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!

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

From the Gym Floor… Episode 2: calories, deloads, British Titles and a thank you.

In keeping with the running theme of training anecdotes from the gym floor at Results FAST here is part 2 of an ongoing series of what we see every week while training/ working with our clients nutrition at our gym.

1. Calorific deficit does not mean starvation and constant hunger, it also doesn’t mean just eating vegetables and boiled chicken. The take home point here is that most people are confused over what a portion size is in relation to total calories consumed. I read a post by a well meaning online personal trainer who indicated that getting people to make the right choices is more important than amount. Well, guess what organic food still has calories and whatever you say calories count when it comes to fat loss or fuelling performance. In turn balance your meals (if you want 2,3,4,5 or whatever number) from a calorific standpoint and you will be successful if your average calorific intake over a period of time is lower than you need. What you eat does matter but organic peanut butter, coconut oil and avocados have a high net yield of dietary fat and can be consumed in turn with good dietary variation and sensible portion control across your weekly diet. These are not bad foods but they are high calorific yield foods so you still need to be conscious of the amounts consumed.

In turn with other nutrition sillies this week apples will not get you addicted to diet coke… yes, I know it was a stupid comment- that is more than enough shaming for you, you know who you are!

2. Deload weeks are pretty useful e.g. a reduced week of training volume after a period of high intensity to back of from training. This month with a number of our strength training clients we have been running some new loading protocols which have been quite brutal. One of last weeks programmed sessions was Back Squat 8 sets x 3 repetitions and Speed Deadlift 10 x 3 with a finisher of Walking Lunges left most of the guys craving an upper body day. This weeks back off week was well received, in-line with that we have seen some great returns from a strength perspective and even in a deload week with reduced volume some of the guys are looking strong going in to next week and a change of programme direction. As a side point- you don’t earn a deload from two sessions a week and three sessions a week is not overtraining 😉images

3. One of our clients took her second adult British Tennis title last week. I play down a lot of our successes at Results FAST but this has come from a period of good training both from a strength and conditioning perspective as well as a technical viewpoint so it deserves to be celebrated. If you see Mollie in the gym I suggest a well done/ bro fist or a celebratory salute…. and then tell her to get back to work.

internet-bro-fist

4. Bizarrely this has been the busiest month on the blog. After taking a few months off writing I did actually wonder if anyone would bother reading these posts but the readership is up massively on this time last year. I hope you are enjoying the more informal/ applied side of writing about fitness/ training/ nutrition and performance and please feel free to let us know if there are any topics you would like us to cover!

 

 

Getting What You Want From Your Training and Nutrition Programme

It’s pretty obvious that most people who walk through the doors of a gym or who buy personal training are looking to improve themselves in some way. Now that could be their health, fitness, physique or mentally but most people enter with a goal in mind. Now what are the factors that lead to successful goal achievement?

It’s quite simple do your programme and eat the food that will help you achieve your goals.

Now this is where the confusion comes in because….

(a) Most people do not train, they exercise. They partake in random fitness classes, go for an occasional run and are generally non-directional about their goals. In today’s sedentary society it is by all means a good thing to be more active. The next step on though rather than to achieve a good result is to try to achieve a great result by making your training relevant to what you want to achieve.

Generally, people chase fatigue when they exercise… like being hot and sweaty and out of breath means it’s working… sometimes yes, but not all the time. Broadly speaking pick a few parameters to measure yourself. If body composition or weight is your goal then measure weight and % body fat. Power- a full body explosive movement e.g. cleans or a standing long jump. Strength- traditional moves like the squat, deadlift or pull ups, beginners may consider getting to 10 press ups or monitoring how long it takes to get to chest press 15kg in each arm. Endurance- 400m, 5km or whatever distance you are in to by whatever training modiality. Once you have a goal then you can frame your training. Is what you are doing leading you to improve…. or are you just making yourself tired?

(b) If your diet has a name it’s not working. Not because you labelled it but ultimately you will not stick to this plan. Now we have a quite a few Paleo dieters come through our doors at Results FAST, indeed a diet that emphasises quality protein and vegetables isn’t the worst thing on my list. However most people are not sticking to “the plan” when you see paleo granola as someone’s breakfast cereal it makes you wonder how middle class cavemen existed without supermarket- they would have been hunting and gathering all day to make that. Importantly if you are removing a range of foods from your diet because a book said so it doesn’t mean that all those “bad” foods are not good for you. Primarily dairy, wheat and grain are removed- in about 1/100 cases it can make sense. For most people it is totally unnecessary and you are cutting down your options to make good choices when your “ideal” is not available.

If you are on a diet or considering one- recognise this fact. In the absence of disease it’s simply a case of over supply and under activity. Some may describe this as calories in/ calories out- in most cases this is the point.

I prefer to describe it in a slightly different way…..

“What you eat will determine your body composition. How much you eat will determine your weight.”

Why do most people not hit their goals? What we find at our gym (before they train at Results FAST obviously :)) is that exercise is non directional or designed to give instant gratification e.g. fatigue and that a diet is unrelated to what someone needs.

A great example of someone who came in to see us the other day who performs a high intensity aerobic programme called “Insanity” (yes, the same one they sell on late night info-mercials) who was looking to lose weight. Nutrition wise she was on 900 calories a day- she had cut all carbs, her exercise sessions where gruelling and guess what… she lost weight for the first few weeks but she had started to plateau out. She was tired, sore, had the start of shoulder tendinitis/ simply her shoulders hurt….. but hey, she was 4 kg (8pounds) lighter after 6 weeks. So the question is what was her goal and what happened? Well she lost weight (tick) but couldn’t train because of shoulder pain (cross), couldn’t eat anything (bigger cross) and life was pretty tough as work became more demanding (low carb diets can be brutal and simply doe not suite everyone).

Let’s go back and look at her goal- lose weight. On talking to her she said “I don’t care what I weigh as long as I look good.” On talking to new clients I hear this 9 times out of 10.

So initially we are looking for a exercise/ nutrition programme that enhances her body composition by building lean muscle (resistance training being mindful of her injuries) and reducing body fat (a combination of different exercise modalities n.b. not just high intensity work).

Let’s consider the nutrition programme. Well we want to preserve lean muscle that dieting often reduces so we want to create a small calorific defect. We want to eat enough carbohydrates, proteins and fats to support the body. In this case we increase protein intake, match carbohydrates to activity and try to keep fat intake consistent. The rest is down to likes and dislikes from a food perspective.

So that is the programme set for the client, it’s a step wise process. Set some goals, set up your exercise programme, apply a nutrition programme that is relevant for your goals and the way you live your life and you should be on the way to hitting your targets.

The next part is probably the most relevant and where I will finish the article.

You could have the best programme in the world but each session you miss will take away from your overall results, every poor food choice will limit your returns. So be realistic- you may not be able to push hard all the time but consider that to get a great result a period of dedication will always be needed.