We seem to use correlations to determine cause and effect which doesn't really work. To make matters worse the media reports these issues as fact or only reports some of the data. The fitness industry is terrible about this.
These reports lead to things such as people restricting calories below 1200, not eating eggs/red meat because those are correlated to certain death. And I'm apparently going to die 12 years earlier than average because of diabetes.
What we've done is essentially created eating disorders. Because to be healthy you now have to weigh your food, count carbs/protein/fat, eat 6 times a day, carbs only around exercise (because you apparently have to earn carbs), exercise till you puke, take xyz supplements because that's the only way to get the body you want.
Nutrition should be finding foods that are minimally processed that you enjoy and exercise should be as fun as possible. You don't have to earn anything. You like to run then run, you like to lift heavy things then lift heavy things. Eat some colorful fruits and vegetables with some meat and then think about things that actually matter (unless that's posting your political thoughts on facebook thinking you're going to change everyone's mind and not just piss everyone off).
You don't like vegetables like me, then eat some and take a greens supplement. But only because that supplement allows you to get the nutrients your missing not because it's going to change your life.
Moral of the story, correlation does not equal causation. If a headline involves something like why you're going to die or why you're going to live forever, it's probably click bait. If not then we should probably ban ice cream since it's correlated with murder (no clue if that's real, I'm trusting the internet here).
If you are stuck inside this weekend due to the ice storm try this one simple nutritional hack...Eat your food slowly. S-L-O-W-L-Y. Whether it is a sugary treat or your favorite vegetable. Eat it slowly and think about how it tastes.
Many will find that eating the fruit or the vegetable is actually more favorable and more satisfying. Even if you do like the sugary treat more, eating slowly will help your body not overeat. Our fullness cues kick in at around 15-20 minutes. So slow and steady wins the race. The less distractions that we have also the better. So sit down with your family, talk about your day, and take the time to taste your food. Many find that eating slowly helps them mentally slow down and reduce stress. Most of us are "on" all the time so relaxing for 20 minutes a day can pay huge dividends.
I know that people want the sexy response of eat less carbs, eat this super food, or take this magic pill. But actually taking the time to enjoy your food is pretty magical.
But what if you want to put on mass? The opposite is true. Eat your food faster, before you start to notice your fullness cues. Then drink some fruit juice such as orange juice which has plenty of calories but isn't super filling. Seriously give eating slowly or quickly a shot for a couple of weeks and then start experimenting with more complicated things. Anytime you get overwhelmed with all that is going on, or feel like you're struggling then come back to this habit.
You might find that you don't need to spend as much time worrying about food as you previously thought. If you want an easier way to keep track of your nutrition enter your email below and get a free infographic that shows some simple habits like this one to help you reach your fitness goals!
At some point most people will have back pain in some form or another. Most people have a disc injury at some level even if they have no pain (Jensen et al. 1994). This study used MRI's of people who had no back pain and only 36% had no issues at any level in their disks!! Knowing that 80% of people experience low back pain, it is extra important to make sure that you move well so that you don't experience pain. If you have pain get it checked out by a medical professional quickly. The sooner you get a diagnosis the sooner you can get back to chasing your goals.
This is not ideal
A good rule of thumb to follow is that if it hurts don't do it. With a potential for back pain following that rule is especially important. There are 3 major pain triggers for those with a potential disc issue.
How do we train around this? We need to use exercises that encourage more extension.
Homer getting some extension to improve his flexion intolerance
Now this doesn't mean that everyone needs more extension. Too much extension is bad and has its own not so fun consequences. This is for people with a flexion intolerance.
Most of our training should be done standing up. For most people with disc injuries the pain is primarily when they sit down which is usually in a flexed position but decreases with standing which is more extended. If we follow the rule that if it hurts don't do it, we should do less exercises seated and more standing. This will help avoid one of the major pain triggers and hopefully help to stay out of unhealthy positions for the back.
Crushing heavy squats might have to be put off for a little bit to help the back feel better. However, this does not mean that you need to avoid training legs. Adding single leg work can be great to help decrease the loading required to get a good workout. Initially using sliders might be the way to go because the stability needs are so high that you can't use as much weight, which will help spare the back. Generally the more challenging it is with less load, the better it is for this population.
Use more exercises that have the hands above the weight such as 2 Kettlebell racked position lunge. Using the racked position for the lunge helps keep the back more extended in addition to sucking enough to not require as much weight as holding the weight at your sides.
For core training it is time to ditch the sit ups and get some more low back friendly exercises. Sit ups are repeated flexion of the low back, and repeated flexion is the primary cause of a majority of disc issues. In particular ones that get the hands going above your heads. Exercises such as Dead Bugs, and Suspension Fallouts work great to get strong in a healthier posture. Pallof Presses and Anti-rotation Cable Chops also work great to help get strong resisting rotation in the low back.
Often just getting up and moving around more will help decrease the frequency of pain. Walking is one of the best exercises for many with low back issues. This could be as simple as getting up and taking a lap around the house every hour and then increasing the distance or the frequency as you begin to feel better. If you ever feel pain, then stop what you are doing and rest. Working through pain rarely gets anyone very far. Work around pain and eventually you will be able to do more activities pain free.
When most people walk into the gym, they want to put on muscle in some way or another. This might come in the form of wanting to tone up, or just to get jacked bro. For the most part nutrition is going to determine which route you take. I would estimate that nutrition is upwards of 80% of the battle and probably much more so we are focusing here on the other 20%. There is so much information out there and honestly most of it is just over complicated. Many people think that the only way to get in shape is to do complicated exercises until you fail.
Others tell you to do endless sets of curls. Curls definitely have their time and place but if all you needed to do was curl to get huge, high school me would have been jacked out of his mind.
So let's start out by organizing typical set/rep schemes for various goals:
1) Traditionally those who train strength focus on the 1-5 rep range and often do somewhere between 5-8 sets at this rep range.
2) Next is the hypertrophy (muscle growth) rep range which is often defined as 6-12 reps and is usually 2-4 sets.
3) Finally we have muscular endurance which is going to be anything greater than 12 and I have seen protocols call for around 30 reps.
To get a better idea of how to best reach aesthetic goals , there are two studies that stand out because they used lifters that have trained for at least a year. These studies compare the typical strength focused programs vs hypertrophy focused programs and measured which ones actually improved strength and hypertrophy the best.
The first one controlled for volume so one group did a 7x3 for strength and the other did a 3x10 and the total weight moved per week was similar (Schoenfeld et al, 2014). The strength group, as expected, improved more on strength than the hypertrophy program but also had similar improvement in hypertrophy. Now this does not mean that low reps and high weight will make you fill out that smedium better.
The strength groups workouts took significantly longer and were much more taxing than the hypertrophy groups program. A normal hypertrophy program is going to allow for more volume than a strength program but this study does help show that strength training DOES play a significant role in hypertrophy. Also applying common sense to this study we can assume that adding more strength to a person via a more strength focused phase can help them lift more weight in a future hypertrophy focused program.
Another study was done with experienced lifters that compared a strength based rep scheme vs a hypertrophy focused rep scheme (Schoenfeld et al, 2016) . This study each person did only 3 sets, so the hypertrophy group had a higher volume than strength based group. The hypertrophy group had better muscle growth but much less strength. The most interesting part about this study is that improvements in the arms were much smaller relative to the improvements in the thigh.
Taking this a step further there is a third, but quite different study, that was done recently that measured growth of a muscle with no loading (essentially flexing through a full ROM) compared to a traditional loading (Count et al, 2016). This study was only done on the biceps but showed greater growth than the other group that used curls. Assuming this study holds up over future research, this could show how important the mind muscle connection really can be for specific muscle groups. This also shows why as a trainer, I should match the exercise to my client and not try to get my client to fit the exercise. If a person wants bigger biceps but overuses their forearms with curls then we should find an exercise or variation that they feel in the correct spot or improve upon technique. Ask 10 experienced trainers what their favorite exercise is for a specific muscle group and you will get 10 different answers. What it comes down to is what movements our clientele needs based on their anatomy/goals and how well we can coach that specific exercise.
With the power of the results combined you can take on the world like Captain Planet or at least get jacked like John Cena.
Strength appears to improve universally better in the lower rep ranges (1-5) and hypertrophy seems to be more dependent on total volume than on what rep ranges we use. What this does is gives us a few different options on how to program things out. Lets hypothetically say that we are 8 months away from an event such as a wedding or bodybuilding competition and you want to put on a gun show, here are a couple approaches that could get you there:
1) Life is going throw some crazy things at you, remain as consistent as you can but do what keeps you sane. If you do not put an emphasis on your sanity then you are far more likely to fall off the wagon in the future. Not to mention if you're already stressed, adding stress to workout 5 times a week, trying to hit PR's, while also fixing all your meals from home during the week might not be in your best interest. This would be a great time to maybe move to 3 times one week and working on technique. Also it would be a great time to go back to your most successful eating habits rather than try to do it all. Then once you get rid of some stress, you'll be no worse off and ready to kill it.
2) Almost every injury can be worked around to some point. One of the most common issues people note for why they gained weight is that an injury stopped them from exercising. If you have low back pain then heavy squats might not always be a good idea but this could be a great time to work on grooving a great deadlift pattern for when you're back to full strength.
3) Using the best program you find on the internet might not be the best for you because it does not meet your needs. You're parents were right, you are unique and you should have a program that reflects that. Two people could have identical goals and similar builds but after an assessment come out with a totally different program. If one has a history of knee issues, sits at a desk all day, and can't get their hands over their head without using the low back...we might have to do things a little bit differently to reach their goals.
4) People cheat most exercises. The body picks the path of least resistance and if you do not focus on form you can lose valuable progress. Simple exercises like planks, dead bugs and bird dogs aren't so simple when you do them right. Rather than load up every exercise as much as you can try going slower and focusing on technique. In the video below I use a stability ball and make sure to exhale (like I am blowing out a hundred candle birthday cake) when my arm and leg are extended. These changes make the exercise much more fun.
5) Consistency is the most important component for almost any goal which is why it is kind of listed twice. You want to lose body fat? Consistently change habits that are holding you back (1 habit at a time). Want to gain muscle? Workout 4 times a week for 52 weeks. DON'T program hop every other week. Get a workout program that you like and do it for 12 weeks, then you can think about switching things up a bit. I used to want to get everyone to lift heavy but I discovered that not everyone found that enjoyable. So I learned to compromise and get them lifting heavier but using finisher circuits to help them get that tired feeling that they crave.
6) Change only one habit at a time. I see many people get super excited about exercising and trying this new diet made up of only cat food and apple cider vinegar (don't actually do that). Then after a couple of weeks that is too much and they fall off the wagon. Start out easy, even painfully easy, and make sure to complete each habit to the best of your abilities. Then as you start to see success, the changes can be a little more difficult each time. If you ever stumble, go back to some early habits and rebuild success. Don't get cocky and try to change everything at once, one habit at a time!
With the New Year coming many people will give their resolutions for the new year. Getting in shape/losing weight is one of the most common of these resolutions. Most people dive head first into whatever is the hot diet at that time and start exercising every day. Supplement sales are through the roof. The gym is more packed than a bar in Star Wars. After about a month, people go home and reevaluate if this restrictive lifestyle is even worth it.
It is estimated that around 45% of people make a resolution but only 8% of those are successful. The most common of all resolutions is to lose weight. People try to get all their results within the first couple of days. They will come off of one of most unhealthy eating seasons and switch to a restrictive diet based around chicken, vegetables and unicorn tears. To get from holiday eating to restricting every food involves prepping meals, going to the gym, eating vegetables, drinking less alcohol, and many more changes.
Research shows that those who try and change more than one habit at a time tend to fail. Changing 3 habits only had a 5% success rate and changing 2 habits had a 35% success rate. Those who changed only 1 habit at a time though had a success rate of 80%!
If you want to make your resolution stick this year try to incorporate only one habit at a time for roughly two weeks. If you have successfully incorporated that habit almost every day then move on to a new habit. If that habit was too challenging, find a way to make that habit a little bit easier. For example, lets say that you decided to eat 5 servings of vegetables for your habit (only 25% of people actually do this) but couldn't do that every day. The next habit could be something like eat 3 servings of vegetables a day.
I know that working on habits slowly isn't as exciting as the promise to be a new person yesterday that many programs offer but you remember the toroise and the hare right? Slow and Steady wins the race.
Here are a few habits to try to get you started toward your resolution:
With each successful habit changed, you get a little bit closer to your ultimate goal of weight loss. These habits are much easier than the more traditional changes of buying a supplement store and weighing everything you eat to track calories and macros. Counting calories and macros is actually far more complicated to that and can be incredibly inaccurate. For more information on that follow this link.
The other day I was interviewed on the Business Innovators Radio which was a fun first for me. You can check that out by clicking on this picture.
Also this is my first blog that I am going to share, so I want to establish my goals. I want to help people get away from exercise myths such as lifting heavy will make you bulky, it's ok to pee when you deadlift heavy, and that pain is a normal part of aging. All of those are false, but are things I hear almost every single day. The fitness industry is a billion dollar industry that is focused on taking advantage of people's insecurities with false promises of magic pills and misleading headlines.
Hopefully along the way I will learn how to properly use a colon and semi colon, how to spell beautiful without saying it like in Bruce Almighty.
Pain With Squatting?
One of the most common complaints against squats is that they hurt people's knees. Well most likely the squat isn't hurting the knees but there is a major technique issue that is hurting your knees.
This can occur for several reasons:
1) Your knees come over your toes when you squat down. I am not a believer that your knees explode if they go past your toes but some people can't tolerate the well.
2) Your knees cave in and do not stay over your ankle. If you don't control your knee position, your squat could resemble a new born baby giraffe.
3) You have no intent when you squat. You just let the weight control you. This can happen for the entire lift but it is extra common towards the bottom of the lift. People that lose stiffness at the bottom seem to have a higher incidence of hip pain and or knee pain. The hip pain could be the beginnings of a bigger issue called Femoroacetabular Impingement or FAI for short. It's a pretty scary looking word that can be worked around but sometimes can require surgery.
4) You might have just picked the wrong parents for squatting. Some hips don't allow great range of motion and might impinge easier than others.
1) Put a box about a step behind you and make sure you touch it with each rep. This makes sure that you don't drop straight down and have your knees go too far in front of your toes.
2) Pretend your standing on a piece of paper and you are trying to tear it apart with your feet. This will help the hips fire and keep the knees more stable.
3) Brace your core and try to bend the bar on your back and SLOW down. Front squats or Anderson squats can be great to help keep tension.
(I love Anderson Squats)
4) Some people shouldn't squat BTG (butt to grass) and that is ok. Find the squat depth that works for your hips or focus on single leg work. Luckily for those with hip issues, deadlifts often work great, so deadlift your heart out.
As we approach the temptation of all the wonderful food the holiday's bring here is my challenge to you:
Here's some inspiration for how to enjoy your food
4) Enjoy it!
This is an exercise to help you eat slower which will help stop overeating which is especially important this time of the year. Our fullness cues usually kick in around the 20 minutes. If you finish meals quicker than that adding 5 to 10 minutes to your meal time could be a game changer.