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     The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2013 issue 12



Box Jumps

Box jumps are a common exercise that we mix in to our weekend warrior workouts on a regular basis.  They are an explosive, functional, athletic exercise that improves both leg/hip power as well as body mechanics and endurance, depending on how they are performed.  We will typically perform 2 different box jumps at our workouts as follows:

  • Single box static jump - starting from a standing position, squat down, explode up, land softly with knees bent, and step down.  We typically repeat for 30-50 repetitions.

  • Triple box plyometric hop - using plyo boxes of varying heights, jump up, then down, and immediately explode back up (minimizing ground contact time) to take advantage of the stretch shortening cycle common to plyometric exercises.  Try for 5-10 laps through the 3 boxes minimizing rest intervals.

*Caution:  It's no secret that box hops can be dangerous, especially as you start to get fatigued.  Start with smaller boxes (or a stair step) and always focus on what you are doing.  If all else fails, where some shin guards J

Here's a good article that I came across that provides some great direction...

3 Keys To Better Box Jumps by Bryant Perkins

Box jumps have long been an integral part of functional movement training. Like running, box jumping is one of those things that looks simple but is often dangerous when performed the wrong way. However, it can be very effective when performed the right way.

Practice and perfect three key elements and youíll be well on your way to feeling more confident in your jumps.

Stabilization & Strength
Itís about core stability and core strength. Stable core muscles allow you to hold your initial position, as you land on top of the box, and as you land back on the ground. Strong core muscles allow you drive powerfully into the air, hold your position while in flight, and protect your body from the shock of landing back on the ground.

Plank to achieve better stability
Planks help engage the muscles of the pelvis and lower abdomen, which are vital to the execution of a proper box jump.

How-To: Begin in a plank. Hold 45 seconds. Extend your arms, one-at-a-time, until in a full push-up position. Bring your right knee to your chest and hold for 30 seconds. Take your leg back and bring your left knee to your chest. Hold 30 seconds. Take your leg back to its original position and rest. Repeat the sequence for 3 sets of 4 to 6 holds per leg for max benefits.

Takeoff Posititon
Your takeoff position is key to achieving lift and accuracy in your jumps. Imagine your body is a tightly coiled spring. Your objective should be to release that spring straight up, not out, and as close to the box as possible.

Positioning yourself closer to the box forces you to drive vertically, decreasing the distance between you and the box before, during and after each jump. A closer position forces you to drive your knees higher, increasing your trajectory, enabling you to achieve maximum lift, clearing the height of the box. The shorter the distance from the box, the faster you can perform each jump.

How-To: Position your body as you would during the start of a hang clean. Rise up slightly onto your mid/forefoot. This foot position will trigger the reflex needed for the initial take off.

Position your arms behind you so that they follow the angle of your torso. Good arm placement aids in timing and balance at takeoff and landing. Your head along with your eyes and chin should be focused forward, not up or down.

Takeoff & In-flight Mechanics
When you are set to jump, violently swing your arms up towards the sky. This motion will begin to draw your torso up initiating the movement. At the same time, drive your knees up towards your chest in order to leave the ground and complete the lifting process. Your main objective is to clear the height of the box, not necessarily to land on top of it. Think height first!

Tuck Jumps
Tuck jumps are great for practicing your takeoff form and in-flight mechanics without a box.

Start in the takeoff position. Takeoff from the ground as you would during a box jump, violently throwing your arms up, and driving your knees to your chest at the same time. Land back on the ground and repeat for 2 -3 sets of 4-6 reps for max benefits.

One-Leg Low Box Jumps
These are perfect for building up the lower leg muscles needed in both the takeoff and landing of your jumps. This exercise will also ensure that you are building the strength, stabilization, and endurance of each individual leg. Legs that are conditioned separately and equally have fewer imbalances, and will be twice as powerful when used together.

How-To: Find a flat surface to jump on about 1ft off the ground. To start, tuck the leg youíre not jumping with behind you and hold that leg, bending it at the knee. Standing on one leg, position your body in the correct position to do a standard box jump. Leave the ground the same way you would during a standard jump as described above. Repeat for 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps per leg for max benefits. Do not alternate.





Sandbag Exercise of the Month!

Upright Row


Shoulders and traps...certainly attributes that I've always wanted to develop ever since I was in high school!  These muscles literally define the broad shoulder look and the upright row is a great exercise to help you get there!


Target:  shoulders (lateral deltoids, upper trapezius)

Stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart, set the sandbag on end, and grasp the canvas of the sandbag with your hands close together.  Pull the sandbag up to your neck, leading with your elbows. Allow wrists to flex as bar rises. Lower and repeat.


Sleep, Obesity and Health

Some may think that people who sleep less have more time to exercise, thus reducing the risk of weight gain.  However, inadequate sleep has been linked to an increased risk of being overweight or obese.

There is compelling evidence that chronic lack of sleep alters hormones in the blood that control appetite and promote weight gain (Chaput & Tremblay 2012).  Chronic poor sleep, or lack of sleep, triggers more signals to the brain to eat and reduces signals that enough food has been consumed (Markwald et al. 2013).

The culprit is the hormone cortisol, which appears in a higher than normal level when sleep is poor.  High cortisol levels increase cravings for high-fat "comfort" foods.  Additionally, sleep deprivation decreases levels of leptin, a satiety-promoting hormone, and increases levels of ghrelin, an appetite-promoting hormone (Markwald et al. 2013).  Van Caute et al. (2008) found that lack of sleep plays a major role in hormone release, glucose regulation and cardiovascular function.  Evidence also indicates that poor sleep may be a risk factor for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In addition, sleep reduction appears to be an important, yet modifiable, risk factor for metabolic syndrome.  Markwald et al. (2013) found that insufficient sleep over 5 days increased total daily energy expenditure by 5%.  However, energy intake - especially at night, after dinner - exceeded the level needed to maintain energy balance.  Insufficient sleep led to an average weight gain of 1.8 pounds thanks to changes in hunger and in the satiety hormones ghrelin and leptin; the changes signaled the body to store energy.

These findings suggest that eating more during periods of insufficient sleep is a physiological adaptation intended to provide energy for sustaining additional wakefulness.  Markwald and colleagues also found that energy intake, especially of fats and carbohydrates, decreased when study participants were no longer sleep deprived.

ref. IDEA Fitness Journal, Nov/Dec 2013

The One-Week-of-Dark-Chocolate Fix?

Plain, bland and austere are words that aptly describe the eating plans physicians have traditionally given to patients at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and hypertension.  But new research has injected these staid prescriptions with a wicked, dark-chocolate swirl.

Researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro recently published a study in the International Journal of Hypertension (2013; doi:10.1155/2013/985087) indicating that 1 week of daily dark-chocolate intake "significantly improved endothelial function and reduced blood pressure in younger hypertensive [subjects] with impaired endothelial function in spite of [their] lower cardiovascular risk," according to the abstract.  "Younger" subjects in the study were 55 years old, plus or minus 7 years.  The authors indicated that a significant number of human studies have analyzed the effect of foods rich in flavonoids - such as cocoa-derived products-on the presence and progression of risk factors associated with CVD.

The study followed 21 hypertensive men and women (76% female) aged 40-65 who consumed 75 grams (about three-quarters of a cup) per day of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for 7 days.  Though relatively small changes were observed, the authors felt the reductions were "clinically signficant, since it has been found that a reduction of 3 mmHg in systolic BP can reduce relative risk of death from stroke by 8%, from cardiovascular disease in general by 5%, and overall all-cause mortality by 4%."

ref. IDEA Fitness Journal, Nov/Dec 2013

It's Go Time!

Give thanks?  Absolutely!  In my 30s I was up around 225 lbs, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low energy level... or as I like to put it now... I was a prospective client!  I absolutely give thanks that I was able to turn my life around, get back to exercise, make better nutrition decisions, and get off of the BP and cholesterol meds.  Certainly a life changing difference for the better!  Of course there are plenty of other things in my life that I'd like to give thanks for... but this is a fitness newsletter, so let's try to stay focused here ; )

Making change isn't always easy.  It requires commitment, determination, and PATIENCE!  Once you know what you need to do, you often have to take that leap of faith and trust that what you are doing will yield the results that you want in time... not tomorrow!  Sure you will feel better relatively quickly.  You will feel stronger.  You will have more energy.  But you will not be happy about these changes if you focus all of your attention on the scale!  Make a plan and stick too it... you won't be sorry! 


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Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT


"Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better"

youtube of the month --> TRX Rip Trainer
While I'm not a fan of another fitness gadget, I do like some of the exercises that they incorporated with this video.  If you don't want to buy the trainer, an eye hook in pole attached to a Jump Stretch band or tubing will do the trick! | Personal Training | News | Tips & Tools | Fitness Stuff




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