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!

From the Gym Floor: Part 4… Batman, Wall Balls, Speed Strength and Ambient Temperature.

This could be classified as the “super hero” edition. Why? Read on.

1. We were featured in Men’s Health in an article “How to be Batman” the premise was how to disrupt your childhood to leave you with a deep seated personality order meaning your role in life is defined by trying to imprison bad people while dressed up as a flying squirrel. Well not quite- it’s more of an article of what would Batman do in the gym- click above and enjoy.

2. Wall/ Slam Balls are awesome and fun at the same time. At the moment we are incorporating a lot of med ball slams/ wall ball work. In our more advanced clients they are great way to work on hip drives roll in rotational sports. We cue the movement by encouraging a hip turn first. Often you find that people when they fatigue start only using their arms especially on rotation or side to side based work. From the point of view they are a great tool for conditioning and varying movement load and speed. Most importantly they are fun. Too often I see coaches get caught up in the pursuit of “heavy” without working on varying repetition speed. Which leads to my next point…

3. Strength has a component of speed and endurance, to get the best returns you have to train speed and endurance to see a return in maximal strength. That means that quick work as described above is vital when you are looking to get stronger. It also means that endurance work or slightly higher repetition work can be good as well (typically we perform this on single leg work). Performing training in the same rep ranges all the time is an ineffectual way of training. 3 x 10 works for 6 weeks for beginners but to progress more variation is key.

4. Ambient temperature plays a roll in warm ups. We have come off the back of a pretty good summer and a warm Autumn but as the clocks change and the temperature drops it’s vital to take up the duration of your warm ups. When it’s warmer circulation is better and we find that our clients have less joint pain. If you suffer from poor circulation it can help to include a few more rounds of dynamic mobility- your joints may thank you for it. We have a few people who suffer from joint pain and adding additional work for the calves and wrists can help greatly in getting ready for your training sessions.

 

 

A New Direction…. Among Other Things…

It’s been about three quarters of a year since I updated this blog. Reason being is simply I decided to take a bit of a rest from fitness and nutrition writing (put it this way- I have probably written 2 to 3 articles a week over the last ten years, not an issue if your main job is a writer or journalist- mine is not, it’s training people). The other reason I cut back on updates is that I wanted to have a bit of a rethink in the type of content I was sharing.

In the past I have written and ghost written some good articles/ books that I thought were legitimately strong in the sense that they were good solid content that people would use to enhance their fitness, training, performance, nutrition etc.

Other articles are what I term “click bait” or what you may recognise as another “7 reasons why you are fat/ not skinny/ are avoiding carbs.” This type of article is great from the point of view of attracting clicks but they are quite hollow in content. What I mean is they never really tell you the whole story or give any frame of reference of why this information is applicable to you.

One of my clients highlighted this the other day by asking me “Is dried mango good for me?” Now you could rephrase this in to 7 reasons why dried mango is good for you, indeed you could find 7 reasons that dried mango is “bad” for you. Now dried mango is not good or bad- what is important is the context that it can be good or bad in e.g. It depends upon what you eat every day and how much you train, exercise, move. Indeed writing an article on why mango is a “superfood” is a lot easier than explaining 7 reasons why mango consumption is context relevant. People generally want bite sized chunks of information backed up with a scientific reference- it could be a bad study, but it doesn’t matter because it’s all science right….. well no.

So that leads me to what this blog is changing in to. I am intending to make it more practical and application driven with more of a day to day view point of how we work with our clients at our gym Results FAST. What’s our average client? We don’t have one, we have no “niche” apart from sensible results driven programming backed by what we see as good science. We have a range of adult clients from 11 to 72 years old with the main aim of being strong, fit and healthy. Some manage joint injuries- chronic and acute, others are just trying to manage their lifestyles. We have a number of young athletes from swimming, tennis, football and rugby including county, regional, national and international level. We have clients who struggle with suitable nutrition, we have clients who are curious about any new diet or fad exercise (who we have to “try” and put straight). We generally train a better level of client who respect the training process as opposed to individuals who just chase “fatigue.” We have older athletes looking for smart programming to lengthen their careers. We have newbies and experienced lifters. What can I say everyone is on the training continuum in some way.

This blog aims to explain the programmes, the exercises, the processes and the work that we do with our Results FAST members. So quite simply any questions that you want us to field then ask and we will explain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research Review: 4 Links To Make You Strong, Get Lean and Perform Better.

L Carn it Doesn’t

Supplements claims are abundant and one that is getting a lot of press recently is L Carnitine. It is proposed that it gain help reduce body fat among other things. From a fat loss perspective this study highlights an insignificant changes in fat mass after a period of supplementation

And While We Are At It….

Coconut oil is proposed to burn more body fat. Well it doesn’t…. or at least that is what the science says. The incredibly intelligent guys at Examine.com highlight “the inclusion of coconut oil in the diet is unlikely to induce any fat loss effects of noticeable magnitude inherently but its inclusion in the diet in lieu of other dietary fatty acids can be a part of fine-tuning a diet plan.” Check their review out for more information.

Stop Quicker to Go Quicker….

This paper is relevant to anyone who plays a sprint based sports. We work with a few tennis players and rugby players and we have found that teaching someone to “stop quickly” allows them to change direction quicker. This piece of research highlights the benefits of unilateral strength on an “enforced stopping” protocol.

Put Your Hands Up… Or Not…

This paper from Mike Reinold is on pubMed as free review so check it out. It highlights the issues of managing overhead athletes and how to build rehabilitation programmes. It talks about microinstability and the issues around spending and exerting a lot of force from an overhead position. This was a great read for me as we work with tennis players and swimmers- both who spend a lot of time with their arms elevated. That said the information relates to anyone who is physically active and wants to maintain great shoulder health.

 

 

Pulp Fiction: 5 Fitness Myths Never Explained Properly

Welcome to a number of themed articles based on popular media comments and preconceptions that continually are circulated in the popular press. The fitness and nutrition industry is a wacky world where science and opinion are blurred.

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This means that opinion often leads fact when there is no relevant science or data. What I am going to do here is highlight where the rumor came from, how it has gained traction and then attempt to smash it with the hammer of fact.

1. Cardiovascular exercise makes you fat….

Where it came from? This myth has been proliferated in the last few years. The concept espoused by a number of American gurus is that cardiovascular exercise causes a fat storing environment. Indeed if you are not interval training you may be gaining body fat this very second. Knowing that you can wrap everything in science the idea is that cardiovascular exercise causes a catabolic, muscle wasting environment resulting in a lower amount of lean tissue meaning a lower metabolic rate and a crushed metabolism from circulating anti-muscle hormones.

The truth? Excessive activity may cause this to happen indeed holding on to lean muscle mass is a prerequisite in all our fat loss plans. However, a couple of hours a week of cardio though won’t cause your metabolism to fall of a cliff.

Does everything need to be an interval? Hell no. In fact steady state cardio can be a good recovery tool for other forms of intense training. What the above statement did is it sent out a negative message that goes against the grain of common sense. With a lot of trainers trying to stand out and be different it meant that the anti-cardio weight loss programme has prevailed even though if you look in to tapping in to different methods of burning energy the best method is always going to be a combined approach. The above approach was highlighted by comments like how many fat people do you see doing aerobics/ Zumba or how many fat joggers do you see? That does not necessarily dictate cause and effect and correlation rarely proves cause, if anything it highlight other aspects such as an individual’s approach to nutrition.

2. Weight training makes women bulky…

Where it came from? Fear, Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal trainer Tracey Anderson and in general women’s magazines.

With the Times now leading a campaign that strong is sexy and effectively now the new lean it confuses everyone. Some women don’t particularly care about being strong, they just want to look awesome. If strong is a side product of this then great!

Enter the celebrity trainers highlighting that weight training make your legs bulky. Tracey Anderson gets published in leading news papers highlighting that if you lift anything over 3kg you will be a female hulk- the journalists who write this should be ashamed of themselves and be made to live with Gwyneth Paltrow only eating from her cookbook. A side point this is from Amazon about Gwyneth’s book…

Last spring, after a particularly grueling schedule and lapse of overindulgence, Gwyneth Paltrow was feeling fatigued and faint. A visit to her doctor revealed that she was anemic, vitamin D deficient, and that her stress levels were sky high. He prescribed an elimination diet to clear out her system and help her body heal. But this meant no coffee, no alcohol, no dairy, no eggs, no sugar, no shellfish, no deep-water fish, no wheat, no meat, no soy, nothing processed at all!

Are you kidding me- no wonder she had such a small part in Iron Man- how did she even get to lunchtime. Anyone would look skinny avoiding that much food.

The truth? Weight training will build muscle and shape. If you have a layer of fat covering it you will look bulky. This is not weight training- this is your body fat. Females are in a position that their hormonal status does not promote muscle building as much as it does in males. Therefore you will not get big and bulky. In fact a kg of muscle is considerably smaller than a kg of fat in appearance (consider a tennis ball versus a football).

3. Protein shakes build muscle…. Right?

Where it came from? Look at the front of most sports nutrition products. They usually have a man who looks like a Greek god flexing as if his life depended upon it. It says eat this, look like me. Well done… you got fooled.

The truth? Weight training builds muscle drinking a shake doesn’t. It will give you the building blocks to build muscle as you adapt to training but so do a lot of other foods. It usually depends upon the nutrient breakdown of the shake and whether it is a pure protein shake or a mass builder containing carbs and protein. The take home point is that chugging three of these a day is a great way of getting fat if you are not training. But hey at least you can fill out those tight T-shirts now.

4. Eating fat makes you fat….

Where it came from? The low fat revolution pretty much demonized fat to the level where people preferentially avoid consuming it. Indeed making fat the bad guy meant that you could remove a massive amount of calories from your diet. That’s good isn’t it? Oh and pretty much eating low fat means my cholesterol levels will drop so it’s healthy as well. Saturated fat is bad for me etc. No it isn’t.

The truth? Fat is used to make hormones, hormones tell your body what to do and when to work and when to slow down. Fat plays a role in the maintenance of a number of the body’s systems therefore cutting large amounts of fat out of your diet then can have a negative effect on your health.  It also helps absorb and store vitamins which are vital. As a side note eating any macro-nutrient excessively will cause fat gain but it depends upon your whole nutrition make up over a period of time.

5. Eating carbs makes you fat….

Where it came from? In short carbs produce insulin. Insulin causes fat storage. Therefore, carbs = fat gain. This has been popularized recently in varying diets from the Paleo diet, high fat/ low carb as well as Gary Taubes author of the Diet Delusion highlighting that carbohydrates are the root cause of fat storage.

The truth? It’s a compelling case however fat storage is not a singular event, there is an ebb and flow dictated by a number of other things including hormonal activity as well as energy demands from movement. There are a decent amount of studies on low carb diets versus lower fat diets. The issue with a lot of the studies is that protein intake is rarely matched meaning that it is hard to compare. This quote from Alan Aragon highlights a recent study…

Another recent trial compared two 1500 calorie diets, a non-ketogenic diet and a ketogenic one [Johnstone CS, et al. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 May;83(5):1055-61.]. Insulin sensitivity was equally improved between the groups. No inhibition of fat loss was seen in the non-ketogenic diet (carb based) despite the fact that it was moderate in both fat (30%) and carbs (40%). In fact, the non-keto group lost more bodyweight and bodyfat than the keto group, although neither of these effects was statistically significant. It appears that any threat of fat/carb combining slowing fat loss is imagination-based.

It appears that carbohydrate restriction can cause fat loss but eating carbs appears to help fat loss. Pretty much highlights a few misconceptions there!

In my next article i’ll answer why “I have a bad back because it is weak” and why your metabolism probably isn’t slow.

 

 

Fixing the Flaws: Part 1

It doesn’t really matter if you are an elite level athlete or a beginner. There are always going to be areas in your fitness that you need to work on. You are not Mr or Mrs Perfect….. Sorry….

Be it whole body strength, the transfer of your physicality in the weight room to your sport or small fiddly, subtle drills that you need to work on while the guy next to you totally dominates the exercise with 5 times as much weight.

It’s hard to break it to people that their 200kg deadlift, extreme yoga position or their 3 hour marathon is actually the limiting factor on why their back hurts or their knees are giving in.

Don’t get me wrong- strengths are there to be trained, great performance is impressive. No one is great without “strengths”.

Getting large numbers or quick times are a product of training. They are there to be celebrated as achievements. In turn though they can also lead to becoming your limiting factor when it comes to enhancing your health and overall fitness.

If you want to become a champion deadlifter or marathon runner then you may need to lift heavy things and run long distances. However, managing your recovery is also key. Looking after your mobility, muscular and joint health are tantamount to keeping you performing at high level, at times this needs to be prioritized.

But what about other “specialists” such as the desk jockey. The guys who specialize at being seated for unusually large amounts of time. You see their body adapts chronic overuse patterns reflective of their overall lifestyle be it running, sitting or cycling. In essence the changes in muscular balance mean less joint stability and or muscular tightness.

Weight room weights are vanity. “How much do you bench?” should be reserved to people who bench regularly. In fact the only guy who asks how much you bench is the guy who bench presses every session.  My answer is how much do you deadlift/ single leg squat/ run 1km in. At the end of the day he rates himself as a “specialist” bench presser and with that he will see all the chronic overuse issues that people without a well rounded programme of development will see.

In strength and conditioning for sport a lot of the time we perform training to counter balance the excessive strains and demands of overuse, just as we do for everyday people looking to keep their posture tip top. We do this as well with the detrained- we want to put enough strength and stability in the right areas to allow good balanced movement. We want to put enough mobility and flexibility in the areas that need to be moved.

The take home point is this.

Strength is overemphasised as a facet of fitness as we always lean towards our strengths. We perform more of what we are good at or have to do. What matters more in overall development of “fitness” and long term performance are the balance of strength and mobility.

“Specialists” occur as a product of their own training/ physical build. Balance in their programme is key to optimum performance over a period of time. Ask yourself the question what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Do your weaknesses hold you up from achieving your ultimate fitness goals? Do they limit your strengths? Does your back hurt when you deadlift too heavy? Does running hurt your knees? Are your shoulders sore after press ups? In the next post we will look at some specific examples….

Why the Small Things Count If You Want To Achieve Your Goals

Well happy New Year! As we get into 2013 the spate of New Year, new you offers and promotions are everywhere over the popular media.

There is good reason, most people do overcook it massively in the Christmas holidays, overeating, overindulging and generally not being very active. The general message and the way a lot of exercisers feel or are pressured to feel is to change everything in the short term rather than changing habits promoting long term change. In the habit formation research is well documented that if you have one goal you are more likely to achieve your primary goal if it is your sole objective. If you take this out to multiple goals the chances of success become smaller. I don’t mean goals like lose weight or build 4 kg of muscle mass what I mean is the smaller targets you set for yourself.

For example, your overall goal may be to lose weight or run a marathon. If you broke this down in to an attainable goal such as run intervals three times this week, get three weights sessions in or add an additional portion of vegetables to each of your meals these are small measurable targets which over time can be maintained.

If you say in the first week of January I am going to be eat more vegetables, drink more water and take part in activity five times a week the multiple goals involved in this process decreases the chances of success in each additional goal that you set.

It’s the small things that count a lot of the time. Wholesale change is an ineffective way of achieving your goals, that is why the diet and slimming industry is so big- people who achieve long-term change are successful as they create a number of habits over a period of tome which lead them towards the overall goal.

So how do you achieve your fitness and nutrition targets? Set small measurable achievable goals broken down into the simplest processes there are, forget about the overall result, that will come by undertaking a number of successful habits. It could be simply drink 2 L of water a day, drink one cup of green tea every time you are hungry, include nuts as an afternoon snack, focus on your primary exercises in the gym (this means the thing that you do first), make sure your warm up is really well structured to lead you into the good session these small little things will make a difference to your overall result.

Too often we become bogged down by changing everything and achieving nothing. Make this the year of habit formation and you’ll reap the rewards of success in your long-term goals. Often when I work with my clients at results fast I will set people goals for the week, that might be a session target, it might be a nutrition target. Either way it’s only one goal- it is one thing that they have to process, one thing that they have to think about, therefore they are more likely to achieve their target. The plus side obviously as well is that they had someone to be accountable to as well so writing your goal as a message on the fridge, a post it note on your computer or keep a note in a notebook, just somewhere where you can set targets. This way you also improve your adherence to the goal by having a culpability factor involved.

So the lesson learnt from this post is only set a small number of goals perhaps one of for exercise/ training and one for nutrition and aim to form those goals into habits once you have achieve those goals and then you can think about other processes and other targets. Reset and assess your goals on a weekly basis and enhance adherence by writing them down.

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Stand Up More- You Will Live Longer…. Fact!

The vast majority of adults in Britain – between two-thirds and five-sixths according to a new study spend more than two hours daily watching television. Scientists have tried to quantify this data to suggest how much of this is negative and what the possible harmful implications are to people’s health.

They estimated that if people limited their sitting time to three hours a day, their life expectancy would increase by two years on average the article published in the journal BMJ Open showed. Not only this- if television viewing was reduced to below 2 hours a day life expectancy rises by 1.4 years.

They found that half the peopled surveyed spend 50% of their day seated (hint: this is where you stand up to read the second half of this article). Interestingly 50% of the people surveyed also spent half of their “leisure” time seated. Overall the study showed that out of the population recorded that on average they spend 7.7 hours of their day sitting.

So what’s the point of this article? If you want to live longer don’t sit for more than 3 hours a day or watch more than 2 hours of TV a day on average. Ration your sitting time and try to move as much as possible. Who knows- it may save your life!