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

 

 

 

 

 

Why Your Diet Doesn’t Work…

You have made that commitment…

You are willing to forgo all treats…

You have changed your Facebook profile picture to Linda Hamilton/ Arnold Schwarzenegger from Terminator 2: Judgement Day or someone equally bad ass….

Your life is about to become a Nike commercial…

But…. that was yesterday and now you are hungry.

It will pay off, won’t it? I mean a little bit of a short term sacrifice to get the body you always wanted?

You have dropped calories and eliminated as anything that isn’t green or your have to kill with a spear.

Six weeks later you are miserable- the initial weight loss has plateaued and you aren’t losing body fat any more.

You might have been taking advice from someone who has recommended chicken and broccoli at every meal, carbs and sugar are worse than the devil so you best avoid them as well, you may even have bought a super food smoothie to get all your nutrients in. The problem remains… you are still bored and hungry.

This is where we find a lot of our clients.

Fat loss nutrition has been sold to them as a short term approach

It will work in the short term but you are screwing yourself in the long term.

So try this instead…

If you are calling it a “diet” you are doing it wrong…

Be less strict and get to understand what sensible nutrition is…

Your nutrition plan needs to focus upon a number of things for success.

1. Your food preferences and overall goal.

In the context of this article we are looking at fat loss. Food preferences come down to like’s, dislikes and tolerances. I spoke to someone who cut gluten from each of his clients meal plans- I asked if all his clients where gluten intolerant, he said no. My point is that there needs to be flexibility in choice. In some cases some people may want to limit the consumptions of certain foods but I consider if you remove a food group you are actually cutting back on your food choice options. Personal preference comes in to this things as does personal health.

2. The flexibility to change up what you eat and when.

Some days are just a nightmare when you can’t find quinoa (I said never). I have used calorie counters with individuals in the past and often people become slaves to these obsessing over the minor details. The route cause of this is that we have lost touch with what actually a portion size is. Socially it can be awkward to make choices when on a strict plan and you don’t have a “healthy option” which leads to the next point…

3. A loose structure which is maintained even if you overeat.

At some point you may make what you consider a “bad” choice for fat loss. This is totally not the point.

The fundamental approach that runs through the core of losing weight is that calories need to be reduced to lose weight. To make a point that it can be hard to reduce calories if someone eats in an unstructured way e.g. very low calories during the week with massive binges at the weekend. The necessity to perhaps bring calories up in some cases in order to help people make the right choices rather than binging or defaulting to emotional eating can help to create better overall “structure” and help create a better framework for success. If you overeat or eat an undesirable food it won’t torpedo your overall results if you have a structured approach to balancing your nutrition.

What happens when you “diet”?

When people set up a diet two things happen. You become immediately focussed on the short term results and failure to maintain the diet is seen as absolute failure. In fact you often become heavily focussed upon short term achievement because your approach is so stringent with no flexibility. You may loose weight but ultimately you will plateau. Why? Your calorific intake know matches your expenditure- you are now a smaller person so you need less calories. What do you now?

I consider this the “friends” zone of dieting, I mean you are reaping the rewards of the diet from losing a bit of weight but you want to lose a bit more and aren’t happy- what do you do? Stay on the plan? Revert to what you did before? It’s generally pretty confusing at this point especially when you have to consider at a lower body weight you may need to drop your calories lower- however, that sounds horrendous at this point and is where most people fall of the wagon as they revert to their previous habitual eating pattern which is different to their stringent “diet.”

Setting up a”diet” for success!

Follow these pointers and you will be on the right path:

1. Create a structured way of eating that you can maintain without extreme behaviour or food avoidance.

A great example of this is that some people love breakfast, other people can take it or leave it. The strategy of forcing someone to eat breakfast is unnecessary- it’s a cultural norm from our society as it wraps the working day. You have to work with what’s comfortable before changing everything.

2. Educate yourself to understand what a protein, carbohydrate and fat is and what foods are rich in these.

Probably the most important point, if you have no idea what you are eating then you have no position to revert to. A great example of this is meal replacement supplements and why people put weight on when they go back to normal food- they don’t know what is in them so they can’t stratagize to replace the calories in them sensibly. Simply this generation have such an abundance of food that we don’t know what is in it or what enough is, hence the soaring obesity rate.

3. Understand your personal needs for protein, carbohydrates and fats.

This will vary on individual differences and activity levels. Simply though we are all pretty similar and total amounts are a factor when it comes to weight loss.

4. Set a long term “health” goal rather than a short term “avoidance” goal.

Regardless of how you eat if you can’t maintain some semblance of your target weight/ body fat over a period of time then you need to slightly reset your targets or your calorific intake.

In conclusion…

These words should remain with you “eat in a way you can maintain.”

If there is no or minimal transition to eating in a different way you are more likely to be successful. If this way of eating becomes the new “normal” then you level out the boom and bust approach to calorific consumption.

Remember you are in charge of your calorific consumption and you make the decisions. You can have your cake and possibly eat it- in this way of working it helps if you understand what is in the said cake and how it relates to your daily needs. In itself this decreases the necessity to beat yourself up about making bad decisions/ failing and should make you more determined to emphasise the healthy structured approach to how you mange your relationship with food over the long term.

More news and views from Results FAST: Foam Rolling, Social Media and Fitness Industry Professionalism.

1.Someone asked me about why everyone foam rolls at our gym. In summary here are the benefits:

Pre- workout: evidence currently suggests that there is an improvement in joint flexibility as well as no negative effect to performance (in comparison to just stretching which can see decrements).

Short-term (in session) recovery: evidence suggests foam rolling reduces the deterioration in jump based movements performance.

Long term recovery: Foam rolling seems to reduce muscle soreness and the ability to train more frequently.

Health: Foam rolling may reduce arterial stiffness and may be of benefit to arterial health.

For a more in depth review with research and stuff head over here for an excellent review by the guys at Strength and conditioning Research.com

Also here is a link to some of the soft tissue drills we work with.

2. Motivation and mindset “training.” Simply, if pictures on social media motivate you then we can’t help you (that is unless the picture is you). Photo shopped images with quotes written over the top are not motivating- if anything (on consulting our members) they are building up an image that is only relevant to the top 2% of exercisers). We were told by our website guy that we should post up to three times a day on social media- many businesses do this by sharing this type of content, we don’t as we believe what we share on-line is representative of our business. That’s why we only share credible articles by companies and individuals in-line with the same focus and ethics as Results FAST.

 

3. Leading on from the above…. Professionalism and the fitness industry. If you are going to try and sell us something at the gym be it a product, piece of equipment, workshop or course then please, please, please just say “We want you to buy our product.” This week I have had three conversations with people who were promising me a unique opportunity (in one case the product will probably stay pretty unique but that’s another story). One company posted straight to our Facebook business page- you could have called or e-mailed but no they basically spammed us. In the past couple of months we have been visited by trainers/ managers from other gyms- we know because our members used to train at your centres and they recognize you. If you want to come in and see how we work just ask- don’t go through a convoluted game of cat and mouse pretending you are interested in training with us, we would respect you more if you admitted “We want to see how well you do things” (because you wouldn’t bother coming in if you didn’t think we where that good:). Professionals share anyway- steal/ replicate if you can but you can’t replicate experience and a good education. On the positive side of things big shout out to a supplement rep though- they contacted us and asked if we would like to sample their product and then sent us basically enough protein, sports drinks, smoothies to sink a battle ship (I love free stuff). We might not buy their product but I will still respect their companies professionalism and the fact that there was no hard sell straight out from them.

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.

 

From the Gym Floor…. Episode One

As a regular feature and as an effort to make this blog more practical and applicable to training and nutrition I am starting a new series of posts which are going to be made up of an assortment of questions/ discussions we have had with our clients in the gym this week.

Obviously this could turn in to a pretty obscure mix of information but hopefully it will be informative none the less. That said I hope that episodes 1-3 are better than the Star Wars prequels, 4-6 is where it will really kick off and as for 7 onwards who knows. So back to training….

1. Don’t bounce pull ups. In my opinion pull ups are a strength exercise, not a cardio conditioning exercise. I recently watched a video of someone total 100 pull ups. The way we coach at Results FAST 6 would have counted as a full repetition the other 94 looked like a shoulder dislocation combined with a head butt.

Sometimes you have to decide what fitness parameter you are working on if it’s strength then load the pull up, if it is muscular endurance then work within a high rep range and then add loading (we don’t really go much more than 12 on our programmes).

Now I have a few colleagues who perform the “kip” during the pull up. It’s a gymnastic move repackaged for the gym sport/ Crossfit or whatever it is you want to call it. That’s fine if that’s what you “do”, these things are for a sport- practice them if you want…. but not at our gym as it’s our job at Results FAST to keep our trainees shoulders strong and stable.

Bouncing pull ups therefore are a higher risk manoeuvre. Just because you are a good athlete it doesn’t mean you need to utilize higher risk exercises just to “do” more. I compare it to the fact that boxers don’t practice being hit in the face 365 days of the year- if you don’t need to be hit in the face why would you do something that perhaps increases the risk of injury?

2. Fitness wearable’s are fun. I recently got given a Nike Fuel band and being the alpha male that I am logged in and set my daily activity goals to be that of the top 20% of the Nike Fuel wearing community. Here are my observations after a couple of days.

If you are a busy personal trainer (10 coached sessions daily) or a person who has a job where you are on your feet then you will smash you general activity targets easily- this is interesting to me primarily as you have to answer the question then is any “unnecessary” activity useful e.g. training to turnover calories if your nutrition is in check.

These trackers don’t define intensity e.g. how heavy or how vigorous a certain exercise is. It would indicate that activity is not related to if you do a squat with 5kg or 200kg.

That said I am looking forward to a low activity day when I have to hit my daily activity goals by running on the spot, doing star jumps or indeed waving the band around in the air vigorously as that seems to cheat the readings.

That said I think they are quite useful if you work in a sedentary job. Firstly, this device will encourage you to move more to hit your activity goals and secondly, it allows you to take responsibility for your activity levels and therefore can become a good form of extrinsic motivation to “do” more.

A lot of the time marketing is aimed more at the “athlete” market or those who aim want to personalise their experience. The technology isn’t really there to “personalise” your experience but if you want a cool looking activity tracker to get you motivated then this can be a useful tool.

3. Lifting heavy stuff is great abdominal work. We have been integrating a lot of trap bar deadlifts in to our clients training as they more from beginner to intermediate level. We are using this as a progression from goblet squats towards more advanced/ heavier forms of lifting. Why? Improving your strength levels is perhaps one of the best ways to enhance your work capacity in the gym and also change your physique.

Progressing towards heavier weights leads to an increase in strength levels and the best way to give a full body effect is by using multi-joint movements such as squats and deadlifts. The trap bar is an intermediate style exercise from a complexity perspective that is easy to coach and easy for clients to pick up. As you progress towards this style of training there are two main complaints. ” My hands hurt” this is usually down to either a weak grip or not gripping the bar appropriately. Chalk can help improve grip and in some cases some people prefer to use gloves. Glove use is a contentious issue for some coaches who tell there clients to man up- however not everyone needs thick calluses on their hands and if you work with your hands e.g. as a sports masseur then your clients are not going to respect being rubbed down with sand paper like hands.

The second major complaint is back ache/ tension. This comes down to coaching of the exercise and making sure the weight lifted is suitable. A common issue is for some people is to be anteriorally tilted at the pelvis (hips facing down) and finishing the lift by over extending at the back. Teaching individuals to keep their pelvis in a more neutral position during the lift as well as squeezing their glutes/ bum at the top of the movement are two of the more successful cues we use for this exercise. As always it takes a bit of time and in some cases the exercise just doesn’t work for them due to mainly previous joint damage so some form of single leg loading is more useful.