Random Training Thoughts From This Week.

This is more of a thought board of random statements that I saw on the gym floor this week.

  1. Tempo is a useful tool on the eccentric or “lifting” section of a movement if the goals are rehab, muscular endurance or hypertrophy. If the goals are strength and speed slow work is redundant. You can not lift a maximal or close to maximal weight slowly without compromising performance.
  2. High intensity work is great if you can maintain form. If you have a poor aerobic base your form will break down on repetition based cardio. This is a problem with HIIT work- it mainly becomes poor form aerobic work after a while. HIIT is popular in the mainstream at the moment and obviously it is partly client led because it feels rewarding. Initially use methods which mean that form break down can be coached properly before progressing exercise complexity e.g. a bike is a lot easier to maintain form on than hill runs or kettlebell swings.
  3. Loaded hip thrusts are popular at the moment… but I like to use them more as a finishing exercise and a warm up drill than rather than a “main exercise”, this is just personal preference as I think after a certain amount of weight the weight needed to lift for overload becomes uncomfortable.
  4. Overhead hangs (unless you come from a gymnastic population so you are training for a sport) are not a great position for your shoulder joint to be in. It feels good to hang as it decompresses the joint and stretching generally always feels good but it creates laxity in the joint which your retirement will not thank you for. Kipping pull ups fall into this category as you get an anterior translation of the humeral head at the base of the movement. What does this mean? Your arm bone gets pushed forward into the soft tissue at the front of your shoulder.
  5. Over the last couple of months I have been supplementing my diet with additional fish oils and curcumin. Two of their major benefits are anti-inflammation. Anecdotally, I think they have helped me balance out a heavy work period (I am now teaching at Hertford Regional College on their Personal Training programme) and maintained at least decent recovery from exercise. I also feel this has been a factor in maintaining good energy levels…. and getting more stuff done. Granted I did buy a new coffee machine but my intake of caffeine has been relativly the same as before!
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Don’t Hate Steady State- Why Going Slow Can Help You Go Fast.

HIIT or high intensity interval training is becoming the “cardio”choice of the instagram generation. While it has some time saving benefits it means that low level/ low intensity work has gone out  the window. Here’s why you should consider not condensing all our workouts down to a series of 30 second smash ups.

There are a number of benefits of lower intensity work- better cardiovascular function, better sleep quality and a reduction of stress to start with.

But first let me frame a “back story” to give a sense of perspective. I recently started training someone who is time poor. Their workouts NEEDED to be efficient. Efficiency in itself does not always mean you cram “more” in to a session, in fact it should mean the quality of what you do goes up…. as opposed to doing more varied stuff badly. In itself the client needed to be re-educated that there is more to exercise then destroying yourself. Indeed no pain/ no gain really should mean no pain/ no pain but plenty of gain if training is appropriately measured (I guess that doesn’t really roll of the tongue does it).

There is a belief that HIIT work is a cure all for every goal.

Play sport- perform HIIT, get skinny- HIIT is what you need. Even to the point where I have even heard a story of someone trying to run a marathon of the back of purely high intensity work (it was their first marathon- it was not a great success).

Smart exercise programmes tend to cover all bases. If you have certain demands for a sport then certain work will be more relevant to you. For general fitness clientele there is no “best.”

What do we see though from a training perspective and what are the misnomers about steady state cardio?

Well the first thing you have to understand is that all exercise stresses a different energy system. They don’t compete with each other though to do the work. They are stressed at different levels providing different physiological adaptations. It’s not a competition to do more harder all the time.

Steady state work improves the efficiency of your heart allowing the heart to pump more blood, in turn it can help lower your heart rate and act to in effect relax your nervous system destressing the body. Throwing high intensity on to someone who is stressed and tired may have the opposite effect of chilling them out and leave them more “amped up.”

Beginners also tend to fly straight into HIIT work with programmes like “Insanity.”  These type of programmes are a bit like destroying yourself so you start doing everything really badly, and then carry on destroying yourself like you hate yourself.

If you have heard of self help books this is the opposite…. but at least you get a T-Shirt at the end of it.

It’s not measured, it’s not balanced but it’s hard… and obviously hard is better, no pain/ no gain after all. Dropping back though and doing some steady work though can help your recovery, indeed it will ultimately help you recover better from your high intensity work.

In itself though HIIT work is useful but it doesn’t need to be used at every freaking session. In my experience trainers are scared of not being the “toughest.” A client of mine (you know who you are) often goads me by saying “trainer b’s session was really hard the other day compared to yours.”My response is that “Do you want to do 2 sets of 10 repetitions well, or one set of 20 rows with patchy form for half of them.”

Quality counts as it’s about efficiency right!

Where though is HIIT useful?

  1. If your only goal is fat loss then HIIT work will help. That said though to start beginners on lots of HIIT work is unprofessional. We actually got a new client at the gym this week because her previous trainer kept on destroying her to the point of pain. As a professional you should be able to explain to a client about the different benefits of certain exercise and why they probably should go down a certain path programme wise. That said if you are time poor it can be programmed accordingly but not for an hour. 20minuts for the average gym goer should be enough.
  2. HIIT helps develop the aerobic system. This means you get some of the fringe benefits of aerobic work. That said in most people I will suggest 1 to 6 steady state sessions a week and maybe 2-4 HIIT sessions depending upon availability, goals and demands.

Developing a good aerobic base is a bit like building the footings on a pyramid. The bigger the base the larger the pyramid and this explains your adaptations when working at a higher level. If you find yourself getting gassed when performing short intense bouts it may be a good indicator that your recovery is hampered by having a poor aerobic system.

In a practical sense I keep an eye on my clients training by  performing a repeated sprint test (the rowing machine works brilliantly for this). If you can maintain consistently strong pace on your work interval with a 1 to 1 work: rest ratio with no drop of in form(we have used distances of 250m, 500, and 100m for this) then your aerobic base is allowing you to recover so your focus should be on top end/ power development. If your intensity falls away quickly and does not recover at all then your aerobic base may need a bit of work. This isn’t as sciencey as you can get but it’s a simple test to allow someone to see where there training may need a bit of attention while getting a training effect.

Energy system development in the glycolytic system from high intensity works returns occur will occur in the first 6 weeks. After this period of adaptation it’s prudent to look at maximal power and lower level aerobic work for improvements.

So there it is- a primer on why some low level work can help your HIIT work and your overall results.

 

 

 

How to Lose Weight and Why Television Could Be Confusing You

I always highlight that reading more won’t make you stupid… However, if you principally read stories that are not true then the likely hood is that you may believe that life works in the way as described in what you are reading.

The same could be said of television- as I highlight to my wife. In season- I love a bit of Game of Thrones, sometimes I could consider maybe it’s a bit “real” (no I haven’t gone full blown crazy), I mean at one point in time you had to pretty much run around with a sword! Am I right- of course I am. Now when the magic and dragons turn up I pretty much understand that they might not be real- well I haven’t seen many dragons recently. This is fantasy comparing this to the hospital drama Gray’s Anatomy where it seems you take your life and close relationships in to your hands once you take on your employment contract- I mean if you or your significant other isn’t crushed, beaten or shot within two years working in this hospital it’s a miracle. They both aren’t real if you needed clarification… though they are entertaining.

What does this have to do with weight loss you may ask. Well continue reading and I might get to my point. There is a lot of misinformation about losing weight. Principally you need to remember one thing:

You will only lose fat weight if you are in a calorific deficit.

There, that’s it.

It’s not a fantastical story about your hormones. Overall your weight can be manipulated by what you eat and drink. Body composition is only changed if you engage in a calorific deficit or surplus.

Why is it important to highlight this point. Consider the following:

  • Eat fat, burn fat.
  • Low carb diets work best for fat loss.
  • Fasted exercise is better than non-fasted exercise.

None of them are true. If you eat fat and you are in a calorific deficit then you will lose weight. Low carb diets are as effective as low fat diets in the research. Fasted cardio is not better if you control for exercise intensity and volume. Where does that leave us? It doesn’t leave us in a place with a fantastic story- in fact it leaves two options. Control calorie intake and adapt exercise/ activity as necessary in line with your current weight/ lean muscle content.

Each of those statements have been uttered in the main stream media, on television and in print recently. What’s the result? People believe these things are real. Now they may not start pouring cream on all their meals and eating cheese like there is no tomorrow but it does confuse the message of a balanced diet and healthy sustainable weight loss.

If you know the difference between dragons being real or pretend, then that’s fine, just as the perils of taking a hospital job in Seattle. If these programmes are being delivered  as factual accounts and people believe they are real then the world would be going crazy. Some things can be dramatized- health advice probably shouldn’t be.

Overhead Carries and the Overhead Athlete

With a lot of the guys we work with they have some pretty full on demands for maintenance of shoulder stability and mobility. Twinned with our fitness clients and the wear and tear of everyday life certain exercises are pretty much a necessity for building healthy robust shoulders.

Primarily, in the sporting arena we work with a lot of swimmers and tennis players. The overhead carry is great as it encourages upward rotation of the shoulder blade. If we lose upward rotation during a movement we may typically resort to placing more emphasis on to the elbow and shoulder joint rather than allowing the muscles around the shoulder blade to do the job to the best of their abilities. Swimming and tennis also have a lot of force placed upon the shoulder when it is overhead or near to full extension. This means that injury risk is highest if you can not stabilise the joint in place.

Single handed this exercise places a challenge to the rotational stability function of the abs as well as maintaining anterior core control – in simple terms it allows your abs to do the work as opposed to your lower back arching through the movement.

Loading this exercise can make the form pretty poor quickly if your ego is bigger than doing things properly. So try it out- we give it to some of our trainees early on in sessions to encourage good core position. We also use it as a challenging finisher- that said if you have had a heavy upper body training day form can fall apart on pretty low loads.

A Training Principle That Beginners Must Learn

With the increase in our membership at Results FAST it’s getting quite hard to write quality articles in the volume I used to (excuses are excuses- and quality I guess depends on opinion, I will generally cede that my grammar and sentence structure are marginally better than a 16 year olds).

This one came to me quite quickly today due to the fact in that in a number of our clients programmes this month we have included the old school classic “bent over rows”. Now without invoking thoughts of the 80’s, Arnie and Carl Weathers (if you do not know, please watch Pumping Iron and Predator) this exercise in most gyms is absolutely bastardized.

It’s meant to be for the mid-back and core but often becomes an upper back/ neck exercise… ideally we are looking to work the mid-trap/ back area. Cue Admiral Ackbar’s physiology course.

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WARNING…….. OWN TRUMPET BLOWING COMING UP….

As a principle exercise all of our clients are taught to deadlift/ pick weights up safely. In turn when you know what your lower back is meant to be doing (due to totally excellent coaching… ahem) it becomes hard to cheat the movement.

Principally, if you can maintain good position in your core with ample hamstring range you can maintain position under load (perhaps what we call core stability). Basically it’s the difference between coaching these positions…


With this exercise it looks sub-par when you can’t maintain core control e.g. you fail through your lower back strength as opposed to the load you are lifting- poor form has nothing to do with weakness in the “target” muscle groups of the back and arms. In a lot of cases people will smash their set out with a rounded back position compromising correct technique for a weighted ego boost.

Where else is this relevant? Well… deadlifting e.g. picking anything up of the floor safely, kettlebell swings (torso flexion is a no-no) and squatting (both front and back). It’s basically relevant in 3 major bilateral lower body exercises- this highlights how your upper body programme can be improved by learning key lifts such as the squat and deadlift.

Most of the time I try to finish articles with a take away piece of info or something you can put in to action on your next gym visit. This time though it’s simply master the basic position of hinging at the hip and then load appropriately. If you struggle to achieve this position look at two things your “core” strength (your ability to maintain position) as well as your hip mobility. If you have a lower body that’s tighter than my wallet (pretty tight) then try to do big exercises may be a step too far and working on your hip mobility may allow you to develop better athletic ability- I would consider this a better spend of gym time as opposed to trying to perform an exercise in a sub par fashion under load.

 

 

 

Quick Tips to Assess Your Squat

We use a squat based movement pattern in near enough every session. Their inclusion in some form in every warm up we perform highlights how functional and fundamental to effective training the squat movement is.

When we squat we see flexion at the hip, knee and ankle. This movement is performed in all of the major Olympic lifts, deadlifts and jumping so making sure this movement is dialled in is pretty important.

One of the most common impairments to this movement especially in more experienced lifters (not necessarily better) we tend to see is more anterior rotation of the pelvis meaning excessive strain is put on the lower back in order to avoid flexion or forward bending. This is often when load is added in order to counter flexion forward. It makes the lifter think they are getting lower but the movement really isn’t gaining depth through the lower body musculature. In fact the change in angle of the pelvis and forward lean of the individual is providing the extra “range.” This means there is more strain on the lower back.

So if this is the case try this challenge to help you clean up your squat. This is a good challenge to old and new trainees- aim to maintain balance while sitting all the way down to their heels while not leaning forward or coming on to the balls of your feet. Check the guy out on the right- if you look more like that than the guy on the left it may be wise to leave a bit of weight of the bar and work on your positioning.

If you fall forward it’s a good sign that your back extensors, hip flexors, quads and calves may be overactive and taking on a little too much work. Some people will remedy this by squatting with a wider stance to get lower- this is just hiding mobility issues by creating a stable wider base with less range to move through. Look where the centre of gravity is going (tip: forward). This will happen without load as you will find greater range of movement than the likely half range that you are squatting through loaded.

Why is this a negative? Well, allowing the abdominals and the other muscles around the pelvis such as the glutes to pick up the slack will result in less loading on the lower back and better force transfer. In turn not just in the squat movement but in rotational movements as well as the back and quads take the work on as opposed to the abdominals and glutes.

A good question to ask yourself is does squatting leave you with a sore lower back- if so consider dropping a bit of weight (your ego won’t suffer too much) and look to clean up your squat movement by balancing your programme and placing more emphasis on making your squat better by adjusting your strength leverages.

 

 

A bala

 

position of joint

muscular action

pressure/ breathing

 

 

 

 

 

In Other News…. Part 1.

In a way of consolidating some of the interesting things I have been reading/ looking at and also to avoid the constant stream of social media I have put together some of the interesting articles/ bits of science that I have found interesting over the last week. Hopefully these will dispel a few myths in between entertaining you/ stopping you looking at what  cute kittens are doing on Facebook etc.

First of all press ups… Most people hate them and everyone should do them. As we have laid a new floor it has highlighted poor form if you don’t have your hand position right (e.g. directly beneath your arm pits). As for a couple of days the gym was more slippery than a slippery snake in slippers due to the way they make rubber flooring it meant that if the push from the press up was not vertical then bad things where going to happen e.g. face plant! Consider also the rounding of the shoulder blades at the top of the movement as your shoulder blades move around the rib cage (this is a good thing and doesn’t happen in bench pressing which can be advantageous for those managing shoulder issues).

The first piece is from Men’s Health and basically covers is late night snacking bad. The take home point is that calories are pretty much equal dispelling the outdated notion of no carbs after 6pm!

This piece of research indicates that prolonging the rate of carbohydrate ingestion is beneficial for those looking to improve insulin economy and glucose disposal. Perhaps more relevant for those with diabetes  it sort of highlights that having large volumes of carbohydrates (as opposed to consuming the same amount over a period of time) can have a more extreme effect on insulin levels. Why is this useful? Most people consume carbohydrates at breakfast, lunch and dinner- perhaps consider the amount you are consuming and break it down in to smaller snacks spread through the day, you may find it stops that mid-afternoon malaise.

Typically that malaise may be cured by black coffee, but as this article suggests black coffee drinkers may have more psychopathic tendencies (GULP!). So if anyone is training with me this or any evening please bring milk and a nice chianti. For those in to movies this is what Hannibal was on about when he was talking about his previous high protein/ low carb meal.

A Year Off Writing About Fitness and Nutrition.

This is my first blog post for a considerable amount of time. Well actually pretty much a year. It was a conscious decision to take a step back from something that I had pretty much done part time for the last 12 years.

Pretty much I was writing 5-10 articles a week from witty one liner rent-a-quote pieces up to 1000 word articles about something health and fitness related. Some of it was fun, some of it was like pulling teeth.

For a period of time and the majority of the “volume” I was writing it was as a ghost writer for varying trainers which wasn’t really that challenging and in truth a bit boring. Consider it as the writing equivalent of “vanilla ice cream”, fundamentally dull (yes, I know some people love vanilla but that is super charged vanilla with hawaiian vanilla pods and all that). Personally I did a piece on Men’s Health on training Batman, did a few articles on the Huffington Post but after those I felt a step back was necessary. To frame it I don’t really make money of this blog, I do it for interest and to frame what we do at Results FAST and ultimately to interest people in the training and nutrition services we provide there (NB I hadn’t retreated to the Batcave to train Batman as has been suggested merely I just got a bit bored writing content for the sake of it (Batman’s trainer would obviously say that though)).

Well relatively time has moved on (as it does) and I feel recharged or re-focussed to contribute something beyond eight great glute exercises or a High Intensity Training video that makes you want to gag when you watch- not because it’s hard but more because you are wondering just why (this is more my issue- social media and the internet is great for sharing information but it really depends what you read and who you follow, put it this way my “circle” is smaller than it’s ever been).

I’m not the only person trying to share practical usable content- it’s just that there is so much volume it’s hard to discern from good and bad sources, hopefully the content I share will clarify certain things or at least be a flag in a hurricane (James Bond reference there… ahem).

So what’s been going on? The gym is busy and has been busy for the past 11 months good. Our fat loss, strength and fitness clients are achieving varying levels of success (our naughty list is pretty short at the moment so shame on you if you are on it). We have seen some good challenges beaten, PR’s being achieved in the weight room and generally all round good stuff for those wanting to take a step on. Our athletes are pushing on, predominantly our swimmers, tennis and our kayakers are doing great stuff at a county, regional and for a few national level so it’s great to see  their efforts being rewarded. What does this say? People who turn up achieve their results.

I have been working on some interesting side projects which hopefully we will be testing in the new year and by the way it’s not an app (as people keep on asking- good ideas can still be on paper btw).

We have refurbed the gym in the last couple of months as well- for me this was basically two 60 hour weeks of labour but at the same time a lifetime of praise for a partition wall that appears to be not falling down, we now look a bit sharper and the new flooring is better for dropping heavy things on!

I think that will do for now, I really wanted to not kick this off again in the new year.