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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Why Sugar Isn’t The Bad Guy: Part One

Just as fat was demonized in the 1980’s sugar seems to be taking a bashing as dietary zealots whipping boy. With sugar avoidance becoming the latest media headline it’s compelling that sugar now plays the role that saturated fat once played and it is now responsible for the obesity epidemic that was once fats responsibility.

 

With what has been published you never really hear about the positive side of sugar or how it is used in the human body. Overwhelmingly the opinion of newspapers and numerous documentaries is that sugar is evil incarnate and will get you addicted, hooked on the giddy feeling of euphoria that only milk chocolate can give before you are sat in a pile of high sugar energy drinks looking for your next hit if you can get your obese frame out of bed.

 

The alarmism highlights that sugar correlates with a number of diseases from diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. However all of these conditions are multi-factorial in cause. You cannot attribute their development purely to sugar intake. Lifestyle and other dietary behaviours are also responsible.

 

What also is clear is that over the last 30 years activity has decreased as we undertake more sedentary occupations while total calorific intake has increased by over 400 calories daily. Sugar consumption although being blamed for the increase in people’s weight has only risen by a few calories on  average since the 1970’s. In fact the consumption of fats, oils, dairy fats and flour and cereal products have increased by about 180 calories which is about 4.5 times the average increase in the intake of sugar. In summation- we are not eating excessively more sugar than what we were consuming 30 years ago.

 

This point highlights that modern lifestyles indicate we are eating more of everything and we are less active than the previous generation. It’s a bit hard then to primarily blame sugar for this issue as we do not see an exact change in sugar consumption.

 

In the next post I will highlight the role that sugar plays and how science has been twisted in pursuit of a media story.