All posts by inspirebrantfordfitness



Hello everybody! A relatively lengthy article today, so I’ll get right to it. For this week, I’d really like to discuss core muscles and why they are an integral part of every single aspect of your exercise.

Your core is both your base and centre of attraction, not just for movement but also for stability. Every single muscle in your body relies on your abdominal muscles, internal hip muscles, and lower back for support and stability. With that in mind, I hope you’re starting to understand why I’m calling this article “mission8”: 1) there is no such thing as a 6-pack because your rectus abdominus (i.e. abs) is a 2×4 sequence of muscular divisions running along the front of your stomach; and 2) doing endless crunches (or ab only exercises) will not get you that shredded midsection.
There is a perverse inundation of quick ab schemes and fat loss tricks in the world of fitness that opine a beautiful mid-section, with minimal effort, is merely moments away. However, good habits and determination are not created in minutes. Acquiring a lean mid-section comes only through determination, both in diet and exercise, and an understanding of their insane importance to the rest of the body.

men_fitnessSo why are your core muscles so incredibly important? Most of your muscles will propel you forward, however, your core muscles resist movement in almost every single exercise. Along with resisting movement, core muscles are also the first muscles to contract during an exercise allowing your body to have a workable fulcrum. I like to use the analogy of a car to help people understand. Your body’s skeletal network would be the chassis – or frame – and your core muscles act like the vehicle’s strut network. A properly functioning network of struts allows the vehicle to maintain proper balance, optimal function, and resist any/all unwanted movement. This means that before you begin an exercise, make sure you activate or engage your core muscles for optimal output.

When it comes to core training, there are two schools of thought on the matter: those who begin their exercise with a core workout and those who end their exercise with a core workout. There is credible research regarding the efficacy of both factions, so instead I’ll suggest something radically different (and this happens to be what I do on occasion). Why not incorporate your abdominal/core exercises into your rest periods between sets? Obviously this requires a certain level of expertise, so “exercise” caution. There are some pretty overt bonuses to this/my ideology: 1) you’re limiting the amount of time your body is under tension; 2) focusing allotted time on very specific muscle groups; 3) increasing both energy use and production from the use of two distinct muscle groups; and 4) although time under tension is less, the effort to achieve a shorter workout becomes, at minimum, twice as much.
Today I would like to end on a drastically different note, so perhaps I’ll end with some numbers and some advice. By the numbers: around 30% less chronic back pain in individuals that engage in periodic core strengthening; engaging in rotational core strengthening increases strength by about 30% in both sexes; and roughly 35% less arm velocity is required for swinging movements, with a strong and stable core. With these numbers in mind, imagine the output you’d achieve in your workout by incorporating regular core strengthening sessions? So my advice, as I’ve somewhat stated above, is that you will not get those perfectly sculpted abs by doing endless crunches. They require time and dedication, and not to mention the right exercises. So that means incorporate some other unorthodox and compound movements into your ab routine…perhaps some side-to-side flexion, or some 2-point planks? Whatever you do, just make sure you do it safely and with a positive attitude!

Last thing, I’d love to see some success stories! So if you’d like to show us how excited you are about the time and dedication you’ve put into a strong midsection/body, by all means post it on the Inspire Brantford Fitness Facebook page and tag it as “#mission8.” The same follows for Instagram.


Matt Picanco, BHSc.


The Six Corrections Your Fitness Lifestyle Needs

The Six Corrections Your Fitness Lifestyle Needs.

No matter how you look at it, fitness is everywhere. Whether your goal is to build the ultimate physique or to shed a few pounds; or to transform your body and to maintain a healthy active lifestyle, it is inevitable that we all have different goals and aspirations.

True, yes… but there are definitely some areas that – regardless of your individual end goals – we are all equally affected by. We all have that dreaded target area that we want to slim up or fill out, and we all have our own ideas of doing it.

We don’t all see fitness the same way, and we certainly don’t all share the same knowledge and expertise. So, in a general context, let’s address some of the things that may be holding you back from noticing your fitness flaws and maximizing your physical potential.

Your ego trumps your accuracy.

fitness-photographer-fort-lauderdale-0016We’ve all seen person at the gym… stacking four plates per side on the flat bench press, struggling to lift the bar off of the rack, barely making a movement downward, and lifting the left side then right side on the way back up. Congratulations, you can successfully injure yourself.

Let’s be logical here. We all love the feeling of a good burn. We all enjoy the sensation of hitting a personal best, and destroying a killer workout. Just don’t forget to be practical.

Form is your best friend. Without ensuring that you activate a full range of motion, you’re doing yourself a serious disservice (yes, at times, there is an exception to this). I see this at the gym all the time, the frightening form of a dreadful bench press.

Not only are you doing yourself a disservice toward building some serious size, but you’re eminently increasing your risk of injury (Again… such a sad sight with the bench press). And to further that point – if you’re one of those that claim “no matter what I do, I just can’t seem to put size on my chest,” that’s probably because you’re doing it wrong… half reps, elbows out wide, activating mainly your triceps and deltoids (increasing your risk of serious injury). It’s time to tighten that up. Keep those elbows nice and close to your sides – whether you are using a wide or close grip – keeping your elbows in will help your stretch your pectorals and hit the muscles you’re really trying to activate – I promise you, this works. Furthering this subject, when you’re pumping out those chest flyes that you’ve superset with your press, keep your elbows in, and let those dumbbells down lower. Not in the sense of lower to the ground, but closer to your upper abdominals/lower pectorals. This will allow you to stretch your pectorals full, and will increase your full range of motion – it makes a world of difference.

Your single rep of a 370 lbs bench press and a two-month back injury can take a hike; concentrate on your form, hit that full range of motion, and leave your ego at the door.

You care way too much about the mirror.oval_mirror

Seriously though, you don’t have to check for gains after every single set. It’s going to happen, if you keep consistent, if you stay dedicated and train your heart out, if you’re smart about your form and technique, and if you replenish your body and feed your muscles, your time will come.

Getting fit doesn’t just happy overnight. It’d be nice if it did, but then everyone else would have no reason to call us ‘crazy,’ and where’s the fun in that? Seriously though, fitness takes time. Whether you’re an elite athlete, or a personal trainer, or you’ve never stepped foot in the gym, fitness is a lifestyle. You need to eat for your goals, train for your goals, reach for your goals, and dedicate yourself to attaining them.

You think fitness is only about size.

Wrong. You could not be more wrong. Fitness is about being healthy and comfortable in your mind and body.

Whether you’re looking for a full-body-bulk, or to trim off some fat, or an entire bodily transformation, you need to realize that fitness is more than just that. Sure, those are fantastic goals, and definitely a great means of motivation. But you need to allow fitness to impact you in a healthy manner. From eating habits, to regulating exercise, to your clearer state of mind, fitness can have a profound impact on your entire lifestyle.

Personally, fitness has impacted so many areas of my life in such a positive way. Fitness has allowed me to think clearer, to develop a routine, increased my self-confidence, contributed to a cleaner and healthier diet, and structured a composed and goal-oriented lifestyle.88dff80ce5b96593e3d81f1cfda074a2_d6efa0e_image_compassion

You forget the most important equation.

Fitness truly is 60% diet, 40% training, and 100% dedication to the lifestyle.

Nutrition is extremely important for so many aspects of you physical well-being. Now, add in a physically active individual, and nutrition becomes even more important.

A brilliant fitness guru, and an astounding personal physique once said, “Stay out of the aisles of the grocery store, seriously though, only hit the perimeter that stuff in the aisles has been developed and genetically modified over the last 100 years, that stuff is not good for you.”

He’s right though. Anything that is loaded with preservatives and has been genetically modified in any way can’t be that good for you, or even at all. Stick to the outside, the fresh stuff, the real fruits and veggies, and the real meat proteins.

Brain-FitnessThe further you dive into the fitness lifestyle, the more likely you may realize that eating for nutrients is more important to you than eating for flavor all of the time.

Nonetheless, where would we be without that 40% training? It seems weird saying 40% of fitness is comprised of training. But don’t take that number lightly. You need to be in there grinding and training your heart out to get to where you want to be.

And lastly, you’ve gotta be committed. You really, truly do. Dedication to fitness impacts such a profound aspect of your persona, I guarantee you that if you can stick to this formula, and you will excel in much more than just a physical manner. You’ll think clearer, you’ll walk taller, and you will have such a positive outlook on each and every day. Give it a shot.

You need a material reason to do it.24345990_SA

I bumped into an old friend the other day that really struck home with a solid argument about his outlook on fitness.

So many people need a reason to be fit; to get in the gym and grind it out, and sweat like a pig. So many people feel that, “I’m going away on a trip, so I need to work out.”

I don’t really believe in this theory. I mean, if you need something to motivate you, I can dig that. But I feel like training for something like this is only going to lead to a relapse of whatever you were doing for the past years of your life once the trip is over.

Why not take the initiative to be in great shape all of the time? You never know what kind of experiences you can run into. Be spontaneous and live adventurously, keep your body tuned and ready for whatever is meant to happen. You don’t need a material reason to be fit and healthy. Whatever happened to, “I want to be fit and look good because [why the hell not?] It’s healthy for my mind and my body.”

You know everything… except you really don’t at all.

You’re educated, sure. But are you?

There are so many different styles to fitness, so many different approaches, exercises, diets, movements, and factors that can shape the individual physique and lifestyle. So, do you really know everything? Probably not. And hey, for a lot of people, you may not know much at all about the gym life. That’s okay.

• Do your research. Read some different takes on different exercises.
• Be open. Not everything that works for someone else will work for you, but some things might, it doesn’t make them wrong and you right.
• Ask for help. There are tons of people out there that would love to help you, and that want to see you succeed; let them.
• Mistakes are cool. Seriously though, you’re not going to be perfect, and you’re certainly going to come across some challenges, let yourself learn from your mistakes, and correct them for the future.

Hopefully you can remember a few of these things next time you hit the gym. If you ever have any questions, we’re always here to help guide you towards achieving your fitness goals.

Keep training your heart out, you deserve it, and we love to see you succeeding.



Inspire Brantford Fitness.

Should Women Train Differently Than Men?

Should Women Train Differently Than Men?

My answer to this long-debated question is two-fold.

First part: absolutely.

I realize my above answer is shocking, however, no it isn’t sexist. We should all train differently from one another because we each have our own bodies with our own priorities and goals. this-fitness-storage-belt-is-the-perfect-accessory-for-runnersYour training should be different from your friends’ for the simple reason that you are not them. Customize your workouts and then explode through your set goals.

Second part: Not really

As a trainer and a scientist, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when I see women (even men too) break these ridiculous societal barriers that we have placed upon our physical form. fitness-motivation-for-women-fitness-women-pics-2Women shouldn’t lift barbells full of plates…women shouldn’t be using heavy dumbbells…women should be delicate little flowers…etc. What bull that is. Knowledge is power, and power is sexy; which means that knowledge is equally sexy.

While our goals may be varying (i.e. men want to be yoked and women want to be toned) the rule remains the same: you won’t have yoked, toned, or ripped anything without first building muscle. Muscle must be cultivated over time. And with considerable effort then come those gains you want. Understanding how the muscle works and how much energy you can muster out of it is critical when creating your workouts as well as your entire program. men_fitnessMan or woman, the amount of muscle recruited and energy exerted to lift a weight twenty-five times without failing is never as beneficial or as comparable to lifting a weight 6-10 times to failure.

Know that when I discuss this matter, it comes from a place of science and hard-earned understanding. The second part to this question is in reference to testosterone levels and mass distribution. Long has it been known that women have roughly ten times less testosterone than men and about 40% less upper body strength. Which means that muscle building and strengthening is naturally more difficult for a woman (generalized, but still accurate). Does that mean women should train more intensely and more often than men?man-woman-fitness No. Not in the slightest. It means you can train however hard you want. Lifting heavy weights and working those big muscle groups will NOT turn you into a man – or at least as big as one (unless of course you are cheating). To truly understand that women and men, although physically different, should train the same (in terms of exercises, not necessarily weight) in order to achieve those long deserved gains – or cuts – will be the moment you start building on that plateau.

Intensely short synopsis today! Women, please understand that you can train like a beast and still be a completely alluring beauty!


Matthew Picanco, BHSc.

Fat Is Anything But Your Enemy

I think for this edition of “Inspire Brantford Fitness” we’ll change it up and talk a little about nutrition. I’m going to break it down over the next few weeks regarding macronutrients, the science behind them, and the pseudoscience/myths behind them.article_good-fat-vs-bad-fat_wide

Protein, protein, protein…must consume more protein. We all tell ourselves this when trying to get in a fit state of mind. But this mentality can get you into more trouble than you might think on your journey to be fit (we’ll talk about proteins in another edition).

We seem to have come under the illusion that fat is the enemy, and we must limit it in any way we can. The problem with such foolish ideology is that it is plain wrong; I mean, science would utterly disagree. Peak performance and optimal health require fats just as much as you require carbs or proteins (therein lies a problem with self-control because of our evolutionary programming). Among peak performance and optimal health, fats also play a critical role in brain function and nervous transmission, hormone generation, are necessary for the formation and repair of cells (after you exercise, no fat = no proper repair), needed for fat soluble vitamin uptake (for all you weightlifters, vitamin D isn’t going anywhere without fat), etc. The virtues are relatively endless. The vilification comes from a lack of self-control and poor timing. Generally, there are more appropriate times you should consume fat, because on average it takes about six hours to break it down into a usable form (be it from ingestion or stored). So just be mindful of how much you consume and when you consume it.heart-healthy-1

Fat, of all the nutrients, provides the highest concentration of energy (at about 9 calories per gram used) thus has the most potential for energy storage and reserve. Fat will be your primary energy source for low intensity exercises. Thus it is extremely important you keep time during your exercise, so you can determine which energy system you’re using (carbs or fats).

With respect to your energy systems, fat is a very slow producer of your cell’s energy currency (i.e. ATP) and will only produce ATP in the presence of oxygen. As I had previously stated, fats will only be recruited during low to moderate intensity exercise. In terms of your heart rate, that means your energy systems will shift use from mostly fat to mostly carbs at around 75% of your max heart rate. shutterstock_2649369Not to sound too repetitive, this is why it’s key to time your workouts and focus on your level of fatigue.

Only a few take home messages today. First, eat fats; just be mindful of how much you consume and when you consume. Do your own research on fats (both healthy and unhealthy). I encourage anybody reading this to read a little about the difference between Omeg-3 and Omega-6 fats – because it is extremely important. Second, understand what diet works for you (it will require a lot of trial and error). For example, I myself maintain around 7% body fat through consuming mostly fats and proteins. Last, pay attention to the time and intensity of your exercises to determine what energy systems you’re using.

Thanks again!


Matt Picanco, BHSc.

The ‘Big Muscle’ Story

I guess before I begin my anecdote I’ll throw in somewhat of a disclaimer. We all started somewhere, and whether you have/had guidance, it is very important that you consistently seek guidance on your life-long journey of health and fitness. I’ve been doing this for about 35% of my life and I still seek guidance…because – and yes, some of you might chuckle – I don’t know everything.

I digress; I was assisting a friend of mine at the gym yesterday with what I call ‘course corrections’, when I happened to overhear a couple gentleman talking about their chest workout (banal as it is). During their conversation, one of these upstanding gentlemen turns to the next and begins to sneer and mock a totally different man at a squat rack doing split squats. He says to his friend,


“leg workouts are for women…”

I’ve left out the rest of that due to profanity about female hindquarters, but I think you catch my drift. Unfortunately my attention was shifted from my friend to these gentlemen after such intelligent remarks were made; and I couldn’t help but notice the proportions of these two men. Proportional in the sense that they looked like human Doritos; big chest, large lats, bulging biceps, elastics for quads and hamstrings, zero definition of calf heads, and an extreme lack of any midline-back musculature.

friend-dont-let-friends-skip-leg-dayThe point I am trying to elucidate is the “big muscles get you noticed” ideology. Anybody who is serious about health and fitness is well aware of how to properly achieve muscle hypertrophy (i.e. growth) and the benefits of keeping it even. However, there is a vast majority of people out there with such qualities inclusive of improper training and foolish fitness schemes (I blame a lack of education, but that’s for another time).

Sure, it’s funny when we come across people with attitudes inclusive of animalistic puffery; and there might even be some evolutionary merit to having an overtly buff chest (perhaps if we were more akin to gorillas). But how does that make us any better? I choose to assist, and to educate these individuals on the importance of periodization and isolation of muscle groups. With that, let’s talk about the “overt chest phenomenon” and its effects on the rest of the mechanical body.

The importance of training different areas of your body is necessary for proper posture, proper flaccid positioning of muscles, and – I can’t stress this enough – crucial for recovery. Overtraining the chest, as I’m sure you’ve all seen, creates a concave chest, pulls the shoulders forward and the trunk down, and creates extreme stress on the thoracic spine. About 36% of all weight training related injuries are shoulder-complex related, and 28% prevalence of injuries to the shoulder joint (AC joint) are known as “weightlifter’s shoulder.” Such an injury has been specifically correlated with a bench press in the eccentric phase. It’s quite obvious that the frequency of an injury is representative of overtraining and insufficient rest. bicep-curls_1So what I’m saying is, if the injury is named after your sport, it occurs way too much. Overtraining the chest muscles won’t necessarily make them bigger, and on the off chance it does, you are creating extreme disproportion in your kinetic chain (refer to above reasons why).

In the spirit of a take-home message, I’ll leave you with a synopsis. First, pay attention to your technique, because the bottom of the rep is where your muscle is at its highest stress point (i.e. eccentric phase)! Second, change up your exercises. It is superfluous to do a bench press every week, so challenge your muscles by doing one of the dozens of other chest exercises available. Third, allow your muscles to rest! Rest is equal in importance to the exercise. Proper rest allows for you to maintain peak performance and gather noticeable results more than overtraining ever will. Last, train equally. I realize that we all have some workouts that we enjoy far more than others (for me it’s legs), but it is beyond important – for your spine mostly – that you average your workouts and keep the stress even.

Stay fit,

Matthew Picanco, BHSc.


New Years Realizations

New Year's Resolutions

During such an auspicious week – being the New Year and all – I think I might make my first addition to this page about new years resolutions. We’ve all made them and we’ve all thought long and hard about them; and we either keep them or we break them. I myself am in the business of keeping true my revelations; which is why instead of calling them resolutions, I call them realizations. I call them this because a realization implies that I have become fully aware and require change. A resolution only requires that I make a decision regarding change, and not that the change is necessarily important. So for all intents and purposes, we’ll call them realizations for the remainder of this editorial.

Because this is a health and fitness page, we’ll keep the subject of New Year realizations about the aforementioned topic. When I say the word ‘health’, what is it you think of? Do you think of a very toned or very muscular individual with aesthetically pleasing qualities? Or do you realize there is a deeper definition of that word? If you see it as the latter, you are like me. Health is as multifaceted as it is multidimensional. Total health requires that we take care of our mind just as much – and in some cases more often – than our body. Before we can make any move into bettering our bodies, we must first be in the right state of mind. The desire to make a change for the positive is only one part of making change. The other part is will; the ability to go after what is out of your reach, and put it within reach.

So in an attempt to provide a unifying theme, I guess what I’m trying to say is that any realization you come to should be specific to you, and should be achievable short-term. I say short-term because research indicates that the benefits of exercise are compounded when we notice progress on a more frequent basis.New_Years_Resolution_Change_Ahead

As I finish off here, I hope there are a few things you take from all that I’ve written. Firstly, keep your realizations simple and specific to you. Secondly, understand that while you may currently have physical limitations, you have no mental limitations except attitude.  Thirdly, physical limitations will wane the more determined you become. Lastly, health is more than just physical appearances; so take care of who you are while you better what you are.

Stay tuned for the next addition when we discuss the important differences between muscles that get you noticed and the muscles that you don’t notice.

Thanks folks!

Stay fit,

Matthew Picanco, BHSc.