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Personal Training, Strength Coaching and Fitness Writing in St. John's, NL. Owned and operated by Jon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS, CEP
Updated: 18 hours 56 min ago

5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Workout

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 07:52

Do you always get the most out of your workout?

Stress levels, previous injuries, and lack of consistency/overall fitness can impact our capacity for particular exercises or workouts. Sometimes we need a few reminders to keep us centred on our goals.

Here are 5 tips to get the most out of your workout:

1. Work within your limitations: always adapt and scale movements when possible Always adapt and scale movements when possible
(Photocredit: Victor Freitas)

If an exercise feels like hard work or causes pain, many of us tend to avoid it. However, oftentimes the key to being able to improve an exercise where you initially experience pain, discomfort, or difficulty is working with a trainer who knows how to adapt and scale that exercise. Just as every movement can be progressed when you are are stronger, they can be scaled to meet your current needs and limitations.

Some ways to scale an exercise include increasing the base of support or decreasing reps, weight, or range of motion, as well as doing isolated exercises for the muscle groups.

To scale a squat, for example, you could try the following:

  • Barbell squat – decrease reps
  • Goblet squat – decrease weight
  • Sumo squat – increase base of support
  • Wall sit – decrease range of motion
  • Knee flexion/extension – isolation
2. Learn to Breathe! Breathing techniques vary depending on the type of exercise we are completing. During a squat, inhaling helps us create intra-abdominal pressure and protects our spine.
(Photocredit: David Whittaker)

Breathing techniques vary depending on the type of exercise we are completing. In structural exercises, where we are loading our spine, our breath allows us to brace our core and “fill our barrel” to protect our spine by supporting it with a change in muscle activation and intra-abdominal pressure. This means staying strong and tall in those heavy power lifts. Learning which phase of the movement to inhale or exhale on will help get the most out of each exercise. You want to exhale on the “concentric phase” of the movement, when exerting force, especially through the sticking point where the load is the greatest, and to inhale on the “eccentric phase”, or when unloading / releasing, the movement.

During our stretching and mobility exercises, breathing will increase efficiency and effectiveness. Deep belly (diaphragmatic) or meditative breaths allow you to get more range through increased oxygenated blood flow, decreasing stress, and depressing the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn decreases muscle tone. These breaths also use the biggest respiratory muscles instead of relying on the shallow accessory muscles, putting less strain on the muscles of the neck. Holding your breath while stretching will activate your flight or fight stress response, priming the muscles for reaction not relaxation. For this reason, try holding your stretches for 10-20 deep breaths instead of using a time parameter like 30 seconds.

During stretching exercises, deep breathing helps you relax, decrease muscle tone, and get more range.
(Photocredit: Tamba Budiarsana) 3. Be mindful of your movement!

Be present. Come to every movement with purpose, focus, and intention. This focus starts once you walk in the door and start your warm up. The warm up is a great time to listen to your body but, if we are not moving mindfully, we can miss what it’s saying. Bring the same focus and intention to each rep, making it the best rep possible.

A huge component of being mindful is to leave your smartphone in the locker, or on the desk for those clients on-call. Did you know that just seeing your smartphone may impact your ability to focus on a task? A 2014 study found that the ‘mere presence’ of a smartphone reduced participants’ ability to perform a cognitively demanding task. Avoid distractions that will cause you to think of the emails, social media notifications, or news headlines instead of factors like the speed of each movement, postural alignment, coaching cues, and getting the next best rep possible.

4. Be prepared! Drink up! Dehydration can negatively impact your workout.
(Photocredit: Pixabay)

Preparation means minimizing the variables before the gym to ensure your workout is the best one possible. Think about a specific goal for each workout. Get a great night’s sleep, about 7 to 9 hours for the average adult. Ensure you arrive properly fuelled and hydrated (meal prep can help!) Hydration needs will vary depending on factors like food intake, activity level, and your environmental temperature but, a solid starting point would be to meet the classic recommendation of 8 glasses of water daily. A 2010 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that dehydration by 3% of body weight resulted in significantly less reps performed in a total body workout, higher total perceived exertion for the workout, and a significantly higher recovery heart rate.

5. “Hello, this is your body calling…” Listen to your body! Injury calling? Sometimes incorporating foundation exercises back into your workout is necessary.
(Photocredit: Negative Space by Pexels)

Know when to slow down, scale back, or rest. Trying to work through a prolonged or reoccurring injury? Be adaptable, because this is your body telling you it disagrees with the set plan. Mix in a rest day, a taper week, or know when to peel things back and focus on the basics. And, make sure to let your trainer know when something doesn’t feel right! Communication is key in any trainer-client relationship. Sometimes, in order to further your gains and avoid injury, you need to go back to foundation exercises such as motor control, balance, stability, and mobility. No matter how hard you work on your “walls”, your “house” will always collapse with a poor foundation.



For more information about how we can help you get the most out of your workout, contact us!


Kraft et al (2010). Impact of dehydration on a full body resistance exercise protocol. European Journal of Applied Physiology. DOI: 10.1007/s00421-009-1348-3.

National Strength & Conditioning Association. (2016). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 4th Ed. Human Kinetics: Champaign, Illinois.

Thornton et al (2014). The mere presence of a cell phone may be distracting: implications for attention and task performance. Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000216

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Find Jon in the July issues of Muscle&Fitness and Canadian Running

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 04:51
Find me in the July issues of @muscleandfitness and @canadianrunning! Mobile Gains discusses pre-workout mobility and activation drills that benefit neglected muscles while Strength for New Runners outlines a full body strength training routine for, you guessed it, new runners. Also, find me in the Q&A. In news stands now! ~Jon
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Jon Answers Q&A in June Muscle&Fitness Magazine

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 18:09

Check out the June edition of Muscle&Fitness for Jon’s next article, this time, a 10-page spread called, To the 10th Power (ironically). In this article, Jon teaches you 10 new exercises that you can throw into your workout to reduce workout-boredom. For example, the Glute-Bridge Bench Press, Bird-Dog Rows and the Sots Press. Read the rest of the article to find out more, in news-stands now!

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Thomas’ Fantastical Fat Loss Voyage

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 19:45

As many clients have been asking me individually about my weight loss, we thought it would be best to write this post so everyone has a chance to read about the program I followed. If you have any follow-up questions though, do not hesitate to ask. We also have a nutritionist working with us now, so you can ask more detailed questions about the type of program that’s right for you! 

In the table below, you can see that I lost a total of 29 pounds over a 3-month time period. What’s also important though, is that I still managed to maintain muscle mass while cutting overall calorie intake. If you neglect to keep your protein intake high while cutting down in your overall calorie intake, this leads to a loss of muscle, a decrease in strength, and a decrease in metabolic rate.  

The Results

MeasurementJanuary 6 2019April 7 2019Total LostBody Weight224.4 Pounds195.2 Pounds29.2 PoundsShoulders51.50”50.75”0.75”Chest 45.00”42.25”2.75”Waist38.00”31.75”6.25”Hips43.00”39.5”3.5”Thigh26.00”24.25”1.75”

Looking at these numbers tells me that I achieved my goal of maintaining muscle as the largest inch losses were waist and hips, two of the most common fat storage regions. While I did lose some width on the chest measure, I suspect that it was mostly fat from the back, another common fat storage area. As seen too, the shoulder measure decreased very little as it is not a common fat storage area, again suggesting that I maintained a fair amount of lean body mass while still losing fat.

The Diet

So, what exactly was the diet that I followed? It is called the 5:2 diet. This diet is a form of intermittent fasting. In simple terms, you eat normally for 5 days of the week and on 2 non-consecutive days, you “fast”. The reason I put fast in quotation marks is because it is not a true fast, you actually eat 2 small meals 12 hours apart. For me, the two meals were 400 calories each, the original diet suggests 400 for males and 300 each for females.

My Typical Fasted Day

6:00 am: Breakfast-400 Calories

6:00 pm: Supper-400 Calories

So what’s in these 2 small meals? It’s totally up to you! However, you should fill them with nutritious, satiating (filling) foods that are high in protein. For me, breakfast was often the following:

2 Protein Muffins (My own recipe): 120 calories each 

250 Grams of Icelandic Yogurt:  160 Calories

75 Grams of Mixed Berries: 30 Calories

For supper, I often ate just meat and veggies, something like this: 

200 grams of lean ground beef (cooked measurement): 350 Calories

1 cup of mixed frozen peppers and onions: 50 Calories

Garlic powder to taste

Salt to taste

Chili power to taste

Balsamic vinegar to taste

Again, these meals were high in protein to help keep me full and avoid a loss of muscle mass. Of course, you do not need to follow my meal plan, just try to make sure that the foods you are eating a both nutritious and filling. Avoid excess refined carbs on these days as they provide very little nutrition and do not keep you full. 

A Typical Normal Day

On the other five days, you can just eat normally. This is not a license to overindulge all day on junk foods, I still ate well on my “normal” days. I would suggest that you eat at a “maintenance level” calorie intake, that is, the amount your body requires to neither increase nor decrease in weight. 

To get a rough estimate of your maintenance level of calories, multiply your body weight by 14 and set your daily totals at this amount. For example:

195 Pounds x 14 Calories/Pound = 2730 calories/Day

You can eat whatever you would like on these days, but ensure you eat lots of protein, healthy fats (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids), and more moderate amounts of high-fibre (unprocessed) carbs. And yes, for those who will ask, booze counts against your daily total. 

Calorie Contents of Alcoholic Beverages, for your reference:

1 Regular Beer = 150 Calories

1 Light Beer = 100 Calories

1 Glass of Wine (5oz) = 125 Calories

1 Mixed Drink (1oz) = 70 if mixed with water or diet soda, up to 230 with regular soda

Weight Loss Plateaus

If you find you are still not losing weight, adjust this number downward but do not go below bodyweight x 10. Also note, as you lose weight, you may have to adjust this number to reflect your new maintenance. I readjusted my normal day calorie intake 4 times during the diet. So what did my typical normal day look like? Let’s have a look below:

Breakfast: (6:00 am)

Oatmeal (1/2 Cup)

Protein Powder (1 Scoop)

Mixed Berries (1 Cup)

Whole eggs (2-3)

Lunch: (12:00)

Rice/Pasta (1 ½ Cups measured cooked)

Chicken/Beef/Pork/Fish (250 Gram Serving)

Veggies (1-2 Cups, can be frozen veggies)

Supper: (5:00)

Rice/Pasta (1 ½ Cups measured cooked)

Chicken/Beef/Pork/Fish (250 Gram Serving)

Veggies (1-2 Cups, can be frozen veggies)

Before Bed Snack: (9:00)

Cottage Cheese (1 Full Tub)

Blueberries (1 Cup)

Natural Peanut Butter (2 Tablespoons)

The key here again is high protein to stay full and moderate amounts of carbs and fats. When you look at the lunch and supper I have just written meat and vegetables with rice or pasta. This was not just plain meat and pasta. This was often a stir fry or spaghetti or some other tasty recipe. I have no interest in eating just plain chicken and plain rice. Just be cautious that the “taste” you add limits added sugar and fats. 

Closing Thoughts and Helpful Tips

That pretty much wraps up what I did. Below I have listed some of my favorite fat loss tips and tricks, hopefully some of them will be of use to you!

1) Always know when and what your next meal will be! This is my number one tip. The main reason people snack on foods or make poor choices for meals is they do not have a plan. There is never a time when I don’t know what my next meal is. I make my weeks’ worth of lunches on the weekend, prepare my breakfast the evening before and plan out suppers for the week and buy groceries accordingly. 

2) Follow the 90/10 rule. Essentially, 90% of your calories must come from nutritious sources while 10% can come from not so nutritious sources. I like to refer to this as bending without breaking. How often do you go out somewhere, have two drinks and maybe some chips and just assume the day is a total loss and have more drinks and more chips? Maybe those two drinks and handful of chips fit perfectly fine within the 90/10 rule. Don’t assume the whole day is a loss because of one cheat and sabotage yourself as a result.

3) Limit the availability of snacks when consuming alcohol. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions so that bag of chips you may not have touched earlier is far more likely to be eaten after a couple of drinks.

4) If you are going out somewhere and are worried about snacking, try to eat beforehand. This can even be just a protein shake, just something to keep you full. If you do want to snack, choose snacks with some nutritional value, for example: the shrimp platter is far more nutritious than the cookie plate. Many considerate hosts will also have some form of veggie/fruit platter to choose from.

Interested in JKConditioning’s Nutrition Coaching services? Find out more HERE.

photo credit: Kurayba Tasty Mushrooms via photopin (license)

photo credit: stockcatalog weight loss scale via photopin (license)

photo credit: wuestenigel Slimming and health food products on wooden background via photopin (license)

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