Safety Squat Bar

Post by Todd Fano

For the second instalment in my series on specialty bars we will look at the safety squat bar.

The unique forward facing handles allows people with restricted shoulder mobility to squat without pain.  This handle design is also beneficial to athletes who have a high rate of shoulder injuries. This would include swimmers, baseball pitchers and volleyball players just to name a few. Another unique feature of the bar is the cambered ends of the bar. The cambered ends shift the weight towards the front of the body, this gives the “feel” of a front squat. This forces the lifter to adopt a more vertical torso and therefore less hip flexion and possibly less knee strain. It also helps engage the anterior muscles of the abdominals.

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Trap Bar

Post by Todd Fano

The barbell is quite possibly the oldest, most versatile tool in any gym. It can be used for powerlifting, Olympic lifts, body building or just general strength training.  The unfortunate reality of it though, is that some people can’t use it for its vast be benefits.  Injuries or certain body types make using the standard barbell simply too awkward or time consuming for efficient training. 

So, what is one to do if they find themselves unable to use a traditional barbell, but still want the benefits of doing compound exercises?  The answer lies in specialty bars. So, just what are specialty bars?  Quite simply, they are bars that have been specifically designed to work around people’s physical limitations while still allowing them to train effectively and intensely.

This will be a three part series covering the three specialty bars that I use both personally and with clients.  We’ll begin the series with the trap/ hex bar.  The trap or hex bar was invented by powerlifter Al Gerard. He reportedly invented it when he injured is back but, still wanted to perform deadlifts.  The outer frame of the bar changes depending on the manufacturer.  Some are trapezoid, some diamond, some even square.  The one thing they all have in common though, is that the design allows the lifter to position themselves “inside the weight”.  This decrease pressure on the lower back.  The unique design of the bar also allows the lifter to perform a hybrid squat, deadlift motion.

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Go to Sleep!

Post by Todd Fano

 As a trainer people often ask me “what’s the best recovery tool”? Is it BCAA’S?  Cryo therapy?  Chocolate milk?  While all of these things are good for recovery they all pale in comparison to the best recovery tool ever……… sleep!

It’s pretty simple really - all of the advanced recovery tools in the world won’t do you an ounce of good unless you’re getting enough sleep.  So, why is sleep so important?  It has to do with something called the circadian rhythm.  The circadian rhythm is a 24 hr, internal, biological process that all living creatures on the planet go through.  It tells us when to eat, be active and when to sleep so we can recharge for the next waking cycle.  Basically, it tells us to shut it down for a few hours so the body can recover, repair and re-charge.  So, no matter how intense your training is, no matter how good your diet is -  it’s all lost if you’re not letting the body fully recover.  Think of it as only filling your gas tank halfway and then wondering why you run out of gas so quickly.


A study done with the Stanford university basketball team showed that with just 2 extra hours of sleep a night the players were able to improve their speed by 5% and their free throws by 9%.  No extra work or practices were done, they just got some extra zzzzz’s.  Some even reported to have lost some weight!

 So, what causes these improvements?  To answer that we have to look at what happens when you don’t get enough sleep.  When you are sleep deprived your body’s production of glycogen decreases.  Glycogen is your body’s main energy source, so, once again you’re only filling the gas tank halfway.  This, as you can imagine, will lead to a decrease in performance and an increase in fatigue.  Your body will also start to produce more cortisol, the hormone responsible for storing extra fat.  That’s a double whammy!  Not only are you too tired to properly train you’re also storing more fat.

Here are some pointers and tips for not only getting adequate hours of sleep, but to improve sleep quality (just as important) as well.

  1. Aim for 6-9 hrs. of sleep a night.

  2. Set a regular schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same times every day (yes that means weekends).

  3. Avoid liquids and caffeine at night.  Definitely stay away from alcohol.

  4. Try and keep your bedroom dark and cool.  The sleep cycle won’t start unless the body’s temperature has dropped.  The light will also disrupt the onset of the sleep cycle.  This means trying to eliminate all light from your room - we’re talking blackout.

  5. Try doing something calming and relaxing.  Try reading a book, meditation, breathing exercises, listen to a podcast or have a hot bath.

  6. Avoid TV or screen time at least 30 minutes before bed, ideally 1 hour before bed.  Technology close to bedtime negatively impacts two fold: 1. It revs up the electrical activity in our brain (the exact opposite of what we want at bedtime.  2. The light from these devices pass through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities) and delay the release of the sleep-inducing hormone - melatonin.

  So, whether you’re a college athlete looking to boost their performance,  someone looking to drop a few pounds or you’re simply sick and tired of being sick and tired.  All you have to do is shut off the lights, turn down the heat and relax.  Let nature’s recovery tool do all the work for you.



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Lateral Explosiveness

Hidesh Bhardwaj

If you play sports, chances are that being able to change directions and move side to side quickly and explosively is important.   Training athletes to help them become more explosive and agile is one of my favorite areas of training and one of the things I am best at.  Working with elite basketball and volleyball players for over 10 years have given me opportunities to try a lot of different exercises and figure out what is the most effective.  Here's a video of three of my favorite exercises to improve lateral explosiveness.  

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Setting Goals That Work

Post by Todd Fano

    As we roll into January and a New Year, people all over the world find themselves making the inevitable New Year’s resolution.  And by the time February comes around, most of them have already given up on them!  It would be easy to say that these people lack will discipline or motivation, but what many really lack is proper goal setting skills. 

    An effective tool for goal setting is to use the SMART method.  SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time framed.  It is commonly used in project management or human resources, but it is very effective for setting fitness goals as well. Its effectiveness is a result being able to use the criteria to set quality short term goals that lead you to a long term or “end” goal.  Here is a more detailed breakdown of the criteria.

Specific- The usual resolution goes something like this: “I’m going to lose my love handles”.  A specific goal would be “I’m going to reduce my percentage of body fat by 5%”.  This gives you a much more specific target to shoot at.  From here it would be advisable to get a body composition test. This test would tell you exactly how much of your body weight comes from fat, muscle and bone. This allows you to set a specific goal, say dropping your body from 25% body fat to 20% body fat.

Measurable-  “I want to improve my bench press”.  A measurable goal would be “I want to increase my bench press by 15 lbs.”.  To achieve this goal you would have to determine how much you can currently bench press which gives you a starting point.  You should then start a training journal to track how much weight you lift each session.  By having a baseline you can truly measure your progress.

Achievable-  “I going to go to the gym 5 days a week and run the other 2”.  A more achievable goal for most people starting out would be “I’m going to go to the gym 2-3 times a week and go for a walk/ run 1-2 times a week”.  All too often, people set their targets too high, making their goals unachievable.  This often leads to people becoming disappointed with their progress (sometimes even if they are making great progress), frustrated with their programs and ultimately quitting them.  By being more realistic with your time commitment your goals will be far more achievable.  It’s great to have ambitious goals over the long term, but approach them step by step.  By reaching one small goal after another, you also build confidence in yourself, which helps build confidence for continued improvement.

Realistic-  “I want to lose 10 lbs. of fat and gain 15 lbs. of muscle”.  A more realistic goal would be “ I want to lose 10 lbs. of body weight and retain the muscle I have”.  Once again, by setting your goals too high you set yourself up for frustration and failure.  Keeping your goals realistic allows you to more readily achieve them and continue your training with confidence.

Time framed-  “I’m going to start going to the gym sometime soon.”.  ”I am going to start my gym routine tomorrow.” is a time framed goal.  You have to be honest with yourself, the longer you put something off,  the less likely the chance it will ever be done. By setting a deadline you ensure the task will be accomplished within a certain amount of time and you give yourself less room to procrastinate and eventually forgetting about your goal all together.

By using these five simple criteria, everyone can set effective and high quality goals to give themselves a great opportunity to achieve their fitness goals. 

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