FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen shares a perspective on the body positivity movement and a reminder to prioritize health habits above all.

As you read this, please know that I do not condone bullying of any kind. However, I do find it alarming the way the body positivity movement has progressed in certain directions.

Before I delve into this topic further, I’d like to point out that fatness doesn’t determine fitness. You can be overweight and be fit. Also, above all, you should be happy with who you are as a person both physically and mentally, or at the very least who you are becoming. If you’re not, then it is up to you to take action to change that. It is, however, time that we educate ourselves more about fat instead of suppressing the topic away because of negative feelings about it or an elementary school bully we once had.

Body positivity is a relatively new movement that has resulted in a change in the way the beauty is perceived. No longer is it just the size zero models strutting down the catwalks, as we also have people of a variety of sizes modeling for clothing companies, representing different body types in advertisements, etc. This a great stride towards diversity and mental health, as more people are happier with who they are.

Prioritizing Healthy Habits

There are, however, limitations that people should be reminded of in order to balance both physical AND mental health. The notion of body positivity can sometimes promote a greater likelihood for a dangerous lifestyle of overeating and inactivity, which can lead to serious health issues.

Just because you’re content with your body size, doesn’t mean that it is in fact physically healthy. While fat is important and we need to have some of it, like anything else, there are limitations.

There are mainly two types of fat in adults – white fat and visceral fat. White fat is the most common in the body, and is also called subcutaneous fat. This is the fat under your skin that gives your body its shape. Visceral fat is the harmful type of fat that you cannot see. It is the fat that lies on top of your organs. This fat affects the body in that the more of it that you have, the more at risk you are for developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease (the #1 killer).

*Bonus Fact: if your waist to hip ratio is over 1, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease*

So, as you can infer, the more overweight a person is, the more likely they are to have more visceral fat. Another thing that can contribute to more visceral fat that most people don’t realize is a heavy intake of alcohol. We can combat this type of fat in a healthy, sustainable way – no need to go all “Biggest Loser”. By simply eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, you can help drastically change your body composition. An example of a healthy exercise regimen would include 3-5 days per week of a combination of aerobic and anaerobic activity (like cardio – check out that post here!).

No one is saying that you need to look like Brad Pitt or Gal Gadot, but you do need to take your physical health as seriously as your mental health and try your best to prioritize a healthy, balanced lifestyle through nutrition and exercise.

Post written by FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen.

Want to learn more or set up a complimentary consultation with Tyler? Email him at

How many people do you see at the gym riding the same stationary bike, gliding up the same treadmill incline, churning away at some other piece of cardio equipment or taking the same step or cycling classes?

If you look at the rest of the gym, you’ll probably notice that there are not quite as many participants utilizing the weights.

Why do you think that is? A typical response I get from women is “I don’t want to look bulky –  weights will make me look like a bodybuilder.” When it comes to men, a common response I receive is that “you can’t burn fat while weight training.”

Interestingly, science and research have proven these statements false. Weight training has been found to be the victor in this stiff competition when comparing side by side long-term benefits – especially when it comes to fat loss. However, for the maximum benefit, both should be utilized in an exercise program.

Why Weight Training Works

When you put a heart rate monitor on, you’ll notice that you’ll burn more calories when your heart rate is elevated. When your heart rate reaches a specific zone, your body’s response is to utilize the aerobic energy system, which is what utilizes fat as energy, thus allowing you to burn a high percentage of fat during your workout. This is why so many gym members utilize cardio classes and equipment.

Unfortunately, the amount of muscle you build during cardiovascular exercise does not equate to much, and therefore you are only helping yourself in the short term. Sure, weight training does build “mass” (muscle mass, that is) – but that’s not something we should be afraid of because building muscle mass positively affects our metabolism. Research illustrates that the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn daily.

Any type of strength training will aid in building this muscle. If you put a heart rate monitor on during this style of training you will see that your heart rate will not be as elevated as it is during cardiovascular endurance training, however, the benefits achieved from strength training will run longer term.

Related: click here to register for a free personal training session at FFC!

How to Build Muscle Effectively

In order to build muscle most effectively, eccentric muscle contraction must be the focus of the exercise performed. Eccentric muscle contraction is how your muscle contracts during a specific portion of the exercise. An example of this would be the downward phase of a squat. Many people focus on the concentric phase (i.e. the stand up portion of the squat), and try to put up as much weight as possible. While this may boost their ego, it will not bolster muscle mass and may likely lead to injury.

Slow repetitions with full range of motion will yield the maximum benefit for muscle building. Women have no need to fear weight training, as they do not possess the same body chemistry as men do, and therefore cannot “bulk up”. You may have seen female bodybuilder who appear “bulky”, but they may be taking performance enhancing drugs that increase their testosterone levels which allow them the ability to build that large physique. Women do not naturally have enough testosterone in their bodies to “bulk” like that.

You CAN Have Both

So now the question is how to incorporate both styles of training in your program. For my beginner-level clients, I recommend that they consider doing some type of cardiovascular training during their “off” days, while maintaining an evenly proportioned weight training regimen that I have prescribed to them based off of my fitness assessments and evaluation of their current abilities.

For most clients, this means doing an average of four days each week dedicated to weight training and a minimum of three days of cardiovascular training. This type of beginner program structure ensures safety and results if paired with a proper nutrition program. Using a heart rate monitor during your training will provide you with the information as to which zone you’re operating in to make your training as time-efficient as possible. Stay tuned for an overview of different styles of training in my next blog posts to get a better idea of which might be a good fit for you.

Related: need more convincing? Here are 8 benefits of working weights into your regular routine!

About Tyler

FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen

Tyler Sutphen is a master trainer at FFC Union Station. Before FFC, he was a master trainer at XSport in Naperville, IL and prior to that, he interned at the MU Human Performance Institute in Columbia, MO. He holds a degree in nutrition and exercise physiology and is certified in both ACE personal training and Functional Movement Screen.

Tyler works with clients of all ages, gender and training goals. Two of his proudest fitness moments are currently 1) helping a client who had just gotten off chemotherapy lose 40 lbs over the course of 90 days and 2) helping another client to fix a muscular imbalance to walk properly again.

Want to contact Tyler to set up a complimentary consultation? You can email him directly at! You can also follow along with him on his Facebook page here to receive a weekly fitness update every Monday, along with great tips, tricks and discussion.


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Exercises are like music; there are a million options to choose from, but not all of them are good. I’ve put together a list of some of the most common exercises found in peoples’ fitness programs that are inefficient, and often times, not safe. Are you performing one of these 9 potentially unsafe exercises? Here’s what to do instead.

Side Bends

This ever-popular exercise is probably the most common one seen on the gym floor. The person takes dumbbells in each hand in a standing position, and then they bend from one side to the other.

The thought behind this exercise is that it will work your obliques, (the muscles on the side of your stomach). However, your core is designed to resist movement, not create it. Instead, try something like a cable wood chop (both upwards and downwards).

Wrist Curls

Grip strength is something that can either make or break someone’s lift. Oftentimes, failure to complete a lift at a certain weight isn’t because the person isn’t strong enough, but rather they do not have the grip strength to be able to hold the weight properly.

Therefore, people sometimes think that that they will be able to increase their wrist strength by doing wrist curls – but it is not a functional movement for lifting. This is because, as in most cases, the wrist should be in a locked position. Instead, invest in some Fat Grips and try doing your normal exercises such as bench press or rows and see what a difference it makes without breaking away from proper form in the wrist.

Hip Abduction/Adduction Machine

These are the machines where you typically see a lot of women using them to “tone” their legs. Because of the design for these machines, they isolate very small assistance muscles in the legs.

While this might be great for something such as trying to work on muscle imbalances, it is a very inefficient approach. Instead, to work the abductors and increase exercise efficiency, try doing squats with a mini resistance band right above or below the knees. To work the inner thigh more, try doing side lunges or sumo squats.

Inverted Pull-Ups

This is an exercise that makes me cringe every time I see it in the gym. Many times, the person practicing the move’s thought would be to work the traps (upper back muscles), but in a different way of doing so. However, all the person is really doing is an upside down body weight shrug. Instead, take the safer alternative and just do shrugs while standing one the ground or really isolate the traps by sitting down facing an incline bench and doing dumbbell shrugs.

Related: weight training vs cardio – do you know which one achieves greater fat loss?

Lat Pull Downs Behind the Head

This is something people do to work the lats (muscles that span the width of their back). By pulling the bar behind your neck, you cause excessive flexion of the cervical spine in your neck and can actually do damage because of it. It also provides no more benefit than pulling the bar down in front to chin level. Instead, try doing pull-ups (assisted if needed) or dumbbell pullovers.

Dumbbell Shoulder Internal/External Rotations

This is an exercise I see many people doing, who are probably trying to do some rotator cuff work. However, because of the way in which gravity pulls on the weight, the exercise doesn’t actually work the way it is intended to work. Instead, try doing it with a resistance band or cable. Another alternative exercise would be to do external rotations while lying on your side.

Rotary Torso Machine

This exercise is often performed by people who want to work their obliques. This is a bad exercise for your back because of how it is designed. It causes twisting of the lumbar spine (which shouldn’t twist). Instead, try side planks.

Related: click here to sign up for a free personal training session at FFC, on us!

Crunch Machines

People who use these machines typically do not activate their core correctly, and therefore use the momentum of the machine to do the work for them. Because of this, using the crunch machine can actually be a dangerous exercise. Instead, try doing the ab roller.

Upright Rows   

This exercise is popular because it is used to target the shoulders and traps. However, the way in which this exercise is executed can actually impinge the shoulder and cause shoulder pain. Instead, work try working the traps and the shoulders by doing over-the-head rack carries with dumbbells.

This post was written by FFC Union Station Personal Trainer Tyler Sutphen.

FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen

About Tyler

Tyler Sutphen is a master trainer at FFC Union Station. Want to contact Tyler to set up a complimentary consultation? You can email him directly at! You can also follow along with him on his Facebook page here to receive a weekly fitness update along with great tips, tricks and discussion.



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