SCW Spotlite: Issue 70

May 23, 2024
Enjoy the monthly buzz about all things fitness. Fitness Pros are always on the go, so we’ll leave the “Lite” on!

Medicine Ball Slams:
Are They Really Worth the Time and Effort?

by Ryan R. Fairall, PhD

It is almost guaranteed we own or use them personally in a workout or with a client or group ex-class. They are explosive (not literally), fun to implement, get your heart and breathing rate up, and can assist you “in believing” you are improving your power. Have you figured out the weighted equipment being referred to?  Yes, the age-old Medicine Ball. 

In this day and age of intense time-efficient workouts, who wouldn’t want to include medicine ball slams into their exercise routine? With all the med ball slam hype, have you ever really looked at the exercise? Biomechanics behind it? The why? This article aims to break down the medicine ball slam and attempts to answer the question “Are they really worth the time and effort?”.

What is a Medicine Ball Slam?

Med ball slams are a type of plyometric (i.e., jump and throw training) exercise that has become increasingly popular over the last decade. This exercise is commonly performed with individual training, in small group training sessions, and even group fitness classes. They can be used as a conditioning exercise (i.e., performed repeatedly for repetitions or time) or as a power exercise (i.e., performed for lower repetitions focusing on quality of movements, as opposed to quantity). They are commonly performed with medicine balls ranging from 6 – 40+ pounds (2.5 – 18+ kilograms) depending on the individual, their relative strength, and their fitness goals.

Med ball slams are performed standing with the feet about hip-width apart and the hips and knees slightly flexed (i.e., an athletic position). (There are many references online for exact positioning.) From this point, the technique of the med ball slam can vary. Some individuals will begin with the med ball already behind their head with the shoulder and elbow joints flexed then proceed by forcefully extending their shoulder and elbow joints flexing their lumbar spine and hip joints and then slamming the ball directly into the ground, usually as hard as possible. Depending on the type of med ball (i.e., padded vs. weighted with sand), the ball will either bounce back up to the individual where it could be caught and the movement repeated or remain on the ground where the individual would have to bend down to pick the ball up to repeat the movement.

Another technique with a med ball slam involves countermovement. Think of a countermovement as quickly dropping down and flexing your hips, knees, and ankles before explosively jumping vertically or horizontally. This requires the individual to either begin with the ball in front of them at about chest level or possibly lower if they want to increase the countermovement, which involves actively and rapidly flexing the shoulder and elbow joints and bringing the ball behind their head before proceeding to slam the ball directly downward into the ground. Please note that if this exercise is performed with a partner, the individual may slam the ball down at an angle (e.g., ≈ 30 – 40 degrees) so that when the ball hits the ground it either bounces or rolls to their partner so they may repeat the movement back and forth.

What Muscles Do Med Ball Slams Work?

When performing a med ball slam starting behind the head, the joint actions are depression and downward rotation at the shoulder girdle (i.e., scapulae), extension at the shoulder joints, extension at the elbow joints, wrist/ulnar deviation or wrist adduction with the ball held with the radioulnar joint in a neutral (i.e., handshaking) position, lumbar flexion, and hip flexion. However, when performed with a countermovement, the individual will be required to start with extending the hip joints and lumbar spine, flex the shoulder joints, move the scapulae into upward rotation and elevation, flex the elbows, and create wrist/radial deviation or wrist abduction to bring the ball up and behind the head before performing all of the same movements listed without the countermovement and forcefully slamming the med ball into the ground.

The purpose of the countermovement, as with any jumping or throwing exercise, is to create a rapid stretch reflex in the muscles before they forcefully contract concentrically when performing a given exercise. Another example of a countermovement and the concept of the stretch reflex is throwing a ball (e.g., a baseball). If you want to throw a ball with force and velocity, first rapidly cock the shoulder joint into external rotation which quickly stretches the shoulder’s internal rotators (think of pulling on a rubber band before shooting it through the air), and then explosively accelerate into internal rotation at the shoulder before releasing the ball and eventually following through with the throwing motion and decelerating movement.

Joint Actions and Muscles Contracting Concentrically During the Countermovement:

  • Lumbar Extension: Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum
  • Hip Extension: Gluteus maximus, hamstrings
  • Shoulder Flexion: Anterior deltoid, pectoralis major (upper or clavicular fibers), coracobrachialis, biceps brachii
  • Scapular Upward Rotation: Serratus anterior, trapezius (upper, middle, and lower fibers)
  • Scapular Elevation: Upper trapezius, levator scapulae
  • Elbow Flexion: Brachialis, biceps brachii, brachioradialis
  • Wrist/Radial Deviation or Wrist Abduction: Flexor carpi radialis, flexor pollicis longus, extensor carpi radialis brevis, extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor pollicis brevis, extensor pollicis longus, abductor pollicis longus

Joint Actions and Muscles Contracting Concentrically During the Med Ball Slam:

  • Shoulder Extension: Posterior deltoid, pectoralis major (lower or costal fibers), subscapularis, latissimus dorsi, teres major, infraspinatus, teres minor, triceps brachii
  • Scapular Downward Rotation: Pectoralis minor, rhomboids, levator scapulae
  • Scapular Depression: Pectoralis minor, lower trapezius
  • Elbow Extension: Triceps brachii, anconeus
  • Wrist/Ulnar Deviation or Wrist Adduction: Flexor carpi ulnaris, extensor carpi ulnaris
  • Lumbar Flexion: Rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques
  • Hip Flexion: Iliopsoas, rectus femoris, tensor fasciae latae, sartorius, pectineus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, gracilis

Breaking Down the Med Ball Slam

As any health and fitness professional will most likely proclaim, “Any exercise is better than no exercise at all.” However, not only do health and fitness professionals have to answer how to perform certain exercises, but maybe even more importantly, why perform certain exercises. If you walk up to any health and fitness professional working with a client, athlete, or even patient and ask them, “Why are you having your client perform that exercise?” the response should have an answer rooted with scientific evidence. This is where the question of “Why perform a med ball slam?” comes into play.

When asked this question, many health and fitness professionals will most likely reply “To improve my client’s full-body power,” or they may simply reply “Because my client likes them.” Although many muscles are contracting explosively while performing a med ball slam and clients commonly enjoy performing this exercise, there are some issues with this exercise biomechanically which may cause health and fitness professionals to question utilizing them.

The number one issue with this exercise is gravity. In life, gravity pulls us down and we continuously fight against it, but med ball slams is one example of where we actually aren’t fighting gravity. When performing the countermovement before the med ball slam, the muscles listed above do indeed have to contract concentrically, along with the hip and lumbar extensors, against gravity and the load of the med ball to lift the ball in front of the body and behind the head. However, once the individual proceeds with beginning to slam the ball, they are scientifically working with gravity and the load of the med ball to extend the shoulders, downwardly rotate and depress the scapulae, extend the elbows, create wrist/ulnar deviation or wrist adduction, and even flex the lumbar spine and hips. Therefore, the individual is not taking full advantage of explosively concentrically contracting all of the muscles associated with those joint actions to their biomechanical capacity. It can be argued that the antagonist muscles of the muscles involved in the med ball slam are actually getting a stronger contraction eccentrically to slow down or decelerate all of the aforementioned joint actions after the ball has been released. Another question to be asked, is when in life are we explosively performing all of the joint actions associated with the med ball slam, specifically hip flexion with the torso acting on the hip joint?

So, what are Alternative Exercises to the Med Ball Slam?

Fortunately, fitness professionals have numerous plyometric exercises to choose from.  These can assist with not only increasing muscular power but positively transferring to both activities of daily living and movements on the court or field. Give these plyometric exercises utilizing a med ball a try and let us know what you think.

  • Med Ball Sit Up Toss – Video to be included
  • Med Ball Soccer Throw-In – Video to be included
  • Med Ball Twist Toss – Video to be included
  • Underhand Backward Overhead Med Ball Throw – Video to be included
  • Med Ball Chest Pass or Supine Med Ball Power Drop (Advanced) – Videos to be included

I hope this dissection of med ball slams hits home and you can rethink the movement for yourself and your clients.  Everyone’s body is different and reacts according to their mobility and flexibility.  Some are capable of performing this with standard movement, but many will appreciate the thought and action offered with an alternative.

About the Author: Ryan R. Fairall, PhD

Ryan R. Fairall is an Assistant Professor of Sport & Exercise Physiology at DeSales University. He earned his Ph.D. from Seton Hall University in Health Sciences (Movement Science), his M.A. from The University of Alabama in Health Studies (Health Promotion), his M.S. from Pennsylvania Western University – California Campus in Exercise Science (Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention), and his B.S. from Long Island University in Sports Science (Exercise Physiology). 

Ryan has worked in health, fitness, and sports since 1999, has been a certified personal trainer since 2003, and has been an instructor in higher education since 2015. He is a Certified Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-EP), a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS), a Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), and a Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM-CES), as well as certified in Advanced Occupational Ergonomics through Colorado State University and Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

In his free time, Ryan enjoys being physically active playing sports, lifting weights, kayaking, fishing, going on walks with his female Shih Tzu, Bledsoe, and watching his hometown Philadelphia sports teams, which can be very frustrating at times.

3 Simple Habits to Fight Insomnia

by Ralph Dela Cruz

In a perfect world, many fitness pros strive to stay active, watch their diet, and have a good sleeping environment. How can you add these habits to your life?  

Picture yourself as a gym owner who only got less than four hours of sleep for three straight days due to consecutive days of long meetings with your staff and trainers. Driving home you start feeling drowsy, run through a red stoplight, and get into a car crash. 

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder resulting in difficulty falling asleep or even staying asleep. 25 to 30 million Americans suffer acute or chronic insomnia. You could be one of them.  Are you frustrated by having to wake up early, having a hard time staying productive, or even focusing on your important tasks? Here are three tips to make your good night’s sleep more attainable. 

Do moderate exercise for 20 to 30 minutes every other day. 

How can you incorporate exercise to help you fall asleep faster? Driving, computers, television, and office work environments have given us more reasons to sit. Being consistently inactive can impair your regulation of blood pressure, building up the plaque or fat in your arteries. Not only could this lead to circulatory diseases, but it can also negatively impact your mental health, including your sleep. 

What about leading a more active lifestyle? In a Stanford study, a group of seniors had to perform low-impact exercise for 20 to 30 minutes every other day. Those activities included walking and riding stationary bicycles. Because of that, the seniors were able to fall asleep twice as fast after the study. Why? It has to do with something called the “homeostatic sleep drive.” It essentially tells our bodies when it’s time for bed. Exercise helps build up the homeostatic sleep drive well before bedtime, which is why the body can fall asleep faster. 

Exercise doesn’t have to be very intense like lifting weights or even playing sports.  Moderation! Making your exercise fun is key! Choose a couple of activities that will keep you moving. Taking a walk, light biking around the neighborhood, or even doing more chores around the house. Still boring? Add television or listen to music with favorite activities.

Keep in mind that exercise is best done around three to six hours before bedtime. If you work out too close to bedtime, your body temperature and heart rate will be too high stimulating your nervous system, not allowing enough time to wind down and go to bed easily. 

Eat light carbs and avoid high protein intake before bedtime. 

Certain foods can help promote sleep while other foods won’t. If you want to fall asleep faster, consider eating light complex carbohydrates. Eating small amounts of whole wheat bread, bagels, and crackers helps create more proteins called tryptophan, inside the brain. Tryptophan includes hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is the brain neurotransmitter that helps control mood, appetite, and even sleep. Melatonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates the sleep-waking cycle. So, high amounts of tryptophan help the body to become sleepier. 

Avoid eating foods high in protein. Foods like red meat block your body from creating more serotonin. Red meat is tougher than other meats because the rich protein is very dense, taking the body a lot longer for it to digest. As the body winds down before bedtime, it also slows down digestion further prolonging the breaking down of meat. Another reason you should avoid heavy dinners is so you don’t wake up with indigestion. If you plan to have dinner or a snack right before bedtime, be sure to not eat heavy protein. 

Other foods to avoid before bedtime are those high in sugar and refined carbs. Refined carbohydrates include white rice, white bread, and soda. Because of their high glycemic index, it rapidly increases blood sugar. When the sugar rises to that level, the body releases insulin which releases stress in the hormones cortisol and adrenaline causing the blood sugar level to drop after that rapid rise. So, researchers link eating refined carbohydrates around bedtime to insomnia. 

Make an optimal sleeping environment

Your room temperature should generally be in the range of 60 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The body regulates its core body temperature through the circadian rhythm, the internal body clock that regulates body functions in the background. So, a cool room will help your body lower its temperature around bedtime. It will help the brain secrete high amounts of melatonin, which helps with giving you a good night’s sleep. Sleeping in a room that is too warm will raise your core body temperature which can lead to more discomfort and restlessness. Consider adding a fan, air conditioner, or open window to give you that cooler air. 

Noisy traffic, loud neighbors, and high-decibel music can keep you awake. Your brain has an auditory system that processes sounds. If it processes too many loud noises, it will trigger a fight-or-flight response in your body. This also produces stress hormones including cortisol. So, block out the noise! Consider earplugs or use a fan/conditioner as white noise. 

Turn off blue light; found in your electronics such as your phone, laptop, or television. Throughout human history, blue light has influenced our body’s circadian rhythm. The sun also has a blue light to make sure that our body aligns our circadian rhythm with the sunrise and sunset. However, because of the LED technology through our electronics, blue light will also stimulate your brain which raises your core body temperature and heart rate. It will also decrease the production of melatonin needed to have good quality sleep. So, make a routine to turn off your electronics two to three hours before your bedtime so your body winds down. If that is not an option, use the “night mode” feature on your devices. This is so you can lower the amount of blue light emitted.

Is your mattress comfortable? Having an old, worn-out mattress will cause discomfort to your back and neck as you go to bed. The comfort layers of your mattress should also be set up properly to support proper alignment for your spine. This will prevent sinking in your mattress. Consider making the surface firmer by putting half-inch plywood sheets under your mattress and flip your mattress over every 6 months to avoid sinking. 

What did you learn?

Improving your sleeping routines can feel like climbing a mountain as you struggle with insomnia. It can take weeks or even months to have consistent good night’s sleep. With baby steps and taking regular action, it is possible. So, start now!   Create a reasonable schedule when you can exercise at least every other day. Watch what kind of food and how much food you eat well before bedtime. Lastly, optimize your sleeping environment by cooling down your room temperature. Keep noise levels around your room low.  Turn off the blue light well before bedtime. And definitely make sure your mattress is comfortable. 

About the Author: Ralph Dela Cruz

Hi! I’m Ralph Dela Cruz. I am a copywriter/marketer, helping businesses in the fitness, health, and nutrition space. I help them write content such as landing pages, emails, and ads without being salesy. In my spare time, I love to stay active working out, doing volunteer work for my community, and shooting videos and photos for fun. Do you need help with content marketing for your health brand, product, or service? Send me a message through my IG (@ralph.deecruz), LinkedIn or email and we can have a free call. Take care! 

Email: [email protected]



New Habits Lead to Sustained Change

Patrick Mummy

Ok, January has come and gone.  And so have your resolutions more than likely!   As a fitness professional, you have learned that creating new habits leads to sustained change but if you don’t have the right system and support, depending on your goals, then change is really hard to achieve.  

Your goal is to get clients to stretch at home every day.  The biggest question is HOW? At Symmetry, our clients are successful because we measure their posture and educate them about their pain.   These measurements allow us to create a specific stretching routine empowering them to actually reach the habit stage with support and consistency.  Of course, this takes a few months of checks and balances but if eventually, the client doesn’t have to rely on their practitioner for a “fix” every time they start to hurt. Our motto: “If you can’t take your chiropractor home with you every day, then what are you doing to hold your adjustments?”

Try this routine for a couple of weeks, in order, and let us know how you feel (Check with your doctor first if you are unsure). Hopefully, this will bring some positivity into your life, and if so, consider calling us to change the rest of it!

Hip Rotations (Static Floor): 

Lying on your back with your knees and hips bent at 90 degrees and legs on an 18-inch block or chair, place your feet together with your toes pulled back half-way out on the block.  KEEPING YOUR FEET STRAIGHT AND TOGETHER slowly spread your knees apart while pivoting on the inside of your feet as they stay together.  Do not let your feet separate as your knees widen apart and try to keep them flexed throughout the motion.  Your practitioner may have you place a 6 block in between your feet for more support.  Perform 2 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions.

TFL Stretch (Bent Leg): 

Start on your back with your legs straight out, knees and feet hip-width and pointing up to the ceiling.  Keep your arms straight out from your side with your palms up.  Tighten one leg and flex your foot back, raise the other leg to 90 degrees at the hip and then bend that knee to 90 degrees.  Take your opposite hand and reach to the outside of the elevated knee and pull your entire leg across your body without the opposite shoulder rising off the floor.  Make sure that your other leg stays tight, feet flexed at the ankle.  Look the opposite direction and keep your stomach and upper torso RELAXED.  BREATHE!  Hold for the allotted amount of time and then switch.  Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side.

Extended Ankle Abduction: 

Start with your hands and knees hip-width and perpendicular to floor.  Walk your hands forward 4-6 and allow your shoulders to reposition over your hands without moving your knees on the floor.  With your hips now in front of your knees, allow your back to sway, shoulder blades to collapse together, and head to drop, but keep your elbows locked. While holding this position, press out on a strap (or belt) hip-width at your ankles for one second and then release. Feel the contraction on the outside of your hips.  Breathe and relax your stomach.  In between each set, keep your hands in the same position and push your body back to stretch out your lower back.  Perform 2 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions.

Shoulder Rotations (Kneeling):  

Kneeling with your knees 4 inches apart, induce an arch in your lower back by rolling your hips forward and not by leaning your torso back.  Position your hands with your knuckles on your temples, palms facing to the front.  Keeping your knuckles on your temples and your wrists from bending, bring your elbows together and touch in front of your chest, but chin-high, with your palms now facing each other.  Try to keep your head still by not bobbing it back and forth as you try and touch your elbows together.  Then separate your elbows by pulling your arms back, squeezing your shoulder blades together and then repeat.  Keep your stomach relaxed by inhaling as you separate your elbows and exhaling as you bring your elbows together.  Perform 2 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions.

If you like what you just read and want more, join Patrick Mummy and his Team from Symmetry at SCW Atlanta MANIA®, July 19-21.  Experience a personal assessment along with exercises to create your habit. Grab a seat in their sessions throughout the 3-day conference.  Get registered today and save.

About the Author: Patrick Mummy

Patrick Mummy earned a baseball scholarship to San Diego State University & graduated with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training. He founded Symmetry for Health & was awarded a patent on a measurable system for postural assessment and corrective exercise – AlignSmart Technology. Patrick has written three books, the latest – “The Physics of Pain; Becoming Pain-Free”. He has spoken on postural assessment at multiple conferences & corporations.

Is General Liability Insurance Required by Law?

by Lindsey Lessard

As a Fitness Professional, you have probably had a participant or client sustain an injury during class or training.  Your initial reaction was probably “Is that person OK?” Rightfully so, but did you ever think of your liability?   If you coach or train at a gym or boutique studio you are typically covered under their insurance, but do you know your coverage? Do you need extra insurance? 

When considering fitness insurance, one of the most common questions is, “Am I required to have general liability insurance by law?” This is an important question because it impacts businesses and fitness professionals of all sizes and training levels. The answer, however, isn’t particularly straightforward. The requirements for general liability vary depending on your location, industry, and specific business activities.

What is General Liability Insurance?

General liability insurance is designed to protect businesses and individuals from a range of risks, including third-party bodily injury, property damage, and personal and advertising injury claims. If someone is injured on your business premises or your product causes damage, general liability insurance helps cover legal expenses, settlements, and medical costs. It acts as a safety net to protect your business from potentially catastrophic financial losses.

Is It Legally Required?
The simple answer to whether general liability insurance is required by law is that it depends on where you operate and what kind of business you run. In the United States, there is no federal
mandate requiring general liability insurance for all businesses. However, many states have specific regulations that might necessitate it under certain conditions. Let’s go over some common scenarios where it may be required:

State or Local Regulations: 
Certain states or municipalities might require general liability insurance for specific types of fitness, wellness, and beauty businesses. These regulations are more common in highly regulated industries or areas where public safety is a concern such as contractors and construction companies, where insurance is often mandated as a condition for obtaining permits or licenses.

Industry-Specific Requirements: 
The fitness and wellness industry involve activities with inherent risks, such as exercise-related injuries or accidents with equipment. Many fitness businesses, including gyms, personal trainers, yoga studios, and wellness centers, carry general liability insurance to manage these risks. Even if there isn’t a legal mandate, industry standards may effectively require you to carry insurance to do Business.

Contracts and Leases: 
Even if not required by law, many business contracts, including leases and client agreements, will stipulate that you carry general liability insurance. Landlords, customers, and other business partners often want assurance that you’re financially protected against liability risks.

Professional Licensing: 
Some professional certifications or licenses in the fitness and wellness industry might require general liability insurance as part of their terms. This is to ensure that practitioners operate safely and are financially responsible in case of incidents.

Why It’s Important to Carry General Liability Insurance
While general liability insurance may not always be legally required, it’s generally a wise investment. The risks of not having coverage can be significant, leading to financial ruin in the
event of a lawsuit or claim. Legal battles can be costly, and without insurance, a business could be forced to pay large settlements out of pocket.

Additionally, having general liability insurance can enhance your business’s credibility. It shows clients, customers, and partners that you’re serious about managing risks and safeguarding their interests.

In summary, general liability insurance is not universally required by law, but it’s often necessary due to state or local regulations, industry standards, or contractual obligations. Even in cases where it’s not legally mandated, carrying general liability insurance is a smart move for most businesses to protect against unforeseen risks and legal liabilities. If you’re unsure about the requirements in your area or industry, it’s best to consult with a legal or insurance professional to ensure you’re adequately protected.

Want more insurance tips and information? Join Alternative Balance at SCW Atlanta MANIA®, July 19-21 at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta Buckhead.  This 3-day educational and hands-on event offers over 160 activity sessions, nutrition, and business seminars.  Check out our other monthly insurance blog posts! New posts are uploaded during the first week of every month. If there are any specific topics that you’d like us to touch on, please shoot us an email at [email protected]!

If you have additional questions, please email us at [email protected] or give us a ring at (800) 871-3848 Monday-Friday 9 am-5 pm EST.

About the Author:  Lindsey Lessard

Lindsey Lessard is the Director of Client Relations at NEXO Insurance Services which manages several exclusive fitness programs in the U.S. She’s been helping clients find the best insurance for their business for the last 7 years, specializing in the fitness and wellness niche. She has her master’s in history and played collegiate volleyball. She enjoys reading, gardening, traveling, and spending time with her family and pets. 

Strutercize Your Way to Winning

by Lauren Taub

I have always loved to watch American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice, and other talent competitions. These shows inspire me because I am in love with talented and courageous people that go through the rigorous contest process. I was in the audience for the SCW Fitness Idol competition in Orlando, Florida in 2023, and decided I would fashion my own fitness program and compete the following year. So you can imagine when the judges called my name as the winner of Fitness Idol … I was elated. I turned to my friend who helped me present my program, Marci Palmer and asked “Did they just say the name Lauren?” I was thinking I could have just heard it in my head! But they did and I won, and I am overjoyed with this award.

My program is called Strutercize™, and it brings walking and fitness to a whole new level. It can be done indoors or outdoors, can be modified for different fitness capabilities and is loads of fun to do!! My program’s biggest compliment is when participants have a blast while sweating buckets.

I saw Fitness Idol as my opportunity to showcase Strutercize™ to fitness experts. I would like to thank this year’s judges Dane Robinson, Ann Gilbert, Amber Toole, and Gail Bannister-Munn for providing me with the encouragement and critique to make me and Strutercize™ better.

I look forward to rolling Strutercize out as a fitness program which can be incorporated into anyone’s life, making them healthier and happier. I would encourage anyone with any fitness idea or concept to enter the Fitness Idol Competition at an SCW Mania event. What do you have to lose? ( And you might just win! ).

I am so looking forward to be presenting my creation of Strutercize™ Fitness to SCW convention in 2025.

About the Author: Lauren Taub

She has a long and varied background in fitness instruction. She regards it as her ardent passion. She has a BFA in Dance from Adelphi University, New York, and incorporates dance and joy into her fitness. Her first professional job was working for Disney as Pinocchio for the Macy’s day parade and performing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a live show with Disney. Today she teaches Yoga, Bodypump by Les Mills, Zumba, and Zumba Kids. She has been teaching for over 16 years and is blessed with an amazing family, husband and 3 children.

Breaking Free: Overcoming Weight Loss Plateaus for Sustained Results

by Aesha Tahir

Your clients have tried your training program, eating healthy, and cutting calories, but they can’t lose weight! Or they lost 20 – 25 pounds and now their progress has plateaued. Does this sound familiar? Weight loss plateaus can be incredibly frustrating for our clients striving to achieve their weight loss goals.

As a trainer and exercise physiologist with a decade of experience, I have worked on overcoming plateaus with many of my clients. In this article we are going to take a deep dive into the science behind the weight loss plateaus and practical tips on how to guide your clients through weight loss plateaus effectively.

Reduction in REE and TEE: One of the reasons weight loss stalls is because it decreases the Resting Energy Expenditure (REE) and Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) of the body. According to scientific evidence, a 10% weight loss results in decreased energy expenditure beyond what is expected from human physiology. The decrease in REE can be up to 3 times the REE at prior weight. 

What does this mean? With only a meager 10% weight loss, your client’s body is now more metabolically efficient. Which is great! The only caveat is that their body requires less energy than before at rest, as well as it’s expending less energy during exercise. This mechanism protects against additional weight loss and creates weight loss resistance. 

Increase in Fasting Cortisol: Our hormones play a big role in weight stalling. In addition to decreasing energy expenditure, weight loss is also associated with an increase in appetite. According to a research study by Doucet et al. participants who underwent a successful weight-loss program consisting of very low-calorie diet restriction with exercise reported an increase in the desire to eat after a fasted state (think about your breakfast) as well as a more intense feeling of hunger, coupled with greater food consumption. This increased hunger is associated with higher levels of fasting cortisol. Cortisol causes the storing of fat and doesn’t let the fat metabolize. 

Increase in Hunger Hormones: If only we could control these hormones, we could make the lives of our clients so much better.

Severe calorie restriction and diet-induced weight loss are associated with increased levels of a hunger hormone called, Ghrelin levels. Normally, ghrelin levels rise before meals to signal to the brain that we need to eat or replace energy. Ghrelin suppresses after meals. In addition to appetite stimulation, Ghrelin decreases metabolic rate and fat catabolism.

This hormone does a double Whammy. That’s right! Higher levels of Ghrelin promote weight regain by two mechanisms: an increase in energy intake combined with a decrease in energy expenditure. 

Tips to Overcome Weight Loss Resistance:  Now that we understand what’s happening physiologically and this weight plateau is not your client’s fault, there are ways to reverse this weight loss resistance.

As with most biological systems, there is no upper limit for how much metabolic efficiency can change. If energy expenditure exceeds that of intake, a decrease in body weight must occur. That can be stated with absolute certainty. 

Here are three evidence-based tips to overcome resistance to weight loss: 

Prioritize Protein in Your Diet: Protein is the key to sustained weight loss. Why? Protein promotes satiety, helps maintain lean body mass, increases the thermic effect of food (more energy expenditure), and can reduce the efficiency of fat storage in our body. A recent study shows that people overeat fat and carb-rich foods due to the body’s powerful appetite for protein. The body prioritizes protein over any other macronutrient. In simple terms, people keep eating till their bodies get enough protein that they need which would be with a lot of food volume if it’s coming from foods rich in carbs and fat. 

The nuts and bolts of incorporating protein into your diet are: 

  • Aim to eat 1-1.2 grams per pound of the desired/ ideal body weight per day. For example, for a desired body weight of 150 lbs. the protein intake is between 150 grams – 180 grams per day.
  • Eat 40 grams of protein at the first meal or breakfast.  Physiologically this intake keeps the high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in check. 
  • High protein intake at breakfast induces an increase in muscle growth and increases the metabolic rate by 30%.
  • Evenly divide the rest of the protein over 3-5 meals. 

Lift Heavier: Another part of the energy expenditure equation is exercise. Since your clients are expending less energy during exercise after the initial weight loss, we need to ramp up the heat while staying within safe limits. Try to progressively load your client’s weights in the resistance training program and up their cardio intensity during HIIT workouts for optimal metabolic conditioning. 

Support Gut Health: An imbalance in our gut microbiome can wreak havoc on every system in your body including the human body’s ability to acquire nutrients and regulate energy usage. Poor gut health can lead to altered fat metabolism. I recommend fermented foods like kimchi, pickles, Greek yogurt, and green tea to my clients to maintain a healthy gut.

Cultivating Growth Mindset: A positive mindset that accepts challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles leads to perseverance. It’s important to remind our clients that not every day will be perfect and plateaus are part of the process. Each experience is an opportunity for learning and gaining valuable insights about their body and successful weight loss.

Bottomline: Overcoming resistance to weight loss requires a multifaceted approach that includes prioritizing protein, increasing the intensity of exercise routine, and supporting gut health. With these evidence-based strategies that prioritize the body’s needs your clients will be able to overcome weight loss plateaus and maintain long term weight loss.

About the Author: Aesha Tahir

Aesha Tahir is an exercise physiologist, and a nutritionist. Leveraging almost a decade of experience in the exercise industry Aesha, facilitates engaging corporate wellness training and workshops. She loves seeing the empowering transformations in clients through her training programs. In addition to offering corporate workshops, she is a keynote speaker. She is the author international best seller and award-winning book “Unhunched: Discover Wellness Through Posture.” She is a health and wellness columnist for ROVA, Women’s Health, Fitness Trainer, and Personal Fitness Professionals.

You can learn more about Aesha Tahir at and follow her on LinkedIn: and Instagram:

Looking for a New Job? SCW Can Help!

Facilities need you! Whether it’s Teachers, Trainers, Directors, or Managers, SCW’s new FREE JOB BOARD is supporting the industry’s need for qualified fitness pros.

We post openings in all three of our monthly e-newsletters: Spotlite, Health & Fitness Business News, and Tidal Waves which are emailed out to tens of thousands of fitness professionals teaching and training in all formats along with managers and directors at all fitness facilities: big box, gyms, boutique, studios, not for profits and independent centers. 

Social Media Assistant

SCW Fitness Education – Remote

This part time virtual Social Media Assistant is responsible for managing the SCW social media for MANIA, WATERinMOTION, SEAT Fitness and Sara Kooperman.  This is a 10-20 hour part-time position that is responsible for instagram, facebook, linkedin and tik tok. 

Event Tech Specialist (A/V)

SCW Fitness Education – Remote Part Time

Join our SCW MANIA® Fitness Professional Convention team as an Event Tech Specialist! Your role involves efficiently handling equipment for our conventions and setting up A/V gear for sessions, and general troubleshooting during events. We’re looking for someone organized, able to lift heavy equipment, and with basic A/V technical skills. If you’re passionate about event production and A/V setup, apply now for this exciting opportunity to create unforgettable experiences for fitness pros and enthusiasts! 

Aqua Fitness Instructor

Midtown Athletic Club – Bannockburn, IL

Midtown is searching for Aqua Fitness Instructors to teach and motivate our members to achieve their goals through classes in the Pool at Midtown!
Must have AM availability.

Aqua Instructor

Central YMCA – Arlington, TX

We are looking for passionate certified aqua instructors for our summer outdoor pool classes.  The class schedule begins the end of May and runs through early September and the class times are 7:15a and 8:15a.  

Exercise Physiologist

Woman’s Center for Wellness – Baton Rouge, LA

Conducts 1-on-1 and group training exercise sessions with cancer survivors, bone health sufferers, and other related diagnoses. Other duties include exercise testing and evaluation, and the development of appropriate exercise programs. Performs other duties assigned by department management. Must be knowledgeable of exercise standards and guidelines established by the ACSM.

Wellness Specialist

Orange County Sheriff’s Office – Orlando, FL

Functions as a trained subject matter expert in the area of fitness and wellness by developing programming and providing instruction, education, coaching and encouraging individuals to adopt personal healthy lifestyle habits and behaviors by performing the following duties.

Group Exercise Instructor

Woman’s Center for Wellness – Baton Rouge, LA

Candidate will instruct fitness classes, such as Yoga, Indoor Cycling, Aqua, Mat Pilates, Zumba, strength training, etc.

Candidate must have group exercise certification, professional liability insurance and CPR/AED required; specialty certification in Yoga, Indoor Cycling, Aqua, REFIT, HIIT, Mat Pilates, Zumba, strength training and/or circuit preferred.

Group Fitness Instructor

F45 Training Longmont – Longmont, CO

We’re looking for personable & high-energy coaches to deliver a top-notch studio experience for our group training HIIT workouts. The people we’re looking for:

  • Have a growth mindset and want to be part of a professional team.
  • Thrive in a fast-paced environment.
  • Come alive in front of a group!

Assistant Director, Fitness

Leonard J. Kaplan Center for Wellness – UNC Greensboro

The Assistant Director, Fitness is responsible for the overall design, management, and implementation of a comprehensive fitness program for the students, faculty, staff and UNC Greensboro community. This includes leadership of two professional positions and a graduate assistant as well as student employees.

Group Exercise Instructor

Indian Boundary YMCA – Downers Grove, IL

All formats needed. Early morning, morning and evening classes available. Reach out me at the included phone number or email address for more information.

We’re always looking for great content highlighting the newest things in the world of fitness. Please submit your article directly to [email protected] for immediate consideration!
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