Random Training Thoughts From This Week.

This is more of a thought board of random statements that I saw on the gym floor this week.

  1. Tempo is a useful tool on the eccentric or “lifting” section of a movement if the goals are rehab, muscular endurance or hypertrophy. If the goals are strength and speed slow work is redundant. You can not lift a maximal or close to maximal weight slowly without compromising performance.
  2. High intensity work is great if you can maintain form. If you have a poor aerobic base your form will break down on repetition based cardio. This is a problem with HIIT work- it mainly becomes poor form aerobic work after a while. HIIT is popular in the mainstream at the moment and obviously it is partly client led because it feels rewarding. Initially use methods which mean that form break down can be coached properly before progressing exercise complexity e.g. a bike is a lot easier to maintain form on than hill runs or kettlebell swings.
  3. Loaded hip thrusts are popular at the moment… but I like to use them more as a finishing exercise and a warm up drill than rather than a “main exercise”, this is just personal preference as I think after a certain amount of weight the weight needed to lift for overload becomes uncomfortable.
  4. Overhead hangs (unless you come from a gymnastic population so you are training for a sport) are not a great position for your shoulder joint to be in. It feels good to hang as it decompresses the joint and stretching generally always feels good but it creates laxity in the joint which your retirement will not thank you for. Kipping pull ups fall into this category as you get an anterior translation of the humeral head at the base of the movement. What does this mean? Your arm bone gets pushed forward into the soft tissue at the front of your shoulder.
  5. Over the last couple of months I have been supplementing my diet with additional fish oils and curcumin. Two of their major benefits are anti-inflammation. Anecdotally, I think they have helped me balance out a heavy work period (I am now teaching at Hertford Regional College on their Personal Training programme) and maintained at least decent recovery from exercise. I also feel this has been a factor in maintaining good energy levels…. and getting more stuff done. Granted I did buy a new coffee machine but my intake of caffeine has been relativly the same as before!

Don’t Hate Steady State- Why Going Slow Can Help You Go Fast.

HIIT or high intensity interval training is becoming the “cardio”choice of the instagram generation. While it has some time saving benefits it means that low level/ low intensity work has gone out  the window. Here’s why you should consider not condensing all our workouts down to a series of 30 second smash ups.

There are a number of benefits of lower intensity work- better cardiovascular function, better sleep quality and a reduction of stress to start with.

But first let me frame a “back story” to give a sense of perspective. I recently started training someone who is time poor. Their workouts NEEDED to be efficient. Efficiency in itself does not always mean you cram “more” in to a session, in fact it should mean the quality of what you do goes up…. as opposed to doing more varied stuff badly. In itself the client needed to be re-educated that there is more to exercise then destroying yourself. Indeed no pain/ no gain really should mean no pain/ no pain but plenty of gain if training is appropriately measured (I guess that doesn’t really roll of the tongue does it).

There is a belief that HIIT work is a cure all for every goal.

Play sport- perform HIIT, get skinny- HIIT is what you need. Even to the point where I have even heard a story of someone trying to run a marathon of the back of purely high intensity work (it was their first marathon- it was not a great success).

Smart exercise programmes tend to cover all bases. If you have certain demands for a sport then certain work will be more relevant to you. For general fitness clientele there is no “best.”

What do we see though from a training perspective and what are the misnomers about steady state cardio?

Well the first thing you have to understand is that all exercise stresses a different energy system. They don’t compete with each other though to do the work. They are stressed at different levels providing different physiological adaptations. It’s not a competition to do more harder all the time.

Steady state work improves the efficiency of your heart allowing the heart to pump more blood, in turn it can help lower your heart rate and act to in effect relax your nervous system destressing the body. Throwing high intensity on to someone who is stressed and tired may have the opposite effect of chilling them out and leave them more “amped up.”

Beginners also tend to fly straight into HIIT work with programmes like “Insanity.”  These type of programmes are a bit like destroying yourself so you start doing everything really badly, and then carry on destroying yourself like you hate yourself.

If you have heard of self help books this is the opposite…. but at least you get a T-Shirt at the end of it.

It’s not measured, it’s not balanced but it’s hard… and obviously hard is better, no pain/ no gain after all. Dropping back though and doing some steady work though can help your recovery, indeed it will ultimately help you recover better from your high intensity work.

In itself though HIIT work is useful but it doesn’t need to be used at every freaking session. In my experience trainers are scared of not being the “toughest.” A client of mine (you know who you are) often goads me by saying “trainer b’s session was really hard the other day compared to yours.”My response is that “Do you want to do 2 sets of 10 repetitions well, or one set of 20 rows with patchy form for half of them.”

Quality counts as it’s about efficiency right!

Where though is HIIT useful?

  1. If your only goal is fat loss then HIIT work will help. That said though to start beginners on lots of HIIT work is unprofessional. We actually got a new client at the gym this week because her previous trainer kept on destroying her to the point of pain. As a professional you should be able to explain to a client about the different benefits of certain exercise and why they probably should go down a certain path programme wise. That said if you are time poor it can be programmed accordingly but not for an hour. 20minuts for the average gym goer should be enough.
  2. HIIT helps develop the aerobic system. This means you get some of the fringe benefits of aerobic work. That said in most people I will suggest 1 to 6 steady state sessions a week and maybe 2-4 HIIT sessions depending upon availability, goals and demands.

Developing a good aerobic base is a bit like building the footings on a pyramid. The bigger the base the larger the pyramid and this explains your adaptations when working at a higher level. If you find yourself getting gassed when performing short intense bouts it may be a good indicator that your recovery is hampered by having a poor aerobic system.

In a practical sense I keep an eye on my clients training by  performing a repeated sprint test (the rowing machine works brilliantly for this). If you can maintain consistently strong pace on your work interval with a 1 to 1 work: rest ratio with no drop of in form(we have used distances of 250m, 500, and 100m for this) then your aerobic base is allowing you to recover so your focus should be on top end/ power development. If your intensity falls away quickly and does not recover at all then your aerobic base may need a bit of work. This isn’t as sciencey as you can get but it’s a simple test to allow someone to see where there training may need a bit of attention while getting a training effect.

Energy system development in the glycolytic system from high intensity works returns occur will occur in the first 6 weeks. After this period of adaptation it’s prudent to look at maximal power and lower level aerobic work for improvements.

So there it is- a primer on why some low level work can help your HIIT work and your overall results.

 

 

 

Overhead Carries and the Overhead Athlete

With a lot of the guys we work with they have some pretty full on demands for maintenance of shoulder stability and mobility. Twinned with our fitness clients and the wear and tear of everyday life certain exercises are pretty much a necessity for building healthy robust shoulders.

Primarily, in the sporting arena we work with a lot of swimmers and tennis players. The overhead carry is great as it encourages upward rotation of the shoulder blade. If we lose upward rotation during a movement we may typically resort to placing more emphasis on to the elbow and shoulder joint rather than allowing the muscles around the shoulder blade to do the job to the best of their abilities. Swimming and tennis also have a lot of force placed upon the shoulder when it is overhead or near to full extension. This means that injury risk is highest if you can not stabilise the joint in place.

Single handed this exercise places a challenge to the rotational stability function of the abs as well as maintaining anterior core control – in simple terms it allows your abs to do the work as opposed to your lower back arching through the movement.

Loading this exercise can make the form pretty poor quickly if your ego is bigger than doing things properly. So try it out- we give it to some of our trainees early on in sessions to encourage good core position. We also use it as a challenging finisher- that said if you have had a heavy upper body training day form can fall apart on pretty low loads.

Quick Tips to Assess Your Squat

We use a squat based movement pattern in near enough every session. Their inclusion in some form in every warm up we perform highlights how functional and fundamental to effective training the squat movement is.

When we squat we see flexion at the hip, knee and ankle. This movement is performed in all of the major Olympic lifts, deadlifts and jumping so making sure this movement is dialled in is pretty important.

One of the most common impairments to this movement especially in more experienced lifters (not necessarily better) we tend to see is more anterior rotation of the pelvis meaning excessive strain is put on the lower back in order to avoid flexion or forward bending. This is often when load is added in order to counter flexion forward. It makes the lifter think they are getting lower but the movement really isn’t gaining depth through the lower body musculature. In fact the change in angle of the pelvis and forward lean of the individual is providing the extra “range.” This means there is more strain on the lower back.

So if this is the case try this challenge to help you clean up your squat. This is a good challenge to old and new trainees- aim to maintain balance while sitting all the way down to their heels while not leaning forward or coming on to the balls of your feet. Check the guy out on the right- if you look more like that than the guy on the left it may be wise to leave a bit of weight of the bar and work on your positioning.

If you fall forward it’s a good sign that your back extensors, hip flexors, quads and calves may be overactive and taking on a little too much work. Some people will remedy this by squatting with a wider stance to get lower- this is just hiding mobility issues by creating a stable wider base with less range to move through. Look where the centre of gravity is going (tip: forward). This will happen without load as you will find greater range of movement than the likely half range that you are squatting through loaded.

Why is this a negative? Well, allowing the abdominals and the other muscles around the pelvis such as the glutes to pick up the slack will result in less loading on the lower back and better force transfer. In turn not just in the squat movement but in rotational movements as well as the back and quads take the work on as opposed to the abdominals and glutes.

A good question to ask yourself is does squatting leave you with a sore lower back- if so consider dropping a bit of weight (your ego won’t suffer too much) and look to clean up your squat movement by balancing your programme and placing more emphasis on making your squat better by adjusting your strength leverages.

 

 

A bala

 

position of joint

muscular action

pressure/ breathing

 

 

 

 

 

From the Gym Floor…. Part 3: Beginners Press Ups, Fat Loss and Speed Deadlifts.

In this months thrilling installment we wrestle with the questions that count!

1. Learn to do full press ups. It’s not about being sexist but this applies to both men and women. On a full press up you are lifting approximately 75% of your body weight an impressive achievement either way. One mistake we find is that people spend too long performing chest press/ barbell/ dumbell variations without first mastering press ups. We also find that challenging yourself to full press ups even if it is only one or two done well ultimately becomes three or four over time. One good intermediate is to elevate a press up. Start with a 45 degree angle for the body and over time slowly lower it to the floor. Although perhaps good for beginners, press ups off the knees lack enough core involvement and full body strength to transfer to full press ups effectively.

2. Speed can be a priority in a workout only when technique is strong. With a lot of our clients and athletes we don’t prioritize speed until technique is perfect. A good example is the deadlift- quick singles at around 60-70% of your maximal lift are a great tool for improving and enhancing acceleration and bar speed. With a lot of our athletes in season we tend to do either heavy or quick work. We don’t do a lot of work in your traditional rep ranges of 8-10. The reason being is that we don’t beat up too much tissue, recover quicker and therefore don’t have many sessions where we include what we call “junk reps.” This is unnecessary training volume which doesn’t guarantee us a result.

3. Fat loss is not weight loss. A basketball of fat weighs the same as a baseball of muscle. Changing your body shape is a process of what we call a “recomposition.” It’s easy to cut weight- drop your carb intake and your weight will plummet.  This will be mainly water and stored carbohydrate from the body, it is not body fat. Calorie consumption and the amount of food you consume are still the best guide for getting long term results if appropriately applied. The number of people who are on unnecessarily harsh dietary regimes is staggering as is the incompetence of the people who prescribe them. There is no one size fits all strategy but I will give you a hint- if it’s called a diet then you are probably doing it wrong!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

Exercise of the Month: The Perfect Press Up

The press up is one of the most commonly used but most abused exercises used in the gym for upper body strength/endurance. We use a lot of press ups in our programmes at Results FAST. The reason being that unlike traditional bench pressing the shoulders are allowed to move freely into abduction (out) and protraction (forward around the rib cage) maintaining a normal scapular motion if performed properly. In certain cases the shoulder blades can become fixed in abduction or downward rotation, usually due to poor posture cues (“Keep your shoulders back and down/ stand up straight!”) or indeed because of excessive bench pressing or fixed scapular pushing. The press up encourages correct scapular movement and is a useful exercise in maintaining strong stable shoulders.

Commonly the faults associated with the press up are dropped hips (sometimes called anterior tilt) and forward progression of the humerus (upper arm bone) in joint. While these are more torso strength issues that can be remedied by taking the press up on to a raised platform one of the key teaching points that can remedy poor form is to use the perfect press up.

A lot of the time we see people who can perform a form of press up…. what I mean by that is a bad form press up. Typically the hands are wider than the shoulders, the elbows are placed at a 90 degree angle and the movement looks like it is coming from the neck. The reason we see this change in form is two fold. Firstly, the individual is shortening the range  to move- typically you see a forward head position leading to an assumption that they are achieving a suitable depth in the press up. Secondly, the chest hollows up creating a rounded back (sometimes the hips flex upwards as well) again shortening the distance moved. In both cases the shoulder blades are placed in their end of range abducted position before the movement starts, this is synonymous with being overdeveloped through the anterior shoulder and trapezius muscles where the press up is performed without the scapula moving from square with the spine to its abducted position at the end of movement.

Allowing the shoulder blades to move through range  it differs from the barbell bench press as it does not (if performed correctly) fix the shoulder blades in downward rotation. While this is neccesary for force production on heavy loads on the bench press and heavy dumbbell pressing the press up provides an alternative allowing movement through the shoulder blade.

As a teaching cue the perfect press up is a handy tool for those that have good strength but are generally unsure on elbow and shoulder positioning during movement. The turn of the hands cues the shoulder blades to tuck in to the torso. The end position allows protraction of the shoulder blades. The key point of this exercise is also safety. The shoulder joint is at one of it’s most unstable positions when at 90 degrees. A poor form press up therefore places unnecessary stress on the tendons and ligaments of the shoulder. Using the perfect press up cleans up form allowing good scapular movement and is a good refining tool for reformed press up addicts looking to take care of their shoulders.