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.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

5 Reasons You Should Quit The Gym

I don’t normally post fitness business content but this piece highlights a few points for gym members and “fitness consumers.”

1. If you are a member of a gym, read their website. If the landing page informs you of what equipment they have in the gym then it’s time to quit. Why? There is a saying that facilities tell while services sell. If all they are doing is informing you what is in the place then how does this help you achieve your end goal. If they are not telling you how they can help you then you are paying an expensive equipment rental.

2. As a follow on to point one if the gym has an extensive range of TV channels, monitors, games, swimming pool, spa and saunas unfortunately they are trying to distract you from the thing that you go to the gym for. Don’t get me wrong music can be incredibly motivating and create a great training environment but watching the latest reality television series is only going to dampen your intensity while exercising. You don’t go to the gym for a distraction- you go to get fit, join a spa and stop kidding yourself that you are “training.”

3. If your primary source of information is from a trainer who has been working less than two years you are probably wasting your time. Controversial as I know that everyone has to make a start in the fitness industry and you can achieve a multitude of qualifications from certificates to degrees to start you off. The truth is most certifications are not relevant to actually performing the job. As with most professions personal training is learnt on the job.. There is an 80% drop out rate of employees in the fitness industry within 2 years of qualifications with poor pay being cited as one of the major reasons. The truth is it is a competitive industry, not a glorified hobby as some people think. Anyone who has made a success of a training business that I know has worked over 60+ hours a week for at least 5 years to get where they are. If you are working with a new trainer make sure that they are in a great learning environment and surrounded with experience- that way you can guarantee that you are getting the right advice.

4. If someone tries to sell you supplements that promise you weight loss you should quit that gym. But gyms sell weight loss supplements all of the time don’t they? There is healthy weight loss using sensible nutritional strategies then there are supplement based weight loss plans. Most of these products are poor quality soy protein mixed with a range of artificial ingredients. What’s more you don’t need a qualification in nutrition to sell these products. One of these meal replacement supplement company’s Herbalife are currently being investigated by The Federal Trade Commission for Multilevel Marketing which is technically illegal. Most people who push these products care more about earning money through commission then the benefits that they will bring you. If anyone suggests a supplement that is a meal replacement (therefore not actually supplemental to your normal diet) then you may want to seek alternative opinions about how to achieve your goals in a healthy fashion.

5. There is more cardio kit and weights machines than free weights. This isn’t a “hard core” statement. Simply the reason why big commercial gyms have lots of cardio kit and resistance machines is that they are low labour items to show their members what to do. Free weights necessitate explanations and examples meaning you need better educated fitness training teams compared to a machine that you either need to take a pin out of or press a button. I could talk about why there are more benefits of free weights but it’s not my job to convince you of that. What I am suggesting is that it is cheaper for a gym to provide less expertise.

Things I Learnt From 2013….

Every year I tend to way in with my opinion of a few things that we either do at Results FAST, have borrowed of other people and use at Results FAST or changes in approach to the way we work as professionals at the gym. These often can be translated in to many things whether it’s fitness industry related, business issues, down to nutrition and exercise tweaks we have put in place. So here goes this years run down:

1. Attitude is everything…. This crosses over to what goals you want to achieve, what new challenges you want to take on or in some cases just holding it together to make an omelette for breakfast everyday because eating a high protein breakfast is congruent to your goals. Life is tough sometimes but that doesn’t mean you let your health and fitness slide. Do you keep on getting ill? Are you looking to improve your health because of this? Are you overweight and want to lose weight? What are you doing to improve this situation is the question you should be asking. Your attitude then will define your actions. As a conversation point I now have morning omelettes down to 3 minutes 15 seconds….. so if someone says they have no time then there is your answer…. Can you spare 3 minutes 15 seconds!

2. Top post this year was on Glute Bridging– people simply must enjoy glute bridging! Bret Contreas would be happy!

3. People still love reading about trainers– this post is over a year old but still gets plenty of hits. The content for me still stands up for what is available in the current market and for the way we train clients at Results FAST.

4. Running your own business is the most fulfilling career move you can make if you dislike your current job. The fitness industry in no way rewards mediocrity- you have to be hard working to be successful. In all of the companies I have worked for there are some good guys who are going somewhere and there are people who watch the clock and punch in and out. There are good bosses and bad bosses. There are people who want to tell you what to do and people who want to help you (it’s not the same). When you are the head honcho I found it a weirdly cathartic experience. My expectations now have become my own limits. I wasn’t living up to someone else’s ideal or business practices which I no longer believed in. When you own your own business you have to have full engagement and a “buy in” with what you are doing and where you are going. It becomes your job to engage your clients and employees in that vision. That’s when your company grows… That’s also when you create what you can call a “brand” because it is more about what you do and how you act  and do it rather than what you say and what you tell other people to do.

5.  Language is important in your interpretation of peoples goals. Understanding that what people say occasionally has a hidden meaning and their use of phrases indicates where they see themselves in the world. My wife is a counselor with a major in psychology so I have only considered this when she became fully qualified and started analyzing my psychological make up (not quite Silence of the Lambs level but close). Getting a grip on understanding that if someone defines their place in the world by describing them self in a certain way does not highlight what is reality…. but it in turn is there reality. It means that your responses should not be about just what people say but understanding the sub text of their statements. For example, if someone describes themselves as a certain type of person e.g. happy, sad etc. then they are categorizing them self. It may not be true, we see it with body dismorhphia when guys see them self as small when they are large and women see them self as fat when they are a normal size. Understanding how people display this is important, as is your ability to discuss this with your clients. When someone redefines how they see themselves in the world it can make a major difference to their confidence, attitudes towards training and health as well as their whole personality and how they deal with change (which is what all fitness coaches deal with).

6. Yoga press ups are a great teaching exercise for progression to full press ups. I didn’t have time to shoot a video so the above is from Eric Cressey. We have used a lot of yoga press ups this year for two reasons. Firstly it creates controlled upward rotation of the scapular if performed properly which is great in exercising populations who’s shoulder blades may get fixed back and down. Secondly, a press up is a big torso exercise. If performed badly you will see dropped hips and a hyper extended back. Simply the yoga press up takes the tension out of the exercise at the hips high portion meaning that the elbows can be tucked on the decent portion of the movement and better overall form can be maintained.

7. Diets are for children and people looking for a cult to follow. Grow up and start thinking about nutrition like an adult. The reason that the human race colonized the planet was not that we had to only eat carrots on a Tuesday or that caveman represented our evolutionary peak for health. It’s because as humans we can survive under a broad range of nutritional intakes. Be it Eskimo, Sioux, Mayan, Viking, Hippie, Mod, Rockers etc. they all had variable diets and guess what pretty much all survived to pass their genetic line on to today. Some were better than others at this but it really had little to do with eating in the Zone. What do you need to survive. A bit of protein, some fat and ideally to keep you moving a bit of carb. Over do it on any of these and you find bad health. Eat healthily- you don’t need to remove food groups to do this. Detoxing and juice diets are sold to you- it’s not sustainable it’s not “healthy”. Eat fruit and vegetables and some lean protein at every meal, eat healthy options of fat, avoid overly processed food types. Is it that hard? My main point is not a discussion on the best diet but dealing with people as individuals is key to them understanding what healthy is. Ditch the diet attitude and aim for long term health.

8. Use bands to get your pull up numbers up. Everyone at Results FAST has had a crack at pull ups. We have had few niggly shoulders which need to avoid them but on the whole as long as the exercise is scaled back properly to the individual then most people can attempt them. we use a lot of band supported variations. When we started putting these exercises in during a strength phase of training for a lot of our new members the one reaction  they where not reacting was sore abs- most expected sore arms and shoulders but not the ab workout of a lifetime. Pull ups still stand up for us as a defining guide to upper body strength as well as a great developer for torso strength and can be utilized for both young and old.

9. Using a prowler is an awesome way of building lower body strength in individuals without them knowing. Simply said push a heavy object along the floor is the equivalent of performing barbell overhead walking lunges with a little more stability. The prowler is a great way to get people under load while making them think they are not weight training.  It’s also weird how many people enjoy this vomit inducing torture element!

grgrowler

So there you have it a round up of some of the more technical bits around how we work at Results FAST. This is my last post of the year as we head towards Christmas so I would like to thank all the supporters and regular readers of the information that we put out and look out for some exciting news of some of our new projects in the New Year. Have a good one!

High Rep Upper Body Training, Exercise Form and Why Your Shoulder Hurts

Pull Ups are perhaps one of the best upper body strength exercises. Training predominantly your ability to lift your own body weight (plus if you invest in training hard enough a bit more) they are an exercise that deserves it’s place in most strength and conditioning coaches toolbox.

That said with the advent of higher intensity conditioning programmes which are en-vogue pull ups have transcended away from being a strength exercise in to what could be termed a high rep conditioning exercise. When programmed with high rep bench pressing, press ups or shoulder press it adds a lot of stress to a joint that craves stability.

When you perform high repetition work we create fatigue- this is great for conditioning. Not so great though if stronger and more dominant muscles start to do the work of other muscles. This is where we get muscle imbalances and ultimately injury. Almost everyone reading this probably has had a niggle or injury in the neck or shoulder so it makes sense that your training does not cause these niggles…. indeed it should act against the imbalances developed in day to day life should you be a full time athlete or indeed a full time desk athlete.

There are a number of reasons I avoid high rep upper body training in compound exercises in my programmes.

Take the example of a pull up…

1. Bad form uses momentum to mask fatigue.

2. If momentum is masking muscular fatigue then where is force being generated from?

3. At the base of the movement the shoulder joint is being forced forward (out of socket) to induce a recoil to propel you upwards.

4. All though in some “kips” the individual generates force from the legs being in front of the body and throwing them backwards. In this context the shoulder is not hyper extended at the base of the movement. That said it is still a major challenge not to hyper extend the shoulder at the base of the movement- especially if performing multiple repetitions.

To refine this point I want to go back a bit to human anatomy.

Your shoulder joint or specifically the top of your humerus is held in place by a multitude of musculature. This musculature is designed to stabilize the humeral head and control movement. I have in the past heard it described as a golf ball on a tee with the wind blowing in 5 different directions.

NB This is a great read if you are a personal trainer/ strength coach/ anatomy geek. Skip a few paragraphs if the why doesn’t interest you too much

The rotator cuff aims to internally and externally rotate the humeral head as well as playing a role in maintaining the humeral heads position during movement. If you generate force by momentum what is holding on to your humeral head to stop it’s hyperextending if it can’t keep it’s position?

Specifically from a muscular sense the dynamic stabilisers muscles such as the supraspinatus which resists superior and inferior translation of the humeral head and subscapularis which resists anteroinferior translation. During movement the rotator cuff muscles are active throughout. Infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor produce an inferior shear force to counteract movement. Supraspinatus generates a compressive force across the glenohumeral joint. The force couple resulting from these actions maintains the humeral head centred on the glenoid to within 1mm throughout the range of motion. This is known as dynamic functional stability.

Non anatomy geeks resume here…

In a “normal” shoulder (which is often hard to find in the average office worker and definitely not in the swimmers and tennis players I work with) the actions of the internal rotators (subscapularis) and external rotators (infraspinatus) are balanced but the internal rotation action is enhanced by the action of pectoralis major.

If an individual over uses the shoulder, fatigue is likely to take place in the external rotators before the internal rotators resulting in an imbalance. This will cause the control of the humeral head position to be lost (it sort of highlights that doing a load of theraband external rotations and labeling it as shoulder rehab perhaps is not the best course of action as well as it does not influence dynamic stabilistation of the humeral head).

The humeral head impinges against the coracoacromial arch with resultant compression of the subacromial bursa and pain in the epaulette region and the upper arm/front of the shoulder. Sorry slipped in to anatomy again…. in simple terms this is an instability impingement and everything gets sandwiched together causing pain.

In individuals who work with the hands overhead e.g. throwing athletes and swimmers the role of the external rotators is pertinent as it acts as a humeral head depressors keeping the humeral head in place. Repetitive activity at this level resulting in fatigue of the external rotators meaning depression is not maintained and impingement may occur. This also highlights how shoulder laxity develops in to instability when fatigue becomes an issue.

It’s not all just about the rotator cuff though. Shoulder instability can be found if the scapular stabilisers are fatigued. Specifically subscapularis and the serratus anterior which control the scapular which if fatigued means that during scapular elevation impingement may occur as a product of scapular instability.

Again in more simple terms…. Your shoulder blades stability effects how the rotator cuff works- poor shoulder blade strength and stability therefore can result in poor humeral head stability.

It has been suggested that once instability impingement occurs then stretching of the anterior capsule takes place and a tightening of the posterior capsule occurs. Often in shoulder problems the stock recommendation is to “stretch your chest”. This may result in more anterior stretching and begin to put movement in to an unstable range of movement. This so-called capsular tightening predisposes to further anterior translation (forward movement) of the humeral head thus contributes to impingement.

So in round up…. stability of the shoulder blade leads to stability of the humeral head. Humeral head position is a product of maintaining stability. Excessive strengths or weaknesses acting upon the scapular or humerus can cause a imbalance which may lead to injury.

But how does this relate to high repetition training? There is always going to be an adaption to training but the key is to maintain suitable joint integrity. In high rep circuits the prime mover big muscles will overpower the stability based muscles. Typically we will say the exercise is in poor form as the exercise is performed in poor posture.

The one question you need to ask when training the upper body (as pretty much every movement from pull ups to bicep curls and the Olympic lifts will effect shoulder joint positioning) is what is the effect on scapular stability or numeral head stability, does the movement look good enough to broad cast or has fatigue masked form. Form should always be maintained when you consider the risk and reward of the exercise choice, intensity and volume.

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.

5[1]

 

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.