brazil has its advantages when the subject is hot weather. In my 20’s I spent many summers going to the beach every weekend and playing beach volleyball. One of the first things that I learned is that sun exposure is best early in the morning or at the end of the afternoon.

Who taught me that?

Beach locals, people born and raised by the beach, who where used to seeing a lot of bad sun burns and other nightmare summer stories every year.

After a few weeks going to the same beach, and getting familiar with the locals they invited me to come back, and play beach volleyball with them the next day.

Since I didn’t know better, I asked: “Is 2 pm good for you?”

Their answer: “No, that’s for tourists! You go to the beach before 10 am or after 4pm, otherwise the sun is too intense, the sand will burn your feet and you will get too tired after playing only 2 games”.

They where spot on. I followed their advice and have never had any major problem with sun exposure.

So what other lessons did I learn then that I still follow now?

– Sunscreen. Use it, lots of it and reapply. I prefer sunscreen specific for sports, because you can perspire and get wet and they still are effective. As a rule of thumb I tend to reapply sunscreen every 2h and the whiter you are, more protection you need (higher the SPF should be).

– Hydrate and then hydrate more! During my beach volleyball days I used to get a 2 litre bottle of water and freeze it overnight. Next day I had a bottle of ice that I would bring with me, let it slowly melt under the shade and have cold water to drink in between games. Later on, I would drink fresh coconut water on my way home and then a pitcher of filtered water. Yes, it seems to be a lot of liquid but I was perspiring most of it away. Do the same: if you are active outside during summer, hydrate before, during and after.

– Barbecue. At the end of summer, one week after the tourists had left, we would get together, locals and adopted ones like me, and throw a party. Since I never liked beer and the food was pretty much leafy greens and chunks of barbecued meat, my experience was quite healthy. If you love to barbecue keep it simple. Leave the barbecue sauces alone (they are full of sugar and bad fats), have some high quality meat, eat some fat, just don’t overeat it, make sure that you start your meal with a big plate of green leafy veggies and don’t add 5lbs of nuts and cheese to your salad or use some creamy dressing on it. As for desert: this is the best time of the year to eat local fruit!

Here we go: a few things that you can do to take advantage of your summer. Have fun, and look, feel and perform better.



“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must move faster than the lion or it will not survive. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must move faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn’t matter if you are a lion or a gazelle—when the sun comes up, you’d better be moving.”

—African proverb, as quoted by Maurice Greene (five-time world champion, four-time Olympic medalist, former fastest man in the world)

Movement is not a matter of survival only for gazelles and lions; it’s also a matter of survival for humans. It’s the pump for life, it’s what makes us keep going—and I’m not talking in metaphors here. When we move, blood and lymph circulate, nutrients are delivered to our cells, waste products are cleared away, digestion improves and so on.

Keep in mind that I don’t mean exercise, weights or cardio specifically. Rather, I mean movement in general—from a boy playing with his toy truck to octogenarians doing tai chi. There are various forms of movement: from ballet to power lifting, from swimming to rock climbing, from yoga to Judo. They are all valid, and they all have their pros and cons.

Here’s a way to classify movement:

1. Things we like: These movements should make up the bulk of our activities, for various reasons—but especially because the sense of joy and accomplishment they bring us encourages us to do more of these activities, and helps us avoid getting frustrated and giving up. If you ask a swimmer to dance, you will understand the importance of this kind of passion!

2. Things we dislike: These movements should be done from time to time, because we can bring balance to our bodies by trying different challenges and working on weaknesses.

3. Things we need to do: These movements are normally generated by doing too much of #1, or by not moving enough in general. Do you feel like stretching? How is your back today?

4. Things that we should be doing: These are movements we do to avoid getting stuck with #3. What about going for a bike ride for a change? Hot Yoga?

Yes my dear, move. As simple as it sounds it is quite effective. Move frequently do the thinks that you like and dislike as well as all in between and you will be able to move much better and much longer.

Weights vs. Cardio vs. Yoga

confusion1When we check out the media outlets, we see a lot of conflicting information about fitness. One day, Pilates is the cure for potbellies. Sagging bums are dealt with Yoga. Weight loss? Hot Yoga. Weight training for muscle tone, running for stress reduction and whatever is “in” at the time, whatever bias the person presenting the idea has or whatever is being sold at the publication/media outlet. And they always have willing experts giving their expert ideas that will back up whatever the writer is trying to convey.

So, let me give you my not-asked-for opinion about a few of those common myths:

Weights will make you bulky and look masculine.

Very few people actually can bulk up that easily doing weights. When you see people that have a higher degree of muscle development, it means that they’ve been working out for years, eating in a certain way and/or have the right genes for that look, in the same way that some people have the genes to be tall, exercising or not.

That misconception makes people have negaive prejudices towards weight training, thinking that they will get big fast or get too big.

Weights, when done properly, will help to shape and harden your body, burn more calories from fat and improve posture; without necessarily adding muscle, making whatever muscle mother nature gave to you to be pumped and toned, instead of sad and saggy.

Yoga will give you a nice round butt.

I could just go on and on, about the fact that there are many types of Yoga, how old this practice is and so on. Therefore making a blanket statement like this is, at the very least, inaccurate. In my opinion you should do Yoga because it can be calming, because you want variety or because you like it.

But any person that knows something about Biomechanics and exercise, or even better, anyone that makes a living out of getting results will say the same thing: if you want a beautiful lower body, nothing is better than squats, lunges and deadlifts!

Pilates will flatten your stomach.

I am sorry if I am biased on this one as I am a Pilates instructor.

The great thing about Pilates is that it makes you consciously engage your breath, abdominals and pelvic floor, therefore making all layers of your abdominal wall work together and get stronger and tighter. The tighter the abdominals, the smaller the belly.

The problem is that there are other factors that make a person to have a potbelly -everything from food sensitivities to hormonal unbalances and if they go unresolved, they will limit the results from a good exercise program.

So do it, but don’t have all your eggs in only one basket.

Cardio will make you thin.

Not necessarily. Cardio will definitely help you loose weight and that weight is not by default fat; it can be water or muscle, and loosing muscle is just a faster way to produce fat.

What cardio will definitely do is raise your cortisol levels, as it is a stressor to your body and extra cortisol means more fat production and storage. Therefore, even though cardio can be a very good toll to help with weight loss, it must be used properly in order to help you to go forward instead of creating frustration.

All these modalities have their benefits and disadvantages and instead of thinking that one is better than another, you should think more about integrating these modalities, in order to get whatever results you are looking for. So, forget about weights vs. yoga vs. cardio. Start thinking about weights + yoga + cardio and enjoy the benefits.

5 simple things to look like a goddess

Venus-de-MiloThis is a cheesy title, but I got your attention, therefore it works…

Yes, there are many things that can make you look better, but in a nutshell there are few things that are truly effective and the rest is just icing on the cake.

1 – Stand up straight. So simple and so effective! Do you want to look good? Work against gravity. Do this little test: stand sideways and close to a mirror. Now arch your back, relax your abs and let the shoulders drop forward naturally. Keep this posture and turn your head to look in the mirror. You will see your breasts sagging and your belly pushed out. Now, look to the horizon stand up and tall, chest and shoulders wide and look again: the belly goes in and the boobs go up. That is how you should always look as you walk trough your day.

2 – Eat. Eat only real food: nothing processed, no sugars, no GMO, high quality organic vegetables, grass fed beef, wild fish etc, etc, etc. The quality of your digestion improves, you absorb more nutrients, you feel better, and your skin and hair are properly nourished.

3 – Drink. Drink a lot, drink a lot of water. Not all that canned and bottled stuff that makes you fat or fries your brain, no soda, juices, energy drinks or magical concoctions. Drink 1 litre (4 cups) for each 50lbs of body weight. I know that it seems a lot but if you have a glass every hour you will end up drinking 3 litres in 12 hours without making your bladder explode.

4 – Lift heavy stuff. That will make your body tighten, help with posture, improve hormonal profile, make you feel good and the list goes on.

5 – Sleep. 8 hours a night of deep sleep is what we were made for. A few people can live with less and that is the exception, not the rule. Most people are causing havoc in their adrenal glands for lack of recovery; destroying their physiques by pushing too hard for too long and not de-stressing enough. Don’t watch TV in bed, turn off all the lights, and turn your bedroom in a cave: pitch black, slightly cold, silent. Buy the best mattress that you can afford, as well the best blankets and bed linens. Do that, and take the years off your appearance!

Three steps to the perfect legs, thighs and bum!

Over and over, I always repeat: size doesn’t matter as much as hardness.Talita Rocha of Brazil adjusts her swimsuit during her women's beach volleyball bronze medal match against China at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

Women often complain about the size of their thighs, calves and bums—but they forget that it’s better to have a J-Lo behind than a Jell-O bum.

The size of your muscles is largely genetically determined, and we can’t do much about it. But the firmness of those muscles is definitely something we can work on.

Here are three ways to attain a hard lower body:

1. Deadlift. A scary name for something that is nothing more than picking stuff up off the floor—lifting dead weight. If you’ve ever moved, you’ve picked things up; if you’ve played with small children, you have deadlifted. You have deadlifted many times and you didn’t even know it! Some exercise professionals call it the King of Exercises, as it makes most muscles in your body work while giving you a stronger back, improved posture and rock-hard glutes and hamstrings.

2. Squat. Another fancy name for something simple: sitting. Squats are great overall lower-body exercises. These days, it seems that it’s much cooler to talk about how many squats you can do than to talk about how many pounds you can hold while sitting down and standing up again. But combining squares with deadlifts is the best way to recruit your abdominals. In other words—as a side-effect to lifting your bum, these types of squats will tighten your abs!

3. Lunge. Because we don’t spend our lives doing everything on two feet, muscle imbalances develop between our legs. Lunges help to add variety to your workout—and they give you prettier legs and a healthier body. As you throw all the weight on one leg only, you not only challenge that leg, you also test your balance, mobilize your hips in opposite directions, and activate your deep abdominal wall. It’s quite simple: walking using long, deep steps will help your legs look their best.

Now, go to the gym!  Have fun, cover the basics and look great in a bikini.

Lift for life

08 - senior_fitnessI have never heard a woman say that her bum is too hard, or heard a man complain that his biceps are too big. I think it would be easier to find someone that has been abducted by aliens than find one of these people!

Yes, to a certain degree we all are vain—and, personally, I have no problem looking good in a pair of jeans or a short-sleeved shirt. Vanity can be a great tool to help us move forward, and it should be embraced—to a certain point.

There are the excessive narcissists, like one of my co-workers. When asked if he had ever met a mirror he didn’t like, he answered with a flat “NO.” And there are fitness competitors who go to the extreme in order to accomplish a certain aesthetic ideal—maximal muscularity with minimal body fat. In reality, these bodybuilders aren’t that different from anorexic model wannabes.

Without going that far, a healthy level of narcissism should be an option for us all. But how does one achieve a body worth flaunting? First, to what degree is lifting weights important, and second, how far is too far in terms of muscularity?

Two simple questions, with not-so simple answers.

1. If you take into consideration only function, the answer to the first question is simple: nature kills the weak! The less muscle mass and strength you have, the more you’ll be prone to accidents, the more susceptible to disease you’ll be, and the more weak and vulnerable you’ll be when you’re older.

2. For the second question, the answer might appear to be “the more the better.” In theory, more muscle and strength should equal a better lifestyle.

But we don’t do things only as a matter of functionality—and if I started telling my female clients that they should be as muscular as possible, I’d be out of business faster than Betamax!

Even though weight lifting makes life more enjoyable in the long term (who doesn’t want to be strong and self-sufficient in their old age?), there is more to life than lifting weights.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that form and function should always go hand in hand—and that obsessing about your muscles is as bad as neglecting them.

Don’t fixate on your muscles—but lift, and lift heavy. In order to feel good, to look good and to get more out of your life, either as an older person or as a person wearing jeans and a T-shirt—but hopefully as an older person wearing jeans and T-shirt!

How to become a star!

07 - baby_rock_starIn my business, everybody has their star clients and their miracle cases. I have them too, but most of the time I’m dealing with the Average Joe or Jane—people that don’t have movie-star looks, lifestyles or bank accounts!

One of my favourite Average Jane success stories is the one about my client who lost 30 pounds and got a hard body after her second child was born.

Jane gave birth to her baby boy and took her maternity leave. Three months after the delivery, her doctor gave her the green light to start exercising again.

Every morning—after eating a real breakfast, feeding her child and arranging child care for her kids—she would go to the gym. Twice a week, she would train with me, lifting weights. Twice a week, she would take a spinning class. One or two days a week, it would be a dance, Pilates, or yoga class, or something else that Jane found fun.

Month in, month out, that’s precisely what she did.

In the beginning, she struggled. I talked with her about having a positive attitude, and told her that with patience, she could achieve everything she wished for. It was only a matter of consistency and time.

Jane wasn’t one of those people with blessed genes who can live on ice cream and pasta and still have a great figure. She knew that, and she worked hard to get the body she wanted, by working out and by planning and cooking meals.

Her nutrition plan was quite simple: no sweets or alcohol on weekdays, minimal starch, tons of vegetables, some protein, a few healthy fats and at least three meals a day—no matter what.

The pounds went down and the butt went up!

After three months, we picked up our pace, and Jane started lifting weights three times a week. Every work out was as hard as she could handle—but there were no more complaints or whining about food. Jane kept smiling and drinking tons of water.

Three more months, and she reached her goal: to look better than before her pregnancy! How?

  • Jane had a target. She bought a pair of jeans one size smaller than the ones she was wearing before her pregnancy, and she decided that she would fit into them.
  • She hired a professional (me!) and took his advice.
  • She wasn’t scared of trying new things either in terms of exercise or food.
  • She understood that if she didn’t lift weights she would look like a pile of flaccid skin in those jeans.
  • She didn’t count calories, but she kept her diet was consistent, with nutritious, varied foods.
  • She drank water throughout out the day—lots of it!

Jane became a star client—not for me, but for herself. Not due to my effort, but due to her own.

You might not have the time or the resources that Jane did, but if you follow her lead by being consistent, devising a plan, and following simple, self-imposed rules…BINGO! Results will show up at your door. And you will shine more than ever!

You Are No Gerbil

01 - mangerbil“Run Forest run!”

Who doesn’t know this line?

Made popular during the 70’s, still strong today and showing no signs of going anywhere, running is one of the most popular forms of exercise for a few reasons:

1 – most people can do it

2 – not much equipment is needed

3 – can be done pretty much anywhere

4 – it gives you an instant feeling of accomplishment

5 – it gives you prompt results



It only works like this for a few people.

Let me speak to each one of the points above

1 – A couple of years ago I saw the finish of the Toronto marathon and even though I have to commend the finishers for their hard work, I couldn’t ignore the number of people that were not running, but fast limping!

Running is not just a matter of placing one foot ahead of the other. Gait, muscle imbalances and proper form should all be addressed before someone takes up this sport. Like with any sport, technique is essential, and like any other form of physical activity, as soon as you lose perfect form in the execution of the movement, you defeat its purpose.

2 – Footwear varies in price, and the choice is determined by the distance that you are running.  You should be buying at least 4 pairs a year. Heart rate monitors go from simple ones that only read heart rate and show time, to wrist computers that can generate graphs and have gps, therefore you can pay as much or as little as you want. Remember that the type and quality of your gear should match the type of training that you are doing (distance, level of competitiveness, level of coaching). Therefore running a 5k wearing jeans and boots is doable but not really wise.

3 – In the treadmill era, it is hard to disagree with that and for the people that are more into outdoor running, there are various options depending where you live.

4 – Well, going from point A to point B or doing X minutes of running are concrete and measurable goals and that is great for our egos. But as important as that is, the release of endorphins and adrenalin have their downside. They can put us in a trance-like state, which on one hand is pure joy, and on the other hand can be addictive on its own. The runner may like that feeling so much, that the fact that the body is screaming for a bit of rest every once in a while may be ignored.

5 – That is a bit of a myth. You actually don’t really change body composition during exercise; your body uses exercise as a form of stimulus that will end up promoting the change. Even though you are burning those calories during your run, what you do between runs is what really matters: how well you recover, what type of nutrition you have, your fluid intake, etc. All these factors will impair or create positive body changes.

All in all, if you are going to run or not, it is your call not mine.

If you want to do it, don’t over do it, have unrealistic expectations or do it for the wrong reasons.

If you choose to run, talk to someone that knows the sport – preferably a professional coach.  Get yourself evaluated biomechanically, define clear and attainable goals and respect your limitations.

Enjoy the challenge, the exercise and the results!

Eat More and Lose Weight

02 - vegetables“Eat more and loose weight”.

Yesterday I said that to my client and he looked at me as if I was speaking Klingon.

No, I am not crazy and that is exactly what I meant.

The human stomach can dilate to about 4 litres in volume, and that is quite a bit.

Unfortunately, there are still people talking about cutting calories and decreasing portions, without regards to food quality. That leads to the persistence of thinking that in order to loose weight one should starve. That just isn’t true.

Even worse: if you starve into leanness it will work short term but long term you will end up with more problems than in the beginning, as you will have selectively mal nourished your body, stayed in permanent starvation mode and turning yourself into a fat making and storing machine.

Have you even heard of metabolic damage?

It is exactly what it sounds: someone pushes his body to the extreme for so long that the person creates damages in the organs, tissues, glands and hormones. So deep that it takes a lot of work and sometimes professional help to get better, without any guarantees that the body will ever be able to process food and nutrients properly.

But that is the subject for another post.

Let’s go back to more food = a better you.

There is so much space in our stomachs and if your stomach can dilate to 4 liters and you have 3 litres of useless soda there you will not have much space for grass fed beef, sweet potato and greens salad.

It is mathematics, pure and simple.

Eat first the things that your body needs to help you look and feel better: green leafy vegetables, non-starchy veggies, lean animal protein. Then a bit of the things that are high in calories but helpful to you, like fatty fish and nuts. Then the stuff that you like, has some nutritional value and tastes good, like fruit.

After all that, you will not have much space for anything else, and you will be satisfied.  So the likeliness of you binging on high-caloric, low-nutrient junk will be sharply decreased.

In plain English: stuff yourself with good food and you won’t have much space for the junk.  You’ll end up looking and feeling great and you won’t starve!