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Big Rocks and Show and Go

In the past, I have talked about proper warmup, soft-tissue work, mobility, stability, strength training, flexibility, power (explosiveness), plyometrics, agility and the list goes on.  These are all great characteristics of a sound program but how the hell are you going to fit them all in your 60 minute “no more, no less” workout?

Seriously, if I tried to fit every aspect of training into one of my clients training programs their head would probably start to spin and they would start doing a backwards crawl up the stairs like in The Exorcist.  There is simply not enough time to get it all in and why would you want to?

A good program at some point should have all of these components, just not all at the same time.  It is hard enough to improve on an area of your fitness that may be lagging, nevermind all of them.  So what I tell all of my clients is to prioritize and start with the “big rocks” before starting to remove some of the smaller ones.

When I say big rocks I am talking about the exercises that you suck at.  You know which ones I’m talking about too.  The ones that you have difficulty doing becuase your body just doesn’t want to “move” that way such as deep overhead squats, leg raises, and other mobility exercises.

Hint: Do these first by including them in your warmup.  That way you can’t use the excuse “I didn’t have enough time.” 

For example, lets say you have the hip mobility of a 90 year old woman.  What good is it to avoid doing squats and lunges (or even worse by using the leg extension maching) and ignore lower body training?  A) Your hips are going to get tighter than Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears a Catholic nun.  B) That dysfunction is going to affect other areas of your body such as your head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.

Once you identify and remove the big rocks everything else you do will become cake whether your goal is strength, athletic performance, weight loss, speed, or just overall fitness. 

One program that I swear by for myself and my clients is Eric Cressey’s Show and Go training program.  This program was created for anyone interested in getting stronger, faster, and moving, looking and feeling better. 

Eric provides a progressive 4 month program that includes a 2x/wk, 3x/wk, or 4x/wk option which are each packed with a proper mobility/activation warmup, strength exercises, fat-loss circuits, interval training progressions and tons more.  He also provides a complete exercise database with videos of each exercise along with modifications depending on your fitness level.  This alone is worth the money.

Whats more is the program is completely customizable depending on your ultimate goal whether it is athletic performance, to get stronger, burn fat, get ripped or move better.  The whole time it will be helping you to bulldoze over those big rocks with the addition of effective mobility exercises.

I have seen the results in both myself and my clients and can’t speak highly enough about this program.  ===> Check it out.


Blogroll

Since starting my blog last summer I have gone from about 56 views in my first month to over 5,000 views last month.  No matter how random or off topic I seem to get sometimes, traffic keeps going up which means that people are starting to listen to what I have to say.  I’ve work very hard on this blog by staying staying up late sometimes, doing copious amounts of research, and staying in Friday nights instead of getting wasted and booty-chasing with the guys.

Well, in honor of you all reading what I am putting down I am going to start making some changes to the site.  One of the first things I have just added is a blogroll with the sites of many other strength coaches, friends, and blogs which I regularly check out for some pretty great information.  Straight up knowledge bombs if you will.

There is a lot of conflicting and just plain terrible information in the media, interwebz, and from the broskis that hang around at the local Planet Fitness.  Benching make muscle big.  Me get strong.  Squat quarter depth with 800 lbs., damn  I look cool.  T-shirt time!

I have added these links to inspire you to do some research to cut through the broscience and listen to what real strength coaches, physical therapists, personal trainers and straight up smart guys are doing.  Pick up what they’re putting down.  Smell it.  Step in it.

P.S.  It is in the right column.  Enjoy!


Bodybuilding, Flexing Those Guns, and PMR

For most males, this starts at an early age as we begin to produce high levels of testosterone almost over night.  I’m not talking about what happens when you discovered your dad’s hidden stash of Playboys, although that in itself is a pretty monumental milestone.  I’m talking about flexing your pythons while standing in front of the bathroom  mirror.

I’m going to take it back a step and start from the beginning.  At birth, most infants possess near perfect mobility as they begin to learn to move their body parts one by one.  Wiggling the toes and fingers, moving the limbs, moving the head and neck, and then eventually reaching for the milk recepticals.  Ahh the motherload.

The fascination of boobs although short-lived will begin again in a few more years but that is a story for another time.  The point that I am trying to get at is that the child is exploring new movemets in order to gain stability and control of his body.  This will continue through preadolescence  where children learn to move, stabilize and perform many complex tasks. 

This self exploration of movement culminates for many right around puberty as we begin to significantly increase in strength and become more fascinated in boobs once again.  This time though we have to work a little harder to get them which is one of the reasons I picked up my first Weider bench and barbell set when I was 15 years old.

Back then it was all bench pressing, curling, and shoulder flies so I could work those little pipe cleaners into the guns you see today.

Looking back it may not have been the most sound program but it was helping me to learn more about my body than some people do their entire life.  I used to stand in front of the bathroom mirror with my shirt off (calm down ladies) and individually flex certain muscles in various poses.  I would rock that double biceps pose like Arnold back in the day.

What I didn’t realize back then was that this somatopsychic technique was allowing me to not only locate the different muscle groups but to control them individually.  Plus it just looked badass.  Bodybuilder in training.

Most people, on the other hand, are not able to isometrically contract certain muscles on command such as their glutes or pecs.  They lack that mind-muscle connection which falls under the “if you don’t use it, you lose it” category.

When I am working with certain clients I ask them where they feel certain exercises and when the Jeopardy music starts in the background I will take it a step back and ask them to isometrically contract the targeted muscle group. 

For example, a client doing a glute bridge who feels the contraction in the hams or quads I will have stand up and practice clenching their glutes until they feel where they should be feeling the exercise.  One cue I like is to tell them pretend like their last dollar is between their butt cheeks and someone is trying to steal it.  That usually works.

Flexing or voluntary muscle activation is an important skill as it helps to prevent certain muscles from becoming dormant during exercise and certian movements.  I have talked about gluteal amnesia in the past where the glutes  don’t fire properly which will create overcompensation of the quads and other hip muscles.  No bueno.

One way to create that mind-muscle connection is to employ progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) techniques.  This is where you learn to relax by going through a series of alternate muscular tensing and relaxing phases in order to become aware of somatic tension.  The benefits of this technique are reduced muscle tension and awareness which may cause an increase in smooth, fluid, or efficient movement as well as increased range of motion around the joint.

A relaxed body will create a relaxed mind.

The takeaway of all of this is that you should learn to actively flex certain muscles like a bodybuilder.  Don’t be afraid to bust out some poses in front of the mirror and hold for a few seconds.  Learn how to control each muscle group and you will learn how to control your body.


Rules for Weightloss

The holidays are a time when most people are “social feasting” as I like to call it  and in doing so creating internal conflict on whether or not to try to stick to a diet during the holidays.  Their usual train of thought is: I’ll just wait until after New Years to make a resolution.

The scary statistic is that 92% of New Years resolutions will fail.  That means only 8% will succeed!  See, I can do math.

Here is some more math, the average American gains .4-1.8 pounds during the holidays and gains 1.2-3.6 pounds per year.  In some cases that means most of your weightgain happens between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Maybe it’s time to put down that reindeer shaped surgar cookie.

How is it that I am single handedly able to consume a 11 pound turkey, small village of Pilgrims, and 2 pumpkin pies  in 3 days and still maintain a 6 pack you might ask?  If you say by doing a million crunches you are going to get an Undertaker tombstone by yours truly.  The truth is I don’t do crunches, I probably spend less time working out than you, and also probably consume more calories.  So what is the secret?

The secret is that there is no secret.  But there are rules that you must follow in order to lose some of that excess gravy and keep it off.  Now, this isn’t a set of rules you should follow sometimes, it is something that you should make a habit if you are serious about getting the body that YOU want.

Here they are:

  1. Take a holistic approach towards diet and exercise.  Have you ever heard the expression “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”?  Numerous studies have shown that a combination of proper nutrition, strength training and cardiovascular exercise is the most efficient way to lose weight both short and long term.  I recommend 1-3 days of bodyweight or resistance training and 2-3 days of cardiovascular exercise to lose weight.
  2. Know your calories.  First and foremost, if you want to lose weight you must burn more calories than you consume (a caloric deficit).  This is an absolute must, no exceptions.  The basic way to find your daily caloric consumption for weightloss, multiply your bodyweight by 1.1 -1.3 depending on your exercise habits.  This is your target calorie intake each day, eating too much will prevent weightloss and eating too little will slow your metabolism.  (This number might be lower if you have a high MBI or high percentage of body fat percentage)
  3. Feed your metabolism regularly throughout the day.  Regularly consuming small meals will keep your metabolism revved up and allow you to burn extra calories throughout the day.  Lets say your daily calorie consumption from tip#2 is 1,800 calories per day and you are aiming for 5 meals per day.  You should divide 1,800 by 5 which would give you approximately 360 calories per meal.  Taper your meals throughout the day eating a slightly larger breakfast and a slightly smaller dinner.
  4. Perform whole body exercises.  Research shows that whole body exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups, bodyweight rows, and numerous core exercises that challenge your entire system are the best way to increase your metabolism.  If you are not able to move properly it makes it hard to exercise and in turn lose weight or reach your goals.
  5. Incorporate circuit training into your workouts.  A great way to burn a ton of calories is to perform bodyweight and/or resistance exercises back to back for a certain amount of time or repetitions.  This is known as metabolic training, circuit training or turbulence training.  This type of training is a fun and exciting way to challenge your whole body physically and cardiovascularly and will surely help you reach your goals.  Group training and/or group fitness classes are a great way to get in these type of workouts.
  6. Use interval training to rev up your cardio.  High intensity interval training has been shown to not only increase your cardiovasuclar health but will also help you burn more calories.  I recommend using the bike or rowing machine and starting slow with 10-20 second work intervals and 40-60 second rest intervals and decreasing the work:rest ratio as you become more fit.
  7. Have a program and stick to it.  Would you try to fix your car on your own or would you bring it to a mechanic?  Why wouldn’t you do the same with your body?  I recommend programs such as The New Rules of Weightlifting (for men or women), Core Performance, Maximum Strength, or The Female Body Breakthrough.  You can get most of these books from Amazon for as little as $10-$20.  For a program that is custom tailored to you then I recommend contacting a certified health and fitness professional.
  8. Write it down. One way to see results is to write it down.  Use a journal, a notebook or your Iphone.  Whatever you do, make sure you are writing things down such as your goals, your diet, your exercise program, your weightloss, or maybe even gain.  If you look at things on paper it will help you see where you are going wrong or could possibly improve.

Happy Christmahanakwanzmakuh!

Post any questions, comments, concerns below.  I will answer.


What I’m Thankful For 2010

I began writing this post yesterday but after consuming all of the turkeys within a 10 mile radius of Boston, I went into a severe turkey-induced coma.  This is o.k. because I am bulking and right now my goal is getting strong and getting in extra calories.  For all of you who are trying to lose weight I hope you were able to enjoy your Thanksgiving in moderation.

This isn’t going to be one of my typical posts but I did want to share with you some of the things that I am Thankful for this year.  I could easily make this list hundreds of items long but I will keep it to the things that have made the biggest impact on my life.

First and foremost, I am thankful for my family and friends who have supported me since day one when I said I wanted to be a personal trainer, well knowing it is not the most lucrative career.  (or is it?)

I am thankful for the fact that I have one of the most rewarding careers and I am passionate day in and day out about what I do for others.  There are not many people in this world that wake up in the morning and say I love my job, I can’t wait to go to work today.  I am.

I am thankful for all of the books I have read, seminars I have attended and coaches who have inspired me to become the coach I am today.  It is crazy that only one year ago I was working in a commercial gym and teaching people how to do a leg press.  I am also thankful that we got rid of the crunch machine at Fitcorp, if any members ask, it was stolen.

I am thankful for all of my clients who have put their faith in my abilities to make a serious impact on their bodies, health, and their lives.  I have already worked with over 80 people this year and have seen amazing results from clients who said they would never be able to lift a weight above their head to clients who said they would never be able to do a simple lunge.  You are the reason I love what I do.

I am thankful for the great community of coaches such as Bret Contreras, Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson, Patrick Ward, and many more whom I have contacted with questions and received great advice and direction.  Their passion for the field makes it easier for an eager, new coach such as myself to learn and become an expert.

I am thankful for the phenomenal staff at Fitcorp at 125 Summer Street in Boston for I couldn’t ask for a better team.  Thanks to Fendy for inspiring me to learn and never stop from the first day I met him.  Thanks to Kelly Cassidy for sharing her RKC knowledge with me, without her my get-ups and swings would suck.  Jen for her baked goods that I will eat at the gym since no one else will.  Kelly for being funny and inappropriate at all times.  Ben for being Ben and hooking up the corporate events.  And of course Amanda for being the best damn GM anyone could ask for!

I am thankful that Chipotle opens across the street from work on December 1.  We have been blessed with cost efficient burritos.

I am thankful that I still have my Nana alive and kicking and still cooking the same Thanksgiving I have had since I was 3.  Everything is mashed which makes I can eat more in less time since I don’t have to chew.  It is good to know that I can still enjoy the same foods that I had as an infant when I am 90…with gravy.  Her cornflake stuffing is still the best on the planet though.

I am thankful that my grandmother survived her stroke several months ago and is able to laugh with the rest of the family.  It makes you realize how precious your family really is.  And I am also thankful to have a grandfather that has stepped up to take care of her.

I am thankful to accept the title of uncle as of Anthony Edward Enos was born on November 17th.  After fighting an infection he is home safe on Thanksgiving.  He is getting a tiny pair of dumbbells for Christmas this year.

I am thankful for my own health and all of the incredible things I am able to do with my body such as lifting heavy crap off the floor.  After realigning years of damage from crappy lifting I am more mobile and flexible than I ever thought possible.  I also began getting into powerlifting after finding out my max deadlift was only 335lbs back in August.  I am now pulling 465 and climbing thanks to 5-3-1 and Show and Go.

I am thankful for finding the most amazing girl to share my downtime with.  She is motivated in her own endeavors which inspires me to push myself further to succeed in life.  Everybody needs one of those because without them we would just be a bunch of aimless meatheads.  And although she is a runner (forgivable) she loves to lift and more specifically, deadlift.  I am verklempt.

Last but not least, I am thankful for all of the readers of this blog who check out the stuff I write daily.  When I began this blog several months ago I was getting maybe 5-10 hits per day but has now grown to over 500 hits per day.  There are much better things to be doing in life but you choose to read my thoughts and I truly appreciate that.  I love to teach and I am glad to relay all the things I learn.

2010 has definitely been good to me as I hope it has been to you.

Please share what you are thankful for below.


Twinkie Diet

I know I am a week late on this one but I have been receiving emails since my last post where I included a link to the story of the Kansas State professor who went on the Twinkie diet and lost 27 pounds.  You can read the CNN article here but I just wanted to share a few of my opinions on the consumption of this male bodypart-like non-food product.

A breakdown of the actual diet that Mark Haub went on to drop 27lbs in 2 months consisted solely of sugary vending machine delicacies such as Ding Dongs, Snowballs, and Twinkies.  In order to maintain some basis of health, he also consumed a daily protein shake, multi-vitamin and miniscule serving of canned vegetables.  He cut back from his usual consumption of 2,600 calories per day to sub 1,600 calories per day.

What does not surprise me is that fact that he lost weight.  It has already been proven that VLCD or very low calorie diets causes weightloss in most people.  I say most because in almost every study there is always an exception to the rule.  Just look at the curious case of Benjamin Button.

What did surprise me was the fact that he improved such biomarkers of good health such as a decrease in LDL and an increase in HDL cholesterol (LDL think “lousy” and HDL think “happy”…that is how I remember it), as well as a decrease in blood lipids.  What this proves is that by decreasing your overall body fat, you will decrease your susceptibility to these health risks.

The problem with this study that it is not actually a study at all since the results come from one man.  What people shouldn’t go out believing is that this diet is healthy or will give them the same results as the professor.  The fact is that you only get a small window (2 months) into what this diet will actually do to your body.

What I am more interested in when it comes to health and fitness is longevity.  What do you think would happen to the professor if he stayed on this diet for 6 months?  What about for 6 years?  I think it’s safe to say that the consumption of all of those non-food products would eventually take their toll on your body and new problems other than being overweight will arise.  Think: “If you run through a dynamite factory with a lit match and manage to make it out the other side, that doesn’t mean your not an idiot”.

Here are the basics of calorie consumption and weight loss:

  1. Depending on your exercise habits, multiply your bodyweight by 10 to 13 to get your daily calorie intake.
  2. Follow rule 1 every day…not most days (when someone tells me this I assume they mean never).
  3. Don’t eat too little calories.  This will slow down your metabolism.
  4. Every 10 days have a “cheat” or refead day.  Don’t gorge on junk food, but do eat something you like and consume a few exta calories.
  5. Try to eat 4-6 “meals” or “feedings”.  Taper your meals as well eating a slightly larger breakfast and smaller dinner.

For example, say you currently weigh 14o pounds and exercise 3-4 times per week.  You would multiply 140 by 12 which would give you a consumption of 1680 calories.  If you try to eat 6 meals a day, divide your calories by 6 which would give you approximately 280 calories per meal.  To put this in perspective, that would be one package of snack cakes or one bottle of soda.

Sidenote: The average American consumes 680 calories per meal.  We also on average consume between 2,000 and 4,000 calories per day.

I am not going to get into what you eat because you should know the difference between healthy food and lets say a Twinkie.  All I can say is put actual “food” in your body.  If you do not know what that is then pick up Food Rules by Michael Polan to learn how to distinguish between a potato and a potato chip.

If anything, I tell my clients to begin with the caloric formula and then gradually improve the quality of the food that they eat.  It is extremely hard for the average 40-50 year old who is trying to make a change to completely eliminate the foods that they have been eating for decades.  It is more feasible to get them to alter their calorie consumption by giving them this simple formula.


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